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January 2020

History Study Group

 

"This text is nonsense," said Eira flatly, setting down their European history book and looking at the other students she'd been assigned to work with bored contempt reflected in her wide blue eyes. "Two thousand years of Scandanavian history and they are obsessed with three hundred years of Vikings. Dum," she pronounced in Swedish with authority. "If you actually want to learn about Nordic history, you should do your own research."

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Astrid wasn't paying much attention to the history book in front of her. Sure, it was about 'her people,' but that didn't mean she was automatically enthralled with the prospect of learning about the expeditions of Erik So-and-So or the reign of King Olof Somedude. That was especially truth when the stuff she was learning was so... basic. Astrid was still figuring out how things worked in America but one of first things she noticed was just how narrow country's perception of Scandinavia was.

 

Even Astrid was reflective enough to know that Norway could be very much the same, but it honestly took her aback just how Viking-crazy Americans were. If a person had to rely entirely on her assigned history book to learn about the region they'd come out thinking that its history began and ended with Vikings. Astrid was certainly no history buff but even she knew that was an offensive amount of bull. 

 

The fallout of the Great Northern War? Not mentioned. The rise of the Nordic Model? Not even an aside. Queen Christina being awesome? Nothing. 

 

The Asgardian groaned to herself. She was getting angry. Again. And about a book of all things. She reminded herself that a lot of people had it way worse when it came to an accurate retelling of their culture's history and that she was getting off relatively easy. There was no need for her to make a stand about this... that was until she heard someone loudly do just that in Swedish a few tables down.

 

Astrid pulled off her headphones and scanned the study hall. It was a good thing was listening to some soft study music lofi instead of her typical hangbanger favorites or else she might not have heard the criticism. In no time at all her eyes locked on to someone she didn't recognize, a new student in all likelihood. Although Astrid didn't know who the Hel she was she immediately found that she liked the mysterious new girl. Calling out the terrible history book was one thing, but the Arch Enemy band shirt and rocking blue hair was equal parts perfect and awesome.   

 

Suddenly smiling, Astrid immediately abandoned her studies and waltzed right up to the blue-haired girl to make her introductions. Her Swedish was pretty fluent, but it had a mild Norwegian accent that a native Swede would be able to make out pretty easily. "Not taking the school's crap excuse for Scandinavian history well are ya? Same here. Yeah, yeah, Vikings are badass in all but there's more to us than just that. Pretty sure Americans would freak if everyone just thought they were cowboys for centuries and nothing else, right?" Astrid softy laughed at her own question and finally took a seat beside the Swede. "But whatev's. Name's Astrid Torsten. People here call me Ms. Thursday sometimes. But about you?"  

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Eira focused her attention on Astrid, her big blue eyes briefly unfocusing - and when she concentrated again, she seemed to be annoyed by something. Her Swedish was decidedly posh - the sort Astrid might have expected to hear from somebody attending an elite boarding school. It didn't exactly match the outfit, anyway. "Eira Katastroff Natt och Dag," she said automatically, her face lighting up a little at the sight of someone else speaking her language. "Yes, it is nonsense," she agreed. "Everyone not from their country is from some sort of theme park. Every Nordic person must have Viking blood, every Asian must be a martial artist, and so on.." She looked Astrid up and down, eyes unfocusing again, and then an eyebrow raised as she asked bluntly. "You don't mind them thinking it, though, do you? Where did your family get the gold to pay for your admission?"

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Astrid made a surprised face. She did not expect a rando knowing about that. Astrid took the surprise in stride though. "You stalking me, new kid?" She says seriously before immediately laughing it off. "Ok, yeah, I do play up the Viking thing when I'm in a fight. Some people weirdly find that intimidating so I go with it. Plus it's fun to do." Astrid shrugged causally. "The gold though, well, that's a bit more complained. And weird." If Astrid was being entirely honest she really wasn't a fan of explaining her past. It was still a sour spot for her and talking about it tended to result in awkward conversation. How exactly do you explain that you're the bastard daughter of a god? Even after doing just that couple times now Astrid wasn't entirely sure how to go about it. Still, as blunt as Eira sounded, Astrid guessed that she wasn't the type of person that would make someone feel to awkward about their origins.

