Fic: At the Gates of the Underworld

Thor frowned at the flowers on the path, at the cryptic inscription, and at his fellows, each disappearing in turn through the forbidding gates.
  They'd explained the way in, yes; eat the poison flower, die. Or something. But there'd been talk about the meaning of the second verse, an antidote to allow your return to the living. Those who'd understood it had gone on ahead and the solution had not been passed back to the group with any great clarity.
  He was not afraid of death, he'd demonstrated that enough. Nor was he afraid of what lay ahead within the underworld, though surely many of the denizens of Hel's realm would bear him a grudge. However ... it was not his wish to be separated from his love, so soon after finding her, for the want of a flower or a whimsical rhyme.
  Looking back on the path, he saw one other - the skald, Scheherazade, standing proud and alone with a golden arrow tucked in the folds of her cloak.
  "I shall remain to protect the lady," declared Thor, and she smiled; her Robin nodded in appreciation, and passed on.
  The god and the word-weaver stood at the gates, in silence for a moment. He rocked forward on the balls of his feet. She looked around, regarding their surroundings. As a master storyteller, perhaps she was aware that they had not been described in particular detail by the narrative, the reader's mind left to conjure their own image of Hell's antechambers. If she was, she chose not to draw attention to it.
  Nothing continued to happen.
  "So," said Thor after a time. "How did you first meet Robin?"
  "Ah, well there is a tale to that," Scheherazade said with a smile.
  "We appear to have time," he shrugged.
  "Very well, then," she began. "It is related that there was, in ancient times, a King of the countries of India and China..."


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