Seasons comes, seasons goes. A never ending cycle of growth, maturity, decline and rebirth; the fruits of the last season are the foundation for the next. Such is life, death, survival and dominance. Not even the gods are above it.
Especially not the gods.
Winter is the season of preparation, where tools are repaired and prepared for the wear and tear of summer. Spring is the season of rebirth, where domesticated animals are brought out from their stables, and the common people prepare their fields for summer. Summer is the season of “Virk”, an Old Norse concept for labor. To farmers the summer is when they do most of their outdoor work. For those who can afford it and have the means for it, the word represents the season of pillaging and raiding; the season of Viking.
Summer leads to autumn, or fall, which is the season of harvest, where the wear and tear of summer is rewarded by the plenty amount of food. It is also the time of hurry, because everything has to be gathered, collected, harvested and stored before the first storms of winter sweeps over the land. This is the most important moment of all the seasons, because the next season depends on it; if there is not enough food, people and animals alike will be forced to eat the seeds reserved for the seeding of the fields. If this happens, then there fields will yield even less next year. Rebirth depends on how much was harvested before the moment of death.
The Old Norse had a word for this changing of seasons, this evolving process of events; Rǫk, the result of a long row of connected and evolving events. The gods, Asir and Vanir, collectively called Ragna, are themselves bound by the changing of seasons. Their rǫk is known as Ragnarok, the end of all seasons.
But before the end of the gods can be brought about, the seasons themselves must die; Fimbulvetr, the Fimbulwinter, the three year long winter with no spring, summer nor fall. No seeding, no labor, no harvest. There is only time to prepare the tools and weapons. And when there are no seeds or animals left to fill the fields, even farmers is left with only one choice; to plunder what is left, to kill brothers for the stale crumbs in his beard, to take beyond needs in the desperate hopes that there will be enough to seed the abandoned fields. That one can scrape together enough to survive for another year.
To Viking, to whatever end, is the only hope, when even the gods cannot help.
And what is one to do, when the gods are the only ones with enough stock to be plundered?
The sky is clear and blue, like that of a summer day, yet is it without warmth. The wind howls across the barren mountains, the naked trees forcing the wind into high pitched screams of agony. The pines are but withering husks, a mockery of the green forests which should have been here had the seasons been gentle. Now they are dead, down to the smallest critter.
A deep rumble in the distance drowns the wind. Another follows seconds later.
A wall rises beyond the mountains, a gigantic fieldstone wall made by impossibly large rocks. Naked trees cover the surface of the stones as if they were dry moss. Once again an echoing rumble cur through the wind. A large troll, standing 100 meters in height, leans against the wall with its long arms. Its tail sweeps across the face of the mountains as it shifts it weight to give the wall another hit with its fist. As its knockles impact the stone the ground shakes and smaller stones fall from the construction. They roll down the wall and mountain, crushing everything in their paths, both threes and some of the smaller trolls who have gathered by the giant’s feet.
A crackling flash appears above the troll and it instinctively lowers its head and brings its arms above it protectively. Too late as its head shatters like flint the following moment, hit by a bolt of lightning. As the troll’s body falls it turns into stone and crumbles down the mountain, the rumble of the falling rocks deafened by the thunderclap’s long roar.
Mjölnir returns to Thor’s iron-gloved hand as he flies over the wall in his chariot. Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr snorts as their cloven hooves dig into the air, forcing forth sparks as they pull the chariot. Thor laughs loudly as his watch the troll fall, his fiery red hair and beard wild and untamed. The lesser trolls flees now that their best bet of entering Asgaard is gone.
Thor turns his chariot and starts chasing them. “Don’t run! Fight like men! Show me what you’re made of, man-eaters!” The sound of crackling thunder fills the air as the god of thunder chases after the fleeing horde.
