As a scribe once said, this was a bad land for gods.
America was a melting pot and it made it absurdly easy to melt away among the masses unseen. But it brought with it a deep sense of melancholy, seeing how swiftly the people flocked to new gods, only to forget and discard them in a pattern repeated since before clay tablets was regarded as the best thing ever. God's of Iron and Steam, bloody gods of the road fed more sacrifices upon metal grilles than all of his colleagues in South America could ever dream of, gods of wire, voices in the air soon turned discordant as a thousand-thousand prayers, curses and more became so much white noise for those of his kind.
And yet he was here and it could have been worse. His chosen people had carved their mark on history, represented by scribes of silver-color now, he supposed in flashy battles and such that baffled the old god. But there was *something* there he supposed, sitting in a crowded theater filled with the young and old, transfixed at what he saw. There was a disconcerting tendency to mix his wife's brothers character with his son by the mortals, but there...As he looked around at unknowing worshippers,all believing then in him and his sons? Well, he felt something akin to gratitude, certainly enough to treat himself that night to a steak dinner.
You took what you could from a land flushed with gods. And while he reminisced on the old days, recalling horns of mead, the finest cuts from Andrimnir's roasts? As he sliced his simple salt and peppered steak(middling grade), with some potatoes on the side? It never tasted better than that moment, the juices savored as he sighed with bliss.
Nothing worse for a god than being forgotten.
He was old, but not doddering just yet. The old god woke up with a deep sense of forboding in the air as he rose from his bed. As he got ready mechanically, he grabbed the remote by his bed to switch on his cheap television, seeking the news station as a vapidly, pretty reporter smiled with a grin that was far too wide to be genuine as she shared the morning news. A traffic jam, some athlete caught in bed with some actress, all the scandalous and shocking news of the day delivered from a face that looked like a parody of beauty as she displayed a little cleavage for the viewers.
Finally, as the old man was putting on his jacket she said what he had been listening for.
"-And in other news, riots today hit an all-time violent high as a standoff turned bloody in the streets with fifteen hospitalized and twelve confirmed dead as a result of trampling and gunfire from authorities. People are advised to remain in their homes for the duration as police strive to restore order."
The old man did no such thing as he stepped out of his apartment and for the first time in years,neglected to lock the door behind him.
If all went badly, it wouldn't matter anymore.
And he knew exactly where he was now, following the scent of violence and pain all the way up to some dive bar, little more than a hole to store cheap booze and drink it till you die. Not his particular tastes, but very much to his. The floor was sticky and black as tar, the sort that a mop would commit suicide over and require the use of a pressure washer. The tables were metal(easier to clean and sturdy), all of them bolted into the floor in varying places as booths in dark corners were only ominously illuminated by neon signs, curvy women perpetually kicking upwards forever and ever in shades of red, green and blue. The smell of beer was strong and sickly, just managing to mask the more familiar scent to the old god as a juke box in the corner wailed out it's tunes for the price of a dollar.
[Randall Flagg's Theme]
He found the man he had come to see dancing on the floor. All alone, save for a withered corpse in his arms as he twirled and shuffled in old cowboy boots like some macabre line dancer. All around like some undertaker's sick joke, the corpses of bikers, a waitress and more sat frozen in their chairs in a state of decay. Food for maggots wriggling in the flesh as flies buzzed and swarmed thick in the air, eager and feeding.
He noticed him of course, raised a hand in the universal motion of 'one moment' and only when the jukebox finished it's song did he deign to pay attention. He had an easy grin on his face, of a sort his berserkers might have worn but with an underlying nastiness that could not be hid. It was a smile that might be seen on the sort of person who fed maggots to the elderly, who had a lead foot at children crossing the road. It was a smile fit for the Lie-Smith and he gave an exaggerated bow to the old man.
"I was wondering if you'd come here. Or whether or not you'd just up and die in your bed like the rest of your kind. Would have been easier for you."
The old gods voice was raspy. It had been a smoggy day and the bars miasma didn't help as he retorted in a voice like old steel drawn. "You obviously don't know me well if you thought I would go gently into that dark night. Especially to you."
The other laughed aloud, like a racous carrion crow as he stared at him. It was obvious he didn't consider him any kind of threat and it showed in his scorn.
"And what are you gonna do about it? Hmm? Old man like you? Hasn't been a true worshipper of yours since the White Gods son was hot news. Your kind is going the way of the Dodo and you'll be missed just as much. Hadn't you heard?" He spread his arms wide,gesturing all around as he said coyly, doing a little spin on his cowboy booted heel with a laugh.
"It's my year. My time now. This is your serving order and it's time for all your kind to leave. No one cares about god's anymore. Nihilism is the new black and I've never felt so strong."
"Perhaps not. But that was never our role." The old man's voice was calm, standing before the walking avatar of suffering as he spoke. "People believe Ragnarok was a bad thing. The death of the world, the ship of nails and all that. It was never meant to be. Ragnarok is a final hurrah. It's a time when a parent steps down, entrusting the future of the world to his sons in the knowledge it will be better. It is knowing that death comes when it does, that all things have a life and no more to mark the world. To fear the end, to believe it something to be terrified of are the ramblings of a child who is scared of their own shadow. I do not fear death old one..."
His one-eyed glare fixated on the other, firm and clear as he continued.
"And I do not fear you."
His hand flicked out to the jukebox as immediately a song played out. Because if you had to go out, why not to Led Zepplin?
The Dark Ones smile faltered briefly before he laughed. "You can't kill ME. Y'aint got the power for that."
"Oh I'm not going to kill you." The old gods voice had changed-more firm, an old accent of a land never forgotten filling the void between them. In his hands, a staff of ashwood was gripped, two ravens flying in to land on his shoulder as a wolf padded in snarling. The flies had retreated and for a moment, the lines were drawn.
And Odin, All-Father spoke with all the judgement and majesty he was known for as he pronounced sentence on the Dark One.
"I'm just going to kick your ass until you're shitting through your mouth."
The setup: Randall Flagg vs Odin All-Father. The stakes are humanities souls or at least this particular city. Flagg has to defeat Odin. Odin has to beat him up enough to drive him out of town or disincorporate him.
Join us for a battle I had to call...'Old Gods for New Times.'