This came to my mind when I was listening to "Anima" by Fahrenhaidt. It fits wonderfully and I'd totally recommend listening to it while reading.
Those traditions are completely made up.
I am no native English speaker so please forgive my mistakes.
Minor swear words
All rights go to Marvel.
Please enjoy, read and review ;)
"So, Thor invited us to an Asgardian celebration…"
"Why are you so excited, Tony?"
"Why, Big Green I thought you liked this cultural exchange thing?"
"I do…but you don't."
Stark gave him an incredulous look, "Are you kidding me? I'll be introduced to Asgardian alcoholic beverages. What more could I possibly wish for?" Bruce just shook his head.
"Okay so…anyone know what they are celebrating? The attack is going to start soon, that doesn't exactly seem pleasant to me", Rhodey turned to Natasha who shrugged.
"He didn't tell."
"Great…So what are we gonna wear?"
"What? We're talking about some Alien culture from another galaxy!"
"I'm pretty sure they're from the same galaxy."
"Wow…and that makes it that much better, Nat. I still don't know how I'm supposed to dress. The last thing we need is to offend them over some stupid tradition…"
"I think Thor would've said something if it was that important."
"He did say something about dancing though."
Tony shrugged, "What's the big deal, guys? It's gonna be fun."
"Sure…", the Avengers groaned.
"Wait, what are Asgardian dances like, Tony?"
"How would I know? Just swing to the music!" With that he left the room, laughing.
It was already dark when the Avengers departed the Quin-Jet and began walking towards the large crowd of Asgardians that had gathered on the fields. After the Asgardians' arrival on Earth they had chosen to stay in Norway where their king had perished. Norway of course, had been more than willing to give them refuge.
A few fires were lit in the distance and offered just enough light to see where they were going. Apart from the stars, the night was dark.
"New moon." Natasha spoke Tony's thoughts aloud. "You think that means something?"
"I think so", answered Bruce. "For many cultures the moon and sun are sacred."
"You want to tell me that they are praying to the moon?"
"How do we know that Asgard had moons at all?" Natasha, Bruce and Tony looked at each other and shrugged. They seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
"My friends!", Thor exclaimed as they drew nearer and waved his hand, "I am glad you could come!"
"We're happy to be here.", Bruce answered for them.
Thor's smile widened. "Great. The feast is going to start soon. Follow me."
With that he turned around and marched back to where he came from with Tony, Bruce, Natasha, Clint and Rhodey following close behind.
"Oh no, I knew it!", Clint threw his hands up in exasperation as he got a better view of the people. They all wore tunics in bright colors and had symbols painted on their arms and forehead.
"I'm sure we don't have to dress like that, Clint", Natasha said reassuringly.
In front of them Thor stopped next to a woman with long dark hair. "Brunnhilde" She turned around.
"My friends, this is Brunnhilde, but she prefers 'Valkyrie'. Val, those are the Avengers: Clint Barton, Antony Stark…"
"…Colonel Rhodes, Lady Natasha and of course you know Banner."
"Hey Big Guy!" She punched Bruce's shoulder friendly, "And nice to meet you all. The king wouldn't shut up about you, let's see whether the stories are true."
"They're all lies, don't believe anything."
"Too bad, Stark." Tony frowned confused.
Thor cleared his throat. "Well…Val will show you around and answer any questions you may have…"
"Aren't you going to stay with us?", Clint asked almost worried.
"I am sorry, my friends, but fret not. I will join you as soon as the last preparations are made." He excused himself and disappeared in the crowd.
"Great. So…Valkyrie?", Tony started, but stopped when she looked at him impassively.
Val rolled he eyes. "What do you want to know?"
"Well…Thor didn't tell us much about this...feast."
"Hm.", she nodded, "Well here is what you need to know: Translated in your language we call it the 'feast of the last honor'. It is not celebrated regularly, in fact it hasn't been celebrated for almost three hundred years." When she saw their confused faces she raised her eyebrow. "What?"
"Well if it hasn't been celebrated for over three hundred years…why now?", Bruce asked.
"Three hundred years may be a long time for you, but it is not for us."
"And to answer your question: This feast takes place to honor our dead, mostly after a great war or fight. Since that hasn't happened in Asgard for a long time until Ragnarok it was simply not necessary. But now…"
They nodded their understanding.