Further to south from where Thor had just prevented the trolls from tearing down the Walls of Asgaard, Himinbjörg, home of Heimdall, is under siege by an army of Jotunns. Black of heart and with skin resembling coal and burned hide, the Sons of Muspelheim, lead by their king Surtr, attacks the thick oak doors with their fire, force and sorcery. Their assault is so vicious that Bifrost, the rainbow bridge connecting the Nine Realms, crumbles under them. As a result the attackers’ efforts are partly fueled by hatred against the gods, and fear of falling onto the barren rocks below, should the bridge give in before the gates. Valkyries hold the fort against the charred Jotunns and their beasts of war, but as the struggle continues it is clear that the fire will claim the fort before the bridge. Heimdall, the White Asir, is forced to blow his Gjallarhorn to warn the rest of Asgaard of the coming breach. The long rolling warnings which had previously warned the gods against the approaching armies are now replaced by the repeat if three short calls. Both the Valkyries and Heimdall retreats from the fort and heads for Gladsheim, Hall of the Gods, where Valhal, Hall of the Slain, is the most dominating feature.
As Heimdall and the Valkyries retreats, the Muspel Jotunns pours into Himinbjörg, incinerating it to the ground within minutes. Simultaneously, far to the north, the Walls of Asgaard is breached. An avalanche of colossal stones crushes the forests and lone buildings residing kilometers away from the wall. From the opening in the wall emerges towering figures of frost and ice, their dry breath chilling and their strides long. Their armor is fit for warriors and they wield long axes and clubs which rest against their broad shoulders.
To the east, at the coast of Asgard, the sea-trolls emerge from the water. Clad in rusty chains, rotting ropes and abandoned fishing nets, they crawl onto shore. Everything about them is strange, from their coarse beards of baleen and scaled skin, to their weapons of whalebone. Behind them emerges the ship Naglfar on which the hungering husks of murderers, oath-breakers and traitors stands ready to pillage. They hunger for what they have been denied in Hel; the plentitude of an afterlife. Behind them the sea boils as the mighty serpent of the deep rises slowly.
As the draugr depart the ship and charges over the hills, another breach is made in the eastern wall. This time the jotunns of all kind, shapes and sizes emerges as a chaotic horde of screams and horror; some of them resembles humans, either fair or hideous, while others are monstrosities with deformities like multiple heads, skinny limbs, tails, horns, fur, feathers, claws, or other beastly features. Riding on wolves and bears, serpents and horses, the howling army meets up with the Sons of Muspel, the trolls and draugrs, rimtussr, and who else chose to join this battle of all battles.
And they all marched toward the same target, toward the golden roofs that shimmered in the sunlight.
Gladsheim is a collection of large wooden buildings surrounded by tall wooden walls and towers. The scale of the buildings is immense with towers rivaling the skyscrapers of Man. This feat is inly possible due to the length and durability of the wood, which is made from the fallen branches of Yggdrasil itself. The largest of these buildings is Valhal which reaches taller than any other structure in Asgaard. Only the tower Lidskjalf, from which Odin watches all of the Nine Realms, reaches taller. The roofs of the buildings are golden, which makes Odin’s great halls visible from across the length of Asgaard. The wide gate of Galdsheim opens and through them marches the einherjar in rows of 500. Leading the army is the one-armed Tyr, the god of war, law and glory, who holds his sword high for all of the honorable slain to see. Elsewhere the regiments from Fólkvangr, the Halls of Freya, march to meet up with the forces of Valhal at Idavoll, the sacred plains of Ida.
Odin stands on the walls of Gladsheim and watches Tyr ordering the einherjar into formation. The old god is clad in mail and hide, which is elaborately decorated. Over his shoulders hang a long, deep blue cloak held by a silver needle-crescent.
In the distance the black screaming mass of trolls and Jotunns marches over the hills. The Asir observes the scene before him two ravens land on his shoulders, one on each.
The old god-king does not remove his sight from the horizon. “Report.”
The raven on his left shoulder moves closer. “Thor is chasing ten thousand trolls back into the mountains. He has killed enough of the large mountain trolls to ensure that those remaining will be unable to enter Asgaard. As for Himinbjörg and Bifrost, they’ve both been razed. Nothing remains than ashes.” Muninn glances over at his brother on the other shoulder before continuing. “One tenth of Surtr’s forces fell to their deaths before they could get to safety. Those surviving were the battle hardened veterans. As for the eastern wall, it has broken down five places. Everything from Helheim and Jotunheim is pouring though, with Utgaard-Loki’s hird holding the center.”
Odin nods. “And?”
Huginn clears his throath. “West wall stands, Da kid’s keeping it as predicted. Rimtuss’ n’ rest of Nifl’eim coming through Nort’.”
Odin remains calm. “And the Vanir?” “Will be ‘ere before ta Jotunns.”
