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Loki had settled very happily into his new home at Stormbright Hall.  He now had a generous run of rooms beside Sigyns, an easy walk from the larders and the ale cellar.  He had also found an excellent lolling place on the roof of the stable-block where he could watch the industry of others.  He was reclining there now with his lap filled with a platter of spice cakes.  

There was plenty happening below to pour honey sauce on the delights of idleness.  Thor was readying his wain for a long journey in the Outlands.  The hallfolk were running to and fro with supplies and equipment:  hay for the goats, ale, cheeses and hams for the Os, spare set of bridles and traces, and bundles of cooking gear.  Thor himself was lashing bronze cauldrons to the tail-board.  "Meilli, there you are at last!' he cried, spotting his blood-brother in the crowd.  'Go and fetch your travelling clothes and we can leave.'
'But Thor, these are my travelling clothes.'
Loki roared with helpless laughter, Meilli's shirt was a riot of embroidery and ribbon trim.
The sounds of mirth from the rooftop drew Thor's attention.  'Ah, Loki, want to come too?'
The Trickster considered briefly, weighing the pleasures of the vast hall with less male competition for the females, or an adventure.  'I will come' he decided and slid carefully from the roof shingles, landing light as a cat in the yard below.
'Run and get some warm clothing then.'
Loki wasted no time and hurried to his room to fetch his own travelling clothes and a warm, black, felted cloak.  He leapt back down the stairs and happily took his place on the wain's tail-bench.
Sigyn approached with a roll of blankets.   'Yes, I thought as much, you have packed enough food for an army but not a stitch of bedding between you.'
Thor kissed his housekeeper fondly 'Thanks, lass.'
With the two Osfolk finally settled Thor urged his goats forward and with a din-full rattle the wain left the cobbled court and rose into the heavens.  

After a long ride above the clouds, during which a whole net of hams was gnawed to the bone, Thor brought the wagon down onto a stony road in the Outlands.  They were in the mountains beyond Hymir's Stead.  The region was remote and most of the wights living there were hostile to the folk of Godhome.

The wagon's heavy wheels rumbled; the spark-throwing goats' hooves clattered on the rough rocky lane and the cauldrons hanging on the back-board rang loudly.  The din caused many an ettin to bolt his door and the trolls and the mountain hags to scatter.  'Where is everyone?' asked Loki.
'Avoiding trouble' Thor answered smugly.

Not all the inhabitants of the wilds were so wise.  The wagon rumbled around a bend in a steep sided valley and they found their way barred by a towering ettin.  The goats skidded in the loose stones in their efforts to stop.  The ettin was three times the height of a man of Middle Garth, bore three hideous heads on his shoulders and swung a tree trunk as a club.  The outlander roared a challenge.  Thor shouted back 'Think again, rock-dweller, this is Jord's Son you are facing.  If you strike at me you will never strike another.'
The creature roared again advancing on the travellers.
'Hmm,' mused Thor, 'maybe you need smaller words.  Ettin, get off the road or I will kill you.'
Undeterred the outlander bellowed, spraying the godfolk with three helpings of spittle.  Loki cowered: the ettin was close enough to do them some serious damage.  'Maybe there is another road through; we could turn around.'
Thor ignored Loki and addressed the giant again 'Last chance!'  He turned to his brother 'Satisfied Meilli?'
'Yes Thor.'  Meilli sat calmly on the wagon's rear bench above the terrified Loki.
There was a net of large spherical stones on the front bench beside Thor. He hefted one, tossed it from hand to hand and there was a blur of movement that Loki registered only as an explosion as fragments of ettin skull were hurled in all directions.
'Uck!' cried Meilli peeling pieces of skin from his fine clothing.  'Can we stop to wash brother?'
'And eat too' Thor agreed eagerly.

Thor halted the goats where the valley's small stream formed a pool and the three Osfolk washed off the worst of the grime.  Thor used a pebble to bring down a deer and soon had it spitted.  Loki, ever hungry, gathered wood and lit a fire.  Thor and Loki sat tending the roasting flesh while Meilli explored the plants on the stream's banks.  

Loki watched bemused as Meilli exclaimed in delight at the flowers he found and stored them away in layers of fine linen and wooden panels.  He enthused about each one: this would work well as a pattern for weaving or carving.  Once he wandered out of hearing Loki asked 'How by Ymir's Beard can you two be brothers?'
'We are foster brothers.'
'Ah, that partly explains it.  But he is so... innocent, how can you stand him?'
'Sometimes I need reminding that there is good in all of us.'
'What, even in the rock-ettin back there?'
'Probably,' Thor laughed 'but you would need to divide him a thousand times with an axe to find the good bit.'

After their feast the Osfolk rested and took turns to stand watch.  On rising they continued on their journey through the most dangerous lands in the Outlands.  The way had opened out with pine forest on either side of the track.  To their surprise a young trollwife stood in their way and waved for them to stop.  The trollwives avoided the Osfolk and so the gods' curiosity was strong.  The troll was short for her kind, about five feet to the tips of her horns and very stocky.  She smiled hopefully revealing the full length of her tusk-like fangs.  'Mighty Jord's Son, I am here to warn you' she said.  'My sisters are planning to ambush you beyond the next river crossing.'
'Your sisters?' asked Thor, puzzled.  'Why would you be betraying them unless this is a trap?'
'This is no trap, my love for the Osfolk is stronger than that for my kin.  Their hatred of you is abhorrent to me.'
'She lies!' warned Loki.  'The trolls love none but their own.'
'I believe her' objected Meilli.
'Huh! You would!' scoffed Loki.
'Hush' Thor muttered and he leapt from the wagon.  'There is an easy way to settle this.'  
'Careful Thor,' Loki warned.  'Trollwives have powerful magic.'
'Indeed', said the trollwife, 'but not as powerful as the skills of the Vans.  My tribe heard that you have made peace with the Vanfolk and are teaching one another your lore.  They want to try and kill you before your training is complete.  I pledge my service to you, Thor.'  The trollwife drew a flint knife and cut a lock of her hair which was thick and white like the coarse tail of a horse.  She drew the blade across her palm and wetted the hair with her own blood and then spat on in.  She placed the stained lock on the ground at the thundergod's feet and crouched down in front of him.
'What is she doing?' asked Meilli.
'Its a trollwife's act of submission' Loki replied, greatly surprised.  'Hair, blood and spittle are used in trollish magic, she is offering him the means to attack her.
'How do you know that?' asked Meilli.
'I grew up here.'

Thor regarded the trollwife 'What's your name, lass?'
'Gytha.'
Thor reached out and touched her lightly on the forehead between her horns, her thoughts, memories, hopes and dreams were laid bare to his inspection.  No hint of mind-wall blocked his way.  He nodded satisfied.  'I am honoured to know you, Wise Mother.  I accept you as a member of my household.'
Loki near choked in surprise.  'Have you gone mad, Thor?'
'No.  Gytha will you look after Meilli for me?  I will deal with your sisters and return for you.'
Meilli, ever trusting stepped down from the wagon as Thor leapt back aboard.  
The Thunderer seized up the reigns and looked meaningfully at Loki.  'Stay or come as you please, but I warn you, there are forty trollwives up that road.  I might not be able to protect you.'
Loki stood a moment with mouth agape.  'Have you totally lost your wits?' he finally burst out.  'We can't fight that many witches, we should call the Vans to fight with us.'
'And show the trollfolk that we fear defeat?  I don't think so.'
'Fear?  Ymir's beard, of course I am afraid, and so should you be too.  Thor, don't do this, we need you alive.  And think of Meilli!  Are you going to abandon him in the Outlands at a trollwife's mercy?'
'Meilli should be safe.'  Thor urged the goats forward.  
Loki ran after the wagon and hauled himself onto the tail bench.   'How many stones do you have?'
'Nine' muttered Thor.  He was groping under the bench and drew out the spit iron they used for roasting meat.
'Oh great,' Loki wailed, 'rocks and kitchen equipment.  Why does that not fill me with confidence?'
'Hah!  I can do a lot of damage with a spit iron; just ask my mother'.
Convinced that Thor had lost all reason, Loki reached out with his mind to Freya in distant Godhome.  She greeted the Trickster warmly and listened to his pleas with interest.  Forty troll wives! she thought at him Well that should be interesting to watch.
Watch? We need you here!  
Why? I would only get in the way.  You boys have fun.  She broke the link with a mind–kiss, which, on any other span, Loki would have been happy to savour for hours.
Thor grinned at his jittery friend 'Courage, Loki, you distract a couple of them with your spellcraft, leave the rest of them to me.'
The goats rushed onwards.  Standing stones stood either side of a wide shallow river marking a safe crossing.  The wagon rumbled through, barely slowing.  On the far bank Thor bellowed a command and the goats swerved, halting the wagon across the track.  A circle of troll women emerged from the forest, their earth-coloured tunics blending with the forest.  'Oh Hel!' whimpered Loki.
The Osfolk's senses prickled at the strength of the spells the trollwives were casting.  Some of the foul creatures tore off their clothing baring their sagging breasts and extended their arms enticing their prey to lust.  Loki felt his prick harden unbidden, resolve fleeing, panic fading into surrender as the spells took hold.  

Thor roared defiance as the spells battered his mind-woven defences.  He seized up a stone and shattered a troll's skull and then, with a second, brought down another.  Two more fell to the missiles and with each troll dead he felt a little relief from the onslaught.  The goats kicked out with their hooves at the advancing foe.  Thor spared a glance for Loki only to find one of the creatures with a flint knife almost at the helpless Trickster's heart.  He grabbed the trollwife by the throat and hurled her against a tree, shattered the trunk and broke her bones.

Thor pushed out his mind-shield to provide cover for Loki and the goats.  All disguise abandoned to the fight, the flames of his Os-strength blazed brightly about his head.  The remaining five stones each found a target. The trolls were not so easily routed.  They had  prepared long for this battle.  Despite their heavy losses, they fought on with spell and knife, tusk and claw.  Thirty trollwives screamed in rage and determination.

Bereft of stones, Thor snatched up the spit iron and used it as a wand to direct his Os- strength against the remaining horde.  His first attempt caused a blinding explosion that threw one of the creatures off her feet, killing her instantly and setting the fat of her lich on fire.  The spit iron survived six such blasts before the metal melted in his hand.  He flung the softened iron away.  The remaining four and twenty trolls screamed in triumph and pushed forward, straining against the Thunderer's mind-shield that still protected the wain.   He lashed out at the next hag with a mind-bolt of such strength that the troll's skull exploded and one by one the remaining trolls fell to the deadly mind hurled missiles.  The air was thick with foul smoke and when Thor searched for the fortieth attacker he found that she had fled.   The Thunderer stepped down wearily from the wain, checked that Loki was still breathing and that his goats were hale and finally checked his hand for injury but found no sign of burns where he had held the white hot iron.  He shook his head in wonder and gazed, sickened, over the devastation on the riverbank.  He started to drag the burning and shattered corpses into a pile.

Loki woke coughing as the stink of burning troll flesh caught in his lungs.  He kept his eyes closed fearing the worst and noted with surprise that his hands and feet were not bound with troll-ropes.  That could only mean ... he opened his eyes and found himself safe in the wain.  He looked about baffled, the clearing smoke revealing scorched ground, shattered tree trunks and lifeless liches.  The air was acrid with the smell of a fierce storm.  He spotted Thor piling the corpses and staggered over to the Os and embraced his friend with relief.  'Thank Ymir!' Loki cried.  'I thought we were dead: there were too many of them.  So Freya did come and aid us.'
'Freya?'
'Yes I asked her for help.  Frey then?'
'No Loki, I killed them, and I hope it is a long tide before I see that much blood again.'
'You killed them?' the Trickster gasped 'But how?'
'I threw nine stones.   One troll I threw against a tree.  Then I used the spit as a wand and set six of them on fire.  I killed three and twenty with mind spears.  The last one ran away.'
Loki looked again at the troll liches.  Some resembled roasted meat, this was no kind of spell-craft he knew of.  He regarded the Thunderer in confusion, then noticed the flames that still flickered about Thor's brow, half hidden against the glow of the pyre behind.  'Have you been keeping things from me?' he ventured.
'Yes, since you sent me to Freya's spell chamber' Thor sighed.
'But why, how?  Oh please explain, you are making my mind ache.'
Thor smiled apologetically 'Many reasons.  Firstly the best weapon to have is the one your foes don't know you have...'
'Devious' grinned Loki.
'Secondly, to ensure that when the trollwives did try to kill me, they underestimated my strength.  Otherwise there could have been a hundred of them.'  Loki gulped and nodded.  'Our enemies will now try every trick they can think of to gain an advantage.  The stakes have been raised, Loki, dangerously high.  I also had Vanfather Njord to consider: the war between his kin and Mother Jord is still vivid in his mind.  This knowledge will make him greatly uneasy.  He has long hoped that I am what the warriors of Battlehall delight in believing, weak in spell-craft.
'Now Loki, you should know I am deeply aware and grateful that you fought with me when you could have fled.  I would be honoured to have you as my travelling companion, but would you be willing?  Now that you know it will make you a target for all manner of Outlandish schemes?  In fairness I think you are one of the best able to bear such a burden.'
'I am not sure I know you anymore', Loki admitted, concerned.  'Was your carefree and cheerful nature part of your bluff?  I would hate to be tied to one as serious, grim and gruff as Odin has become.'
'You do know me, Loki, I have little in common with Odin.'
'Then I agree, gladly: let the trolls do their worst.'
'Splendid.  Now let us rescue our companions and head for home.  I will be happier when Meilli and Gytha are safe.'
Thor climbed back aboard his wain and with a word caused the pyre to burst into roaring flames, then urged the goats back across the ford and down the lane.  Meilli and Gytha were delighted to see them returned, safe if battle weary.  Thor took Gytha in his arms and kissed her on the forehead.  'I may well owe you my life.  I wish I could reward you with the husband you crave.  But come back with us and maybe in time one of the Osfolk will see the beauty within you.'
'Oh Wisemother, you have seen my dreams, impossible fancies, I am not worthy of a husband in Godhome.  I would be content just to sweep your hall.'
Meilli laughed at this.  'Wisemother!  That's a good name for you, Thor.'
Loki explained, still regarding the Thunderer with awe, 'It's the name a troll clan give the highest ranking female, the one most gifted in magic.'
Meilli giggled 'She called him a woman; that's funny.'
'Not really, male trolls don't do magic.  They are very dim witted.  It's the most respectful title she knows.'  Loki shook his head trying to settle his thoughts.  'Remind me never to pick a fight with you, Jord's Son!'

...

A single trollwife strode with dragging tail back to her elder's tent at the camp of the Stormcrows.  'Alas Wisemother' she said as she entered, 'we have failed.'
'I know that' snapped the angry, ancient troll. 'What I don't know is why you left before the battle was won.'  
The younger troll hissed.  'Are you calling me a coward, Wisemother?'
'Maybe.'
'Then listen, Wisemother, and mock me not.  Seven and thirty witchwives had been downed by Jord's Brat.   I stood, rune staves in hand, the breath of the goats warm against my knees, the smoke of my burning sisters harsh in my throat.  I saw Fylga fall, leaving only two of us.  He cleaved her shield-spells as if they were cobwebs and with a thought alone he broke her mind-stone and sprayed me with her brains.  The stink of his strength was strong, unfailing, and his brow glowed with power.   To stay and fight would have been a useless gesture.  I chose to live, to fight again.'
'I saw the glow from my spell trance' the elder admitted.  'Yes he is strong.  I have only your word for the smell of him.  So was there any lessening in his reek of power to give us hope?  Could an army of a hundred sisters bring him down?'
'I think not.'
'Then were must be more cunning.   Somewhere in the Nine Worlds, there must be a thing that can hurt him.  If I have to chew every leaf, slice up every beast and turn over every stone, I will find it.'
'My honour weeps with our defeat.  I will help you.'
The elder nodded 'That is well, youngling, I will need your strength.'
...
Although short, Gytha was heavy and with her added weight the wain was a little overloaded.  Thor urged the goats up onto heaven's vault and turned laughing 'How would you like to be enjoying Sigyn's cooking and a hot bath within the next watch?'
'That would be wonderful' agreed Loki 'but...'
'Hang on then.'  The cloudy skies of the Outlands were suddenly replaced with bright sunlight over the fields of Stronghome.  Meilli and Gytha cried out with delight seeing the towering hall just below them.  Loki swore: any lingering doubts he had over Thor's spell-skills melted away.  Thor guided the goats carefully down to the courtyard to find his family and the hallfolk there ready to greet them.  A delighted Frigga threw herself into her brother's arms and kissed his cheek.  'Welcome home, Almighty Thor!' she laughed, a cry that was taken up by everyone that heard it.  
Freya playfully seized hold of Loki and kissed him. 'You were wonderful, I saw everything' she praised him, making him blush.  The hall was in joyous uproar with the folk all eager to hold a feast in honour of the Thunderer's victory.
Word of the battle spread through the halls of Godhome as fast as a falcon can fly.  The warriors were subdued about the feasting tables at Battlehall; the subject of their scorn had been stolen from them.  Finally a spearman spoke up, 'There is always Os Braggi, I have heard that he has never held a sword.'  
'For shame' muttered his companions, and gradually they found fresh conquests for their ridicule.

Notes
This tale is my own invention and serves to reveal Thor's magical abilities and introduces Gytha who has a role to play in later tales.  
Thor has a natural and instinctive talent for magic, of which he is not aware until he consents to be trained, rather unwillingly, in the magical arts by Freya.  They decide to keep this a secret as long as possible to distance Thor from the legacy of his mother, who killed the previous generation of gods.
Thor's magical abilities follow on from his magical training in 'The Kindling of the Fire Crown'.  His control of lightning is new and takes even Thor by surprise.  All he needs now is a tool strong enough to channel this ability without melting.
The trollwives in these stories are extremely dangerous, so Loki's panic is well justified.  
Thor's title 'Almighty' comes from the Icelandic legal oath 'so help me Frey, Njord and the Almighty Os'.  The Icelanders invoked Thor for legal matters so this must refer to him.
In the tide after the building of Friendly Hall there was much unrest in the Outlands.  The Eastern ettins had grown in number and fought over land and hunting grounds.  Many of the Outland folk were forced out of the hills and wastelands by their mightier kinfolk and moved into the land of the trolls.  The trolls were driven ever closer to Middle Garth.  Tempers were high and wisdom lacking as fury bred violence.  Thor was kept busy holding the Ettinhome's western borders and had not been seen in Godhome for many a tide.  Frey and Skirnir were likewise busy on the borderlands of Elfhome.

Odin was also concerned about the safety of Godhome and tried to rally the remaining Osfolk to improve the Garth's defences.  He found little support.  Frigga shook her head and said nothing, meaning that she could see ahead into the web of wyrd but wasn't going to speak of it.  Freya simply replied 'If the ettins attack Godhome, Os Thor will defend us.'
'He is not here' Odin replied, angry that no one agreed with him.
'If we need him I will go and fetch him back' Freya replied sweetly.
'But what use would he be?'  Odin persisted. 'Spellcraft is spreading through the Outlands like the pox.  I agree he is strong but he is not exactly gifted in magic, is he?'
Freya smiled: while in Godhome Thor was a frequent visitor at her hall.  It was well known that the folk of Battlehall thought it a great jest that he was still struggling with the simplest spellcraft.  Meanwhile Thor and his sister shared her bed, drank mead, played chess and laughed at the mockers.  'I assure you that between us we can keep Godhome safe.'

Finally, Odin took the matter into his own hands and used his mind-magic to bellow for his blood brother.  Loki flew across the fields of Godhome and scurried through the halls of Battlehall to heed the summons of the impatient Os.  Odin's private chamber was unexpectedly barred before him, the Warfather himself blocking the threshold.  Loki fought for balance on the rush-strewn flagstones. 'Why did you want me?' he asked sulkily, moody for the interruption to his sport among the farm lasses of Stormbright Hall.

'I need your counsel' Odin replied briskly. 'How long would it take to build a stone wall, twelve fathoms high and six fathoms wide, around the Garth of Godhome?'

Loki gaped, caught off guard by the question.  His brain struggled to measure the distance around the gods' dwellings.  There were many estates in Godhome and all of a good size, even by an ettin's standards.  Beside the rambling Battlehall, there was Fenbank with its lakes and gardens, Stronghome with its towering hall and endless fields, Friendly Hall with its orchards and weaving sheds, Folkfield, Yewdale and Heavensmount. To build a wall around all that, why it would take… 'A very long time' Loki answered.

'So,' the Warfather encouraged him 'you don't think it could be done in the time it takes a woman to quicken, bare, and birth her bairn?'

'No, I don't think that would be possible,' Loki replied.  'Not a wall of stone so high and wide'.

'Thank you', Odin replied and slammed the door, leaving Loki alone outside and none the wiser to the purpose of the question.

Within Godhome the folk were enjoying a peaceful tide and lived contentedly together among the golden fields and lush gardens. The complacency was marred by the arrival of an ettin leading the stockiest stallion the gods had ever seen, standing fifty hands at the shoulder, and a young man of mortal build. The ettin, a rough, uncombed fellow clad in untrimmed ox hide bellowed for Odin from Godhome's gate. For a stranger among potential foes, he showed great confidence and paid no heed to Heimdall, who dutifully barred the outlander's way.

Odin strode proudly to the gate to meet the newcomer with his brothers Vili and Ve beside him, 'Greetings, Hrimthurs' he cried.

The giant spoke again in his rumbling voice. 'I have come, as we agreed. Do you have the virgin girl by which our bargain can be measured?'

Ve pulled a young woman forward 'Here'.  Odin's brother held a woman of Middle-Earth.  She averted her eyes from the ettin in fear, but her beauty was clear beneath her black locks held by a crudely beaten band of gold.

'Is this your bondsman?' Odin inquired, nodding at the young man holding the stallion's reigns.

'Oh yes' the giant beamed proudly.  'This is Fal. He is a good servant and I trust him in all things. He has fathered many a bastard rutting with my house maids. He will be quick to report if you have cheated me.'

'You will not be cheated in this wager' Odin responded, hurt by the suggestion.  'Let the two of them be joined, and join me at my table for your welcome feast, for you will be eager to start work soon, I am sure.'
'Oh yes,' the ettin responded 'I am eager to claim my pay.'

There was much speculation among the Osfolk as to the ettin's business in Godhome and the nature of Odin's bargain, but the Warfather kept his knowledge to himself.  Hrimthurs ate heartily from the platters of meats and bread served at Battlehall's tables and spent much of his time admiring the sigwives.

Fal returned after an hour, grinning from the pleasures of his sport 'It is done, master.'
'Was she a virgin then?' demanded Hrimthurs.
'Oh yes,' Fal replied and brandished the girls blood stained linen shift for his master's inspection.
'Excellent' the giant acknowledged as Fal helped himself to a joint of meat from his master's trencher.  'Go back to her boy! She must bear you a child or this rascal' (the giant nodded towards Odin) 'will find some excuse to break our bargain.'  Fal grinned and accepted a full horn of mead and returned to the girl's chamber chewing on his supper.

Soon after the feasting the ettin got to work. The halls of Godhome shuddered as he delved deep into the earth below the existing boundary banks. Hrimthurs' magnificent horse dragged great boulders straight from the packed earth. Despite the size of the excavation, the work progressed fast, and the foundations of the new wall were both cleared and laid when the girl's belly was swollen by Fal's child. Both ettin and horse proved amazingly strong and the walls rose at an alarming rate.

The birthing came ever nearer but Odin was greatly fearful that he might be forced to pay the ettin after all. He summoned Loki to his chambers. 'You were wrong, Loki' he said bluntly. 'Hrimthurs has nearly finished. You must prevent him from completing the wall.'
Loki was puzzled 'But surely you want the wall completed?'
'Started, yes, but not completed: the price would be too high', Odin answered, scowling with concern.
'What did you promise him?' Odin passed over a formal carved tablet which recorded the Warfather's promise to Hrimthurs. Loki read it and gasped.
'Stop him!' Odin commanded.

Loki had no wish to tangle with the ettin, but as Hrimthurs relied so heavily on his stallion he thought a different approach would work well. The outlander was encouraging the horse to pull one of the last great blocks into position. The horse paused and his nostrils twitched as a familiar scent reached him. The unmistakable, irresistible smell of a mare in heat.

The stallion reared and jerked aside. The traces snapped and the great stone block and its oak sledge tumbled back down the step path. The giant howled in fury and frustration as the horse galloped straight down the slopes and vanished into the misty forest below.

'Odin!' Hrimthurs bellowed, storming into Battlehall and carelessly knocking his lofty head on the lintels 'Where's my horse?'
The Warfather glanced up from his battle charts, feigning annoyance at the interruption. 'How should I know?'
'You will not get away with this. This is a deliberate attempt to delay the building past the birthing.'
'Don't be ridiculous!' Odin retorted 'Get another horse if you cannot control the one you brought.' He looked at the panting girl on the bottom step of his high seat. 'You might wish to hurry Hrimthurs, you have very little time.'

Hrimthurs cursed and turned to leave but stopped as the girl cried out in pain. Eir ran forward to attend the girl and hitched up her skirts to examine her. 'You are too late, Hrimthurs' said Eir.  'The child's head is emerging.'
'Hah, you have failed to complete your work and your pay is forfeit!' cried Odin in triumph.

'No!' Hrimthurs tore his bushy hair in anger as Fal's child gave its first lusty cry. He rounded on Odin, eyes blazing in accusation. 'I want you to make a holy oath Odin.  Swear that neither you, nor any other Os or Oswife, servant or elf of Godhome, had any hand in the loss of my horse. Swear that and I will leave peaceably and without payment for my work.' Odin hesitated and Hrimthurs was convinced of his suspicions. 'Then I will claim my payment now.'  The ettin strode purposefully out of the wide door of Battlehall.  Odin shouted for his warriors to follow him and ran in pursuit of the long-legged outlander.

Hrimthurs strode directly to Folkfield.  Oswives from Friendly Hall and farmers from Stronghome ran to see what was happening. Alerted by the commotion Freya came to the door of her hall to be confronted by the determined ettin. 'Pack your dresses and jewels Freya', demanded Hrimthurs. 'You are coming back to the Outlands with me.'
'Well' laughed Freya 'I have heard some terrible courting speeches, but few as bad as that.'
'I am not courting woman.  You are mine, you belong to me.'
'Pardon?'
'Read this' Hrimthurs tossed her a wooden stave carved with runes.
Freya glanced at the carving, then clutched it in both hands, noting every word, she rounded on Odin who had just arrived in the ettin's wake. 'How dare you?'
'What's wrong?' asked Idun.
'That, traitor, has bought the services of that ettin, by bargaining with my life and the possession of the sun and the moon.'
'Never!' cried Idun shaking with anger.
'The bargain is sworn, Freya', Hrimthurs cried.  'Even you must agree that you are bound by it as much as Odin!'
'Surely not.' Freya searched the crowd for an ally but the godfolk averted their eyes, unable to approve breaking Odin's sworn oath.
Hrimthurs reached forward and clutched Freya's shoulders with his heavy hands.  'Enough talk woman, now come with me.'

'Let me go!' Freya shouted in fury, shaking herself free of the ettin's grip. 'If you are so sure of yourself outlander, you can explain yourself to Thor.' Freya's last word rang with all her mind strength through the Nine Worlds causing every Os and Van in Godhome to wince.
'Huh!' laughed Hrimthurs.  'He's not here.'
'Think again, lofty' the Thunderer replied shoving the ettin away from the Vanlady.  Hrimthurs stared down at Thor in shock, the Os had just appeared out of nowhere.  Thor grinned at his sister 'Lucky you know that spell, Freya.  Can I assist you in removing this angry ettin from your garden?'

Freya sighed and replied 'As pleasing as that would be, Thor, I am not sure that would be a worthy deed under the circumstances.  Odin asked Hrimsthurs here to build a wall around Godhome. He kept very quiet about the price he promised in return but now that Hrimthurs has come to claim his reward, the truth is known.'  Freya passed Jord's son the rune stave. 'I can only assume that Odin was confident that he had set an impossible task and would never have to pay.'
Thor frowned at the carving, and looked towards Freya.  'You knew nothing about this?'
'No,' Freya replied, glaring at Odin.
'Did Loki have a hand in this?'
'Yes.' Odin replied with relief, 'I asked his advice, he said Hrimthurs had no chance to complete the wall.'
'But was he aware of this?' Thor waved the tablet.
'Er, no' Odin replied with great reluctance.

'Look' interrupted Hrimthurs; 'Freya you are coming with me. If Odin didn't tell you about our agreement that is your problem.'
'No', said Thor, 'it is his problem, and yours. Odin cannot promise what is not his to give. You must agree on a new payment. Never fear, ettin, Odin has enough treasures to pay you!'

The outlander bristled.  'I could take this knave's lands, his treasures, the shirt from his back and his tricky tongue from his head, but I WANT Freya, I want the sun and the moon. I will not leave with anything less.'
'No' Thor repeated.

Furious, the ettin swung his fist at Thor, the Thunderer stepped aside and the ground shook as Hrimthur's blow connected with Freya's threshold. 'You certainly know how to lose my sympathies, ettin!' laughed Thor dodging another wild swing. One of the pillars of Folkfield shattered from its footing in a shower of splinters.

'Shut up and die, you interfering bastard,' Hrimthurs howled, trying to stamp his foot on the Thunderer's head. Thor grabbed the ettin's foot as it descended and hurled him over, then sprang to the outlander's chest wielding a shard of the broken pillar as a heavy spear. The ettin died, screaming obscenities. The gore splattered thundergod glared at Odin 'You are very, very lucky.'
Silent, the Warfather turned and trudged back to Battlehall.
As they were left alone the Vanwife smiled at her brother 'I don't believe you got away with that.  As if I could bring you here by way spell when I didn't know where you were, hah!  Come in while your are here, Beyla has a new batch of mead.'

Time passed and Odin's treacherous bargain was, if not forgotten, a wound that smarted less.
Loki returned to Godhome leading the ettin's mighty horse and a foal, remarkable in itself for it pranced on no less than eight legs. Although quiet of late, Odin was delighted by the arrival of the remarkable beasts. Ever an admirer of fine horses, Odin greeted Loki warmly 'Well done, well done, I will take those two to my stables.'

Overhearing, Heimdall snorted from the door to his hall at Godhome's gate. 'What makes you think you have any claim to these beasts? I know well what has been happening in the forests below
Godhome since we last saw Loki. I would not deny him his well earned reward for his services.'

The Osfolk were gathering to hear the exchange and seeing Freya, Loki smiled and led the horses to her. 'Freya I realise that you suffered from Odin's bargaining, I want you to have Hrimthurs' stallion to give to whom you will.'

Freya smiled 'Thank you Loki, I will give him to Frey, he will add good seed to the horses of Vanhome.' Loki turned to Odin who was watching the exchange miserably.
Loki nodded to the foal, 'You really want this horse, don't you.'
'Yes.'
'You can have him on one condition.'
'What?'
'Release me from my oath of brotherhood.'
Odin frowned, then shrugged. 'Very well, I release you. I no longer look to you as kin or expect any service from you.' The Warfather put his arm around the foal's neck and proudly led away his new possession.

Loki surveyed the gathered folk of Godhome and laughed 'Well Oswives, now I am a free man, who will offer me the shelter of their roof?' Many Oswives giggled and whispered among themselves for most had already enjoyed his company. One came forward, coal-skinned, practical Sigyn, Thor's housekeeper.
She smiled 'I might be able to find you a corner somewhere.'
Loki hugged her fondly.  'A corner of Stormbright Hall eh? That may suit me very well indeed.'

Notes
This retelling of the famous myth of the Building of Godhome's wall is very close to the surviving Eddic version. Who is responsible for promising Freya, the sun and the moon to the ettin is not clear, but Loki is blamed and has to save the day. It fits within the pattern of the Loki myths for him to be at fault, but I have chosen to pin the blame on Odin, a god with an equal reputation for untrustworthy behaviour.

In the Eddic tale Odin uses his status as creator and Allfather to sell the lesser gods to achieve his aims, but here he stands among them as an equal and has no such authority.  Thor can safely break the bargain as it is unjust and kill the ettin who has threatened his life, despite standing on the hallowed ground of Folkfield.  Thor appears here in his role as god of justice. The attempt to reason with the ettin makes more sense to me than the original version which simply has Thor thump the aggrieved outlander into the ground, adding murder to the crimes of oathbreaking.

Thor's ability to appear magically from the distant Outlands when the gods call him is from the original tale, and in this version of the myths his ability follows on smoothly from his tuition from Freya in 'The Kindling of the Fire Crown'.  Thor's talents at spellcraft are still a closely guarded secret.

I have placed this story chronologically before the tale of Loki's children. This means there is no wolf chasing the sun; day and night do not exist and therefore nor does measured time. To get round this I am using the 'nine months' of pregnancy as the duration of the wager.
After the raising of Folkfield Hall the gardens of Godhome rang with the voices of children.  While Odin's young sigwives raced and wrestled on the lawns of Fenbank a very different gathering of younglings played among the flowers of Folkfield.

For each sigwife born the Oswives bore a goddess of help, protection and healing.  The first was Blyth the daughter of Freya and Meilli, the second Bjort the daughter of Beyla and Loki, the third Blythur, daughter of Gna and Ull, the fourth Frith daughter of Fulla and Forseti, the sixth Hlif daughter of Sybil and Heimdall and the seventh Hlifthrasa daughter of Hlin and Thor.  

The seven frithwives were raised as sisters by Freya and Beyla.  It was after the last of them marked their womantide that this tale begins, when a young elf woman flew up to the gate of Godhome.

Heimdall had watched her approach for many a mile with his wonderous gaze.  He had seen that she came unarmed and carrying naught but her feather cloak, a food bundle and a tine box.
'Who are you' he asked when she approached 'and what is your business here?'
The weary falcon landed, emptied its claws of its burdens and shrugged off the feathered cloak revealing a green-gowned elf.
'My name is Alfdis, daughter of Lady Embla, the elf queen of Elfhome's northern hills, and Ivaldi the master smith of Darkelfhome.'  Her appearance matched her claim, for she was short, black haired and very pale skinned, but also showed the breathtaking beauty of the noble elves.  'I am seeking a tree that lies between Fenbank Hall and Stormbright Hall.  The Lord Frey told me its fruit would heal my sick husband.'
'Then come in, lass' Heimdall answered kindly.  'I will take you to Frigga: she will know the tree that the Vanlord spoke of.'  He led her awhile along the main road that curved towards the heart of Godhome, and Alfdis gasped at the sight of the towering Battlehall.  Heimdall then drew her down a track that led to the right through a thick grove of alder and then out onto the causewayed paths of Fenbank.  Frigga's estate was more comforting to her elven upbringing with its trees and wild flowers, and they made their way through the fens to the Oswife's gaily painted hall.

Little is hidden from Frigga and the goddess had gathered the Osfolk about her linen spread table and an extra place was already set ready for their guest.  
'Welcome, Alfdis' said Frigga.  'Fear not; I know that your needs are urgent.' The goddess addressed the assembled godfolk, 'Alfdis has come to collect some apples for her sick husband, very special apples, from a tree that grows not far from this hall.'
'The tree of the angry apple wight?'  Hlin guessed.
'Indeed.' Frigga confirmed.  
The Osfolk with the mind-sight looked up in interest, for of all the wights in Godhome that spirit had proven the most difficult to deal with and the grove was now marked with posts and ribbons and charms to keep the Osfolk away, and the troublesome elf content.'
Thor paused in the act of helping himself to yet another cup of his sister's most excellent wine. 'Who is your husband, Alfdis?' he asked.
'My husband is Braggi, the foremost poet of the elf folk.'
'Ah, excellent,' nodded Odin, 'such a worthy talent for a man, to be able to boast of his war deeds in verse; has he composed many battle epics?'
'None, Warfather' Alfhild replied.  'He sings of the flight of birds, the freedom of the stag and the beauty of meadow flowers.'
'Who would listen to such dreary tales?' spluttered Tyr.  'Anyone would think he has never raised a sword in anger.'
'He has not' replied Alfhild.
The folk of Battlehall muttered indignantly while Freya laughed at the boorish warrior gods and grinned apologetically at the elfgirl.

Frigga glared at the godfolk until they fell silent.  She spoke to Alfdis: 'The tree that Frey sent you to find does indeed grow here, and not far from this hall.  But I must warn you it is guarded by a most angry spirit.  I have seen the events of this span in Wyrd's web, and it seems that you are the one to tame him, and claim whatever treasure he protects.  Come, lass, we will take you to the place.'  

Frigga lead Alfdis out of her hall and over the flag-fringed earthen banks out of the fen lands and up onto the drier rough scrubland beyond.  Far to the left towered gleaming Battlehall, its roof bright with the golden shields of its warriors, while to the right lay Folkfield and Stormbright Hall.  Yet before them all was wild.  As they wove their way between thorn, ash and elder, they came to the rough fence tied with red ribbons.

'The apple tree lies within that grove,' Frigga told Alfdis.  'You must enter it alone, and good luck go with you.'

The elfgirl stepped forward and approached the fence carrying only the tine box that Frey had given her in her arms.  She hitched up her green felt gown and climbed the barrier and with a deep breath pushed her way through the thick undergrowth within.  The grove was strangely silent; not a sound from bird or beast or breath of wind disturbed the place.   Her way was hard through the matted grasses and tangled branches, but finally she found the tree that she sought, a fine apple tree strong limbed and wide crowned.  To her surprise she noted that it bore both blossom and fruit.

The tree shook and the spirit emerged; she shivered at the sight of him.  He had long limbs, thin and gnarled like tree branches that gave him the appeared of a white haired spider.  'Why do you disturb my grove?' he asked.
'I am here to ask for an apple for my husband who is sick and close to death.'
'Your love for him is strong?' asked the tree spirit.
'It could not be stronger' Alfdis replied.
'Then why have you left him alone on his death bed? '
'He is not alone; my sister watches over him and will never leave him.'
'So will you pay any price for my fruit?'
'I will pay any price that is fair.'
'I want your soul.'
Alfdis stared at the spirit, 'No' she muttered.
'You have little time elf-woman, already your lover walks the Hel road, when he reaches the chasm he will be lost to you forever.
Tears leaked from Alfdis's eyes at his words and she knew she would pay any price.  'Then take your payment' she said.
The tree spirit came forward on his spindly legs and grasped her shoulders with his twig-like fingers and put his mouth to hers and sucked her soul out between her lips.  Alfdis staggered, keenly feeling her loss.  The tree spirit was glowing with her soul strength; he scuttled back to his tree and wrapped his long limbs about its trunk.  Before her eyes the spirit merged into the tree and the glow reached along each branch and root until the leaves shone and fresh blossom broke out beside the apples already on the boughs.
Alfdis stepped forward and reached up with arms shaking from lack of strength.  She plucked an apple and placed it safely in the tine box.  Wearily she made her way back out of the grove, and this time the trees and grasses leant back from her path to ease her way.

At the fence the Osfolk reached out to help the weak and shaking Alfdis over the hurdles.  Frigga said knowlingly: 'You have your fruit then.'
The girl nodded and sagged into the Oswife's embrace.  
'We have no time to waste,' urged Frigga.  'Gna is here with her stallion ready to seek out your husband and here is Fulla with a warm cloak for your journey.'  Fulla draped a soft cloak of white wolf skins about the elf woman's shoulders and helped her to mount up behind Gna.  
'Ride swift' Frigga commanded.  'Take her to the death road.'  
Gna's steed pounded over the course grass and soon took to the heavens, Gna guided the beast towards the entrance to the underworld beneath the World Tree while Alfdis clung grimly to her waist.

The horse touched earth and pounded onwards, ever downwards, into the caverns below.  The sun's light was lost to them and their way was marked only by the ghostly light flickering about the dead as they trudged their final journey.  The road was long and the bone-weary elfgirl had difficulty staying awake until Gna's voice roused her.  'We have found him, Alfdis!'

Alfdis slid stiffly from the saddle and looked about the dim cavern.  She stood where the Hel-road ended at a deep chasm; the ghosts walked towards it blindly and drifted down into the silver swirling pool below.  She saw a woman near the edge clutching something in her arms.  She stiffly walked over and recognised her sister 'Oh Eir, is that you?  Do you have him?'

'I have him sister' she replied 'but he pulls so from my grasp; I am losing my strength.'  
Alfdis reached into the tine box and pulled out the apple and held it to her lover's misty lips.  The apple glowed and turned to mist and was consumed by the ghost.  The eyes opened and knew her, his faint form became solid and colour returned to his flesh.  