"So…what is going to happen during this feast? You are not going to pray to the moon or something, right?", Clint asked nervously.
Val rolled her eyes. "Of course not."
"So why new moon?", Bruce asked instead.
"Because of the darkness. You will understand soon. But before that…you need to get dressed."
Clint rolled his eyes and shared a look with Natasha.
"I'm afraid we don't have anything to wear. Can't we just stay in our normal clothes?"
"Absolutely not. Now shut up and follow me!" And with that they followed Valkyrie to the entrance of the large ship that was parked not far away on the field. They waited at the loading ramp as she got their clothing.
"So what now?"
"We wait and fit in."
"Does anyone else feel like we shouldn't be here? I mean…this seems to be like a requiem of sorts."
"I'm sure Thor wouldn't invite us if we weren't welcome", Rhodey said.
"Put these on", Valkyrie dropped a pile of white clothing at their feet.
She raised an eyebrow.
"Alright, stop giving us the death glare", Tony muttered.
The guys turned their backs to each other while Natasha was allowed to dress inside the ship…typical.
They all got white tunics with golden waistbands. "I hope we don't have to paint ourselves too."
"I don't think so. They are all wearing different markings. Perhaps the symbols of their dead relatives?"
"Whatever you say, Brucie"
After about two minutes they heard Valkyrie calling from inside the ship, "Hey, are you ready?"
Tony sighed, "Yeah."
The two women came back walking down the ramp, Natasha wearing a white, sleeveless dress. "Good, let's go."
Finally ready for the celebration, they paused at one of the campfires.
"Now, listen carefully. I am going to tell you this once…", but she was interrupted when Thor's voice boomed through the night.
All around them the people stopped whatever they were doing and began organizing themselves in a circle, leaving room in the middle. Silence settled over the crowd, only disrupted by the crackling of the fire. Thor stood on top of a rock overlooking his subjects, waiting patiently for them to reach their position.
"It has been a long time", he began, "that the people of Asgard gathered to honor their dead like this. Too long. Many of us experienced great loss during Ragnarok. The loss of loved ones – family members and friends, the loss of our home, our king, our whole way of living.
But even though Asgard is gone it does not mean that we cannot honor our traditions and values. We need not lose our identity together with our realm. We are still a people! We are still strong as long as we don't betray ourselves. This feast is in the honor of the dead as well as the living! May it give us strength and hope for a better future!"
If the Avengers expected cheering they were proven wrong because instead the Asgardians stared at their king with hope and new conviction in their eyes.
Slowly, the crowd parted, leaving a pathway to the ship.
"What is going to happen now?", Bruce asked Valkyrie silently.
Valkyrie seemed to think about the question for a moment. "Now they will lead the norðurljós, the chosen one, into our midst.
"The chosen one?"
"Yes. A mage is chosen who is to establish a connection to the dead in Valhalla. The tradition existed even before the reign of Thor's grandfather King Bor when powerful mages were seen as...well you could say prophets. "
"A connection to the dead? How is that possible?"
"It is not certain how, only very few have the knowledge and strong enough magic to perform such a spell."
Tony groaned. "How many times,..there is no such thing as magic!"
"If you say so. However, the mage is either chosen for their strength, their personal relation to the fallen or the part they played in battle. It is a great honor to be chosen, but it also requires certain sacrifices.
Sadly, few of those who survived were trained in magic. As far as I know there are no more than two or three healers who possess healing magic. Another twenty four civilians are able to wield it, but their seidr is weak. There was actually only one choice."
"Who?", Tony prayed she wouldn't confirm his suspicion.
"He was the apprentice of Asgard's sorceress supreme."
"And who would that be?", Clint sounded almost angry.
Valkyrie didn't answer as all around them the Asgardians began to play drums in a slow rhythm.
Bum bum bum bum bum bum bum
After about a minute it became slightly hypnotizing and Tony had to concentrate really hard not to be sucked into it.
It was quite unsettling to see everyone but his fellow Avengers in a haze, slowly swinging to the drumming. No way that those were normal drums…
Over the heads of the crowd Tony could see three figures slowly advancing towards their circle. It was so dark he could hardly see his friends, but he would recognize Loki's tall silhouette everywhere. His suspicion was confirmed when Clint cursed silently beside him.