Odin remains silent as he watches the scene before him. Both ravens share a glance before Huginn breaks the silence. “So, now wat, Allfat’r?”
Odin straightens his back. “Now we do what we have to to secure the safety of Nygaard.” Nygaard is the realm which was prophesied to emerge after Ragnarok. Throughout his reign Odin had protected the Nine Realms, and done everything in his power to secure that there would be a prosperous Nygaard. Depending on the outcome today, Nygaard would either be protected by the few surviving surviving gods, or ruled by the surviving Jotunns. Either way, the fate of the surviving generations of Man depended on this day.
Odin nods to himself. “Everything will be alright.”
Right after he had said that the howls of wolves fill the air. Emerding from the clouds two shadowy wolves chases the sun and moon across the sky. Before long the first wolf, Sköll, catches up with the sun goddess Sól. As the jaws closes on the goddess’s flesh, tearing it apart, fire starts blaze from the wounds as if it were blood. As Sól is consumed the drops of fire falls to the ground, setting it ablaze. As the once majestic forests of Asgaard burns under the heavens, the second wolf, Hati Hróðvitnisson, catches up with the moon Máni, consuming it as his brother consumed the sun. Once the pale moon light is gone, the only source of light is the burning ground and the fiery armies from Muspelheim in the distance.
It takes a while longr for Huginn to break the silence.
“… Ya’ sure alrigt’s gon cover it?”
Odin swaps the raven of his shoulder. The bird flaps his wings and lands on the wall. “Ok’y, ah’ll be qaiet.”
The Vanir reached reached Idavoll by noon and the Jotunns the following hour. Odin is mounted on his horse Sleipnir, his wolves Geri and Freki at the ready by his feet and the ravens high above the battlefield, providing him with information on the enemy ranks. The old god wields both his spear and shield, and his head is protected by a spectacle-helmet.
Odin turns toward the armies of Valhal. “Gods, einherjars, valkyries, now is the hour of great deeds! Do not expect honor from the Jotunns, for they will fight without dignity. Do not show them any mercy, for the fate of the coming seasons will suffer their rule if you do. Let no ruinous king of their kin survive, for they will take for themselves and leave nothing for others. Our fates are sealed, but not that of those who will inherit the fruits of our rǫk. Let’s make sure that it will be a world of plenty.”
He raises Gungnir above his head. “This is our rǫk. Let us ensure that it is worthy of memory!”
The crowd cheers as they march toward the approaching enemies and before long the two armies clash together in waves of steel, rage and sourcery. The towering rimtusser and mountain trolls sweeps away entire ranks of einherjars within seconds. Thor is quick to slay the largest of them through where ferocity and determination, and their broken corpses crush their sword-brethrens beneath them as they fall. Arrows, spears and axes fills the sky, slaying those who are not at the front line. Blow to blow the two armies appear evenly matched; the viciousness of the Jotunns is countered by the discipline of the Einherjers and Valyries, whose steel and armor fall before the Jotunns’ sorcery.
With the antlers of a buck growing form his head, Frey combats Surtr and his flaming sword Lævateinn, a battle so ferocious that the ground around the two combaters becomes barren. Odin himself rides through his opponents, crushing them under Sleipnir’s heavy hooves. His spear Gungnir piece flesh, steel and bone equally and his shield and wisdom protects those near him him from the Jotunns’ wicked spells; none have the aptitude to stand against the God of the Slain.
High above the battlefield Thor continues to bring down his enemies, his iron gloves glowing red from the heat of repeating throwing catching his hammer at full force. As the battle drags on, most of the large targets are either dead or dying, with those remain being too resilient to be slain easily. As the battle moves across Idavoll the giant corpses becomes advantage points for the soldiers of both armies.
