Story Notes:Written circa 2007.
Once upon a time in a cold, dreary Norwegian village there lived a young reverend named Aslaug Wartooth, who led a pious, isolated life until he was introduced to Anja, a young woman with a face like a funeral dirge who was just as silent and austere as he was. Though both were devoutly religious members of the church they were firstly human beings, and like all human beings they needed to get their freak on at least once in their lives.
At first it was easy to get away with, being that they were both tight-lipped and scary looking enough that no one dared ask them questions, but it soon became apparent that Anja was pregnant and no one in the village was going to buy the “immaculate conception” excuse. Someone had been diddling her in the doo-dah, and every finger in town was soon pointing right at Reverend Wartooth.
The church’s flock dispersed once the humiliating scandal went public, and the village fell into disrepair. The sun ceased to shine from above; dark clouds hung low over the village and cast shadows over the mouldering ruins of a once-gloomy town now reduced to something even more suicidally monochromatic than an Alfred Hitchcock movie set. The God-fearing villagers took this as a sign that someone Upstairs was seriously pissed off and they all fled overnight, leaving behind only a handful of religious masochists.
Reverend Wartooth could have easily blamed the whole thing on Anja, calling her a vile, wicked temptress of lust and deceit, but with her looks no one would believe him. He decided that the best thing to do would be to marry the broad who was carrying his illegitimate love-child, but he was the only holy man left in town and he didn’t know if it would be right to marry himself. So they formed a strange sort of union that really didn’t do anything to bring folks back to town, and several months later Anja gave birth to seven and a half pounds of wailing, blood-drenched divine justice.
God must have finally had mercy on the two sinners because the baby boy that had been brought into the world bore very little resemblance to his homely (see also: hideous) parents; still, He must have had a sick sense of humour because the littlest Wartooth totally messed up Mommy’s reproductive plumbing on the way out, making any chances of sex after the kid nil. Not that Anja or Aslaug ever planned to do that again, but having a mangled vagina just added injury to insult.
They named him Toki. It was Norwegian for “worthless little accident”.
By the time little Toki was old enough to toddle his parents had started to put him to work cleaning the church, sweeping the cottage, chopping wood, breaking stones, fetching water, cooking meals, carving soap, peeling potatoes, pruning the weeds, skinning rabbits, washing clothes, washing dishes, washing walls, washing tables, washing the wash bucket, basically every chore you’ve ever had to do when you were grounded as fuck. Only this was like being grounded from the cradle to the grave without parole. Anja and the Reverend wanted to make certain that their son had no chance of ever being happy and meeting an ovulating female and subsequently spawning the Antichrist, so they kept him busy with menial tasks from dusk till dawn and told him stories about how God was going to punish him if he ever disobeyed them. It had worked so far.
God had nothing against Toki at all and He had no idea why the Warteeth were being such cunts to their adorable little blue-eyed son. So He called up Odin (Norway was under Odin’s jurisdiction anyway) and told him to see if there was anything that could be done so that the poor kid got in a few kicks from time to time. Odin did just that by “adjusting” a major road running through Lillehammer, which caused a lot of lost tourists to end up the village every now and then. Toki enjoyed the visits from foreigners—most of whom were from the United States—and was apparently the only one who did since the whole village was about as happy to see Americans as they were the Black Plague. Toki found ways to sneak out of school and spend time with the visitors, and he even learned a little bit of English. That sure beat sitting in a freezing, dilapidated classroom with a bunch of kids who hated his guts just because he brought the Dark Ages down on everyone.
The biggest turning point in Toki’s miserable-thus-far life came when a Finnish metal band ended up in town due to an unfortunate accident involving their tour bus driver, a fifth of vodka, and an upside-down map of the Arctic Circle. They had nothing to do but wait until somebody arrived to fix their broken-down bus, and it was during this time that Toki got his first exposure to modern music.
He had never seen men with long hair before and was utterly fascinated by the ritualistic way they seemed to enjoy swinging their heads round when they practised their songs in the village hall. The clothes they wore were covered with skulls and snakes and thorns and hammers and burning hearts and bloody naked women and all of the things that looked applicable for entrance to Hell, and they wore chains around their necks like jewelry, boots and belts of steel and iron, and leather everything studded with spikes long enough to be an eye hazard. And the beautiful metallic screaming that came from their strange-looking instruments! Toki was thrilled by it all.
One night he was spotted eavesdropping on the band and was invited by one of the guitarists to come listen since everybody else in the village was locked in their houses and too busy praying for destruction of the Sodomites and Gomorrans in their midst. The band played their whole show just for Toki and the little boy couldn’t have been happier. It must have been destiny now when you think about it because he never once felt fear from these otherwise scary-as-fuck looking men of metal. Of course, this was the kid who played in the village cemetery since he was banned from the playground and had the two most frightening parents on earth. A couple long-haired guys who made beautiful music certainly wasn’t going to terrify him.