'It is done!' said Gna. 'Let us get you all out of this deathly place.'  Eir helped her sister to her feet but, even leaning onto one another, they could barely stand.  Gna picked up the tine box and was surprised at its weight.  'How many apples did you bring?' she asked.
'Only one' muttered Alfdis.
'Then you cannot count,' grinned Gna, 'open the box.'
Alfdis lifted the lid and gazed in surprise, the box contained four shining apples, she smiled. 'Vanlord Frey was always generous with his gifts.'  She took out another fruit and handed it to her sister and took another for herself.  After the first bite they both felt more health and strength than they had ever known.  Curious Alfdis opened the box again and was delighted to see it filled again with glowing apples from Godhome.

Much relieved, Gna mounted her stallion, pulled Alfdis up before her and Braggi and Eir behind her, and urged the beast back up the death road towards the light of Sol.  Her strong horse sped tirelessly back to Godhome, despite the heavy load.

Frigga was expecting their return and had again gathered the godfolk about her table.  The three folk of Elfhome were greeted most formally and courteously by Frigga and her handmaidens and given seats of honour in Fenbank Hall.  Eager godfolk called for them to tell of their adventures and it was Braggi who replied with a praise poem for the sisters, recounting their selfless efforts to save him.  The godfolk were deeply moved by both the tale and the skill of the speaker.

Braggi nodded his thanks to them and pulled his wife into his embrace.  'In truth,' he said 'no words are adequate to tell of this woman's worth.  She has been my rebirth and so she should be named, let her be called Idun from this day on.'  The godfolk again called out their approval.

Idun, as we must now call her, smiled, and lifted her tine box in her hands.   'We have here a great marvel.  Vanlord Frey gave me this box after he saw the apple tree from his high seat; he has blessed it with his powers of increase.  Puzzled, the godfolk watched as Idun rose from her chair and prized the lid loose.  Walking about the long table she handed an apple to each of the gathered godfolk, who murmered in wonder as it became clear that far more apples emerged than the small box could possibly contain.  Idun continued handing out the fruit until all the Osfolk had received their share and she took to her seat once again.

Idun spoke.  'I have never been more weary or weak than when I came upon my husband on the death-road, and one of these apples not only restored my strength but doubled it.  So eat and see if they have the same effect on you.'

The godfolk obeyed and soon expressed their appreciation as they felt the effects of the life-giving fruit, for even gods can feel the weight of time and that burden was suddenly lifted.  Frigga smiled and spoke for them all.  'This is a great gift you have brought us.  Will you all stay among us and make your home here?  I am sure we would be deeply grateful and honoured to count you all among our number.'
'I thank you,' replied Idun, 'though in truth I am bound here as surely as my soul is bound to the life giving tree.  I will make my home beside it and ward it well.'
The godfolk responded with many a cheer, and many a toast of welcome was drunk from Frigga's golden cups.

And so Idun claimed her own garth in Godhome and the eager gods helped to raise her dwelling which she named Friendly Hall.  Her sister Eir cleared the wild scrub about the sacred tree and planted herbs and blooms for the godfolk's health and enjoyment.  Once the hall and gardens were complete to the sisters' satisfaction, they planted a hedge of hazel all about the garth and declared it a frithstead of health, wisdom and peace.

In time the seven daughters of the Oswives also made their home at Friendly Hall.  There they listened to the prayers of the folk.  They eased the path of the birthing, the pains of teething, the ache of fever, the pain of age and gave comfort to the dying.  

Notes:

The goddesses of peace and healing are mentioned in the story of Svipdag and Menglod from the Eddas.  Very little is known about them.

Idun's origin as an elf and the daughter of the dwarf Ivaldi are taken from the Eddas.  

There are fragments of a tale about Idun travelling in Hel with a cloak of wolf fur which I have used  as the foundation of this story.

The apples of youth are one of the best known elements of Norse mythology but their origin is not explained.  I have positioned the tree in the very heart of Godhome in the gardens watched over the goddesses of wisdom, health and love, which seems very fitting.  

A frithstead is a sanctury of peace and the hazel was used to mark sacred ground where weapons were forbidden.
The Kindling of the Fire Crown

Loki had tired of life in Battlehall.  Odin appeared intent on seducing half the maids of Middle Garth and had not been seen now for nearly three seasons.  Hoenir was still in Vanhome, Mimir griped and complained from Odin's high seat and Tyr spent most of his time at Saga's secluded hall.  With hardly anyone left to fuss over, Mother Bestla had turned her kindly attentions to Loki and Hermod.  Loki had taken as much grooming advice and fussing as he could bear.  
The Trickster unrolled his new falcon feather cloak, a recent gift from Freya. He smiled remembering her offer to teach him the spellcraft of the Vanfolk, a gift he had gratefully accepted. Afterwards it had been highly questionable who had learnt most from the meeting of two skilled minds, gifted in similar but subtly different ways. Loki threw the feather cloak around his shoulders and leapt into the air in a falcon's guise.
Delighting in the freedom of flight he swooped low over the fens of Godhome. The handmaidens resting on the sun dappled sward at Fenbank scolded him as he snatched counters from their gaming board with his claws and dropped them in the thick rush beds. Over Thor's lands Loki flew more respectfully:  the Thunderer might be away but Loki did not wish to incur the anger of Earth's formidable son.  He circled and made his way to the newly established garth of Folkfield and Freya's own residence.
The Osfolk were still working on the finishing touches of the hall and the beautifully carved and painted barge boards were being raised. Loki found Freya watching the workers and swooped down beside her. He let the feather cloak slip back revealing his true form, and looked up at the towering walls graced with carved birds, boars and stags heads. 'I thought you might like a break' he said with a wink.
'I'm busy' Freya muttered her thoughts elsewhere.
'Not even a drink then?' Loki pressed, his disappointment obvious.
'No, if it is a drinking partner you are wanting you could try Heimdall. He is having a bit of a celebration.'
'Heimdall? Revelling? Never! He's always too busy playing watchman.'
'Not anymore, since I taught him the seeing magic. Now he can keep his minds eye on our enemies and his real eyes on his mead horn and a good woman or two. He is making up for lost time.  You should find him better company than he was before.'
'Well that is good news' said Loki happily, he gave Freya a playful hug.  'But I would still rather stay with you.'
'You never give up do you Loki?' Freya scolded.
'No'.
'Then maybe I will indulge you soon, but it will cost you. You will have to do me a favour.'
'Anything' Loki grinned.
'I earned the lands here in return for teaching magic to the Osfolk of Godhome.    I have yet to complete this task and I want that payment to be made in full before my hall is completed.  One of the Osfolk is less than keen, if you persuade them to come and learn I will give you what you want.'
'No problem' Loki boasted.
'Then bring Os Thor to my witching bower.' Freya laughed and turned her back on Loki, who cursed under his breath.
'That is hardly fair.  Thor is still in the Outlands' Loki called after her.
'No, he has returned, so go and earn your fun.'
Loki swore loudly.

Loki wasted no time in searching out Thor, reverting to his falcon form he sped straight back over the fields to Stormbright Hall. In the alehall he was greeted by Thor's housekeeper Sigyn who directed the Trickster towards the stables.  There he found the thundergod busily polishing the bronze panels on his chariot. 'Wassail to you' said Loki cautiously.  Thor grunted an acknowledgment, intent on attacking a particularly stubborn stain of troll blood. Sharp sand and vinegar had failed to shift it and the thundergod had decided to try stubborn determination instead.

Loki stepped forward to inspect Thor's handiwork, 'There is an easier way than that.'
Thor scowled and tossed his polishing cloth aside, it was now smoking. He looked up at the Trickster 'What way?' he asked.
Loki closed his eyes and mumbled a chant under his breath. Thor stared at the now perfect gleaming bronze, he could see his face reflected in it. 'Not quite what I had in mind' Thor groaned.
'But you wanted it clean didn't you?'
'That was too easy, I was enjoying the challenge.'
'Enjoying?' Loki scoffed.  'You were really losing your temper!'
Thor sighed, 'It's not a challenge if it's not difficult. Now what I am going to do with my time?'
Loki laughed 'What any god should be doing when relaxing at home, making love to a beautiful woman.'
'You may have a point there' agreed Thor with a thoughtful smile.
'That's the spirit.'
'So, which particular woman were you thinking of? One of Frigga's pretty handmaidens?  A playful maiden from Middle Garth? A wild insatiable ettinwife?'
Loki pretended to consider and said 'A fine fellow like you? You should have the very best!'
'Who?'
'Freya' Loki whispered.
Thor sighed 'In case you have forgotten, Freya is my sister.'
'Half sister.'
'That makes no difference, the Osfolk don't bed close kin.'
'So I have heard' Loki agreed grinning. 'So says a man whose father is also his uncle, and his mother is also his grandmother.'
'That is unfair.'
'Its true though, stop hiding from it.  You don't live in Middle Garth, I know you grew up there but you don't need to live by their rules.'
'It would be hopeless anyway.  She has been on at me to learn her poxed witchcraft,  I don't need to tell you I have no interest in that.'
'That's a shame.' Loki sighed 'She does want you, I am sure of it.'
'Really?' muttered Thor.
'Yes, and can you imagine anything more desirable than a tumble with Freya?' Loki did not have to pretend to look wistful.
'I can imagine where that would lead, no spell-craft, no fun. I would be better off with a trollwife' Thor said sulkily.
'Oh, give her a chance, she just wants you to be worthy of her.'
'Worthy?' Thor retorted loudly, making Loki jump. 'Of course I am worthy of her!' The Thunderer snatched up a spare axle beam and snapped as if it was a twig.
'So that is the measure of worthiness,' mocked Loki, 'that you could break the poor woman in half? Have you not considered that she might want you to match her mind?'
'I am knowledgeable enough in a god's skills' Thor growled.
'Oh magic has its uses. You must confess it is a great help in keeping your wain shiny. And then....' Loki magically conjured an image of the Vanwife forcing Thor to view the exquisite curves he was desperately trying to block from his mind.
Increasingly suspicious Thor demanded 'Why are you suggesting this anyway? What have you got to gain?'
Loki shrugged smiling.
'Out with it!' Thor pressed.
'Er well,' Loki replied, 'we have the same problem, until you allow Freya to teach you the magical arts, she won't sleep with you and she won't sleep with me.'
'Aha! So you have your own interests at heart, that makes far more sense. So if I were to go through this unmanly charade, for your benefit, what will you give me?'
'Are you crazy? You will get Freya!'
Thor pressed mercilessly, 'So will you.'
Loki thought quickly, he had underestimated Thor badly, 'I could offer you my friendship.'
'Don't I already have that?'
'You drive a hard bargain' Loki sighed.  'Then I could offer you a blood brotherhood.'
Thor laughed 'You want her badly don't you.' He laid a hand on the Trickster's shoulder 'I don't want any friendship tied by an oath, I want it offered freely or not at all.'
'Very well then.' Loki grinned.
'I don't promise anything,' Thor cautioned 'but I will go to Folkfield.'

Thor made his way not to Freya's hall but to the Great Ash to speak to his sisters.  Sybil greeted him warmly and offered to scry the Wyrd loom for him.  'What troubles you?' she asked.
'A few spans ago I spent a tide with an ettinwife called Grid.  She enjoys my company and I enjoy hers so I visit her cottage when I am passing her way.  She said something that made me most uneasy.  She said I caused her to remember how happy her mother used to be when she received a visitor from distant parts.  A man who treated Grid very kindly as a child and brought her gifts.  She showed me one that she had treasured:  it was a small statue, so finely wrought that I have only seen its like once, in the golden chessmen that once belonged to your father.  I asked the name of the gift-giver:  he was called Perun.  I have been blind, that storm-eyed, red-haired ettinwife is my sister.'

As he spoke Sybil had teased out the threads on the loom to find the ettinwife, 'Well no harm has been done there' she said.  'You should keep visiting her.  We need friends in the Outlands.  Is that all that troubles you?'
'No, that chance happening led me to think of Freya.  I confess I am drawn to her, sister or not, but  I would have your council.  Would ill come from such a mating?'
Sybil waited as the threads on the loom tangled into new patterns at his words.  She gasped.
'What's wrong?'
The Norn hushed him and looked intently at the threads, it was a while before she met his gaze.  'There are four strands to each life thread: health, joy, worth and luck.  All are interlinked, for joy brings health, worth brings luck and so on.  All I will tell you, is that if you bed Freya, it will greatly increase your luck.  Go to her brother, it is woven.'
Thor hugged her fondly and made to leave.  Sybil watched him walk through the mists back into godhome, and shook her head in wonder at her own lifethread, which now gleamed like gold where it hung beneath the loom.

After a hasty bath and a hunt for clothes that were not too battered from his adventuring, Thor made his way to Folkfield.  The garth had a high hedge about its gardens to protect the Osfolks' eyes from the lusty behaviour of the Vans.  The stout gate had a carving of rearing rutting boars, clearly the work of Meilli.
Jord's son pushed open the gate in some dread at what he would find within, but the gardens were quiet and peaceful.  The air was thick with the scent of honeysuckle and he walked the timber path to the hall's door.  Beyla greeted him, as soberly dressed as he had ever seen her, and she pushed an ale horn into his hands.  This was not what he had expected.  'Ale?' he asked confused.
'Yes ale.  Is that not the custom in Godhome?'
'Yes it is. Thank you.'
He drank the offered drink down and Beyla led him through the fine new hall to the spell chamber beyond.  Freya was also gowned in the manner of the Oswives of Godhome.  She sat on the chamber's outer bench with a baby girl-child at her breast.  She smiled in welcome at the Thunderer 'Welcome home Os Thor.  Come and meet your new kinswoman.'
'Your daughter?'
'Indeed, mine and Meilli's.  I named her Blyth.  Odin has been busy wooing women in Middle Garth to bred him battle goddesses, so I thought Hlin Gna and Skuld will need some help to watch over the peace loving folk.'
'Then Meilli is a good choice for a father' said Thor, smiling.
'Indeed.  I am glad you are here, for I fear I have been a poor sister to you.  Since peace was agreed I have spoken many times to my father.  I have tried to understand how the Osfolk and Vans are so different.  He told me a tale of how he visited your mother soon after your birth.  He said he was greatly shocked to see how she had changed.  How she had wrapped herself in heavy clothes to hide her beauty.  It made me realise that such a shock could work both ways.  I confess that when I learned you were my brother I thought of you as a Van, not realising that living in Middle Garth would mould you in a very different way.  I have driven you away from your home, and caused you pain by flaunting my flesh before you.  I beg your pardon.'
'Maybe I am more Van than you know' Thor admitted, and laughed with relief at her kindness.  'But tell me, what tale did your father tell of my childhood, I do not recall his visit.'
'I will happily pass on his words.  After his kin had fought, burning and flooding the lands of men, Father Njord took a small boat and sailed away far out into the open sea.  He was deeply grieved and had no wish to live.  He let the boat drift unguided into the deep ocean.  He ate and drank nothing for span after span until, despite his holy blood, he was close to death.  Finally he saw a sign, a floating lily drifting past his boat, as fresh and bright as if rooted on an inland lake.  He turned, for the first time, back towards the lands of men, and saw a path of flowers leading back across the open sea.  He raised a flower with shaking hands and ate of the petals and slowly his strength returned.  He turned his boat, called the wind into the sail and made his way back to Middle Garth.  

'He followed the path of flowers dreading what he would see when he reached the land.  But many tides had passed and the land was green again and pleasant to behold.  The flowers marked a path inland and he followed them, until he came to a sheltered inland valley where he found the cottage of your childhood.  He was surprised to see so humble a stead, as the Osfolk had lived before in soaring towers and palaces.  But he hurried forward, forgetting the past in his loneliness and need for his wife's embrace.  He pushed open the low door and the sight within caused his heart to sink.  Oh Thor how can I explain?  Do you remember how we appeared to you when we faced you at Godhome's gate, naked, lusty and dangerous?  That is how Mother Nerthus had always been, flaunting her body to invoke desire and loyalty in her allies and desperate longing in her enemies.  And to see her swathed in a heavy gown with her beautiful red-gold hair hidden in a scarf, Father Njord knew that the Oswife he loved was no more.

'Yet there was another surprise for Father Njord to bear.  In front of the hearth was a row of eight cribs, seven holding one babe and one holding two.  Mother Nerthus gave him food and good ale and waited until he was done, and then she spoke.  "Dear loyal Njord, I am glad to see you for I have a task for you.  These are the children of my three husbands.  Six are the children of wise Fjorgynn.  I have bound their might to the path of Wyrd, so that our kin will never again to blind to the cost of their deeds.  The pair in one cradle, they are your children, I have named them Frey and Freya, I have fettered their thew so their power will lie in spell-craft alone.  I will teach Fiorgynn's daughters for I cannot teach them ill, they will see any error for themselves.  Will you take your own children?  Take them to Elfhome:  let them enjoy the best of our lives before, free in lust beneath the trees.  But make them wiser as to the weight of their tread upon the Wyrd.''  
'Father Njord agreed readily, and was in part reassured at her words and glad that she had fettered her children's power with such care.  She pushed the crib with the two infants into his arms and led him out of the door.  But Father Njord is no fool, he knew that two and six do not make nine.  He asked of the child of which she had not spoken.  "The last is Perun's son" Jord admitted.  She offered no more and Father Njord feared that this child's strength had not been fettered in any way.
"Oh dearest Mother, dearest Wife, let me take Perun's child with me to the peaceful woods of Elfhome.  Seven children would tax anyone, let me ease your burden."

'Mother Jord could see the path of his thoughts and begged him to leave her one man-child in her household, to remember the loves she had lost.  She wept and his love won over his fears.  He has often wondered if he did right that day.  Why Thor, if he had persisted, you would truly be a Van.'
'A sobering thought' Thor agreed.  'But why should I cause such concern?'
'It is clear that you have your mother's strength of thew.  Father Njord feared that you might also have her strength of mind.  Mother's strength in dragon form near destroyed the Nine Worlds and killed two Os of great power.  That is why he is wary.'
'But surely if I had her spell-power I would know, it is now many tides since our birth.'
'Indeed, I am sure your strength is fettered the same as the rest of your siblings.  Only by working together can we match her strength, a useful safe-guard.'

Still deeply touched by his sister's loving apology, Thor spoke of his visit to the ettinwife Grid and his words with the Norn Sybil.  Startled, Freya called for Beyla and passed her the sleeping child.  She looked on her half-brother as if seeing him for the first time and said: 'Oh poor Thor, your mind must be exhausted, let us lay that one ghost to rest.  Then you will think on your spell-craft all the clearer.'  Laughing she pulled him up the stairs to her bed.
Beyla prepared a fine breakfast for Folkfield's guest that so delighted Thor that he almost forgot the reason for his visit.  No longer fearing of upsetting her brother, Freya was wearing a thin white gown that hid nothing of her charms.   When Thor's hunger was sated Freya raised the other matter he had been dreading.  'I do not know what spells I can teach you.  Our Mother shared out our skills with great caution.  The Vanfolk have little strength of thew but can work difficult spells with little effort.  The Norns are bound to the paths of Wyrd, and have little strength left for spellcraft.  In you I would guess your power lies almost entirely in strength of thew, though I hope I can teach you a little to keep you safe from the trollwives.  Would you let me look at the paths of your mind?  I promise to be gentle this time.'
Thor winced remembering the Vanwife's mindbolt but submitted to her.  She lay her hands on his head and sent her spirit gently within.  Freya felt warmth, tasted it and smelt it, the feel of power was almost overwhelming to her.  She felt her father's fear, that their mother had left her terrible strength full force in Perun's son.  But then she noticed that the strength was not unchecked.  She felt a wall within his mind, a deliberate barrier blocking much of Thor's potential.  Freya withdrew, breathing heavily;  the room felt cold about her.  'Well?' asked Thor smiling, grateful that she hadn't hurt him.
'I have never looked into Mother's mind but I would guess that yours is similar.  Though I am glad to say that she has fettered your strength.  So I will assume that your ability in spellcraft will be limited like that of the Norns.  All your sisters have mastered the use of the seeing-spell, the ability to look into other worlds.  I think you will find that diverting and useful.  Come let us see if you have the talent.'  She led him into the spell-chamber.
The Vanwife smiled and led the thundergod to her new high seat, a riot of Meilli's finest carving.  Thor hesitated at its steps as if relishing his ignorance of the magical arts, then resignedly climbed the delicate steps and sat on the seat's soft cushions. Freya climbed up beside him and to his surprise urged him to remove his tunic. She sat behind him her legs pressing close on either side, and her breasts warm on his naked back. Thor's misgivings melted away.
'This seat is my watching tower,' said Freya 'it represents the great World Tree. Here we can imagine that we sit within its branches, like the far sighted eagle, and see to every corner of the Nine Worlds. As the tree has roots so does the highseat have pillars, one represents the Outlands, one the Underworld, and one the lands of Middle Garth. And now that I dwell among the Osfolk I have added a fourth for Elfhome. Each pillar bears runic verses describing the Garths, and each is made of timber taken from that world. The platform is not necessary to see beyond Godhome's walls, but it allows such magic to be worked with far less effort. Following me so far?' Thor nodded and the Vanwife continued.
'As in all things it is better to learn by doing. Your sisters strove a full season to learn this art so I will lead our first journey, and I hope you will see that their efforts were worthwhile.  Try and relax.' Freya gently massaged Thor's shoulders and gently eased her thoughts into his mind and guided his thoughts into hers.  Through her thoughts they shared the calm that allows the soul to fly free of the lich.  The room became cloudy and indistinct. Folkfield Hall faded away and they seemed to be floating high above Middle Garth, with the mountains of the Outlands just visible in the distance.  'I have a ward I need to watch over' Freya explained.  The image of Middle Garth came nearer until Thor could make out the individual trees and grazing beasts. The fields of men sped below them as if they rode on the back of a soaring bird. Freya focused on a settlement with a large communal roundhouse surrounded by outbuildings and cattle pens and ringed with a high embankment. The roundhouse roof offered no resistance and they could see a feast in progress below them, the walls and roof tree were decked out with greenery and the celebration was clearly a wedding.
'Can we be seen?' asked Thor.
'No' freya replied. 'We are here only in spirit. It is possible to use the platform to move by way-spell to another Garth but that takes a great deal of skill and, as you know, only the greatest of the Vanfolk can master it.  Maybe if you do well now I will try and teach you that some other time.'
'Which is your ward?' asked Thor.
'The bride,' replied Freya.  'Observe and know her'. The young woman sat in her wedding finery, a dress of red wool embroidered with spirals at the hems, jewellery of amber and crudely beaten sheets of gold, her hair and face hidden by a veil. Thor could see her clearly but slightly distorted as if through thick glass, and he could sense more than her appearance. Her thoughts also came to him clearly: she was very young, barely a woman, a confusion of joy, pride and a consuming nervousness spilled from her.

'Good' said Freya encouragingly 'and now the bridegroom.'  Several seats away the bridegroom sat drinking heavily, laughing and swapping crude jokes with his fellows. His thoughts struggled through a haze of ale, but his lust was strong and demanding. 'Well?' asked Freya.
'She's a maiden, and he is too drunk to care.'
'Indeed, let us look out for her.'

The feast was over, the last platters cleared away and young men were chanting for the newlyweds to take their leave. The bridegroom heaved himself upright, swaying slightly he walked around the trestle, tugged the girl roughly behind him, and made for the curtained sleeping area down one side of the roundhouse. Freya smiled as Thor willed their vision after the couple.  He could sense the growing terror in the young woman and, filled with compassion, had not realised that he had taken control of the seeing-spell. The bridegroom tore the veil from her head and kissed her roughly.
'What can we do?' whispered Thor.
'Help her find passion' Freya replied 'use your mind to soothe and delight her.'

The bridegroom hauled the dress from her shoulders, the girl backed away sobbing now in fear. Her terror was like a rearing beast, Thor embraced it with his own thoughts willing her to be calm. Gradually the weeping subsided, the bridegroom reached forward to clasp her barely budding breasts. Thor filled her mind with thoughts of pleasure, awakening her body as if with a tender caress, and heard her gasp of delight a moment before the drunken hands grasped her exposed flesh.
'Very good' laughed Freya. 'I think you have a natural gift in the witchman's art'. The vision had gone and Thor could only see the walls of Freya's chamber. 'So do you think you could use your new found skill?'
'I don't know,' Thor replied 'I still don't think a god should practice magic.'
'Oh Thor!' Freya teased him 'after what you have just done for that girl, do you still think magic is unmanly?'
'Er, well, maybe not that part.'
The Vanwife pushed Thor onto his back, pulled off her gown and sat aside him. 'Now!' cried the goddess. 'Let's see just how unmanly I have made you.'

Eventually, and after no short length of time, sated of the pleasures of the lich, they decided to continue Thor's training. Freya suggested that the Thunderer should try to make a journey of his own without her assistance. 'What would you like to see?' she asked.
Thor considered, 'The outlands I suppose, then I can see what the ettinfolk are up to.'
'Not very original' laughed Freya 'but very practical.'
She settled herself once more behind him on the cushions of the high seat. 'Lead the way,' she said.
'What? I don't know how.'
'Try,' said Freya.  'Close your eyes and think of a place you know very well and will yourself there.'

Thor concentrated, closing his eyes to block out the sights of Folkfield Hall, he considered the desolate wilderness of the Outlands. He remembered the ettinwife Gjalp who lived on the stony road far to the east. Thor had befriended her and often stopped to rest at her cottage when he passed that way. He remembered tiny details of Gjalp's dwelling, the dry stone walls stuffed with moss, the log roof with its soot dusted cobwebs, her fishpond. He recalled sitting with her helping catch fish for supper and the ettinwife's infectious laugh when he splashed her with water.
With the place firmly in his mind Thor felt the spell take hold and opened his eyes to see the landscape of the nearer Outlands rushing below him. It took longer than before, but the far Outland border was much further from the gods' Garth. And there was the cottage, Gjalp was stooped over the stream beating her washing.
'Can I talk to her?' Thor asked Freya.
'You can, but she will hear you speak with her mind rather than her ears. Never try this with a mortal unless they are asleep, otherwise they tend to get overexcited.'
Thor sent a greeting to Gjalp. The ettinwife, wise in magic herself smiled.  'Wassail my dear Thor' she said.  'Well, what is Godhome coming to if you are dabbling in the female arts!'
'That's enough of that', Thor replied indignantly.  'How are you faring?'
'All is well for me, all is not well in Middle Garth.'
'How so?'
Gjalp sighed 'Lut made his way west three waking spans ago, he had a hunger for mortal blood and I am sure he has found some by now.'

Lut's name was known to the Thunderer, the monster had enough troll blood in his veins to give him a hunger for manflesh.  Thor acknowledged the news with some choice swear words and willed the vision back towards Middle Garth, following the shattered trees marking the ettin's wake. They crossed into Manhome and the smoke of burnt out houses and discarded human bones marked the trail. At the next settlement the fires of destruction were newly lit and the air was rent with the screams of human suffering. Lut towered over the carnage, his form hideous. The ettin had nine heads, each one uglier than the next, and four arms dangling from his humped back. He was gloating over four women that he had bound to the broken stump of a tree. Two men struggled helplessly in his talon like hands. 'Don't worry my pretties' growled one of Lut's heads, dribble pouring between its tusks. 'I wont eat you yet a while, not until after I get to play with you.' Lut casually raised a screaming man and bit a great chunk out of his thigh. Another arm reached out with extended craw to tear away a woman's clothing.
Acting on instinct and driven by a boiling rage Thor leapt from the high seat, and howled his challenge at the ettin.  Lut barely had time to register surprise at the Thunderer's sudden appearance before Thor grabbed the arm holding the injured man and tore it from the ettin's body. Lut screamed in pain, and screamed even louder as the other arm clasping a captive was also ripped away. The ettin staggered back, blood pouring from the ragged stumps where his limbs had been.  Weak from blood loss he sank to his knees. 'I thought I told you to keep your filthy lich out of Middle Garth!' shouted the enraged Os.  Lut spat defiantly, Thor advanced for the kill, anger giving his eyes the glow of laver and his brow flickered with flames.  He grabbed Lut's remaining arms, planted his foot on the dying ettin's chest and pulled, Lut's abused body fell into a deepening pool of his own blood.
For a moment Freya had stared in shock, then she gathered her scattered wits, whispered a hurried chant, gathered her power and leapt after her brother.  Freya ran to the aid of the injured man, but his wound was too severe even for her healing arts and he pleaded for her to let him die so that he would not burden the womenfolk. The Vanwife wept at the tragedy and her golden tears settled on the stranger she would never know. Thor released the women from their bonds and was instantly embraced by relieved, sobbing farmwives.
'Comfort them' said Freya.  'Let them have one happy memory of this terrible time. I will wait for you on the high seat, call me when you are done and I will bring you home.

With the farmfolk safe asleep and the ettin's lich dragged far from their steading, Thor called out to the Vanwife and they worked the way-spell together to bring him back to Folkfield Hall.  Freya regarded her half-brother with concern, his gaze had returned to its calm stormy blue but a spark of fire remained in its depths.  In the gloom of the spell-chamber his brow flicked with unearthly fire.  
'Your head is glowing'  Freya told him.  
'Glowing?  Should it be?'
'Its your mind-strength, you are much stronger than I thought.  For good or ill we have awoken it.  They will fear you.'
Thor brushed his hands about his hair and felt the unfamiliar warmth there and shared her worry 'Who will fear me?'
'Everyone.'
'Including you?  Oh Freya, I would never harm you.'  he pulled her into his arms.  'I made a promise to Mother Jord and I make the same promise to you, I will never let darkness take me.  There.'  He forced a smile 'Is that better?'
Freya regarded him again, the strange glow was gone, though standing so close she knew the power had not diminished and could feel the heat of his presence against her skin.  'Oh Thor, you can work shapechanging too?'  she realised she was staring and lowered her gaze.  'This happening has thrown both of us' she admitted.  'Go and rest your mind with women or ale and we will meet again in the next waking span.  My mind aches in confusion and I am sure yours does too.'

Thor took his leave from Folkfield willingly.  For a long while he sat alone in his chambers at Stormbright Hall, deeply concerned about his new found strength.  He could feel it simmering in his soul, ready to lash out at any gentle urging.  He sat on his bed and rested his gaze on the gold chessmen that stood on a cupboard of Meilli's carving.  All too easily could he see himself following his mother's destructive path, using his terrible strength against his own family in a moment of rage.  It had already happened, thanks to Gullveig's wicked spells, and now the consequences would be so much worse.  Freya spoke truly that some would fear him, Njord it seemed already did.  

He felt the need for comfort and made his way down the many steps to Sigyn's door.  Sigyn listened and, as he had so desperately hoped, accepted his new strength without fear.  She asked him to drop his disguise and show her the strange glow that had so alarmed Freya.  He did so and she cried out with delight 'It so becomes you, your hair now glitters like gold.'  She ran to fetch her dressing mirror and held it up before him.
'I look like some fiend from Muspell' Thor wailed.
Sigyn shook her head at him 'It's a crown for the chief of the Osfolk.'
'All the more reason to hide it.'
'Well I like it' Sigyn declared stubbornly 'and I promise you when Meilli sees you thus he will want to weave your image or carve you.'
Thor swore foully at that threat, but her reassuring words had greatly eased his mind.  She hugged him tightly nestling her head beneath his hairy chin, and said 'I can feel your power here like the warmth of a hearth, I have never felt so safe.'
Sigyn drew him to her bed and held him until his troubled mind found sleep.

After a quick but hearty breakfast Thor returned to Folkfield.  Freya was glad to see him well rested and after hugging him fondly pressed on with his lessons.  'Now we need to make sure you won't be worried by any more mind-spears, like the one that felled you at the gate.  This should be easy after what you achieved in the last span.  Think up a wall of iron about your mind and the spell won't touch you.'
Thor did as he was bid.
'Ready?  I will use the same spell as before.'
The mind-wall felt strong but his memory of Freya's attack made him nervous;  he chewed his lip and nodded.  Freya chanted and focused her strength and let fly, then staggered back, gasping.
'Are you all right?' asked thor concerned.
'You did well, that was like running into a cliff face.  Did you feel anything?'
'I felt a strange shiver when you were chanting and a slight nudge when you cast your spell.'  Thor grinned:  he could keep the Vanfolk out of his head.  After Gullveig's tricks that felt good.
Freya swallowed her indignation that the powerful spell had been so little felt.  'The shiver, have you felt it before?'
'Sometimes, when people come up behind me unexpected, and before you attacked me the first time.'
'You are feeling the tug of the Wyrd threads when you might be in danger, that is a rare skill and most useful.  You know what to do now:  raise a shield with your mind.  If the danger might be from thew you can weave a larger shield out of spellcraft.  You can shield buildings and farms but the larger the shield the more strength it will cost you.  Your second-sight has saved us a lot of work, for the Osfolk must be able to call you when they are in danger.    It is better to keep your mind open as much as you can.'

Freya completed his lessons by teaching him shape-changing, a skill he had already made use of to conceal the signs of his powers.  Under her guidance he easily took the form of an eagle and a bear.  She was deeply envious that he could make the changes with little effort.
She regarded him fondly and said, 'I know a thousand spells of lesser note, but you have achieved the greatest skills with so little work, I don't think you need to learn them.  So go and put my thinking to the test.  Warm your bath water with a wish and light your hearth with a thought.  Weave a way between your hall and the Hel-road for your people to tread. Your mother built a bridge through heaven, I think with effort you could achieve equal wonders.  Your learning from me is done, my friend.  Now you must teach yourself.'
'Have I earned your favour?'
'Of course.  You need to ask?'
'Good.' he swept the Vanwife up into his arms and carried her up to her bed.

Notes:
Although this tale is new most of the fragments within it are drawn from ancient lore.

Freya is said to have taught spellcraft to all the gods of the Osfolk – that includes Thor.

Travel seems to be a problem for the gods, in the myths they ride horses through the sky or change into birds.  Journeying from one Garth to another clearly takes hours or even days.  The one exception is Thor who can somehow travel back to Godhome in an instant during an emergency.  He can also hear when he is needed even when riding in the furthest Outlands.  In this version of the tales this talent is shared with the Van gods Njord, Frey and Freya.

Thor does employ shapechanging spells in the tale of his fishing for the World Serpent, where he takes the forms of both a boy and a giant.  Symbols of Thor often incorporate bird heads that may be a forgotten animal aspect of the god, most likely the eagle that is connected to thunder and lightning in many cultures.  One of his nicknames, Bear,  may also point to a forgotten animal form.

Thor's control over the weather and land fertility (as confirmed by Adam of Bremen) can only be explained by magical ability.  His very name means 'thunder' so it would appear that he was born to be a thundergod, and is not totally reliant on chance treasures obtained in later life.  He was also the main god invoked for hallowing ceremonies and sacred artefacts.

Thor's odd appearance is also traditional.  Most sources give Thor red hair, a colour associated with magic and sanctity, hence the use of red caps, rowan berries and red yarn in folk charms.  Many depictions of Thor made between the seventeenth century and circa 1900 show the god with a crown of flames, a halo of stars or a combination of the two.  Where this imagery derives from is not clear.  One single Eddic reference says that he has hair more beautiful than gold which might possibly be a reference this phenomenon.   That his eyes blaze with fire when he is angry is mentioned in several myths.  The idea that there is a slight hint of fire in his eyes when he is calm is my addition.

The fire crown may derive from Thor's elevation among the gods by the common people who loved him best.  For them Thor was the most powerful, most dependable, most noble and one of the wisest of the gods and goddesses (1), but sufficiently down to earth to be likeable.  A total contrast to the scheming, ambitious, untrustworthy Odin.

Lutt is recorded as one of the ettins killed by Thor in the Thulur, the Eddic list of poetic kennings. No description is given for the ettin or his demise but his name means 'stooped';  similar mutant ettins are described in the sagas.

In the interests of continuity, Freya's powers are shown to be less than they are after the Brisingamen story.

1: see Magnus Magnusson's 'Hammer of the North' if you think I am raving, he agrees.
For many waking spans after Kvasir's birth, the Osfolk and Vans made merry together and celebrated the peace.  They feasted at Stronghome, danced at Fenbank Hall, shared epic poems in Battlehall and hunted and wrestled at Yewdale.

Then the time came for the Vans to make their way back to their own lands, led by their Father Njord.   Beyla the mead brewster stayed in Godhome to help Freya run her hall.  With the Vanfolk travelled Os Hoenir who had promised to teach his knowledge to the Vans.  He took with him the lofty ettin Mimir as a companion.

With Mother Bestla's tearful help Hoenir packed up his clothes, his weapons and tools and packed the chests and sacks onto a wagon. Mimir stuffed his few spare clothes into a leather sack.  Together they joined the the procession of Vans and elves leaving the Garth.  The company tramped league after league heading first into the wilds of the Outlands and then south into the lands of the elves.  Every few hours the Osfolk were brought meals by the Vans' servants.  The elven food was beaten nuts, mushrooms, oil and leaves which Hoenir found very filling.  Mimir complained bitterly 'Do you call this food?  This is not fit for an ettin of my lofty standing.  Have you no meat, no ale?'
The beleaguered elf replied 'It is our custom not to eat flesh in the presence of the Vanfather, but I know he values the peace.  Let me search among our baggage for a skin of mead and I will ride ahead and hunt a beast for your resting feast.'
'If that is the best you can do, then do it.'
The elf soon returned with mead and a bow upon his shoulder, he rode off ahead of the travellers.  Mimir swilled the mead to sate his rumbling hunger which made his mood worse.
'I have always wondered' Hoenir asked cautiously, 'why you eat meat and Odin devours only wisdom.  Did you not both drink from the same magical spring.'
'We did' grumbled Mimir, 'but unlike Odin I did not gulp the water, I only sipped it.  A little craving for knowledge is enough.'

As the waking spans passed they travelled ever closer to the sun and the air grew ever warmer.  The elves and Vans cast off their clothes and walked naked.  Hoenir, feeling uncomfortably hot, followed suit and pulled off his heavy woollen tunic and breeches.  Mimir grumbled 'Put your clothes back on, Hoenir; you will bring shame on the Osfolk.'
'Oh cheer up, Mimir, the sun is so warm here, and I have kept covered what needs to be covered, though it seems only from you in this company.'
Mimir swore foully: his own clothing was even less suited to Elfhome, being the leather and fur worn in the wilder Outlands.  Determined to prove himself to be a better wight than the elves, he slogged along the forest way sweaty and irritable.

Hoenir drove his wagon into the groves of Vanhome, cheerful and full of wonder for the beauty of the forest.  Mimir dragged his feet behind with his pack weighing heavy as a millstone.  Ettins are hardy and rarely suffer from such blights as blisters, but after spans of long walking in his heavy furs Mimir was red raw in a dozen painful places.   They were lead into a pleasant grove bordered with lines of ancient trees positioned like the pillars of a hall.  The Osfolk were led to a raised mound where the Vans sat together seated on cushions of green felt about Frey's high seat, which was a natural outcrop of mossy stone.  The elves of Elfhome danced and sang to welcome the Osfolk and brought cups of mead and platters of food.  'Great!' muttered Mimir. 'More nuts.'

With the waning of the waking span the elves and Vans left the gathering in groups of two or three, finally leaving the Osfolk alone with Father Njord and the Van Skirnir.  The old Van spoke:  'Tell me Os Hoenir, what do you need from us to start your teaching?'
'I thought I could start by building a small timber hall here.  Can you tell me where I can fell trees for the building.'
'You propose to fell living trees?'
'Of course he does' scoffed Mimir.
'That I cannot allow.'  Hoenir's face showed his surprise and disappointment and Father Njord explained.  'You must understand why, now that there is peace between us.  These groves of Vanhome are the sacred heart of Elfhome.  There is nowhere in the Nine Garths where the elf folk and land spirits live so numerous and so hale.  Every tree, every bank of willow herb or bramble and every stone has its elves.  You take an axe of iron to a tree trunk here and one of the elves will die.'
'But you must work in timber Father Njord' said Hoenir 'you are famous for your shipyard and boat sheds.'
'And so I am' Njord replied proudly 'but I have never taken the life of a treeman or woodwife to build them.  I claim only the trees that fall in storms or wash ashore from the open sea.  Many of my ships have taken the lifetime of a man to build.'
Mimir was still dubious 'Why not take timber from Middle Garth or the Outlands?  Thor has harvested thousands of trees for the building of Godhome's halls.'
'Os Thor does not share my burden' replied Njord sadly.  'He never saw Middle Garth burnt and barren, as I have.  Yet the elves speak fondly of him and I am sure he chooses his timber with care.'
Mimir still frowned in contempt and Hoenir spoke hurriedly to keep the peace.  'Forgive us Father Njord if we have offended you, it was never my intention.  But I have promised to teach the skills of building and have learnt much from Os Meilli that I can pass on.  Do you have any timber stored that I can use?'
'I have boards from three trees in my wood store which you may use, and you are welcome to search the woods of Vanhome for fallen trees.  It is a while since I have looked for timber due our concerns over the actions of the Osfolk.  Skirnir, will you go with them and aid their searching?'
The Van bowed 'Of course, Father Njord.'

