|“|| People are in the dark, they don't know what to do|
I had a little lantern, oh but it got blown out too.
I'm reaching out my hand. I hope you are too.
I just want to be in the dark with you.
–Greg Brown, 'In the Dark with You
In Chapter Fourteen, Shadow travels with Mr. Nancy and Czernobog to the Center of America to retrieve Mr. Wednesday's body from the New Gods. They take Wednesday's body to the World Tree in Virgina and Shadow climbs onto the tree to hold the nine-day vigil for Wednesday.
Czernobog and Mr. Nancy take Shadow to Minneapolis where they meet up with Alviss and change from the black town car to a VW bus. Alviss expresses his sympathy to Shadow and asks if the "vigil" falls on him, which Czernobog says he will not have to do.
Eventually they stop for food and gas. Mr. Nancy receives a phone call from the New Gods telling them to meet in the Center of America, neutral territory for both the Old Gods and New Gods, so they can give them back Mr. Wednesday's body.
They drive toward Lebanon, KS and the Center of America, stopping in Humansville, MO and visit a supermarket where they encounter Gwyndion who promises Mr. Nancy he'll "be there." They continue driving before another brief stop outside Cherryvale, KS. Czernobog exits the vehicle and walks to the center of a meadow where he had once been worshiped and he feasts on its residual power, rejuvenating himself.
They reach the Center of America that evening and park at the one-story motel. There is a chauffeur and a female newscaster standing outside. Media introduces herself and leads them inside where Technical Boy is waiting with Mr. Town. Shadow asks Mr. Town if he's slept with Mr. Wood's wife yet. Mr. Town hands room keys to Mr. Nancy who passes them out to Shadow and Czernobog. Shadow heads to his room and falls asleep.
Shadow dreams of a bonfire in a grove in Uppsala, Sweden and Wednesday showing him the "sacrifice of nines." He tells Shadow, "three days on the tree, three days in the underworld, three days to find my way back," before Shadow wakes up.
Media calls Shadow for dinner and he walks out to find the chauffeur has brought everyone McDonald's from Nebraska. As they eat dinner, Shadow asks when they can take Mr. Wednesday's body and is told that according to the rules, they have to wait until midnight. After dinner, Shadow heads outside with Mr. Nancy. Nancy warns him that with Wednesday's death, the war between the Old Gods and New Gods has started. Mr. Nancy returns inside and Shadow soon encounters Mr. Town. Shadow tells him that he didn't kill the other Spooks.
They head back inside and Shadow finds Media waiting for him in his room. She tries to convince him to join her side and when he refuses, she threatens to make his life bad. She leaves him alone before Technical Boy knocks on the door. He wants to talk because he finds his room creepy. Shadow tells him they both need some rest and Technical Boy goes back to his room where he starts throwing something against the wall.
Unable to sleep, Shadow leaves the motel again, stopping to chat with the driver of the New Gods' HumVee when he realizes that it's actually Low Key Lyesmith. They go to Shadow's room where Loki tells him it was a coincidence they were cellmates even though he and Wednesday are from the same "Norse pantheon." Loki says that he and Wednesday were never friends and he's glad Wednesday is dead because now the war is over. Shadow disagrees and says his death did more than anything Wednesday had been trying to do for the past few months. He asks Loki why everyone cares about him and Loki says it's because he was important to Wednesday so he is important to them.
It's soon close to midnight so they head to Room Five, where Wednesday's body is laid out in the middle. Town, Media, Mr. Nancy, Czernobog, and Technical Boy soon join them. Loki calls the gathering to order and asks if anyone would like to say something. Mr. Town passes, Czernobog warns that this is the start of war, and Technical Boy starts to recite a poem but can't remember the rest of it. Shadow says that the whole situation is "pitiful" because half the people there had a hand in killing him but Shadow is still working for Wednesday. Media makes a few pithy comments about life and death before Mr. Nancy finishes off with another warning that the New Gods would pay for what they had done.
The New Gods leave and they wrap Wednesday up in sheets. Shadow carries him out to their bus, remembering his promise to Wednesday when he started working for him. Mr. Town approaches him and hands him Wednesday's glass eye, telling him that Mr. World wanted Shadow to have it. Mr. Nancy takes the wheel and they leave the Center of America, heading east.
When they reach Princeton, MO, Nancy asks Shadow where they can drop him off. Against their protests, Shadow insists that he is staying with Wednesday's body and will hold the vigil even after Czernobog and Mr. Nancy both warn him it will kill him. Even though Shadow hopes he will survive, he is willing to die because then maybe he'll finally have lived.
They drive Wednesday's body to the ASH farm in Virginia. A perfectly symmetrical silver-gray tree rises up higher than the farmhouse, identical to Wednesday's silver tie pin. There are three women of descending heights by the tree who Shadow mistakes at first for the Zorya Sisters. The tallest sister removes Wednesday's body from the bus and the three sisters place his body underneath the tree before approaching Shadow. They ask if he's the one who will mourn and hold vigil for the all-father and Shadow nods. Nancy tries again to dissuade him but Shadow holds firm. Czernobog says that Shadow needs to survive the vigil for him because he still gets to hit him on the head.
The Norns have Shadow undress before climbing nine rungs up a ladder and stepping onto a branch five feet off the ground. The women climb their own ladders up to Shadow and remove the rest of his clothing before tying him to the tree. They remove the ladders and arrange Wednesday's body at the foot of the tree and leave Shadow alone hanging on the tree.
The Blót was a pagan sacrifice to the Norse gods.
|“||Every ninth year there is a blót of nine days, a common feast for everyone in Sweden. Then they sacrifice nine males of each species, even men, and the bodies are hung from the branches of a grove near the temple. No one is exempt from this blót and everyone sends gifts to the shrine, even the kings. Those who are Christian have to pay a fee not to take part in the blót.||”|
–Adam of Bremen, 1070 AD
When Shadow falls asleep at the motel at the Center of America, he dreams of a winter landscape with a gray wolf walking before him. They approach a bonfire, which the wolf circles around before a man who looks like Wednesday appears. He tells Shadow the tale of a ritual "sacrifice of nines" that took place in Uppsala, Sweden. First every year, then every nine years, "each day, for nine days, they would hang nine animals from trees in the grove. One of those animals was always a man."
Shadow follows Wednesday through the animals hanging from the trees as Wednesday approaches a dog. He slashes the dog in the stomach and kills it, dedicating its death to Odin as a gesture for the death of all dogs, just as each man stands for the blood and death of all men in sacrifice to Odin. Shadow tells him that he saw Wednesday die and Wednesday tells him that it is not death that matters but the "opportunity for resurrection." Wednesday tells Shadow that he is a diversion to lend the whole scheme credibility. He tells Shadow, "three days on the tree, three days in the underworld, three days to find my way back," before Shadow wakes up.
Coin tricks Edit
- Minneapolis, MN
- Uppsala, Sweden
- World Tree, VA
- Mr. Nancy
- Technical Boy
- Mr. Town
- Low Key Lyesmith
- Mr. Wednesday (corpse)
Notes and trivia Edit
- The site outside Cherryvale, KS that Czernobog draws power from is a reference to the Bloody Benders, a family of serial killers who were active from 1871 to 1873 and killed at least a dozen travelers.