When it came time for the band to leave a week later, Toki bade them a tearful farewell and the big evil-looking metalheads got very sad and took turns giving him bone-crushing hugs that smelled like booze and armpits and old leather, and the rhythm guitarist who had become rather fond of the boy offered up his spare Gibson.
“Is not much wit’outs de amp,” he said, handing it to Toki, “but is good for to practising on. Maybe you one day grows up and be in a metal bands of you’s own.”
Toki breathlessly thanked the man and returned to his home where he hid his special gift out in the woodshed and said nothing to his parents. Late at night he would sneak from his bedroom window and go to the shed, dig the guitar out from behind the piles of wood, and play quiet songs by moonlight. And like any self-respecting Norseman he named it—Mjølner, after Thor’s mighty hammer.
Toki was now sixteen years old and cut like a stone fox from years of hard labour. He had decided to grow his hair long like his metal heroes and it vexed his parents; they used to creep into his room and trim his hair while he was sleeping, but soon Toki had learned to become a light sleeper, so all efforts to keep his hair short were met with failure. Anja and the Reverend would on the rare occasion force their son into a chair and have at him with the scissors, but Toki quickly learned the signs of an impending shearing and would run away for a few days. But the town was remote and surrounded by miles of wilderness, it was always cold outside, and no one wanted to take in a grungy, long-haired teenager who was the bastard child of an unholy union. So Toki always ended up crawling back home sooner or later. He was trapped in this awful place. Trapped, unwanted and unloved.
The only thing that kept Toki from throwing himself on his parents’ mercy was Mjølner. His fingertips had become hard and calloused from their years of dancing on the steel strings, and he was fortunate that enough tourists and misguided bands passed through who had guitar strings and picks to spare. He lived to play Mjølner, and it had become his only joy in life. (Aside from sitting in the cemetery and talking to the corpses after bad days at school—that always cheered him up, wishing he was dead.)
But soon the winds of change were stirring, and the metaphorical weathervane of Toki’s destiny had begun to spin.
One day a mob of metal groupies wandered into town (by accident of course/as usual) and, like a cloud of destructive locusts, stapled flyers to everything that was staple-able. And what they couldn’t staple they taped. Though the residents tore each and every flyer down after the strangers had continued on their way, Toki managed to rescue one out of the dumpster behind the church:
Toki’s metal-loving heart practically burst through his sternum when he read it. But then he saw the age restriction at the very bottom and that metal-loving heart of his began to rust with sorrow. No participants under 21. He was still a good 4 and ¾ years short of being able to qualify. If only his father had stuck it to his mother a few years sooner. Now he’ll never be able to attend. Nevertheless, Toki carefully folded up the paper and put it in his pocket, a memento for what could have been, perhaps.
Later that night, when he was out in the woodshed listening to Anthrax on a Walkman he had traded a stupid tourist for an authentic piece of “lucky” Norwegian gravel, Toki decided that he was going to the Ball, age restriction or not. When everyone heard how incredible his playing was they’d have to let him in. Compared to all the bands he’d heard over the years, none of the guitarists seemed capable of playing riffs faster or better than him. He didn’t just randomly mash the strings and slop the notes either, hell no. He was clean and precise and sharper than a polished razor. No one could best him, he was sure of it. He and Mjølner were going to go to the Headbangers’ Ball and melt the faces off of everyone there, especially that new band, Dethklok. Toki had heard a lot of recent visitors to the village talking about Dethklok in reverent whispers, as if their music was sacred or something. They certainly seemed to be more popular than Jesus. (Don’t hassle me, folks. John said it first.) Either way Toki wanted in. And also out. He wanted to be in a band. He wanted out of this crummy life in this shitty town and his depressing home with his tormenting parents, and he never ever wanted to come back. If he played the best he could at the Ball and if Dethklok allowed him to join the band despite his youth, then Toki could say goodbye to all of this misery forever. The end. Happily ever-fucking after.
He was actually smiling when he crawled into his cold little bed that night, and his dreams were filled with blood drops on roses and blisters on fingers, bright steel guitars and death-growling singers, black metal sacrilege, dragons with wings. ‘Cause these were a few of his favourite things.
Morning dawned bleak and grim at the Wartooth home. Not that the bleakness and grimness was anything new, no, it was just the start of yet another unhappy day (and I use that term loosely—like 55 year-old crackwhore loosely), but Toki was in a cheerful mood as he left for school in the frosty semi-darkness. [Note: he walked in the general direction of school but he sure as hell didn’t go to school.] His happiness over attending the Headbangers’ Ball clouded out everything negative and every hateful person he encountered, and he spent the day sitting on the stone wall on the outskirts of the village, drinking stolen booze and daydreaming as he watched for misguided tourists. After a day well-spent he would trot home, do his backbreaking chores for the next six hours, and stay up late practising licks in the woodshed until he was too tired to move his cold, aching fingers.
The next day the cycle would begin again, and so it continued for a few weeks. The date of the Ball was fast approaching and Toki had to figure out a way of getting to Oslo without his parents knowing. He couldn’t even begin to guess which direction to go, even if he knew how to drive a car, because the only maps he’d ever seen of Norway were hanging up at school and gosh, he never went there.