As part of Odin’s plan, Thor had dealt with the gigantic trolls and rimtusser first, so that the einherjars could battle the regular jotunns more easily. With only a handful of the oversized jotunns left, Thor allows himself to concentrate on the one foe he is excited to do battle with; Jörmungandr, the Midgaard Serpent. He reaches his prize as it razes the golden halls of Gladsheim with his endless body. Thor throws himself at the serpent with his hammer held high. As he lands on the beast he brings down Mjölnir to a devastating blow. Jörmungandr roars in pain and anger as it twists and turns, leveling everything in its near vicinity, from the ruins of Gladsheim to the roots of Yggdrasil. Avoiding its fangs the god continues to combat the serpent, spilling its blood many times over while it burns him with its poison. After receiving heavy damage the serpent faces Thor and spews out poisonous fumes and corrosive spit. Unable to avoid the cloud, Thor cannot prevent himself from inhaling it as the spit burns through his armor and skin. He begins to cough up blood he continues to wrestle the serpent, until finally he manages to crush its skull with his hammer. As Jörmungandr’s body goes limb, Thor’s airways are broken. Coughing up blood and heaving for air with every breath, the god finally loses the last of his strength. Lying in a pool of the serpent’s poisonous blood, the god of thunder slowly dies, his organs failing and his lungs willing with his own blood.
With the death of their strongest asset, the gods starts to lose ground.
Odin feels a sting in his heart when a member of his family dies. Expecially Thor’s death makes the god pause at a critical moment which earns him a cut on the arm that goes through his mail. He can ill afford to allow himself to get distracted, and so he pushes the grief aside. He continues to fight and as the battle goes on he manages to lead his forces to victory against the hird from Utgaard. This allows the gods to recover some lost ground.
Then the howl splits the air.
The giant wolf Fenris emerges from the fire and smoke, its jaws crushing a mouthful of Odin’s finest warriors.
The old god knows who he is meant to do battle with.
With a sharp order Odin charges with Sleipnir toward the wolf. The wolf sees this and it too charges the rider and his steed. As they clash Odin pierce the wolf’s flesh with his spear while Sleipnir uses his agility to keep them both away from the wolf’s jaws. Fenris is having trouble catching the smaller, agile target, but it doesn’t suffer any fatal wounds either. The struggle continues until Fenris manages to strike Sleipnir hard enough with its head to make Odin to fall off the steed. The impact with the ground forces the breath out of Odin who has to spend a few moments catching his breath. As he does he hears Sleipnir combat Fenris by himself. As he looks up he sees Fenris closing its jaws on Sleipnir’s backside. The horse neighs in pain as a loud crunch fills the air. Fenris shakes the horse back and forth with his jaws before swallowing the equine in one go. It then turns toward Odin, snarling as it opens its jaws wide enough for the jaw to drag along the ground.
Odin readies Gungnir, smiling knowingly. “Everything will be alright.”
The wolf swallows him whole, but not before Odin manages to force Gungnir deep into its gums, making it yelp in pain and preventing it from using its jaws properly for the rest of the battle.
Later Fenris would meet its end at Vidar’s hands. Being stricken by grief over seeing Fenris kill his father, Vidar charges the wolf with rage blazing in his eyes. He rips the wolf’s jaws open so violently that the skin rips along its cheeks and the jaw breaks. Fenris perish soon after from these wounds.
The battle continues long after Odin’s death. The last pair of combatants is a human-sized Jotunn and a mail-clad einherjar. The Jotunn is decapitated by the einherjar’s axe, who in turn gets pierced by a crudely made spear.
Silence falls over the battlefield as a new sun rises. This sun is the daughter of the old one. Under the shadow of the Ash Yggdrasil, on the plains of Ida, the few surviving gods discuss the fate of the old world and the fate of the new one.
By the roots of the great tree itself are two figures rummaging through the bodies that cover the ground like a thick blanket. These are two young women who did not participate in the battle, even though they are related by blood to one of the Nine Realm’s well known individuals. They are not here searching for spoils of war, they are there seeking this specific individual.
Menja pulls aside another dead body. This one smelled really bad, as if he had been dead long before the battle even started.
“Probably one of the Draugr. Urgh, and I thought trolls smelled bad…” With great effort she manages to move the armor-clad body aside so that the body of Fenris is more accessible. She turns toward her sister. “You find anything?”
Her sister Fenja is on the other side of the gigantic body. “Yes, I think its mouth is over here. Hard to tell though… Vidar really did a number on him.” Even in her human shape Fenja is much stronger stronger than her sister, and she has an easier time uncovering the remains. As she push over another einherjar who had been halfway cleaved in two, her eye catches the sight of the wolf’s broken jaw. “Yes, here it is! You think he’s still alive?”