The Osfolk were shown two large nests woven under sheltering trees, these were the open air beds where the elves and Vans slept.  Hoenir thought the arrangement strange but, eager to please the Vanfolk, he accepted the curious bed.  Mimir said he would rather rest on the ground 'I am not a bird' he declared loftily.

Hoenir had doubts about the nest's comforts until he woke well rested and cheered by the scent of the fresh herbs strewn in his bedding.  Mimir had spent a miserable resting span lying against a beech trunk and if anything he was even crankier.

Skirnir greeted them and offered to take them in search of the timber Hoenir needed.  'Put some clothes on boy' Mimir groaned, 'I dont want to look at your prick span after span.'
'Mimir please' urged Hoenir 'we must respect their customs in their own home.'
'And they must respect the peace, find something to wear.' Mimir insisted
'I will not' declared Skirnir. 'Would you like me tell Father Njord you have refused my services?'
'That's enough' cried Hoenir glaring at the ettin.  He quailed a little at Mimir's obvious fury: he had always been a little in awe of Mimir.  They set off out into the forest.  Skirnir asked the wights they met for news of fallen trees and they followed their directions, but they found little of use.  Much of the timber they saw was rotten, the boughs soft, their life strength long ago seeped back into the Earth.  As they tramped through the ferns and springy moss Skirnir told them a little of his history.  He had been born in Middle Garth and Frey had saved him from a fierce troll.  He had served the Vans ever since and now looked to Frey as a father.  
After nine spans of searching they found only three trees of worth.  'So few' sighed Hoenir 'I had so hoped to build a small hall for the Vans but it would take many more trees than this.'
'You could appeal to the wood spirits', suggested Skirnir.  He called into the woods and a tree spirit appeared.  He was four feet high with oak leaves growing amid his hair, beard and prick.  'Hail to you good wight' Skirnir greeted him.  'I name to you Hoenir and Mimir of the Osfolk.  They are searching for fallen trees that could be used to build a hall in Vanhome.'
The spirit bowed, 'There are three such fallen trees near Vanhome which no doubt you know having come so far.  I know of one other to the north of here, that is all.'
'Ridiculous' muttered Mimir, 'when there are trees everywhere for the taking.'
'There are indeed wise ettin, follow me.'  The wight spoke grimly and the three followed him to a beautiful glade, its sward thick with flowers and the sunlight broken by the spread of a large oak tree, healthy and in its prime.  'Will that tree do for you?'
'That looks perfect' said Mimir.
'Kill me and it is yours, I share my soul with that oak.'  Hoenir blanched white at his words but Mimir laid a hand to his blade.  Skirnir spoke coldly, 'Harm that elf and this whole Garth will hunt you as a murderer.'
The elf spat at the ettin in disgust and turned his back on the Osfolk.

With the help of the elves the four trees were yoked to horses and dragged back to  Vanhome.  The damp wood would need to be stacked for a long tide to dry before it could be worked.  Hoenir again expressed his disappointment that his plans for a hall could not be realised.  
'Worry not, there is more than one way to build a hall' said Skirnir.  'Show us what you want to build.'
Hoenir led the crowd of elves to the dry mud of a stream bank and used a stick to show them what was in his mind.  He drew the hall as it would be seen from the door, from the side and its shape upon the ground.  The elves whispered excitedly.
Skirnir smiled in understanding.  'Now draw the hall's outline upon the ground, as you would build it, slowly.'
Hoenir did so, Skirnir chanted and the line that Hoenir drew glowed and sparkled.  Skirnir raised his voice louder in song and the elves sung with him, tiny shoots writhed out of the grass and pushed out leaves and rose higher and higher, thickening into saplings and then mature willows.  The boughs wove together as they grew forming walls and finally a roof.  
His spell worked, Skirnir asked 'will that serve you?'
'That is wonderful' cried Hoenir delighted.
'Then this will be your hall, Os Hoenir.'
The elves cried out with delight and seized the Os and raised him to their shoulders and carried him into the hall.  Woodwives followed with felted cushions in their arms and soon a large gathering was seated in the new hall, the elves were bellowing 'Hail Hoenir, Hail the friendly Os!'
Mimir grumbled with sour mood, 'There is no covering but leaves, the rain will pour in here.'
He snatched a cushion away from a surprised elf as no one had brought one to the miserable ettin.  He sat muttering in the damp grass and then sighed loudly as a woodwife brought in a large basket of food 'Great!  Nuts again!'

Hoenir used a single precious tree to show how the Osfolk built in timber, and showed the elves how to carve a mortise and tenon and join beams together with pegs.  The finished pieces were stored carefully away in Njord's wood stores.

Hoenir's lessons had become very popular among the Vans and elves and a large gathering had assembled to hear his next words.  There were leaf decked tree spirits, little hedge wights with their feathers, fur and horns, water wights with hair of dripping reed and the tall and beautiful noble elves who watched over the hills and valleys of Elfhome.  Hoenir spoke on this span of the working of ore to make tools and weapons.  Many of the elf folk scattered when they heard the dreaded word metal.  Hoenir's heart was greatly tugged by concern.  'How have I offended those wights who have left?'
It was Skirnir who answered 'The elves of hedge and wood are greatly fearful of iron, it even burns their flesh when they touch it.  That is why the Vans use tools of flint and bone.'
'Ah, that would explain why I have never seen an elf in Battlehall.  Tell me Van Skirnir should this lesson continue?'
'Yes, the Vans and less wood-bound elves should know it.'
Somewhat shaken Hoenir spoke on and told the gathering of the finding of iron ore, how it could be dredged from rivers, found in star-thrown stones and dug from the ground where the stones and soil were stained with rust.'
'Why not sing for it?' suggested Skirnir.
'What do you mean?'
Skirnir again raised his voice in song and called lovingly the the iron in the earth a mile beneath his feet.  He called to it gently and patiently and soothingly as a man would call to a timid maiden and finally he held an apple sized ball of the metal between his hands.  He held it carefully, hovering above his fingers, for it was glowing red and liquid.  He sung to it to urge its cooling.
Some of the scattered elves crept back and even came close looking at the ball of metal in wonder.  One brave hedge elf held out his hand and lightly touched the cooling iron.  He made no cry of pain.
'Did that not hurt you?' asked Hoenir surprised.
'No.  It feels warm but it does not burn.' The elf looked as surprised as the Van.
'Could you use this?'
'I think I could.' the elf admitted.  He whooped and danced and his fellows joined him.  'Honoured Van Skirnir, honoured Os Hoenir, this is a new thing, you have made an iron that we elves can use.'
'I am amazed' admitted Skirnir 'I thought you feared iron because of the damage it can do to the land.'
'It still feels warm in my hand even though your spells have cooled its heat, but it is not painful.  I think the manner of its fetching made the difference.  You called it from its bed like a lover, causing no harm to the earth above.'
'Well, that is good news for the elves, and good news for the Vans that they may use iron tools in Elfhome without causing you pain.  Hoenir, shall we make a gift for Frey?  A knife, perhaps?'
'Willingly' Hoenir agreed.  He fetched a small anvil from his wain and worked the metal into a blade.  All the folk of Battlehall had a deep interest in the working of metal and this was one skill at which Hoenir excelled.  The eager elves watched with great interest as Skirnir called the fire back into the metal and Hoenir hammered and folded and twisted the blade blank until it glistened with waves like the sea.  Then he shaped the blade, point and tang, explaining its making to the elves as he did so.

No longer fearful of the metal the elves had thronged in great numbers about Hoenir, some even clinging to the tree branches above in order to see.  The blade was finished with a handle of stag bone and the great gathering made their way to Frey's grove-hall.  Frey looked up from his high seat in surprise to see two delighted hedge-wights carrying the new forged blade between them with a huge throng of elf folk dancing behind them.

'What wonder is this?' asked Frey.
'A new thing' cried one of the bearers. 'Skirnir called the metal from the ground with spellcraft and we can hold it without harm.  Hoenir wought this blade as a gift for you.'
'A generous gift!'  Frey smiled and raised his hand to acknowledge Hoenir and Skirnir who stood behind the crowd of elves.  'Let this be known as elf-iron if it has your blessing.'

The lessons continued and each waking span Hoenir was surrounded by an eager crowd of Vans and elf folk.  He taught many skills in metalcraft and then taught them the skills of the warrior, the lore of the sword and shield.  These lessons were followed with instruction in spinning and weaving with fleeces sent from Godhome.  The elves took happily to weaving but the only clothing they favoured was a cloak that they used as an ornament during the waking tide and as blanket in their nests.  Mimir, who had never tired of criticising everything in Elfhome, had much to say on their continued nudity.

As the elves loved Hoenir they grew to hate the sour Mimir.   Before long even the Vans were deeply frustrated by his weary complaining and even his approach made their blood seethe.  

Vanwife complained to elf about the tedious ettin, elf to hedge wight and hedge wight to woodwife.  Finally word reached the oak spirit that Mimir had so offended and hearing the tally of the ettin's ill behaviour he swore to destroy him.  He climbed his beloved tree and ran and leapt from bough to bough from tree to tree until he reached the edge of the Elflands.  There he found Gullveig in her tent of hides, shunned, bored and restless.  Frey had sent her far away fearing mischief, but not far enough.

'Vanwife Gullveig' the oak spirit cried 'there are Osfolk in Elfhome.  Rude Osfolk, plotting the murder of elves and the murder of trees and wishing to change every worthy thing about our life.'
'I know there are Osfolk here, but why do you come to me?  It would cost me my life to meddle against them again.'
'Not this time.  Os Hoenir is well respected but his companion the ettin Mimir is hated by all.  There is not a hedge ghost or Van in all the Garth who does not wish him dead.'
'Indeed?  Then maybe I should return for the sake of the Garth.  Frey and Njord were ever too soft and peace-loving.'

Though the Vans were angered by Mimir's sour comments they were unwilling to risk the valued peace.  Gullveig had always cared little for such concerns and gleefully returned  to take action.  She hid herself in the thick leaves of an elder and waited until Mimir sat alone.  The bashful Hoenir had become a favourite among the elfwomen so her patience was not taxed.  When she saw Hoenir led away to some elfgirl's nest Gullveig shapechanged into a woodwife.  She crept up to the ettin where he rested against the beech that served him as a bed.

'I have heard that you thirst for knowledge' she whispered.
'That is true.'
'Then would you know what the Vans keep hidden on their most sacred island?'
'No, I know of no such island.' A mystery, this had his attention.
'Alas I hoped you would know.  Only the godfolk sworn to the Mother get to see it.  Surely you, great Os, should have been told?'
The well water Mimir had drunk in the Outlands boiled in his veins and scratched at his mind, urging him to know, to seek, to learn.  'Tell me what is this secret?'
'Simple woodwives are not told.'
'Where is this island?'
'East.  If you find out tell me and you will not find me ungrateful'.  The woodwife kissed him adding lust to his desires and fled into the branches above.  He lay disturbed in mind and finally rose and made his way to the east.  

Most of the elves were sleeping or rutting in their nests and they did not see Mimir making his way towards the sacred heart of Vanhome, none but cunning Gullveig leaping stealthily from tree to tree in woodwife shape.

Mimir walked the causeway where the flag flowers tossed in a fitful breeze and came at last to the island.  He saw a throne of limestone, massive but unremarkable and behind it half hidden in the island's trees a shelter of woven willow boughs, like an upturned basket.  He ducked within and saw a shape hidden by a draped cloth of pounded felt.  He pulled it away and saw the precious relic of the Vanfolk, a carved figure of their Mother Nertha.

Gullveig dropped down behind him and spoke 'Oh Mimir you are undone, for seeing this you will be slain.'
'And so will you if any are told.' Mimir feared nothing from a woodwife.  But then the woodwife's form shimmered and changed.
'I think not.' Gullveig laughed seeing the terrified recognition in Mimir's eyes.  He remembered the games she had played in Godhome all too well.  She advanced on him naked and confident with an antler tine knife in her hand.  'I am Njord's daughter and a godwoman of Nertha, I am free to see and free to know.  And you, unworthy ettin, must give yourself to our Mother.'
'Gullveig no, the peace treaty!' No!'
The Vanwife attacked and struck, plunging the knife into every expanse of flesh that she could reach on the lofty ettin.  Mimir howled in pain and flailed at her but Gullveig spun like a dancer and evaded his desperate fists and her every thrust cut deep.

The giant's screams alerted the elfolk from their slumbers and they called to their Lord.  Frey used a wayspell to enter the shrine and held Gullveig's hand to save Mimir's life.  The ettin's flesh below his neck was in ribbons and his heart torn in two, so Frey cut the head from the body and sung charms of change and healing until the head could live alone.  It was fortunate for Mimir that, after drinking from the well of wisdom, he was sustained as much by the mind as by blood and flesh, otherwise he would have been lost.

Frey was angry almost past speaking 'You have betrayed us again Gullveig and caused strife against Godhome.  I warned you before that you would be punished if you raised hand or wand against them again.  And here lies Odin's friend, near dead but for my spells.'  
'But all Elfhome cried out for his death, there is not a single wight in all this land that he hasn't offended.  
'Possibly not, but Mimir is Odin's friend and through marriage Odin is my brother and the peace must hold at all costs, and thanks to you it may be ruined.  I said I would destroy you if you meddled again and I meant every word.'
'The oak spirit of Three Stone Valley begged me to end his life.  I struck for the good of the Garth.'
'Then he will pay too for breaking the peace.'
Frey lashed out with the mind-magic and she sought to defend herself, but Gullveig's strength was no match for Nertha's Son.  He stole her speech, then her witch wisdom, then her woman wisdom and even her form.  When he was done she was naught but a she-goat, dim and docile.  
Frey reached out with his mind to the oak tree and followed the wyrd thread that joined the oak to the wood wight.  The terrified spirit was hauled by way-spell before the furious Vanlord.  'What have you done, elf?  You have helped to bring disgrace to Vanhome and you must help pay the price.'  Frey tapped the frantic elf with his antler wand and the elf also lost his reason and form.  He fell squealing into the form of a pig.

Frey mind-spoke to his sister and urged her to seek the Warfather and plead his return to Godhome.  Shocked by the events his thoughts conveyed she readily agreed and ran to her high seat to seek the Os and ease her way-spell.  She found Odin abed with the second of Fjolvar's daughters.  The Warfather was surprised to see the Vanlady appear without warning in his chambers and shooed the girl away so that they could speak in peace.  'Forgive me, Os Odin, you are needed urgently in Godhome, will you take my hand, that we may fare back together?'
'I will' he agreed and took up Freya's hand.  She chanted, drawing power from the Earth to aid the spell and shifted them both to Battlehall.  After learning of her magic Odin had great respect for Freya, but the presence of the other leaders of the Vanfolk, all serious and solemn convinced him that their news was grave indeed.  He was surprised to see Njord holding the tether of a nanny goat and Skirnir leading a fat pig, but that was nothing to his shock when Frey passed a cloth wrapped bundle into his hands.
'Mimir!' screamed the Warfather and nearly dropped the head.
'I am not poxed deaf' grumbled his old friend.
'What has happened to you?'
'Gullveig tricked me, tried to kill me, slash slash slash!  Blood everywhere.'
'Gullveig' Odin answered weakly, remembering.
'Frey turned her into a goat, that's her.'
Odin stared blankly at the goat, who dutifully bleated.
Frey spoke formerly: 'As you can see nothing remains of the woman who troubled you so.  Her life-strength can now be put to better use.  Weregild is owing and we are here to pay.  Come.'  

Frey led the Warfather to one of the wide doors of Battlehall.  Frey stooped and prised up some cobbles from the paved garth outside and dropped a strange seed into the hole.  He sang a spell song and a thick stem writhed out of the ground, thickening and sending forth dense reddish foliage.  It was like no tree that Odin had ever seen, its thick growth smelling both bitter and sweet.  The she goat climbed eagerly up the twisting trunk and started to eat the inviting leaves, and after a while a steady stream of golden liquid poured from her udders.  'You might want to fetch a bucket' Njord suggested.  Odin, still cradling the head, bellowed for one to be fetched and one of his warriors came running.  The liquid soon proved to be a fine, strong ale.  Odin's warriors happily put down their spears to taste it with great enjoyment.

Always curious, Odin asked 'What kind of tree is that?'
Frey smiled with relief to see Odin's interest. 'It has no equal and therefore no name, let it be called Betrayal's End and I hope the peace between us can hold.'
'It can.' Odin agreed, for the weregild had been generous.

'Gullveig did not act alone'  Frey continued, 'she was encouraged by a wood elf who will also serve your hall, this pig is all the remains of him.  Wood elves suffer little when their flesh is cut and regrow lost limbs easily like the trees that give them life.  I have used my spellcraft to add further to this pig's life-strength.  Frey drew his new blade and carved a great slab of meat from the pig's flank.  The wound healed itself within moments and the pig made no complaint.  That should help feed your followers.'
'It will indeed' said Odin.  The goat and pig were valuable gifts and no longer would he need to beg for food stores from Stronghome.

Mimir was less easily satisfied. 'What about me?  How can I search for wisdom with no legs to carry me and no knees to grip a horse?'
'You can sit on my high seat.' Odin promised 'And watch everything in the Nine Worlds.  My ravens will tell you where to look if you miss anything of interest.'
'Humpf' muttered Mimir.
Odin carried his friend to the high seat that Freya and Meilli had built for him and sat Mimir upon its soft cushions.   The giant's muttering grew softer as he became absorbed in the vision of the Nine Worlds laid out before him.  

It became a great joke among the Osfolk that the terrifying Gullveig was now tamed and serving them so willingly.  The fall of the troublemaking Vanwoman made the ale of Battlehall taste even sweeter.

And Hoenir?  He stayed in Vanhome and finished his teaching.  The Vans took the arts of the Osfolk and made them their own.  They shaped the living wood of the forests into bowers, wove cloth from the mosses of the forest and called metal from the green earth and forged it with spells.


Notes:

The sharing of the lore between the Vans and the Osfolk causes many changes, so three tales overlap:  The Raising of Folkfield Hall, The Daughters of the Wolf and the Osfolk in Vanhome.

This tale is based on a tantalising fragment of a myth in the Eddas which tells that Mimir angered the Vans and they cut off his head.  As an appeasement they preserved his head with magic.  The attempted murder seems a strange event to follow so shortly after the amicable peace so I have found a scapegoat (literally) in Gullveig who already has a reputation for trouble.

Frey is often overlooked in Norse mythology and overshadowed by the lore surrounding Odin and Thor.  Here he shows his true strengths as a master magic worker and a very dangerous opponent.  His weapon is not the sword but the antler wand.  He has many similarities with Thor: he is a god of the farming folk, a keeper of the peace and Man's capable defender.  

The secret shrine is borrowed from Tacitus's accounts of the shrine of Nerthus which was forbidden from view on pain of death.  In these tales Nerthus (under the more female name Nertha) is the mother of the Vans.

The tree called Betrayal, the ale producing nanny goat and the ever healing pig are found in the Eddic accounts of Odin's hall.  Their origins are not explained in the surviving myths but they make perfect peace offerings for the Vans to give in this tale.  They also solve the problem of how the vast hoards of Battlehall are fed.  Weregild is an old English name for a legal penalty paid to compensate for death or injury.
The Daughters of the Wolf

Odin may have been loath to take up spellcraft but once he had mastered the battle spells, and felt their power, he hungered to use them.

So eager was he to claim more of Middle Garth's warriors that he scarcely greeted his wife before declaring his need for goddesses to serve his hall.  He spoke of his plans: to direct the course of battles in distant lands, to bring the spirits of the brave fallen to Godhome and to train and lead the army of his dreams.

'What is it you wish from me?' asked Frigga.  'I will gladly bear you children from tide to tide.  But I would not have you weave their path before they are even born.  How many of these blood-loving sigwives do you need?'
'Twelve.' Odin answered 'They must be strong in mind and spellcraft, so a mother among the Oswives would serve them best.'
'You dream high' laughed Frigga. 'What Oswife would push out babes for you like a breeding sow?  You should look to your friends in Middle Garth to aid you in this.'
'Middle Garth?' Odin spat in disgust.  'What worth are the women there, elf-blind and spell-lacking.'
'Not all of them' Frigga chided him, 'and you should have more faith in your own ettin blood which will give them strength enough.  Consider Meili, Sigyn and Hermod, all mortal born; they all have taken to Freya's spellcraft.'
'I suppose you are right, but where should I go? Will you tell me the secrets of your loom or should I go and speak to Saga?'
'Don't get used to this, but I will tell you your Wyrd this once.  You need to visit the lord of the Allgreen Isle.  Offer to make him a king among men and what you want will be yours.'
'I thank you, dearest.  I will return to you soon.'
Odin left her, leaving a full wine cup on the table.  Frigga sighed and shook her head, 'No it won't be soon.  Lucky for you that your wife is long living and patient.'

Odin put on his travelling clothes and made his way to the Allgreen Isle, which in this early tide lay in Middle Garth's northern sea, though the waters of that sea have since covered it.  Fjolvar held it then with ten farms and a raised stead with a palisade and hall.  There he watched over his modest lands with his ten warriors, an old godwoman and seven young daughters.  Odin arrived on a small sail boat and was given the welcome due to strangers.  Eager for fresh company, the lord offered him a place at his own table, where Odin ignored the coarse bread on his platter and watched the daughters with interest.
Odin spoke to his host:  'You have a good holding here, but do you not wish for greater riches?'
'What man doesn't?'
'Give me your men to lead and I will double your wealth.'
Fjolvar scowled at the stranger 'Why should I trust you?'
Odin drank deep of the sour ale and nodded at the godwoman 'She knows.'
'What do I know?' the old woman asked.
'If she does not know, you waste your bread on her.'  He glared hard at the woman with his single flinty eye.  He did not blink and she became afraid.  Two ravens alighted on the window sill and flapped lazily about the hall causing the serving maids to squeal as their wings came close, then settled on Odin's shoulders.  The seven daughters made no sound and did not flinch, even when the flight feathers brushed their hair.
'So you claim to be an Os' said Fjolvar, still wary.
'If that is the Warfather, the price for his help will be high'  the godwoman warned.
'Not so terribly high.  I have need of a daughter.  And if I bring you wealth your eldest daughter will bear me that child.'
'That cannot be.  My eldest, Helga, is wed to Einar, bravest of my warriors.  The others are not promised.  Choose again.'
'Oh dear' smiled Odin and rose to leave, disturbing the ravens from their perch. 'Then stay in this muddy hall, eating your coarse bread and drinking your sour ale.  I will find some other lordling more eager for my aid.'
Odin left the gathering and trudged slowly to the pier and made his boat ready to sail.  

Within the hall the folk spoke in loud voices.  The godwoman wailed that they had offended one of the greatest of the Osfolk.  The lord stormed that the price had been too high for his honour to bear.  The younger daughters complained that the guest had been right on every word, the hall was muddy, the bread gritty and the ale vile.  The warriors voiced their regrets of missed wealth and glory: all but one, newly married Einar, who sat as if struck dumb.

Helga rose from her place and spoke in a commanding voice that cut through the hubbub.  'Enough, I say: let us not miss this chance to win the favour of Godhome.  Did he ask so much?  One child out of a lifetime of children?  I say the price is fair and is it not my right to choose?'
Her father stared at his child in dismay but the warriors cheered her.  She laid a hand in acknowledgement on her silent husband's shoulder and left the hall and ran down the muddy path to the shore.  Odin was slowly unhitching the line that held his boat fast when she approached, and with a hidden smile he stayed his hand.
'Stay, mighty Os!  I agree to bear your child.'
Odin gazed on her with his flinty eye 'Then I will stay.'

Odin took charge of the ten warriors and the island's boats and sailed away with Helga as his companion.  Within a few waking spans they had taken rich farms on the mainland.  Among the spoils was a new and finer hall which the defeated lord's men had defended to the death.  Odin had cast battle spells and the victory was an easy one for Fjolvar's warriors.  The gate where the fighting had been fiercest was foul with the blood and the guts of the dead.  Odin commanded the warriors to make the hall ready for a feast and to leave the fallen as they were.  Soon he and Helga were left in the windy, stinking, fly-blown court alone.  Odin turned to her and said 'You are to bare me one of the bravest of goddesses, a goddess of battle, who will shy from no sight on the battlefield, nor sight of wound, pain of wound nor fear of wound.'
'You have brought my father great wealth as you promised.  What would you have me do?'
'You will wed the Warfather this span and here is your wedding bed; in blood you will lie, fearless and willing.'  He looked on her and noted what he had seen before: she was brave.  The web of Wyrd had chosen well.
Helga walked away beyond the gore and stripped off her gown, her shift and headscarf and laid them where they would not be stained.   Then she went to where the dead lay thickest.  She drew a flint knife from a death wound and cut open the liches that were still whole, dragged the innards from the cooling flesh and made her bed.  She cast the knife aside and lay upon the offal, her fair    head sank into the coils of manflesh and her loosened hair soaked up the blood and addle.  She looked up at the Os and smiled.

Odin stripped off his own clothes and looked over the bodies of the fallen.  Most wore the pelts of wolves or bears that they had hoped would make them strong in battle.  Odin pulled a wolf skin from one of the dead and tied it about his neck.  He reached back into the depths of his mind to find the madness that takes men in the frenzy of war.  His mind boiled with battle-mood and lust and he knelt over Helga and laid his hands on her forehead and shared the wild feelings with her.  He howled like a wolf and she writhed beneath him.  They coupled eagerly with like minds, joined as one, Warfather and Warmother, rolling and writhing in heat, oblivious of the blood that soon covered them both.

In the alehall the warriors were drinking and celebrating their victory.  They banged the butts of their flint spears on the benches and their wooden cups on the tables to shake the rafters.  The sound, like a heartbeat, drew the lovers from the death stead.   Fjolvar's men cheered when the war-god entered with his bride.  Odin, dripping in blood, still resembled an ettin from the front but had the form of a wolf behind.  Wolf ears twitched on his head and a thick mane of living fur tumbled down his back to the swishing tail below.  Einar's feelings of jealously vanished before this proof of power.  He brought a deep bowl of ale to the Warfather and Odin drank deeply.  Three times Einar refilled the bowl for the Os and then again for Helga.  The warriors continued their drumming and Odin pulled his lover into a dance of stamping feet and wild cavorting.  Odin pulled spears from the warriors' hands and added to the rhythm by thumping them on the ground as he danced. Helga copied him, drunk on battle lust and ale, her bloodied breasts bobbing as she struck with the spear butts.  The warriors urged them on with the resounding thud of the battle-dance until late in the resting span when the Warfather and Warmother collapsed in exhaustion.

Helga woke, her head pounding and painful, and the spark of new life deep in her belly.  She smelled the foul addle on her hide and hair and her skin crawled in revulsion at the filth.  Einar stood above her and held out a hand to raise her from the floor's rushes.  'I have heated water for you,' he said, and she smiled in gratitude.

Fjolvar was delighted with his new lands and a more formal feast was celebrated in the new hall.  Odin again offered a bargain to the lord.  'I have fulfilled my promise and doubled your wealth.  I trust you will honour your promise and give me Helga's daughter when she is born.'
'Of course' Fjolvar agreed and all his folk nodded.
'I offer the same bargain again, I will give you a similar victory if you pay the same price.  A child from your second daughter.'
The warriors roared their approval and Fjolvar could hardly object, especially when the girl in question moved to Odin's side and took his hand.  
'As you approve let me widen my offer, you have five more sisters, make them available to me and five more victories will be yours.'
The warriors roared louder but Fjolvar held up his hand to object.  'In time I would allow it, but my youngest daughters have not reached their womantide.'
'Patience Fjolvar' warned Odin.  'You must hold fast to what you have taken before you reach out for more.  After Helga's child is born we will strike again, and on that victory I will fill your second daughter with my seed.  Your daughters will all be of age when I take the youngest, and you will be a king among men.'
'Then I agree' said Fjolvar.
'One thing more, I have a gift for Einar.'  Odin handed his former rival the rolled and blood stained wolf skin 'Wear this in battle and you will truly have the courage of a wolf.'

Helga's belly swelled and Odin advised Fjolvar on where to build defences, where to place his warriors and how to win new men to his band.  By the time the baby was near Fjolvar's warriors numbered thirty.  When they heard Helga's moans of birthing, the men knapped new spear heads and knife blades and readied themselves for war.  Odin named the child Skogull.  For nine spans Helga suckled the girl-child until she was strong.  Oswife Hlin rode down from heaven's vault to claim the child for Godhome and Helga willingly surrendered her.  

Odin lead Fjolvar's men inland against the next lord's hall.  Again he used the battle-spells and the victory was easy.  He led the second daughter to the bloodied battle field.  She clothed herself in blood and he clothed himself in wolf skins and wooed her with the battle-madness.  Later they danced the joy of their mating, drunk with victory, with the warriors in the alehall.

Frigga sat on her high seat with the babe Skogull at her breast watching her husband's frenzied tupping.  Hlin sat beside her sharing her seeing-spell.  'Would you look at that!' cried Frigga.  'To think that he called me Van-mad!  I think that sight might even shock Freya.'
'At least the girl is willing', Hlin muttered.
'Very willing' Frigga agreed.  'With five more girls to fill he will be away a long tide.  I think we are  due a little pleasure of our own.'  Frigga knew the preferences of her household well and called out with her mind to Meili.  You are needed at Fenbank; bring your brother with you.  

Before long the two friends arrived.  Hlin laughed with delight and seized Thor's hand and pulled him to her own chambers.  Meili regarded Frigga with surprise to find himself alone with her.  'You know, Meili' I did learn something useful from Gullveig.'
Meili gulped, remembering.
'I do like you.'  She laughed kindly at Meili's scarlet cheeks.  'My husband is busy wooing the spirits of war.  I would rather woo the spirits of frith.'  She laid the sleepy child in her cradle.  'That is if you are willing.'
Meili smiled shyly.  'Freya said much the same.'
'Then I approve of her taste' said Frigga, and led Meili to her bed.

On the coast about the Allgreen Isle, Fjolvar's lands reached ever outwards.  One by one his daughters gave themselves to the Warfather.  Fjolvar's bravest men wore the wolf cloaks that Odin gave them, and, as Odin promised, in battle they fought with the fury of beasts.

Frigga and Fulla took good care of Fjolvar's grandchildren, and suckled them at their own breasts, so that the girls would know softness as well as the hardness of the blade.  After Skogull came Hrist and Mist, Radgrid and Randgrid, and Geiravor.

Finally Odin returned to Godhome carrying his seventh child, Geirahod, in his arms.  Frigga hugged him warmly and Fulla took the newborn child from the father's arms.  Frigga led Odin to the flowered causeway where his elder daughters played, racing one another and wrestling in the thick grass.  

'They look hale and strong' Odin said fondly.  'When each has the strength, send them to me and I will train them in the skills of the warrior.  I think in two harvests more Skogull will be ready.'
'So young', sighed Frigga.
'Indeed.  Just as weaving and spinning are best learnt young, so is swordcraft, and spellcraft also.'
Frigga shook her head.  'There is more to life than that.  Let them spend a year with my Norn sisters too, to learn our histories, the songs and ceremonies, the dances of the tides.'
'Very well, my love, my daughters must be wise in all things.'

And so when Skogull had seen twelve harvests, which in our night-blessed days would fall in six years, Frigga sent her to Battlehall.  Odin gave his daughter weapons of wood and bade her practice the arts of war.  The child loved her time among the warriors, for the passion for war flowed in her blood.  She could leap and spin and turn on the battle court as a fish can in water.  Then she spent a tide with the Norn Sybil who taught her the lore of an Oswife, and then she went to Freya to learn the secrets of spellcraft.  Once she reached her womantide, Freya taught her lore of love and how to use her charms to win her way with men.

Finally Skogull was ready to serve her father.  She left Folkfield attired as a sigwife, in knee-length gown of heavy linen, coat of mail and a cloak of ragged raven feathers.  Odin greeted her with great fondness and said 'Welcome Skogull, first of my sigwives.  Claim the first of the battle courts that lie about this hall and raise your standard above it.  Twelve wide, square yards lay about the Battlehall, each cleared of stone and herb for the warriors' training.  Skogul choose the court before the hall's door and gazed up at the court's empty standard pole.  She called on her magic and wove a great double axe blade from the dust upon the air.  Odin's warriors clamoured for the honour to climb the pole and fix the symbol in place for their new goddess.  Skogull smiled and tasted the thoughts of the gathered men with her mind.  She searched for the soul that was most ruthless, cunning as a fox, fearless as a wolf and deadly as a wild ox.  With eyes closed she threw out her arm as she made her choice.  She raised her gaze as the man came forward.  He was scarred and tough looking, with a broken nose and a heavy, battered brow, a veteran of battlefields.  She kissed him as she handed him the axe and was rewarded with a wolfish smile.  The man hauled himself up the standard pole and dropped her axe head onto its point.

The men cheered and the Warfather raised his voice over the din.  'Drink today and rejoice that your first sigwife is among you.  She will sharpen your skills and lead you to victory.  The men raised Skogull onto their shoulders and carried her into the hall.  A table had been placed below the Warfather's own with a throne-like chair at its head.  Here the men brought her and took their places at the benches, the old veteran seating himself at her right hand.  Serving maids, the women who follow their men to war, and follow them still after death, brought platters of bread and meat and dripping horns of ale.

When the men were sleepy with drink, Skogull made to leave for the attic room she had used as a child.  But she was not a child now.  She nodded to the wolfish man and he followed her most willingly.  In truth his appearance was frightful, but she saw not with a woman's eyes but with those of a sigwife.  His strength of arm and hard bladed soul made her warm with desire.

Notes:

Another gap in the lore – where did the sigwifes or valkyries come from?  

The Eddas are full of fragments of tales – Odin's conquest of Fjolvar's seven daughters is mentioned in the Lay of Harbard, his stay is also marked by military exploits so they make appropriate mothers for the first of the battle goddesses.  The myths repeatedly show Odin as a seducer of women, much like Zeus in Greek mythology.  

The role of the sigwife is as ruthless and bloody as the battlefields over which they rule.  Therefore this tale shows Odin in his aspect as the god of war.  Images survive of male dancers wearing only animal pelts or ceremonial helmets and bearing spears.  These ceremonies were almost certainly linked to Odin.  Battle-madness causing men to fight without fear of injury was also a gift of the Warfather.

Frigga's name means 'lover' showing her to be an ancient fertility goddess.  She has doubtless lost the more erotic aspects of her influence to Freya.  It is tempting when writing of Frigga to have her waiting celibate at home while her husband makes conquest after conquest in his lovers' beds,   a pattern found through much of human history of the adulterous husband and the dutiful wife.  But this does not fit the Norse image of the powerful goddesses who are equal in authority to their husbands.  Therefore I have allowed Frigga considerable freedom; under the circumstances it seems highly justified.
The Raising of Folkfield Hall

Soon after the birth of Kvasir, the godfolk met again beneath the shade of the Great Ash.  The greatest concerns held by both houses were spoken of.  For the Osfolk this was the fate of Gullveig.  Njord assured them that she had been driven in disgrace to the furthest regions of Elfhome.  For the Vanfolk their main concern was the raiding Odin had stirred up in Middle Garth.  With some reluctance, Odin agreed to reverse his instructions to his warriors and godmen, which he admitted was a small price to pay to be free of Gullveig's pranks.

Once the unpleasant issues had been aired Freya had renewed her offer to teach all the Osfolk spellcraft and asked which of them would be her first pupil.  The lesser folk held back waiting for their elders and betters to speak, but Thor, Frigga, Saga, Ull, Tyr and Odin were all equally unwilling.  They raised cups to their mouths or chewed on honey cakes in the hope that someone would speak and spare them.  Odin glared with baleful eye on Loki, feeling that his friend knew witcheries enough and Loki took the hint.

The silence lengthened and Frigga, fearing that the reluctance would be seen as rude was about to speak, but Hlin, realising her way was open, rose from her seat.  'I would be glad to learn any skills you could teach me, lady Vanwife.'
'Ah good' said Freya.  'You are Oswife Hlin?  Tell me what is your work in Godhome?'
'I look after folk in Middle Garth in whom Oswife Frigga has a special interest.  I also ride the Helroad and bring the ghosts of the farmers to Stormbright Hall.'
'And how do you travel?' asked Freya.
'Mother Jord gave me a black mare who can run across heaven's vault, lady Vanwife.  She serves me well.  But when I saw the ease with which Van Frey can step from one Garth to another, I wondered if I might learn that spell, that I might serve my mistress better.'
'I should warn you' Freya replied 'that the way-spell is the hardest of all our spells, and among the Vans only the children of Mother Nertha can master it.  But there are many other ways to travel by magic: we shape-change into birds or swift beasts to fare quickly.  We can send out the soul as a ghost leaving the lich behind.  We can watch any of the Worlds from afar using the seeing-magic.  I think these skills will be of great use to you, and, who knows, maybe with great effort you could manage the way-spell too.'
'I am willing to try' promised Hlin.
'I will follow you in your learning' said Gna. Fulla also declared her agreement.
'Dearest friends,' Frigga praised them, 'your courage shames me.  How can I but follow your example?'
Freya nodded happily, knowing that where these four ventured, others would also tread.

Soon after that second meeting Thor left godhome and rode into the deep Outlands with his hard pounding goats and his rattling kettles.  The wain's chests were filled with cheeses and hams and casks of good ale.  In his absence Meilli took charge of the plans for Freya's new hall

While Thor's close kinship to Freya caused him to flee from her glowing beauty, her charms attracted the other male Osfolk like bees to a honeypot.   Hermod, Ull, Ulf, Villi and Ve all worked slavishly for Freya hoping that their efforts would be repaid with embraces.

Freya had much admired Meilli's carvings at Stormbright Hall and had been delighted to accept his services.  She spoke to him at length as to how the hall should be laid out.  The Vanwife asked that the building include a large round spell chamber with a high ceiling, and dismissed the need for many small rooms such as could be found in Stormbright Hall.  'I am a Van, Meilli,' she reminded him 'we don't need privacy; a large hall will be fine; my guests can sleep and sport in there.'
'You should have a chamber of your own too, Freya.'
'Why?'
'Well, just imagine: you are tempting a shy young man to your bed, teasing him and beckoning him to follow you, then as he steps into you chamber…'
'Yes?'
'You can lock the door.'
Freya laughed 'Very well, I will have a bed chamber; you have convinced me.'
'And a chamber for your clothes.'
'I suppose so, I never needed many before.'
'And a room for Beyla, and a bathing room.  That should work well then, four rooms above the spell chamber, behind a large open hall.'
'Thank you Meilli dear' smiled Freya and kissed him on the cheek 'build the spell chamber first; I will have need of it soon.'  
Meilli stammered in agreement, blushing crimson.

With the Osfolk working so eagerly, the spell chamber was soon completed.  Freya was delighted with the room.  It was some 40 feet across with stout carved pillars running around the outside benches supporting the heavy roof beams above.  The pillar capitals were each carved with a different animal and the whole was painted in muted colours highlighted with hammered gold.  The floor and benches were spread with a hundred creamy sheepkins, a gift from Sigyn's store rooms.  The beams for the walls and  roof above were all in place and Meilli was pegging in the wall staves of the upper rooms.

Freya sent Beyla with a message to Fenbank Hall: to tell Hlin that she could come for her first lessons.

Hlin was thrilled to receive the news and put on one of her finest gowns and made her way to Folkfield.  Beyla led her to the new-built spell chamber where Freya met her, clad in a loose green gown.  'You are most welcome, Oswife Hlin' Freya greeted her with a light embrace and led her to the broad bench that ran about the spell chamber.  'First I must confess' Freya continued 'that I do not know what manner of wight you are.  What was your birth?'
'Mother Jord called me out of an hawthorn tree with her spellcraft, Vanwife.  Likewise my two sisters were called from a birch and an aspen.'
'Then you are a mystery.  I would look in your mind if you would let me.'
'You may, Vanwife.'
Freya laid her hands gently on either side of the Oswife's head and sent her own spirit within, tested the paths of her mind, and withdrew.  'Your mind feels like that of one of the elves of Elfhome.  They take easily to spellcraft, but they do not have the power of the Vanfolk.  Now I know you are keen to attempt the way-spells so I suggest we work slowly and carefully to build up your mind strength.'  Hlin nodded her agreement.