By Wednesday the 10th, Toki was one grain of guano short of going completely batshit. He was too stressed out that night to even practise his routine with Mjølner; if he couldn’t find a ride to Oslo then it wouldn’t matter how well he played because no one would ever hear him. But late the next day—the day of Headbangers’ Ball—his curses were answered: after playing hooky again and wandering the streets looking for tourists who might offer him a ride out of town, a small posse of vacationing American teens passed through who, by sheer coincidence, had gotten lost on their way to Oslo; it turned out that they were going to the Ball as well, and Toki didn’t even have to threaten their lives in order to convince them to give him a lift.
“Get your stuff and we’ll split,” they told Toki. “But we can’t wait forever. If you’re not back here in a half hour we’ve gotta leave ya behind.”
“No to’s worry,” replied Toki in his broken English. “I get back sooner evens den dat!” And he was off and running joyously home to get his things and get the fuck outta this place. He was so unbelievably happy! This was the best day of his whole entire life! He laughed out loud as he raced past all the gloomy buildings, and for once he was untouched by their dreary, invisible hands. They were nothing but blurs and shadows to him now.
It was already late in the day and the sun had set behind the trees by the time he returned home and found both his parents waiting for him. That wasn’t alarming. What was alarming was Mjølner standing in between them, supported by the Reverend’s hand. Every ounce of rebellious bliss drained out of Toki’s spirit and he instantly became submissive. For the sake of his precious guitar there was no level to which he would not willingly sink.
“What are you doing with Mjølner? Why do you have him? Give him back to me, please!” he begged to his stone-faced parents. “I’ll do anything you ask!” As if to illustrate his point he fell to his knees and clasped his hands together prayerfully. This sight would have broken the heart of any human being alive, which only supported the theory that Toki’s parents were either not human or not alive. Maybe a little of both.
“We have given you sixteen years to find the path of righteousness,” Anja murmured tonelessly, “yet still you have chosen to disobey us. We know of your fascination with the Devil’s music and of your truancy at school. We know that you have learned to speak the heathen American tongue and we shall not allow you to further soil your father’s reputation.”
A pile of crumpled black t-shirts landed in a heap on the floor: Toki’s secret stash of band merchandise he had picked up from tourists. Soon the shirts were joined by his Walkman, his cassette tapes, his entire collection of everything metal and everything he had ever cared about. Even the wrinkled Headbangers’ Ball flyer he had accidentally left in Tuesday’s jeans pocket. Everything he had kept hidden from his parents for years and years out in the woodshed, and here it all was, right on the floor like a waiting sacrifice. It was a painful scene to watch, much less endure. The wayward teen had tears rolling down his cheeks. He already knew how this was going to end and he didn’t want to waste his breath with grovelling.
“Take it all,” he whispered, “take anything you want, but please don’t take away my guitar.”
Naturally Mjølner was the first thing to go. Two solid swings against the big pine out back was enough to shatter him in two. Strings broke with high pitched twangs as the neck and body splintered and went flying in opposite directions. Anja stood beside her grief-stricken son and watched the Reverend destroy the instrument of Satan forever. They made Toki collect kindling for the fire, forced him to douse his worldly possessions with kerosene and toss a lit match onto the pile. By this time the moon had risen and it was already night. The Americans had long since left for Oslo. Toki was mostly dead inside now, so he was able to watch his dreams go up in flames until nothing but ashes and cinders remained. Satisfied with the punishment that they had dealt to their unruly child, the Warteeth returned indoors and left Toki standing outside in the cold night. But he didn’t go inside. No, he went to the cemetery and sat under the dead tree and cried and wished he was as decayed and forgotten as the bodies buried six feet beneath him.
As his tears dripped onto the barren earth beneath him, Toki suddenly became aware of a strange sound. It seemed to be coming from inside the ground, and as the headstones began to topple and the earth began to tremble, he jumped to his feet in shock and watched as the cemetery was split in two. A gaping cavern had emerged in the centre of the yard and a hideous roar bellowed forth like all the monsters in Hell. Toki was frightened beyond the capacity to move a single muscle, so he simply screamed as loud as he could and hoped that he would at least be disembowelled quickly.
From out of the pit crawled a horrifying troll with glowing yellow eyes, sharp claws and even sharper teeth. It was smaller than your average Finnish lake troll, but a troll is still a troll no matter what goddamn body of water or cemetery it comes from, and this thing was a brute. Ten feet tall, gaunt and bony, leathery loose skin, long stringy hair, sinew and tendons and all kinds of gross things rippling over its alien body. It was Michael Jackson on a good day.
Toki backed against the tree as the troll raised its clawed hand towards him and growled with the blackest death growl he had ever heard, “DO NOT BE AFRAAAAID, LITTLE ONE. I HAVE BEEN SENT BY ALMIGHTY THOR, THE GOD OF ALL THINGS METAL, TO HELP YOUUUUUU.”