Menja walks over the bodies until she is next to her sister. “I think so. The prophecy spoke of Odin’s death, but father has always been a variable. With him It could go either way.” She inspects gaping throat. “Mother said that she saw him get eaten, so I’m not getting my hopes up. For all we know he’s in more pieces than then he has legs.”
When the battle had raged Menja, Fenja, Leif, Heil and Margot had been observing it from a hilltop overlooking the plains. Eryan, the youngest of the kids, had not been present, however Menja knew he was somewhere in this world, though she didn’t know where.
Her mother had forbidden them to intervene, which was understandable; this was the god’s fight, not theirs. After the battle Menja and Fenja decided to go look for their father, however Margot, Leif and heil had refused to help. When asked they did not provide a straight answer. Sometimes Menja really disliked how secretive the Liaisons could be, however in this case she knew why; Audrey had forbidden the Liaisons and Observer to do anything but observe. Being citizens of the Empire the three had no choice but to follow orders. Fenja and Menja however were not citizens of the Empire, which meant that they were free to go look for Sleipnir.
Hopefully the wolf had not chewed him.
Fenja looks down the wolf’s throat and shakes her head. “It’ll be difficult to get in that way, the jawbone has piercing the throat. It is probably easier to cut open the stomach.”
Menja nods and moves over to the other side of the wolf. “Alright, better be careful then. We don’t wanna hit him if he’s alive.”
Fenja moves over and wrestle a sword from the death grip of another einherjar. The blade is covered in dry blood, but it remains surprisingly sharp considering the battle hit had just participated in. She hands Menja the blade that in turn begins to cut. The task is slow and difficult due to how the wolf lay on the ground. After many minutes she stops.
Menja looks up. “What is it?”
“The somach, it’s moving. Someone’s moving inside.”
The two women look at each other before them both falls to their knees and starts pulling aside the layers of cold flesh. Eventually they penetrate the last layer which reveals a familiar face.
Both women attempt to pull their father out, which is a difficult task considering his size and weight when he is in his horse body. Fenja has to change into a bear in order to have the necessary strength to move him even slightly. Sleipnir is not awake, but he is breathing slowly. Once they have successfully managed to get him free, Menja begins to examine him, although the most severe damage is clearly visible. “All the hind legs are severely broken multiple places. Not sure if he’ll ever run again.”
Fenja looks at the legs and nods, “But is he alive?”
“Punctuation of one of the mayor veins near his left kidney, but it has closed on itself. I suppose the weight from all those other bodies in there kept him from bleeding out. Thank gods Fenris didn’t chew his food.”
Fenja nods impatiently. “But, Is. He. Alive?”
Menja looks up at her sister sheepishly. “The vain would only close if the blood kept flowing. So yes, his body is alive, if only barely.” She moves to his head and lays a hand on it. Closing her eyes and channeling her sejd she examined his mind. “He’s in a coma. Probably for the best, everything considered.” She pauses. “He’s slipping away. His body is dying slowly, but his spirit is strong, so there can only be something wrong with his body. There must be another wound somewhere; something that makes him bleeds out.”
They both examine him once more, this time more thoroughly. “Here, the third inner thigh! Looks like a tooth pierced all the way though.” Fenja quickly presses her hands onto the wound to stop the flow of blood. “How the heck did he survive that long with a wound like that?”
Menja is quickly by her sister’s side. “His face was down, his body above it, laying on top of the other dead ones inside the stomach. Most of his blood remained under the wound, so it simply couldn’t bleed out. In this position however the wound is placed lower than before, so the blood can bleed out easily now.”
Fenja nods her head once. “Well, great, can you heal it?”
Once again Menja channels the sejd through her hands. As much as the tries she is unable to close the wound with her magic. “No, that’s a Bane wound. No magic can heal it. More traditionel means are needed.”
Fenja looks at her in disbelief. “What? Are you telling me that the more severe a wound is, the less capable you are at healing it? What kind of useless stupid-ass magic do you waste your time studying?!”
Menja was offended by that. “Hey! I can close severe wounds with little trouble, but this is a Bane wound. Bane! They’re wounds that not only cut the flesh, but fate itself which makes them magically immune. Usually they are leathal, but that’s not always the case. Like I said, the prophecy concerning our father could go either way; he was with Odin when he died, but there’s nothing that specify that father must die too.” He examines the wound to the best of her abilities without having Fenja remove her hands. “This Bane can kill him if left untreated, but we’ll need a lot of water to clean the wound and a lot of luck. It will kill him otherwise.”
