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The Hidden Fortress

Nari - The Prophecy


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Every child’s favourite storyteller speaks of worlds that exist between the breaths and past the shadows of the realm that man and woman call their own. And then there are those occasions when, like in eclipses, these worlds rub against each other and the unbelievable becomes real. The sky lights up with Northern Lights; the shutter of the camera captures hazy, circular orbs that neither flash nor dust seem to be able to explain. Life seems to suddenly unravel until the worlds return to their familiar untouching axis. So close your eyes and slip away from the world beneath the pillow upon which you rest your head and stand unseen, in the shadows of majestic pillars and whispering leaves, in this other world that is eternity for some and a dreamland for others. Sink into the depths of your sleep, and step into the world of those whose vision saw the cosmos in the roots and branches of a wide-branching tree and take a bite into its lushest fruit. Tread carefully for your footprints fall upon another’s dream that rubbed against your own. Quieten your heartbeat and smother your mortal fears, for there are stranger pleasures and other terrors, here in Asgard.



This is an aged tree. It has stood, strong and wide, for so long as to seem eternal. And yet, it is not. Its every root, hanging and buried, is an abacus for the passage of time. For the black bead of every second passes down a hole burned through the flesh of the tree by an old serpent, who lies in wait for the final moment when there will be nothing but the bliss of poison – his and his alien kindred’s – sizzling death into every living thing. But it is still too soon for any to become wary of that frosted dawn. Spring still dances through the branches and leaves of Yggdrasil. Leaves, that are the colour of mother-of-pearl clouds from southern lands where Man fears the Sun and not the Snow, tinkle softly and let soft, luminous light filter through to the plains of Asgard. Asgard, the blessed land under the shade of Yggdrasil, the Tree of the Universe, in whose plains stands a maze of hallways. None need to crouch under these arches that wind and weave, bringing Gods and Goddesses together and apart with doorways and secret passages. In this labyrinth is a simple chamber with a simple bed, upon which lies a golden man, beaded with sweat.


He is dreaming the nightmare that wakes him every morning since manhood hardened his mind and honed his child-white body. In Asgard, there are no years; there is only the quiet, crystalline sound of diamond-dust ice falling through the lazily revolving hourglass in the Great Hall. An hourglass of ice and the sparkling crystal from the dwarven realm, counting hours and heartbeats in this City of Gods where so many bodies lie, like this sweating body. But, they are different. They have aged and the ravages of time have been soothed. They lie prone, sometimes tangled, and always in restful sleep. They do not sweat with the slithering whispers of nightmares. He does. He lies still and limp, while gleaming beads sink into the sheets below him. With every drop of ice that falls in Isa, the patiently clicking hourglass, water from his body moistens his bed.


His sweat beads and trickles down his golden skin. Skin, burnished by the heat of his father and softened by his mother’s milk. Stretched skin, crafted delicately and intricately with sweet pearls of sweat. His sweat beads and trickles down his golden skin. And she can taste it. The shining stars water and flicker, fear coursing through the nerves of these faceless orbs. This desire clouds vision. There is nothing now but his nectar taste on her tongue. Darkness trembles. These dreams should not be sent to him. She should not be casting her sight upon him at all. And yet, his taste is so sweet….


He will always remember it from that moment when the wolf widens its jaws, to reveal a ravaged moon, half-eaten and hanging precariously in the sky. The silvery lifeblood of the moon drips liquidly down a single carnivorous fang. He can hear the whimper of the moon but he cannot move because a tearing pain spears into his navel. He looks down to see flesh splitting and screeching and spurting blood. He is dying. He can see himself dying. And the pain shatters his skull, like the keening cry of a maddened eagle but a thousand times sharper, bloodier. He reaches his hand out to claw out at the hungry wolf-head but, inexplicably, he begins to stroke its head and the yellow eyes begin to pale. Colour bleaches out of them as he strokes the fur. The more horrific the pain, the gentler he strokes. Under his fingertips, changes begin to unfurl. Then suddenly, the eyes before him are the colour of the cobwebs catching sunlight. Before his bloodied body, she sits. Kneeling at his nakedness, her hands worshipping him, her mouth glistening. Her skin is white, like the Yggdrasil’s bark. Her hands move. He trembles and he sees his hand stroking her black hair, bringing her closer to him. Her lips move.




He wakes every morning, with only this whisper in his pulse. Every day, he rises with that determination to find his whisperer and every day, he steps out of his chamber to find his mother seated by the Window to the East in their Hall. Blue-eyed Sigyn hears her son’s footsteps and the sees the shadow of the night’s phantom holding on to his mind. It is a shapeless dread that hisses beneath the sound of his stride and she can only sense it dimly. But she touches his face and kisses him on his brow. Her lips trace love-letter runes upon his skin. They shine, and darkness skulks back behind the bark of Yggdrasil.



A sharp tap hit Nari on his temple. He winced. The pointed tip poked him again, this time on his cheek. Nari opened his eyes to look into the beady gaze of a magnificent crow, standing on his chest. It seemed to be grinning cheekily.

“Very funny,” he mumbled and closed his eyes again.

The crow dug its beak into Nari’s arm. “Stop it, Vali!” Nari groaned.

“Get up, you sleep-hog,” the crow said in a melodious, deep voice, laced with laughter. “Old One-Eye has called for all of us in the Great Hall.”

Nari said something incoherent. The crow lightly clipped Nari’s little finger.

“Ouch,” Nari complained sleepily. He had barely felt a thing. “We don’t need to go to the Great Hall.”

“Yes, we do,” replied the crow. “Something to do with the Seers. Wake up, Nari.” The crow sharply dug his beak into Nari’s waist, making him leap up in pain.

“Vali, you little…” Nari rubbed the bruise gingerly. “One of these days, I swear I’ll break your neck when you’re in your little-birdie mood. It’s just a damn shame you had to inherit Father’s shapeshifting gift, and I had to be smaller than you.”

Vali, however, was not listening. On the bed, instead of a crow, sat Vali the shapeshifter, resplendently handsome in the gilted light of Asgard. “Well, well, well,” drawled Vali, raising a quizzical eyebrow. “The boy-child is a man now, I see.”

Nari looked at Vali, puzzled, and saw his brother looking intently at the lower half of his body. It had not yet forgotten the diamond-eyed woman with shining lips, as though wet with the juice of plums, kneeling before him, whispering his name. He could almost feel her hair beneath his palm still. Vali’s eyebrow lifted higher.

“Had a good dream, little brother?”

Colour rushed into Nari’s cheeks. He whipped the sheet off the bed and wrapped it round him. “The Great Hall?” Nari asked, with an attempt at coolness.

“The Great Hall,” Vali said with a smile, and left the chamber.


Outside, Vali almost ran into his mother.

“Vali! Slow down!” Sigyn admonished. He laughed loudly and wrapped his arms around her.

“Good morning, Ma!” He kissed her loudly on both cheeks.

“Is Nari up?” she asked him.

“Very much so. I think, Ma, the time has come for Nari to, um, get up on his own,” Vali said, grinning.

“You are just seeking ways to shirk responsibility,” Sigyn said with mock-sternness. “Go on then, off to the Great Hall. I’ll bring Nari.”

Vali quickly took hold of his mother’s shoulders and steered her away. “No, really, Ma. Nari is…well, let’s just say, our boy is growing up.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively at his mother. Sigyn’s eyes darted towards the chamber and then they softened and she laughed softly.

“Well, I suppose Nari could follow us later.”


Inside, Nari looked down at his sheet-clad body, gleaming with sweat and sunshine. “Nari…” Her voice echoed in his ears again, distant but there. The soft breath from her lips upon his inner thigh. The shimmering sensation of her eyelashes sweeping down, almost grazing his skin. Her lips moving.

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Odin breathed in the indigo smoke that rose from the circle of incense around the three Seers, Har, Vana and the ever-silent Laguz.

“What tidings are to be told?” he asked with slow ceremony.


Jewel-bright eyes flashed from the depths of the cowls that the Seer wore. A hum of prophecies and incantations filled the empty silence of the room. Then Har spoke,

“Mermaid wiles and wave-carved shells

The prows of ships and timber brown

They distract Uruz

So his crown is untouched by

Memory, skill and Vala’s prophecy.”

Odin released his breath in relief. She went on,

“But the beast’s lair lies close

By his heart, too near his blood

And burnt in the walls of his

Charm-sealed cave

Are the sounds that can release – ”

Odin rose to his full height. “Of that you need not fear. My brother’s child has no knowledge of his skill. I have ensured that.”

The hum grew louder and more frantic. Odin opened up his palms and caught a curl of smoke in his fist. He gripped tight for a moment and then slowly opened his hand. The smoke seemed to have frozen upon the flesh of his palm. Then slowly, the smoke settled into the shape of one rune: Purisaz, the giant, one of Loki’s runes. Odin frowned. He let the rune slide off his palm. It floated in mid-air for a moment before slipping into other coils of smoke.

“Asgard awaits your vision, Seers,” Odin said quietly and led the Seers to the Great Hall. As they walked, Har suddenly stopped and turned to Odin. “Take heed, Allfather. The wild uruz in Nari grows strong.”

In his blind eye, Odin saw young Nari, lying on his bed, the image of virile manhood. He truly did seem to pulse with the raw passion that characterized the wild ox in nature and the elemental fire that burned in the heart of his father and all his siblings.

“Keep his eyes engaged in counting waves, Allfather,” Har continued.

Vana spoke softly, her words rising out of the sound veil around the three. “Let him not find the moment to gaze upon the ground beneath his feet. Turn him towards the sea.”

Odin looked up suddenly and, for the first time since Munin had spread his mighty wings, something akin to alarm fluttered through the leader of the Aesir when his one eye met with the diamond gaze of Laguz.

Her voice was like ice cracking with summer’s first touch.

“Know you now more or not?”

Odin lowered his eyes and opened the doors for the Seers to pass.





The sapphire-coloured world lay in front of her, so still that it may have been painted. The sun was yet to thaw the darkness out of the frozen land. Spring was tardy to come to Asgard, as though it had lost its way among the branches and vines of Yggdrasil. Sigyn stood by the window. The blue of her eyes glittered as brightly as the snow crystals below her. Her gaze scoured the plain but there was no sign; there was no movement. Where had all the lightning and snowstorms disappeared to? Sigyn gazed longingly up at the pale sky, almost willing turbulence in its mirror flatness.


The snowstorms of before had been her playmates for so many winters. Every dancing snowflake was like a rune to be read – swirling, muttering, screaming, dancing – and Sigyn with her flickering blue gaze read them avidly. The snow spoke not of the future or of the past. It spoke of sensation and buried feeling. From the venomous boredom of Nidhogg the Serpent at the darkest root of Yggdrasil, to the wall-clawing joy of the Valkyrie when the drunken Thor mistook any golden head to be Sif, the snow gossiped with Sigyn of the Hidden Vale and every time she clapped, they danced to a new rhythm to tell her a new tale. How had she clapped when they first spoke to her of Loki, Purisaz, the giant trickster, blood brother of one-eyed Odin? Sharp, soft, loud? The memory of that no longer lingers. What remains in vivid brilliance is the snow puppetry that spoke to her of Loki making a love slave of giantess Skadi; Skadi’s helpless rage when Loki licks the shell of her ear and tells her he will never marry her while his fingers besiege her body with ecstacy; the misery of Skadi when her scheme to make Loki jealous backfires because she picks not Balder the Glorious but Njord by mistake; her begging need for the Trickster’s touch. The snow danced mischievously to show Loki’s careless disregard and then stilled for the story was over. But Sigyn had forgotten to clap, for she remained frozen in that moment where she could see Loki’s lips moving upon Skadi’s naked skin, humiliating her and pleasuring her.


