Old Dogs | Part Five

Hovi seeks the help of an old friend as his campaign to take back Asgard gets underway.

The next day Hovi took me to meet one of his friends. We took the subway to the outskirts of the city — a few people giving him pats and others giving the fearsome hound a wide berth — and then walked around ten minutes to what appeared to a nearby quarry.

The huge crater was surrounded by a chain link fence and apparently hadn’t been touched in years, according to the greenery which had grown up the steel and the rust gathering on the padlock.

“Here,” Hovi said. “Here is where we shall find my friend, Heimdallr.”

“Heimdallr,” I asked as I began to fiddle with the padlock. It fell open easily. “He was the man tasked with watching for the apocalypse, right?”

Hovi growled in the affirmative.

“Yes,” he replied. “Heimdallr sees more than any being alive, even here. Be wary around him, Jack, he still has not forgiven himself for not sensing Hel’s machinations before we were banished. He also has not had… pleasant experiences with your kind.”

I didn’t push the issue further, we simply stepped into the quarry and began to head down the haphazard path into the depths. The crater itself was full of old drilling equipment and rusted vehicles covered with tarpaulins. Whoever had started drilling it had been forced to leave in a hurry a long time ago.

“Heimdallr!” Hovi shouted, his gruff voice echoing across the quarry. No reply.

“Maybe he’s not here,” I suggested. Hovi shook his head.

“No. This place is where we first arrived after Loki sent us to Midgard, the connection with our realm is strong here. Heimdallr refused to leave it.”

Hovi called out again. In the corner of my eye, I saw one of the tarpaulins twitch. The air, though the sky was milky and wet, was still. I began to head towards it, leaving Hovi sniffing the ground in search of his friend.

The moist stone crunched under my feet, my nose filled with the odour of wet clay, the source of which was quickly coating my boots.

Another twitch from the sheet, covering what appeared to be ancient, rotting pallets. I peered in. Why would Heimdallr be hiding from his friend?

As Hovi’s booming voice echoed out across the quarry, I reached out for the tarpaulin and grasped it. Something plowed into my back, throwing me to the ground and stomping my face into the clay.

In my ear, I heard a vicious growl, teeth settling on my neck. I closed my eyes and waited for them to break the skin.

“Heimdallr!” Hovi shouted. I could hear him padding towards me at speed. “Heimdallr, stop!”

At once, the weight that had been crushing my entire body leapt away. I scrambled to my feet and turned to find a formidable hound, as tall and wide as Hovi, if not larger; it looked more like a wolf than any dog I’d ever seen. Its face was scarred and its eyes were a sickly, milky white.

“Allfather,” the dog — Heimdallr — snarled. “Why bring this human here? This place is sacred.”

Hovi stepped towards Heimdallr and lowered himself, almost deferentially, and a moment later the wolfhound matched him.

“This man is Jack, my keeper,” Hovi explained. “He is a friend to us. He saved me from reduction.”

Heimdallr growled.

“The Allfather has no keeper, Odin,” he said. “Not on Asgard, nor Midgard, or any of the Nine Realms.”

“Still yourself, friend,” Hovi explained. “Let us get out of this cold.”

Reluctantly, and with a suspicious glance at me, Heimdallr turned and led us away.

Heimdallr had made his home, or den, within an old shipping container, doors missing but replaced with the same thick, green tarp which protected the other equipment dotted around the quarry.

Heimdallr was one of the most mean-looking animals I had ever seen. His eyes were entirely white, as though he was blind, but he traversed the quarry without issues.

It was not difficult to guess at the origin of the scars and marks across his skin, beneath the coarse, grey hair. I’d watched enough programmes to know that he was the product of a dog fighting ring.

One of the scars, near his shoulder, was a brand. The number ‘44’.

‘He also has not had… pleasant experiences with your kind’, came Hovi’s voice. I felt a pang of sadness mixed with guilt.

Inside the container there were all the comforts a stray dog, even one that had once guarded the realm of Asgard, could ask for. There was a dirty, torn up quilt in the corner covered in dark paw prints. A bowl filled with discoloured water and the corpse of a rabbit, eaten raw with sharp canines.

“Heimdallr,” Hovi said as they settled in. I found a clean-enough patch of steel floor and sat down, cross-legged. “It is good to see you again, friend.”

“You as well, Allfather,” Heimdallr replied, looking at me.

“Calm yourself,” Hovi told him. “Jack has been my keeper for many years. He is a friend.”

Heimdallr seemed unsure, but Hovi’s word did calm him slightly. He sat down heavily.

“You felt it too, Allfather?”

Hovi cocked his head.

“I felt nothing, brother,” he replied.

“Then why come to me if not that?” Heimdallr said, his mottled face forming a frown.

“I am tired of hiding, brother,” Hovi said. “We are infinite, Heimdallr, but we belong in Asgard. Watching over the Nine Realms.”

“Yes,” Heimdallr said, solemnly.

“I intend to take back our home. I intend to take the fight to Hel and remove her from our kingdom.”

Heimdallr rumbled.

“You seem agitated,” Hovi said. “What troubles you?”

Standing, Heimdallr shook his fur dry, then crossed to the dirty quilt. He rummaged around beneath the cover for a moment and returned with a torn, damp newspaper. He dropped it on the floor, open at a specific page.

The headline read: “DEFRA appoints new head”. Below, the subheading explained that a woman named Helena Hall had been selected by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, promising to solve the issue of ‘dangerous dogs in the UK’.

Hovi’s face fell when he saw the woman’s face, a picture of her, slim and dressed all in black, stepping out of a stuffy looking government building.

“Hel,” he whispered. “She has found us.”