THE GOSPEL OF LOKI: extract.
(With thanks to appleshiner, for the artwork)
One day Thor and I set off on a tour of the Middle Worlds. Touring, I’d found, was essential when trying to maintain a profile, and Thor was fond of travelling, while I was always happiest away from my wife’s attentions. We took Thor’s chariot out of Asgard, skirted Ironwood and went east, checking for activity among the Rock Folk. We skirted the Northlands, to ensure that the Ice Folk were still subdued. And then we crossed Inland in disguise, to hear what the Folk were saying about us and to spread a few more stories.
On our first night in Inland, Thor insisted on sampling local hospitality – he’d got it into his head that we should arrive at some hovel in human Aspect, to find out what kind of grass-roots support we really had in the area. I would have preferred a nice inn, with plenty to eat and a decent bed - and maybe some girls to warm it for me - but Thor wouldn’t hear of it, and eventually chose a turf-roofed cottage on the edge of a stretch of moor.
It looked ghastly, and I said so. “What’s the point of being famous if you don’t get to stay in the best accommodation?”
“Ah, come on,” said Thor. “Salt of the Nine Worlds, these farmer types. Besides, imagine what they’ll say when they find out who we are. They’ll be telling the tale for years.”
And so we knocked, and asked to share the meal that the woman of the house was preparing. A bit of a clichéd approach, I know, but Thor was in charge, and in his mind, that was the kind of things gods were supposed to do. We called ourselves Arthur and Lucky – Thor winking hugely at me whenever he used the alias, so that I was sure we’d be recognized before we sat down to dinner.
Turns out I was wrong about that. The people were rustics from the hills, unable to see behind our disguise. I started to feel impatient. But Thor kept nudging and winking at me, and by then night had fallen, so I resigned myself to spending the night in less-than-luxurious surroundings and concentrated on making the most of the little that was offered me.
The meal wasn’t much. Some kind of stew. The beds were just straw mattresses. But the family seemed nice enough – a middle-aged couple, a teenage son, Thialfi, and a pretty daughter, Roskva – and so Thor had one of his brainwaves, offering to supply the meat that was so sadly lacking.
Now Thor had a couple of goats with him, picked up somewhere along the road. Carried away by his own generosity, he offered the goats to the little family, but warned them not to crack any of the bones – a test of obedience, if you like. Thor was very big on respect. I guess you can afford to be, when you weigh three hundred pounds.
Our hosts were touchingly overwhelmed by the gift of goat meat. The parents were stunned into silence, while the children asked all kinds of questions. Where did we come from? Were we rich? Had we ever seen the One Sea? Thialfi, the teenage son, especially, seemed very curious about Thor, while Roskva, the daughter, watched me from under her lashes.
Well, a good time was had by all, if you enjoy that kind of thing. We ate, we slept, and in the morning Thor gathered up all the bones from the feast of the previous night and prepared for a breakfast of bread and bone marrow. But on investigating the discarded bones, he saw that a thighbone had already been split, and knew someone had disobeyed.
“What did I tell you not to do?” he said, revealing his true Aspect.
Thialfi opened his eyes very wide. “Wow. Oh, wow. You’re Thor,” he said.
“Yes I know that,” said Thor.
“I knew it!” said Thialfi. “I mean, the Thor. The Thunderer. The thunder god.”
“Yes,” said Thor. “And if you recall -”
“Oh, wow,” said Thialfi. “I love your work. That time you dressed up as a bride -”
“Don’t mention that!” said Roskva.
“Oh. Well, the time you rescued Idun from the Ice People, and -”
“Actually, that was me,” I said.
Roskva’s doe eyes opened wide. “Oh, my gods, you’re Loki,” she said. “You’re absolutely my favourite of all the gods in Asgard. Thialfi, you dope, this is Loki. Loki, the Trickster in person. Thor and Loki, in our house, and we never even suspected !”
“Whatever,” said Thor, still irate. “You disobeyed my specific command. You all deserve to pay with your lives.”
I pointed out that killing his loyal fans would hardly help his public image. By then all the family were bowing, scraping and I-am-not-worthy-ing as if they’d never seen a celebrity before. I was frankly revolted, but it seemed to have an effect on Thor.
“All right, all right. I’ll let it pass.”
Thialfi and Roskva jumped for joy. Roskva brought out a little pink notebook and a stick of charcoal and asked me to write my name inside. Thialfi wanted to feel Thor’s arms, to see if they were as thick as they looked.
“So, how do you get to be a god?” said the father of the family. “Is it something that can be taught? Or is it something you’re born with? Because my son’s always saying that he wants to be a god someday, but I don’t know if there’s a career in it. Not like there is in farming.”
Thor assured him that there was.
“So, did you train?” said Thialfi. “Or were you, like, recruited?”
Thor told him it was a bit of both.
“And where do you get your ideas from?” said the mother, addressing me. “All those clever plans you make, I don’t know how you think of them. Do they just come into your head?”
I smiled and told her yes, they did.
Father and mother looked impressed. “Roskva’s clever, for a girl,” said the mother fondly. “Her head’s so full of ideas, I don’t know where she gets them from. And my Thialfi, he can run like the wind. I’ve never seen anyone faster. Do you think perhaps they might have - you know - potential?”
I could see where this was heading. I started to say something about not having enough time to nurture new talent, when I saw Thor’s expression and cursed inwardly. It isn’t often Thor gets an idea, and even less often a good one, but when he gets one into his head, it’s almost impossible to shift. And Thor had had an idea, I could tell: his eyes were bright, his face was flushed and his beard was bristling.
“Don’t even think about it,” I said.
“Come on, Loki. They’re so cute. I think I want to keep them.”
“Absolutely not,” I said. “I mean, what would you do with them?”
“Thialfi could carry my weapons,” said Thor. “Roskva could cook and clean for us. Come on, Loki. They’re only kids. Besides, they think the Worlds of us -”
I pointed out that his last two kids had ended up as goat stew. Thor laughed uproariously.
“That’s so Loki,” he exclaimed. “Trust me, this is going to be fun.”
And that was how the two of us acquired a pair of followers. Thialfi was Thor’s number one fan, and Roskva was Yours Truly’s. But in retrospect, I think you’ll agree that it wasn’t the wisest move ever made to take them with us into the unknown. Fans are as fickle as fame itself, and when we allow them to get too close, we risk revealing our feet of clay. First to the followers, then to the foe. And then we all come tumbling down -