What sorcery turned one into such an abject creature, Sigyn had wondered for a brief moment. Winter’s blossoms answered her query a few days later when through the white rain leapt out the grey, shaggy form of a yellow-eyed wolf. Fear struck the pit of her stomach as she realised she had no escape, pressed flat against a wall as she was. The yellow eyes roamed upon her hotly and the wolf growled, viciously baring its fangs. For a split second, Sigyn suddenly imagined this great beast leaping upon her, tearing her body in two and then leaving her ripped self to bleed to death in this snow that hides all evidence and drinks blood. It made her breath catch. The wolf came closer and its sharp-toothed jaws ripped away the fur layers that kept her warm. Its tongue touched her fingertip, the inside of her wrist. Its teeth teasingly nipped the flesh on her palm, the curve of her hips, the line of her thighs. She tried to move; the beast snarled with a ferocity that made Sigyn shut her eyes. Shivers whipped her body. She felt the warm snout burrow boldly into her crotch and just as her knees threatened to give way, she realised that this creature would tower over her if she fell to the snow. Her hands gripped the grooved stone walls. The snout suddenly moved away; Sigyn held her breath for a moment; the sharp animal tongue whipped out and flicked wetly against her. Sigyn fell to the ground, her eyes squeezed shut. Soft, fine fur touched her cheek, there was hot breath on her skin.

“So this is where Asgard hides its treasures.” His voice was like the waves of the sea. This was no wolf upon her; she realised immediately who it was. She did not open her eyes; she just said one word.


His laughter was loud and exuberant, like lightning in the summer sky.

“Yes,” he agreed and was inside her. Her eyes widened and Sigyn saw Loki, the shapeshifting giant – beautiful, blond, within her.

The world was never the same again.


Laughter disturbingly similar to her memories rang around the walls and Sigyn turned around to see Vali, throwing his red hair back and laughing. He shone like a sparkling red diamond in the blonde surroundings.

“Has something rather…wolfish in him, doesn’t he?” the husky voice said in her ear. “Not surprising of course, considering how he was conceived.”

Sigyn turned back to the window to find a wide-winged moth sitting on the window frame. “Loki.”

One wing fluttered for a moment and then he answered, “Yes.”

“You must leave. Odin comes with the Seers to the Great Hall in a few moments.”

“The Seers?” The moth grew and metamorphosed with every word into the golden-haired trickster’s handsome form, but his face was twisted in a sarcastic smile. “Another occasion for the Allfather to sit in secret and learn of the prophecies first and decide which ones the rest of us may be allowed to hear. What fun! The Allfather makes an all-round fool of every one of us, again.”

“When the trickster is banished from Asgard, someone else must do the trickery.”

Loki’s eyes darkened with irritation. “You always support him. Even when it was the matter of Nari’s gift, you stood by him.”

Sigyn’s eyes flashed with fury, “It is a savage from Jotunheim that I have stood by, Purisaz. At least Odin has given Nari protection from the shadows of the doom that is his destiny.”

Loki lifted a hand to his hair in a defeated gesture. “I don’t want this fate. You know I don’t want this fate and if I could protect Nari, I would.”

“Yes, you would protect him till the next unnecessary trickery captured your fancy. Forgive me, Loki, if I say Odin is more reliable.”

Loki stepped away from her and then, both their heads turned as Nari entered Valhalla’s hall. Nobody noticed him, captivated as they were by Vali and Thor’s loud antics. He walked in with silent grace and saw past his brother to Loki and Sigyn.

“Does he really not know of the prophecy?” Loki asked quietly.

“No one has told him, this I know,” Sigyn replied. “I’ve done my best for Nari’s happiness, and I know my boy is safe.”

Loki looked down at Sigyn’s troubled face. “But?”

She turned to him and it seemed almost as though she debated whether or not to trust him. Then she spoke. “But every morning when he comes to greet me, I see upon his face an imprint of a strange darkness. It is not fear but horror and at what, that I can’t grasp.”

Loki looked carefully and Nari, weaving his way to them. “I see nothing.”

“There will be nothing now.”

He touched her pale lips. “I didn’t know you could burn dreams.”

“There is much you have taught me without knowing it.”

It was baiting Loki would have fallen for perhaps if his son didn’t join them just at this moment.

“Father,” Nari greeted Loki quietly. “Is this really wise?”

Something lit up in Loki’s eyes and he laughed softly, “If it was, do you suppose I would do it?”

Sigyn watched them and wished for themselves a small world where it was just their family and nothing else. No errant giants, no gruesome prophecies, nothing but just the silver laughter of Loki, Nari and Vali, and Loki’s hand on the small of her back drawing messages in runes upon her tunic.

“You are surely not going to be here when Odin enters?” Nari asked.

“It’s a tempting thought but old One-Eye bursting a blood vessel generally leaves me in a situation where I have to play hide and seek for much longer than is actually fun,” Loki laughed.

Sigyn, of the beautiful curves and creamy skin, his fingers wrote upon the small of her back.

“Especially since the Seers are coming. They have a terrible habit of being able to tell what I am planning,” he went on, eyes twinkling. Sigyn bit her lip.

I want to do that. I want to taste you, kiss colour into your lips, he wrote languidly.

“Really? Because they can tell the future?” Nari questioned interestedly.

“Because they can enter your mind and become part of your thoughts. And I’ve noticed in the past that, from a full hall, they’ll pick my head to get into,” Loki replied.

And your cheeks, your breasts.

“Probably because your head is by far the most colourful one,” Nari said drily.

“Don’t worry, little brother. Considering what I saw this morning, your head isn’t entirely lacking for colour,” Vali said, joining the three of them. Nari blushed and Vali roared with laughter. Sigyn felt Loki’s hand still on her skin for a moment. He looked to the east and realised the Seers were coming.

“I must leave now.”

His fingers moved against her skin again.

Nari’s dreams. Ask him about them. Prophecies perhaps.

Startled, Sigyn looked up at him and saw he was not even looking in her direction. He finished his farewells to his sons and walked away. Sigyn hardened her jaw and said, “Come, let us find our place before the Seers come.”

Vali looked lost for a moment and then said, “Ma, it would have been unwise to have displayed any affection.”

“Yes,” agreed Nari. “And our father is, of course, famed for being wise.”

Vali’s green eyes flashed with anger and clashed with Nari’s as Nari pressed a kiss to his mother’s forehead. Abruptly, Vali turned on his heel and strode off. But just as Sigyn was about to follow him, Loki suddenly dragged her back against him.

“This is not discreet, but I am after all, a savage,” he apologised with a smile and then he kissed her. Words stopped, one by one, as eyes noticed the fair-haired body in the white tunic being moulded intimately, perfectly, voluptuously by the black-sleeved hands. Sigyn felt him, greedy and desperate, all over her and her own need seemed to move out of her skin and devour Loki. She pulled herself away. “Leave before Odin comes,” she said through swollen lips. Loki looked around the staring hall and smiled before leaping off the ledge of a nearby window as a bird the colour of Sigyn’s eyes.


Before the mayhem that generally followed Loki could begin, silence was struck by clicking sounds. They came from the knocking of mud bowls that hung on chains from the necks of the Seers’ procession. The heavy, sweet smell of incense curled up from the mud bowls, past the hollow sockets of the blind men who brought them in. Click, click, click – Valhalla stilled as the Seers came and stood in the centre of the Great Hall and Odin himself shut the doors. The white stones of the walls blurred beyond the fog of spicy smoke. Breath and sight laboured under the onslaught of the wispy, grey fangs that slid smoothly between eyelashes and under tongues and left an itchy dryness in its wake. But no one spoke, or coughed, or even blinked.


It was the first time Nari was attending such a gathering and he stared intently, willing his vision to cut past the curtains of smoke. The three figures of the Seers were dressed in flowing cloaks that gleamed like the night. Their heads and faces were covered by cowls. One held a staff in a blue-veined hand that thudded softly upon the wooden floor with every passing moment, like a heartbeat or a pulse, and her name was Har. Laguz held nothing in her hands but cupped them, as though something invisible and precious sat in the cradle of her palms. Vana played with what looked like crystal dice that clicked without rhythm but with regularity. It seemed to him to be the most beautiful sight he had ever seen – tapering fingers, the colour of brass, moving like clockwork but fluid; and the dice, now catching the colour of the skin, now catching the colour of smoke, now sinking in the colour of the cloak. Nari watched the swirling dice, almost hypnotised. Then Har spoke.


Her verses with Vana’s interjections commanded the attention of all the Aesir. All except Sigyn. Her keen hearing slipped past the word walls of Har and Vana, and then slipped into the whispering mesh of Laguz’s chant. The words were wound and tangled with each other, like obstinate lovers who would not be parted. The droning whisper spun around the Seers, faster and faster, becoming almost a visible barrier and into it travelled Sigyn’s blue-eyed mind.


“Raiðo, Kenaz, Gebo, Eihwaz, Perþ, Berkana, Hagalaz.”


She, the one with empty hands, seemed to tilt her head suddenly and the small movement made a shiver suddenly run down Nari’s spine. He looked at the dark hollow that was her face, that yawning gap from which this eerie whisper, that slid into every crevice of the Hall, was emerging. If he stared at the blackness, Nari could almost convince himself that he could see a faint outline of her lips moving. He strained to hear the words spoken by the other two Seers and wondered at the rapt expressions of all those who were listening to them. Their voices were faint, as though on the other side of the great ocean whose waves were only whispers. Suddenly the amorphous whispers began to have meaning – they were runes!


Sigyn and Nari listened intently, delicately and quietly parting skeins of sound to reach the rune itself. While Har and Vana spoke the prophecy that Odin desired be known, mother and son reached past into the softly beating sounds spoken by Laguz. In this embryo of symbols was the true cradle of divination in which Sigyn sought salvation for her savage beloved and towards which Nari was drawn as though he were being pulled in.


“Raiðo, Kenaz, Gebo, Eihwaz, Perþ, Berkana, Hagalaz.”


Raiðo, or journey; the rune of the Norns themselves. The keepers of Yggdrasil’s roots and the guardians of fate. Sigyn turned this rune over and over again, attempting to divine its meaning in this particular chain, and received only one message: The journey never really ends.


“Raiðo, Kenaz, Gebo, Eihwaz, Perþ, Berkana, Hagalaz.”