Freya brought out a bundle of carved pieces of wood and showed them to Hlin and spoke as she assembled them.  'This is a high seat or spellcraft platform.  They are made while chanting runes and spell-songs, in order to lessen the effort required to see into the other worlds.'  Hlin watched with keen interest as the Vanwife built up a wide stool and laced a seat of rawhide straps.  Freya placed a cushion of swan feather down on the seat and hung bundles of flight feathers from the corner posts.  Satisfied she said 'There, climb up, Hlin, and make yourself comfortable.' Hlin scrambled up onto the high seat and sat on the deep cushion, arranging her thick skirts carefully to do so.  

'In this span I want you to learn to let your spirit free of your mind.  Once you have done this you will be able to sense the spirits of the folk about this hall, and from the high seat you can mind-speak to them.  But don't terrify your follow Osfolk just yet.  Your goal, if you can, will be to find the land wights of Fenbank.  See if you can find a friendly elf to aid you in your spellcrafting.'

Freya brought out a small drum and beat it softly as Hlin strove to free her mind from her lich.  After several attempts Hlin wailed 'What am I doing wrong Vanwife?  I cannot free my mind.'
'Something is holding you back.  Are you comfortable sitting there?'
'Yes.'
'Any discomfort, however slight, can hold back the spirit.  Are you sure?  Think again.'
Hlin thought carefully, and realised for the first time that her bound hair pressed on the back of her head.  The lacing of her fine gown was tight across her chest and the gold brocade itched where it touched her skin.  'You are right I am not comfortable: I must untie my hair and remove my gown.'  Hlin removed her outer clothes but even then the fabric of her shift tugged taught across her knees, so she removed that as well.  Laughing Freya wrapped the bare Oswife in a blanket of soft thin wool.
Hlin tried again and this time succeeded.  Her spirit slipped from her lich and soared about the hall, she saw Freya below her and felt the vast strength of the Vanwife, green and surging like a sprouting seed.  She soared free of the chamber and over the workers toiling on the meadhall's roof beams.  She both saw and felt the strong presence of Ull glowing bright as a lantern and marked the lesser powers of the other Osfolk.

Hlin swept about the bare earth of Folkfield and found no wights dwelling in the torn up ground and turned her thoughts to Fenbank.  Now she saw the wights, their minds glowing in the banks and pools like fireflies.  Laughing with joy she called to them 'I am Oswife Hlin of Fenbank Hall, who will be my friend?'  Elves gazed up with surprise and three reached out with their own minds to greet her.  Their touch was warm and friendly and she embraced them with her own spirit, willing happiness into the touch.  Then, pleased with her success she drew back to Folkfield.

Hlin opened her eyes to find herself back in her lich with Freya all beaming approval.  They were not alone.  Six elves stood about the high seat.  Three she knew by sight; they were the three hairy house-wights of Stormbright Hall unmistakable in their red caps.  The others she half knew from their mind touch which still lingered in her thoughts.  They stood about three feet high and regarded her with curious interest.  One resembled a frog with green mottled skin and long dripping water-weed hair.  One had thick bushy fur and the round face of a water rat.  The third was a wight from the deep waters, dark skinned with huge eyes and gills like those of a fish.  

'Speak to them and win their favour', Freya whispered.  Hlin stepped down from the high seat, still wrapped in her blanket.  She crouched down on one knee to meet the wights as equals.  'Thank you for answering my call, I was looking for kindly wights to help me with my spellworking, and maybe I, having Oswife Frigga's ear, could help you in turn.'
The frog creature came forward first 'Then tell me Oswife, will there be any more digging and dredging in the waters of the marshes.  There has been fearful work of late.'
'I do not think so.  That was Thor building up the banks for Freya's new hall.  No more buildings are planned for the fenland.'
'That is good' declared the frog-spirit.  'You may call on me whenever you have need, good Oswife.  My name is Blark and I have a gift for your mistress.  He lifted up a woven bundle of grass from the depths of his weedlike hair.  Hlin took the bundle and opened it, and found it to be full of damp heron feathers.  
'That will be most useful' said Freya. 'We thank you for your gift.'
The frog-elf grinned and his form turned to water and poured through the floor and he was gone.  

Hlin turned to Thor's hall-wights, 'It is good to see you, Hob, Rob and Berta.  What brings you here?  Have you come to aid me in my spellcraft?'
Hob cocked his head cheekily and asked 'Do you have any milk, Oswife?'
'No' Hlin replied.
'Any cows, then?'
'You know I haven't Hob, we only have fishponds at Fenbank.'
'Oh, away with you', cried Freya. 'Go back to Oswife Sigyn.'  Hob laughed and cracked open a flag stone on the floor with his bare heel and the three hall-wights jumped through it and away.
'Pay them no heed Hlin, those three tried the same games with me.  When a wight has given their service to another you will get naught but mischief.'

Then the dark spirit said 'Let me speak next Oswife for the dry air on my skin is deadly.'
'Of course good wight, speak' urged Hlin.
'This belongs to the Osfolk.' the wight held out a heavy sack dripping with black mud 'It has the scent of Jord's Son upon it, please return it to him.'
Hlin opened the sack and saw among the grime the glint of gold.  'I know this!' she gasped 'It is the gold that Gullveig brought to Fenbank Hall.  Good wight please return it to the deep waters, Thor will not wish to be reminded of that tide.'
'Then please find it another home: metal is a burden to the wights.' With those words the dark skinned creature turned to dark water and seeped away through the floor.
Hlin gazed at the sack in horror, and seeing her look, Freya said 'Fear not.  The gold was stolen from Njord.  I will return it to him.'  Hlin nodded in relieved agreement..

Only the hairy water rat spirit remained regarding Hlin with bright and interested eyes.  'And would you help me with my spellcraft?' asked Hlin.  'You have my name; what is yours?'
'My name is Shig' the elf answered.  'So you want me to run through my burrows looking for secrets and bringing you news of the marshes?'
'I would be very grateful if you did.'
'How grateful?' asked Shig 'Would you let me run at your burrow?'
'What do you mean?' asked Hlin.  Shig answered her question by pointing beneath her blanket with a clawed hand.  Much surprised Hlin turned to Freya 'Is that normal?  Is that the price of spell-craft?'
'It can be,' Freya replied 'some landwights want friendship, some want cow's milk, some want mothers milk and some want a tupping.  This little fellow is pricing himself very high.'
'Well Shig, I have heard you' said Hlin.  'If I ever call you by name you will know I have decided that your price is fair.  If I never call you, your price is too high.'
'I will wait to hear from you, mistress' retorted the cheeky elf and, like the others, he sank through the floor.

'You have done very well' said Freya full of praise 'and achieved much in a single span.  Take the high seat to Fenbank and practise and use the mind sight in every corner of Godhome.  Speak with the elves and make friends among them where you can.  But do not stray beyond Godhome's boundaries until I have taught you again.  The better you become using the high seat the more likely you are to master the way-spell.  When you can slip into mind-sight in your scratchy clothes you will be ready to learn more.'

Gna and Fulla followed Hlin to Folkfield.  Gna strove hard seeing the value of the spells in her work for Frigga and she applied herself well, but it took three waking spans for her to link minds with a land-spirit.  Fulla, with her duties and love of comfort binding her to Frigga's hall, felt no such eagerness.  Seeing this Freya taught the Oswife charms for spinning thread fine as spidersilk, spells to warp a loom without effort and charms to smooth and clean wool and linen.  And for this lore Fulla was most grateful.

Frigga came next to Freya's hall and the Vanwife was most curious to see the shape of Frigga's mind, for, beside Jord's daughters, no wight in the Nine Worlds could look into the future.  Frigga willingly obliged her sister and Freya saw a mind that had been shaped to one end, like clay moulded upon a wheel.  'I think you will find spellcraft hard' Freya warned 'for your mind is bound so tightly to the web of wyrd that there are few paths remaining for other skills.'  And so it proved: every spell came hard to Frigga, though she strove hard to achieve the mind-sight and learned the weaving room spells that Fulla had mastered.  

Span followed span and Hlin returned again and again to Folkfield, learning ever more challenging spells.  Gna and Frigga struggled with their own lessons.  Frigga sighed one span in the spell-chamber:  'I only wish that I could change shape into a bird and fly across the worlds as clever Hlin has learned to do, but I know such skills are beyond me.'
'There is more than one way to fly' said Freya and showed her the heron feathers gathered by the elves.  Together they threaded up a loom and with linen thread and wyrd thread they bound the feathers into a cloak.  Freya sung many a charm over the work and when the garment was laid over Frigga's shoulders, she became a heron as easily as breathing, and, better still, was not overcome by a bird's instincts.  'That is a great advantage' Freya said excitedly.  'Shapechanging has so many drawbacks: if these cloaks can overcome the perils I will weave a few for myself.'

One by one the Osforth made their way to Friendly Hall for their lessons in spellcraft.  The five remaining Norns were taught the mind-sight and each received a cloak of swan feathers, all except Sybil who surprised all by choosing to weave a cloak a crow feathers instead.

Meilli was taught charms for the shaping of wood and the spells of the weaving room while Sigyn learnt a hundred charms of use in the keeping of hall and farm.  Ull learned charms to shield the scent of a hunter from its prey and to sense hidden game with his mind.  Young Forseti learned to dig into men's thoughts in order to tell truth from lie.  Heimdall learnt the seeing-spells with great eagerness and once he had mastered them he was no longer bound to Godhome's gate.  Tyr arrived sour and unwilling at Folkfield so Freya taught him the battle spells, which, once he saw their effect, he admitted were most useful.

Thor was not the only Os to stray from Godhome in that tide.  Odin had also taken to the roads of Middle Garth to find wisdom and, in all honesty, to avoid lessons on chanting and dancing like a trollwife.   The longer he wandered the more he longed for the peace of Fenbank and the embrace of his wife.  Finally, with reluctant steps, he started his long way back along the dusty lanes to Godhome.

Reaching Battlehall he bathed the road-dirt from his hide and laid down to rest, but sleep did not come to him.  Lying so near to Folkfield he found he could think of nothing but Freya and imagine a pleasant conquest.  His hungry mind as ever demanded new knowledge, and Freya's untested delights would be food for thought indeed.

Odin turned sleeplessly from side to side in his rumpled bed.  He remembered, with guilt, his wife explaining to him that Osfolk were loyal to their husbands and wives.  Her simple statement had touched him deeply, so how could he injure her by lusting after her sister and neighbour?

Red eyed and weary, Odin stomped down the stone-flagged road to Fenbank and followed the merry sounds of laughter to the lake's edge beyond the hall.  There his wife sat on a strange platform, her red-gold hair hanging unbound, her beautiful body swathed in only a loose blanket.  Her three handmaids sat below her, all equally ill-clothed.  'What are you doing?  Has everyone gone Van-mad since I was last here?'
'Maybe we have' replied Frigga coolly.  'What do you want Odin?'
Her coldness stung Odin and his words took on a more loving tone 'Oh beloved Frigga, I crave knowledge, teach me, my mind it hungers so!'
Frigg regarded him more kindly: 'It is not my knowledge you crave; go to her and sate yourself.'
'But you are my wife, I cannot betray you so.'
'Claiming me has not stopped your sporting in any other Garth.  And I can see your distant games in Wyrd's web as well as I can see them across my lake.  You have my permission if you need it, go and learn.'
'I want her!'
'Of course you do, every Os does.  Go and learn my husband.  Learn the taste of her flesh and the depth of her cunny, and while you are learning those things maybe you will learn some spellcraft too.'

Half relieved, half horrified, Odin made the short journey to Folkfield Hall, kicking loose stones from his path in frustration.  He so valued his skills with bow and blade but what use would they be if the Os were to fight with magic.  Had it not been for the strength of his lust he would have turned about and walked back to Middle-Garth.  

The hall was nearly complete: Meilli, Hermod, Ull, Ulf, Villi and Ve were on the rooftop pinning on the shingles.  The highly carved barge boards lay ready for raising on the path below.  Elfwomen were working in the gardens planting young trees and thick beds of flowers.  There was no sign of Freya so Odin walked into the hall, still scented with the sharp smell of fresh cut wood, and, finding it empty, went into the spell chamber beyond.  There he found Freya, naked, perched cat like and dangerous on her new high seat.  She had seen his approach and felt the shape of his mind, hard, grey and sharp like a flint spear head, a determined mind, a mind to watch.  She leapt to the ground and paced towards him.

'You reek of lust' she said.  'Good.  Learn your lessons well and there will be time to play later.'

Freya taught the Warfather hard.  Being ettinborn he took easily to spellcraft and she caught his interest by teaching him mindspells, the skills of the warrior witchman.  She taught Odin to send mindbolts that could cause death to mortal folk.  She taught how to take strength from one man and gift it to another, that he might excel over his enemies in war.  She taught him how to freeze limbs, stop hearts and shatter blades of flint and iron.  She taught him how to inspire battle rage, to drive men to fight like wolves or bears, to fear no danger, feel no pain.  

Odin's eager mind devoured all that she taught him and he practised the spells until he could work them with ease.  At the end of each waking span Freya drew the Os up the steps to her fur-piled bed, threw him down and mounted him.

One resting span as they lay, near spent, Odin murmered 'These battle spells will be most useful.  I could claim the devotion of every warrior in Middle Garth with these powers.'
'Not for much longer' Freya replied sleepily.  'The tally of men grows and grows, soon there will be too many for you to claim.  So many tribes, so many battles to watch over.'
'That is true', Odin mused.  'Then I must have goddesses to serve me as Frigga and Thor do, to watch over my men and the battlefields.  You will teach them your magic, dear Freya, and every warrior will look to me.  Even in death they will serve me; I will have them train every span in my hall until they are the greatest warriors in the nine worlds.'
Freya frowned, rose to her knees and peered down at the plotting Warfather, 'You will drag the spirits of the war dead to fight over and over at your whim?'
'I will.  They will be proud to fight for me.'
'Some would, many wouldn't.  Would you take lovers from their wives and farmers from their fields?  You cannot claim them all,'
'I will, you will see' Odin retorted stubbornly.
Freya straddled him again and gripped his head between her hands.  'I will make a bargain with you.  I will teach your goddesses as I have taught you, and more besides, on one condition.'
'Oh?'
'That you will give me first choice of the battle-dead;  All those that live for more than the spilling of blood you will let me keep or send to the halls where they should be,  leaving you only the fiercest souls who live for battle, the wolfs of war, to clatter away the afterlife in your hall.'
Odin was silent a moment.  He reflected that Freya was offering him a gift: she would take away the cowards, the bench huggers, the lover boys and the milk-sops, and leave him with the men of true worth.  'You have a bargain, Vanwife.'

As she had with the other most diligent students, Freya suggested that Odin rest from his studies a while and practise what he had learned before returning to learn more skills.  Odin agreed and left Folkfield Hall with a cunning look in his single eye.  Freya shook her head at his leaving. 'Off to beget his goddesses no doubt.'  

Freya climbed the scaffolding to where the Osfolk were hard at work on the roof.  'Meilli, could you spare me a tide?'
'Of course Vanwife.'  The Os laid down his hammer and followed her down to the ground.
Freya led him to her chambers above the spell hall and turned to face him.  'It is said that you are the kindest of the Osfolk men and the most reluctant to spill blood.'
'That is so' Meilli replied.
'Godhome needs a new goddess, Meilli, with my strength and your compassion.'
Meilli regarded her in confusion 'What are you saying.'
'That I need your seed in my belly; it is time for you to be a father.'
It took a little while for her words to sink in, for Meilli had always been in awe of his adopted family, then he smiled with a big beaming grin.

Notes:

In the myths Freya has a strange obsession with war for a fertility goddesses.  It is Freya who teaches Odin battle magic and Freya who takes first choice of the battle dead.   In my version of the story Freya's aim is clear, – to protect the peacefolk folk forced into war from Odin's bloodthirsty afterlife.

The conflict between the warlike Way of Odin and the more peaceful goals of many of the other gods is a common theme in the mythology.  Odin's assumption here that the way of the warrior is the most worthy existence has coloured many interpretations of the old religion to the point where many consider Battlehall (or Valhall) to be the only afterlife, despite many other afterlifes being recorded in the early records, not least Freya's hall.

The magical spells are taken from accounts of old Norse witchcraft, the use of the platform or high seat, the battle spells, the sending of soul spirits, the forging of alliances with land spirits to learn of the health of the land, and adopting the shape of animals are all well documented.
After Gullveig's visit to Godhome, many of the Osfolk grew to fear and mistrust the mysterious Vans.  Thor avoided their territories when he rode about the Outlands.   Odin spoke to the warriors who held him as a friend in Middle Garth and told them of the Vans' wicked ways.  At his encouragement, many a raid was made in Middle Garth against the Van-loving menfolk.  Though satisfying, such retaliation made all the Osfolk uneasy.  It was a surprise to none when Heimdall blew his horn in warning.  The urgent message was passed that a throng of Vanfolk was approaching.

The men of the Osfolk and the battle trained Oswives pulled on their mail and gathered up swords and spears and stout ash shields.  They leapt onto their horses and rode hard for the Heavensmount gate.  Thor stood in the gate's middle to steady the line with a net of stone missiles at his feet and one ready in his hand.  On either side the Osfolk stood firm behind their shields, spears ready in hand.  There were the soul seeking oswives Skuld, Hlin and Gna; Odin, Tyr, Villi, Ve, Hoenir, Loki, Mimir and Borr of Battlehall; Ull and Ulf of Yewdale; Heimdall of Heavensmount, and reluctant Meilli of Stronghome.  The remaining Oswives and farmfolk gathered close behind.  

'What is woven in Wyrd?' Thor whispered to his sister Skuld.
'Changes are woven, but no death, no bloodshed' she answered.

Heimdall, his sight surpassing the eagles, frowned as he gazed at the approaching Vans.  As the newcomers came closer his fellow Osfolk gasped with surprise and disgust. The Vanfolk bore no weapons, many walked naked as new born babes while others sported green skin and flowing silver hair unknown in Middle Garth.   The Osfolk who remembered the games of Gullveig felt fear stir in their hearts, for these were the Vans, and their spellcraft surpassed that of even the trollwives. Thor frowned, wondering why Jord's protective fire, that still flickered across the bridge's road, did not burn them.  Why did the weaving of Wyrd foretell no death this day?  He shifted his grip on the stone uneasily.   The newcomers' spokesman, an elder with long silver locks and a cloak of gull feathers came forward. He halted four spear lengths before the bridge's end and addressed the Osfolk in a loud confident voice.

'I am Njord, Nertha's child and father to the house of the Vans. We come to demand settlement on harm done to our folk in Middle Garth.'
'Then speak' answered Heimdall.
'I will.  I speak of a tribe defeated in battle, every life destroyed, every homestead burnt, every wife raped and every thing of worth broken and hurled in a marsh. All this was done in the names of Tyr and Odin, let them come forward and offer payment for this outrage!'

Tyr laughed 'Those folk deserved to lose all! They fought with the skill of drunken grandmothers. They are well gone and our tribes will keep their lands, and any other lands that are so badly defended.'
'Such an attitude will only lead to war between our folk' Njord warned.
'So it be' replied Odin. 'Go and fetch your arms and we will fight, and then we will see who will be in debt.'
'We came ready for battle' Njord replied coldly.

'Then die well!' said Odin.  He hurled a spear high above Njord's head so it landed among the throng of the Vans, its head embedded in the fiery surface of the bridge. The Osfolk clashed their swords against the shieldwall bellowing their battlecries and bracing for the attack.  But no warriors came forward from the ranks of the Vans. A man and woman stepped out of the crowd, both naked and matched in height with the same yellow - golden hair. The man was a handsome fellow, with a rampant manhood that would give a horse pride.  The woman had curves which sparked reluctant desire in every male among the Osfolk. The couple linked hands and started to chant softly, the unfamiliar words grew louder until the air rang with deafening song. The ground in the god's garth shuddered and the great boulders and timbers of Godhome's gate tumbled down from the defences. The golden couple advanced on the horrified Osfolk, now feeling vulnerable without their sheltering walls.

Thor leapt forward intent on stopping whatever witchery the Vans planned.  Wyrd might stay him from shredding blood, but he could still wrestle this pair to the floor.  He shouted 'No! I can't let you do this...'  The woman glanced at the desperate thundergod. With a single word she halted him, her magical power grappled with Thor's mind and with a brief tortured cry he collapsed unmoving at her feet. The god's scream was echoed by his loyal Sigyn.  Uncaring of the danger and with tears streaming down her cheeks she rushed through the gap in the shieldwall to his side, and struggled in vain to revive him.

'How dare you?' accused Odin. 'How can you fight with such unmanly arts, have you no sense of decency?'
'Spellcraft is considered honourable among my people, as might is amongst yours' replied Njord.
'Pah!' Odin retorted.  'How can you say this?  Witchery is the resort of the lowest of woman, and no greater shame could such women know, even if they were to bed their own kin.'
'But we do bed our own kin, and our women are hardly humble ditchwives, the pure blood of Mother Nertha yields excellent stock.'

While all attention was on Odin and his caustic reply, Tyr crept from his place in the sheildwall, by the wall's ruins, leaving Villi to hold his shield in place. A young Van woman stood alone on the edge of the bridge and Tyr was eager to improve his kin's ailing position. Striking quickly he put his knife to the girl's throat and dragged her back to the Osfolk shieldwall. 'One more spell from you bastards and she's dead' he cried.

Njord frowned 'So you want to take hostages do you? Very well.' He leant down and pulled Sigyn upright, restraining her in his strong arms. 'You treat Beyla well if you want to see these two again. We will return when you are prepared to discuss terms.' Vans came forward and lifted the witless thundergod to their shoulders, and the whole gathering of Vanfolk turned their backs on Godhome.

The Osfolk lowered their shields and sheathed their untried swords.  They were quiet and sullen at their defeat.  However great their sword skill the warriors were helpless against such magic as the Vans had used. Bitterly angry, Odin paced over to the captured Van girl, who still had Tyr's knife pressed against her throat. 'Well girl, can you work magic?' The girl returned his gaze, any fear she felt for the Osfolk was well hidden. She nodded once. Odin swore 'Wonderful, now were have a hostage who needs watching night and day! Loki!' The trickster god came forward nervously 'Think you can keep a girl restrained?' Odin asked, his contempt clear.
'I hope so' Loki replied.
'Then take her out of my sight. Mind you stay awake until your watch is relieved.'

Loki led the girl to his chambers in rambling Battlehall. He wasted no time in admiring the naked Van walking beside him, noting with delight her firm high breasts, lithe curves and wispy silver-blond hair. Beyla followed Loki into his rooms and stopped in surprise. A large table crowded the first room cluttered with models made of timber, cloth, leather and twine. There were tiny boats, war catapults and even a jointed bird figure so carefully made it looked as if it could take flight. All around sheets of calf-skin were scattered, covered in neat sketches, symbols and tally marks. The walls bore shelves of all manner of artefacts from sculptures to sea shells and deep stacks of scrolls. Loki grinned as Beyla's darting eyes struggled to take in the scene.

'Strange,' she commented 'somehow I was expecting piles of weapons and a couple of troll heads nailed to the wall. You don't seem much like the other Osfolk.'

'I am not' Loki responded.  'So don't try any of you magic on me, because I will retaliate in kind.' He cleared space on the table and fetched two drinking bowls and a jug of Frigga's wine. 'So how do Vanwives like to pass the time - when you are not humbling war gods?'

He poured the wine and Beyla took her cup gratefully. 'I like to be with my bees and honey vats: I make all the mead for the Vanfolk.'

'Well there are no bees in here' said Loki 'so what do you do when you are not working?'

'I dance with the elf folk, sing love charms and sard' Beyla replied simply. Loki stared, that was not a word he had ever heard in Godhome.  The women of the Osfolk were never so blunt on that subject.
'What are love charms?' asked Loki.
'They are poetry, songs and spells combined: they are sung before sarding to make the men hard and the women eager.'
'I wish you could demonstrate' sighed Loki, 'but I am supposed to be guarding you.'
'I could swear not to try and escape' Beyla suggested.
Loki considered, but not for long. 'Very well, swear that you will not use your magic to escape me, and may the manhood of every Van you love never rise again, if you deceive me.'

Beyla frowned and sat in silence. Loki feared he had asked too much, but she did answer him. 'I can see it would be in the interests of peace between our folk. So I will oblige you.' She repeated the oath with all due seriousness. 'Are you ready?' Loki nodded eagerly. 'You must surrender yourself to me' cautioned Beyla.  'Open your mind and your loins to me and do not resist.' Loki agreed, already aroused.  Beyla sang, her poem oddly harsh with its coarse words but skilfully worked nevertheless. The first stanzas awoke her own body: she caressed her skin as she sang, shuddering with awakened passion. Then her song called to Loki.  Unprepared for the magic's power he cried out as each word tore at his very being, lust-longing filling him like the blade of a burning sword and he wept for wanting her. She straddled him and plunged down, and sang of the union of man and woman, of two becoming one. Loki suddenly became aware of Beyla's own feelings as well as his own and felt an overwelming rush of sensations, both male and female together. Humbled by pleasures never known, Loki sank into a sea of passion.

……

Thor stirred, his head groggy, and groaned.  Sigyn gripped his arm 'Are you well?' she asked, full of concern.
'I think so' the thundergod muttered. 'Where are we?'
'They brought us to Elfhome by magic.  Take care, we are surrounded by them' she whispered. Thor gazed blearily around. They both sat on a thick felt rug in the centre of a forest clearing. Around its outskirts Vanfolk sat attentively watching them in a great circle.  There were twelve of them, men and women, most of them were naked. The woman who had broken the walls of Godhome saw he was awake and walked over to speak to the Osfolk.

She introduced herself: 'I am Freya, the Lady of the Vans, I can speak for my people.'
'You must release me!' Thor growled, 'I am needed to defend Middle Garth against the trolls and black-hearted ettins!'
Freya was not intimidated by the angry thundergod.  'Has it not occurred to you that Beyla might be equally missed here?'
'Beyla? Who is Beyla?'
'The hostage taken from us by the Osfolk. We carried you back with us to ensure her safety, otherwise you would still be in Godhome. You are not returning until peace has been agreed.'
'Oh.' Thor's rage subsided slightly.
'We need you to help make the peace between the Osfolk and the Vans. If you do this, maybe you can return, but as things stand you are not stirring from this spot.'
'And who is going to stop me leaving if I do not agree?'
'I am' Freya replied smugly. 'Or need I remind you of my powers of persuasion?'

Thor remembered the burning pain, his last memory of the battle at Godhome's gate. His tender mind still ached.  He surveyed the clearing: each of the Vanfolk surrounding him was poised and watchful, ready to render him unconscious at any threat. Humbled, the thundergod sulked. 'Using magic against a warrior, that isn't fair play.'
'Do you see any weapons here?' asked Freya.
'No' Thor replied, 'and not many clothes either.'
'How do you think your ways of war appear to us? You who stride through your foes with slashing blades tearing flesh and stealing lives. Magic is clean.  It can leave the innocent unharmed, an advantage which has worked in your favour.' Thor was silent and sullen. 'Well think on it' urged Freya, 'I will send one of the elves to you with food and refreshment. We will speak again later.'

Soon after an elf woman approached carrying a board heaped with new-baked loaves, butter and fresh herbs.  She had a large earthenware jug hooked through her arm. The elf was modestly covered in a simple white gown; the Vans were clearly trying to make their hostages more comfortable. She filled two horn cups with a liquid that looked like ale, Thor took his gratefully and drank it down, then stared at it in surprise. 'This ale, it is sweet!'
The elf giggled, 'It is not ale; it is mead, made from honey.'
'Mead, eh?  It's very good'  he held out the cup for more.
'Beyla makes it, or did while she was here.  I hope she comes back; her bees are pining for her.' The elf sat on the soft springy grass beside them, waiting while they ate. When they were done she cleared away the platters and returned to the Osfolk. 'Would you like to sard now?'

Sigyn laughed unable to help herself. Thor blushed crimson beneath his beard. 'You expect me to copulate in front of that rabble?' He indicated the watchful circle of Vans at the clearing's edge.
'Forgive me' the elf smiled. 'I forgot you Osfolk are shy when it comes to… what do you call it… 'lovemaking'. But should you wish to sard I am available and a mate can be found for your housekeeper too.'  No one had ever accused Thor of being shy before: his hair bristled and sparked.
'It is a kind offer' said Sigyn, 'but not now, we like privacy.'
'I understand' the elf replied.  'I will fetch a game of tables instead.'

She returned soon with a wooden board and a leather bag which rattled. Despite their misgivings the Osfolk watched close and intrigued as she placed bone counters from the bag onto the marked board. 'We call this 'Frey's game' or 'tables'. The game is a battle between the white men with their king and the red men.' Time passed swiftly as Thor and Sigyn struggled to learn the unfamiliar skill, and the three were soon laughing merrily. Sigyn taught the elf the pebble game of her own childhood.  The elf girl called for more mead and the Osfolks' discomfort with the Vans started to lift.

Freya returned to the clearing with the golden haired man with whom she had worked her devastating spells.  He introduced himself as Frey and said 'It is time we made plans.  The Van Mother, Nertha, has come to her holy shrine in answer to our plea. We will take you there and she will advise us on what needs to be done.'

Frey and Freya led the Osfolk down thickly forested slopes to the edge of a lake.  A wide earth road, emerald green with thick moss, stretched out to an island glade. They followed the causeway, its verges thick with rushes and yellow flag. In the centre of the island there was a clearing dominated by a towering oak; two white oxen grazed on the grass. Beneath the great tree a veiled woman sat on a throne of rough limestone.  Two robed elf women sat at her feet counting bundles of rune staves.

'Here is our mother' said Frey 'The great goddesses Nertha. She knows all the secrets of the earth and hears the wisdom whispered by the wind. She will tell you how peace can be wrought between our houses. But before anyone can speak to the goddess, or even look upon her, they must swear to serve her. This is the first law of the Vanfolk.  Those who break it are drowned, here in the holy waters.'
'I cannot swear such an oath' Thor replied.
'Then no peace will be agreed,' said Freya, 'and you will never return to Godhome or Middle Garth. We are not trying to trick you, Os Thor. Any peace must be forged from trust.  So trust me now when I tell you that no harm will come to you or your kin from this.'
'I understand you,' Thor sighed, 'but I cannot swear unlimited obedience to a goddess of whom I have no knowledge. I can swear to show her respect and honour, to listen to her and to aid her if the cause is worthy, but no more. Will this suffice?'
Laughter came from beneath the lady's veil. Frey smiled 'It would appear that Mother Nertha is prepared to accept your compromise. You give your word?'
'I do' Thor replied.
Frey looked at Sigyn.  She nodded 'Yes I agree to that as well.'
'Then come.' Frey led them both before the throne.

Nertha's attendants lifted the goddess's veil over her crown of may blossom. She had a kindly face with piercing eyes and long grey hair, which to Thor was startlingly familiar. 'So, do you know me now boy?'  Nertha asked.  'This woman you claim to have no knowledge of?'' Her voice was also familiar and the baffled thundergod found the answer he was searching for all too easily.  'Jord?'
'Indeed. It would seem your captors have picked a fight with their own kin.'
'What is this?' asked Frey 'Is this Os related to you?'
'He is Frey. I shall explain to you all, for here is the answer to your difficulties.

'Long, long ago I built a great hall in Middle Garth.   I made men and elves from the trees, trolls and ettins from the stones and wood-wights and dwarves from the earth.  They bred and bred and filled the nine worlds.  I made three men from my own blood to serve me. The first was Perun; he was a warrior wild and fierce.  The second was Fjorgynn the wise and the third was dear Njord, the salt loving ship lord. As time passed and the boys grew I took them as lovers and kept their seed within my womb.

'I was wild in those early days, short of temper and a hard mother, wanting my way in all things. This displeased Perun and Fjorgynn. They challenged me. I took the form of a terrible dragon to subdue them and in my rage they were slain. Then a mother's grief tore through me and mellowed my fierce spirit. I withdrew far from the menfolk and left the other realms to my children. Njord stayed loyal and received Elfhome from me.'
'I bore children from the precious seed of my lovers.  Fjorgynn's essence sired the Norns, Frigga, Saga, Sybil, Verdandi, Urd and Skuld.  From Perun came Thor, and from Njord, Frey and Freya.'  

'Then this is excellent news' said Frey. 'We must acknowledge these Osfolk as our own blood and seek a middle ground between our tribes.'

'The Osfolk are not of one blood as the Vans are' Nertha cautioned.  'Some are kin to the ettins of the Outlands.  Odin is of the house of Borr; Heimdal is the offspring of Ran's daughters; Tyr is the child of Hymir and Loki is the son of the ettinwife Laufey.  It is to Thor and the goddesses you must look to for peace, and the others will follow.

'I have spoken to the Norns and unclouded the webs of the past for their eyes to see. They now speak of the godly tribes coming together as one people.  My daughters have already snared Odin and Tyr in wedlock.  A further mating approaches that will draw the ties ever closer.  

Thor was not convinced: 'I cannot see the Osfolk being keen to have close ties to the Vans, we are still having nightmares after Gullveig's pranks.'
'Gullveig is well known for her tricks' replied Nertha. 'Do not judge all the Vanfolk so harshly based on the actions of one.'
Freya sighed, aware of the difficulties ahead 'As Frey says, we must find a middle ground. If our nudity displeases you, let us travel to Godhome wearing clothes like the Osfolk and speak to Thor's people. Will you come with us, Mother Nertha?'
'I will' she replied 'but so that I may speak with the Osfolk freely, I will go as Jord, Thor's mother.'

The Vans made preparations for travelling. Frey's servant Skirnir was sent ahead with Sigyn to arrange a meeting between the Osfolk and the Vans at Urd's Well. The Vanfolk dressed in their best finery and harnessed their finest horses to carved wagons. The procession set off at a sedate pace to the hall of the Norns in the centre of the Nine Worlds.

So the gods met in the glade by the sacred well, the Osfolk on one side, the Vans on the other and in the middle the Norns stood outside their hall. The welfare of the two remaining hostages was confirmed. Beyla, still determinedly unclothed, stood at Loki's side among the frowning and sullen Osfolk.  Nertha stepped forward from among the Vans, she had removed her queenly trappings to resume her more humble identity as Jord. She addressed Odin: 'The Vanfolk have agreed that I may speak on their behalf and also for yourselves if you are willing.  Do you give your consent?'
'You are known to us and well regarded' Odin answered. 'I have no objection.'

Jord asked 'Do any object to the hostages being released to their kin?' Silence followed and the goddess gestured to Beyla and Thor. Beyla ran joyfully and embraced Frey, Freya and old silver haired Njord. Thor stepped beside his mother.

'And now,' added Jord, 'there is something you Osfolk should know. You are aware that Thor is my son and the Norns are my daughters?' The remaining Osfolk nodded, uncertain of her purpose. 'I am also the mother of the Vans.' The men of the Osfolk stared at her, then turned to the Norns who only nodded in confirmation. Jord continued, 'It is my wish and the wish of the Vans that both your houses should live together in peace. The making of this peace is not my concern, for I no longer live among you. Beyla, Thor, you have lived with your new friends, I suggest the two of you take over from here.' Jord turned her back on them and started her journey back to Middle Garth.

Odin was first to recover from the shock 'I refuse to have anything to do with these people and their cowardly witchcraft.'
Freya smiled sweetly 'I could teach you all how to work magic.'
'Magic is not for warriors, it is mere women's trickery.'
'Some of the ettins are not so particular' said Freya. 'They could walk into Godhome as easily as we could and there would be nothing you could do to defend yourselves'.
'She is right' said Loki. 'I think we should agree to her offer.'
'Oh yes' scoffed Odin, 'you have never been worried by perversion have you!?'
'Well I wouldn't mind knowing how she dealt with Thor', said Heimdall. 'She is quite correct: we cannot defend ourselves.'
Tyr stepped forward.  'I do not believe you are even considering this.  They sleep with their own kin, Beyla told me, that is disgusting.'
'Why?' asked Freyr 'Are we mortals that we should worry about such things, it does no harm to us.'
Thor stepped forward losing patience. 'These folk are stronger than we are, like it or not. So why are you judging them so harshly? Freya is offering her knowledge.  They wish to live with us peaceably when they could have taken anything they wanted from us. We need to give in return.' He turned to Freya. 'What do you want from the Osfolk?'
Freya smiled in gratitude, 'I am prepared to stay in Godhome and offer the wisdom of the Vans. I will need a garth of my own and a stead for a hall that I may live in the manner of the Osfolk.'

'That is fair.' agreed Thor.  'I can drain my water meadows for your use.  Do you want anything else?'
'I suggest that one of the Osfolk goes to live among the Vans to teach us your own skills, sword craft, house raising and the working of metal.'
'That is also fair.' Thor addressed the Osfolk: 'Who will live among the Vans?' Odin's friend Hoenir stepped forward and nodded in agreement. Beyla came to Freya's side and whispered in her ear.
The Vanlady smiled 'I have been reminded that you find our openness about…' she paused ' 'lovemaking'… to be disturbing. We will honour your customs in Godhome when we are in your company, though what I do behind the high hedges of my own garth is my own concern. As for our mating between siblings, that has long been our way, and such it will continue. Furthermore you will never again encourage your tribes in Middle Garth to attack ours. That is all.'
'Is this agreed?' asked Thor. The Osfolk voiced their approval with varying enthusiasm.

Four Vans came forward carrying a large soapstone cooking pot.  The smell of honey filled the air. 'And now' said Beyla, 'we shall work some Van magic. To mark our new friendship and the peace between our folk, all present should spit in this pot, that all our essences may be mixed together.' Such customs were also known to the Osfolk when they made bargains so they were happy to take part. All the Osfolk and all the Vans filed past the pot and spat into the honey. Beyla borrowed Mimir's sword and stirred the honey until the spittle was completely mixed in. The Van women chanted and the pot began to glow. A man rose from the pot, his hair and eyes the warm amber of the honey itself. The Norns brought a tunic to him and he pulled it over his gleaming bronze skin to cover his nakedness. He was a fine figure of a man. He opened his mouth and sang:

Hail to the holy, high gods of Osyard
Wassail to the wise, wights of Vanhome
Called am I Kvasir, kettle-born bard
Sprung from spittle, spawn of honeycomb.

Odin came forward and made the new Os welcome and offered him the shelter of his own hall.  Every time Kvasir opened his mouth to speak he poured forth verses.   The peace between the gods was celebrated in Thor's own lofty residence, which would be Freya's home until her own chambers could be built. The Vans beat their drums and shook their rattles as their women danced about the hearth fires. Sigyn, restored to her own domain, busied the hallfolk to carrying platter after platter of choice foods from the kitchens. She noticed that her master was strangely bashful in Freya's presence, and positively reddened when the Vanlady mentioned her duty to teach magic to all the Osfolk. Sigyn grinned: 'that one', she thought, 'will have him dancing to any tune she pleases'.

Thor made good his promise to gift his meadows to his new-found sister.  He worked hard to dig new waterways and hammered in elm piers to shore up the land for building.  The stead was well chosen, being so green and lush on the edge of the marshes of Fenbank.  Thor shaped and carried the pillars for her hall from the wild forests of Middle Earth.  Many hands were willing to finish the hall with Meilli overseeing the plans and the carvings.  In that early tide after the peace Thor rode hard and long on the roads of Outlands, claiming his duties bade him.  Though in truth he sought to avoid the Vanlady's lessons in unmanly arts and the lusty gaze of his sister.


Notes:
Little is known of the battle between the two houses of gods, the myths tell of it going badly against the Osfolk, of exchanges of the hostages, Freya and Hoenir, and the birth of Kvasir from the spittle of peace, but that is about all.

The Osfolk and Vans seem to represent two different religions which have been combined. This would explain why the deities duplicate one another so closely, especially Freya and Frigg who share many similar attributes, and Frey and Thor both famous fighters of ettins.  The main differences between the households seen in the old myths are the Vans' greater reliance on magic and their brother-sister marriages.  Following the peace Freya teaches the art of magic to all of the Osfolk, a fragment of lore that is often overlooked.  In Vanic lore Freya is the principle goddess and possibly even the most powerful deity; her role as teacher and priestess among the Osfolk is a strong reminder of her power.