“Help me?” squeaked Toki. “But…you’re a troll!”
“I AM A TROLL, YES. BUT I AM YOUR GUARRRDIAN GODTROLLLLLLLL.”
“Wh-what does a guardian godtroll do?”
“GRANT YOU YOUR HEARRRRRRT’S DESIIIIRES.”
“You mean like…wishes?”
Toki was understandably nervous talking to a monster who claimed to be some form of magical legal guardian, but his angst and desperation lent him courage. “I w-would really like to go to the Headbangers’ Ball.”
“…THAT’S ALL? YOU DON’T WANT YOUR PARRRRENTS TO DIIIE HORRRRRIBLE DEATHS?”
“WHAT ABOUT DESTRRRROYING THE VILLAGE? HOWWW ABOUT THAT?”
“Nah, I can do that when I’m famous.”
“…JUST THE HEADBANGERS’ BALL, HUH?”
“Yeah, that’s all.”
The troll grumbled a sigh. “ALL RRIGHT. IF YOU WISHHH.”
And with a wave of its gangly arms, the burial plots in the cemetery rose up—coffins burst from the ground and opened, and soon a crowd of moaning, rotted skeletons was stalking between the tombstones. Snakes slithered over the ground and thousands of spiders crawled from their hidden homes to converge at the same spot, coiling and hissing and spinning ropes of silk. As Toki watched in amazement the skeletons began to fall apart, the individual bones magically dancing off to attach to other bones, eventually forming something that looked a hell of a lot like a carriage, held together by serpents and spider webs and who knows what else.
Then a legion of screeching bats swarmed up out of the cavern in the ground and descended upon Toki, covering him in a whirlwind of leathery wings. The young man panicked when he thought he was being attacked, but in a matter of moments the bats flew away and he found himself standing in black knee-high boots with spikes on the toes, wearing glittery black pants and a silver dragon belt with red ruby eyes on the buckle; black leather straps crisscrossed over his bare chest and held the spike-studded shoulder guards in place, and sleeves of tight black satin covered his arms from bicep to wrist. His hair was primed for swinging, his eyelids painted black, and a long cloak draped from his shoulders. He looked like a cross between a gladiator, a barbarian and something out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was the fuckinest, awesomest thing ever.
But it wasn’t over yet—six horses charged up out of the crack in the ground, each one with manes as black as night and eyes like fiery coals. [Author’s note: the soundtrack to this scene is phenomenal.] Their hooves were iron and threw sparks wherever they landed, and they snorted brimstone as they took their place in front of the bone carriage. And lastly, from out of the same crack rose a white dragon that was so massive in size that it didn’t fully ascend from the pit; it pierced its own breast with its shining claws and pulled from its black heart a guitar made of pure fire. The flames cooled and solidified into a shining ebony V-frame body with platinum strings, a silver pick guard in the shape of flying dragon, and a fret board with ruby insets.
The dragon passed the holy guitar to the troll, who approached Toki and said, “TEMPERED IN THE FORGES OF VALHALLA AND BLESSED BY THE VALKYRRRIES, HIDDEN WITHINNNN THE HEARRRT OF THE ARCH-DRAGONNN OF ÅSGARD, THIS GUITARRR SHALL DESSSSTROY ALL WHO CHALLENGE ITS POWERRR. TAKE IT, YOUNG MORRRTAL, AND USE IT WELL.”
And the troll bestowed the magic guitar to Toki, who held it in his hands and felt as if he had been reunited with Mjølner, so instantaneous was the bond. “How can I ever repay you?” he asked, trying not to turn into a complete crybaby and make his eye-makeup to run in front all the cool monsters.
“ALL IN GOOD TIIIIIME, LITTLE ONE,” the troll growled, “BUT REMEMBER THIS: AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT ALLLL SHALL RETURRRN TO NORMAL, BUT THE POWERR OF THE GUITAR SHALL BE RESTORRED AT SUNSET. YOUR CARRIAGE SHALL NOW BEARR YOU TO THE BALL. GO FORTH, TOKI WARTOOTH, AND HONOUR THE GODS OF ÆSIR WITH METAL.”
And so without another word, Toki hastened to his ride and was soon flying to Oslo at the speed of darkness.
When Toki arrived at the Headbangers’ Ball, the festivities had already begun and the participants were inside the grand palace of something-or-other that was being used for this most spectacular occasion. Toki disembarked from the skeleton coach and made his way up the stairs and into the foyer, where the sentries standing guard cast their gaze upon him and immediately fell on bended knee, respectfully averting their eyes before His Metalness. Toki tried not to become self conscious as he entered the sprawling ballroom of thundering music and darkness, but the moment people in the crowd laid eyes on him, they grew quiet and parted in awe. Toki walked right up to the stage, and the poor bastard who was already up there and trying out took one look at Toki, dropped his pick, removed his guitar and crawled away in shame. Toki ascended the stairs and stood on stage before the four princes of Dethklok.