Kenaz, the torch. Nari’s lightning mind swiftly ran through the meanings of this rune. The rune of the giant god of wisdom, Mimir, who remained at the Spring of Knowledge, with Odin’s blessing even after the Vanir killed him. Kenaz, signifying insight, solution to a problem, creativity, inspiration, enlightenment. Nari closed his eyes for a moment and the rune appeared, perfectly drawn and crystalline like the dice in the Seer’s hand. It sparkled and spit out rainbows of light. Kenaz, the torch, giving light but only to a small part, bringing to light only that which it wishes illuminated. Nari opened his eyes. Who held the torch?


“Raiðo, Kenaz, Gebo, Eihwaz, Perþ, Berkana, Hagalaz.”


Sigyn strove to reach the next rune but the tired rags of the never-ending journey seemed to tie themselves to her ankles. Her breath came in short, sharp bursts as though she had run with Loki across the nine worlds; journeying, being chased, seeking shelter, enjoying rootlessness. His laughter touched her mind, and suddenly she had it. She had found the next rune: gebo, the gift. Love, marriage, the peace between Aesir and Vanir; there were so many meanings to this rune but Sigyn knew the essence of the gift lay elsewhere. Gebo, the gift that marks your acceptance of the fact that your debt will never be repaid.


She almost threw the rune into the fiery hearth of disbelief. This abjection was not her fate, it was not even her choice; it was her stagnant reality that was being sucked slowly by the quicksand of prophecy. Eihwaz, the next rune, slipped into her hand and stood, simple and still, hushing her anger quietly. Sigyn felt the symbol of both Yggdrasil and her grotesque step-child Hel in her palm and she clasped it gently, as though she could through this divination touch the tortured child with some comfort. The death rune squatted heavily, dripping with blood and venom.


“Raiðo, Kenaz, Gebo, Eihwaz, Perþ, Berkana, Hagalaz.”


Nari narrowed his eyes as a rune sidled up against him. Perþ? He tasted the unfamiliar sound of this rune and understood nothing. He had never heard it before. He said it again and let it stand on the tip of his tongue. He closed his eyes. And he saw her again, kneeling in front of his bloodied, ripped body. She was naked with the rune nestled between her legs and Nari’s body jolted sharply as he whispered the rune and tasted her, her secret dew, on his tongue.


Sigyn felt Nari beside her start. Unwilling to step out of the womb of runes, she just held his hand and felt him relax. Berkana, the motherhood rune, crawled into the small gap between Sigyn and Nari’s hands. Sigyn saw the rune made of birch tree branches and her spirit calmed at the beauty and hope of the rune. At last a rune that held wounds but contained the promise of joy.


Mother and son stood on the brink of a quiet happiness as Berkana hummed more melodiously in their ears. It lulled them. And so, when Hagalaz came tearing through the serenity, Sigyn’s eyes flew open with horror. Hagalaz, the rune of Ragnarok. She dropped Nari’s hand but it was too late. Between fire and ice, the destruction rune reached its bleeding spear into Nari’s senses. Nari felt fire light up his blood painfully, as though his skin would screech like tearing cloth.


Ragnarok. Sigyn opened her eyes and looked around the Hall. Her eyes lightening as she forced herself to not cower from the brightness. All eyes were upon Baldir. Sigyn had not imagined it; Baldir had spoken that dreaded word, that too in the act of disrespecting a Seer. Sigyn glanced at Odin to see if the Allfather’s wrath would reach Baldir.

“I ask you again,” repeated Baldir. “You ask us to remember the peace forged between Aesir and Vanir, the gift you call it. But I ask you, what use is that gift when your visions place Ragnarok in our destiny? Can the Vanir offer us a gift that will take away the peril of Ragnarok? No!”

A murmur rippled through Valhalla’s Hall. Before Odin could say a word, an unheard voice lashed out through the interfered silence.

“Blind is your brother but, Baldir the Glorious,

You be the one without vision, I see.

Hear this, Aesir and Fool, Asgard falls first

On that fiery day

And Vanaheim stands even while

The Blessed walk through Niflheim’s gates.

Know you now more or not?”

Laguz strode up to Baldir and whipped off the cowl that hid her face. A horrified gasp rushed through the Hall.

“Heed this as well, favourite of the One

They call Odin in love and Bolverk in hate,

Your leader may chain Loki in guilt

But I see, at this hour of this dark day,

The blood of Loki’s sons

And the river of blood-fire Ragnarok

Flows from your disrespecting and unwise tongue.”

Laguz looked Baldir up and down, and saw Nanna, Goddess of the Moon, tremble as she clutched her husband’s arm. Sneering, Laguz turned and her diamond gaze was caught by Nari’s blue eyes. His heart stopped. “It was you!” he whispered. Nothing moved in Sigyn’s face but, against the skin on her back, Loki’s traced runes burned. Laguz lifted her cowl and hid her face again. But before her sparkling eyes were hidden completely, she whispered one final line.

“Know you now more or not?”

With a swirl of their cloaks that rushed against the air like raven wings, the Seers left Valhalla.


Odin stood for a moment without moving, his eyes trained upon the spot where Laguz had stood. Then he turned on his heel and strode out of Valhalla.


The Hall shuddered and shook around and the thundering footsteps of Gods and Goddesses pounded like errant drumbeats. Nari cut through the crowd and reached Vali.

“Where’s Ma? Have you seen her?” Nari asked his brother.

Vali shook his head absently. “Can you see Tyr?”

Nari searched the rushing Hall for Sigyn’s pale hair but there was no sign. It took a few moments for Nari to realise what Vali was asking. He turned to his brother and asked incredulously, “I ask you about Ma, and you’re more concerned with finding Tyr?”

“Nari, grow up. The Seer looked at Baldir. He needs protection and there’s no one better than Tyr. It is said that great ill befalls one if they look upon a Seer.”

“That is just concocted nonsense to make sure everyone remains afraid of the Seers and far away from them.”

“Are you calling me a coward?”

Nari clicked his tongue impatiently. “No. I’m not. Now, stop wasting time by talking about all these silly rumours and let’s find Ma.” His eyes were so busy scanning the crowd that he did not even notice the fury in Vali’s eyes.

“Silly rumours? You’re the wisest, are you not, Nari? You know better than all that are gathered here. We are all fools for believing what Odin has said, we are all cowards for fearing misfortune. But you, who need Ma to hold your hand every waking moment, you are the wisest and the bravest,” Vali spat out, viciously.

Nari looked at him in complete incomprehension, but before he could ask what Vali meant, Thor came and put a protective arm over each of their shoulders.

“Well, Nari, your first time at a meeting in Valhalla,” Thor said with forced heartiness. Nari noticed they were striding fast towards the main door, but even so he felt the sharpness of black gazes coming at him and Vali from those they passed by. Hissed words – Loki’s son, evil trickster, blood, end – reached his ears. He looked at Thor, who was looking straight ahead determinedly.

“Uncle, may I ask you something?” Vali requested.

“Of course, my boy, of course.”

“Is it true that ill befalls the one who looks upon a Seer?”

Nari almost rolled his eyes in disbelief that Vali was still clinging to this. What did he expect? That Thor would say, ‘No, it is just because Odin likes to command his masses with fear that he has created this belief.’ But as Nari waited for Thor’s answer, he noticed the god swallowed nervously and then spoke.

“The Seers are gifted ones the Norns raise from the Dead. They are endowed with gifts that we do not … comprehend. It was not right of Baldir to question them, and it was discourteous of him to do it as he did. Whether any ill will follow because of what he has had done, I cannot say because no one has done anything like this in the past.”

“She spoke of some prophecy, Uncle Thor,” Nari piped in. “Some prophecy about our blood. Do you know what she was talking about?”

This time Thor did not hesitate. “You must have heard wrong, son.”

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“Who is Laguz?” Odin asked the head that rested upon the Spring of Knowledge. A smile touched Mimir’s thin lips. “The lord of the Aesir is impatient this morning.”

“Mimir, I have no time for your savage sense of humour,” Odin snapped.

The giant’s eyes opened and he looked sharply at Odin, “And I, Allfather, have no tolerance for the whip of your tongue. It is you who have come to me for help.”

“You are only here because I brought your mutilated head to life, Mimir of Jotunheim. Left to the will of the Vanir, you would have slipped even from memory by now. It was I who healed the lethal wound they inflicted.”

“Yes, because this head is of use to you. You need me, Odin of Aesir,” Mimir laughed and the waters in the Spring of Knowledge bubbled suddenly. “Odin, leader of Aesir, purest of them all, the God of All He Beholds, but reliant upon the advice of Mimir of yore and blood brother to Loki of Jotunheim. I wonder, do they ever laugh about your fate in Asgard?”

Odin’s lips thinned and he clenched his fists tightly. Storm clouds began to rumble, racing in like raging bulls over the field of the sky. Mimir laughed softly. Odin bit out the words with deep menace, “Who is Laguz?”

“The seeress Laguz? Why this sudden curiosity about her?”

“She came today, along with Har and Vana, and,” Odin began pacing. “There is something about her that is strangely defiant. There is something within her, that she has carried on from her past.” He hesitated for a moment and then said baldly to Mimir, “She touched eyes with Baldir today and lay upon him the blame of Ragnarok.”

“Without any provocation?” Mimir asked in surprise.

Odin looked down. “Perhaps there was some provocation from Baldir but that is not of import. What is unnatural is the fact that she touched eyes with him. And,” Odin paused for a moment and then continued. “And she changed the prophecy.”


Odin repeated Laguz’s words without stumbling, as though they were laid out before him on the stones that paved the path around Mimir’s Spring.

“Your leader may chain Loki in guilt

But I see, at this hour of this dark day,

The blood of Loki’s sons

And the river of blood-fire Ragnarok

Flows from your disrespecting and unwise tongue.”

A slow, mysterious smile touched Mimir’s face. “Thus Loki turns victim from villain.”

“Hence my question: who is Laguz?”

Mimir drew in a long breath and blew gently upon the waters that darkened from their aqua tranquillity to deep, indigo swirls. The eye in the centre of the well slowly closed its lid as Mimir spoke.

“You call them Seers but they are in truth Seeresses. For only in the souls of women do the Norns plant the gift of divination, and of them only a chosen few can be raised from the dead. Upon a storm-sky sheltered heath they must lie, after quicksilver lightning has rushed through their blood. Before rain can fall, or hail blemishes and breaks their skin, must they die and just when darkness gathers around their eyes, a raven’s wing must brush past their face. The closely-veiled Norn, Skuld, plucks their souls and Verdandi the beauteous breathes life back into their lips. But still they sleep a tormented sleep, allowed to wake only after the hag-like Urd has sunk her claws into her body and removed womb and memory. With no memory of her past and now with no future, ripped of womanhood, the Seeress awakes and through the cacophony of pain that shrieks through her form, she learns to hear the strains of destiny’s tune; vision comes to her in the mirror of her own pooled blood; she learns of the flight of dreams from the shackles with which the Norns bind their children till you, Bolverk, doer of evil, call upon them.”

Mimir paused. “Of Laguz, there is only one thing to say – when Urd violated her naked flesh, unlike the others, Laguz was awake.”