The Norse game of tafl, a variant of chess, was once known as Frey's game in Iceland.

Nertha is based on the goddess recorded in the writings of Tacitus, the Roman historian.  I have altered the spelling as he gives her a male name 'Nerthus'.  She was one of the most powerful deities worshipped in north Germania and had links to fertility, lakes and human sacrifice.  She makes an ideal consort for the Vanfolk elder Njord.
Thor made his way to the hall's top table, eager for his breakfast.  He sat happily surveying the trenchers of fresh bread, steaming smoked herring and bowls of bubbling porridge, then frowned.  Oba approached smiling with a heavy ale jug in her arms which he accepted gratefully and asked 'Oba, where's the meat?  Is it still in the kitchens?'
'Oh no, Os Thor.  I am so sorry.  We had trays of meat prepared but there is a new woman come.  She was half starved and she ate it all.'
Sygin approached then with a further jug of ale for Thor's table and sat down beside him, her duties in the kitchen's done.  Thor said to her: 'I hear we have a hungry newcomer.'
'We do indeed, she is very agitated, leave her a while by the kitchen hearth to calm herself.  I offered her the use of my chambers, I hope I did right.'
'I am sure you did, good Sygin.  I will speak to her later.  Oh well, porridge it is then.  Thor drew the serving bowl towards him and shovelled the contents down his throat with the ladle.'
Sygin watched him with fond amusement.

Thor walked his lands checking on the health of the cattle and the fields newly ploughed and harrowed.  Satisfied, he returned to the hall and, curious, took the stone vaulted steps to the kitchens below.  The newcomer sat huddled in a woollen shawl in a chair by the hearth, now a deep bed of embers.  Thor filled a cup with wine and knelt by the fire to heat a poker.  'I have come to welcome you.  Sygin tells me you arrived in some distress: is there anything you need I can help with?'
'N-n-o-o' the woman stammered.
Thor pulled out the poker and dipped it into the wine, then passed the cup to the newcomer.  She hesitated then held out a hand to accept it.  As the wine warmed the troubled heart and loosened her tongue she started to speak.
'I am no stranger to you' she said haltingly. 'My home was at Battlehall, but I dare not go back there now.'
'Why not?' Thor asked softly.
'They will laugh at me.'
'Tell me what troubles you.  I won't laugh at you.'
The woman gripped the empty cup hard, gathering her courage.  'I am Loki.'
Thor stared, shocked, and seeing his reaction the woman buried her head in her shawl and sobbed.  Thor took away the cup and seized her hands, 'Tell me what has happened to you.'
'Is there any more wine?'
Thor heated another cupful and thus fortified Loki told her story.

'I was out alone in the Outlands, I like to go and dally with the land wights.  They are good company and eager in lust.  I fell in with a band of them but they tricked me and led me astray, thinking it a game to leave me in a strange valley.  I was hungry after my sporting and tired, and what did I find there but a camp fire, bread and a bubbling pot of stew.  Though my belly growled I called and called but there was no one there.  So I broke off a piece of bread and dipped it in the stew.  The flavour was strange and salty but it was filling, so I ate more and before I knew it the food was all gone.

'It was then that the owner of the camp returned, of course.  It was a witch woman, but no trollwife, a witch woman of the Vans.  She feigned anger that I had eaten her food and then laughed at me, for the tempting meal had been a trap, a trap and a curse.

'Oh Thor, believe me when I say that I knew nothing of what was in that pot, but she had cooked that stew from a heart taken from a living woman of Middle Garth, the woman whose lich I now bear.  She shook her witch staff when she said those words and I was as you see me, and for all my spellcraft I cannot change back.'

Thor's eyes flashed with anger to hear of harm done to the folk of Middle Garth, but he gripped Loki's hand firmly in reassurance.  'Do you know how you can be freed from this witchery?' he asked.

'Alas,' cried Loki 'I am doubly cursed.  There wasn't just heart in that stew but a full measure of troll seed too.  I am with child.  I must go through with bearing a troll litter to regain my true form.'

Jord's son was silent a while, taking in the strangeness of the tale.  Finally he said 'I understand your distress, Loki.  I agree it will be easier for you to spend this time here than at Battlehall.  Stay here as long as you have need.  Sigyn will care for you.  I will send for her so that she can see to your comforts.'  Thor made to leave, then turned, puzzled, 'How is it that you know shape-changing anyway?  That is a rare skill.'  
'I don't like to talk about it.' came the reluctant reply.  'But my grandmother was a troll wife; she taught me the skills, and taught me to fear my own kin.'
'Well, you have new kin now.'
Loki smiled, much relieved 'Thanks Os Thor.'

Sygin took charge of Stormbright Hall's new guest, bathed her and looked out for gowns to cheer her spirits.  Loki regarded her new body in Sygin's mirror with disgruntlement.  'It wouldn't be so bad if I was pretty, but I am so plain and drab', she complained.
'No, no,' Sigyn disagreed 'you look motherly to me.'
'Motherly?' Loki tried the word, desperate for any good news.
'Yes motherly, some men admire that greatly, so take heart.'
It was not in Loki's character to be depressed for long, maybe there was some fun to be had in the situation after all.

The fields of Stronghome were sown and the young crops grew tall.  Loki adjusted well to her new role and bustled about the kitchens in swirling skirts.  Any amusement caused by her state soon faded under her acceptance of her new lich.  Thor sighed as breakfast after breakfast found his table bearing nothing but fish, bread and porridge.  'Has she eaten all the meat again?' he roared a few spans after Loki's arrival.
'Oh take pity' urged Sigyn 'she is eating for four.'
'Four?'
'Yes Loki told me that trolls bear younglings in threes.'

Loki's belly grew rounder and the grain in the fields of Stronghome was ripe for harvest.  All the folk of Stormbright Hall worked hard and Thor was delighted when the granaries were full and suggested a feast out in the newly cleared fields.  

The other godfolk were invited and most were glad to come and join in the drinking and dancing.  All joined in the feasting and but Heimdall, who, as always, refused to leave Godhome's gate and Urd and Verdandi, who seldom left their hall at the Great Ash.

The ale was flowing freely and the gods and goddesses had linked hands and were dancing around a large fire under the ever shining sun.  A stranger came among them.  'Ah,' spoke Frigga 'this is Gullveig of the Vans, I have been expecting her.'
Loki looked up from her cushioned seat at the fireside, and stared in shock  'No, don't trust her!  That is the Van Witch who tricked me.'
'I saw nothing of concern in my loom,' Frigga rebuked her gently 'I have foreseen that Gullveig's visit will be most instructive.'
'Welcome lady.'  Thor came forward to greet her and Sygin stepped up to the newcomer with an alehorn in welcome.
Gullveig drank deep and said 'I see I have interrupted your dancing, let me make amends and sing you one of the lovesongs of the Vanfolk.'
'By all means' Thor agreed readily.

Gullveig raised her voice in song and the words and runes entwined through it severed the mind-ties of all who heard it.  She sang for a long while and when she was done the godfolks' wits were restored.  The gathering was in turmoil.  Frigga's eyes first fell on a wiggling pile of naked arms and legs and saw her husband's bemused face rise from among them.  The bare limbs proved to belong to her handmaidens.  'Odin!' she gasped, shocked.  
'Huh!' the Warfather replied as he extricated himself. 'You can talk!'
Frigga glanced down in growing horror, to find herself bare as a babe and straddled astride Meili.  He grinned up at her nervously 'Er hello, Oswife Frigga.'
Nearby Thor and Loki were howling in revulsion having found themselves entangled together, while across the fire from them Ull and his aunt Saga were in a similar predicament.  

Gullveig was laughing herself hoarse.  The godfolk snatched up the nearest clothing they could find and attempted to recover their dignity.  
'What was the meaning of that?' bellowed an incandescent Odin, he was wearing Sygin's shift but hadn't noticed.
'Just a little game' sniggered Gulveig. 'Why so angry?  You were really enjoying yourselves!'
'I don't know what kind of behaviour you are used to,' Odin stormed 'but that was... that was a perversion!'
'Oh come, there is no harm in a little fun.'
'Fun?' screamed Odin.  'Poor Thor looks like his heart has stopped!'
'Yes, fun' Gullveig grinned. 'So many rules here, so many inhibitions, shed them and you will enjoy life so much more.  Here I will show you.'  She started to sing again.  Odin was ready for this and smashed his fist into her teeth, to his dismay she just smiled back at him unhurt.  
'Get her!' Odin bellowed and Tyr, Vili and Ve joined their blows to his, but their heartfelt violence had no effect on the witch wife.  She opened her mouth again to sing and, in desperation, Tyr grabbed her about the waist and threw her into the fire.  The flames roared and the air filled with the foul stench of burning flesh.
'Good riddance!' muttered Tyr angrily.
'Thank you' said Frigga. 'I think a long bath is in order.  I suggest we meet soon to discuss these Vanfolk.  If that is their typical behaviour we should learn all we can about them.'
The traumatised godfolk returned to their halls in silence, all wishing their could purge their minds of recent events.

When the godfolk rose after resting, grim and subdued they gathered at Fenbank hall about the hearthfire.   'I didn't sleep' admitted Ull. 'I fear that terrible experience will haunt me through many lives of men.'
A familiar voice filled their hearts with dread.  'But my dear Ull, your troubles have only just begun.'
Gullveig stood in the hall, there was no sign of the fire on her, her mocking smile was cruel.  'I offered you the joys of lust and you repaid me with murder.  So now I have a harder lesson for you.'  Gullveig raised a large sack in her arms and spoke the strange runes of the Vanfolk.  The sack burst showering the room with small ingots of gold.  She spoke more runes and again the mind-ties of the gods were severed and new ones forged.  She watched the gods' downfall with glee and when she was finally satisfied with their humiliation she released them.  

Thor came to his senses with his lips on Friggas and his hands clutching her her soft flesh through her torn gown, the afront to his sister pained him greatly but the carnage in the room pained him more.  He was seated in Fenbank's high seat with all the gold piled about him.  All around the room the other godfolk were lying battered, bruised and bleeding.  To his increasing horror he saw that Frigga was badly bruised.  Thor's eyes were awash with tears to think he had harmed those he most loved, and for gold?  Furious he advanced on Gullveig and made to strike her, but try as he might he could not harm her.  In the depths of despair he threw her onto the hearth and held her there until the flames charred her to the bone.

One by one Thor attempted to revive the battered godfolk.  The heavily pregnant Loki had to be rescued from one of the rafters, Sigyn was in a senseless heap behind Frigga's table linen press, Saga lay spreadeagled on the floor with two fine black eyes.  Finally he checked the hardier warriors of Battlehall.  He gently pulled Odin back through the splintered hole in the hall's wall which seemed to have been created with the Warfather's head. Thor winced in sympathy.  Odin groaned, and opened his single eye.  'What hit me.'
'I think I did. That witch put another spell on us.  Are you hale?'
'I think I will mend.  What did she do to us this time?'
'We were fighting over gold' Thor admitted with disgust.
'Gold? Where?' Odin spotted the gleaming pile by Frigga's high seat. 'Ooooh!'
'Forget it,' Thor growled in a tone that disuaded argument.  'I am going to hurl the poxed stuff in the marsh.'

The godfolk made their way to their baths and beds to ease their sores and Thor did what he could to restore order at Fenbank.  He repaired the broken timbers and scrubbed the walls trying to rid the place of the stench and grease of roast witch-flesh.  Frigga approached him with one of her golden wine cups.
'Oh sister, I can't say how sorry I am.'
'Peace brother, you couldn't help it, no more than any of us could.'
Thor sat down heavily, drank and regarded his sister 'Why was there no warning of this in Wyrd's Web?'
'I am not sure, when I look at the weave I cannot see any sign that the Vanfolk are a threat.  Their origin is a mystery, as if hidden from us.  Even mother has her secrets, she hid some of the past from us.'  Frigga hugged him fondly 'You have done enough, go and rest.  I don't think we have seen the last of Gullveig: her thread is still clear on the loom.'
'Wonderful!' groaned Thor.

Few of the gods slept well and they rose pained by fear and uncertainty.  They gathered together, this time in the wastes between Stronghome and Battlehall and built a large fire for comfort and defence.  Gullveig appeared among them again and was scornful of their obvious concerns.  'You call yourselves gods yet you run from lust and the promise of wealth.  Your lives must be poor indeed.  No doubt if I offered to teach you magic you would object to that too.'
'Indeed we would, witch' replied Odin.  'We have seen enough of your evil enchantments.'  The godfolk grumbled in agreement.
'Oh no.  You have seen nothing yet'  said Gullveig.  She drew a rune stave from behind her back and flicked it upwards.  The gods felt their strength ebb from them as silver mist swirled from their heads, they sank to their knees and seized one another's shoulders in panic and confusion.  The mist took form and became a host of running and flying creatures.  The godfolk lost consciousness and awoke in the animal ghosts, Frigga flapped slowly as a heron, Ull ran as a wolf, Skuld was a swan
and a dozen more creatures spiralled round and round at the witch's whim.

A red haired vixen broke free of the aimless dance and returned to her lich.  Loki was a master of the craft and easily willed her fetch back into her mind.  Loki rose and seized the witch, catching her tight in her arms, and threw her into the fire.  She held her there until her troublesome tongue was burned away.   The creatures remained circling.  One by one Loki caught them and eased them back into the liches of the gods and goddesses.

The godfolk lay about the fire half dazed.  Skuld tried to voice a question and the sound came out as the blare of a swan.  She clapped her hands over her month.
'That will pass.' Loki said trying to reassure her.  'You might feel the urge to eat pond weed for a few hours too.  It gets better with practice.'
'I feel that she has gone' said Sybil.
'Loki managed to kill her?' asked Odin.
'No, but the ordeal is over.'
'I think that calls for a feast' mused Thor rubbing his eyes.  'I could murder a few rabbits.'
'I would prefer fresh eyeballs' said Odin.
'Raw trout' added Frigga.
Silence descended as they realised what they had said.
'There are no eyeballs in the kitchens' admitted Sygin.  'So maybe I will just cook bread, roast pork and spice cake and hope that you are truly yourselves by the time it's cooked.'



Thor sat awaiting his breakfast, beneath the high seat in Stormbright Hall.  Three merrily laughing farm lasses of Middle Garth brought the ladened boards and platters to his table.  He sighed in deep contentment: beside the porridge and herrings there were slices of vension, ham and fatty sausage.
'Ah, that's better.' he sighed and started to pile his plate high.
Her duties done in the kitchen, Sigyn came to join him.  Thor asked 'So how is our new mother?'
'Oh, he is back in his chambers in Battlehall.'
'What already?  She only went into confinement three spans ago.'
'Well, it was an interesting event.  She bore three healthy troll girls.  Loki tried to feed them but they bit her.  Those little tusks are very sharp.  I think troll mothers have rather thicker skin.'
'You could be right.'
'So we put the trolls back in their crib and I took Loki to the wash room to bandage her.  And when we got back there were only two trolls.'
'One escaped?' Thor asked with concern.
'No they ate it.'
'Charming children!'
'Indeed.  It turned out they are born weaned anyway.  We took them out in the gardens and they started eating the smaller birds and mice.  In fact they seemed quite capable of fending for themselves so Loki released them in the Outlands.'
Thor laughed 'So he is back to his old self.'
'Indeed.  And if you every find a red haired troll wife throwing rocks at you, you know who is to blame.'

Notes:
This tale is based on two brief fragments of tales from the Eddas.  The first is a lost tale of Loki in which he ate a woman's heart and gave birth to trolls.  The second is the arrival of the witch Gullveig in Godhome.  Her name means 'lover of gold' and she so offends the gods that they try and burn her three times.  All other details are my own invention.
Wights of Wood and Hall

Thor was preparing a new field for his ever expanding flock of sheep.  Each boundary now had a high bank and ditch, and had been planted with blackthorn, elder and dog-rose two harvests before.  After tasting many flavours of Frigga's excellent wine, Sygin had wisely suggested that the hedges should bear their own harvest.  Thor had readily agreed.  

He was hard at work under the bright sun, cutting the saplings and weaving them into a tight barrier. He bent to check that the boughs were closely spaced and able to thwart most adventurous of sheep, when he felt a prickle of discomfort, as if being observed.  He turned to see an elfwife approaching him.  He greeted her with fond delight for it was the goat elf from Vingnir's valley.

'I don't know what brings you here but you are welcome.'  He knelt down and hugged her.
'I will not stay long as this land is too tamed for my comfort.  I came to speak to you on behalf of three forest wights who have lost their home to the farming folk.'
'I am sorry to hear that.'
'I see that you are and it does you credit.  They came to me for help and I told them to search the worlds for a new home they liked as well as the last.  They were gone a good while and then they returned to me.  They babbled a fine yarn about a mountain crafted from living trees.  I though they had been munching the more frightful mushrooms but now I see they told the truth.'  The elfwife nodded towards Thor's hall.
Thor laughed 'Yes I have a wooden mountain, that is just how Sygin named it when she first came here.  So your friends, they want to live here?'
'If it pleases you.'
'It may well, by all means send them to me.'
'Come out!' called the goat elf and three nervous wights slunk out of the newly laid hedge and hid behind her skirts.
'I am not going to bite you' promised Thor.
One wight edged forward: he had long dark hair that covered his body like a thick coat, from which skinny arms and legs protruded.  Otherwise he resembled a man of Middle-Garth, but for his height, a mere three feet.  'We are not afraid of you Jord's son.  It is the land it is strange.'
'Then come with me.'  Thor strode off to the pasture completed some twelve harvests before and led the wights to the shade of the mature hedge.  Branches of hawthorn and bramble criss-crossed the sky and the wights sighed with relief.  'Now how can I serve you?'
'We are searching for a new home, mighty Os.  We ran from one wood to another, from one world to another and we found the deep dry caverns under your tree mountain and it felt good.  It would be a grand stead for an elf.'
'I am sure it would' grinned Thor.
'The cavern is in the care of the dark skinned lady?'
'It is indeed.  My housekeeper Sigyn.'
'We tried to ask her if we could stay but she couldn't hear us.'
'I am not surprised, she was born in Middle Garth and it is rare for those folk to see land spirits.'
'Will you ask her for us?'
'I will do better than that.  If you can wait nine waking spans you can ask her yourselves.'

The cornfields were ripe and ready to harvest at Stronghome.  Thor swung the scythe tirelessly while the hallfolk, Meilli, Sigyn, Col and Oba, gathered and bound the sheaves behind him.  Thor's sturdy goats pulled the harvest cart behind the workers, encouraged by the occasional apple that Sigyn tossed to them.

After three waking spans Thor cut the last few stems and raised them above his head in triumph.  Sigyn laughed happily and bent to gather the last few sheaves to pile on the cart, but to her surprise there was no more work to do.  She took the last stalks, from Thor and hugged her.  'A good task done.' he said, lifting her and spinning her around.  'Lets get the cart into the barn and bathe and rest.  Later shall we have a feast to celebrate?'
'Oh yes, let's: I will send word to your sisters.'

Sigyn and Oba worked hard all the next waking span in the kitchens to make a fine feast worthy of the harvest home.  Meilli took great care dressing the tables and hanging the walls with greenery, ribbons and plaited wreaths of corn.  With the lamps lit, the hammered gold on the pillars and beams glowed, and the hall looked splendid.  The folk of Fenbank and Stronghome and the Norns, Saga, Skuld and Sybil, gathered in high spirits and enjoyed Sigyn's excellent cooking and two whole barrels of Frigga's wine.

Thor insisted that Sigyn sit beside him for the feast and said to her 'This is the sixth harvest you have seen in this hall.  Do you like your life here?'
'Dear Thor,' she replied 'I have never been happier.'
'Do you think you would ever tire of living here?'
'No, oh no!'
'Then maybe it is time.' Thor put his arm around his housekeeper and addressed his sisters.  'Can the loom of Wyrd carry a little extra weight?'  He met each of his sisters gaze and awaited their reply.  
Sybil answered, holding the sleepy Ull opon her knee.  'The extra weight is already born, some futures are certain, and I would say the gift is well earned.'
'What weight?  What gift?' asked Sigyn, confused.
'A goddess treads more heavily on the web than a mortal lass.' Thor kissed her forehead fondly 'You have a done a grand job of running this hall, but this will help you.'  Thor pricked his finger on his eating knife and let the drops fall into Sigyn's wine.  'There now drink up.'  Nervous and aware of the gaze of the assembled godfolk Sigyn drained the cup dry.  'I don't feel different.' she whispered. 'You will soon notice the difference.' Thor promised.

Finally Frigga's barrels of wine had run dry and the company left the table for the beds prepared for them in the rooms above.  Thor scooped up Sigyn and carried her to her chamber on the first level above the hall.  'I think you are old enough now to know if you are interested, and you have always been wise enough to beat me off if you are not.'
'Interested?'  
'Aye.'  Thor kissed her on the lips for the first time and the delighted Sigyn held him tightly.

Sigyn awoke to find Jord's son still asleep in her bed.  She leant over and kissed him gently and rose, eager to set the kitchen to rights.  Her eagerness surprised her, for she had always felt groggy after drinking so deeply of Frigga's powerful wine, but her head was clear.  

She pulled on the clothes she kept for cleaning and walked slowly down to the hall and then stepped down the stone stairs into the kitchen to light the fire for the bread oven and the porridge pot.  Her mind was clouded with thoughts of the harvest feast and she almost missed the sight of the three wights standing by the hearth stones.    The spirits bowed low as she approached. 'Who are you?' she asked, for she had never seen such creatures before.
'We greet you, Oswife' replied their spokeman.  'My name is Hob, we are wood elves seeking a new home after our dear forest was felled.  I name to you my brother Rob and my sister Berta.'
'Can I offer you a drink and something to eat?' Sigyn asked.  
'That would be kind' replied Hob, beaming.
Sigyn took three small ale bowls from the dresser and filled them with ale and set them at the table.  The wights scrambled up onto the benches and raised the cups eagerly, only to gasp and splutter at the contents.
'Oh!' cried Sigyn with great concern 'don't you like ale?'
'Its so strong, mistress!' cried Berta wheeling.  She promptly fainted.
'Oh Oswife,' Hob hiccupped. 'It's most kind of you but we drink nothing stronger than water.'
Sigyn was saddened as water seemed a poor welcome.  'Do you like milk?' she hazarded.
'Milk?'
'I have cow's milk and goat's milk in the diary.  Would you like some?'
'I think we would' Hob replied, beaming broadly.
Sigyn fetched a jug of cool milk from the cold room and the little wights drained their cups and drained them again.  Berta was revived and she too eagerly drank her share.
'I will never curse an open field again,' swore Hob. 'If this is the reason for the tree felling, I bless the cows!  Oh Oswife, please make us the happiest of elves and let us live here to serve you.'
'That is for Thor to decide.'
'It is not Os Thor who milks the cattle, sweeps the hearth and minds the dairy, the decision lies with you, mistress.'
'You have already tried to help me, haven't you?'
'Yes mistress.'
'I thought there was less dust in the unused rooms than there should have been, and you helped load the harvest wain.'
'We did, we did.'
Sigyn considered:  'Let us try nine waking spans and see if you prove a blessing to the hall.  If it goes well I will ask Thor if you can stay.  Tell me, Hob, how many of the folk here can see you?'
'The Osfolk can see us mistress, and Middle Garth folk with the elf sight can see us too.  The maid who helps you about the dairy, I think she can see us, though we have done our best to hide.  She stared at me when I peered around a door and then shook her head as if to cast away a dream.  The lad who works the grind stones, I could bite his nose before he knew I was there.'
'Please don't torment poor Col, take care not to frighten him.  I will speak to Oba so that she will not be surprised to see you.'
'How can we serve you mistress?' asked Hob.
'You could stir the embers and add some logs to the fire.'
Hob ran to obey and seized up the poker without thinking in his eagerness to please her.  Then he howled as if in pain and the poker clattered to the hearth stones.  'Oh mercy' he wailed, 'it is iron!'
The elf was truly distressed and his fuzzy-haired palm was red where the metal had touched it.  Sigyn picked up the poker, puzzled, it was cold to her touch as it had not been in the flames.  
'You are hurt by iron?'
'Yes mistress.'
Sigyn seized a larger bowl from the dresser and filled it with milk and urged the wood-wight to ease his hand in it.  'I am being a poor mistress, you will be lucky to survive the waking span under my care.  Will anything else harm you beside strong drink and iron?'
'Most metals cause pain to the land wights: iron is the worst, it sends ill trembles down the threads of our Wyrd.'
'Well you can help in the dairy and brew room without touching metal.  What metal tools there are I will ask Meilli to remake for you in wood or bone.'
'How can we start, Oswife?' asked Berta.
'You could milk the cows; they are out in the west field.'  Sigyn laughed realising they would not consider that a chore.  'And feel free to quench your thirst while you are about it.'  She gave each of the wights a wooden pail and shooed them out of the kitchens.

Oba and Col staggered down the kitchen steps yawning and groaning from the effects of the harvest feast, while Sigyn was stirring the porridge.  They sat wide eyed as the Oswife explained about the new helpers.  Having been first to rise, Sigyn left them to finish filling the breakfast platters and made her way up to the hall with a jug of ale in each hand.  She was pleased to see Frigga at the high table and went to sit beside her  'There are three wood-spirits milking the cows outside.'
'I know.' Frigga replied with a smile 'So little time as an Oswife and already you are changing Wyrd.'
'In a good way?'
'I think so, as these three move from forest to hall others will follow.'
'That is good to know.  I was going to ask your advice.  I want to do something to make them feel extra welcome, give them some gift.'
'Well, nothing metal, they fear it.'
'I know, but do you know what I should give?'
'Wyrd is unwoven, whatever you choose will be right.  Trust your heart dear Sigyn.'
The housekeeper laid a hand over hers in acknowledgement and thanks.  'Do you have any of your scarlet woollen cloth.'
'I do.'
'Then I know what I will give them.'
'I will make them something too.' promised Meili. 'If they are sharing your burden they have my thanks.'

Nine waking spans had passed.  The wights had milked Thor's cattle twice each waking span and thought themselves rich as mountain kings to sup the first drops of cream.  Every floor of the hall gleamed where their brushes and mops had scrubbed, and Meili had promised to make two more brew tubs to keep up with their eager work.

There was a knocking from the hearth stones and a crack yawned in one of the larger stones flanking the fire, and from that crack the three wights emerged as willing as ever to face the work of the waking span.  They paused, for laid on the hearth flags were three piles of gifts.  The wights exclaimed with delight.  On each pile was a drinking cup and porridge bowl carved from ash, with a different pattern bordering the lip of each one.  There was a bundle of spoons and knifes of different sizes carved from beech and bone and under these there was a little red cap trimmed with fine braid with a yellow lightning flash.  Berta pulled on her cap proudly and found a space for her cup and bowl on the long dresser.  Her brothers did likewise.  'We have done it, we have found a new home.' cried Hob and he led a wild dance about the kitchen table.  Sigyn watched from her chamber window as she combed her hair  and saw the three little wights make their way through the fields with the milking pails, gleefully waving their new caps.

Thor was well pleased to have his ale rooms so well stocked and his cows so well tended.  He spoke quietly to his farmer friends in Middle Garth and let them know how to entice the wights to their homes.  And indeed, a trail of milk from felled forest to farmstead won the loyalty of many an elf.

Notes:

This story is based on folklore found throughout the Germanic countries of the house spirit, a divine helper or servant who lives with humans.  The appearance of the spirits in this tale is based on English folklore that describes them as naked and very hairy.  Well treated they work hard and despite their small size can perform more work than a man.  If they are badly treated or are slighted by design or misunderstanding they cause destruction, killing livestock and behaving like vengeful ghosts.

English names given to the spirits include Hob or Hobthrust.  Hob and Robin, both pet forms of Robert are common English names for the fairy folk, hence Hob Rob and Berta.  The red cap is a common badge for the house spirit and is worn by the tomtes of Norway and the gnomes of Germany (rather embarrassingly remembered in the twee garden statues which were originally inspired by German house spirits).  The red cap is better known in England as the badge of a witch or wise woman who was often known by the nickname Mother Red Cap, but still with strong links to the supernatural.

The idea that the house spirits sleep within the hearth stones is also from English folk tales.  The traditional payment in most regions for a wight's services is a bowl of porridge.

The fear of iron is often found in connection with nature spirits, but not normally among house wights.  Presumably the wilder wights fear the axes of humans destroying their homes.

The idea that house spirits will leave after being given clothes is common but not universal.  Where a reason is given the spirits feel inspired to move up in the world and seek better positions.  One English tale has a spirit leave because the clothes are of too poor a quality and are perceived as an insult.  In this case Sigyn need have no worries, as there is no better establishment for an house wight than Stormbright Hall.
Odin's Troll Hunt

Tyr basked in his double victory and throughout Godhome the air was noisy with his praise.  His fellow Outlanders felt they needed to gain a success of their own to prove their equal worth.  The friends were gathered in Odin's private chambers at Battlehall, sharing their plans over a barrel of good ale.

'All we need to do' said Hoenir 'is go out into the Outlands, find a troll and kill him.'
'Tricky,' muttered Odin 'they are very strong.  Tyr must be more powerful than we realised.'
'I could bring one down with magic' Loki reminded them.
'No' Odin objected 'we are Osfolk now and should behave as warriors, not as chanting trollwives.'
'I am not a warrior' Loki replied sulkily.
'Then stay here' Odin retorted coldly.
Loki rose to leave, but concern for his friends forced him to speak.  'Beware of the trollwives, if you meet one without my aid, she will kill you.'
'Don't worry yourself' Hoenir smiled. 'We will only look for a male.'

Odin and Hoenir made ready and sharpened their weapons.  Mother Bestla looked over their travelling clothes and made repairs where needed.  Loki boasted of his intention to seduce every farm lass at Stormbright Hall, as he was not needed, and breezed off.  Once out of sight he changed his shape into that of a crow, a bird common and unremarkable both in Godhome and the nearer reaches of the Outlands, and followed the hopeful warriors.

The friends rode out through the fields of Stronghome and took the path past Urd's Well to the wilds beyond.  'So' said Hoenir 'how do we find a troll without a female?'
'By smell?' Odin guessed.  'You can smell male trolls for miles.'
'I would be happier if we could smell the females.'
Odin stood his horse a moment and pondered.  'The males live like animals in caves and holes.  The females live in house-like dwellings.  If we track the troll scent to a cave he should be alone.  If we track it to a hut we will leave them be.'
'I hope you are right' Hoenir replied uneasily.

They rode three leagues beyond the Great Ash and finally entered the troll lands.  Hoenir spotted a likely looking cave above the pine darkened valley.  They moved down wind and breathed in the air.  Odin nearly choked, 'Garrrgh!  That is foul, that's a male for sure.'
'Well, it's a cave,' Hoenir muttered 'should be safe.'
'Indeed.  Let's go.'

They crept through the trees: trolls are dangerous opponents and surprise would be a valuable weapon in the fight.  They ignored the crow flapping from branch to branch above them.  Spears raised ready, they crept up the rocky slope to the cavemouth.  Using their well-tested hunter's signals, they stepped quietly as one into the reeking hole.

The cave was dark and piled high across the floor with bones, scraps and dung.   A central fire filled the space with smoke and half hid a lumpen figure that faced away from them and seemed to be scraping at the floor with a stick.  Odin and Hoenir crept forward, hearts pounding with excitement.  The foul matter on the hearth burned away and the air cleared a little.  The figure turned and Odin swore, for facing him across a tidy new built hearth was a female.

The females are much smaller than the males but far more dangerous, for they are wise and skilled in all the magical arts.  It is a foolish warrior who does not fear them.  The trollwife snarled, spoke a harsh word and their weapons shattered in their hands.  She spoke again and their sinews were frozen leaving them helpless.  Odin stared up in growing horror.  She was seven feet tall but very broad, with wide hips to push out the stockier male young.  She was heavy breasted and her face was a nightmare, wild straw-like hair tangled in witch knots and lumpy saggy flesh around smoke redden eyes.  'Boy!' she shouted, her voice distorted by her protruding tusks.  'Fire the oven!'

From the dark rear of the cave a lad of Middle Garth appeared, the flesh that showed about his ragged shirt was blue with bruises.  He hurried to do the monster's will.  The trollwife lashed her prey's hands and legs tightly and hung them up on iron hooks hammered into the roof of the cave.  Odin and Hoenir dangled there in great discomfort, still frozen by her spell.  The trollwife hissed over the spear fragments and cast them into the fire.

There was a vast oven at the rear of the cave that looked newly made and the floor there had been scraped clean.  The harried lad carried embers to the oven and added kindling and logs so that a fire roared below it.  'Keep it hot, Boy' the trollwife snarled around her teeth.  'I am eager to taste their flesh.'  She returned to her work, shovelling the piled filth onto the fire.

Loki peered into the cave, still in his crow's shape, saw and understood all in an instant and flew off to safety.  There was little about trolls that Loki did not know.  He knew well that the trollwife was looking for a mate, and was preparing an offering that no male troll could resist, a good meal and a tupping in his own cave.  His friends had saved her the trouble of hunting manflesh.

Loki flew far from the cave and far downwind.  His time as a hunter had taught him the use of scents to track and attack prey.  He took on a new shape; his flesh boiled and flowed upwards and outwards until a rugged he-troll stood on that lonely fell.  He worked hard on the details, the broken tusks, the neck boils, the fetid moss clinging to the damp soil beneath the tail.  Then more important than all, the smell.  He created a reek so potent he could barely stand upright within its dank cloud.  He roared and heard the mating call echo down the valleys.  Perfect.

Loki crashed through the trees, circling back towards the cave until the stiff breeze did its work.  The trollwife had stripped Hoenir of his clothes and shaved his hair.  She was just reaching for the flint blade she used for gutting when her nose began to twitch madly.  Fortunately for Hoenir there was something she wanted more than food.  She knocked her dinner senseless with a stone and screamed her willingness.

Odin watched in horror and fascination from his hook, not recognising his friend.  Loki had the trollwife's full attention, the stench, almost fatal to menfolk, was driving the female into heat.  The  two coupled roughly, causing the cave to shake.   Loki looked meaningfully at Odin and winked, no male troll was so expressive and the bloodbrother realised he had been rescued.  Loki looked to the lad and with a toss of his head urged him to free his friend .  The lad seized up the abandoned flint knife and cut the ties binding Odin's legs.  The trollwife had forgotten her prey in her pleasure and the binding spells had faded.  'Can you lift me lad?' Odin whispered.  The boy heaved up gasping with all his meagre strength and Odin freed himself from the hook.

Odin wasted no time: he seized up one of the heavy hearth stones with hands still bound and brought it down smartly on the trollwife's head.  She collapsed, her skull broken.

Loki returned to his own form most willingly and Odin rushed to check on Hoenir, to his relief he was still alive.  'Lets get out of here.'
'Give me a moment' gasped Loki, still recovering from his exertions.
Another roar startled them all and a fresh wave of troll-stench filled the cave.  The lad and the folk of Godhome, dragged Hoenir back into the shadows and hid themselves at the back of the cave.
'Oh Ymir!' Odin swore. 'Now what can we do, we are unarmed!'

The male troll ducked into his cave his grunts echoing painfully loud in the small space.  He peered around aware that something had changed and sniffed.  He roared, filling the cave with a foul smelling mist and hurting their ears even more.   Eagerly he moved forward, he had smelt the female, still lying by the hearth with her tail uncovered.  He seized her in his claw-like hands and started to tup the warm, lifeless lich.

'Now what do we do?' whispered' Odin.
The lad looked at Loki with admiration 'Can you turn into a female troll?  It worked so well last time.'
'You want me to do what?'  Loki glared at him.  
'We have got to do something' urged Odin. 'Eventually he will realise that someone has killed his mate and become very angry.  Do it Loki!'
'You have got to be joking.  What happened to 'Don't use troll magic now we are respectable Osfolk...  What kind of pervert do you take me for?''
Hoenir interrupted the quarrel by groaning blearily.
'Use the rope then' urged the lad.  There was indeed a good coil of rope that the trollwife had kept to secure her prey.
'Good thinking' Loki praised him, much relieved.  He tied a noose in the heavy rope and secured the end about one of the trollwife's meat hooks.  He passed the noose to Odin, not before time as the troll was nearly spent.  As the troll grunted out his seed, oblivious to all about him, Odin stepped forward and tossed the rope about his ugly head.  The troll howled in surprise and rage as he felt the rope tighten, then raged about the cave trying to free himself, too dense to realise he was throttling his own neck.  Finally he bashed his head so hard on the cave roof that he fell senseless to the floor with a crash.  Odin rushed forward and finished him off with the same hearth stone that had taken the life of the female.

Odin and Loki dragged Hoenir out into the fresh air and gulped in the clean breeze.  Odin glanced down at the trollwife's lad.  'You showed spirit and wits, what is you name?'
'Hermod.'
'Have you got family Hermod?'
'No, she killed them.'
'Then you come to Godhome with me, I suspect you will prove most useful.'
'Willingly, lord.'

The three sons of the Outlands slunk back to Godhome, none keen to tell of their adventures.  And if this tale is ever told it is because Hermod, in his youthful eagerness, let his tongue wag.  But in fairness to the young manchild, he served Odin faithfully from that time on.

Notes:

This tale is completely my own invention.  A number of the Norse myths concern the three gods Odin, Hoenir and Loki, or Odin Hoenir and Lodur an otherwise forgotten deity.   By placing the emphasis of this work on Jord and Thor these three have lost one of their tales, the creation of mankind.  I have added this story to help develop the characters.

At this time the only inhabitant of Godhome practising magic as opposed to spae-craft (divination) is Loki.  This places all the other godfolk at a great disadvantage.  This tale is in part a warning of what is to come.

Descriptions of the trolls, ettins and other mythical creatures varies quite widely.  The trolls in these stories are based on tales of Thor's battles with troll women who fight with sorcery.  There is a strong emphasis on trollwives suggesting that they are the more dangerous.  They are not harmed by daylight.
Saga Goes Courting

Frigga and Saga sat together before the wyrd-loom of Fenbank Hall.  The sun shone brightly above the marshes sending dancing reflections of light across the painted ceiling.  
'There is a reason for my visit, sister' said Saga, pointing to a deep tangle of threads. 'See here, there is a troll of great strength looking to cause mischief; he sniffs the west wind and is drawn by the fat cattle of Middle Garth.'
'So there is,' Frigga agreed, 'but he seems a distant threat.  I will tell Thor to keep an eye on him.'
'No, sister.  Please leave this foe to me.  I plan to use him to my advantage.'
'Indeed?' Frigga murmured.  She did not press her sister as to her thoughts; it was not her way.  She was content to wait and watch the loom.

After a pleasant visit at Fenbank, Saga made her way to the garth of Battlehall.  The main hall was completed and work on the outlying buildings had begun.  She sought out young Tyr, who was hard at work planing a roof beam.  
'Wassail to you, Tyr' she said boldly.
Tyr glanced up at the beautiful goddess with her pale skin and fall of straw blond hair 'Wassail to you too, lady Saga.'
'I was wondering,' she smiled, 'if you would like to ride out with me after breakfast?'
'Ride out?'
'Yes, take a journey together; leave Godhome, explore, enjoy a meal out in the wilds.'
'With me?' Tyr was having difficulty taking in the offer.  He was more confident with the women of the Outlands whose idea of romance was more direct, and they didn't wear gowns of flowing linen that swirled and drove his senses dizzy with hopeless desire.
'Do you like me?' asked Saga.
'Yes.'
'Then you will come.  Meet me at Fenbank Hall, straight after breakfast.  Just bring a horse.  I'll bring the food and wine.'
She breezed away with a swirl of scented linen.  Tyr watched her leave until she was out of sight, then abandoned his tools and sought out his friend Odin.  'Help, Odin: Saga wants me to spend the next waking span with her.  What should I do?  Odin straightened from his perusal of the building plans and looked at his friend.  Tyr's tangled hair was full of sawdust and his bare chest was mired with grime and sweat.  'I don't see anything that fresh clothes, a comb and bath won't solve.'
'A bath?' Tyr was horrified. 'In hot water?' Some of the Godhome customs had yet to become popular among Odin's kin.
'Yes,' Odin replied patiently, 'go and speak to Mother Bestla, she will look after you.'
With an increasing sense of panic, Tyr made his way to Odin's private chambers and admitted his need to kind old Bestla.  The ettinwife was delighted to hear that another of the grand ladies of Godhome was interested in one of her wards.  She instructed Tyr to fill the biggest cauldrons with water and hang them above the kitchen hearth.  She searched through chests for suitable clothes.  'I will soon have you decked out like a prince', Bestla promised.