Menja didn’t understand much about how a wound could harm fate, but she knew that she didn’t like it. “Urgh, fate… So, what, you just bandage this fate-given wound and he’ll be good to go?”
Fenja sighs. “If a Bane could be treated that easily they wouldn’t be that dangerous. Washing the wound is the key here; however the water must be completely clean. As in, mythologically clean. Luckily we are in a mythological reality, so we got a slim chance. Even so there’s only a very slim chance of surviving a Bane.”
Menja looks at her sister. “Well… Get to it already! We’ve dug him out of a frigging god-eating bastard-son, you can’t just let our father die that easily!”
“I’m not! It’s just… a long time since I’ve healed a wound without magics! And where can I find water when the ground itself is unable to suck up the remaining blood? Everything has been contaminated! Besides, the wells in Gladsheim are most likely destroyed.”
Fenja sighs. “Well… shit. Uhm… Yggdrasil! Isn’t there a couple of wells under its roots or something?”
Menja rubs her chin. “… I believe so. It’s worth a try. Keep pressurizing the wound, I’ll go get the water.”
Menja gets up and runs toward the tree. She doesn’t know where to start searching, but she hopes that she finds something soon. And that it hasn’t been contaminated by the decaying corpses scattering the ground.
It took longer than expected to get to the tree. It isn’t easy to run when the route is blocked by 20 meter tall corpses lying lakes of their own blood.
After much struggle she reaches one of the roots which towers over her like cliff-sides. She follows the root toward the tree-trunk until she finds a dirt path leading under the root. Hoping that this is the way to one of the wells she follows it until she reaches what looks to be a courtyard of sorts between the roots. In the middle of the yard is what looks like a dried out spring. A quick inspection shows that it has been dry for quite some time. She follows the path further to the far end of the yard until she reaches a wooden door leading under the roots which curves above her head.
The door leads to a dwelling that lays under the ground the ground. As she pulls the handle she finds it unlocked. Just beyond the door is a large room which is sparsely furniture; In the middle of the room are three chairs set in a semi-circle, with a low-height table to the right of the right chair. In the far corner is a fireplace and another table on which lays a large number of succors and small curved knives. From the ceiling hangs an innumerable stump of ropes which has been cut over, only a few hangs uncut. Some of the robes have knots bound onto them, while others seem to be worn out more than others. The floor itself is covered under a thick blanket of the other ends of the cut ropes. It takes Menja a few moments to realize where she is; this is the home of the Norns! All the robes represent lifelines of those that inhabit the Nine Realms. The cut ones must be those who have died in Ragnarok, while those that are uncut belong to the survivors.
So, which one belongs to her father? And where are the Norns themselves? After searching around the dwelling she concludes that the Norns are gone. There is also no water to be found. She did find some clean sheets of cloth which could be used as bandages. On her way out she stops by the ropes. One of them is cut almost all the way through, and is only held together by a few strings. This must be his then, though she could not say if her presumption was correct. She considered to try and fix the rope, but voted against it. It would be best not to tempt fate expecially when she did not know the right magic to deal with physical representations of fate itself. She left the dwelling and followed the dirt path out of the courtyard. Searchin around outside she eventually finds another path, which appears to be very old due to the overgrowth. She follows it for several minutes until she can no longer see the battlefield. Just as she considers to head back the trail slopes down into a cave under the roots. It’s dark in there and it is very difficult to get a good footing on the steep slope.
“This better not be a dead end or I so swear…”
She eventually reaches the bottom. The cave is lit by a number of light rays that find their way through the labyrinth of roots above her. Her heart stops for a second when she finds what is in the middle of the room; a well! She hurries over to it.
She looks down the well. It’s dark and she can’t se anything. She picks up a pebble which lies by the cut stone well and throws it in.
The sound of the pebble hitting water coupled with the reflection breaking the darkness makes her laugh.
“Yes! I knew it!”
After the initial joy she realizes something; she has nothing to carry the water with. She groans and looks around. Surely there must be something down here she could use; otherwise she had to go all the way back to the underground dwelling to find something to use. That would take too long, and she had already been gone for too long!