In the waters of Knowledge, Laguz’s cowled head appeared with those eyes gleaming in the hooded darkness. “The Norns were able to make a crone of her and the dagger fingers of Urd shattered her memories, but Laguz retains broken remnants of the life beyond. And it is the passion of her emotions that has driven this anxiety into your heart, for Laguz knows that Odin the Wise is also Bolverk the Evildoer. Laguz does not only see; she remembers, and she feels.”

“Yes,” Odin agreed softly. “Yes. I must know what her memories are. Who was she before?”

Mimir blew again into the waters and the eye in the well opened into aquamarine stillness. “Only one can tell you this for sure, if she wishes. Skuld, the Norn of Secret Sight.”

Odin stroked his beard pensively for a moment and then straightened. “I thank you, Mimir, and now take your leave” he said formally. Mimir watched Odin leave and then said loudly, “He has left. If it is secrecy that you wish to maintain, then show yourself now so that we may speak before he reaches his all-seeing seat in Asgard.”

A figure stepped out of the branches and said, “Greetings, Mimir.”

Mimir smiled warmly, “And to you, Sigyn. How may I help my kin’s beloved?”

Sigyn came to his well and held his face in her hands gently. “Please, Mimir, no tricks, no tales, no well-planned diversions like you have given to Odin. For Loki’s sake and for that of his sons, who is Laguz?”

“Laguz is a seeress and nothing more. That is not your question. You wish to know who Laguz was,” Mimir corrected Sigyn. “And the answer is this. Perhaps it will explain to you her hatred of Baldir and Odin. Laguz was Eisa, daughter of Loki and Glut.”

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Their swift footsteps left no imprints as they moved down the roots of Yggdrasil. The black cloaks billowed in the blowing wind and bright-eyed ravens swooped around their heads, their beating wings drying the sweat from brows and their screeches sounding out the path of the Seeresses.

“It was unwise to cast sight upon Baldir the Glorious,” Vana said quietly.

“He was unwiser to have spat upon the prophecy,” Har said after a pause.

They kept walking and not a step stumbled as they sank further and further away from the sunlit Asgard. Then Vana sighed. “Your words are true, but he is Baldir and Odin’s benevolence protects him. It is not Baldir who will see Odin’s ire,” Vana warned.

“However the Allfather may turn the runes of fate, there is one truth – Baldir is marked for Hel’s kingdom,” Laguz almost interrupted Vana. “For all his protection, Odin cannot unmake Baldir’s death.”

“Curb your tongue, Laguz,” Har said sharply. “Vana speaks for you, not against you. She remembers what you have chosen to forget: if Odin chooses to punish you, unmentionable torments may be your fate.”

The raven shrieked its warning cry and the light was swiftly dirtied with darkness as the descent became sharper. Laguz raised her eyes to hold close to her

heart the last glimpse of the clear sky.





A sharp whistle scarred the silent air and the wingspan of a great eagle came to rest on Thor’s forearm. Thor stroked the neck of the bird and said to Nari and Vali, “When Sigyn returns, send word. In fact, if you need anything, send word, but most certainly once Sigyn returns.”

“Please, don’t worry about us,” Vali assured.

“You shouldn’t be alone,” Thor muttered. “Sigyn should not have left you there alone. Not after what was said.”

“Ma knows we are well capable of looking after ourselves, Uncle,” Vali said with a smile.

Thor put his hand on Vali’s shoulder and an expression of complete sadness filled the strong face. “It is not yourself that you must look after, but each other, Vali. Look after each other.” His jaw hardened and he said gruffly, “I must leave you now but send word should you need anything.”

“Uncle!” Nari called out as soon as Thor had taken a few steps away from them. “Father was here earlier.”

Anger flushed the Thor’s rock-hewn face but taking a deep breath, he only repeated, “Send word should you need anything. I will return as soon as I may.”

Vali waited for the doors to close after Thor and then he turned upon Nari.

“You had to do that, didn’t you?”

Nari’s face was blank. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Why did you have to mention Father?” Vali demanded.

“Because I want Uncle Thor to find Ma and bring her back.”

Vali laughed with incredulity. “I don’t believe you. You would endanger Father so that you can suck your thumb in Ma’s lap!”

“Father can take care of himself.”

“Not if you ensure all the dangers of this world come crashing upon him.”

Nari’s chin jutted out obstinately. “I need Ma. Right now. I need to speak with her.”

Vali was breathing down furiously upon him before Nari could catch his breath. For the first time, Nari realised how frightening Vali must be as an opponent. Vali’s hands fisted round the collar of Nari’s tunic and tightened.

“Vali,” Nari choked out desperately.

Vali’s eyes grew wilder and he almost flung Nari out of his sight. Striding away, he said grimly, “Stay in your chambers. I need to go out.”

“But –”

“Just do as I say,” he growled. “For your own sake.”

Something trembled inside Nari at the pulsating rage in Vali. Nari cried out, “I’ve seen her in my dreams, Vali. That’s why I need to speak with Ma.” Vali quickened his pace and Nari watched helplessly as his brother refused to understand. “I’ve seen the Seer in my dreams, Vali,” he said quietly. “I stand bleeding in my dreams and she watches me die and…” Nari ran to the window and called out, “Vali! Father said they can enter our minds. Vali!”

But Vali heard nothing but an incoherent tangle of sounds in his brother’s voice. Nari saw Vali reach the edge of the forest. He called again.

And then, before Nari’s eyes, Vali changed into a wolf and slipped into the forest.




“Glut’s daughter,” Sigyn said slowly. The leaves of Yggdrasil rustled softly and Mimir watched the sunlight linger upon her fair hair. “Glut,” she repeated.

“Glut,” Mimir repeated. “Loki’s first wife.”

Sigyn’s eyes turned glassy and expressionless. “Yes. The one he married before all the power games and deceit began.”

“Sigyn,” Mimir said softly. “Sigyn of the Bluest Eyes, touch with your eyes the water of my well.”

She looked at him and smiled sadly. Mimir blew gently upon the water of the Spring of Knowledge. There appeared in its small waves a face with darker skin than Sigyn had ever seen. Dark skin and glittering eyes that crackled with fire; berry-stained lips that shone as though dusted with diamonds. Sigyn’s heart almost stopped beating; nothing in creation could compare with the raw passion of this beauty.

“Glut, the creature of fire, from whom Loki learned to send quicksilver spells and stroke charms with the softest touch that could unleash madness into the mind. Two daughters she bore on a summer’s night and even the Moon heard Glut’s agonised screams when the daughters, wrapped in each other’s arms, emerged tearing Glut’s flesh and breaking the cradle of her loins. Loki of Jotunheim knocked on every door, begging and pleading that his wife be saved and none came to the aid of the savage. Not even Odin, in whom lay the skill but not the desire, for what use was Glut’s life to him? The hours approached and the Norns rose to the plain where Glut’s torn body lay, heavy with unsucked milk and oncoming death. They came with their silent feet and their strangling rope to take the life out of Glut and just when Urd and Skuld would do their deed, their gaze fell upon Eisa who clutched in her just-born fist the black cloth of Skuld’s skirt.”




The roots tangled into each other like vipers in a whole and sweat dropped from Odin’s brow. Under the vicious grip of his scarred hands, the dry, wrinkled skin of Skuld’s neck twitched but upon her face was nothing.

“Your child,” Odin snarled, “cast a slur upon my kin today, crone. Discipline her or I shall make her very unhappy.”

“She is a Seeress, Allfather,” Skuld replied calmly. “She feels nothing, she only sees.”

“You lie. Mimir himself has told me that she spoke today because she drew upon her memories.”

“Then Mimir the Wise has lost his wisdom.”

Odin pressed harder and never before had the One-Eyed King looked so ugly. “Then explain why your bitch spat upon my son and declared me a villain.”

“You read into prophecies what you fear, my lord,” Skuld replied with her usual calm. “The Seeress has no memories but she feels the world in which you make her stand far more sharply than any other being, living or dead. Your hall has many who know the knavery of which you are capable and this you know far better than me, Bolverk.”

“Seal your mouth, crone. I am not in a forgiving frame of mind at this hour.”

“Freeze your heart, Allfather, for without me, Ragnarok comes half an age before its time and with my blood to answer for, there will be only you upon whom the blame will fall for not even Loki would come to kill me for a lark.”

“Who is Laguz, crone? Who was Laguz?”

“A girl who died on a heath under a raven’s wing.”

“What was her name?”

“Ask Hel, my lord.”

“You dare defy me!”

“Odin, lord of the Aesir, why would I defy you for a dead beast?”

He relaxed his grip for a moment and then suddenly grew fierce again.

“Punish your Seeress and make sure she does not loosen her tongue ever again,” he commanded.

“I will, my lord.”

“I want to see you do it.”

Skuld stilled and her lips thinned. All stilled as though lying in wait for a breath to be released, a sound to be uttered. And then it came.

Urd’s voice rang clearly through the battle of stares between Skuld and Odin. “Only if you will send Baldir down to present his apologies to Laguz,” she said. “Release Skuld, Allfather. I do not come to Asgard to discipline your family. You will not put a finger upon mine.”

“Laguz – ”

“Will receive her punishment,” Urd assured firmly. Odin looked at the two crones for a moment, looking at opposite directions as they always did. Finally, he nodded his head and said ceremoniously, “I remain your obedient servant, as ever.”

He was climbing to leave when Skuld said quietly, “Take heed, Allfather. Only in the underworld of Niflheim is the root of Yggdrasil truly embedded beyond the tremors of the earth.”

Urd, Verdandi and Skuld watched Odin climb beyond the pale of their unaided sight and then Verdandi said, “Perhaps it would have been wiser to let Odin unleash his momentary anger upon her.”

“Perhaps,” agreed Urd.

“What, after all, is the worst he would have done?” mused Verdandi. “Sliced her cheek, or perhaps burnt runes upon her tongue –”

“Over a bonfire of his kin’s bones will he even lay a finger on her,” hissed Skuld.

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Mimir continued his tale.

“Glut’s eyes cried tears of blood as from her daughter’s lips one whimper escaped when Skuld dragged her billowing skirt away from the child’s grasp. The Norns walked away but only after leaving in Eisa’s palm gifts gathered deep from the heart of each Norn. And before she left, Skuld herself touched Eisa’s eyes, hence her diamond vision.”

“But she died,” Sigyn said puzzled.

“She died only when Odin in his all-seeing throne saw in Loki’s arms a child with hair the colour of fire and eyes too bright. A low growl of clouds was all the warning he gave Loki before the hail of fire came down to sear through them all. Glut turned to flame in a heartbeat and the child that had desperately crawled to her breast turned to ashes and earned her name Einmyria, or ashes. But Eisa he was able to save and wild the child grew, reared in secret away from Odin’s gaze. Untouched by any of Asgard’s wiles, Eisa aged among golden fields and birch tree shades. She learnt from Loki laughter and the simple pleasures of berry juice licked from the pool of one’s elbow. And then one day, his shadow passed not the hearth of their hideaway. Days passed and nights crawled, but Loki did not come to Eisa. She walked the fields in search of him, uncaring of thorns and meandering paths, and stumbled to see him screaming of pain when Svadilfari threw him to the ground. The stallion left and then Eisa came and touched the brow of the sweating mare who spoke in Loki’s voice. Odin has marked me out for pain, my child. For his kin to be glorious, the savage must suffer, he said.

