My Writing

From Saga’s Hall
Spirit Son

From Saga’s Hall

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Excerpt:

THRUD AND ALVIS

Thrud sat in the grand hall with her half-brother, Modi, and her mother, Sif, among the other Aesir. She amused herself with trying to flick a wooden square at Modi’s head. Unwilling to hit a girl, even his sister, Modi just glared at her. But he kept passing the block back to her, so she kept trying.

Her father, Thor, had been gone for weeks this time. She missed him, but enjoyed being able to run free and to flirt with all the boys without worrying about her father spoiling her fun. He was such a grump when it came to her flirting! He barely ever let her get near a boy. And there were just so many cute boys to bat her eyes at. Modi thought it was his duty to keep her in line while Thor was away, but Thrud could easily get around him. In truth, all she needed to do was to send a pretty girl his way and he never even noticed what she was doing.

Thrud looked around the room at everyone gathered there. Odin, the clan chieftain, looked mighty and commanding, though she remembered when he had bounced her on his knee.  His wife, Frigga, sat beside Odin, regal and composed. Her handmaidens sat in places of honor on the other side of her, each taking turns whispering in her ear. Bragi and Idunna sat with their heads together happily singing songs no one else could hear. Thrud hoped she could find a marriage like that one day. Tyr sat by himself sipping on mead, his wary eyes taking in everyone and everything in the room, his muscles tense, always ready for trouble. In all ways, it was a very ordinary evening at Gladsheim.

Thrud sat feasting and laughing with her friends until after dark. Once Odin and Frigga retired, thanking everyone for their visit and bidding all to stay as long as they liked, others started trickling away. Eventually Sif headed out, telling Modi and Thrud not to be too long. After an hour or so, Modi suggested that it was time for them to start for home.

“Oh, just a little longer, please big brother?” Thrud begged, making doe eyes at Modi.

Just as Modi opened his mouth to reply, a loud thud turned everyones eyes toward the door. Surprised whispers carried through the room as people realized the new arrival was a Dwarf. He was a particularly muscular Dwarf. Though only half as tall as any of the gods, he appeared strong enough to lift most of them. He carried himself with such surety that Thrud wondered where he got such an ego. When she commented on it to Modi, he whispered back that she had not seen many Dwarves.

“I am Alvis. Who is in charge here?” the Dwarf asked in a loud voice.

Tyr stood up. I claim rank among those in this hall.” He spoke calmly. “What is your business in Asgard?”

“I have provided many crafts for the Aesir and now I demand payment,” he exclaimed.

“And what is your price?”

Alvis’ eyes narrowed. “Marriage to the maiden of my choice,” he said

“This is against custom,” Tyr responded levelly, his steely gaze meeting that of the Dwarf’s. “By what right do you claim this price?”

“My wife was killed due to actions taken by the Aesir, and my children need a mother. I call on the precedent of Skadhi, who was offered a husband to repay the loss of her father.”

Tyr and Alvis debated for a little while, though Thrud could not quite make out what they said. Eventually, they moved a bit apart.

“It is settled then,” exclaimed Tyr loudly, resignation in his voice. “Name your choice.”

“I demand the hand of the beautiful maiden, Thrud!” Alvis announced, pointing right at her. Thrud’s stomach sank. The room roared in indignation and protests. Modi was on his feet, moving towards Alvis. Tyr quickly blocked his way. He spoke quietly to Modi in a level voice, though Thrud could not hear what he said through her spinning head. This couldn’t be happening! She wanted to scream, or to run away. But where would she go? She lived under the laws of Asgard and had to abide by its will, but she had expected that she and her parents would have some say in who she married. This was nothing like what she had envisioned.

Vaguely she listened to the arrangements made by Tyr and Alvis. She would be sent to Alvis in the morning for the ceremony. Thrud wished this were not so, but she knew that Tyr always spoke plainly and openly. She wondered if maybe he was trying to trick Alvis, but knew that he would not do that. Tyr was fair and reasonable in all things, a quality she usually admired. At that moment, she hated it.

After the arrangements were made, Alvis came to Thrud and took her hand. He bent over it and kissed it. Until tomorrow, my beauty,” he said to her. With that, he turned and marched out. Thrud saw Modi heading toward her. Tyr was looking at her; in fact, it seemed all eyes in the hall were on her. With a mumble of “I need air,” she excused herself and rushed out of the hall into the dark night.

Once outside, she leaned against the wall of the hall and held her head, trying to think. Trying to be practical, she began going over what she needed to bring with her when she left. But she couldn’t decide whether she was packing to go to Alvis, or to run away.

Slowly, through the din of the hall behind her and the roar inside her head, she became aware of new voices around the corner. Thrud thought she recognized her fathers voice, but feared it was only wishful thinking. Inching along the wall, she made her way to the corner. Cautiously, she peered around and saw her father, his bright red hair shining even in the dark, speaking to Alvis!

She crouched low and strained to hear what they said. They seemed to be having an idle conversation, though her fathers stance told her otherwise. His feet were spread apart and he bounced on his toes just slightly, as though ready to move at any moment. His hammer was held on his shoulder in a way that looked casual, but his grip on it showed he was ready to swing it at any moment. He spoke slowly and quietly but his voice held an edge that she recognized from when she or her brothers did something that made him really, really angry. She knew that under his controlled tone lay a deep fury.