Menja was starting to get strresset when she finally found something on a flat boulder nearby; a knife and a drinking horn! She picks up the horn and hurries over to the well. She has to lay flat over the edge of the well and reach down into the well in order to dip the horn into the water. Feeling the horn being full she lifts it up and… nothing.
She blinks. The horn is empty. Scratch that, it’s not even wet! She tries to fill it a second time, then a third, then a fourth. Every time she feels the horn get full and every time it’s empty when she pulls it up.
“Why won’t you work you piece of f… Garh!” She throws the horn into the darkness. What a piece of s-
“Oi! Watch it will ya?”
Menja blinks. She looks around but cannot see anything in the darkness.
“…Hello? Is anybody there?”
“Any head, mind ya.”
She recognizes that voice, from when she was trained in the arts of Sejd back in the day. It belonged to one of her teachers.
She is answered by a coughing. “Aye, who else should it be?”
She follows the voice until she reaches the severed head that is Mimir. Because of the darkness she had initially thought that he had been a bounder.
She picks up the head and walks back to the well. The head is that of a balding, middle-aged man with grey hair and with a short grey beard. Due to his high age his nose and ears was that of a very old man; large and wrinkly.
“What are you doing here? And why didn’t you say anything?”
He looks up at her with that irritated look she had come to consider his trademark.
“Ah Did’n say anything ‘coz ah wanted da see if ya’ had worked on ya’ patience. Can’t say ya’ have. Disappointing really. “
She places him on the edge of the well.
“As for da other question, well, this be mah well. Ah guide it, remember. Before da battle, Odin put me back so dat ah wouldn’t get in trouble. Can’t run from trouble, ya know?”
She looks around. “Wait, so this is the well of wisdom? Didn’t expect it to be so… dark.”
The head snort. “Haven’t been able da clean da place after ah lost mah body. Com’n, Ah though ya were da smart one.”
Menja resists the urge to reply to that. Better keep to the matter at hand. “Mimir, I need your help. Sleipnir is alive, but only barely. I need water to clean his wounds, and this is the first source of fresh water I’ve seen so far.” She lists up the horn. “But whenever I try to get some water, it doesn’t fill the horn. It’s not even wet. What should I do?”
The head looks at her patiently. “T’is be da Well of Wisdom. Wisdom comes at a price. Until ya pay, ya can’t git any water.”
Menja lowers the horn. She knows the story of how Odin gained his wisdom, and she knew what he had to pay. Surely the head didn’t expect her to give one of her eyes. “You can’t be serious.”
Mimir fumes. If there was one thing he did not like it was to have his position questioned. “Yah! Ah’m bloody serious! Ah don know what dis ‘Empire’ have done ta ya, but ya’ve become less respectful!”
He holds up her hands. “Sorry, sorry! It’s just that I’m here to get water, not wisdom. Can’t you make an exception?”
The head closes his eyes, which Menja knows is his equiliant of shaking his head. “Nay, dat’s not how da rules works. Da price is da same for everyone, even gods.”
“But… does it have to be the eye? I’m using both of them!”
“Eye’s be da windows os da soul. Dey observes and watches. Dey are what allows da mind ta gain knowledge. If ya wanna gain wisdom, ya gotta observe. If ya wanna ‘ave wisdom right away, it cost ya an eye right away. Nothing replaces an eye.”
“No buts. Ya want da water, it will cost ya. Ya don have ta use dis water, ya know. Choice’s yer’s.“
Menja looks toward the entrance. She has been away for a long time now, and who knows how much longer their father can hold onto life. She sighs defeated. “Okay.”
“Atta girl, da knife is where ya found da horn.”
She nods as she walks over to where the knife is and picks it up. She moves back to the light so that she can get a better look on it. At least it’s clean and free of rust. Always something she supposes. She glance over to the head as she moves the knife to her left eye.
The worst part was that she had to have her eye open in order to cut it. That meant she could see the point of the knife getting closer.
She lowers the knife “I… I can’t!”
Mimir remains silent, but she can imagine how he looks at her in disappointment. She takes a series of deep breath before lifting the knife to her eye. Once again she couldn’t do it. She’s on the brink of tears. “Come on!”
She breathes quickly between her teeth as she works up the courage a third time. “Okay, this is it.. This is it! You can do it!” This time the knife went in. She cries as her other hand forces her left eye to remain open so that the blade can work with no restriction. She stops half way, crying and sobbing from the effort.