“Eisa stumbled away from the sight of her metamorphosed and broken love and ran. Too young to cross country and too starved to travel, she fell upon the same heath where her mother had once lain. Loki returned nine months later, but this time there was not even a corpse for him to bid farewell.”

“She’s his daughter,” Sigyn said slowly.

“Though Loki has been her father, not even Glut could answer that for certain, even if she were drowned in the waters of the Spring of Knowledge.”

“I don’t understand,” Sigyn replied.

Mimir laughed. “No, I know you do not understand but ask Loki and he will.”

Sigyn blushed. “I see.”

Mimir suddenly looked sharply into the spring’s waters. “And so does Odin. He has reached Valhalla. Leave, now.”

Sigyn leaned forward and lightly kissed the wrinkled cheek. “Thank you.”



“Please, no,” she whispered softly.

The skeletal hand of Skuld cracked sharply against the young Seeress’ cheek and blood smeared across her lips. She staggered and fell back against the blackness. The cavern shivered with the shriek of disturbed bats and their beating wings flapped angrily in the heavy air. Verdandi picked up a silver hammer and, parting Laguz’s hair into ten parts, she coiled each strand around a gleaming nail and drove it into the rock, stretching the skin of her face into translucence. Urd came towards her with rusted shackles and Laguz’s eyes widened.

“It was unwise of you to let Odin know your passions. A Seeress does not feel, she simply sees,” Urd said with twisted grimace as she clasped the shackles around ankles that were crusted with scars. Too often had Eisa, no Laguz, needed to be ruled by Odin’s laws and too often had she struggled. Too often they had left her in here to die her death again and again but each time, she lived.

Laguz moved her lips to say a word but before she could, Skuld’s bony fingers bit into her cheeks and choked her speech.

“Hush, Eisa, hush. Odin sits in his throne and watches. He looks for punishment and he searches for blood. Hush now, child, for though he cannot hear, if he sees your lips move he will know even this darkness does not numb your heart.”

“They frighten me, you know they do.” Her words were mangled by Skuld’s grip. “The fangs of the birds of the night, they drink blood from my lips.”

“They will not touch you. If you had told me before, I would have ensured it before.”

Verdandi touched her warm hand upon Laguz’s forehead. “Now sleep, Eisa, and leave this place in your dreams. Sleep,” she whispered.

Laguz’s eyes clouded. Skuld’s slap cracked across her cheek, staining her face with blood again, but her eyes only widened faintly and grappling with sleep, she saw the crones leave the cavern and the rolling stone ate the curious gaze of the full moon. And then there was darkness.


Urd, Skuld and Verdandi stood outside the cave, still and impassive. Then Urd spoke. “Heal the cut you made on your hand, Sister. Odin should not see it.”

“It was a good way to protect her from both Odin’s eye and the bats’ greed – he will be fooled and they will cower from the taste of the Norn,” Verdandi said expressionlessly.

Skuld said nothing. She simply plucked out of the folds of her cloak a dagger as fine as cat’s teeth and returned it to Urd. The three sisters walked away, and Skuld’s sleeve, heavy and wet, did not lift with the wind.





Sigyn’s voice pulled Nari back from his descent into sleep. He was suddenly achingly awake.


“What has happened? Are you hurt?” she came to sit by him on the bed and Nari realised that he was curled tightly into himself and his arms were clutching his own midriff, as though comforting some invisible pain. Nari sat up quickly and pushed his hair back roughly.

“Nothing. I’m fine, really. Where were you?”

Sigyn smoothed an unruly strand of hair on Nari’s head and smiled. “I had gone to meet an old friend of your father’s.”



“To ask him about what the seer said.”

Sigyn’s face suddenly hardened. “What happened in Valhalla after they left?”

“I don’t know. Uncle Thor hurried Vali and me back home.”

“I must thank him.”

“He asked to send word once you were back.”

Outside the moon was rising out of the depths of Yggdrasil’s roots. Sigyn whistled and raised her hand to welcome the great eagle. “My gratitude to you and Thor,” she said slowly. The eagle bent his head to touch Sigyn’s chin and then flew out of the window.

“Ma, I need to speak with you.”

“Did someone say something to you in Valhalla?”


Sigyn relaxed again. “Where is Vali?”

“He has gone into the woods,” Nari replied sadly. “He was very angry with me, I think, because I was desperately looking for you.”

“Come here, child.” Sigyn guided Nari to lay his head on her lap. He lay still, looking out at the moon coming up from the clouds. Sigyn stayed silent, stroking the line of her son’s back, the bend of his arm, the wave of his hair. Her hands soothed his goosepimpled arm, warmed the gold-dusted skin and cooled the fever that the moon’s hungry gaze had cast upon the boy. Mother and son said nothing.

“What happened, Nari?” Sigyn finally asked.

“The seer.”

Sigyn’s heart suddenly stilled. “Yes.”

“I see her in my dreams sometimes.”




Odin unclenched his hand from his throne. He had been wrong to doubt the Norns. He ran his eye over Asgard. Night’s breath was bringing all things to their quietened end as the day died. His eye paused over the sight of Sigyn with Nari in her arms. Asgard claimed Vali was like Loki, and truly he did have the same mad frenzy in him, with his boisterous laughter and red hair. But it was Nari whose every muscle carried Loki’s quicksilver beauty and Loki’s unassuming strength. Vali had only inherited Loki’s rage; the rage that would enable Odin to bring Loki to heel ultimately. He watched Sigyn; her blue eyes carried in them the depths of the sea and the light of the sky. Her eyelashes fell over the remarkable eyes and touched Loki’s son, who burrowed his head deeper into her lap. A vein throbbed near Odin’s hollow eye as he remembered himself sitting in this very throne and forgetting Freya as he watched Loki claim Sigyn. Perhaps it took a near-blind man to see the resemblance. Sigyn’s hand stroked Nari shoulder, arm, hips. Odin rose sharply from his seat into the torch-lit darkness.



“You never told me you saw dreams,” Sigyn said carefully.

Nari did not reply. His finger traced absent circles around her knee. His eyes gazed out at the moon and watched the dark clouds that were curling in from the corners of his eyes and blanking out the stars.

“The moon will be hidden soon,” he said absentmindedly.

Sigyn looked up at the clear night sky with its crystal-tipped stars. The moon had never been prouder or more resplendent. An unnamed dread closed its cold fingers around her heart and she held Nari’s shoulder and turned him so that he lay on his back looking up at her. His face was expressionless and white, as though frozen in the ice caves where the only sound is of diamond droplets of water dripping from the icicles. Sigyn touched her fingers to her lips and placed her hand upon his chest. His heart raced below chilled skin. Running against the line of his golden hair, her hand travelled up the swell of his breastbone, touched the dipping hollow at his collar, stroking the line of his throat and finally cupping warmly his angular jaw. Blunt roughness pin-pricked the softness of her palms and Sigyn’s heart howled silently for the boyhood lost.

“Nari,” she urged, with a catch in her voice.

He blinked and their blue eyes locked with each other. He turned towards her, levering himself up on one elbow, and as his eyes levelled with the line of her lips, he slowly lifted a hand to trace a tear pathway down from her eyes to her parted lips.

“What is it?” she asked, feeling the lightness of his fingers as she spoke the words.

“Dreams are not real, are they, Ma?” His voice was quieter than floating ice.

A sea of sadness pooled in Sigyn’s eyes and before her tears could fall, she clasped Nari close to her heart. She pulled him closer into her, wrapping her arm around his naked back, uncaring that she was making him twist in beautiful discomfort, uncaring of the sheathed dagger hanging from his trousers butting painfully into her skin. She blinked back her tears and held him fiercely, as though cradling him would change the lines of destiny already carved into their beings.


They did not notice Vali standing at the doorway. They did not notice his thinned lips as his eyes saw Nari’s arms go around Sigyn’s body. He noticed Nari’s discarded tunic at the foot of the bed; he noticed Nari’s hand lying inches away from the underside of their mother’s breast; he saw Sigyn tip her head back and release a long breath into the silence. Vali’s fists clenched and his eyes began to turn yellow. He breathed deeply, stalling the metamorphosis with difficulty. Pointed teeth punctured his own skin and tongue greedily lapped the released blood. With stealthy steps, Vali crept out.


Sigyn gritted her jaw and willed night’s breath to dry her eyes. Then she let out a heavy breath and said to Nari, “Kjæreste, tell me your dreams.”

She felt him smile against her. “Kjæreste…I haven’t heard you say that word in a long time. You used to call Father that.”

“Yes.” It used to be a game between them: how hard would Loki have to work to make Sigyn call him her sweetheart.

“Kjæreste,” he repeated slowly as if he was learning a new word. His eyes drooped.

“Nari!” Sigyn’s voice sharply shook him. “Nari, tell me your dreams.”


She stood outside a great door and searched for an opening. Her hands looked like opals, gleaming in the light the streamed from the purple skies. Shoulders bare, legs free, she felt delicate breaths of cloth settle lightly against skin accustomed only to heavy blackness and she knew this was a dream. The door under her hands was made of unmoving wood. Her hands ran against the whorls of time etched upon the wood and there was nothing. Her hands fluttered, like a bird in a net, desperate; then she found it. A small crack. Just enough for her to press an eye and croon quietly with the hope of tempting the doors to open.



“I don’t have dreams,” Nari said quietly and disentangled himself from Sigyn’s arms. He went to stand by the window. Sigyn saw the shadows flit upon his skin as he gripped the stone ledge and the strength of his arms was thrown into relief. “I don’t have dreams,” he repeated. “I see just a fragment of one dream and it keeps coming back to me. It comes and it stays and when I wake, it is almost more real to me than anything I see before me. These walls, these stones, they all seem blurred into indistinct unreality as I walk out of my sleep. Then you kiss me and I wake up.”

“Tell me the dream,” Sigyn commanded quietly.

“The sky turns the colour of venom, darker than winter, because only half a moon hangs from the edge of a wolf’s mouth. Cowering from the wide open mouth and giving a mutilated white backdrop to the shaggy outline of the wolf. Its jaws open wide and I see one slivery drop slide down a pointed fang. But before I can move away from the animal, before I can lift a hand towards the half-eaten moon, pain roars through my body and I know, without looking, that the wolf is sinking its teeth into me, pushing itself into my gut to tear me in two. I still have the strength to clutch the scruff of its neck, I know I do even though I am losing blood but when my hand touches the thin-furred skull, I find myself unable to do anything other than stroke it. Something happens as I stroke the animal; it turns into a woman. It becomes the Seer, and she is kneeling at my feet.” He paused. “Behind her diamond-eyed face, the sky is dark but I don’t know whether the sun has set or if it is shaking itself awake to rise. There is nothing but the darkness and the Seer and the pain.” Nari turned around and touched his navel. “Here. The pain is here.” Sweat glistened off his body. Sigyn watched haphazard droplets dart from left and right and become rivulets of sweat that rivered their shining paths around his curves and hollows.