 

And so... "Ok. So the long and short of it is that my extended family paid the admission with literal freakin' gold. Aesir gold to be specific. I'm a demigod. The bastard daughter of Thor himself. Surprise!" squealed theatrically before going back to her normal, dry tone. "Like I said, weird. Turns out that Thor sometimes likes to slum it in Midgard with mortals every couple of centuries in some weaker avatar form. It's how he avoids some Pact or whatever that says that gods can't goof around on Earth fully-charged." Astrid shrugged once again. Arcane cosmology wasn't exactly her favorite subject. "Anyway, that's how he meet my mom in Norway. I think you can figure out the rest. Thor-Dad jetted back to Asgard few years after I was born. Real Dad of the Year move. But he came back. Eventually. After..." Astrid suddenly felt real tired of telling her story and noticeable began to rush to its conclusion. "I got old enough. He said that as a child of the Aesir I needed to train and learn to be a warrior. That's how I ended here in Claremont."

 

Her story finally done Astrid gave Eira an analytical look. She was kind of done with being the focus. "Welp. Said my crazy truth. What about yours. You're new here, ya? Good with tech I heard. A cyborg or something, right?" Astrid was honestly curious. Eira's last name sounded oddly familiar but she couldn't quite place it. 

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"That information is in the public school record," Eira told her seriously when pressed about the coins. "It was not difficult to find.

 

When Astrid turned the conversation to her, she gave the other girl a flat stare. "Something, yes." An unblinking look, and then "My group will be fine without me. Come?" She led the way outside, heading out away from the common room and out onto the quad, away from prying eyes and ears. Once there, she said quietly, "That may work with Americans, but we are both Nordic and I am a Katastroff. If Thor had returned, or even made regular visits, I would have heard about it." She said the last with steel-hard certainty in her voice. "I don't care what your origins are, but you should tell me the truth. I am not stupid.

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Astrid raised an eyebrow at the public record answer. It sounded like bull to her that Claremont would have something like that on public record but Astrid wasn't particularly interested in reading up on Claremont's record policy so she decided to let that one go. 

 

What she wasn't willing to let go was being called out on her origins. Astrid crossed her arms and gave Eira a rather unimpressed look. Sure, even Astrid had to admit backstory was a bit... much, but it was her life and her story and she wasn't going to let some rando call it a bunch of lies. At least not without giving said person a piece of her mind. 

 

Now out in the quad, Astrid made her thoughts known. "I never implied you were stupid," she says incredulously, her eyes rolling as if to emphasize the absurdity of Eira's accusation. "But whatever. I said the truthDon't believe it? Fine. Stay ignorant if you want. But maybe you should ease up on the ego a bit, ya? Just because you're Nordic too and some big shot Katastroff doesn't mean you know about everything going on back home." 

 

Astrid probably should have turned on her heel right then and walked away, but the stupid part of her that liked conflict and hated backing down wanted to see how this played out.

 

 

Edited by Cubismo
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Eira crossed her arms and glared silently at Astrid for a moment - then blinked a few times as her whole expression seemed to change. "Oh-oh, how thoughtless of me!" Her face colored as she put her hand to her mouth. "Oh, I am stupid," she said, sounding appalled. "From the other dimension, as with Magni Thorson." She looked thoroughly crushed, a far cry from the bored contempt she'd been projecting earlier. "I should have looked harder! Sitta med skägget i brevlådan!" She backed away from Astrid, and for a moment it looked as if she was ready to bolt from the conversation entirely. 

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"Oh." Well this was a shock. Astrid awkwardly scratched the back of her head for a moment not knowing exactly what to say. She had expected escalation, not understanding and an apology. "Hey, don't beat yourself up over it. We've all make mistakes. Gods know that I've made a couple." When Astrid saw that Eira was seriously not taking this well her eyes suddenly filled with alarm.

 

"Å helvete," she quickly mutters in Norwegian before reaching to an ashamed looking Eira. "Hey, hey. As far as social faux pas' goes this isn't quite stick your beard in a letterbox levels of awkward," Astrid playfully admits with a smile. "Look if you want to bail back to study hall and pretend this didn't help than that's fine by me. But if you want to start over that's cool too." Astrid shrugged trying to be as causal as possible about the offer. "You could tell me about your family? Katastroff sounds familiar." 

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"I am sorry," she said again, looking away from Astrid, "I don't normally-" She closed her eyes and took the other girl's hand for a moment, her grip bony but human-warm. "...okay. Okay." She smiled as she looked at Astrid, releasing her hand. "The Katastroff family is one of the oldest in Sweden. We have had some, ah, dealings with the Aesir," she added, her cheeks coloring, "but not with yours, so I am sure it does not matter, ha-ha..." As she spoke, she began cracking the knuckles on her left hand, crack crack crack, her blue hair buffeted by the breeze until she pulled her hoodie up. "But that was my grandfather, not me. I have actually been to our universe's Jotunheim though - twice! It was a fascinating place, very different than the old sagas.