“Can’t stop, not now. The damage’s already been done, just finish it already! Come on!” She shouts at herself to vent her pain and frustration. Minutes drags on until finally she feels the last nerve getting served. She throws the knife across the room and falls to her knees sobbing, one hand covering the wound while the other holds the eye. Her vision is blurry form the tears. She uses her magic to close the wound before she looks over at Mimir. The head sends her a sad look back.
The head closes his eyes. “Ah never chose wat da price should be. Ah just guard dis well.”
She hisses at this. “Then who came up with this shit?!”
“Da same ones dat chained me ta dis post.”
She didn’t feel like talking in riddles right now, so she gets up and holds her eye over the water. She looks over at Mimir again. “Dropping this eye will allow me to get the water, right? There’s no song or dancing or whatever that needs to be done?”
“Nay, ya’re free ta go.”
“Good.” She drops the eye into the water. The moment it breaks the water surface the room is bathed in blue light as the water starts to glow. The following moment the darkness returns. Menja is blinded by the unexpected flash of light and it takes her some time for her one eye to adjust to the darkness again. She picks up the horn and leans over the opening. This time the water remains on the horn. Carefully she lifts it up. She moves toward the entrance, then stops and turns around. “Will you be okay?”
The head does not answer at first. “Ah… Ah don know. With Odin gone, Ah don know what ta do. Ah might be included in dis new world, or… Ah’ll be forgotten here.” He stares sadly into the darkness. “Ah… might be here forever…”
Menja look at him for a moment.
“I’ll come back in a few days time. If the other gods haven’t decided what to do with you, I can take you with me. Would you like that?”
Mimir turns his head as best as be can and smiles weakly. “Aye, Ah would like dat.”
And on the path Menja walks as quickly as she can without spilling the water. To keep the water in she holds the other hand over the opening as a lid. “After what I’ve been through you better not be dead you blasted horse…” It takes her a while to notice that something is bumping inside the horn whenever she moves it around too fast. Lifting the hand she uses as a lid she looks into the horn. An eye looks back at her. She almost threw the horn away, but restrained herself from doing so. How the heck did an eye get in the horn? It must have got there by accident when she filled the horn, and the darkness prevented her from seeing it in the first place. As for who it belonged to, it was easy enough to see that it wasn’t hers since the iris was of another color. Could it be Odin’s old eye? Would that have survived that long?
Looking at the eye reminded her of how she herself only had one. Even if the wound had been closed, it still hurt.
So, what should she do with it? She could throw it away. But on the other hand, whoever was its previous owner did not use it anymore. She could take it for herself as a replacement for her lost eye. It would be theft… Of something that was not being used by its owner any more.
Fenja looks up. “There you are! What took you so long?”
Menja sits down besides her sister. “It was more difficult to get the water than first anticipated, but I got it. Also got some sheets we can use to as bandage.” She looks down at the horse. “How is he?”
“Still out, but I think the wound have been stabilized somewhat. I don’t dare to remove my hands though, so you’ll have to handle the bandaging yourself.”
Menja looks down at the horn of water in her one hand, and the sheet of cloth under her arm. “Gee, thanks! How am I to rip this sheet into bandages when I need to hold the horn too?” Just as she says that she feels someone behind her pulling the sheet away. She looks back and sees her younger brother. “Eryan!”
Fenja looks up. “About time you showed up! Where have you been?”
Eryan starts to rip the sheet into pieces. As usual his face is stoic. “I was holding the western wall against the lesser vaettirs.”
Fenja nods. “Yeah, but that was long ago! That battle has been over for hours. You’re able to fast travel, why didn’t you show up earlier?”
He looks over at her. “I wasn’t needed until now.”
Fenja looks at him in disbelief then shakes her head. “I’ll never learn to understand you…” She looks over at Menja as she begins to wash the wound. “By the way, what has happened to your clothes? It’s all bloodied.”
Menja looks up at her sister. “I had to pay a toll in order to use the water. You know how these Norse gods loves their little rituals.”
Fenja sighs. “Don’t tell me that you’ve lost something that we’ll have to get back.”
Menja smirks and shakes her head. “Nah, I’m all right.” She turns both her eyes back to the wound she is washing, one iris grey and another blue.