“The Seers are dead women, are they not, Ma?”

Sigyn nodded her head, unable to bring herself to speak so soon.

“Father said they can enter our thoughts.” She watched him trickle a finger up his own body lazily. He blinked his eyes, slowly, as if it was an enormous effort. “He was right,” Nari slurred with a smile. “I can hear her now. I escape to her and she escapes to me.”

Sigyn’s eyes widened in alarm as he leaned back against the ledge and, resting on one arm, threw his head back. His other hand seemed to have a life of its own and lingeringly travelled all over his exposed skin.

He felt like a diamond cloaked in silk. Made slippery by sweat, his skin was smoother and tense with memory and dream, his body was ridged into sharper definition. She blew a whispery breath upon his nearly sealed eyes, coaxing them closer together. Before her own visions of the future encroached into these moments, perhaps this time she would be able to steal a kiss.


“Nari!” Sigyn went to him quickly and shook him. His head just limply dropped to rest upon her shoulder and he snugly settled himself into the curve of her neck and shoulder. “Nari!”, Sigyn cried desperately. “Don’t sleep, Nari, wake up! Please, kjære, don’t sleep! You must wake up!” She lifted his head and shook him again. His lips moved but without sound or meaning. Sigyn took Nari’s face in her hands. “Nari!” Sigyn said sharply. His eyes lifted slightly. Taking a deep breath, Sigyn gripped his face hard, stretching his skin, she said, “Listen to me carefully, Nari. You must wake up. You must leave the Seeress behind. She shows you the dream to lull you into her embrace, to put you into death’s sleep. That dream is no fantasy, Nari. That is the prophecy. That is what will happen to you – Vali will swallow the moon and rip your body apart. You die in your brother’s jaws. This is not a dream; it is a prophecy.”

Nari’s eyes were wide open. He looked straight into his mother’s eyes. Shock had taken every living thing out of his being.

“Vali?” he asked with disbelieving incredulity.

Sadness filled Sigyn’s eyes. “Yes.”

“But why?”

“I don’t know.”

“No,” Nari shook his head as though shaking off sleep. He pushed his mother away and paced to the bed. “Vali?” he asked again.

This time Sigyn did not reply.

“Tell me why,” he pleaded when the silence deafened him.

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t believe you. You must know!”

“I don’t.”

“You know why Vali wants to kill me! You know!”

“No, I don’t. I only know that he kills you.”

“Why?” Nari screamed.

Her voice cracked but she gave him the only answer she knew. “Because the Aesir use your viscerals as rope to bind your father to a fate worse than death.”

Nari blinked at her as though she was speaking another language. And then he picked up his shirt and walked out.

Sigyn watched him leave and only after he was far beyond the reach of her voice did she whisper, “You will fight your demons and I will wait for you to return. Even though I know you won’t. Like father, like son.”

The moon touched her zenith as Sigyn crumpled into a huddle on the freezing flagstones of an empty palace.


Under the same sky but above Sigyn’s earth and below her broken heart, Eisa, freed of Laguz’s chains, looked down upon sleeping Asgard. Each and every divine mind was an open door in this city of sleeping thoughts and as she floated above them, aimlessly, she saw their dreams and hopes rise into the sky – white and wispy like smoke signals. But none drew her for the one she loved in slumber’s cradle was awake and searching for his father.

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“I need to find my father.”

Thor looked at Nari standing before him in utter bemusement. His immense home, Bilskirnir, had seen visitors and strangers for countless ages, but none had thought or dared to come beating his door down at the darkest hour of the night. Sleep sighed against the shell of Thor’s ear. He pressed his eyes shut but the light of the torch his hand had shown him a sight he knew he could not dismiss. Nari stood, immovable as a rock, with determination etched upon his face and glittering eyes, and white-flame haloes radiated from him as the heat of Bilskirnir touched him.

“I don’t understand,” Thor said uncomprehendingly, looking him over.

“I need to find my father. Now.”

“Have you any idea what hour of the night it is?” Thor asked him incredulously. Then, with a little shake of his head, he said, “Never mind. There is no need to answer that. Of course you know what time it is. You’re cursed with the same unthinking impetuousness of Loki.”

“I apologise for having called upon you at this hour.”

“And you have your mother’s good manners,” Thor observed drily. “Follow me.” Dismissing the minions that were gazing agog, Thor walked wearily into his inner sanctum.


Nari followed Thor inside to a basin where Thor splashed water upon his face.

“Now tell me. What is this about Loki?”

“I need to find my father.”

“Yes, my boy, I heard that the first time you said it. What has happened?” Concern creased his face suddenly. “Is Sigyn –”

“Ma is fine,” Nari assured. “It is I who must meet him.”

“Why?” Thor asked baldly.

Nari paused for a moment. “Can you not tell me where I can find him?”

“I have not the slightest notion of where Loki is,” Thor replied bluntly. “The only thing I know for certain about your father is that he will not be where any reasonable mind will think him to be. And wherever he is, he is in all probability creating merry mayhem.”

“You will not tell me,” Nari said quietly.

Thor looked down, avoiding Nari’s steady gaze. The boy should have had Loki’s eyes; it would have made it possible to lie to him freely. But he had inherited Sigyn’s unwaveringly faithful gaze, and faced with that crystal vision, all thoughts prismed into honest goodwill. He finally looked up. “Why this sudden curiosity, that too at such an, if I may say so, inopportune time?”

Nari took a deep breath and said, “I need to speak to him about the prophecy.”

Thor froze. “Prophecy?”

“The one where Vali kills me and the Aesir bind my father with my innards.”

He stood so still that Nari wondered whether Thor had heard him at all. Then without warning, the mighty god lifted the stone basin and threw it to the ground in an angry explosion. “Curse the Seeresses!” he ground out in his rage. Enormous fragments of stone circled clumsily on their sharp edges around Nari’s feet. Thor took a deep breath and said slowly, “Last I knew, Loki was in the abode of the dark elves, Svartalfheim.”

“How can I get there?” Nari asked promptly.

Thor hesitated for a moment and then with a sigh said, “Svartalfheim lies under the rainbow bridge of Bifrost but Heimdall the Watchful, who sits at the point where Bifrost meets Asgard, will never let you travel below.”

“What must I do then?”

“Swim with the river, staying close to the wall of Asgard. After a while, the river plunges into Midgard. Just below the precipice of Asgard and above Midgard, sheltered by the falling water, is the cave that leads to Svartalfheim.”

Nari bent down on one knee and kissed Thor’s many-scarred wrist. “Thank you, Uncle.”

Thor lifted him and awkwardly aimed a playful punch at Nari’s cheek. “It is a short journey, merely two moon-shadows, but the Aesir are not seen in those lands. Travel safely.”

“I will. Thank you, Uncle. Truly. I will take your leave now.”

Saying this, Nari bowed and turned to leave but he stopped after taking a few steps. Turning again, he asked, “Uncle?”

“Yes, my boy.”

“What is my father doing in Svartalfheim?”

Thor’s jaw tightened and a muscle ticked ominously above his eye. “Seducing the princess of the dark elves.”

Nari’s eyes fell; bowing again, he quietly left the great hall.

“You could have spared him,” Sif commented, her sharp voice cutting through the air.

“How long have you been listening?”

“Long enough to ask you why you would hit a child in his,” Sif grimaced and finished, “guts.”

“I told him what he wanted to know,” Thor replied, stubbornness making his jaw jut out.

Sif’s eyes widened with disbelief. “You could have told him to return to Sigyn and dragged that miserable Loki here yourself!” Her voice became shriller and louder. “Why send Nari to stumble upon his father’s indiscretions? What has he done to deserve that? Is not learning of the prophecy enough punishment?”

“Because!” Thor roared and then stopped abruptly.

“I have no love lost for Loki, and this you know. But you and I both know he has chosen to be in Svartalfheim because it keeps him close to Sigyn.”

“You and I are the only ones who do know; and you would not have if I could hold my mead.”

Sif flashed her husband a cheeky smile. Then her face sobered again, “You should have told Nari.”

“No, it is not my tale to tell.” With that, he walked past Sif to return to their bedchamber.

“Thor! We speak of Nari, not Loki. It is not Loki who will suffer, but Nari.” She bit her lip. “And Sigyn.”

He stopped mid-stride. “I cannot change the choices she made. Nari must bear his father; his father must bear the weight of his deeds; and Sigyn must live the life she chose.”

“And to that who can say another word?” Sif said with dripping sarcasm. She walked up to him and looked him straight in the eye. Her eyes narrowed and she broke into acidic laughter. Thor saw tears seep out from her crinkled eyes. She stopped laughing abruptly and said, “Never again tell me you love me, if this is how your love ages.”

Incredulous, Thor watched Sif walk away from him.

“How in the name of Odin’s eye did Sigyn manage that?”

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The river rushed in the black night, along currents where neither moonlight nor starshine found their way. Nari slipped off his boots and touched a toe in its chilling ripples. The cold welcomed his heated mind and with steady steps he entered the wetness, letting it settle into him. The sounds of the gurgling water sang to him like a lover’s song, carrying away all cares other than the need to move against its embrace and cut through its strength. Nari swam cleanly and silently. He felt empowered, as he moved against the will of the elements. Immersed in water and without any thought other than the slice of his arms against the current, a strange, soft happiness filled Nari as he swam towards Svartalfheim.



The dark skin of Miskaja sinuously caressed Loki but his mind wandered, following the flight of imaginary eagles across a sky he could not see from this underground realm.

“Loki?” the princess asked uncertainly.

He forced himself back to the task at hand and bestowed upon the dark elf a dazzling smile. “Yes?”

Confident she had his attention now, Miskaja moved away and pouted. “You are distracted,” she said, swaying her hips just that touch more to rouse his blood. But Loki the Savage had no patience for such wiles. If the price of secrecy in Svartalfheim was a panting Miskaja, then pant she would and with Loki’s touch. He dragged her by her hair back to him and, with sudden ferocity, brought her to him and kissed her with calculated frenzy. And then froze at the sound of one word.

“Hello Father.”

Loki looked up to find Nari, sleek as a seal, standing at the door with a raised eyebrow. Nari leaned against the door frame and looked at the scene before him quizzically. “You’re naked.”

Loki looked him up and down, mild curiosity and no embarrassment on his face. “You’re wet.”

Miskaja in his arms turned around in surprise. Nari looked her up and down and observed, “She’s naked too.”

“It generally makes things simpler,” Loki replied jovially.

Nari’s eyes twinkled as he said pointedly, "Things don’t seem too hard just at this moment."

All eyes turned in the same direction and then quickfire glances were exchanged between the three, before father and son burst into laughter. The dark elf looked incredulously as the two men roared with laughter. Pushing Loki away, the princess of the dark elves walked out of the room angrily, speechless, furious and naked. Wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, Loki said amidst whoops of laughter, “She will be back.”

Grinning Nari asked, “Why?”

“How far do you think the princess can get without a stitch of cloth on her?”