She scrubbed him until his skin was red, and combed and trimmed his bushy hair and  scanty beard.  When it was time to rest he was relieved to escape her attentions.  But when he awoke it was to find Bestla pulling him from his furs and renewing her assault.  She would not let him leave for breakfast until he was dressed in the finest clothes she could find and his hair was combed, braided and oiled.  

The rest of the household made a great jest of Tyr's appearance 'We are honoured', cried Hoenir. 'It's the King of the fairies!'
'She has even scrubbed the courage out of him!' Loki howled in mirth.
'He stinks like a flowerbed', muttered grumpy Mimir.

Tyr glared at the comments but his heart was not interested in anger, as he dreamily thought of Saga.  Someone had thoughtfully combed and oiled Tyr's horse and threaded its mane and tail with white ribbons.  He mounted carefully, fearful of damaging the fine and delicate clothes, and rode out towards Fenbank.

Saga waited for him on the path to Stronghome and mounted up on her mare as he approached.  She grinned at the sight of him and tried to hide tears of laughter, with little success.  Saga had plaited her long hair and pinned it tight about her head.  She wore a knee length gown of plain wool and thick stockings.  It was sensible attire for a journey just as Tyr's was not.  'You are
looking pretty', she said in jest.  She leant over and kissed his cheek to take the sting from her words.  'Come, let us see how far we can go!'  Saga's horse took off at a gallop up the bank and through the fields past Stormbright Hall.  The miles flew beneath the hooves of the sturdy horses, and soon the mists bordering Urd's Well were wrapped about them.

Urd, Verdandi and Skuld waved to their sister as she flew past and Saga urged her horse through the further misty boundary into the Outlands.  The ground became uneven and stony and Saga eased her mare into a canter.   Tyr's strong stallion matched the mare stride for stride, but Tyr was not faring so well: his thin cloak was not made for hard riding and had become tangled in his scabbard.  His neatly oiled hair now stood out in strange spikes.

Saga rode onward down the gentle hills and forded a shallow river.  Her mare threw up a great spray of water as she splashed through.  The water did even more damage to Tyr's finery and he felt truly wretched.  Saga pressed on up into the hills beyond and stopped only when they had passed the crest.  The Norn reigned in her horse admiring the next valley spread out before them.  'There!' cried Saga. 'Is this not marvellous?'
'I suppose so' muttered Tyr, struggling to flatten his hair.
'Come, we have a while before we need to eat.  Let us explore the riverbanks.'  She dismounted and led her horse slowly to the valley floor.  Tyr followed and silently cursed as his long cloak caught on every briar and bramble.

At the waterside Saga removed her mare's bridle and released her to graze.  She danced happily through the rushes and collapsed down on a sun-warmed bank.  'Come, Tyr; sit with me.'  He did so, wandering increasingly why the beautiful temptress had brought him here.

As Saga spoke of her joy at the flowers, trees and sparkling water, the troll stirred in his hole nearby.  There was something out of place, something that did not belong to the land.  He sniffed harder, seeking the source of the strange smell and pushed himself up out of the mud of his wallow.   He reached for the battered tree trunk that served him as a club and he stamped towards the offending scent.  

Saga felt the ground shake.  She feigned fear and said 'Oh Tyr, did you feel that shuddering?'  Tyr had grown up in the Outlands and he recognised the signs.  He spun around and drew his sword, ripping the frail cloak from his shoulders in his haste.  The troll pounded towards Tyr for it was the oils on his hair that the troll could smell.  The mud spattered creature roared his challenge
and swung the club which outreached the sword by a good spear length.  Tyr was lifted off his feet by the crude weapon and flung into the river.  

The troll sniffed again and detected a new scent, a female scent. He advanced towards Saga. 'Pretty!' he said and poked her bosom with a vast clawed thumb.  Tyr was struggling to free himself from the river.  The thin soaked tunic was torn, constraining his sword arm: he ripped it free and forced his way up the bank.  He bellowed in fury to see Saga endangered and ran forward.  The troll swung out again and Tyr ducked beneath the wild blow.  Tyr roared his challenge anew and leapt to safety as the troll attempted a low sweep.  The club missed Tyr by a whisker but the troll was stamping angrily away from Saga.  Tyr smiled to see her safe.  The ettin ran in close surprising the foul beast and cut at the troll's right arm.  The troll howled in pain and took up the fallen club in his left hand, but too slowly.  Tyr was ready and cut the left arm before the creature could raise the club.  Then he closed in and cut the creature's throat.  

Saga ran up smiling and Tyr hurled the blooded sword aside.  Still filled with the confidence of his victory, Tyr pulled her close.  She kissed him and was rewarded with a smear of troll blood on her cheek.  Tyr reached up to wipe the stain away and only succeeded in adding more blood.  Saga smiled fondly 'Those fine clothes you were wearing; that really wasn't you.'
'No' Tyr agreed, laughing with her.
'Now this', Saga ran her hands over his bare, blood spattered chest, 'this suits you far better.'
'You think so?'
'Oh yes, though maybe with a little less blood.'
Now, calming from the battle, Tyr realised that he was drenched in troll gore.  'I'll go and wash myself' he said and made for the river.
'You do that.  I will go and find the horses.'

A good distance from the rank smelling troll Saga laid out her platter of breads, meats and cheeses and poured Tyr a large cup of Frigga's cowslip wine.  Further emboldened and warmed by the wine, Tyr took Saga into his arms and made his second conquest of the day.  

Saga looked out over the river bank and smiled dreamily. 'I am going to build a little hall on the edge of Fenbank garth, somewhere peaceful and far from the paths and roads of Godhome.'
'You want to live alone?' asked Tyr, suddenly fearful.  Had the goddess tired of him already?
'I want to be alone with you, my dear brave warrior, just as we are now.'
Tyr cried out with happiness and pulled her close.

With Tyr's earnest help, Saga's hall was soon raised.  She called it Springbank after the little fountain that rose among the watermint there.  It was remote and peaceful, but a narrow path through the willows was worn by Tyr as he made his way to and fro from Battlehall.  

Tyr and Saga's love stayed strong and the Norn saw in the web of wyrd that it would long remain so.   She bore Tyr a son and named him Forseti.  He was to prove as wise as his mother and as brave as his father, but that is another tale.

Notes

Tyr was a very important god among the early Germanic tribes but, by the Saga age, he had lost much of his influence.  He is given no hall in the Eddas and his wife, mentioned only briefly as a conquest of Loki, is never named.  

Saga is another puzzle: she is very similar to Frigga, being a goddess of wisdom with strong links to Odin.  Aside from Frigga she is the only goddess with her own hall in the Eddas, and both halls are linked to marsh land.  I have returned Tyr a little dignity by pairing him with this seemingly powerful but obscure goddess.  

Tyr is often said to be a god of justice and I have made one of my more radical changes from ancient mythology in making him the father of the law god Forseti.  The reason for this change will be revealed in future chapters.
The Outlands are home to the trolls and the ettins.  The trolls look horrible and smell worse.  Their wives know the most wicked of spells.  They have tusks and cow-like tails and they like to take the young of Middle Garth for their food or their vile pleasure.

The ettins are strong and long lived folk who judge status by endurance and height.  For the taller ettins this is a blessing but for those closer to mankind in stature it is a curse.  

In this early age, an ettin called Borr, live in a remote valley deep in the Outlands.  Borr was one of the less favoured of ettinkind, but Borr was fair and genorous and his wife Bestla very loving.  Their small steading became a haven for many a neglected ettin who stood under eight feet in height, and their young sons Odin, Vili and Ve were much envied for their parents.

This tale finds Borr's son leading a hunt with friends of like age.  He knelt down at the water bank, noting the bent dried grass stems and the moist droppings.  'We are getting closer,' he said, 'less than a mile.'
'Good', replied Loki, 'I am hungry.'
'Hmph' muttered Odin, straightening. 'You are always hungry. Be quiet now if you want to eat.'  

Borr's son paced forwards along the soft earth, instinctively planting his feet where their fall would make no sound.  Loki Tyr, and Hoenir followed, their bows strung and ready.

The sun beat down and flies were thick in the warm air.  The hunters made their way cautiously, following the hoof prints.  Finally their efforts were rewarded, a small herd of does were drinking at the river a few yards ahead.  Tyr and Loki drew back their bows and let fly.  Water fountained up as the deer surged panicking across the shallow river.  Crows took to the sky all around them with a sound like thunder.  Triumphant, the hunters pounded towards their quarry.  One of the two downed does still struggled and Odin finished the beast with a blow of his axe.

Young Tyr drew out his hunting knife and started to gut the beasts. 'We will be needing fire and fresher water if you two want to eat.'
Loki groaned and walked up the slopes to gather deadwood.  Odin regarded the churned river with distaste and crossed the shallows to where a tiny stream bubbled down the bank.  He followed it hoping to find a spring.

He found his goal beneath an ancient and twisted yew.  An old ettin sat beneath its shade with a hooded cloak hiding his face.

'Good health to you.' Odin said to the stranger, with cautious respect as the stranger was clearly taller by several feet.   'I need to fill my waterbag at the spring.'
'You can try.'
Puzzled by the unfriendly response Odin stepped forward and lowered his hide covered waterbag into the the pool.  But as he reached the water's surface he grunted in pain, the water had frozen like ice and bruised his hand.

'What witchery is this?' asked Odin.
'The water is only given to those who pay the price.'
'Why? What is so special about this stream?'
'It grants the key to wisdom to anyone who drinks it.'
'It does?' asked Odin with growing interest.  'What is the price.'

The ettin pulled back his hood revealing a long grey hair and a hideous scar when his left eye had once been.  'This is the price'.  Odin stepped back, sickened.
The giant laughed, and pointed to the mountains that blocked the western horizon.  'Have you ever wondered what is behind those peaks?'
'No, they are too high for good game.'
The stranger's laughter mounted 'You will never amount to anything, until you drink from this well.'  
Odin backed away and felt great relief as the trees blocked the morbid  ettin from view, though he could still hear him crying 'You will be back!'

Odin said nothing to his companions about his experience and barely noticed the weight of the deer carcass on his shoulder as they made the  journey back to Borr's Stead.  He lay awake while his family slept pondering over the old ettin's words.  What was so important about the mountains and would the spring's gift really make something of him?  A chance to excel did interest him, for however good his tracking skills he was still one of the shortest ettins in the Outlands where inches counted as much as wealth.

After he had retired to rest on nine occasions and still failed to sleep, Odin finally acknowledged that he had no choice but to travel back to the spring.  

The old ettin was not surprised at his return and nodded a greeting.
'I want to drink from the well', said Odin.
'You are now prepared to pay the price?'
Odin swallowed, 'I am'.
'Drop your eye into the well and then you can drink.'
Odin drew his hunting knife and cut and prised his left eye from its socket.    Pain burned like fire and blood poured from the wound but he staggered forwards and dropped his own flesh into the pool.  He fell to his knees and scooped up the water in his bloody hands and drank deeply.

He gazed down past his dripping hands with his remaining eye and wondered for the first time where the water gushing from the earth came from, and looked to the horizon and wandered what was beyond it.

It took a while for his thoughts to settle onto new paths, and when they had he glared at the old ettin.  'I haven't gained wisdom, just the knowledge of what I don't know!'
'Indeed.' the ettin replied 'And now you will fill the gaps in your knowledge until you are truly wise.  Knowledge will be to you what meat is to other men.'
'Hmmph' replied Odin, attempting to wash the blood from his cheek, beard and clothes.  'So what is behind the mountains?'
'Go and find out' the ettin replied, 'and when you return you will have the wisdom of a leader.'
'That remains to be seen', Odin muttered. 'Anyway, what is your name?'
'I am Mimir', the old ettin answered 'and when you return I will come with you.'

Odin returned to his father's steading.  His brothers Villi and Ve were sitting by the hearth fletching arrows and their friends Tyr, Hoenir and Loki were also there drinking Bestla's ale.  The three friends of the household took any opportunity to get away from their own hostile kinfolk.  

Bestla screamed to see the state of her son and lost no time in fussing over him and bandaging his ruined eye socket.  Finally escaping from her questions and attentions he joined his friends at the fireside.

'I am going on a journey beyond the mountains', Odin told them.
'Why?' asked Tyr.
'To find out what is there, to learn.'
Tyr looked puzzled but Loki nodded in understanding 'I will come with you.'
'I would welcome your company', Odin acknowledged him. 'The rest of you, will you keep the smoke house full?'
Tyr, Hoenir and Odin's brothers nodded and with that Odin retired to his bedcupboard and finally slept soundly.

Refreshed after a long sleep, Odin rose and dressed for travelling, pushed his axe and several hunting knives into his belt and slung his bow and quiver over his shoulder.  His weeping mother wrapped a warm hide cloak about his shoulders and pushed a block of smoked meat into his pack.   His father quietly pushed his own leather hat into his hands.

Loki appeared on the threshold, similarly clad and the two friends set off together towards the western mountain range.

They stopped to rest on the lower slopes and Loki chewed some of the smoked meat while Odin quenched his thirst from an icy stream.  They slept in the lee of a bank below a pass crossing the mountains, pulling cloaks over their faces to block out the ever present sun.

On waking they walked on up to the highest point of the pass, Loki chewing on the smoked venison while Odin strode ahead eager to see what lay over the horizon, and what they saw was nourishment to Odin's new craving for knowledge.

From the heights the friends could see ridge after ridge of mountains and below them was a broad misty valley carpeted with pine forest.  But far more wonderous was the vision in the far distance, far to the west.  It was a huge tree, impossibly high.

'Whoah!' said Loki.  Odin was silent drinking in the view.  The wind was bitter and touched the skin like scouring sand.  'So' asked Loki 'you want to keep walking west?'  Odin was silent a while, and then nodded, and started the hazardous descent down the mountainside.

The friend's adventures blurred on their long journey towards the distant tree: encounters with hostile ettins were frequent and they had to hide from several angry trolls after Loki's brief encounters with their wives.    The repeated dangers made their friendship closer.  After crossing the sixth  mountain range of the Outlands, and swimming no less rivers they stopped to spit-roast two fat hares for Loki.  After the feast Odin addressed his friend over the camp fire.  'I think you are more at home by my father's hearth than you are with your own kin.'
'You know that to be so.' Loki replied seriously.
'Maybe it time for that to be acknowledged.'
'What do you mean?'
Odin moved closer and drew his knife, looking meaningfully at Loki with his one eye before drawing the blade lightly across his left palm causing blood to well.   'I name you my brother, Loki, as I came into the world clothed in my mother's blood, so you shall be born again, clothed in that same blood, as my brother.' Odin smeared the blood across Loki's forehead and the back of his hands.
Loki was surprised and deeply grateful, for he loved Borr and Bestla who had shown more fondness for him than any of his own kin.  With a trembling hand he cut his own palm and repeated Odin's words and gestures, and then embraced his friend.  'Now let us rest,' said Odin, 'we still have far to go.'  Loki curled up on his bed of heather and pulled his cloak over his head, hiding the tears that mixed with the blood on his cheeks.

As the travellers neared the towering tree the journey became less hazardous.  The strongest ettins preferred the wilder remote areas of the Outlands and the valleys they travelled now were home to the shorter and foul smelling trolls.  The trolls were still dangerous and it was mostly thanks to Loki's trickery and cunning that they avoided harm.

Finally they walked up the gentle slopes that led to the vast trunk of the ash tree they had seen from so far away; for several miles they had been shaded from the sun by its outlying branches.  They could see a wooden hall and a glade fenced with a rope hung on white painted posts.  The posts had runes and faces carved on them.  The runes made Odin hungry to know their meaning.

Five women were approaching them, each beautiful and garbed in a gown of a soft white cloth unknown in the Outlands.

Loki's mind dwelt so heavily on desire that his tongue was tied, it was Odin who spoke: 'Health to you, good ladies.  We are travellers from the wilds of the east.'
'Health to you', one of the ladies replied. 'We know you Odin son of Bor and Loki son of Laufey.'
'How do you know of us?' asked Odin, more curious than surprised.
'It is our business to know.  We are the Norns, the watchers of Wyrd.  We know where your lost eye shines, we know when you mother weeps, we know what you seek.'
'What do I seek?' asked Odin.
The speaker laughed. 'Everything! You will walk the Nine Worlds until you can name every insect, name every leaf and speak with every ghost.  Until you know everything there is to know.'
'Nine Worlds?' asked Odin 'How many have I crossed?'
'Only one, Wanderer.  So far yet to go!'
'What is the tree?'
'That is the World Ash, greatest of trees, one root lies in the Outlands, one in the depths of Hel and one reaches out to Godhome.'
'You say you know Wyrd,' Odin asked with a smile. 'What path will I take next?'
The ladies laughed at this question and teased him with answers such as 'The way you choose' or 'That is your decision.' But the fourth of them leant over the fence and took his hands in hers, 'You will go to Godhome.  It is not far, for the Godfolk are our kin and so the way is easy.  Over there, you see in the mist, that is the path.'
'Thank you lady.  I would ask you name that I might remember your kindness.'
'Saga' she replied.
'Come Loki, my heart yearns to see this new world.' Odin strode away and Loki followed him, looking wistfully behind at the five beauties.

…..

Twelve miles away Frigga poled a raft with Fulla beside her.  Nearby Hlin and Gna stood waist deep in the retting pool lifting the sheafs of flax up into the boat.  Fulla winkled her nose 'It never fails to amaze me how anything smelling so foul could make such good cloth.'
Frigga replied 'It is only the smell of decay, an honest smell.  Just think how grateful Thor will be when you take him a new shirt or two.'  Frigga smiled noting how the woman worked all the harder for a few moments.  She nodded when the raft was fully loaded. Hlin and Gna were pulled aboard and wrapped in warm blankets and Frigg slowly poled them back towards Fenbank Hall.  

'I saw something interesting in the Wyrd loom before we left' said Frigga as she eased the heavy raft past a bank of reeds.  'We will have two visitors soon, I want you to prepare a special feast with spiced meats and fragrant breads, and the best ale that we have.  Gna, I want you to warn Thor to bring any travellers to my hall, any who have walked from Great Tree, and tell him to see me as soon as he can.'
The three handmaids knew better than to press for more news, but were excited nevertheless.



Odin and Loki walked the well trodden misty path for some miles before the air cleared and they stepped down a hedged bank into an unfamiliar landscape.  The farmlands of Godhome were as different from the wilderness of the Outlands as a tree is from a stone.  They both wondered at the banks with their neat hedges of flowering hawthorn and the tame beasts contentedly munching the thick rich grass.

Less alien was the hall that rose before them, towering so high that the clouds parted around it, and it was towards the hall that they made their way.  'Do lofty ettins live here?' asked Loki. 'My hopes were raised at the tree: those ladies were of our stature. I thought we had found a land where we will no longer be runts and misfits, but that hall is so high my hopes are dashed.'
Odin paused and glanced up, noting the small, closely spaced windows. 'Cheer up Loki, the ladies said these folk are their kin.'

Another mile brought them to their goal and to the door of the hall which stood ajar.  They both drew a sigh of relief to see folk seated at the tables of their own height.  Some fifty folk looked up from their supper plates and gaming boards.  A woman with skin as dark as charcoal and a fine gown of soft red cloth came towards them.  'Greetings and good health to you', she called.  'I see that you are dusty from journeying, have you walked from the Great Tree?'
'We have Lady,'  Odin replied.  'What is this hall?'
'This is Stormbright Hall, the home of Thor the Thunderer.  I am Thor's housekeeper, Sygin.  Thor's sister is eager to meet you but it is late and her hall is still distant.  Would you wish to share our supper and be clean and rested before you meet her?'
'You honour us with your kindness.'  replied Odin.
Sygin called out for someone to tend to the guests and a woman came forward.  She was also dark skinned and very pretty.  She introduced herself as Oba and Loki beamed at her.  
Oba brought Odin a large jug of ale and Loki a platter of bread, cheese and roast meats.  She urged them away upstairs to to a large room containing a bath, unfamiliar to the Outlanders, and two large beds.

The bath was with filled with hot steaming water which the two friends viewed with great suspicion.  However Loki was most eager to please the girl and obediently stripped and immersed himself, after which Odin could hardly object.  Oba busied herself scrubbing them with oils and pouring buckets of fresh hot water over their heads.  When Oba was satisfied they emerged pink and feeling strange: the bath was nothing like the quick plunges into the mountain rivers they were used to.

'My skin!' complained Odin, 'it is all soft, I think such bathing must weaken a man!'  
'Not in my experience!' teased Oba.'  Odin lay back on the soft bed and thought deeply over all the strange sights that he had seen, while Oba happily surrendered herself to Loki's kisses.

***

Thor sat in his sister's weaving room holding one of her golden cups filled with cowslip wine.  Frigg sat on the low seat before her Wyrd loom.
'Something is troubling you.  What is wrong?' he asked.
'Nothing is wrong.' she replied. 'I merely wished to warn you that my husband to be has arrived in Godhome, he is at your hall as we speak.'
'Your husband?' Thor echoed, much surprised 'Who is he?'
'He is an ettin of the Outlands, Odin son of Borr.'
'No.'  Thor set down the cup and knelt down beside his sister and caught up her hands. 'You, to marry a ettin?  No, it must not be.'
'The weave of Wyrd is most clear my brother.  I will marry Odin.'
'But you deserve someone special, surely we can find someone worthy of your wisdom, your beauty, your patience?'
'Alas who would that be Thor? Shall I search among the short lived men of Middle Earth, or among the little spirits of bank and hedge?  Be assured he must be most unusual among his kind for the weave to be so certain.'
'Oh my sister.' Thor cried and hugged her close, his eyes bright with tears.
'Be happy for me Thor.'
'Wyrd or no wyrd,' he muttered 'at least wait until you have seen him before you make your decision.'
'Please be happy for me.' Frigga pleaded.
'I will try.' he promised.

**

After Odin and Loki had rested, Gna met them at Stormbright Hall and escorted them to Fenbank.  Behind them came a whole throng of Thor's folk, living spirits of the ancestors from Middle Garth.

It was not the beauty of the flower banked marshlands that took the ettins' breath away but the sophisticated elegance of Frigga's hall.  Between the delicate pillars carved with leaves and birds, beautiful woven tapestries hung showing trees and animals. The tables of the hall were draped in soft cloths with rich embroidered borders and the finely wrought golden vessels nested on fresh picked flowers.

Frigga's handmaidens had outdone themselves with the food they brought to the tables: the fish and flesh were tender and gently seasoned, the breads were fragrant and melted in the mouth, while the ale was strong and delighted one and all.

Frigga herself sat enthroned in one of her finest gowns, its hems heavy with gold brocade, and shone like an untouchable jewel.  Occasionally she learnt towards Odin who sat as an honoured guest beside her, and told him of the birds of the marshes, the uses of the herbs that grew about her hall and Odin drank her words hungrily.  On Odin's other side Loki kept up an almost constant commentary on the quality of the food and the desirability of the ladies at the tables.

After the last crumbs had been consumed the the guests parted in groups and pairs, each formerly thanking Frigga for the feast.  Loki left early with one of the farm lasses.  Thor was one of the last to leave, leading Sygin on his arm.  Frigga's handmaidens quietly carried away the empty dishes and retired, leaving their mistress alone with Odin.  

Frigga rose gracefully and took Odin's hand and led him out into the sun dappled causeway.  They walked away from the hall until the only witnesses to their conversation were the birds of the marsh.

'You should know,  Odin', she began, 'that I share the powers of my sisters. I know everything there is to know about you.'
'Everything?' Odin asked disconcerted.
'Yes, everything, I know what women you have dallied with, what unknown sons you have abandoned in the Outlands.  I even know where you have hidden your eye.  Furthermore I know that you desire me.'
'Then you know that I am driven to search for wisdom, and have no right to claim any respectable woman.'
'I know you are destined to be a wanderer, but I hope that you will come to see this Garth as your home.'
'You want me to return?'
'Mimir told you that you would be a wise leader, and you will be, once you have travelled the Nine Worlds and satisfied you thirst for knowledge.    Then you will be welcome to settle here with your friends and kin.  You and I will be neighbours.'
'You can see my future?'
'I can see your possible futures.'
'Tell me.'
'I will not.  The future is not set, it must be earned, you will do better if you do not know what the future holds.'
Odin exhaled hard, his disappointment obvious.
Frigga smiled and kissed his bent forehead.  'So serious!  Come with me.'

She led him to a tiny jetty hidden in the tall rushes, where a carved and painted boat was moored.  Odin unhitched the line and Frigga effortlessly poled the boat away from the high banked causeway.  Deep in the marshes an island thick with willows came into view.  They tied up the boat at another small jetty.

'This is Sunkenbank,' Frigga explained, 'this is my sanctuary, none are allowed here but me, and now you.'
Odin stepped up into the heavy shade of the willows, the air was delightfully cool after the hot sunlight on the water.  There was a small building, like a hunting lodge, and a sheltered glade of forget-me-nots.

'Are you thirsty?' she asked.  Odin shook his head.  Frigga pulled him into her arms.  Hardly daring to believe his good fortune Odin kissed her fiercely.

Odin dallied a while at Fenbank Hall and then prepared for his journeying.  Frigga gave him shirts of soft linen and a waterproof cloak of felted blue wool.  To Loki's relief Odin was happy to journey alone, for it would be long before Loki tired of Godhome's diversions.   

Odin made his way over the Rainbow Bridge to Middle Garth and slowly strode through the hundreds and shires, observing and conversing with the hunters and the shamans.  He made a brief foray into Misthome but found little of interest there beside the cold, damp fog and ferocious troll wives.

Elfhome he found strange and discomforting: its inhabitants were so wild and open about their unrestrained lust that they repulsed him, and he longed for Fenbank Hall, though his journey was far from done.

The mysterious land of the Vans was far from welcoming and the fearsome band of spear bearing elves who guarded its boundaries persuaded him to leave quickly.

In Darkelfhome he found more restrained and friendly spirits, a work team of dwarves made him welcome and after learning that he was a friend of Frigga made a beautiful distaff as a gift for her.

Beneath the blazing sun lay Muspelhome.  Odin's wanderings took him close enough to its scorching borders to determine that it would be unwise to venture further.

He returned once again to Middle Garth and wandered its sunny lanes.  Wishing to rest he stopped at a lonely roundhouse beside a goat pen and knocked on the door.   An ancient old woman, bent and frail beckoned him inside.  Gratefully he lay down on the bed of hides he found within and slept deeply.

Odin awoke with a start.  A shimmering form with the old woman's face regarded him.  He was confused momentarily, the old woman also lay beside him.  He reached out to touch her arm, it was cold.

The ghost beckoned and he followed.  She left the house and pointed to the goat pen, Odin opened the wattle gate and the goats poured out into freedom.

Apparently satisfied the woman's ghost drifted away.  Odin followed her, full of curiosity.

The ghost led him down gullies for some miles and then slipped through a crack in a stone bank where a twisted yew dug its roots into rocky soil.  Odin followed and found himself on the road to Hel.  The road was smooth underfoot as if eroded so by the constant passing of the ghosts.  Spirits moved unhurriedly but purposefully, all in the same direction, down into the depths.    Odin walked with them, though his natural pace soon left the ghost of the old woman far behind.  He walked on in the darkness, his way lit only by the soft light from the spirits themselves, for mile after mile, sustained by his burning curiosity.

Finally he came to a great chasm and stopped.  Far below was pool of silver where the spirits swirled.  One by one the spirits of the dead stepped off the end of the road and floated down like leaves fallen from a tree.  The sight made him feel desperately sad and after a while he retraced his steps up the long road back to Middle Garth.  

He had not walked far when he heard a thunderous rattling approaching from above.  Fearing some monster of the dark he stepped off the road into the broken rock of its borders.  To his surprise and relief, it was Thor who approached riding a heavy wagon drawn by two billy goats the size of ponies.  Odin hailed him and Thor returned his greeting, reining the goats to a halt.
'What are you doing here?' asked Odin, genuinely puzzled.
'I could ask the same question.' Thor countered.
'True,' Odin acknowledged with a smile, 'I was eager to travel the Nine Worlds and learn whatever I could.'
'You are a very strange ettin.' Thor commented.  'Jump up, at least travel some way in comfort.'  Odin accepted and settled himself on the wagon's tail board.  

The wagon moved forward, back to the edge of the chasm where Thor carefully turned it.  Then he urged the goats slowly forward.  'So why are you here?' Odin asked again.
'I am looking for spirits.'
'But they are everywhere.' Odin responded.
'Ah, but I am looking for spirits who are also looking for me.  There is little amiss in the Garths so I am sparing Hlin her duties.'
The miles passed, but the dead just drifted past, unseeing and unknowing, flowing around the wagon as a river flows around a rock in its path.
'What happens to them?' asked Odin, still disturbed by the sight of the chasm.
'Jord taught me that most get reborn in Middle Garth, while some fade away and are lost.'
Just then they both saw one of the spirits turn towards them.  It was a middle aged man, his eyes bright with recognition.  Thor reached out his hand and pulled him up into the cart, and pressed something to the ghost's lips as he did so.  As the spirit's feet touched the wagon boards, two things happened, the silvery sheen of the spirit became flesh and he became younger.  He took his place beside Odin and gazed at his youthful hands in wonder.

Maybe a further hundred spirits drifted past them and then another turned towards them.  With a shiver Odin recognised the bent old woman he had stayed with.  Again Thor pulled her up into the wagon and she also regained the hue of life and the years fell from her.  She smiled at Odin, 'Thank you for letting out my goats!' She kissed him on the cheek.  
Thor laughed, 'You have been busy Odin.' he said.
'So it that it?'  Odin asked mischievously, 'They all like goats, your folk?'
'In a way,' Thor replied 'they are farmers.'
'So few' Odin muttered.  'Could I collect spirits?'
'Possibly' Thor answered 'though you would have to build them a hall in Godhome, I am sure Frigga would have no objections.'

At the end of the death road Odin asked to be set down and Thor called to the goats to stop.  Odin climbed down and thanked Jord's son kindly.  Thor spoke and said 'You have gone up in my estimation, ettin, if you have time to be kind to old goat women, maybe you are good enough for my sister.'
'I will endeavour to be.'
Thor pushed a small linen bag into Odin's hand. 'Frigga told me to give you this if our paths crossed.  Good health to you.'

The goat wagon rumbled away leaving Odin still underground in a vast and echoing chamber.  Dim light filtered down from above revealing white shapes lying on the ground.  Odin picked one up, it was a dry and cracked human leg bone.  As he progressed more and more bones covered the floor until he was forced to walk opon them.

The rank stench of decay grew about him, and then a crunching snapping sound echoed around the chamber.  Far above and entwined around what must be a root from the Great Tree an enormous worm coiled.  Its sword taloned claws lifted corpses to its gaping mouth where they were crushed into splinters.  Filled with revulsion Odin moved away out of sight of the terrible beast.

He climbed over the bodies of the dead, disturbing ravens from their feasting.  His hands grasped at maggot infested open wounds as he pulled himself along.  The way was tiring and he was soon forced to stop and rest, despite the unpleasant surroundings.  He remembered Frigga's gift and opened the little bag to find a small loaf of bread and a hunk of cheese, which surprised him as she knew well he had no interest in food.

A flurry of wings startled him and two ravens alighted beside him and looked at him expectantly with intelligent beady eyes.  Odin smiled with understanding, broke off some small pieces of the bread and held it out to the eager beaks.  The cheese was also well received and as Odin climbed out of the stinking corpse pile into the light of the upper worlds the two ravens followed attentively at his heels.

He emerged beside a spring below the Great Tree and lost no time in washing himself thoroughly until he had rid himself of the scent of the copse mound.  Damp and chilled but invigorated, Odin strode off in the direction of the Outlands.   As he crossed the boundary stones he realised how far reborn he had been since he had left Borr's Stead.  With his new knowledge he disdained the hard passage across the mountains: he walked south and followed a broad river valley east.  Odin's new air of confidence dissuaded most would-be attackers.  Those who did challenge him backed away when they heard he had traveled from Godhome.

At Borr's Stead he was first spotted by his mother, who called out loudly with joy alerting the rest of the household.  His father and brothers crowded around him eager to hear of his adventures and glad to see him safely returned.

As soon as word was sent to Tyr, Hoenir and the old well guardian, Odin's friends and kin gathered for the journey to Godhome.  They travelled light taking only weapons, food and travelling clothes and made most of the journey on a large raft, taking turns to sleep and steer.

Near the borders of the Outlands they climbed up, into the hills to the towering trunk of the Great Tree.  As they passed the Norns' glade the ladies came up the fence to greet them and waved farewell as they made their way along the path to Godhome.

At Stormbright Hall Sygin made them welcome and saw to the traveller's comfort.  Odin accepted a hot bath gratefully while the rest of his kinfolk expressed their concern at the strange custom.

Once fully rested Odin made his way to Fenbank Hall where Frigga, all dignity forgotten, ran to embrace him.  Frigga held a great feast to welcome the Outland folk.  Once they had recovered from the celebrations, she helped Odin to measure out the plot for his hall on the dry plain near the Rainbow Bridge.  The brothers and Tyr crossed the bridge in search of ash for the hall's pillars.  Odin and Frigga met tying their lines to a peg marking the final corner and fell into each others arms, while the ravens circled around laughing in their harsh voices.

Notes:

Other than adding fuller detail I have changed little to these stories and kept as much as possible from the surviving Norse/Germain literature.  

One change is the transfer of the role of Creator from Odin to the Earth goddess Jord and the introduction of Odin later in the timeline than usual.  The ancient Heathen myths would have been very varied and I would be very surprised if most of the more powerful gods and goddess did not have their own claims over the creation story that have been lost to us.  Surprising as it may be to some modern readers, a mythology where a goddess, maybe Nerthus or Frigga, acted as creator may have been very familiar in ancient times.

The ettinfolk are better known in English writing as giants, but given the choice of a Germanic or a French/Latin word I have choose the former.  Ettin is the English form of the Norse word Jotunn.  Ettins were originally seen as god-like men of human appearance: many are described as being very tall hence their common title of giants, but this term can be misleading.  Odin, Tyr and Loki are all of ettin birth but the have no difficulty mixing with humans.

Hoenir is mentioned in the earliest tales of Odin so it made sense to make him one of Odin's childhood companions.  Loki is taking the place of the obscure deity Logur who is mentioned in these early tales.  The Odin stories shift from Logur to Loki without explanation so I simplified matters.

Odin has a conflicting role: he is a war lord, a god of wealth, and a father of kings, but he also spends much of his time travelling in the clothes of a common traveller.  Many of his myths speak of an eternal quest after wisdom.  I have chosen to interpret the gift of Mimir's well as being the desire for knowledge.  I feel this explains much of his character in the later stories and his obsessive efforts to obtain wisdom.  The idea that he must consume knowledge in place of food also ties in with the old tales where Odin drinks but never eats.

Oba is an invented character, I have borrowed her name from the wife of Shango, the thundergod in Nigerian mythology.
The Gifts of Ull

After Heimdall had made his two journeys through Middle Garth, the tribes of men looked ever more to Godhome for their protection.  Bonds had been forged of gift and duty in both worlds.

The Norns watched their looms to see where help was needed. Heimdall gazed out from Godhome's gate.  Thor rode out whenever a firm hand was wanted or foul weather threatened the safety of the menfolk.

Frigga foresaw a greater need for the care of Middle Garth.  She sent Gna out with a message to Mother Jord, requesting her rede.  Gna returned weary from the hard ride with a large bundle in her arms.  Frigga called all her kin to her hall to hear what their Mother had to say.

The folk of Godhome gathered with great interest about the long table in Fenbank Hall and watched as Gna unwrapped her burden.  It was a well made tine box.  She opened it revealing thousands of apple pips within.  'Mother Jord has worked her magic over these seeds' began Gna. 'Each one will restore flesh and health to the souls of men.  Jord advises us to find soul-seekers among our number.  To find the souls of the dead who deserve our care and bring them to Godhome.'
'Few among us can ride the heavens' mused Frigga.  'Would you be willing, Gna, to take on this task?'
'I would.'
'And you Hlin?'
'Of course.'
Frigga's gaze fell briefly on her third handmaid Fulla who looked deeply unhappy.  'Oh don't worry Fulla, I know you are no better suited to this task than I would be.  The home life suits us well.  Is anyone else eager to clatter about on heavens vault?'
'I do that all the time' Thor replied smugly.
'Yes in the wrong direction', Heimdall teased him.  'You spend more time in the Outlands than in Middle Garth.'
'And you have duties enough Thor', Frigga chided her brother.
'Then I will help', offered Skuld.  She was the most restless of the Norns and ideally suited to the task.  Frigga nodded her thanks to her sister.

Fulla brought out a set of small leather pouches and filled each with a palm full of pips and passed them to all but one of the godfolk who were present.  Only Sigyn was missed but it was Thor's housekeeper that Frigga addressed next.  'Good Sigyn, I will entrust the box to you.  Keep them safe for when we have need of more.'
Sygin drew the heavy box to her, hands shaking with emotion for the trust the Godfolk had in her.

In Middle Garth the children of Heimdall prospered and produced many young and the first souls were brought safe to the halls of Godhome.  Thor took the farmers and labourers, who held him in high esteem. Ull took the hunters, Heimdall the wise folk and Frigga the weavers.  Each ghost was fed an apple pip and walked safe and whole among the fields, fens and forests of Godhome.

The north of Middle Garth lay beneath ice and snow and only the hardiest hunters raised their homes on the borders of the freezing wastes.  Some followed the reindeer and others hunted the horse and wild oxen.  Whenever they were spared of outdoor work they huddled about the fires in their smoky shelters, telling stories, making weapons or carving drinking cups.

At the Camp of the Stag Skull the aging leader had gathered his tribe together.  The folk squeezed close in the old hunter's tent, knee and against knee and shoulder against shoulder, grateful for the warmth of their fellows.  The shaman shook his rattle, summoning the good spirits and frightening away any that wished them harm.  He called to the ancestors, to the spirit of Thunder and to the lady of the marshes, then sat still awaiting the leader's words.

The leader spoke: 'I have grown old.  It is time that I laid down my spear and let a younger man take my place.  As I have no living son I must look to our most skilled young hunters to find you a new leader.  Three there are who could lead you: Bjorn, Ulf and Arni.  I confess I do not know which of these brave young men would serve you best.

The three young men watched him intently and the elder continued 'I will give the three of you a test of your skill and your leadership.  You shall each go out alone for nine waking spans and think of a new way to hunt, and use your new skill to bring back a beast for the feast of succession.  When you return I will decide which of you will be best able to lead this tribe.  Your task will begin after the tribe has rested so make yourselves ready.  The three young men bowed to the elder and left to gather their hunting gear, fill their water bags and pack their knapsacks with travelling food.  The remaining folk murmured with excitement, trying to guess which of the three would win the elder's test.

Bjorn was the strongest of the young hunters, already prized by the tribe for his powerful spearwork and endurance in carrying home his kills.  He set out to the east but Mother Jord clouded the sun and confused his steps and he walked to the north.  The snow grew deeper and he became weary.  With great relief he saw a well built shelter made of stacked logs and smelt the comforting scent of hearth smoke.  Bjorn called out asking for shelter and a man's voice replied in welcome.  Bjorn entered and found a man sat within by the fire.  He had a scanty beard and long golden plaited hair.  He wore the heavy leather tunic worn by all in the icy north.

'I thank you for your offer of shelter' Bjorn spoke formally. 'I am Bjorn, hunter of the Stag Skull Camp.'
'You are welcome' the stranger replied.  'I am Ull Nornson of the Osfolk, kinsman to Thor and Frigga.'
'Then I am blessed' Bjorn spoke eagerly. 'I have been sent out to find a new way of hunting, to prove my worth as a leader of my tribe.  Can you help me?'
'Maybe a little' Ull mused.  'Tell me young hunter.  What is the most valuable asset of the hunter: speed, strength or blade?'
'All three, I would think' answered Bjorn uncertainly.
'You must choose one.'
'Then I would choose strength.  Bringing down a beast is little compared to the struggle of bringing it home to the tribe.'
'You have answered well and I will help you.  Sleep now and I will teach when you have rested.'
Bjorn slept in a wide bed piled high with furs and awoke eager to learn from the Os.  With Ull's help he cut down several young ash trees and split the trunks into lathes.  The Os showed Bjorn how to build a sledge, with a long narrow bed and two runners below to carry it over the snow.  A thick leather strap allowed it to be pulled.  Ull sat on the sled and Bjorn could pull him along with ease.  'This is a great gift you have given me, Os Ull.  I could bring many times more meat home using this sled than I could do on my shoulders.  On behalf of myself and my folk I am most grateful.'
Ull embraced him as would a proud father and sent Bjorn on his way.  Bjorn brought down many heavy beasts with his spears and knew he would be able to carry them home.

