Gods and Cookies by Rowen Aether

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With cookbook in hand, Hades makes his way up the steps and into the golden halls of Valhalla. He lets out a sigh before squaring his shoulders; he hasn’t even gotten started, and he already knows this is going to be a disaster.

Hades steps into the kitchen, feeling like he just entered a war zone. The two Valkyries, Brynhildr and Geirdriful, standing at attention with Hrist lounging on her spear next to them isn’t helping. Hades raises an eyebrow at the excited grin Thor gives from under a trimmed, bushy beard.

Hades sets the cookbook on the counter. “Afternoon, ladies. And Thor.”

“Good afternoon, Lord Hades!” the Valkyries greet in high, excited, melodious tones. Except Hrist, she sounds bored.

“Good afternoon, Shield Brother Hades!” Thor booms.

“Are you going to join us in baking?” Hades replies.

“Indeed I am! It’s uncharted territory, like charging into battle in unknown lands!” Thor claps his massive hands together, hunching his shoulders down, grin still in place. “I am most excited!”

“I’m sure.”

Brynhildr and Geirdriful giggle before the Valkyries spread out around the kitchen.

The flash of Odin’s snow-white hair slips through Hades’ peripheral before a chair creaks behind him.

Hades sighs. “Might as well get started.” He flips open his book to a simple sugar cookie recipe. Anything more complicated is probably too difficult for the battle maidens.

Hades helps the Norse Gods gather the ingredients: sugar, flour, eggs, butter, spreading them out on the counter and helping them measure what they need.

He’s demonstrating to Brynhildr how to whisk the eggs into her flour, the Valkyrie watching with an intensity to rival meeting an opponent on the battlefield, when Freyja pokes her head into the room.

“Are the cookies done?”

Hades stops whisking to eyeball her. “No, we’re still mixing the dough. We haven’t even formed them yet.”

“Oh.” Freyja adjusts her breasts through her breast plate. “I’ll come back later, then.” She ducks out of the room.

Odin offers a one shoulder shrug.

Hades glances over at the sound of cracking eggs. His jaw drops when Thor grabs another egg, holds it over the bowl, and crushes it in his grip.

“Thor, no!” Hades thrusts the bowl at Brynhildr. “Small circles.”

“Does the recipe not require three eggs?” Thor replies.

“Yes it requires three eggs!” Hades upends the bowl over the trash can. He’s not even going to try picking the shells out. He sets the bowl down, grabs an egg, and holds it up, making sure Thor is watching. Hades gently cracks it on the edge of the bowl, separates the shell, and drops the yolk inside. “Gently. The shell does not go into your dough.”

He tosses the shell, wiping his hands off, and gestures for Thor to try.

Thor takes an egg, holding it between his finger and thumb, and gently cracks it over the bowl. The egg shatters, the bowl flipping up and flying over Thor’s shoulder.

Brynhildr twirls to the side, avoiding the bowl, her whisking not slowing.

Geirdriful ducks. With a sharp thrust, Hrist impales the bowl on the tip of her spear. She rests the butt of the spear back on the ground, the bowl making slow, crooked spins around the spear tip.

Thor stares down at the broken egg in his hand like it personally offended him.

Hades drags a hand down his face. “I’ll crack your eggs.” He grabs another mixing bowl, and starts on Thor’s eggs, the God of Thunder watching with a narrowed gaze.

“Hrist, can you measure me a cup and a half of flour please?” Geirdriful requests, in the process of measuring sugar.

“Certainly, sister.” Hrist gives her spear a sharp swing, dislodging the bowl. She twirls the spear over her head before pulling it back.

Hades lunges forward. “No!” He holds out a hand towards her, his other snatching up a wooden spoon.

Hrist blinks, taking the wooden spoon he thrusts at her.

“We are baking, not fighting! Wooden spoons, not spears!”

Hrist rests her spear against the wall, frowning at the spoon. “A bit dull, but I imagine I can make it work.”

“A bit what?” Hades ducks when Hrist swings the wooden spoon with a battle cry, slicing clean through the bag of flour. The powdery substance explodes through the room.

Hades coughs, the flour drifting through the air. “Aphrodite’s sweet bosom, this is not how cookies are made!”

Freyja sticks her head into the room. “Are the cookies done?”

No!” Hades barks. He pats his shirt, flour rising up.

Freyja readjusts her breast plate again. “All right, I’ll be back later.” She ducks out.

Hrist measures the flour from the sliced open bag, handing the measuring cups to Geirdriful.

Hades tries to dust off his shirt but ultimately looses the fight. He glances around, checking on his failing pastry chefs: Thor is measuring the sugar and flour, his eggs already cracked; Brynhildr is assisting Geirdriful with mixing her dough; and Hrist is eating the butter. Hades counts two metal bowls; one is missing.

He narrows his eyes, stepping up to Odin, and snatches the pilfered bowl from the Lightning God’s hands. “Stop eating the dough!”

Odin puts the spoon in his mouth, placing an arm behind his head, and slouching in the chair to stretch out his legs. He raises an eyebrow.

Hades groans, turning back to the counter and setting the bowl down. “Why did I ever agree to this?”

Hrist swipes some dough from the counter, licking it off her finger.

“Did you want to make a batch?” Hades questions her.