The two men doubled over in laughter again and as if following the directions of some divine script, Miskaja returned and repeated her exit, after snatching her robe from the dull golden bed. Nari finally collapsed on to his knees and smothered his head in the soft mattress. The joy of being able to laugh in this moment, without any disenchantment and with only the freedom that Loki filled the air with. Gasping with laughter, he raised his head to see Loki struggling into his clothes, still laughter.

“Well, so much for hiding out in Svartalfheim,” Loki said.

“What do you mean?”

“The price for remaining unspoken of in the land of the dark elves is to, how should I put it, to make sure that Miskaja is too occupied to form any words. I believe I have let down my side of the understanding. Literally.”

The two of them grinned again. Loki’s heart clenched painfully; his boy had been blessed to be a man made in his mother’s image.

“Poor thing,” Nari said with mock regret. “I do apologise for being such a wet blanket.”

“You little rascal!" Loki took Nari by the scruff of his neck playfully. "Wet blanket, were you?”

“Damp blanket, actually. I think she was the wet one.”

Loki threw his head back in delighted laughter. "I think it is fitting that my son leaves me speechless," he said with a smile. “Now, sit down and tell me who sent you here.”

The laughter left Nari’s eyes completely and again Loki was struck by the similarity between mother and son. Sigyn could do that – look at him with fire in her blue eyes and then, within the space of a dropped eyelid, oceans of ice floated in place of her eyes. “Nari?”

“Let us talk about something else first. Why Svartalfheim?”

Loki looked at his son closely for a moment and then replied, “I will answer all your questions if you will answer one question of mine and agree to one condition. Are you hiding something from me?”

Nari held his father’s gaze and then smiled. “There is no simple answer to that, Father. Let us say, I hide from you what you hide from me.”

“That tells me nothing, but I will let it pass if you promise to tell me truly why you are here.”

Nari smiled again but this time there was no mirth in his youthful face. “I promise to rip my heart open to your gaze. That is why I have come, after all.”

Loki put his hand on Nari’s wet shoulder. “Nari? What happened, my boy? And why are you so disgustingly wet?”

“Swimming in the river does that to most of us, Father. We get wet.”

“You swam to Svartalfheim?” Loki almost roared in outraged fury.

Completely confused, Nari answered, “Yes.”

“Which mindless imbecile told you to swim here?”

“Uncle Thor.”

“Uncle Thor! I should have known! That buffoon!” Loki started pacing the floor. Then he stopped. “We need to find you a fire.”

“It is warm here in the heart of the earth. The coolness of the river feels nice,” Nari said, with a smile.

“Next time, use mirrors,” Loki said sternly. “Not that you will be returning here in the near future. Unless of course, Miskaja…”

Nari laughed out loud and said, “No. But you have not told me why you came here?”

Loki unsheathed a spear that hung on the walls for adornment and said, “I doubt I can explain it to you. I can barely explain it to myself.” He fought with his shadow for a few moments and the gleaming metal cut through the air with the sound of an old man’s laboured breath. “I came here because it was right under our home in Asgard.” The spear moved like the wind again and then Loki put it back on the wall. Dusting his hands, Loki shrugged. “That is all.”

“I simply don’t understand you, Father.”

Loki smiled and said, “Neither do I.”

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She sat on the flagstones, crumpled like a dead bird. Vali stood a step away from her and found he was afraid to touch her. He was afraid that she would wake and her eyes would seek Nari and he would have to admit to her that he knew not the whereabouts of his brother and she would then wish Vali had not woken her. He lowered himself to his haunches and blew his warm breath on his mother’s face to watch the loose strands of hair flutter and the warmth pinken her skin. She did not wake. From Nari’s bed, he picked up the fleece and lay it upon her with the quietness of a cat. Not a sound, not a breath, disturbed the cold melancholy of Nari’s empty room. He watched her huddle closely into the fleece and with a broken heart he left the room.


Vali stood in the hall without moving. Dawn was breaking and weak strains of light were lightly fingering the purple-passioned sky. Upon the stone floor it drew a filigree of leafy shadows as nature readied itself to woo the morning light. Looking down around his rooted feet, Vali could almost see the infant prints of his and Nari’s hands and knees scuttling in cheerful frenzy, chasing each other and grappling each other. Ma used to sit there, in that corner where the southern sun streamed through the high casements, and watch with fond laughter when Father would throw himself into the midst of their brotherly battles. "My sunshine boys," Ma used to call them – Vali was her sunset, with his red hair, and Nari was ‘noon light’ with his white-gold crown. Where had those days gone? Under which shadow did they hide now? The floor seemed to rise and the soaring ceiling seemed to sink, the walls seemed to close in on him and Vali’s heart pounded out of his chest. It strained and pushed against his bones and his flesh, begging for the open air and dew-wet earth. Unable to hold himself back, Vali ran towards the doors and opened it to find Thor standing outside.

"Uncle Thor," Vali said, with laboured breath.

"Vali, where’s your mother?"

"In Nari’s chamber. Uncle Thor, please forgive me, but I need to leave."

"Vali!" Thor pulled him back by the elbow, concern in his eyes. "Is everything well?"

"How can they be well, Uncle Thor, when so much is awry?" he said, hating himself for sounding weak and frail. "Please, let me leave."

The vision of the prophecy flashed before Thor and he nodded his head slowly. "You are right, my boy." He let go of his elbow. "Go, but stay safe."

He watched Vali’s figure diminish into the lightening darkness and then, taking a deep breath, entered the hall of Drøm. While all of the Aesir sought glorious names befitting their ambitions of magnificence, Loki and Sigyn chose a single word for their home: Drøm. Dream, for that was all they had wanted to come true in their lives – their dream.

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“Dreams are not reality, Nari,” Loki said calmly.

Nari looked at him, incredulously. His heart beat faster, pounding, because he so desperately wished to believe his father and yet he knew, his mother did not lie.

“How can you say that?”

“It is a disturbing dream, yes,” Loki said with deep sympathy. “But you must learn to shake dreams out of your eyes when you wake, Nari. Reality is a different animal and that is the truth that lies in your dreams. Dreams are killed as viciously as you saw yourself die by reality’s hunger for blood.” He looked at Nari and smiled wistfully. “You’re growing up, son, and perhaps that is why you saw what you dreamt.”

Nari stood up, veins beating at his temple. He fought to keep his voice calm. “You do not seem to be hearing what I am telling you. The Seer was in my dream. I saw her in my dream, every time, even though I had never seen her before. Take everything away as the workings of my fertile youth, but how would you explain the presence of the Seer?”

Loki shrugged carelessly. “Perhaps she is a daughter of one of the Valkyries. Perhaps she looks like your mother.”

“She does not look like Ma. She has eyes the colour of crystals.”

Loki raised his eyes to him for a swift glance and when their eyes clashed, Loki grinned and said. “Asgard is running out of pretty women it seems – I have to sink to Svartalfheim, my son has to grope in the darkness for seers."

“Is this a game to you, Father?” Nari asked through gritted teeth, trembling.

“Calm down, Nari.”

“Is this a game to you?” Nari repeated, trembling with rage. “You find this fit for one of your pranks? I see a Seer in my dreams, she well nigh plucks me from the living, I cross realms to find you and this is all you have to say to me?”

“It is just a dream, Nari.”

“It is not just a dream!” Nari thundered. “It is a prophecy, and you know it!”

Loki stared at him, a towering white flame, and found he could not say a word. He touched his tongue to his lips but his mouth had gone dry. His jaw jutted like boulders at the sides of his face and he finally managed to say three words. “Who told you?”

Nari felt as though if he took a breath, every part of him would crack and he would lay in a thin scattering of flesh-coloured glass around his father’s feet. The quiet air, whipped erratically by the sound of their unsynchronised breaths, drummed in his ears. The drumbeat suddenly stopped when Loki’s voice loudly silenced it with the menace of words.

“Nari, who told you?”

“Ma,” he whispered.

“No,” Loki shook his head. “She would not have. She could not have.”

“She was trying to wake me up,” Nari replied numbly.

“No,” Loki’s head fell as though it was too heavy for his arms to hold up. “That was why you came to me. That was what drove you to me, and I thought it was just father and son…but you laughed and we jested,” Loki said, looking up like a puzzled child.

“Yes, we laughed and for one wild moment, I thought it really was just a dream.” Nari knelt down before Loki. “Father, is it true? What Ma said, is that how we must end our times?”

“Your mother does not lie, Nari.”

“No, she does not, but how can it be that she alone knows of this prophecy? Perhaps she misunderstood,” Nari asked desperately.

Loki’s lips twisted derisively. “Everybody knows of the prophecy, for it is the prelude to the one prophecy that every one of the Aesir shudders at the sound of. Ragnarok. The end of the time of Aesir, when each and every living creature lifts up battlearms and brother kills brother, and pale beaks tear corpses, and heaven is rent in twain. Everybody knows, everybody knew.” Loki stood up and began walking aimlessly around the chamber slowly, as though walking backwards into memory.

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“We learnt in the presence of none other than Odin himself, when Vala the Seeress drowned happiness with her words. She said Yggdrasil would quiver and Jotunheim would roar, that we would all abandon our homesteads and as we slayed each other in the field, the earth would sink into the sea and the heavens with the bright stars would vanish. I was young then,” Loki remembered. “I was young as the fresh leaf after spring, and in Valhalla I raised my voice and asked the Seeress where the end began so that we may finish it before it is born. She looked at me and lifted her hand and she told me ‘It begins with you’. From her lips, those words of horror poured and all Valhalla could have fallen upon my shoulders but still I would have felt nothing but her breath as she spoke.” He pressed his eyes shut. “Sigyn was quiet but I couldn’t be so. The next morning I left Drøm, vowing to change the ways of our world by leaving behind all that I had built upon the foundations of dream. For I thought, if I left Sigyn then we could have no sons, and if there were no sons, then there could be no fate.

“But I came back to her, unable to stay away, drawn to her and drawing her to me, like a moth to a flame. So I returned and Vali was born. Again my arrogant manhood rose and again I schemed to outsmart destiny. I knew that I could not spurn Sigyn, so instead I thought I would drive her to spurn me. The trickster turned to a knave, a creature without integrity or honour or emotion; laughing madly and walking over the branches and roots of Yggdrasil like the living dead – without hope, or fear, until hedonism became habit. Still she took me back when I crawled to her threshold, starved for the touch of her blue eyes. I cursed myself and I cursed her but Drøm lit up with your golden hair.”

He reached out his hand and touched Nari’s hair. “She would call you and Vali her ‘sunshine boys’,” he said with a smile. The smile died like a candle smothered by darkness. “It was the day that Vali showed his gift for the first time – that day when the nearly infant boy turned round to scare you with a wolf’s yellow eyes – that Sigyn walked across Asgard and knocked on every door. Before every living being, she bent down on her knees and begged for their silence so that her boys grew up in innocence and peace, knowing family and joy. To Loki none would have given their grace, but who could resist Sigyn’s blue eyes?” He laughed suddenly. “Even if any had thought they would tell, Thor wielding his hammer and swearing to behead any who denied Sigyn would have been reason enough to vow silence.”

“I should not have left her,” Nari said quietly.

“What did you say?” Loki asked sharply.