The second hunter, Arni, had travelled out to the west.  Again Mother Jord confused his steps and he travelled to the north.  Snow came down hard so he took shelter beneath a fallen pine.  When the sky cleared and his steps finally brought him to Ull's lodge, Bjorn had gone.  Arni greeted Ull with the deepest respect and explained his task and Ull responded with the same question he had asked Bjorn: 'What is valued most by the hunter: strength, speed or blade?'
'I think it must be speed' Arni answered.  'For the beasts are swift of foot and wing, if you blink they are gone and out of spear cast.'
'You have answered well' replied Ull.  'Rest for now and then I will teach you what I can.'

Ull helped Arni fashion skates of bone and long skis of pine with stout straps of leather.  He taught Arni their use and soon Arni was flying over snow or across the great frozen lakes of the northlands.  'This gift is a great wonder' said the excited Arni.  'I can follow beasts at their own speed and travel safely where they flounder.  On behalf of myself and my folk, I am most grateful.'
Ull hugged him fondly and wished him good hunting.  Arni sped away on his new skis and covered much ground and saw where the best hunting could be won.  He trapped many a beast in the deep snow, travelling with ease where they could not.

The third hunter, Ulf, strode south into the warmer lands hoping to find better game.  Three times he found himself walking north in error, but he was woodwise and knew his mistake by the growth of lichen on the trees and turned back to the south.  He met a woman in a fine gown of red brown suede who smiled and shook her head at him.  'Ulf, you are too clever to be fooled.  Go north and seek my grandson and he will help you.'
'Who are you?'
'My grandson's grandmother.'  She laughed merrily and vanished, one moment there and the next not.  Ulf shivered, he had seen a spirit.  He made his way north without any delay and arrived at Ull's lodge soon after Arni had left.

Ulf greeted Ull with the deepest respect and like his fellows told of his needs.  Ull asked him the same question: what was of most value, strength, blade or speed?
'None of them' Ulf answered surely.
'How so?'
'There is another asset of the hunter of far greater value.  Knowledge.'
'Why do you say that?'
'Knowledge is all.  A hunter must know the weather to decide when to risk a hunt.  He must know the beasts, where they will be, where they will run and how to track them.  He must know his fellows, their strengths and weaknesses, else the hunt will fail.  He must read the land and know how to use it for his will.  With knowledge a lame man can hunt the largest beasts and master them.'

'Excellent answer, young Ulf' Ull replied with a laugh.  'Knowledge you have so I will gift you with secrets of the blade.  But sleep now, you are weary, I will teach you when you have rested.'

True to his word Ull taught Ulf the mysteries of a new weapon.  He took the young hunter to a yew tree and showed him how to split the wood and shape it.  Then he led Ulf to a pine tree and showed him how to make shafts straight and fine.  Ull showed him points of bone, cord of deer sinew and goose feather flights and Ulf worked all that waking span in the making of a simple bow.  They rested again and then Ull taught Ulf the arts of the bowman.  Before long Ulf could hit every easy target that Ull set up and the Os was delighted with the young hunter's progress.

'I am deeply proud of you' Ull admitted.  'I will give you a further gift of great value.'  The Os pricked his finger on one of the bone tipped arrows and pressed the tiny wound to Ulf's lips.  In the combined blood of Heimdall and Sybil there was much of worth to a huntsman.  Ulf saw his surroundings with new eyes and smiled.

Nine waking spans had passed since the folk had met in the elder's tent and they gathered outside the shelters, despite the cold, tense with excitement.  Bjorn arrived first with his sled heavily laden with deer, a load that even a band of hunters would have had difficulty carrying.  The elder embraced him and praised him for his wondrous sled.  The folk all gathered about it excitedly and he beamed in their praise.

Soon after Arni returned streaking down the snowy slopes above the shelters causing the folk to cry out with joy at his feat.  His knapsack was bulging with the choicest cuts of the beasts he had slain and their pelts were rolled across his shoulders.  Again the elder showered him with praise and he stood proud and confident.

Then Ulf returned, and the folk murmured in disappointment for the young hunter carried no load beyond the supplies he had taken on his trip.  The only evidence of his adventure was the bow which they saw only as a stick wrapped with twine.  The quiver of arrows hung unseen at his back. 'Ulf' said the elder 'you disappoint us, have you found nothing?'
Ulf pointed upwards, a dozen geese flew steadily overhead, unbothered by the menfolk far below and safely out of spear range.  Ulf raised his bow and drew it thrice in quick succession.  Three plump birds fell to the earth at the elder's feet.  The folk were silent a while, surprised by the deadly force of Ulf's bow.  Then recovered from their shock they roared their approval

The elder gathered the folk again and asked each of the hunters to tell what they had done.  The gifts the hunters brought were each so valued that as each spoke all thought 'This one should be leader'.  But the leader was wise and cautious and let them all speak before weighing their worth.  Ulf's tale however had greater depth, even before he admitted that the Os had gifted him with blood.  The elder smiled when he heard of the second gift and said 'I think Os Ull has taken the decision out of my hands.  Did he have anything more to say to you?'
'Yes' Ulf admitted.  'He told me that in Godhome it is Heimdall who watches over the leaders of men.'
'Then my choice is clear.  Ulf Ull's Friend, I name you as our next leader.  May Heimdall send you wisdom and may Ull guide your aim.'

Ulf made a wise leader and always consulted with Arni and Bjorn so that they felt valued.  He reminded the folk of the skills they too had won from the Os so that they were seen almost as equals, and this caused them to become the best of friends.  The tribe prospered and strove to improve on Ull's gifts.  The trading of the new tools brought the tribe great status and much wealth in amber.

Ulf lived long and when his strength began to fail him he travelled north in the hope of meeting his Os one last time.  He was an old man and the journey taxed him greatly.  He gave up his last breath as he staggered from the deep snow into the warmth of Ull's forest lodge.  Ull and Skuld were standing there ready.  Skuld pushed a precious pip between the lips of the newly risen ghost and Ull embraced his old friend.  Ulf eagerly followed the Os to the wildlands of Yewdale and in time they became as close as father and son.

Notes

This tale introduces the role of the soul-seeker, a protective goddess who looks after the menfolk who die of accident or old age to whom the gods owe an obligation.  Strangely no deities are given this function in the literature that survives, despite dozens of valkyries being named who deal exclusively with the dead from the battlefields.

The size of Thor's hall strongly implies use as the home for his dead followers, although this is rarely mentioned in old sources.  There is one runic inscription which speaks of a dead spirit joining Thor in the afterlife, while Odin mocks him to say that he owns the thralls.  If Stronghome was an afterlife to rival Valhall, which seems likely, Thor would need his own team of goddesses to collect the souls of the dead.

It makes sense to me to include the halls of Frigga, Heimdall and Ull among list of Heathen afterlives as each have halls described in the Eddas.

Skuld is listed in the Eddas as one of the valkyries so this more peaceful role suits her well.  Both Hlin and Gna are sent out riding by Frigga on errands so again they fit this goddess type.

No tales survive of Ull so I have created this one for him combining the pattern of a fairy tale with his best known interests: the skills of hunting, archery and skiing.  The repeated use of the number three is common in both fairy tale and Heathen mythology.

In these early stories there are no days or seasons so men are dwelling on the edge of the ice covered lands.  Following on from 'The First Godwoman' news of the gods and goddesses of the Osfolk is starting to spread among mankind.

The three hunters are named after beasts:Ulf means wolf, Arni eagle and Bjorn means bear.  Ulf's tribe are very loosely based on the Sami.
I will add to this as I progress.  The list is restricted to chapters 1-9 to avoid spoilers.

The Osfolk:

Jord: the ancient Earth Mother goddess.
Perun: one of Jord's three husbands and Thor's father, now dead.
Fjorgynn: one of Jord's three husbands and the Norns' father, now dead.
The Ship Lord (?): one of Jord's three husbands.
Thor: god of weather and farmers, Jord's son.
Frigga: goddess of fate, Jord's daughter.
Sybil: goddess of fate, Jord's daughter.
Saga: goddess of fate, Jord's daughter.
Verdandi: goddess of fate, Jord's daughter.
Urd: goddess of fate, Jord's daughter.
Skuld: goddess of fate, Jord's daughter.
Meilli: Thor's mortal-born blood brother.
Ull: god of hunting, Sybil and Heimdall's son.
Ulf: Ull's mortal-born adopted son.
Hlin: protective goddess, one of Frigga's handmaidens.
Gna: protective goddess, one of Frigga's handmaidens.
Fulla: goddess of domestic comforts, one of Frigga's handmaidens.
Sigyn: Thor's housekeeper.
Heimdall: the guardian of Godhome.

The Ettinfolk of Godhome:
Odin - the god of battle and wisdom
Villi - Odin's brother
Ve - Odin's brother
Tyr - warrior god
Loki - god of magic and cunning
Hoenir - a childhood friend of Odin's
Mimir - a god of wisdom
Mother Bestla - Odin's mother
Borr - Odin's father
Hermod - a human boy adopted by Odin.

Wordhoard:
Where Heathen words survive in English I will use them for nouns and mythical place names.  

The Nine Worlds:
Middle Garth or Earth / the world of Mankind.
Godhome or Osgarth - the world of the gods.
Elfhome - the world of the elves
The Outlands or Ettinhome - the world of the ettins
Darkelf Home or Dwarfhome - the underworld land of the dwarves.
Muspellhome - the world of fire to the south.
Misthome - the land of cold and ice.
Vanhome - the land of the Van gods.
Hel - the underworld world of the dead.

Carl - a freeman.
Elf - a word with broad meanings including local nature spirits, god like beings and dwarves.
Elf-sight - the ability to see elves, they are invisable to most humans.
Elf-sign - an indication of the presence of elves, a doorway to Elfhome.
Ettin - a powerful godlike being, often (but not always) of great height.
Garth - an enclosure or yard.  One of the Nine Worlds.
Godfolk - plural form of both god and godman.
Godman - a Heathen priest.
Godwoman - a Heathen priestess.
Land Spirit - spirits of the land appearing in human or animal form.
Lich - the physical body
Norn - a goddess of fate
Os - a god / divine.  Replacing the Norse Asa.
Osfolk - the people of Godhome.
Oswife - a goddess
Scry - to look at something to determine the future.
Spae-sight - the ability to see the future
Span - equivalent of a day before the heavens are set in motion by the Wolf.
Spell-song - a sung verse use in magic working.
Stead - place.
Thrall - a slave.
Wight - a being, normally used in the context of a local spirit or elf.
Wyrd - Fate.
In a hall deep on the ocean bed lived the sea ettins Aegir and Ran.  This couple had nine children, all girls, who were close to one another in age.  Ran had named them after the waves.  In time they grew to be young women but despaired of finding good husbands; for this was long before mortal men sailed out away from the safety of land.

In desperation the daughters decided to magic themselves a lover.  The eldest, Bloodyhair, stole into her mother's chamber.  She took the smallest of her mother's brewing vessels and a wand made of coral sanded smooth as glass.  She joined her sisters in their own private apartment.  The soapstone brew pot was placed in the centre of the room and the sisters gathered about it.

'We need to fill the pot for the spell,' said Bloodyhair, 'with the most powerful talismans we can give.  What shall we use?'
'We can give hair' suggested Heavenshining
'Yes,' agreed Bloodyhair, 'that will make powerful magic.  Let us all chop off a lock of hair and drop it in the pot.'  They did so and the pot was a third full.
'What shall we add next?' asked Bloodyhair.
'We can add spittle' suggested Rising.
'Excellent' said Bloodyhair approvingly, and the nine ettin maids spat into the pot.  It was now half full, for ettins are skilled in the art of spitting.
'And what next?' asked Bloodyhair. 'We need much more magic than this.'
Brightwave spoke up; she was the youngest: 'I could give the blood of my maidenhead.'
'Hmph, we all could: that is why we are making a man' growled Bloodyhair.  She passed around her coral wand and each used it to break their maidenhead and the blood from each of them was stirred into the pot.  It was now full.  Bloodyhair stirred the mixture of blood, spittle and hair and she started to sing the haunting spell songs of the deep ocean.  Her sisters, one by one, added their voices to hers and the magic shone in the pot and was powerfully strong.
'Keep singing my sisters' said Bloodyhair 'but one by one name your desires and so he shall be formed.  I say that he will be in a grown man's body from his first breath.'
'I say he should be born with speech and wisdom', added Heavenshining.
'I say he should be very handsome', said Rising.
'I say he should be keen of eye', said Rolling.
'I say he should be keen of hearing', said Foaming.
'I say he should be very strong', said Breaking.
'I say he should have great endurance', said Sparkling.
'I say he should be a good lover', said Coldwave.
'I say he should have gold teeth', said Brightwave.
The chanting sisters glared at Brightwave but she just shrugged. 'I like gold', she said.
The pot was glowing like a fallen star, and as the sisters chanted a figure rose from out of the light. He was everything they had asked for and more.  The new made man took one look at the grasping, lusty ettin girls reaching out for him and had one thought - escape.

Realising that they had thought of everything except obedience the ettins howled in frustrated rage and made chase. But thanks to their gifts the man was quicker than they and left them far behind as he swam towards the shores of Middle Garth.

After no small effort the man reached the shallows off the coast and fought his way through the crashing and tugging surf.  The waves struggled to pull him back under but he was stronger and gained the dry shingle.  He walked cold, hungry and naked to the nearest habitation which was a crooked smoky hut built from piled driftwood and thatched with sea grass.  There was a woman bent over by the leather door curtain, gutting and slicing fish to dry, and she gasped at the sight of him.

'Greetings to you good woman', the man said. 'I am very tired and hungry, please could I rest here and gather my strength?'
The woman nodded nervously and beckoned him into the hut and offered him a place by the fire, there were no benches, only well worn hides covering the floor for comfort.  The woman brought him a shirt of heavy leather and he gratefully pulled it on.  She served him a thin fish stew from the hearth pot, a slab of gritty hard bread and a cup of spring water.  He thanked her most kindly and asked her name.  'My name is Great-grandmother, lord, and my husband who is out fishing is called Great-grandfather' she replied.  'And how might you be known, lord?'
'This will seem most strange to you, I have been born from a cauldron, and have not even slept since I awoke for the first time.  But my nine mothers gifted me wisdom and I was born knowing my own name, I am Heimdall.'  Great-grandmother left him to his meal and shyly went back to her work, he watched her, feeling that she was of his own kind as the sea ettins were not.

In time the husband returned with a basket of fish, and sat with his wife stripping the catch for smoking.  When the work was all done and the fish dangling on rods above the fire, the couple made ready for bed and insisted that Heimdall lie in the middle so that he would be warm.  He accepted the offer and he lay there with Great-grandmother and Great-grandfather lying close beside him.  Great-grandfather, tired from his labours, soon fell asleep but Heimdall and Great-grandmother lay awake, aware of one another's closeness.  He pulled her closer, so that her small breasts pressed against him and he kissed her.  Great-grandmother was equally eager and clutched at him with hands worn rough from hard cold work.  They coupled together as Great-grandfather slept soundly.

Heimdall stayed with them a little while and then decided to move on.  He thanked Great- grandmother most kindly for feeding and clothing him, she clung to him with tears in her eyes.  'I will be back, Great-grandmother', he promised and went on his way, following the path inland.

After a long walk Heimdall came to a stoutly built house of cut logs with fields of ripening grain all about it.  There was a plump woman sitting on the doorstep shelling peas.  She looked up at him and smiled in greeting.
'Greetings to you, my name is Heimdall.  Please could you give me something to eat and a place to sleep.'
'Of course, of course'  the woman readily agreed.  'You are welcome to stay here, My name is Grandmother and my husband is Grandfather, he is out working in the fields but he will be back soon. Come sit down by the fire and I will fetch you some food.'
There were benches placed about the hearth, and Heimdall sat down to take his ease.  Grandmother brought him good brown bread with cheese and smoked ham, and Heimdall thanked her kindly.  After a while Grandfather returned home and after he had eaten the couple made ready for bed.  They insisted that Heimdall sleep between them as an honoured guest.  Heimdall agreed and lay between them.  The bed was a mound of hay covered in woollen sheets with warm woolen blankets to cover them.  Grandfather soon fell asleep but Heimdall and Grandmother lay awake aware of one another's closeness.  Heimdall pulled Grandmother to him and stroked her body, her skin was almost smooth and her well rounded body was pleasant for him to touch.  Grandmother was equally eager and they coupled as Grandfather slept beside them.
Heimdall stayed a while with them and then decided to move on.  Grandmother wept to see him go and again he promised to return.

Heimdall walked on for many miles until he came to large hall with carved and painted gables.  There was a woman sitting outside the door embroidering an apron.
'Good greetings to you' called Heimdall giving his name and asking hers.
'My name is Mother' she replied, 'my husband is Father, he is out hunting with his hawks but he will be back soon.
'Would you be so kind' asked Heimdall 'to give me some food and shelter?'
'Of course' agreed Mother. 'Come and sit by the fire and I will fetch you something.'
She took him to a carved chair with a soft cushion on its seat and brought him fine white bread and roast game still warm from the oven.  He ate most gratefully.  Soon the husband returned and the couple made ready for bed.  They insisted that Heimdall take the place of honour in the bed between them and Heimdall did not object.  So they lay there all together on the feather bed with its carved posts.  Father fell asleep leaving Mother and Heimdall lying awake, each aware of the presence of the other.  Heimdall put out his hand and touched skin that was perfectly smooth, she moaned at his touch and reached out for him.  He kissed her round firm breasts and they coupled together as Father slept.

Heimdall stayed a while with them but in his heart he knew that he did not belong there and wished to travel onwards.  He made his farewells to Mother and she wept to see him go and again he promised to return.  He made his way deep into Middle Garth.  Heimdall's wonderous vision allowed him to see what mortal men could not, a great ash tree filling the heavens to the east.  He made his way towards it and in time came close to Urd's well at the centre of the Nine Worlds.

The Norns gathered excitedly outside the door of their hall.  Ever since Ran's daughters had started their spell the Norns had observed great changes in Wyrd's web.  The short threads of mankind twisted into new patterns and faint ghosts of the future weaving suggested a great increase in their numbers.  Just as remarkable was the long thick thread of gold and green which had appeared on the loom besides those of the folk of Godhome.  There was no doubt in their minds that a new god would soon be taking up residence and that he would be a desirable match.

The Norns had all bathed and dressed in their finest clothes to greet the newcomer.  Heimdall observed them from afar and smiled to see their eagerness and quickened his stride.
'Good greetings to you, ladies.  We have not met but you must be the guardians of the Wyrd.'
The goddesses nodded and smiled and introduced themselves, there was Urd, Saga and Verdandi, Skuld and Sybil, and not forgetting Frigga, they informed him, who now dwelt nearby in Fenbank Hall.
'So which of you will tell me of my future?' asked Heimdall.
Skuld was urged forward and sat herself before the loom inspecting it closely 'There is no great mystery here' she said.  'You will make your way to Godhome and offer your services as a warrior in defence of the garth.  You will be soon counted among the Osfolk.'
'Is that all?' teased Heimdall 'Will I marry?'
Skuld looked to the loom again and frowned.  'I see no marriage but I see a mating and a child; the ghost of another god lies on the loom...' she stopped speaking and glanced at her sister Sybil with a meaningful look.  Sybil caught her expression and learnt forward to see for herself and gasped.  The ghostly weaving grew more distinct before her eyes.
'What's this?' laughed Heimdall. 'A promise of a mating?  With such lovely ladies as you how could I turn you down?'
Sybil rose and caught his hands in hers, 'And how could I turn you down?' she replied.  'If you will have me.'
Heimdall hoisted her into his arms and carried her into the hall at Urd's well where he proved the worth of many of Ran's daughters' gifts.
The remaining Norns sat about the loom watching as the faint life thread of a new god grew slowly brighter, it was white with strands of green.

As the Norns had predicted, Heimdall was made welcome in Godhome.  Frigga had confirmed that he could be trusted and Thor was delighted to accept the Heimdall's offer of protection, which would allow him far more freedom to ride out to battle the dangers of the Outlands.  Until Heimdall's arrival he had concerned himself much with his sister's safety. They offered him a large estate in Godhome but Heimdall refused and built himself only a modest hall beside the rainbow bridge where he could easily watch who approached.

Heimdall was much loved by all the goddesses and seldom wanted for company.

Time passed and Heimdall knew that the women in Middle Garth would have born children and that they would now be well grown.  He took leave from Godhome and travelled back to the coast where he had emerged from the sea.  Great-grandmother did indeed have a son, he was short and stocky and sat by her helping to scrape the fish, for he was not old enough to go to sea.  Heimdall called the lad to him and they walked over the shingle to a rocky headland.  There Heimdall taught him many things: some relating to the sea and the currents and the habits of the fish on which life here depended, and others to the working of the land: the best ways to plough, dig, plant, and harvest.

This lad's name was Thrall, and from him are descended all hard working men who dig, toil and build.

Heimdall slept with Great-grandmother once more for pleasure's sake, and she wept bitter tears to lose him for he made no promise to return.  He travelled on to the home of Grandmother and Grandfather and saw that she had a fine son, upright and strong.  He was winnowing grain with his mother and Heimdall called the boy away. He took the lad to a grove of apple trees and he taught him many things: of what crop grew best in what soil, of how to care for animals, how to improve the stock and how to defend his holding and many things of worth to a farmer.

This lad's name was Carl and from him are descended all the farmers, artisans and warriors.

Heimdall lay once more with Grandmother for pleasures sake, then he travelled on to the hall of Mother and Father.  There sat Mother's son at her feet as his mother taught him songs and ballads.  The son was very striking with a fierce commanding gaze and a proud bearing.  Again Heimdall called the lad away to a moot stone and taught him many things of worth to the leaders of men.  He taught him how to win men's loyalty through generosity, how to win in battle, how to judge over disputes and how to write in runes.

This lad's name was Earl and from him are descended all the great leaders of men.

Heimdall asked to share Mother's bed and to his surprise she refused.  'I am deeply honoured that you should ask such of me' she explained 'I dreamt many times of you being beside me but over the years memories grow dim, and now I remember that I am lucky in my husband.  Please let me stay a loyal wife, one not forever hankering after what she cannot have.'
Heimdall laughed at this and kissed her lightly on the cheek.  'Oh noble woman!' he praised her. 'For such wisdom you shall forever have my blessing.  I can see further than the hawk and hear the wool growing on the backs of sheep.  From my hall in Godhome I will watch over you and yours.'
She pushed a bundle of bread and dried game into his hands and he made his way back over the many miles to Godhome.

But what became of Sybil?  She bore a child from Heimdall's seed, and named the boy Ull.  He proved to be a strong child with a keen eye that he had inherited from his father.  He took to the hunting bow with ease.  When he reached manhood Frigg and Thor gave him a large estate in Godhome which he proudly named Yewdale, and left the land wild and well stocked with beasts for his hunting.

Notes:

Much of this tale comes from the Icelandic Eddas.  Heimdall is said to be the son of the nine ettins of the waves, though how he can have nine mothers is never explained.  My additional of his magical birth allowed me to explain some of his stranger powers: supernatural eyesight and hearing and even his golden teeth.  The story of the fathering of the three classes of mankind, the slaves, the freemen and the nobility, is taken straight from the Lay of Rig in the Poetic Edda.

In the ancient world slavery was commonplace and even in England bonded servants who received no wages still existed on farms until about 1800.

The use of spittle in the ettin girls' spell is borrowed from the later tale of Kvasir.

Sybil (better known by another name that will be revealed later) is recorded as the mother of Ull by an unknown father.  Heimdall with his heightened senses seems an excellent father for the god of hunting.  Ull's estate of Yewdale also comes from the Edda's as does Heimdall's Hall, Heavensmount.

The term Osfolk is Jord and Thor's family name.  Os is the old English name for a god which survives in the personal names Oscar and Oswald.  I will be using the terms Os and Osfolk, Van and Vanfolk to replace the Norse As, Aesir, Van and Vanir.  The Van gods are the inhabitants of Vanhome who will be making their presence felt soon.
Sigyn struggled back from the distant spring with a bulging ox stomach heavy on each shoulder.  The water was muddy but in this drought it would be welcome regardless.

She staggered slowly back to the hide covered tent that she called home.  Her mother, sitting by the hearth stones, gave her a relieved smile.  'There is still water,' the mother whispered. 'Thank the Ancestors.'
'Aye, thank the Ancestors', Sigyn replied and squatted wearily down to help prepare the hunters' meal.  There was grain and a little dried meat and fruit that would last a few days, but no more.  Without rain every green stem about the place had withered and died.

They pounded the grains to dust and cooked flatbreads on the hearth stones.  The loaves had just cooled when the hunters, Sigyn's father, uncle and elder brother, returned to the shelter.  It was clear from their sagging knapsacks and mournful expressions that they had found little.  The father went through the usual formalities regardless, 'Hearth Mother, we bring you meat to sustain you.'  The three men laid out their meagre trophies on the woven grass hearth mat: there were two skinny hares and a small snake, barely enough meat to feed one hunter for a single day.

Overcome with worry, Sigyn's mother took a while to respond, then she lifted over a flat basket on which three small fruit-speckled flatbreads lay.  'Hunters of this hearth, I thank you for the meat you have brought.  Please accept these loaves for your efforts.
The three men took the loaves gratefully, biting in to ward off hunger until the meat was cooked.  'You still have stores then?' Sigyn's father asked.
'Hmpf.' replied the Hearth Mother.  The stores were her business and their management her secret as the hunting arts were her husband's.

Far away Thor was paying a visit to his five sisters who watch the weaving of Wyrd beneath the World Ash.  Jord's son sat nursing a cup of wine, watching Sybil and Skuld as they traced their fingers across the weave.  Nearby Saga, Verdandi and Urd were applying mud from the well onto the tree's roots to strengthen them.

'What is happening in the Nine Worlds?' Thor asked his sisters.
'All is well in Godhome' replied Skuld. 'Your hall lacks only its shingles.  Frigga weaves you a fine tapestry in payment for your building skills.  Meili is winding her bobbins.  Frigga's handmaidens are stocking a fish pond.'
'That I know' smiled Thor, sipping his wine.
'You asked about Nine Worlds', chided Sybil ' she is only answering you.'
'Fair comment!' her brother laughed.
Skuld frowned and continued 'In Vanhome and Elfhome all is well, the wights dance, sing and mate beneath the green boughs.'
'When are those perverted wretches going to learn to make clothes?' muttered Thor.
'When you lose your liking for ale' replied Skuld. 'Stop interrupting: this isn't easy'.
'Sorry' her brother muttered.
Skuld laid her palms across the tangled threads, then continued 'In Misthome the wights shiver and have no strength for songs, only the outlawed are found there.  In deepest Hel the dead sigh and sink down into the abyss.  In Darkelf Home the wights grub out gold for their wonders and hide from the sun.  In the Outlands the mountains ring with a thousand squabbles; brother fights brother over cattle, gold and mate.  Would you know more, brother?'
'Nothing unusual so far, but what of Middle Garth?'
Skuld ran her fingers across the threads as if playing a harp and the web trembled at her touch, 'All is well in the North, the West too.  The East folk are contended, and the South...' the web trembled again and thin threads broke. 'All is not well in the South: a warm wind plagues the land; the ground is parched and dry; the folk and beasts suffer.  The answer lies in Muspelhome, I see a fire ettin striding towards the land of men, sweeping a great brand before him, turning the earth to dust.'
'Then I must go', replied Thor, downing his wine and bidding his sisters a hasty farewell.

After a meal that left everyone still wanting more, Sigyn's family sat together about the sacred hearth.  It was a time for songs, for stories and for the stick tossing games, but no one was in a mood for such merriment.  Each sat silent, worried and brooding.  None were surprised when the tribe's second hunter came to the shelter and announced that the Elder had summoned a gathering.  The Hearth Mother brushed dirt over the embers to make the fire burn sure and slow and asked the Ancestors to guard the fire's spark.  The family made their way to the Ancestors tree.

It was easy to take the tree for granted when the living was good, but now the tree drew Sigyn's attention.  The tree was the home of the Ancestors who watched over the tribe, who brought the rains and called the beasts to the hunters.  Its boughs were heavily hung with animal bones and bundles of grasses, each marking a successful trip to find food.

The tribe settled about the tree: everyone had gathered, all nine families.  The Elder sat against the trunk, his age marking him apart from the younger hunters.  He alone wore the white paint of the spirits that stood out clear on his dark wrinkled flesh.

'While the hunters went out, I visited the land of the spirits, I closed my eyes and they were all around me: mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers back to the beginning of our tribe.  They wish us to honour them more fully.  They wish each family to find a tree trunk, and carve two faces opon it, one for the mothers and one for the fathers.  The post must be raised beside each hearth: we must do this straightaway and then the Ancestors will bring the rains.

The folk were silent in thought: there were very few trees, and with their simple flint tools the work would be long and hard.

Sigyn's mother spoke up, 'If we make these posts, the men will not be able to hunt.  Before long there will be little food and little strength to find more.'
The folk all spoke at once voicing their concerns.
'Enough!' cried the Elder. 'Who brings the rains?'
'The Ancestors bring the rains', the folk chorused.
'And who calls the beasts to the hunt?'
'The Ancestors call the beasts.'
Such words came naturally to the folk: they were voiced in every gathering and ceremony.  But for the first time Sigyn felt the tendrils of doubt creep into her thoughts.  How could any hunter or mother bring the terrible towering rain storm, be they living or dead?
The gathering had fallen silent again and Sigyn spoke up 'I don't think it is the Ancestors who bring the rain.'
'Then tell us', demanded the Elder nastily 'who does bring the rain?'  The folk were staring at her in puzzlement.
'I think the rain brings itself.  Maybe there is a rain spirit.'  Sygin thought of the most dramatic storms she could remember.  'No,' she corrected her own musing 'a thunder spirit.  The Thunder spirit brings the rain.'
Her answer filled her with certainty and she raised her eyes to the Elder who met her gaze with a glare of fury.
'How dare you?' he raged.  'Our tribe has honoured the Ancestors for more generations than there are teeth in your mouth.  And you, a girl, yet to choose her hunter, yet to bring forth a babe, think you know more than so many!  No wonder the Ancestors complain that we do not honour them, do not remember them, when you turn your back on them, beneath their sacred tree!'

Horrified folk edged away from Sigyn, her own family among them.
The Elder pointed his boney finger towards her.  'Here is the reason that we have lost the blessing of the Ancestors: before we build the posts in their honour she must be driven out!'
Sigyn stared back in surprise, there were ancient legends about folk being driven away when they brought down ill luck on the tribe, but she had never imagined it could still happen now, and happen to her.
'Hunters!' demanded the Elder.
The men from the other families were first to act and ran to seize their spears, eager to drive the ill luck out of the tribe.  Sigyn found herself pressed back as the hunters jabbed towards her with the threatening fire hardened points.  She stepped back and back again, her mind in a whirl.  Her sobbing mother ran up to her and pressed a hide bundle into her daughter's shaking hands.  'Go!' her mother urged her. 'Get away from here, it's not safe for you!'
Sigyn gathered her wits and clutching the bundle ran out into the dry wasteland, and after a while the hunters stopped following her, satisfied that their duty was done.

Thor had run swiftly the few leagues to his towering hall.  He whistled for his goats and pulled his wagon out of his workshop.  The timber shed was now filled to the rafters with pine shingles and the massive dragons Meili had carved for the gables.  With practised hands he soon had the harness fastened and his cooking gear slung about the tail board.  With a rattle and a rumble Thor urged his goats up into the heavens and turned them towards the southern boundaries of Middle Garth.

Sigyn walked over a low ridge of hills.  This marked the limit of her travels gathering grains and herbs.  The unknown land beyond, though no doubt well known to the hunters it felt safer, far away from the angry folk.  She was thirsty and made her way to the lower slopes and was relieved to find a tiny spring and drank deep and long.  Finally she inspected the bundle her mother had pushed into her hands and unwrapped the thin leather.  It was her brother's bag which he took on hunting trips.  There were two flint blades, a drinking cup, a fire stick and, best of all, a thick slab of honeycomb wrapped in leaves, a treasure from her mother's dwindling stores.

Thor urged his goats ever faster across the vault of the heavens and the endless tracts of Middle Garth sped past beneath him.  The Sun goddess shone directly above him and the air blazed with heat and still he travelled south until he felt the hot blast from Muspelhome adding to the oven like air.  Thor guided the goats down to the dusty earth and saw the scene that Skuld had scried in the web of Wyrd.

A towering ettin with ruddy skin and hair of flame was advancing towards him, a burning bough sweeping back and forth from each hand, a look of menace on his scowling face.  Thor called out to him, 'Wait there big fellow, you shouldn't stray into Middle Garth, you go back to Muspelhome!'
The ettin cast his eyes about searching for his foe, his view obscured by the smoke of his own passing.  'What have I to fear from a challenger so small that I cannot see him?'
'Much, in this case, for I am Jord's son' Thor replied. 'Turn back while you still can.'
'No' growled the ettin.  'The land here is empty so I will take it.  With fire I will claim it and with fire I will sow it and by fire I shall rule it.'
'This land may be unclaimed but the land beyond it is not.  Your flames will cause the death of folk I hold dear if you do not return to Muspelhome, so go back!  This is your last warning!' cried Thor.
'Do your worst, pipsqueak' replied the giant derisively.
Thor hauled up a boulder from the parched ground and hefted it in his right hand, gauging its weight and suitability as a missile.  Satisfied he pulled it back to his shoulder and let fly.  The ettin went unknowing to oblivion, his brains spreading out into the smoke of Muspel as his skull cap exploded.

Sigyn had slept uneasily and woke hungry.  She wondered what she could do: she had never hunted and knew all too well how few plants were green in this long drought.  Undecided, she lay in the welcome shade beneath the rocky ridge and took her ease.  Her gaze fell on a tree growing out of the rocks above her, tall and vigorous with its roots deep in the spring, and still bearing green leaves, though they were not good eating.  Contemplating the tree her eyes were drawn to its highest branch which alone was bare and blackened, blasted by the Ancestors.

'No', said the new rebellious voice in Sigyn's mind, 'it has been touched by Thunder.'  In wonder Sygin got to her feet and approached the tree.  Checking that the hunter's bundle and the precious honey were safely looped across her back she reached up and pulled herself up the trunk, her well practised bare feet making easy work of the climb.  Higher and higher she climbed until the tree swayed with her every movement and then she had reached her goal and sat astride the blackened wood.  She stroked the charred timber and called into the heavens 'Thunder! Please bring the rain!'

Her voice echoed about the cliffs and faded into silence.  Nothing happened: what ever had she expected?  She sighed, and her stomach growled with emptiness.  She reached for the honeycomb, and smiled. 'Maybe Thunder spirits get hungry too.'  She broke the comb into two pieces and wedged one half into a fork of the blackened timber and put a fragment of the remainder into her mouth and savoured the sweet chewy flavour.  'If you can hear me Thunder Spirit, I have a gift of honey for you here.  Please hear me and bring the rain.'

Sigyn stayed in the high branches and ate the honeycomb little by little, chewing each piece away to nothing before she put the next piece in her mouth.  Far to the south she saw wisps of cloud reaching across the sky which gradually thickened until a dense rain cloud rolled towards her, its lower levels flashing with fire.  Overjoyed, Sigyn watched eagerly.

Before long the fury of the storm was all about her, the wind threw the tree from side to side so that she had to cling on tightly.  Lightning crackled all about her and rain thrashed down so that she could barely hold her eyes open.  Laughing, she opened her mouth to drink in the glorious fresh rain.
'Well met!' called a unfamiliar man's voice and Sygin looked up to see a sight she could not comprehend.  A man was grinning at her from a strange structure to which two fearsome looking goats had been tethered.  His skin was as pale as creamy milk and his long hair was red like flame.  The folk of the tribe sometimes painted themselves with red and white pigments but she was sure that this man wasn't painted.  Yet if his appearance was strange, more wonderous still, the wooden box in which he stood was floating in the sky.
'Are you the Thunder spirit?' she asked shyly.
'Indeed,' and you must be the young lady who leaves me gifts of honey.'
'Then you must take it.'  Sigyn prised the damp leaf wrapped honeycomb out of the tree and held it up to him.
He took it from her with a nod of thanks and said 'You are the first child of all Middle Garth to give me a gift.  That makes you special, do you want to come with me?'
'Oh yes please!' Sigyn replied and reaching out Thor pulled her up into his wain.  Thor held her close and wrapped his cloak about her against the chill of the storm and urged the goats towards the World Ash and Godhome.

Sigyn saw wonder in everything.  She watched the ground flying beneath her as if she were a bird.  She marvelled at the goats, so strangely working a man's will with their hard hooves striking sparks from the unseen road beneath them.  She admired the strange bowls hanging from the tail board which gleamed like the sun, the soft warm texture of the Thunder spirit's cloak and the whirling discs that rumbled on either side of the spirit's strange box.  The much needed storm growled beneath them.  Occasionally the spirit would shake a rattle which glowed like the light of the moon and lightning would crash and fork to the ground far below.

'Is this your home?' Sigyn shouted over the din of the storm as her confidence grew.
'Oh, no, this is a wain, I only use it for travelling.  I am taking you to my home; it is a fair land called Godhome, where the spirits live.'

Sigyn was filled with curiousity.  What sort of home would a Thunder spirit have, and what other spirits were there?  But the way was long and Sigyn drifted off to sleep beneath the Thunder spirit's cloak and did not wake until the wain rattled onto the flagged court at Stronghome.

They were outside a huge shelter which greatly impressed Sigyn.  Thor busied himself rubbing down the goats and pouring fresh grain into their feed buckets.  'This is a wonderful home' said Sigyn.  'Its so big and so well made!  I have never seen anything like it.'
'This isn't my home either.  Its my wood store', Thor replied, 'come I will show you.'
He took her hand and turned her about.  Sigyn looked blankly at the cliff rising before her.  It was very strange, like a carving the size of a mountain, but it couldn't be.  Could it?
Thor drew her with him to a large carved door and she gasped as she understood: it was a hollow mountain built out of trees.  'This is the hall where I sleep and eat with my kin', Thor explained, 'but I think the kitchen will be more useful right now.'
'Kitchen?' asked Sigyn, puzzled.
'Follow me' Thor lead the way through another doorway and down a flight of stone steps which Sigyn considered as wonderous as the hall itself.  Below the hall was a long stone cave, not natural but carved like the hall above.  A cave built the way you might build a hide shelter, Sigyn realised with awe; it was beautiful in her eyes.
While she gazed around dreamily, Thor had fetched a pig's carcass from his well stocked larder and threaded it onto a spit, he lit a fire on the hearth with a single shake of the gleaming rattle he still carried.
'Oh no, let me do that' said Sigyn, pushing him away.  She might not understand anything else here but she could cook a pig.  She smiled apologetically realising she had been forward with a spirit.  'I am sorry, but it is woman's work, so I should be cooking.'
'Really?' Thor was grinning 'And what else is woman's work?'
'Women gather the grains and the herbs, brew the beer, store the food and tend to the hearth.'
'And what do men do?'
'Men go hunting.'
'Well, that will have to change' said Thor seriously.
'Why?'
'Because I am not a hunter, I am a farmer.'
Sigyn looked lost.  Was it so strange in the world of the spirits that the men did not hunt? 'A farmer?' she voiced the unfamiliar word 'What does that mean?'
Thor smiled at her, 'I will show you later, I think you have seen enough strange sights for one waking span.  You keep the spit turning and I will make some honey sauce.'

The hunter's daughter and the thunder spirit sat by the kitchen hearth and drank ale while the pig was slowly roasted to perfection.  At the spirit's request, Sigyn taught him games that she played with her family, the stick game and the pebble game, for which she drew two lines of circles on the flagstones with an old coal from the hearth.  By the time the pig flesh was ready to eat Sigyn was relaxed and at peace, soothed by the comforting fire and later by the solid food in her belly.

Sigyn did not remember falling asleep and woke on a bed of grain sacks with the spirit's strange cloak wrapped about her near the embers of the fire.  She kept the cloak about her bare shoulders, grateful for its warmth for this stead was not as warm as the tribal lands.  She was alone, so she climbed the stone steps nervously to the impossibly high wooden shelter above, then walked out into the yard beside the timber store looking for the Thunder spirit.  She heard hammering high above and spotted the spirit by his red hair.  She called out to him and he waved to her and shouted, 'Climb into the empty basket!'.  Sigyn looked about her and saw three huge baskets, two of which were filled with flat squares of wood, puzzled she climbed into the empty one and it shuddered as the Thunder spirit pulled on a rope high above and slowly she was drawn up the towering hall.