Thrud heard him say, I am Vingthor, the wanderer, Sithgrani’s son, and father of Thrud. You will win Thrud’s hand in marriage only if it is my will!”

Alvis seemed to assess the situation quickly, his eyes alone showing the shift in his confidence. “Then I shall get your good will and win her hand in marriage.”

Thor shifted slightly and spoke a bit more quietly. “I would not stop so wise a guest from winning his love,” he said, his eyes narrowing, “if he can just tell me all that I ask.”

Alvis voice got louder now, boosted by his confidence. “I am Alvis, of the Alfar and I know all,” he declared. “Ask away!”

“Okay,” said Thor levelly. “If you know all, Alvis, tell me what they call Earth in each and every world.”

“That’s easy!” Alvis said boastfully. “ ‘Earth’ to men, ‘Ground’ to the Aesir; ‘The Ways’ it is called by the Vanir, ‘Evergreen’ by the Jotuns, ‘Growing One’ by the Alfar.”

Thor continued, If you know all, Alvis, tell me what they call the moon in each and every world.”

Alvis replied, “ ‘Moon’ with men, ‘Flame’ among the Aesir, ‘The Wheel’ in the house of Hel, ‘The Hastener’ amongst the Jotuns. The Dwarves call it ‘The Shiner’, and the Alfs, ‘The Teller of Time.’ ”

Again, Thor asked, “If you know all, Alvis, tell me what they call the sun in each and every world.”

Alvis voice got even louder, filled with excitement and self-assurance, “Men call it ‘Sun,’ Aesir, ‘Sunshine’. It is called ‘The Deceiver of Dvalin’ by the Dwarves, ‘Ever-glow,’ by the Jotuns, ‘Fair Wheel’ by the Alfs, and ‘All-Glowing’ by the sons of the Aesir.”

This went on for hours. The hall had long since emptied, though none had seen Thrud sitting there in the dark. She knew she should go home and pack, or at least get some sleep in preparation for her day, but she wanted to know what her father was doing. She really wanted to talk to him, but she didn’t want to be seen by Alvis. So she sat with her back to the wall and waited.

“If you know all, Alvis,” her father continued, “tell me what they call fire in each and every world.”

Alvis crowed, Another easy one! Men call it ‘Fire’ and the Aesir call it ‘Flame’. By the Vanir it is called ‘Warmth’, ‘Ravener’ by Jotuns, ‘The Burner’ by Dwarves, and ‘The Swift’ in Hel’s realm.”

Time passed.

Thruds eyes were sagging, and she was tempted to just stretch out on the ground. Peering out into the darkness, she suddenly realized that the trees were easy to see. The sun was rising! How long was her father going to continue this?

“If you know everything, tell me...,” she barely heard her father through her tiredness, though she heard the fervor in Alvis’ reply. He was thrilled about showing his knowledge.

“If you know everything, tell me what happens to Dwarves when the sun rises.” Thrud heard her father say this and leaped to her feet as she thought of the answer.

Thrud rounded the corner as Alvis was saying, “Everyone knows this! They turn to stone.” Then Alvis paused and looked to the sky, horror in his eyes. A smile spread across Thor’s face. At that moment, the sun crested the horizon and Alvis froze, never to move again.

Thrud ran to her father and threw her arms around him. Thor staggered a bit in surprise.  “What are you doing here, daughter?”

Words spilled from Thrud’s mouth. “I wanted to be alone, and I heard you talking to Alvis, so I sat and waited in the dark, and then... oh, Father, thank you!”

Thor smiled and petted her hair. “We may owe some explanation to Tyr,” he said quietly, “but I am not going to let you be forced into marriage.”

She smiled up at him for a moment. Then they turned and headed toward home, arm in arm.

Spirit Son

Excerpt:

Bodi rode alongside his brother, Vannur, and his wife, Thruda, through the field in the warm mid-morning sun. As they rode, they talked and laughed over some childhood antics Bodi and Vannur were recalling. They were nearing the woodline where Bodi and Thruda were to part ways with Vannur and head to their home. Birds were chirping and squirrels were chittering. Bodi and Vannur were so wrapped up in their memories, that they at first did not notice Thruda slowing her horse behind them. Bodi drew his horse back so that he was along side Thruda, and noticed her peering intently into the woods, a worried expression on her face. 

“I hear something,” she said in a hushed voice.

They all pulled their horses to a halt and listened. Then they heard the faint sounds of far away shouting. It was in the direction of the tree line, where Len was working. They urged their horses into a run and galloped towards the sounds.

The sounds of shouting got louder as they neared, but the trees hid the cause from their sight. The noise escalated into yells, and then suddenly fell silent. Fear gripped Bodi as he urged his horse to go even faster.

They rounded the edge of the grove and saw Len laying on the ground, a gash in the side of his head, and another in his chest. Thruda cried out and turned away. Bodi leapt of his horse and ran to Len, while Vannur took out his sword and circled around the grove.