"Why can't he just stay dead...", he murmured.
Tony just shrugged, "Gods don't die that easily, I guess."
"No way in hell is this maniac a god."
As the group stepped into the light of the flames, Tony noticed in confusion that Loki was blindfolded and led by the two women behind him. He wore no shirt or any other clothing besides a pair of black trousers and his upper body was adorned with what Tony assumed to be Asgardian markings.
"Why is he blindfolded?", he turned to Valkyrie who had been watching intently.
"And can't he afford a shirt?", Clint asked.
"It's another tradition, I presume."
"Very good, Big Guy. Yes, 'tis another tradition", she whispered as to not disturb the atmosphere. "I don't know about the shirt, I guess it's a sorcerer-thing, but the blindfolding represents the trust in his people and the ones overseeing the procedure...And...I actually asked him yesterday and he said something along the lines of 'I do not need my eyes to see during Fögnuður síðasta heiðurs...'"
"What kind of procedure?", Bruce asked, ignoring the foreign words.
Loki and his companions had come to a halt in the middle of the circle, the two women withdrawing with a low bow. Now Thor descended from his rock and walked majestically through the crowd towards his brother.
Again, Tony was confused when the Asgardians seemed to hold their breath for a second as Thor stepped forward. He laid one hand on Loki's shoulder and grasped his neck with the other. He watched him with a somewhat concerned expression before he whispered something in his ear. His brother nodded, but didn't answer. Seemingly satisfied, Thor placed a light kiss on his forehead.
The spectators audibly exhaled.
"What the hell was that about?", Tony once again turned to Valkyrie.
"The king approved of the people's choice."
"What? You wanna tell me they chose him?"
"I know you've had your differences in the past, but he's not that bad of a guy...and he actually saved every single one of us. He has gained their favor", she explained.
"Are you kidding me? He is the bad guy on Earth."
"Than you haven't met the actual dangers of the universe yet", Valkyrie replied drily.
"Well that's reassuring."
She sent him another 'shut-up-look' so he restrained himself and turned back to the spectacle before them.
Loki had sat down in what looked slightly like the Buddhist sitting posture. His legs were crossed underneath him and his back straight, head held high.
One of the women, seemingly his assistant, stepped forward again. She now held a wooden bowl in both hands, carefully walking towards him as to not spill the content. She knelt before him and held it to his lips. He drank it without hesitation. So much for trust.
For all Tony knew she could have just poisoned him. Under no circumstances would Tony drink some strange substance fed to him while he was blind and practically helpless.
"Put out the fires!", Thor's voices was heard clearly across the field.
Tony got a bad feeling in his stomach as one by one the nine campfires were put out and his surroundings became completely dark. "Does anyone else feel uncomfortable?"
"It's a bit unsettling, not seeing shit.", Clint answered.
"I agree. I'd rather keep my eyes open and seeing.", said Natasha, "especially with him being only a few feet away."
"Norns, stop being paranoid. And. Shut. Up!", Valkyrie whispered angrily. Tony rolled his eyes, but did as asked.
Something strange was obviously going on there. Everyone was holding their breath again, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It was now eerily dark. The only thing still emanating some light was the display of his wristwatch, but after some old Asgardian lady sent him a disapproving glare he quickly covered it with his hand and turned it off. Even he could see that this was somehow serious.
It was silent too. First, there had been the breathing of the Asgardians, but now it seemed as if they had turned that off as well.
That only made Loki's breathing more audible which grew faster and more shallow by the minute. This can't be good.
At last something happened, when a green spark appeared from nowhere. Only a second later there was a second one and they both grew brighter while Tony was watching. What the hell was going on?
Slowly, the little light sources seemed to gather enough strength to illuminate the field and Tony was now able to see that they actually sat on Loki's outstretched palms.
"This is what we call seidr...in it's truest form.", Valkyrie whispered, sounding almost awed.
"What is he doing with it?", Tony asked sceptically.
"He releases it."
"What? Isn't that dangerous?", there was an almost concerned undertone in Bruce's voice. Just what the hell had happened on that Alien planet?!
"As far as I know it's not life threatening, but he should be out cold for at least a few days when this is over."
Bruce nodded, not totally satisfied with the answer.