“You. What is your name?” growled the largest prince, whose hair was blacker than the blackest black times infinity.
“I’s…” Toki stammered in his awkward English, “am M-Mjølner. My lord.”
“You wisch to be a partch of our band, do you?” rasped another of the princes through his princely gap. “Impresshive.”
“Yer getup is pretty sweet,” said the redheaded prince with the dreds.
“Buts yous cannot wins de constests wis dat alones,” said the last prince, whose hair was as golden as cheese and whose elegant hands held an impressive guitar. “Shows us what’s you cans do, Mjølner.”
Toki took a gulp and readied his fingers, closing his eyes…and then he unleashed all those years of torture and agony and repression of all the things he had ever loved, forcing the energy into his hands and allowing the magical guitar to translate it into music. But not just any music—the most metal, most brutal, most painfully beautiful music ever.
The handsome prince with the golden hair was so stunned by Toki’s playing that he could not resist joining in; he accompanied the deafening melody of the sacred guitar with supersonic licks that all but threw fireballs from the strings of his X-plorer. And then, one by one, the other members of Dethklok joined in, enchanted by the talents of this incredible stranger. The crowd began to mosh and scream for joy, and thus Toki and the four princes passed the night playing an endless assortment of improvised metal.
Never had our unloved little accident named Toki been so happy in his whole life. As he stood beside the rest of the band and played to the screaming audience, he knew that this was his destiny, his fate, his purpose, his raison d’etre, his insert-another-synonym-here, where he was supposed to be. The stage was his home, and Dethklok was his family. And he wanted to spend the rest of his life with them.
Toki was having such a ball at the Ball that he completely forgot about the time; at the end of yet another stupendously improvised song, the teen suddenly heard the faint chiming of the clock in the square outside—and it was chiming midnight.
OhfuckinhellMIDNIGHT. When everything would be turned back to NORMAL.
Toki panicked and started to dash off the stage but the large and intimidating body of the black haired prince blocked his way. “Hey. That’s some fuckin’ awesome playing, kid.”
“Where’d you learn to play guitar like that? It’s not like the-”
“-I’ve heard anywhere else…where’re you from?”
Toki, as terrified as he was of damaging his reputation with the band, was more terrified of being transformed into a poorly-dressed, underage loser in front of hundreds of people. So with fear lending him strength and courage, he plowed past the massive prince and tore into the halls backstage as fast as he could manage. It was a lucky save—he hadn’t even gone fifteen paces before his clothes melted back into his t-shirt and jeans, his makeup magically lifting from his face, his smooth and shiny hair returning to its normal dried out dullness, and his magical guitar turning into an ordinary brown broom.
Toki was instantly depressed but then he remembered the words of his guardian godtroll, who told him that the power would return at sunset the next day. He took heart and was a little bit happier, although not by much.
Just then, who should come thundering around the corner like the horsemen of the Apocalypse but the four princes of Dethklok, who were giving chase to the mysterious and talented stranger. Toki turned his face away and pretended to sweep the floor, and the princes ran past him, thinking he was just a janitor. Once the band had taken a turn down another hall, Toki jogged around looking for an exit and finally stumbled out into a darkened alley. Relieved to have escaped the Ball but exhausted from his ordeal, he wandered through the deserted streets until he found an abandoned warehouse: shelter for the night. Toki fell asleep, shivering but grateful, with the broom clutched tightly to his chest.
The next morning was slept through, as was a good part of the afternoon. Toki roused himself from his nest of mouldy old newspapers and damp plywood and decided to see if he could find anything to eat. Luckily he met a friendly bum in the abandoned warehouse next door who helped him scrounge the dumpsters for the best pickings, although they had to fight off a gang of hobos to secure their prizes. Being penniless and homeless was brutal, Toki realised as he thought of all those times he had tried to run away from home…but where dignity fell short, liberty persevered. The bums were all free men who could do whatever they wished, and that was something even a jaded young metalhead could be envious of.
Evening could not come fast enough; Toki camped out a few blocks from the Headbangers’ Ball and waited for the sun to set, and once the last rays of fiery orange had faded on the rooftop horizon, a mighty shadow descended upon the young teen and left him standing in magnificent metalness, gripping the gleaming guitar of ebony in his hands. All of the common folk parted before Toki as he entered the Ball, and the four princes of Dethklok immediately recognised the stranger from last night.
“Mjølner!” cried the blond prince, hurrying forth to meet Toki as dozens of other contestants looked on jealously. “You leaves us so soon de others night. You will stays wis us longer dis night den, ja?”
Toki nodded but never verbally agreed. Inside he was overjoyed, however, for Dethklok played only with him the whole evening and refused to allow anyone else the chance to compete. The princes seemed to have already chosen their new guitarist, and the music that Toki made with them that night was created out of pure joy, ringing with the devotion that he would show to his new family, Dethklok.