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Astrid was very tempted to slap herself. The Katastroffs! How the Hel could we forget about the damn Katastroffs? They were one of the biggest hero outfits in Scandinavia. "Wow, ok. Had a total brain fart right there," she said apologetically, hoping that her cheeks weren't reddening from sudden embarrassment. Wanting to mentally move on from that faux pas, Astrid forced herself to think about Eira's Multiple Aesir commit. She vaguely recalled being told on Asgard that the skeins of myth were a complicated thing that didn't always allow for easy to understand definitions and cosmology, but most of it had either faded from her memory or had been never been really absorbed in the first place. "Yeah, I remember being told about that all trans-dimensional Earth stuff. Kind of." The Asgardian shrugged indifferently and moved on. Mythological metaphysics weren't exactly her bag. Mythological realms on the otherhand..."Oh you've been to Jotunheim! Well, yours I guess. Whatever. Whatcha do there? First time I went I was on 'assignment' and had deal with ancient feud between two Jötunn clans that were fighting over whose ancestor really inscribed a really awesome looking runestone. I tried to get them to think that maybe they both shared the same ancestor to settle things but that only got them angry at me!" Astrid sighed angrily at the memory. "That ended terribly, but I at least got to check out the realm for a bit afterwards. The rowan trees there are beautiful. And the mountains! I tried to fly over one and couldn't even make it with Porrklubba. Probably had to do with them moving around all the time. Ha!"  

 

As Astrid gushed about Jotunheim she was mildly aware that she might be talking to much and too fast. So she stopped her recalling for a bit to give Eira the chance to talk about her own Jotunheim adventures if she had any. 

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Eira didn't seem to be bothered by the volume of Astrid's story-telling - though she did fix her gaze on her levelly as she spoke. 

 

"I was a child then, only fourteen years old, but it was fun. I attended a wedding in Útgarðar between jotunn nobles of the houses of Mimir and Menglöð as a guest of Kimber Storm. The jotunn liked my icy heart and that I could outdrink them all, once I convinced Kimber that I was at no risk of shorting myself out."

 

She snorted, blowing a strand of blue hair out of her eyes. "I heard one of the boys telling the others that it was a shame I was too small to make a good wife, so I struck him across the face and knocked out a tooth." She grinned. "The jotunn are a simple folk but once one knows how to talk to them, you can get along famously." She then added, a bit more seriously, "The second time was harder; last year, an Aesir poisoned the waters of Mímir's Well, and I came to assist Kimber when she acted as a neutral judge over the trial." Her smile dimmed at that. "I left before the sentence was carried out, of course. That's where I got this," she said, reaching up to touch the stud in her eyebrow. "A gift from my friend with the missing tooth. I could not fly the last time I was there, but perhaps I will next time...


She looked up at the sky, still half-smiling, then looked back at Astrid. "So...what is fun to do here?

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Astrid took in Eira's tale with obvious interest. When she got to part about the creepy jotunn Astrid made a look revulsion before giving Eira a nod of approval. "Freaking typical that! I knew I shouldn't be surprised about how simple they can be but damn can they be utter creeps. Good on ya for giving them a solid knock to the jaw for it." As Eira went on though Astrid did start to simmer down a bit in light of knowing that things at worked out for the other girl in the end. 

 

When Eira asks about what to do at Claremont, Astrid quickly answered with an excited "Plenty," and made a wicked grin as her mind ran through all the possible places on campus that she could take the newbie. Claremont might have been a bust when it came to Scandinavian history but beyond that it was still one of the most prestigious and well-founded boarding schools on the planet. Add metahumans and super-tech to the mix and you got a virtual wonderland for a teenager looking for excitement or an distraction them their tedious studies.

 

After thinking on it for a few second Astrid came up with a question. "You're a fan of the music from the Old Country, ja?" She asks half-jokingly, but pointing at her Arch Enemy band shirt all the same. "Well, Claremont has a kick-ass sound system in the band room and your's truly just so happens to have access to it. If you want to get the memory of bad history out your brain we can blast some metal on state-of-the art amplifiers. Hel, I even play you some of my own set list if you want. What do you say? You up for it, Eira?" 

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"Am I!" Eira's eyes lit up, and for a moment she looked much younger than the "eighteen in April" that Astrid had heard her describe herself as. She folllowed Astrid towards the band room as they went, hands in her hoodie pocket, talking all the way. 