The seidr was now spending a steady light, strangely pulsating as if it was alive and...ascending like smoke from Loki's hand, spreading as it reached a certain height. Tony had to admit that it looked quite beautiful.
"So that's why they are called 'Northern lights'", mused Bruce aloud.
"Norðurljós – northern light. It's very similar to Icelandic..."
„It's beautiful...", Natasha muttered.
Loki sat as stiff as a statue while the 'seidr' streamed from his hands and Tony was sure that under this scarf-like thing he had his eyes closed.
The two women who had accompanied him sat a few feet before him in a similar position.
Then another dozen figures stepped out the circle and it wasn't until they held some strange objects to their lips – or chins – which looked vaguely like instruments and began playing a melody that Tony realized that the dancing was about to start soon. The music, strangely, sounded a bit like Irish folk and the mood instantly shifted.
He saw young and old men bowing before their ladies, blowing kisses onto their knuckles and asking for a dance.
Couples began swaying to the music and Tony heard beer kegs being opened and laughter began erupting from the people around him. "I think that's my signal", pointing in the direction of the kegs, "See ya later", and with that he turned around and vanished in the crowd.
"How long does this feast last, actually? Until dawn?", Bruce asked Valkyrie, curiosity in his tone.
"No, not necessarily. It lasts until…"
"Until what?", Clint interrupted.
She sighed. "Until Lackey passes out."
"Excuse me?", Bruce was a bit shocked. Probably the part of him that was a doctor didn't like the prospect.
Clint just snorted about the nickname.
"Yes. Thor does not like it either, especially with this new threat lurking at our doorstep, but the idiot wouldn't listen."
"Hey guys, do you mind Nat and I joining the dancing?", Clint spoke up, obviously uninterested in their conversation.
"Uh...sure.", Bruce answered distractedly while Rhodey nodded and headed to where Tony had vanished. "I'll stop him before he gets totally wasted."
Val snorted, turning back to Bruce who looked at her disapprovingly. "Well, considering the strength it probably costs to maintain this, I guess most don't last until dawn..."
"Listen, Bruce. 'Tis a tradition, alright? The feast continues until the mage's magical core, or whatever you want to call it, is depleted. That's why only the most skilled are chosen. It is said that in the last minutes the ancestors will grant a glimpse into the future if they are impressed by the norðurljós' strength."
„And if they aren't? Impressed, I mean."
„Then we are literally left in darkness."
Tony had had two mugs of the incredibly strong beer when Thor sat down on the grass beside him. "How are you faring, friend Stark?"
"Honestly, this is perfect", he said, raising his mug. "The whole saidr-thing is strange, but kinda interesting."
"Yes, indeed.", he fumbled with the grass next to his feet, nervously. "I asked him not to do it, but there was no reasoning with my brother."
"Yeah, your princess said the same thing. Rhodey gave me an update."
"Brunnhilde? She is not my princess! She is just..."
Thor cleared his throat. "Do you wish to dance, friend Stark? I could ask a maiden..."
"No it's alright. I am content just sitting here, drinking this amazing beer.", he said, drowning the rest of his third mug.
"If you wish. But you should know it does not measure with our Asgardian mead."
"What? This is not from Asgard? It tastes better than anything I've ever had on Earth!"
"Well, it is made by my people, but we could not bring it from Asgard.", Thor said sadly.
Oh...right. Tony mentally face-palmed.
"Right. So...why don't you dance, Point Break? It's your party after all."
"'Tis, but I feel like I should be there for my brother, when he..."
"Ah. You want to be a good big brother.", he excepted the full glass someone handed to him.
"Yes. I have failed in that for too long."
"Hm...but still you don't trust his abilities.", Tony said casually.
Thor's eyes widened. "This is not true I..."
"...think, that he'll pass out any second. Thor, it has only been about an hour since this whole thing started. I would know, because Rhodey visits me every fifteen minutes, asking how many drinks I've had already."
Thor furrowed his brow.
"Come on, Princess said this could last until dawn. Since your evil little bro has survived a hulk-smash more or less unscathed, I'd say he'll make it."
Now Thor looked slightly ashamed.
"I see the truth in your words, friend Stark."