But midnight once again snuck up on him, and Toki found himself fleeing from the stage as the clock in the town square began to chime. Once again the princes hastened after their beloved guitarist, only to mistake him for a lowly custodian and pass him in the halls backstage. Toki escaped once again into the cold Oslo night and took refuge in the abandoned warehouse. That night his dreams were the only thing that kept him warm, and he smiled in his sleep as he held the humble old broom against himself tightly.
The dawn of the final day arrived, and Toki counted the seconds until the sun had sunk behind the hills and he was once more transformed into a metal god. This was the last time he would change—this was his last chance. He entered the Ball and ascended the stage where the dark haired prince laid his large, heavy hand upon Toki’s shoulder and glared into his eyes with surprising tenderness.
“You keep running from us, Mjølner. Why? Is it something we did? You got someplace more important to be?”
“No!” Toki insisted. “I just…is something personals. But today’s night I promise-” He gazed at the other three princes around him. “-I stays with you all till de dawn’s break. Den you’ll see…everythings.”
Toki knew that revealing his true self to Dethklok and the entire audience would be the most brutally agonising thing he’s ever done in his entire life, but if the magic of this gods-given guitar would not fail him, then all would be well by sunrise.
The teen took his place beside the blond prince, who gave him a challenging smile before breaking into a supersonic shred. Toki responded with a hammering rhythmic accompaniment, the bass and drums exploded into the duet, and then the dark prince led the crowd into an orgasm of molten metal. It was hideously, grotesquely beautiful.
They improvised and rocked the palace roof so hard that the grand chandelier in the centre of the ballroom cracked free from its mount and hit the floor like a crystal A-bomb. People were impaled, dismembered, some sliced in half by the flying glass; blood and organs and other slippery things greased the floor like Crisco, but the music played on and the survivors created a mosh pit of blood, flinging intestines and body parts all over each other like confetti. It was the most brutal concert ever. At least this far in Dethklok’s career.
“Go on, Mjølner, jump the mosh!” encouraged the band.
Toki, delighted at the thought of his first moshing, carefully removed his guitar and then tossed himself off the stage and into the hands below. The spikes on his outfit caused some damage, but there was way too much blood all over everything for people to notice their own mortal injuries. Besides, this music was more addictive than caffeine. Who cared about a punctured skull?
Toki laughed as the hands bore him all around the room, but then a couple people slipped in a puddle of blood and toppled down, taking Toki with them, and he disappeared from view. It was the Ninth Circle of Hell down on the floor, but the blood-drenched teenager managed to crawl to his feet and muscle his way out of the melee to the side of the room. And it was there that he was seized by a pair of hard, frigid hands.
“We knew we would find you in this hellish gathering of lost souls,” spoke the familiar voice that was even colder than death.
Toki, blood turned to ice, slowly turned his head and gazed in horror upon the faces of his parents. They stood motionless like pillars of salt while the sea of bloody flesh churned all around them—never had they looked more terrifying as they did now. The power they held over their son was not limited in this outside world; Toki wilted in submission as years of religion-inspired intimidation swept over him, weakening him like a beaten dog.
“You are coming home with us,” said Anja hollowly, and the Reverend began to lead his son to the door.
Halfway there Toki’s survival instincts kicked in and he began to scream for the princes to help him, but nothing could be heard when one was as far from the stage as he was. He struggled for a moment and managed to raise his arm high in an attempt to be seen, but the angered Reverend jerked him through the doors and Toki disappeared into the foyer with his parents.
A few moments later the dark haired prince lowered his mic and turned to the bassist. “Where’s Mjølner?”
“I thoughts I sees him just now,” replied the blond prince, his voice murky with doubt, “by de doors, but I’s …he’s…”
“He’sh left ush again.”
“No…” said the drummer paranoidly, staring at the magic V-frame leaning against an amp. “He was taken from us.”
“Great. A kid’s napping. What’s do we do now?”
The lead prince narrowed his green eyes and curled his upper lip, revealing unnaturally sharp canines. “Skwisgaar, get the kid’s axe. Pickles, call Ofdensen. Murderface, get your knives and come with me. We’re not gonna lose ‘im this time.”
A train bore Toki & family from Oslo back to the village that same night. The terrified teen, stripped of his brutal attire and now dressed in black robes like his parents, sat sleepless and still in his seat and tried to stifle the urge to scream. So much he wanted to say, so much he had to explain, yet his voice was robbed from his throat by a single deadly glance from the lifeless grey eyes of the two sitting across from him. He wanted to ask how they found him, why they bothered to search for him, how they managed to enter the Ball and recognise him…but all Toki kept coming back to was the possibility that they had some kind of otherworldly power on their side.
It was so unfair. Just when he thought he would never have to worry about anything ever again, these vindictive vultures pluck him from paradise and bring him back to the prison from which he had been trying to escape. Cruel. Heartless. Why oh why…
Toki tried not to cry but it was impossible; he had lost his magic guitar, his hope, the four princes of Dethklok, and his one and only chance. His life was over. He might as well be dead.