 

"Sweden has the best metal scene in the world," she said as they went, her voice sounding suffused with pride, "because it wasn't just greasy boys shouting in their garages like in America, but it really had the punk spirit from the beginning. And they actually knew how to play their guitars!" She laughed, then snapped her fingers - and distinctly the music of Arch Enemy began to play from her body. "And it's not just one kind of metal, but sludge core, symphonic, and all the rest. I used to go to these clubs that..." Her face fell as they reached the band room door, then she smiled thinly. "I suppose I will need new IDs here, yes? You cannot even drink in this country until 21! Ridiculous.

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While Astrid may have playfully rolled her eyes at Eira's comment about the supremacy of the Swedish metal scene, the new girl was still definitely winning her over when it came to the rest of her comments. "By the Gods, yes! The Americans think they own the genre when they didn't even invent it!" The rocker threw up her hands in indignation, earnestly peeved. The number of times she actually had to tell someone here that their country didn't create heavy metal was one to many in her view. 

 

At the band room door, Astrid dug into her pockets searching for her entrance card even as she started to kvetch about another downside to life in America. "Yeah, and don't even get me started on the freaking maddening drinking age here! New Jersey, of course, is one of the worst states but pretty much all of them beside a few are totally insane." Astrid yet again humphed, but her glower quickly turned into a mischievous smile that she shoot Eira's way. "But I guess it isn't a big problem. At least for me. I have my ways to get into clubs worth the name."

 

They were inside the deserted band room now. Astrid wanted to introduce Eira to some one of the other metalheads though she supposed she could always do that another time. 

 

Astrid ran up to her favorite electric guitar which was laying unattended in a corner and started strumming. "So, wanna listen to me play or do you want to blast some more Arch Enemy in a booth? Hey, maybe you can interface with the equipment to really give it's sound a boost! You know, if you can do that sort of thing with your powers."

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Eira was looking happier than Astrid had yet seen - or heard of, come to think of it, given the teen's reputation around Claremont. "Let hear you play," she said, enthusiasm lighting up her voice like electricity. As Astrid got herself set up with the guitar, Eira found an electric keyboard left discarded in a corner of the room. With a smile, she bent over the equipment and did something Astrid couldn't quite follow - it looked like a quicksilver serpent had run out from Eira's sleeve and buried itself in the keyboard's USB port. With a smile on her face, Eira leaned back and said throatily, "Oh yes, a lot of people have used this system. When I hear what you are playing, I'll join in. Hmm, maybe some mid-era Bathory sound..." Her teeth were white and polished, bright as as a model's smile behind her blue-painted lips. 

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Astrid politely ignored the metal-snake-thing that just came out of Eira's sleeve.  She was a Claremont student and she'd seen much stranger things in her time here. Also, she was way too excited by Eira's willingness to listen to her music to be bothered by something so normal as that. "Sweet!" She cheered, jumping one fist into the air. "Just remember If I melt your ears off that you agreed to this."

 

Astrid had been going back and forth on what exactly what she wanted to play for Eira. At first she thought some of her more easy-going melodic death metal riffs would be more the new girl's speed given that she liked Arch Enemy but her Bathory comment made her think otherwise. "Bathory, huh? Oh I can definitely help you there. How this!" Astrid inserted the electric guitar's jack into a nearby amplifier and started to play. True to the viking metal genre, her set was loud, chaotic, breakneck and unapologetically saturated with a folk sensibility. As her fingers played, Astrid sang her saga: A riotous tale of how she several other Claremont students battled an invading giant and its army of murderous elves. 

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Eira caught up on the keyboards so fast it was as if she and Astrid had been practicing together for years. It was obvious Eira was not a natural stage performer - the way she bobbed and jerked to the music was slightly off-tempo and a little of what an earlier generation might have unkindly called spastic, albeit very enthusiastic. But the music she produced (all without actually moving her fingers over the keyboard) was melodic and sad; the sort of symphonic metal keyboard that gave an aura of weight and gravitas to the music, as if the subject of Astrid's ballad was the great and ancient ballad that it deserved to be. It was certainly very technically proficient. 

 

When it was done, she stepped back, a smile on her face, still connected to the machine via her dataspike. "Beautiful," she said, her voice sounding thoroughly satisfied. "Do you come here often?" she asked frankly. "We should make a band.

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Her saga at an end, Astrid unplugged the guitar and let it rest against the band room wall. It was kind of funny. She could go ten rounds with a giant without breaking a sweat but when it came to her music it almost always felt like see needed to cool off after finishing a performance. When the Asgardian sees the smile on Eira's face, she flashes one of her own. "Beautiful? Huh. My music's been called a lot of things but beautiful is a new one. Thanks," she says, trying her best not to blush. 