"Great. Then go and have a bit of fun at Rudolf's expanse.", he gave him a grin that Thor mirrored after a second. "What are you waiting for, shoo!"
And with that the Asgardian stood up and disappeared with a wave.
Tony waved back and then laid down in the grass. The beer was getting to him after almost four mugs. When he closed his eyes he could hear the laughing and wild dancing in the background. Then sleep claimed him.
Excited voices ripped Tony from his slumber.
He opened his eyes with difficulty and groaned when he became aware of the headache that had built in his scull. Great, just great.
"Tony! Hey Tony, you're alright?", Rhodey's concerned face appeared above him before it changed to extremely annoyed. "Tony, I told you not to drink too much, you idiot! Don't you ever listen?"
"Nope, obviously not. What's going on, what time is it?"
"It's past dawn."
"Past...", then it came back to him. „Really? Didn't think the bastard would actually last that long."
All around him the people began gathering in a circle again, shouting things to one another. "Come on, Tony, or we'll miss the show."
„Yeah sure." Tony scrambled to his feet. „Let's go"
They made their way through the audience until they reached the inner circle, having a good view of the people in the middle.
If possible Loki looked even stiffer than before. There was sweat on his forehead and his hands were slightly shaking. The seidr protruding from his palms came in short intervals and spread thin like mist, creating a somewhat spooky atmosphere that surrounded them.
Tony watched Thor making his way through the crowd to his brother and kneeling before him, offering support by gripping his shoulder and whispering a few silent words into his ear.
About five minutes passed like that, the audience waiting, barely breathing.
At last the green flow stopped. No one moved.
Before Tony could register what happened, a wave of energy seemed to explode from Loki's body and he staggered backwards, shielding his eyes while bumping into Rhodey behind him.
When Tony drew his hand back, he saw Loki laying on the ground, unmoving while the mist around them pulsated. It reminded him faintly of a heartbeat.
He awe he stared with his mouth agape as the mist concentrated itself in certain areas and began...building pictures? "Holy crap", he heard Rhodey whisper behind him. "Seems as if they are impressed after all."
Tony had no idea what his friend was talking about, but didn't ask as he watched the scene unfolding before him intently.
Some sort of animals where riding around him, tall, human-like creatures on their backs, weapons raised and mouths open in silent screams; Sky-scrapers where crumbling and tumbling to the ground like toys; a space ship crushing everything beneath it as it landed on the ground…
Soon, Tony had to close his eyes against the storm of images. It was just too much to comprehend. What he saw before him was destruction in it's purest form and Tony...was scared. He was watching the downfall of his world with his very eyes.
He only opened his eyes when he heard exhales all around him, relief audible.
But still, no one dared to speak. Tony looked to his right when the tall golden warrior held his arm to his chest and bowed his head. Others caught up quickly and mirrored the gesture, falling to one knee, paying their respect.
In the middle, Thor righted himself up from the ground and crawled to his brother's side, cradling his head in his hands. After a second he turned and waved the two magic-assistants over.
They too knelt down next to the prince and began wiping his forehead with a cloth while a boy brought a green blanket in which they wrapped him.
The Asgardians stayed on the ground with their heads bowed when Thor picked his brother up from the ground, the women and the boy at his side and made his way towards the ship. Only when they had disappeared into the vessel the people rose again. To Tony's surprise they all turned to their neighbors and embraced them or clapped them on the back.
Hesitantly, he turned to Rhodey and drew him into a quick hug, of course with the intention to fit in properly…
Luckily, his friend didn't comment on it.
"What now?", he asked him silently.
"Now the feast is over."
Surprised they saw Valkyrie standing beside them.
"Just like that?"
"Yes...just like that."
"Wait", he said when she was about to walk away again, "Aren't we going to like, talk about it?"
"No. No one speaks about what transpires at Fögnuður síðasta heiðurs."
"Why?", Rhodey asked confused.
"Only the king and the mages are to speak about it. They are the ones to determine the right path into the future."
"Yeah, never believed in this shit either...", she snorted. "But it is..."
"Tradition, yes. I think we get it." Tony rolled his eyes.
"Very well, farewell, Avengers."
And with that she was gone.
"Seriously? That's it?"
Rhodey just shrugged and walked away as well.
Tony looked back one last time before he followed his friend back to the Quin Jet.