They disembarked at the station the next morning and walked the 22 miles back to the village in complete silence. Toki imagined that it was his own funeral procession. When they reached their ramshackle cottage his parents locked him in his room. No words. Just imprisonment. Toki would have felt better if they had at least given him a sound beating—the lack of action only suggested that they were thinking of worser things.
Anja unlocked his door that evening, led him to a chair, and long tendrils of brown hair landed silently on the wooden floor as she clipped her son’s locks to a length he hadn’t had since he was six.
“I knew from the moment I first felt you in my womb that nothing good would ever come of you,” she murmured, brushing her fingers through Toki’s short, choppy hair. “I should have given you back to Satan when you took your first breath.”
Nothing else happened that night. Toki returned to his room and fell asleep with tears still rolling down his cheeks. Maybe soon, if time were merciful, he could learn to forget how happy he had been for those three brief nights.
Weeks had passed since the Headbangers’ Ball, and still the four princes of Dethklok searched for the missing Mjølner, determined to find him. They travelled to every town and city and village in Norway with the Flying V and offered it to those who claimed to be the one. But the blond prince especially knew the sound of Mjølner’s playing, and he knew an imposter when he heard one.
“Dis guy is not him,” he would sneer. “Let’s us moofs on. We’s are not stopping untils we find him!”
So they searched and so they listened, again and again and again. Stavanger, Bergen, Molde, Trondheim, Steinkjer, Bodø, Tromsø, Vadsø, north to south and east to west and back again, the four princes traversed city and country looking for the only one who was worthy of completing their band. They had only one more town left—Lillehammer—before they would be forced to return empty-handed to Oslo, and it was here that the quartet was beginning to lose hope. No one in the urban area proved to be Mjølner, nor in the rural. With heavy metal hearts they reluctantly boarded their steam-powered limousine and began to make their way back to Oslo.
“It’s sad,” lamented the red haired prince over a bottle of Killian’s. “He was a great kid.”
“Sho talented,” agreed the bassist forlornly. “It’sh shuch a schame…I wonder if he wuzsh murdered or shumthing. Shtrangled…gutted…hacked to pieshes...”
“I thought he’d be the one,” the lead prince growled. “He really had it in ‘im.”
But nobody was more affected than the blond, who sat staring at the glimmering V for hours, sometimes without saying a word to anyone. “He was de only ones who coulds play almosts as fast as me,” he would murmur occasionally. “I am de fastest guitarists alife…we’s will never finds another player like him. I will never play besides anyone’s else.”
These final words seemed to be Dethklok’s epitaph but then, like so many other travellers before, the limo took a wrong turn and soon the princes found themselves in a dreary, depressing village not too far from Lillehammer, and the driver said that they needed to stop here to stock up on some coal. (For the steam engine.)
The four musicians were left to explore the village in search of a pub but found none, and the villagers ran away crossing themselves in fear whenever any of the princes tried to approach them. The only one who didn’t run away was this young, short-haired guy dressed like a monk who was hefting a heavy satchel down the muddy street. He didn’t even notice the blond prince was behind him until he said something:
“Hey kid. Do you’s know if where’s dere a bar in dis place?”
He knew that voice, that deep Swedish voice mangling the English language even worse than he did—Toki dropped the bag he was carrying and turned around, blue eyes shimmering with joy. “My prince,” he choked with awe. “You…you finds me!”
The blond squinted his eyes and turned his head slightly. “You’s sound likes…I know you’s. Who’s are y-”
“Toki Wartooth,” interrupted the Reverend, approaching his son’s side and glaring venomously at the stranger. “Why are you talking to this heathen? You know you are forbidden to speak. Come. There is much work to be done before the evening prayer.”
And taking Toki firmly by the arm, pulled him away. Toki gathered his satchel obediently and gave one last desperate glance over his shoulder before he and the Reverend disappeared into the shadows of the creepy trees that lined the road.
The prince was troubled. “Dat guy acts like he knowns me. I don’t know a Toki. Pfft. Such stupid kid’s name.”
And yet those eyes seemed so strangely familiar to him. Reminded him of someone he might have run into a few weeks ago, at night maybe. If he imagined this Toki kid in a dim room, and if he had long hair and makeup on his face…
At that moment two wires crossed in the blond’s brain and caused a bioelectrical short circuit. The revelation came in the aftermath a few seconds later, and he suddenly broke into a run in the opposite direction. “Nat’an! Pickle! Myurdolfice! Gets dat fucking guitars rights now and comes wis me!”
“They have discovered Toki,” said the Reverend to Anja as he dragged his son through the door. “They will come for him.”
“Really?” cried Toki with an excited grin. “You really think-”
“We must hide him,” Anja insisted.
“It is no use. They will find him.” He stared expressionlessly at his son, who was already at the window and waiting. “The wolves know the scent of their own kind.”
“What then can we do?”
The Reverend was quiet for a moment before he murmured something to Anja in a voice low enough that Toki did not hear. Then Anja nodded solemnly, left the room, and returned a few minutes later with a grim face.