 

Though the compliment has her distracted for a second, Eira's question and the idea of forming a band immediately brings Astrid back to reality. "Yeah, I do. Like, constantly and all the time. Hel, it's probably my favorite place in this school," she says sincerely before adding, "Claremont has a lot of kids with talent running around but it doesn't have a freaking band for its band room. Crazy, right?" She threw up her arms, excited about the burgeoning idea. "If you want to fix that problem than I totally for it! Bragi, together we might even be able to convince Micah to join us!"

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And so it was that, later that afternoon, two Scandanavian girls tracked down an Oklahoman guitar player near the intramural athletic field. 

 

"Hello, Micah," said Eira throatily, placing her foot on the bleacher where he was sitting, the other flat on the ground. Her boots were sturdy and leather, suitable for long-distance walking. "Astrid says you can play the guitar. Is that so?

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Micah was leaned over, resting his hands on his knees. He'd pretty clearly just finished running some laps, though there was no sports practice today. His outfit suggested a simple effort to get at least a bit of actual exercise into his routine. He took a few more deep breaths, then looked up and blinked.

 

"Uh."

 

He stood up all the way, brushed his hands off on his pants, and tried again.

"Hi. Um, yes, I can. Won't say I'm an expert but I haven't heard complaints yet."

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Things had escalated quickly and Astrid was absolutely ecstatic about it. It had been a while since she seriously  thought about being part of a band and the old feelings of pending collaboration was coming back. 

 

Arriving at the athletic field, Astrid waled up to a predictably self-deprecating Micah and gave the Johnny Cash-enthusiast an amused rueful look. 

 

"Won't say I'm an expert," she repeated, shaking her head at the boy's words. "Come on Micah! I've heard you play. You're sound is great. Superb! And you'd be a awesome part of our band. So what do you say? We can all be part of something great and really learn from each other."

Edited by Cubismo
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Micah narrowed his eyes a bit. He seemed to be a mixture of confused, cautious, and even suspicious.

 

"What...kind...of band? My folks told me to always read the fine print before signin' up for anything."

He crossed his arms over his chest and regarded the young women in front of him.

 

"Not sayin' I ain't gonna do it. Just...trying to make sure we're on the same page."

 

He seemed to be fighting to keep his Oklahoman accent in check. Perhaps he'd heard rumors about Eira's...intensity.

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"Pfft!" Eira snorted through her pierced nose. "We are making a band that rocks hard; the only kind that matters. Vocals," she said, pointing to Astrid, "keyboards," she said herself, "and guitar. If you think you can keep up with us." She turned and paced casually, walking to the edge of the bleachers.  

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"A helvete," Astrid swore in Norwegian under her breath. The teen cringed even as she put a palm to her face. If Benico was on the scene he probably would have commented on just how perfectly Astrid was mirroring a facepalm meme. 

 

After a few seconds of blessed darkness, Astrid removed her hand and gave Micah a very apologetic look. "So, right, I'm just gonna apologize on Eira's behave here because she's bloody awful at making first impressions."  

 

She rounded back to the girl in question, staring her down even as she started pacing near the bleachers. "We aren't going to get people to join our rock band if we act like big-headed drittsekker!" 

 

Regardless of what Eira says in return, Astrid made sure to at least give Micah another apology and offer to join their perhaps doomed band. "Seriously, sorry about that, Micah. Eira has to work on her delivery because she can really be such a-" Astrid caught her herself before she said another curse, remembering whose company she was in, "Spazz at times. But she's also kind of cool when she chills out. Anyways, we're still figuring out what kind of band we want to be. I'm thinking heavy metal with folk infusions but nothing's been really set in stone yet. You still interested?"

Edited by Cubismo
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Micah raised an eyebrow and looked back and forth at the two girls. He just stood there for almost a minute before speaking.

 

"You ladies do realize I primarily have practice playing country&western, bluegrass, folk, and some classic rock, right?"

 

He uncrossed his arms and rolled his shoulders as he continued to speak.

 

"I'm not just sayin' 'NO', but...I ain't really ever played metal. Heavy or otherwise. I just haven't done it, can't promise how good I'd be."

 

He glanced at Eira before his gaze moved to Astrid; he met her eyes with just a tiny spark of mischief.

 

"Though I will say, I have to wonder if you ladies could keep up with me..."

 

He smiled, then froze. His eyes went wide as his face flushed.

 

"Musically! I meant music!"

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