The Open Dosa

Consuming the Ordinary Differently

Christmas With the Orange Squad (feat. Romans & Two Animal Headed Dudes)

In Rick Riordan’s world and characters, I found a place where learning became more than something you did in a general bored manner because you had to. One of these reasons I believe, is that it found the fun in words and worlds, which is why Jaswanth is, really, one of the best people to write fanfiction based on Rick Riordan’s books. Conversations with Jaswanth remind me that writing, reading and learning can be games. His writing does the same, while simultaneously stitching beauty into the story. There is a light humour in Jaswanth’s piece, reminiscent of Riordan, but there is also Jaswanth’s own touch, elegant in itself that reminds me of why I love fanfiction – because two voices become one, and the characters stories have become our stories. I hope you enjoy this story of Magnus Chase for it belongs to parties of strangeness and nights of stars.

-The Fanfiction Finder

            I knew the Christmas party at Hotel Valhalla would be a total knockout. I never imagined I’d wake up in the lobby with my foot in a lion’s mouth, though. I also never thought I’d see Annabeth mumbling nonsense while hugging a stuffed wolf head. Life manages to surprise me every day. Death, actually, me being an Einheri and all.  

 After a good deal of struggling with the teeth, I manage to fail at standing up miserably. I hear a voice in the back of my head as the rune of Frey grows warmer, Jack’s voice. ‘Morning, boss!’

            The last memory I have of the night before is sitting in the Feast Hall as a young Valkyrie hands Zeus a mug of mead. After the fiasco with Loki, the different pantheons finally decided to acknowledge each other’s existence after a millennium. The demi-gods and Einherjar came together during group therapy sessions, where we all shared our trauma. The Greeks and Romans had giants and old kings to talk about; the Egyptians spoke about ‘set’ or something-honestly, I don’t remember.

            Nico Di Angelo was the best person I was paired with. We still don’t talk sometimes. I remember seeing him around last night.

            I finally succeeded at standing up. The son of Frey card can cure battle wounds, but there’s nothing to battle dehydration like a glass of water. I head to the fountain and dunk my head in it. What?! I needed a lot of water. A small part of me was glad that Annabeth hadn’t seen that.

            Jack approves.

            Where’s Alex? I try to wake my cuz. She murmurs something about Kronos and hugs the wolf head tighter. Where was she when we were trying to tame Fenrir? She would’ve choked him out effortlessly, I’m sure.

            The best bet to find humans was probably the Main Hall- well, demi-gods and dead mortals. Same thing. I decide to head to the lounge first. Maybe I’d find Mallory and Gunderson playing Monopoly. They’ve gotten into the game recently. At least Mallory. Gunderson drives an axe through the board when he’s about to lose.

            The lounge was empty, except for a few children of Hermes who’d made it the drop zone for all the complimentary Hotel Valhalla items they could find. The youngest of them flashed a sheepish grin in my general direction before scuttling off to find something else. I spot  Connor Stoll and recall him trying to sell Jack to me last night. He waves at me before going back to cataloguing the riches that are soap and shampoo. I decide to head to the hall.

            The Main Hall did not disappoint. Most of its hundred doors were closed, with balloons hanging off them. The central table, where the gods usually sat, was empty. Maybe they’d all hopped to Mount Olympus for an after-party. I imagined Odin giving a PowerPoint presentation about the importance of good elevator music to the ire of others.

 Hopefully, he doesn’t bore the Egyptian gods too much. Only Horus and Anubis showed up this time from the Egyptian pantheon. I really want to pet Anubis’s jackal head. I’m curious, okay? I could cash in my ‘you owe me a wish Odin’ on this. And if I do it within the borders of the Hotel, I know I’ll come back to life, eventually, after the god of death vaporises me probably a hundred times over.

            I recall Hades at the party too. He looked extremely annoyed at being forced to sport a red and green party hat. I felt he’d throw on his Helm of Darkness and disappear or just raise an army of skeletons and murder everyone. Surprisingly, he neither left nor hosted a zombie parade.

 I spot Frank Zhang at the closest table, with a blue Hotel Valhalla towel pulling double duty as a cape. Only two Romans made it last night: Zhang and Dakota. It was mid-semesters season. Dakota slowly rises from under the table as if on cue, rubbing his eyes. The son of Bacchus nods before falling asleep again. The Romans are an interesting bunch, for sure. I hope to see more of them soon.

 I spot Apollo a little down the table. Well, Lester. He waves. Guess he stayed back with his children. I recognise Austin from the Apollo cabin. Quite easy when his spotless saxophone sits next to him.

Meg cartwheels into the scene and douses Lester’s head with water before I could even say “Python”. She fixes her askew glasses before saying that it’s 10 in the morning. Apollo mutters ‘okay, mom.’

I don’t spot Sam or the other Valkyries. Maybe they headed to Mount Olympus too.