“Toki,” she beckoned, “come sit at the table. Your father and I have something to say.”
Toki looked afraid but nevertheless obeyed; he sat down at the rustic wooden table and his father stood behind him, placing his hands on his son’s shoulders comfortingly.
“How badly do you wish to join those four demonic princes?” she asked him.
Toki didn’t lie. “I’d give anything to be with them.”
Anja and the Reverend shared a brief glance. “Is this true?”
The teen nodded strongly. There was a long pause.
“Very well,” said Anja. “You have our blessing to go. But first-” She grasped Toki’s left wrist and, with surprising strength, pressed it onto the centre of the table, all five fingers spread. “-you must give.”
Toki looked up to ask his mother what she was doing, but the question died in his throat when he saw the shining steel cleaver held in her other hand. He tried to spring up from his chair but the Reverend’s gentle hands had become as strong as iron, pinning his son where he sat. Toki thrashed uselessly.
“Peace, Toki,” murmured Anja. “You said you would give anything to be with them, and we accepted your proposal. I think your left hand should be a reasonable bargain.”
“No!” cried Toki in utter, horrified panic. “Stop this! Don’t! Why would you do this to me!?”
The Reverend spoke calmly, “No son of ours shall play the Devil’s music. We would see you dead before that day. Be still now, Toki. You wouldn’t want your mother to miss.”
Anja rolled up the sleeve on her son’s robe while he begged for mercy. His fingernails bit into the wood, shaking uncontrollably. The Reverend began chanting a prayer. She raised the cleaver high for the chop. Toki shut his eyes and screamed. A blunt, terrifying sound came, followed by the sound of steel clattering against wood. Then Toki passed out.
The red rays of the setting sun spilled into the room like a wave of blood from the door that had been kicked in, right off its hinges. In the threshold (the whole threshold and nothing but the threshold) stood a man with hair blacker than the blackest black times infinity, teeth bared like an animal and green eyes burning bright with anger.
Anja stepped backward, over the cleaver she had dropped on the floor, and stood quietly beside the Reverend. No words needed to be spoken. The large man entered the room, allowing the three others behind him to come in. The blond held in his hands the magic guitar. Toki’s parents laid eyes on the instrument and crossed themselves, whispering under their breaths.
The red headed prince approached the teen, slumped over unconscious on the table, and poured whiskey on his head before taking him by the hair, lifting his face up, and giving it a few hearty slaps. Toki came round soon enough, sputtering and rubbing the burning alcohol from his eyes. He had barely enough time to reckon what had happened before the long lost Flying V of Valhalla was placed into his [whole, intact and unharmed] hands. A pick followed the guitar, and an amp was slammed down onto the table. Toki gazed up to find the blond prince staring down at him coolly. “Play,” he commanded.
Toki swallowed, cleared his head, and wrapped his trembling left hand around the neck of the guitar. All was silent in the room, dark and void. And then, like golden lightning bolts ripping through the thunderclouds, the sound of pure metal was struck to life in the nothingness, singing more brutally, more beautifully than human ears had the privilege of hearing. It was the sound of Valkyries thundering across the valleys of the dead, of Thor striking his hammer in the quaking forges of Åsgard, of holy dragons rising from their slumber to breathe fire upon the mortal world.
The four princes smiled. They had found their Mjølner.
He was taken from his parents without protest, loaded into the smoke-belching beast of a limo, and driven far far away from the village that he would never again return to. He was stripped of his robes and given different clothes to wear, and the Swede known as Skwisgaar ruffled his short brown hair teasingly. “Don’t worries, Toki. It’s will grow back.”
Toki smiled shyly and tried not to show it (‘cause being shy wasn’t metal). He had a big job to do now, being the rhythm guitarist of Dethklok, and he had a lot to learn about being in a real live metal band.
“You’ll catch on soon enough, kid,” assured Nathan. “We’ll show you how to be brutal, just like us.”
And Toki did. His hair grew out and the hormone gods finally blessed him with facial hair, he was introduced to sex, drugs, television and worst of all candy, and life was pretty fucking metal. Later, during Dethklok’s second world tour when they came back to Norway, he returned the magic guitar to his guardian godtroll and thanked him for letting him borrow it. He didn’t need it anymore, though. He had everything he needed now, everything he had ever dreamed of. The gods were pleased, the band was pleased, the record label was pleased, and everything was a big pile of WIN for everybody (except the Wartooths who stayed nicely out of the picture until Episode 6 and now you know why Toki didn’t say one word that whole show).
But sometimes at night, when the halls of Mordhaus were as silent as the graveyard in which he used to spend so much time, Toki would lay awake and wonder what he was going to have to do to repay his guardian godtroll for his kindness. Who knows? Not I. You try guessing. And then he would fall asleep and dream of blood drops on roses and blisters on fingers, bright steel guitars and death-growling singers, black metal sacrilege, dragons with wings.
‘Cause these were a few of his favourite things.