The Valkyrie shifts her eyes to him, one hand on the counter as she leans against it. “No, I just wanted to shape the cookies.”

“I’m going to make cave trolls!” Brynhildr says.

“Hrist and I are going to make weapons!” Geirdriful adds.

Thor hums, frowning at his bowl as he whisks the dough. “What should I make?”

"All right, pay attention, ladies," Hades says.

All three Valkyries, and Thor, give him their undivided attention.

The Greek god sprinkles flour onto the counter and upturns Geirdriful's dough. He squeezes the dough before flattening it with his palms, showing them how to knead it. "Very simple." He gestures for Brynhildr to do the same. "Knead the dough for ten minutes, then we can shape the cookies." He eyes Thor, the Thunder God crushing the dough in his fist. Eh, close enough.

"I have decided!" Thor booms. He drops his dough on the counter. "I shall make circles!" He rolls a ball and slams his fist down, flattening it. Every item on  the counter jumps before clattering back down.

Hades allows this to continue one more time before he intervenes. "I have a better idea." He holds a bag of Christmas shaped cookie cutters out to Thor.

The Norse God eyes them like Hades just handed him a two-head cat. "What is the purpose of these?"

Hades sighs. "They're cookie cutters, they cut your cookies." Hades grabs a tree, pressing it into the dough and juggles it around before lifting it up. "See? Now it's cut." He holds the cutter out to Thor.

Thor takes the item, turning it over in his hand. He slowly, VERY slowly, lowers it to the dough. Hades watches as it takes almost thirty seconds before Thor is gently pressing the baking instrument into the dough.

"Good enough." Hades turns back to the Valkyries. Brynhildr is forming her Jotun while Geirdriful and Hrist shape an array of weapons. He gestures to Geirdriful. "Where's your bowl?" He swears by Zeus, if she points to—

She points and Hades follows the direction. He glares at Odin who raises an eyebrow while eating her cookie dough. Hades snatches the bowl from him, again. "Stop eating the dough! You're like a cat that won't stay off the counter!"

Odin rests his elbows on his knees, spoon dangling from his mouth.

"I'm going to get a spray bottle for you." Hades deposits Geirdriful's bowl on the counter, Hrist pulling out some more dough.

"Make sure you have enough flour on the counter to keep the cookies from sticking," Hades says.

Freyja sticks her head into the kitchen. She watches Thor for a full minute as he cuts out two cookies. She saunters over, takes a cookie cutter, and quickly presses it into Thor's dough until she has no more room. "There, now hurry up and bake these!" She saunters back out.

"Thank you, mother!" Thor hollers.

"We're done, too!" Geirdriful states.

"All right, let's get your cookies on some baking sheets." Hades waves Odin over. "Get over here. If you're going to eat all the dough you can make yourself useful." He hands Odin a spatula to scrape the cookies from the counter, and leaves the Lightning God to help Thor while he assists the Valkyries.

Once the baking sheets are full Hrist turns on the oven. Hades stumbles back as a wave of fire spews from the oven. "What the Hel is wrong with your oven?!"

"This is our boar roasting oven; it's supposed to do that," Hrist supplies.

Hades thrusts out a hand to the flaming stove. "You can't bake cookies with this!"

Brynhildr shrugs. "It's the only oven we have."

Thor hums. "It does seem to be belching out more fire than normal." He leans over the oven, fiddling with the dials. A stray spark catches his beard, lighting it up.

"Lord Thor!" Brynhildr cries.

Odin dives over the counter.

"I'll get some water!" Geirdriful sprints from the room.

Thor pats down his beard, trying to put it out. While the fire doesn't burn away his beard, it doesn't go out either. Hrist beats at it with a hand towel. The towel lights up and she drops it on the counter, a wooden spoon catching the blaze.

Hades watches as the kitchen is slowly engulfed in flames. "I quit." He lowers himself face down onto the tile floor. "I quit."

Freyja pokes her head into the room. "Is it normally required to burn the whole kitchen to bake cookies? Damn, I should have volunteered."

Someone nudges Hades' shoulder. "Hades," Odin addresses him, "you can't lie here, you're in the way."

"Just let the flames consume me," Hades grumbles.

Odin sighs, grasping his ankle, and drags him from the room.

It takes Loki summoning a tidal wave to finally douse the flames. Odin watches as the Valkyries and several Aesir mop up the mess. Hades lies on the ground next to him grumbling about ridiculous Norse Gods.

"That went well," Freyja remarks, crunching on something.

Odin glances over. A plate of cookies rests in Freyja's palm. She grabs another, a Christmas tree, taking a bite out of it. "Where did you get those?"

"Someone left us a plate of cookies in the hallway." She holds the plate out.

Odin frowns, a card catching his attention. A large Christmas tree decorated with garish red and green flashing lights sits on the front. He opens it, his eye darting across the flourish, handwritten note.

'Because yours didn't turn out so well

Happy Holidays

Father Christmas'

"Who the hell is Father Christmas?" Odin flips the card over.

"Who cares? We finally got cookies. These are good, I like him."

Odin sighs, trading the card for a cookie, a reindeer by the looks of it, and takes a bite. They are good.

Hades lifts his head. "I hate you all."

Odin hands him a cookie.