Len’s breathing was shallow when Bodi reached him. His eyes were fluttering, and he didn’t seem able to focus on anything. Bodi inspected the wounds, and tried to stop the blood flowing, but there was just so much.

“What happened?” Bodi cried.

Len lifted his head slightly and his eyes focused on Bodi for an instant. “Gili,” he whispered. His eyes glazed over and he was gone. Thruda had made it over to them by that time and fell upon the ground weeping. 

Bodi looked up at Vannur and shook his head. Then he repeated what their brother had said. Vannur’s face hardened.

“Thruda,” Vannur said with no expression in his voice. When she didn’t respond, he said her name again, more forcefully. She looked at him through tear-streaked eyes. “Go back to the farm and tell them what happened. Get the farm hands to come get Len’s body to prepare him for burial.” Thruda nodded in a daze.

Vannur then turned his gaze to Bodi. “Come.” He said. It was not a request, nor did Bodi question the decision. He cupped his hand under Thruda’s chin and looked in her eyes. She nodded slightly and turned towards her horse. Bodi mounted his own horse and followed Vannur into the woods.

Vannur and Bodi set off through the woods, trying to pick out the tracks Gili’s horse made as he retreated from the fight. Gili was clearly in a rush, so they were able to follow the broken branches and to find deep hoof prints along the faint trail that Gili must have taken. They had to go slower than they wanted to, and they could tell that Gili was drawing futher ahead of them. Gili knew these woods better than they did, though they had some memories of traveling through the woods with their father to visit Harn when they were young. In spite of their pumping adrenaline and building anger, they forced themselves to travel at a steady pace so as not to lose the path or stumble into a more dense part of the forest that would further slow them down. They could tell that Gili was heading straight for his farm, so they were certain they could catch up with him there.

Once through the forest, they pushed their horses to a full gallop and headed straight towards the farmstead. They caught sight of Gili as they crested a hill by his home. He was rushing about shouting orders to his men. Bodi squinted to see if he could see more clearly, and he caught sight of a bag that Gili was waving as he urgently pointed to his men. Bodi pointed and shouted to Vannur, “That’s Len’s bag!” Vannur nodded and pushed his horse harder. 

They barely slowed the horses in time to jump off of them as they planted themselves in front of Gili. Vannur growled, “You killed our brother and stole his belongings. We’re here to retrieve them and get vengeance.”

Gili laughed, though a slight shake betrayed his nerves. “Len has been collecting lumber from my side of the forest for months now. All I did was confronted him about it. He swung at me, and I had no choice but to defend myself. It’s not my fault he couldn’t fight. His belongings are mine as payment for the loses I had at his hand.” 

Bodi looked around. He had not focused on the farmhands as he was riding up, but now he took a minute to notice that their running was with purpose. Most of them had already made it to Gili’s ship that was docked along the shore. Others were gathering beside Gili, clearly in preparation for an attack. At that moment, it hit him how unwise it was for two men to confront Gili alone on his farm. The odds were 2 against 20 and growing rapidly as men gathered around. Focusing on a few men standing closest, Bodi realized that these weren’t just farm-hands. Gili’s family was there, though Bodi couldn’t imagine why. He counted 10 brothers and cousins scattered amongst the regular farmhands. Most of them had been on a serving mission or two, and many had earned a reputation for brutality.

Bodi reached to Vannur and whispered, “I think we’re outnumbered, brother.”

Vannur’s eyes flashed and Bodi could see that Vannur would not hear reason. With a roar, Vannur jumped at Gili with his sword drawn. Two of Gili’s cousins stepped in and blocked the blow. Vannur thrust again, and again they blocked. A third cousin joined the fight and went on the attack. Seeing Vannur in trouble, Bodi jumped in and tried to block for his cousin. The two of them fought hard as more and more men joined the fight. Bodi barely caught a glimpse of Gili moving toward the boat, holding Len’s bag. Vannur was skilled with a sword. One man after another dropped in front of him. Bodi blocked and parried as quickly as he could, but the number of men coming against him was overwhelming. A large man came at him, and in desperation, Bodi thrust his sword forward, plunging his sword into the man’s stomach. He kicked the man away, freeing his sword, and went after another. A second, then a third dropped in front of him, but it wasn’t enough. A sharp pain shot through his arm and he dropped his sword, All he could do is duck and try to stay away from the swords coming at him. However he wasn’t prepared for the fist that hit him in the jaw and dropped him. 

As soon as he fell, the men scattered. Bodi rolled to his side and looked into the blank, dead eyes of his brother Vannur. He didn’t even see Vannur fall. Bodi grabbed a fallen sword and jumped up in a rage, chasing after Gili and his men with complete disregard to his own safety.

His arm throbbed, and as he ran, he realized that his leg wasn’t working very well. He glanced down and saw blood pouring down from a wound in his thigh. His running slowed,. He reached the shore just as the boat pushed away and floated gently out to sea. 

Screaming in frustration, Bodi watched as Gili held up the bag and waved at him with it. He sank to his knees and his frustration, anger and sadness poured out of him all at once. Laying down on the sand, Bodi wept.