From the basket Sigyn could look out over Godhome.  Most of what she could see was dry grassland dotted with shrubs, which reminded her of the tribal lands, but another stretch was deep green with dense trees and she saw the flash of open waters between them.  Higher still she seemed to be surrounded by sky.

'Did you sleep well?' asked the spirit when she reached him and helped her out of the basket to the safety of the roof.
'Yes, thank you' Sigyn replied.  She looked around her.  The spirit had been fixing the wooden plates to a solid sloping framework; they overlapped like the scales of a fish.  Some were rounded and some cut into a point and the pattern they created was very pleasing.
'These are called shingles', Thor explained. 'I need to cover the whole hall with them to keep out the rain.  It is going to take me a while so I thought you ought to see.  If you could put a little food and ale in the basket from time to time when I am working I would be very grateful.'
'I would be happy to.  I could help you up here too if that would be fitting.' She suggested shyly.
'If you want to, you would be welcome.' Thor replied 'But come, there is something I want to show you.'
He led her down a flight of wooden steps and to a broad and heavily carved opening which showed her the other half of Godhome.  The land on this side was strange, with square patches of land coloured in gold, or green, or earthy brown with lines of trees in straight lines between them.
'What are those?' she asked deeply puzzled, pointing to the patches below.
'Those are fields' Thor replied.  'I clear the ground of all the plants, then I take the seeds from one of the plants I like to eat and scatter them over the ground so that thousands of the plant all grow in the same place.'  He pointed out the fields below.  'That one is barley for brewing, that is wheat for bread and that field is bare ready for new plants.
Sigyn was silent as her mind made sense of this new way of living.
'Then there are the beast fields', Thor pointed out further.  'I catch live beasts and keep them within a fence with their own kind.  They breed and no hunting is required.'
'Amazing', muttered Sigyn.  'It cannot be that simple.'
'No it isn't' admitted Thor.  'But an understanding with rain clouds helps, and thanks to my mother's rattle the rains always come when needed.'

'Now come with me.' The Thunder spirit beckoned her further down more flights of stairs and brought her into a cosy chamber.  There was a heavy frame bed piled high with thick goat hides and several wooden boxes, Thor opened one and pulled out some of the unfamiliar fabrics.  He selected a fine white shirt and helped the girl put it on.  'What is this stuff?' she asked rubbing the fabric between her fingers.
'It is linen' Thor answered, 'you probably use it for ropes and fishing nets.'
Sigyn nodded: she had indeed made ropes and cords from plant fibres, but never anything so fine as this.
He wrapped the discarded cloak about her torso and fastened it with shining pins. 'There!  That's you suitably covered for company.  The women here keep their breasts and legs covered unless they are alone with a lover.'
'Oh' gasped Sigyn, who had worn nothing but the girdle and the small leather apron of her tribe.
'Had I sent you out visiting like that the woman of Godhome would have had plenty to say about it', said Thor with a grin.  'Now I think you would enjoy a visit to my sister Frigga.  She is a spirit who can see into the future and she knows how to make clothes like these.  My kinsman Meili is with her helping to make wallhangings.  She lives beside the lake.  Did you see it when I pulled you up in the basket?'
'Yes I did.'
'So would you like to go and see her while I fix up some more shingles?  Would you be happy to go on you own?'
'I would be very happy to visit her' agreed Sigyn, deeply honoured. 'But who should I say I am?  I don't know my place here.'
'She will know, that's her power, but by all means tell her that you are the Housekeeper of Stronghome.'
'What's a housekeeper?' asked Sigyn even as the answer was dawning on her.
'It's a little like a Hearth Mother, you can look after my stores and let me know what is needed from the fields.  Away with you lass!'
Sigyn ran happily down the hundreds of steps to the hall below delighting at the swing of the soft cloth about her hips as she turned each corner of the stairway.  She had the best of feelings about her future in the Thunder spirit's hall and was determined to learn all she could about the life of Godhome.

Thor had returned to the rooftop and watched the girl fondly as she ran down the path to the marshes.  Whistling happily he positioned another shingle and pushed in the nails with his thumb.  

Notes:
This story introduces Sigyn, one of the goddesses of Norse mythology.  The surviving myths do not explain her origins, so plenty of artistic license has been applied here.

These very early stories are set during man's stone age, some twenty thousand years ago, when modern religious ideas, such as humanlike deities, were probably first developing.  For those surprised that I would suggest Thor's first worshipper came from Africa, be aware that Thor was not seen as a tribal deity by his followers but a global one.  He was held responsible for the protection of the world of Mankind, referred to in the myths as Middle Garth (or Midgard in Norse).  As the Norsefolk explored the world and learnt of other regions from traders, they pushed the borders of Middle Garth ever outwards.  At one time the dangerous land of the ettins (giants), the Outlands (Norse 'Utgard') or Ettinhome ('Jotunheim') was believed to lie all about Middle Garth.  Later, as knowledge increased the Outlands were said to be in the far east.  Quite literally 'here be dragons' marking the unknown lands in the map of the storytellers mind.  This is why the surviving myths often refer to Thor returning from the east when he is invoked during a crisis by his fellow gods and goddesses.

The blending of a modern understanding of the world and the ancient myths is no easy feat.  The geography of the myths suggest you can walk from one of the Nine Worlds to another.  The stories were probably never meant to be literal truths but an attempt to explain the powers and duties of the gods in ways that humans can understand and, possibly more importantly, in a way that was entertaining.

Ettin is an old English term for the most powerful creatures of the mythology besides the gods themselves.  The words ettin and giant are interchangable in English Heathenry.  The word ettin also occurs in ballads, folk tales and even the Chronicles of Narnia.

Still young by the age tally of a god, Thor is still relying on his mother's magic to ride heaven's vault and to create storms, but there are many tales still to go.
After Thor came of age, Jord took him on a long journey to the East.  Following behind them came Thor's blood brother Meili and the two goats Gaptooth and Cracktooth.   They crossed many rivers until they came to a land that was not in Middle Garth.  It was not a large realm: in Middle Garth it would be termed a shire.  'This land is my gift to you, my young bear,' said his mother as they walked across its pleasant meadows, through its shady groves and past its lakes and marshes which hummed with dragonflies.  'Choose a stead where we can build your hall, and, with your love for food, make sure it is on good farming land.'  

Thor considered: the marshland was too wet for fields so he made his way towards a vast, dry and open plain dotted with ash and hawthorn.  'I think this would be a good place mother.'
'Yes this looks very good indeed.  Level too.' Jord said approvingly 'Now open the bundle I gave you.'
Thor untied the bulky cloth roll from where it was secured to his knapsack and unrolled it on the thick grass.  He revealed a shovel, a bundle of painted wooden rods and some leather pouches secured with thongs.  There were also several coils of linen twine all tied with regularly spaced knots and tied with coloured rags.

Jord picked up the shortest cord and, looping the twine about four red painted posts, she marked a square in the grass.  It was about four paces across.  'That will be a very small hall.' Thor commented.  
Jord laughed, 'No my son, this will be your high seat.  The goddess reached for a much larger coil of cord and tied an end to a rod which she pushed into the ground.  'Now, my son, take this cord and walk towards that distant ash tree, and stop when you hold the fortieth knot in your hand.  She followed him, pushing the rods into the earth beneath each knot.  Obeying her instructions, Thor marked out a huge rectangle, so big that the first square was lost within it.  Meili watched with interest and the two goats grazed happily in the thick grass.  
'I never thought it would be so big!' exclaimed Thor.
'Wait,' cautioned Jord, 'we are not done'.  She picked up a third roll of cord even larger than the second and helped him mark a further rectangle outside the other two.

'Now you can start building your hall.' said Jord. 'Lets start with the outer walls.  Bring the shovel.'  Jord stooped down and picked up one of the leather pouches.
'But Mother,' asked Thor, 'what are we building with?  There is nothing here, no timber, no stone.'
'You will see.' said Jord. 'Now, my son, everywhere on this outer run where the twine is marked with a knot with a green rag, I want you to dig a hole below it, four fingers deep.'

Thor walked to the nearest rag marker and effortlessly dug a shallow hole in the thick, matted grass.  Jord pulled open the pouch and pulled out a sprouting nut and passed it to her puzzled son.  'An acorn?' asked Thor.
'Yes an acorn,' Jord replied, 'plant it in the hole.'  
Thor looked at the tiny nut and looked at the lines of twine stretched across the plain. The green rags marked every four paces.  'You mean we are planting ninety two oak trees and waiting for them to grow into a hall?'
'More or less.' Jord laughed 'You will need to fill in the gaps between the trees yourself.'
'But its going to be huge.' muttered Thor.
'Good,' countered Jord 'because your sisters tell me that you are going to need it big.'
Thor knelt down and laid the acorn in the hole and covered it with earth.  Thrilled at the giant proportions of the project he quickly dug the remaining holes and planted all the acorns.  
'Good.' said Jord, 'That is one job well done.  Oak will make the outer walls good and strong.  And now for the inner ring, pillars to hold up the roof.  Thor walked to the second length of twine which was marked with knots marked with red rags and dug a further hole beneath one of the knotted markers.  Jord opened the second pouch and passed him a pine nut.
'Pine.' said Thor recognising the tiny seed.
'Indeed.' confirmed Jord 'They will grow tall to meet the clouds.'
Thor planted the pine nut and moved on digging and planting in turn until the inner ring was also completed.

Jord lead him to the small marked enclosure within which was placed towards one end of the central space.  There were four rags marking this length of twine, marking the corners of a square.  Jord opened the third and final pouch.  
'This will be the heart of the hall, the high seat pillars.  Thor dug down with the shovel and Jord passed him an apple pip.  For the second hole she passed him an ash key, for the third a haw and the fourth a yew berry.

Thor smoothed the earth over the last seed and rose dusting the dirt from his hands.  Jord placed her hands on her son's shoulders and met his fiery gaze.  'Now you must stay here a while and water the seeds each time you wake and again before you sleep.  Keep watering them until the trees are all twice your height.  Make use of your time well: build a shelter to house you while you wait for the trees to grow.  Plough your fields and plant them with grain, gather beasts and breed them.  I will leave you to your tasks and will visit you soon to see how you are faring.'
Thor embraced his mother fondly and promised attend to all the tasks she had set.

Obeying Jord's instructions, when rising from sleep or before retiring, Thor took a large cauldron to the nearest lake, filled it with water and carried it across to his hall stead. Meili used a dipper to water each and every one of the seeds from the cauldron.  They spent the rest of their time exploring the mountainous terrain between Thor's lands and Middle Garth and its fast flowing rivers.  Here they built stone walled traps and drove wild goats and sheep into them.  Roping them together they drove them into Thor's growing farm.

As the seeds sprouted and their tiny shoots emerged and thickened, Thor tamed the wild grass lands. He built banks and ditches to contain his beasts and planted hedges of thorn. He cleared the fields of stones and used them to build shelters for the animals  and a substantial stone longhouse for his temporary dwelling.  Under their care the young saplings flourished and were rising above the surrounding grass.  Thor turned his attention to creating new fields for wheat, hay and barley, turning the earth effortlessly with Jord's sturdy shovel.  Meili collected wild grains and sowed them on the newly turned earth.

When Jord returned, she was impressed with their efforts: every tree nut had grown and the saplings had reached her own height, growing straight and strong.  Stretching far around the hall stead lay a pattern of well tended fields some with contentedly grazing goats and others thick with ripening wild wheat.  She found her son and his friend in their house, its floor and benches deep with well cured goat skins and a pot of stew bubbling over the hearth.

'Welcome Mother.' Thor greeted her with a warm embrace.
'You have done very well,' she said, accepting a bowl of hot stew from Meili.  She looked around her son's house, admiring its solid dry stone walls.  'This is a good strong home, have you thought of a name for it?'
'No.' Thor replied.
'Stronghome is a good name.' suggested Meili.
'That is not very interesting.' Thor chided his blood brother.
'No.' Jord agreed, 'But it is apt.'
Thor shrugged 'Then let it be called Stronghome, I can think of nothing better.  Stronghome in Godhome.  What should I do now Mother?' he asked.
'The trees for your hall will take many mortal lifespans to grow,' she replied, 'but now that they are well established they will not need daily care, but always be sure to return to this place until you can trust its protection to others.'

Time passed and the trees grew to three times the height of a man.  Jord visited her son again, this time with her daughter Frigga at her side.  They found Thor and Meili working on a carving with towering piles of seasoned timber all around their longhouse.  'What are you making?' asked Jord.
'It's a door frame' Thor replied.  Frigga smiled admiring the ornament of oak and rowan leaves in the timber.  She could see the final position of the beam in the misty web of Wyrd, a hundred feet and more above their heads.
'Well,' said Jord 'I am sure it will look very fine, but I have good news for you, Frigga has decided to live here too so you will be neighbours.'
'That is good news indeed.'  Thor smiled in greeting at his sister.
'I wish to build a hall for myself here,' said Frigga 'in the marshes down by the lake, if you have no objection.'
'None at all,' answered Thor, 'Do you want us to help?  As you see, we have plenty of timber.'
'Yes please, brother,' Frigga replied.  'I don't have your passion for heavy work.  I will return the favour with my own skills.  How about some new clothes?'
Thor laughed loud at this, for in his labours he had worn his clothes to threadbare rags, although Meili was still well dressed in a new tunic he had fashioned from goat hide.  'I accept gladly.'  Thor grinned and thrust his wood axe through his belt.  'Come, show us this swamp of yours and we will see what you need.'  

Frigga led them to the stead she had chosen.  The ground was boggy and their feet sank deep with each step.  Meili soon fell behind, unwilling to spoil his good clothes. 'I know how it should be built because it already stands in my mind's eye,' explained Frigga.  'It needs piers of elmwood to raise it out of the mire, long piers sunk deep into the mud.'
'I will fetch those for you' promised Thor, 'how many and how long?'
'Twenty four,' Frigga replied 'and as long as you can manage.'
'You will have them,' Thor replied.  'I will be back tomorrow with your first piers.'  He ran off, happy to be busy.

Frigga stayed awhile delighting in the sights and sounds of the lakeside, then she walked back to Thor's longhouse where she found Meili back at his carving and Jord muttering charms over the trees that Thor had planted.
Frigg waited for Jord to finish and then spoke. 'Thor has rushed off Middle Garth to find elm trees.  He seemed delighted to help.'
Jord nodded in acknowledgement. 'Waiting for these trees to grow will sorely try his patience.  I am glad that you will be here to keep him company.'
'Speaking of company' said Frigga 'I always see myself here with three handmaidens to serve me, the Wyrd tells me that they will be born from the trees in this land.  Will you call them into being for me?'

Jord nodded her head in agreement, 'Of course.  Seek out the trees that we need and together we will call them forth.'
Frigga walked through the land seeing the threads of Wyrd tangled and twisted all around her.  She saw a human form glowing silver within the branches of a birch tree and approached it.  'This one,' she said.  Jord sung a spell song and then breathed upon the bark of the tree and it split open revealing a beautiful sleeping woman with long flaxen hair.  'Fulla,' said Frigga and the woman opened her eyes and smiled.  Little surprises the goddesses of fate, Frigga opened her pack and pulled out a plain white gown and Fulla pulled it on.

They walked onwards with Fulla following behind until Frigga's spae-sight led her to a thorn tree.  She laid a hand against the bough and nodded, and her mother sung a spell and breathed into the bark to reveal a stocky woman with dark hair.  'Hlin.' said Frigga. When wakened, the woman's eyes swept about her and she crouched like a hunter.  Frigga handed her a gown and led the way further into the scrublands.

Frigga followed the whispers of Wyrd to an aspen tree which trembled and shivered in the light breeze.  Jord sung her incantation and breathed again to reveal a slight woman with dark hair. 'Gna,' said Frigga.  The woman sprang up, alert and restless.  Frigga handed her a gown and the five goddesses strolled back to Thor's longhouse.

Thor soon returned from Middle Garth with four rough hewn elm piers on his shoulders and, hungry from his labours, he made his way to his farmstead.  He was surprised and delighted to meet his three new guests, especially as Fulla brought him a steaming bowl of stew and fresh baked bread.  'I think I will enjoy being your neighbour, Frigga!' he grinned and the three young goddesses smiled shyly back.  

Work on Frigga's more modest hall progressed quickly and the twenty four elm piers were soon in place and driven deep into the marsh.    Thor, Gna and Hlin built up causeways from hammered posts and piled earth.  They laughed at Frigga, Fulla and Meili, who protested at the muddy work and busied themselves preparing food and clean clothing for the disheveled labourers.

With the foundations in place, the frame of the hall was raised in oak.  The hardier workers carved the beams with flax flowers, rushes, and herons before fixing them in place.  Then the floors and walls were planked in oak and the roof in pine shingles.  Frigga was delighted with the building and took great pleasure and pride in decorating the rooms with paintwork and wallhangings, and planting the causeway banks with wild flowers.  She named the hall Fenbank.

The trees of Thor's hall had thickened well when Jord returned and Frigga had her hall exactly as she wished it.  Jord asked to see the beasts that her children had reared, she selected two of Frigga's horses and she sung her spell songs over them that they might be strong and sure footed on heaven's vault.  Frigga gave the horses to Gna and Hlin, for both she and Fulla preferred the comfort of the hall to the chill of the lofty skies.

More time passed and Thor's trees continued to grow.  Jord visited again and this time Urd, Verdandi, Skuld, Saga and Sybil came with their mother and the godfolk met about Frigga's table in her comfortable hall.  'So, my children, is all well with you?'
Frigga and Thor nodded.  
Thor smiled at his sisters and asked 'Have you come to live with us as well?'
'Not exactly' replied Urd 'though we plan to live nearby.  We came here for another reason: we have come to help Frigga build the bridge.'
'What bridge?' asked Thor.
'The bridge between Middle Garth and Godhome.'
Thor whistled, thinking of the bare rocky heights cut by a dozen river valleys which separated the two worlds.  'How are you going to build that?'
'Wait and see.' Skuld said mischeiviously.
'I will need you to do one thing for us, dear brother,' said Frigga.  'We will need a tall pine trunk, stripped of branches and smoothed, as round and as pointed as a needle.'
'Gladly.' Thor replied, though much puzzled.

It was not long before Thor arrived at Fenbank Hall with the tallest pine trunk that he could find.  After fetching his tools from the now extensive workshop that sprawled around his longhouse, he set to work on the timber and tirelessly worked it to Frigga's request.  'Perfect.' said Frigga when it was done.  'Can you set it up firmly beside my weaving room?'  Thor did so, bracing the tall post in a deep pit lined with tight wedged stones.  

After resting the goddesses gathered about the foot of the pillar.  The sky was heavy and threatening rain.  Jord sung one of her spell songs and the storm clouds clung to the pillar and then wound their way around it until Frigga could grasp their substance and, with a practised tug, she transformed the cloud stuff into a thick, purple cord.  Gna had mounted her horse and took up the cord's end and urged her horse up into the sky.  Urd,Verdandi, Skuld, Saga and Sybil mounted their own steeds and followed her.  Between Jord's song, Frigga's skill and the Norn's spae-sight the goddesses wove the bridge, a tangled web of woven clouds across the sky.  Jord's song changed and the cord's colour shifted, no longer matching the angry heavens.  Frigga span out green strands, and then yellow and red.  The weave was finally complete and Jord strode to the bridge's end at the edge of Godhome where she struck her staff against it.  The weave trembled and then shimmered and was transformed into a jewel of glass with rippling bands of colour glowing in its depths.  Jord clashed her staff again and flames seared across the bridge's surface where the red cords had been woven. 'There!' she said 'That will keep out the unwelcome folk, but you can walk it without harm.'

After building the bridge the goddesses rested and then the Godfolk gathered again about Frigga's table.  It was Urd who spoke: 'We know where our home will be, for we can see it in the weave of wyrd.  It will be in no one realm, and yet it will touch all worlds.  If you would be so kind mother, would you sing our home into being?'

'Of course.' agreed Jord, 'Just take me to the edge of Godhome where you sense its presence.' The Norns did so, leading their mother beyond the fields of Thor's farm to the very edge of Godhome.
'Here,' said Urd.
Jord chanted her spellsongs and a glade of hazel trees formed before them, its boundary divided from Godhome by a mist.  Jord beckoned from the darkness beyond the glade and there was Middle Garth. She beckoned again and there was the bleak dim wasteland of the Outlands, each with a misty wall defining its border.  
'What else do you see?' asked Jord.
'I see a spring in a bed of white clay,' answered Urd, 'with a great tree rising above it, an ash tree, as high as the very heavens.  It has a root in the dark places below, a root in Godhome and a root in the Outlands.'
'Very well,' answered Jord.  She struck the ground before her feet and up welled a spring, bright and clear in a basin of white clay.  Then she walked beyond the spring and planted her staff into the ground.  She sang and the staff grew taller and thickened.   It grew branches which burst forth into ash leaves and three roots snaked out from below, buckling the green turf.  Jord's song grew with the tree, louder and louder, until it was terrible to hear and still the tree grew, filling the heavens with its leaves.  

The godfolk looked on the great tree with awe.  Jord's song quietened until it was nought but a whisper lost in the wind among the leaves.  

'Now there is a task for you my children,' said Jord 'for am weak from my magic working.  Go and fashion posts to mark this sanctuary and lay a rope of flax to join them.'  

The godfolk hurried about their tasks and returned with three bundles of stout hazel posts and a thick line of flax rope. They set the posts about the tree trunk and hung the rope between them.  Jord smiled wearily and said 'I have warded Godhome from harm and this glade must be warded also. I give this glade to my far seeing daughters, to Urd, Verdandi, Skuld, Saga and Sybil, no wight of the earth, no wight of the ground and no wight of the heavens may enter this glade without your blessing.'  

As Jord had spoken, a squirrel jumped down from the tree and nimbly evaded her spell by its leaping.  Jord laughed, 'There is always one to break a rule!  Well, little squirrel, it looks like you have found your home too.'

Jord turned back to her children, 'I have helped you enough.  Now I will return to Middle Garth.  My time is done and the future is yours to watch over.'  One by one her children came forward to embrace her and were saddened by her departure.

Thor was especially downhearted.  A while later Frigga found him sitting on the raised platform of Fenbank Hall.  'What is wrong brother?' she asked.
'Mother never told me when my trees will be tall enough.' Thor replied.
'Is that all?' Frigga said with a patient smile.  'I can help you there.'
'You can?' Thor laughed 'Of course you can, you know everything!'
'No, brother, not everything, just everything that is certain.  Go and fetch me a stone, as big as one of your billy goats.'

Thor ran off cheerfully and soon returned with a slab of limestone in his arms.
Frigga pointed to the causeway leading though the fen towards the rainbow bridge.  She could see in her minds eye where it needed to go.  'Set it down besides the tall clump of cattails.'
Thor did so and his smiling sister came to join him.  
'How does this help?' asked Thor.
'You will see.' said Frigga 'Now stand behind the stone and rest you chin on it.  Thor did so feeling slightly foolish.  Frigga continued 'You see the pine distaff you made me when we built the bridge?'
'Yes.' said Thor.
'Well, when your pine trees are so high that they seem to be as high as my distaff from this spot, you can build your hall.'

Thor paled: his hall stead was half a league from Fenbank.  'Never! Pine trees don't grow that high!'
'Oh Thor' laughed Frigga 'your mother gave you the seeds and has sung over them: they will be as high as you need them to be!  So you need to be patient a while yet my brother, but at least I can be sure of your company here, if only so that you can rest your chin on that stone!'

Notes:
This is a tale of beginnings which is missing from the Heathen myths that survive.  The homes of the gods are described.  I am using English versions of their names.  Fenbank is Fensalir,  Stronghome is Thrudheim.  

Frigga's handmaidens Hlin, Gna and Fulla are familiar figures from Heathen mythology.  
The Norns weaving of the rainbow bridge is my invention.  It links in well with Frigga's role as the celestial spinner.  The star group Orion's Girdle was called Frigga's distaff by the ancient Heathens.
Thor scowled at the vast book of names that lay on the table before him.  He was bored and the sunlight glinting through the thick glass of the window made him wish he was outside.  At the other end of his mother's spacious house his six sisters were gathered around a loom, watching the patterns of Wyrd.  His mother was concentrating on their studies so he stole away from the book and decided to play at his favourite game, hunting.

The iron spit made a perfect spear and he seized it and grasped its sooty shaft with both hands. Now the hunt was on, with silent tread he crept across the sun dappled kitchen.  The upturned washtub made a tempting target and with a quick strong thrust he made his kill.  The lathes of the washtub shattered at the blow and flying splinters caused the carefully balanced cooking pots and pottery basins on the shelves above to tumble down with a deafening din.  'Oops.' muttered Thor as pot shards rained around him.

The collar of his tunic was grabbed in a firm grip and the angry goddess hauled her son up onto the table where she seized him by the shoulders.  'What are you doing, why are you destroying my house?' she demanded, her eyes blazing.
'I am sorry,' Thor muttered, 'I was hunting.'
'Hunting.' Jord echoed sternly, she glanced down at the buckled spit iron lying on the floor, piecing together her son's imagined adventure.  'So, had enough of book learning have you, learnt it all have you?'
'I think so' the child replied nervously.
'So what is wormwood called among the elves?'
'Mindfog'
'How many chicks does the sea eagle lay?'
'Up to three.'
'What rune of the giants protects against madness?'
'Granite Cliff.'

'Then you have studied hard and thoroughly' relented the goddess.  'Would you like me to foster you with a hunter while your sisters finish their training?'
'A hunter?  I would like that very much.'
'Then make some bread and stew for our next meal and do it well, and I will take you to a hunter after we have rested.'
'I have broken the bread trough.'
'Then I will mend that one first, bring me the fragments.'
Thor pulled the thin shards of the wooden bowl from the wreckage and his mother matched the pieces together and sang over them, fusing the parts back together.

Thor was very attentive to his chores and Jord honoured her promise after the household rose from sleeping.  She dressed in a leather gown and cloak that she wore when travelling among the folk of Middle Garth and told Thor to dress in a similar fashion. They set out far into the eastern hills.

Whilst crossing a level hilltop a glistening light in the wind blown grass caught Thor's eye and he stepped over and picked up a glinting object in his palm.  It was the figure of a man with shield and sword worked in solid gold.  More of the figures lay about his feet, half buried in the matted grass.  'What are these?' he asked.

Jord looked on the little figure. 'They were for a game; they belonged to your uncle.'
Thor hardly dared to breathe.  Jord had never spoken of any other members of his family before and he wished that she would continue.  He was not disappointed. 'This is where we lived before the dark mood came upon me.  Dear Fjorgynn, the Lord of Nature, the Ship Lord of the Oceans and your own father Perun the lord of the sky, they were my lovers and there was much happiness here.'
She was silent and after a while Thor asked 'What happened to them?'
'I became wild, and to my eternal grief I drove them away.  Your father is dead, my son, destroyed by his own wife.'  Jord looked into her sons eyes and met his concerned gaze.  'I have taught you all that I know which is good and safe for you to know, in the hope that you will use your strengths better than I ever did.  Remember this if nothing else, never act in anger, never let darkness overtake you.'
'I will remember' Thor promised, still startled by his mother's revelation.
'That is why you have six sisters wise in the ways of Wyrd: they will help you when the future seems uncertain.  When you come into your strength you should be loved and not feared.'
Thor knelt down in the grass and gathered up the golden figures. 'I want to keep them, to remember what we have all lost.'
'That is fitting,' Jord agreed 'I will look after them for you.'

Jord kept walking to the east.  She had not taught her children magic so Thor thought nothing of the long trek, but his stomach was beginning to growl with hunger when they finally reached their destination.  'Now remember,' Jord warned him as the hunter's home came into sight.  'Speak nothing of your knowledge of iron, cloth or glass, these folk are not yet ready for such distractions.'
'Yes mother.'
They approached a longhouse of unworked logs, its walls and roof were plastered with mud which in places was thick with grass.  Smoke rose from the highest point.  Jord knocked on the shelter's wall with her staff, and they heard an exclamation of surprise from within before the leather door curtain was hauled aside.  A man with a greying, short, black beard and long hair pulled back by a thong regarded them.  Noting a mother and child he waved them within.  Around the smokey central fire were two wide benches that clearly doubled as beds.  The hunter's wife and son looked up at the visitors with interest.

'What brings you here?' the hunter asked.
'I came to trade' Jord replied. 'My son here needs to learn to hunt, and hunt well.  He is strong and keen and will not be a great burden to you.'
'Trade you say?'  The hunter looked eager, 'What do you offer?'
Jord held out a heavy leather bag which the hunter took and opened with curiousity, it was filled with salt.
'That is a good trade' the hunter nodded happily 'I will teach your son.  How long will you leave him with me?'
'I will visit from time to time, and check how his skills are progressing.' Jord replied.  'If all goes well he can stay with you until he comes of age.'
The hunter nodded in agreement, eager to add another spear arm to his household.  The hunter introduced himself as Vingnir, his wife as Hlora and his son as Meili.
Jord hugged Thor when she took her leave, 'Pay attention now and learn all you can.'

Vingnir was true to his word and taught the young Thor all he knew about casting spears, making weapons, tracking and butchering.  He was greatly impressed by the child's strength and quickly realised that nothing was beyond Jord's son's abilities.  His own son Meili was cast in a very different mould.  Sensitive and afraid of blood the boy would never make a good hunter, but the two boys were soon good friends.

Before long Vingnir was happy to trust Thor to make hunting trips on his own and he was delighted to be entrusted with the task.  The first time that Vingnir stayed at home he urged the two boys out together, hoping that some of Thor's natural talents would rub off on Meili.

Thor scrambled eagerly up the rocky hillside with Meili struggling to keep up behind him.  His eyes swept the slopes for any sign of game and to his delight he spotted the white rump of a mountain goat moving above them.  Remembering Vingnir's advice he took heed of the wind direction and kept low and moved slowly to avoid spooking the beast.

Patiently he edged into range, gripped the spear shaft, drew it back and let fly. It was a clean kill and the goat dropped without a sound, but the young goatlings who had been hidden by the gorse bleated in fear and panic.

Excited Thor ran forward, retrieved and cleaned the spear and he hauled the heavy goat onto his shoulders.  He looked forward to returning to Vingnir's hut in triumph but Meili's face awash with tears stopped him in his tracks.

'What is wrong?' asked Thor in concern.
'The little ones!' Meili wailed, 'You are going to leave them to die.'
'They are too small to bother with' reasoned Thor, 'but nothing is wasted, a fox will hunt them, or an eagle perhaps.'
Meili howled louder.  Thor could not think how to pacify his friend.  He regarded the young goats as they stood near his feet, too young to be afraid of menfolk and bleating hopelessly up at their dead mother.
'I will see if the land spirits will look after them', Thor decided aloud, and strode off to a boulder that glowed in his vision with the elfsign.  He rapped on its surface with the spear butt.  The sobbing Meili and the constantly bleating goatlings followed behind.

In the elf realm a door opened and a land spirit stepped out, Thor saw her as a short woman with thick white hair tumbling from her head and the horns and hairy legs of a goat.  Meili could see only the stone.
'I need a favour.' Thor explained to the land spirit 'Would you take care of these goatlings for me?  If you do I will repay you in any way that is reasonable.'
'I would be happy to help you, Jord's Son, I am in need of your aid.  The spring that rises above our home has been poisoned by a troll wife, maybe you can drive her away.'
'I will certainly try' Thor agreed. 'See, Meili, this kind elf will look after them for us.'
Meilli howled even louder at this 'You are making fun of me!  There is nobody there!'
Thor sighed and turned again to the land spirit, 'Can you let him see you?'
'No' the elf replied, 'he is a mortal child and lacks the sight.' Though she smiled at Thor's increasingly despairing look and added 'Prick your finger, Jord's Son.'

Puzzled, Thor did as she asked with a thorn plucked from a gorse bush.  The elf stepped forward and wiped the blood away on her finger and brushed it over Meili's lips.  Then she crouched down and let the goatlings lick off the remainder.  She coaxed the tiny creatures closer and they latched hungrily to her breasts.

Still concerned Thor turned to Meili who was now smiling.  'I am sorry I doubted you, Thor' he said happily.  'I can see that she will take good care of them.'
'And we need to repay her' said Thor.  'Come, Meilli, we have more hunting to do.'  He raised a hand in thanks to the elf and with the mountain goat still draped about his shoulders he lead the way further up the mountain side.

A tiny stream trickled down from a cliff face above and it was this that they followed until the way was barred by stone.  Now even Meili could see the elfsign, a glowing band revealing a door between the worlds.  Thor shoved his spear shaft into a crack in the rock and heaved the door open.  They stepped into a cave which smelt thick and rank.  There was a heap of old hides in one corner and within it the troll wife stirred.  'Who disturbs me?' she growled.
Thor advanced on the creature, his spear held ready 'I am Thor, Jord's Son, I want to know why you have poisoned the spring that flows from your cave.'
'Why?  Because my life is pain, and it pleases me if others share that pain.'
'Then you will die.' stated Thor.
'No' urged Meili, 'wait, look!  Look at her leg.'
Thor looked and saw a huge splinter of wood imbedded in her calf, the flesh about it black and poisoned.  The sick limb lay in the spring, no wonder the water was foul.
'See.' Said Meili, 'it's not her fault, she must be in terrible agony.'
Thor regarded the troll wife with distaste 'How were you injured?'
'What does it matter?' she growled. 'The gods fought, the earth shook and Perun's fire split the tree under which I sheltered, my mood has been dark ever since.'
'I want to help you' offered Meili, 'if you will allow'.  He advanced on the creature and tried to pull the splinter free but it was stuck fast.  Thor laid down the goat carcass and came forward to help and with an effort pulled the splinter out.  With a brief shriek the troll wife fainted.  The wound was foul and stank.  'Run home Meili' said Thor 'and bid your mother brew up a hide of sage tea as strong as she can make it, then bring it straight back here.'

Thor washed the wound again and again with spring water which rose above the troll wife's bed as pure as water can be.  When Meili returned they washed it again in the sage.  In truth the flesh was beyond any healing that herbs could provide, but encouraged by his friend, Thor willed the troll wife to be healed, and the strength in his will worked the cure.  When he was done the wound was clean and closed and the healing began.  They left the troll wife to sleep and the spring ran clear and sweet through the cave.

Not long after the hunt Jord came to visit her son. After greeting Vingnir and his family and sharing a cup of heather tea with them, she led Thor away from the house so that they could talk in private.  'What have you been doing that has sprung new threads on the web of Wyrd?  You sisters tell me that you have gained a kinsman.'
'A kinsman?' Thor echoed, puzzled.
'Yes' pressed Jord. 'Has nothing strange happened recently?'
'Well I had a grand adventure the last time we went out' Thor replied with broad grin, and proceeded to describe his first solo hunt, his visit to the elf wife and the troll woman.  He omitted the point of Jord's interest, not seeing it as important.  Jord seized upon the gap in the story.
'So Meili can see the elf folk?  How is this?'
'The elf woman told me to give him a drop of my blood.'
'Oh Thor!' she cried.  'You must be more careful, only give such a gift to folk who are as close as kin, for now Meilli is a brother to you.'
'He was already a brother to me' Thor answered, then paused, remembering the terrible warning that Jord had given him after he found the gaming counters in the grass.  'I think that as long as I can count Meili as a friend, I will never let the darkness cover me.  His love is deep, even for those he does not know.'
'Maybe you are right.' Jord sighed, suddenly weary.
'Did my sisters see any harm in my actions?'
'No, so your instincts may be right.'  Jord held her son close, ruffled his long red hair and made her way back across the hills.

Time passed and Thor and Meili both grew an inch in height.  Thor now hunted alone for the household while Vingnir and Meili carved handles from antlers and horns for trading.  Whilst tracking an antelope, Thor's path took him close to the goat woman's stone and he knocked upon it to ask how she fared.  The elf bounded out with two almost fully grown billy goats beside her.  'Ah, Jord's Son!' she cried, 'your visit is well timed, your goats are eating grass and herbs now and you can care for them yourself.'
'My goats?' Thor replied, puzzled, as the beasts butted him in a friendly fashion. They were like no other goats he had seen, their hair shone a ghostly white, their hooves struck sparks from the stony ground and their eyes were filled with a deep intelligence.  'I hope you don't mind but I named them,' she added 'they are called Gaptooth and Cracktooth.'
Thor smiled at the goats' eager affection and stroked their silky hair.  'You have my thanks elfwife, you must let me know if I can be of any service to you.'
'Remember me.' was all she replied and stepped back through the stone door which sealed itself behind her.

A thousand hunts passed and young Thor matured until the first hairs of his beard grew upon his chin.  The goats followed him everywhere and obeyed his commands.  Jord returned as she had promised and thanked Vingnir for his efforts and gifted him a further bag of salt.
Jord drew her son aside and said 'You have come of age, it is time for you to leave this place.'
'And Meili also?'
'If that is what you wish.'
'It is.'
'Then let us speak to Vingnir.'

The shelter had been expanded since Thor first arrived.  Four young men had joined the household to learn carving from Vingnir, with Thor to provide him with meat hide and horn he had become quite an artist.  Vingnir was understandably sad to lose Thor's services, but his young apprentices assured him that they would help with the hunting. Vingnir and Hlora readily agreed that Meili should leave with Thor, as the two lads had become inseparable.  Both young men hugged the old couple fondly and promised to visit when they could.

Jord led them back over the hills to her cottage.  Thor was delighted to see the sisters that he had not seen since he had broken Jord's dough basin so long before. Six young woman admired their brother with appraising and approving eyes:  Urd and Verdandi, Skuld and Saga, Frigga and Sybil.  Jord laughed and knocked with her walking staff on the stone floor to break the mood.  'That's enough of that, I can see I am going to have to keep you apart awhile or the cottage will be overrun with younglings!'

Meili was staring at everything in awe: the glass windows, the gleaming brass dishes on the dresser and the wonderful soft clothes that the beautiful young women were wearing.  Frigga noticed his interest and offered to teach him to weave which pleased him greatly.

The family were soon settled about the long table enjoying a rich meal to celebrate Thor's return and welcome his new brother. The goats relaxed on the sunny flagstones below the window and chewed at a generous heap of herbs.  Jord asked Thor 'Why don't you make a cart for your goats to pull?'

'That is an idea' Thor agreed.  'What do you think Gaptooth? Cracktooth?' The two goats gave a deep contented baa-ah and returned to their feeding.  Soon after Jord taught Thor and Meili how to make wheels hubbed and rimmed with iron and the two friends worked hard to complete a sturdy wagon, its corner posts richly carved and its side boards gleaming with sheets of polished bronze.

Once the work was complete Thor was eager to harness the goats, Jord halted him saying 'its not quite ready yet'.  For an hour she sung charms over the wagon and then allowed her son his indulgence.  Thor eagerly harnessed the goats and jumped up beside Meili.
His mother smiled and said 'If you will it they will carry you over heaven's vault.'
'I do will it' Thor laughed with delight.  'Hang on, Meili!'  Jord's son shook the reins and the goats charged forward, their hooves striking sparks from the air as they surged up into the sky.  The chariot's passing made a deafening rumble.  'It seems he has come back noisier than when he left' sighed Frigga.
'Of course!' laughed their mother 'My thunderous offspring is well named.'

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Notes
This is the tale of Thor's fostering with Vingnir which is mentioned very briefly by Snorri Sturluson in his Edda.  Meili's brother is a kenning for Thor found in Icelandic poetry but no other mention of Meili survives.  His name translates into English as 'darling'.  The goats Gaptooth and Cracktooth are well known from the Norse myths but their origin is not recorded.

Jord's name means 'Earth' and she is well documented as being Thor's mother, she may have been an ancient fertility goddess.  She is also known as Fjorgyn.

The father of Frigga in the Norse myths is Fjorgynn leading many to speculate that Thor and Frigga are siblings.  As Frigga is the goddess of fate it is logical that the three Norns would also be related to her.  Saga resembles Frigga very closely so I have added her to Jord's family.  Sybil, another apparent goddess of fate, comes from the prologue of Snorri's Edda.

Thor's shadowy father figure Perun has been borrowed from Slavic mythology.

The golden chess men come from the Ragnarok legend.  In my version of the Edda's the war between the gods has already occurred, early in Mankind's prehistory.