            Back in the hallway, I see Percy. He looks like he just woke up. I wave at him before we bump fists. His hair looks like a bigger mess than my life. Longer, too, considering I’ve technically been dead for four now. Surprisingly, I can’t spot the bronze cap of his sword sticking out of his t-shirt. Jack calls the sword Ana. I can sense his disappointment that Ana isn’t around. I wouldn’t be surprised if Connor has Anaklusmos.

            “I’m gonna die of hunger. Can we please get something to eat?” Percy says, stretching. We decide to go wake Annabeth. I wanted to go grab food without her and then rub it in her face. Percy of course, had to be the good guy. Those two are so adorable together that it’s borderline annoying.

            On the way back, we run into Nico and Will. Well, more like Will holding Nico up. Will throws a warm smile at us while Nico grunts- ever the social person. I remember that he shadow travelled to the Hotel last night. He’d ended up at a different hotel. I think he said that it was The Overlook. The extra spatial jumping tired him out just a little too much.

            Percy managed to separate Annabeth from her new best friend finally. She’d named him Wolfie- at least that’s what she was muttering before finally sitting up. When I tell her the linguistically sound name she awarded the wolf, she gives me a death stare. I decide to take them to my room on the 19th floor. I’d also probably find Alex there. 

            We head to the elevator. Annabeth the Architect comments on how the mechanism of the elevators is super ancient. I’d pay to see Helgi’s reaction to that. Maybe he’d solve the issues she points out, considering she’s the Head Architect of Mount Olympus. My cuz is as intelligent as she’s intimidating. Reminds me to ask her to demonstrate the Judo flip on Percy next time I see her.

            I see Hearth and Blitz as the door dings open on the 19th floor. Hearth carefully holds a fishbowl in his hands, which he hands Percy before hugging me. Percy screams a few seconds later, waking Mimir. The severed floating head rolls his eyes at Percy before slipping back into KnowNap (patent pending). I introduce the demi-gods to my parents.

            Blitz tells me that they are heading downstairs. “Gotta get Mimir back to his well, kid. Thought we’d take the scenic route through Yggdrasil, but you know.” He gestures towards Mimir, and Hearthstone signifies teeth gripping tendrils. Our old sign for Squirrel. I nod. It would be slightly awkward if Ratatoskr ran away with Mimir.

            Before heading into mine, I peep into Alex’s room. Empty. She’s probably at the usual spot.

            I drag Percy and Annabeth into my room. Annabeth approves of the architecture as Percy approves the game consoles on display. I head to the kitchen wing and conjure up three plates of scrambled eggs and three glasses of coffee. There was no magic involved. I cooked, and Jack helped with the eggs. Don’t ask me how he held a whisk.

Percy and I let out a synchronised, satisfied belch after breakfast. Annabeth lets out a string of insults directed at both of us. She gets a synchronised double raspberry blown in her face in return.

I wanted to take Percabeth to the ‘usual spot’. I managed to convince them to climb the branches flowing from the atrium. I also warn them about the Squirrel. Percy seems a little too excited at the prospect of meeting a human-eating rodent.

            I decide to lead by example and start climbing. Jack hums words of encouragement and reassures me that I will not fall flat on my rass like last time. What would I do without my sword? I can hear Annabeth and Percy behind me.

 I pop my head above the canopy and take in the familiar sight of the World Tree. Intertwined branches are spread out as far as the eye can see, forming a top comprised of every colour a (former) human can see. Strings of silver escape out through the slivers in the tree.

            The branches of Yggdrasil run through all the Nine Worlds. They shift from time to time, like the tree is stretching in its sleep and turning over – almost how I would every five minutes when I was homeless. Good times.

A while ago, Alex found a particular point that seemed to remain after every shift- a crevice in one of the branches. It was our favourite spot in Valhalla, as long as there was no murder-y squirrel around. Of course, I wanted to flex on my cuz; if you had to climb for that, wouldn’t you? If you said no, stop lying to yourself.

            Surprisingly, there was no murder-y squirrel around. Percy and Annabeth looked done by the time I finally said that we were there. I did lose my way a couple of times. Navigating and climbing through an ever-shifting tree is hard, alright? “This better be worth it, Mag.” I roll my eyes at Annabeth as I climb one last branch. I place my hand on the vines blocking the entrance. Warmth seeps through my body, and they slowly recede.

            Alex is lying on the ground. He’s wearing a blue Hotel Valhalla t-shirt and black sweatpants. He sits up, and his freshly gelled hair gleams. He nods at me, waves at Annabeth and Percy before dropping back to the ground. I lie down next to him.

            The canopy breaks right above us. Beyond Yggdrasil is nothing but the Ginnungagap, the yawning void. The shiny streaks of silver take the form of a shimmering river here. It flows forever, glimmering as it slowly shifts.

            We never talked much here. It was more of our ‘stare at the sky (read: the fabric of the universe) in awe while holding hands. I think Percabeth figured that out. They lie down next to me.

            I look at Alex. He runs a hand through my hair. I sigh. Annabeth takes a deep breath. Jack sighs too; it looks like Ana is back.

            We all peer into the void, smiling, safe and warm.

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