“I left her alone,” he looked up and saw Loki’s eyes blazing with vicious fire. “I was so distraught and all I could think of just then was finding you. And so I left,” he finished weakly.

“You left her alone?” Loki asked incredulously. “How could you leave her alone?” he almost screamed.

“I thought Vali would be back soon.” There were tears in Nari’s eyes but suddenly they flashed with equal fury. “And how dare you ask me that question?”

“I left her with her sons, because I thought they were better men than me!” Loki roared.

“We can only be as good as your blood lets us be,” Nari replied with lightning speed.

Loki stopped in the middle of a word and his shoulders drooped. “I had hoped Sigyn’s blood would win over mine.”

Father and son stood helplessly in a strange, underground chamber. Then Loki’s back straightened. “Why are we still here?” he said briskly. “We must go to Drøm.” He strode towards a mirror. Nari looked at him in confusion and said, “But the door is in the other direction.”

Loki looked at him with a flash in his eyes and said, “It is not a door we need, but a mirror.”

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Thor watched the morning sun tenderly touch Sigyn’s fair hair. Her breath clouded the crisp morning air and then faded away. He sat, cross-legged, upon the stone floor. Sigyn of the Bluest Eyes, they called her. She seemed to be a creature of the sea and not the earth – silent but shifting, catching light and yet so full of unmeasurable depth, passionate and yet unmoving, almost. He had wanted to protect her, always, Thor remembered as he watched her now, warming into the light: his golden first love, Sigyn of the Bluest Eyes.


She huddled into a thin fleece, wrapping it closer around her in sleep. Thor shrugged out of his heavy, fur cloak and reached to wrap it around her. Its weight made her head sink and, without a thought, Thor leaned towards her so that she rested her head against his shoulder. Outside a songbird found her morning song and Thor breathed in the scent of Sigyn, softly tucked into his shoulder, as though she belonged there. Then she opened her eyes.

“Thor?” Her voice rasped from tears and sleep.

“Yes. I came to see how you were.”

“Nari – ”

“Came to me asking for Loki,” Thor informed her gently. “I helped him as much as I could.”

“Thank you,” Sigyn said with a smile. She closed her eyes and tipped her head back against the stone wall. Thor watched her swallow and her throat ripple with faint shadows.

“I would have asked you before telling him but he was insistent. And I thought, there are times when a boy needs his father. I told him the safest path. He will not be discovered upon those trails, I know this for certain,” Thor explained himself, just to fill the air with words. It was too unnerving to sit here, alone and undisturbed, with a vulnerable Sigyn before him. He felt as though something within him was waiting to break through a wall.

“You were right to do what you did, Thor. You have done so much for both my boys and me.” She opened her eyes and looked at him. “Thank you,” she said simply, touching her hand to his cheek.

He savoured that cold touch, holding its tender chill close to his heart as a memory that he would turn over in those sleepless nights when clouds of despair ate the moon and stars. “Loki is in –”

Her hand dropped. “I don’t want to know,” her voice was hard.

“Please hear me, Sigyn. There is a reason for his – ”

“Thor,” her eyes flashed dangerously. “I do not want to know. Wherever he may be, this is where I am. Upon the frosted flagstones of my son’s chamber with aching limbs that will not move, for they have been frozen by misfortune and nature.” She quietened again. “I do not want to know, but thank you for guiding Nari.”

Helpless anger curdled Thor’s eyes. “Damn that Loki for leaving you like this,” he muttered. Clenching his fist, he hit the wall beside him.

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“We need a mirror?” Nari looked at his father. “There is much that the Aesir do that has been withheld from me, I see.”

Loki grinned. “The Aesir do not do this. The Aesir, like your thick-headed and golden-hearted Uncle Thor, would prefer to expend strength and time swimming, for instance. Fugitives like me need something more swift,” he said and taking Nari’s hands, he stepped in through the mirror in Miskaja’s chamber.

The dim passage behind mirrors with shadowed doorways fascinated Nari. It seemed to be a world of shadows, made of beaten silver.

“Where did you learn this?” Nari asked with wonderment in his voice.

“In Midgard,” Loki replied, searching for the path to Asgard.

“Who in Midgard?”

“From an intimate friend,” Loki answered distractedly. “Come, this way,” he pulled at Nari’s hand.

“What is this friend’s name?” Nari asked.

Loki shot a glance back at his son and saw wide-eyed innocence blink back at him. He grimaced and said, “Maike. And we really must add a few mirrors in Drøm. We’re going to have to run across the whole palace looking for your mother.”

“She was in my chamber.”

“Do you have a mirror in your chamber?”


“Remind me to get you one.”

“Maike?” Nari turned the word around his tongue. “What kind of a name is that?”

“The kind you are not going to come across. Stay away from her, Nari. She’s mine. Let us keep the ‘like father, like son’ adage within its limits. In any case, when it comes to the ones I love,” he turned back to Nari, with a gleam in his eyes, “I don’t share.”

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“Forgive me.” Thor said gruffly, without looking at Sigyn but trying to distract himself with the beauty of a spring morning. She was quiet. It was impossible to not look upon her face. Thor surrendered.

“Sigyn?” He lifted her chin to see her face. “Forgive me. I should not have said that.”

Sigyn only smiled sadly. She had once smiled at him like this, ages before, when during some frolic she had been tripped by one of the Valkyries. She had stumbled forward and before he could reach her, her head struck a copper ornamental vessel. A spot of blood touched her whiteness and Thor had taken her face in his hands and asked if she was fine. She had smiled, like this, and he had touched his lips to her skin. Memory made Thor bold and he leaned forward to touch his lips to her forehead when the quiet, almost pleading, voice reached them.

“Thor, please don’t touch her.”

They turned to see Loki and Nari standing at the door, panting. For one moment, Thor contemplated kissing her forehead anyway, but his own heart slapped his pride sharply. For all his kisses, there was only one truth – Sigyn had chosen Loki.

“Come here and take my place,” he ordered quietly. “She has been on the flagstones all night and cannot stir. If I move, she will fall.”

“If she falls, I will catch her,” Loki promised.

Thor rolled his eyes. “Less dramatics and more action, Loki. Get here.”


Loki walked to Sigyn, feeling strangely awkward. He could not seem to meet her eyes. He felt like a boy seeing a woman for the first time, and a small voice inside gnashed its teeth at Thor for his ease with his wife. Thor had nothing to hide, no confusions, no contradictions; his was a simple story of a love lost. Then there was Loki. He bent down and put his arms around her shoulders. Looking up at Thor, he said, “Thank you, my friend. I was not born with the grace I would need to adequately thank you.”

“No,” Thor stopped him. “You need not thank me. We were friends and we will be, always. Destiny has not been fair to you, Loki. Regardless of how you may have courted disaster, the Fates did not play fair.”

“Let that be a lesson in grace to you, Purisaz,” Sigyn said quietly.

Thor stood up and said, “I will take Nari home with me. Come after you have finished speaking.”

“Sif will leave you if I do that,” Loki said, with a grin.

“Bring Sigyn with you, and you are safe,” he returned with an equally cheeky grin. Then going up to Nari, he put an arm around his shoulder. “Come, boy.”

“Thor!” Sigyn called out.



“My eagle will send him word to come to my home.” He smiled and closed the doors, aching with the knowledge that even huddled on the flagstones, Loki and Sigyn made beauty sound like a trinket word next to their splendour. He rested his hands on the closed door for a moment, fighting down heartbreak and shame at how his clan were treating Loki, and then turned. Nari stood before him. Thor touched his shoulder experimentally and said, surprised, “You’re not wet.”

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The woods that stand as the guardians of Drøm are thick and heavy with fallen leaves. Branches stretch and entwine into each other, like arms of different hues celebrating an obsessive love, and from them drip vines and fruits, Nature’s sweat. Roots curl and eat the earth and flowers rise with the pride of sentinels in vivid hues that none in Asgard can imagine. It is another world, nestled in a small cove of Yggdrasil where the air is weighed down by the sylvan greenery and the earth is light with the footfalls of padded animal feet. But now this emerald realm is savaged by the whimpers of small prey – birds, rabbits, squirrels – as vicious teeth sink into their flesh and drink their blood. Yellow eyes of a raging wolf gleam with satisfaction as the red eyes of simple, defenceless beasts widen with pain and shock. It watches the transparent colour of frenzy fight againts the glassy eyes and then all is still. The eye turns to stone and the wolf drops its prey, with no taste for the dead flesh. The golden eyes fill with tears and with a broken howl, the animal leaps away from the evidence of his hunger.

Outside the woods, Vali pants, bending over with his hands resting on his quivering thighs. Distaste and disgust tussle with exhaustion in his handsome face.

"In the name of the Allfather, stop this madness, I beg you," he pleads into the empty air around him.


Upon higher ground, the Allfather sits upon his throne, clasping in one hand its wood-carved strength. He sees the dead rabbit, its white fur now red, wet and spiked like needles. He hears Vali’s tortured breaths and then Odin smiles expressionlessly. He ignores the presence of Loki in Asgard; it matters little to him just now. Loki may pull Ragnarok closer, but the savages will not vanquish the Aesir; it is all the satisfaction that the dying can draw. It is all the One-Eyed King in the land of the blind can secure. And secure it he will.

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Loki sat with Sigyn in his arms, awkward, stiff and robbed of words. The empty room seemed to be made of nothing but cold air. Nothing drew breath and everything lay embalmed in the spider-web shine of sunlight.

“You’re cold,” Loki said finally, and cursed the inanity of his comment.

“Yes,” Sigyn replied simply.

“You must get up.” To think they called him the silver-tongued charmer.

“I can’t. I’ve been here so long, I’ve lost all feeling.”

The dual meaning of her words was not lost on him but this was not a fate Loki was willing to accept. He slipped his other arm under her knees and lifted her on to his body. Her bent knees tilted like a tent swept by the wind over his outstretched legs. He moved a little to find the support of the wall and then arranged Thor’s cloak over them securely. One arm lay across the front of her so that one shoulder fitted into the bend of his elbow and another nestled into the palm of his hand. He pressed her back against him, forcing her to let his warmth lie against her. His other arm he placed around her midriff and curled his fingers around the dip of her waist. Her hair was soft against the underside of his chin and after a moment she sighed.

“Loki, I really cannot move my legs.”

“I know. Give it a little time.”

They sat just that way, looking up into the vaulted roof of the chamber, and imagining stars and sun-chased clouds against a blue sky instead of wooden beams. Slowly, like a child reaching towards fire, she placed one hand upon the jutting bone of his elbow and another hand’s fingers made place for themselves between his own. He gripped them and laughed a little.

“You’re very cold!”

“I’m sorry,” she said and tried to disentangle her fingers but he held on. His lips touched her ear, lightly.

“I shouldn’t have told him,” Sigyn whispered sadly.

He said nothing; just continued to move his lips, tasting her earlobe, the hollow behind her ear.

“He stood in front of me and yet he was slipping away. It was like watching sand falling through my hands. His words began dying away and I knew it was the Seeress. I knew I had to wake him up.”

“Sigyn, it is not your fault,” he crooned quietly into her ear.

“I couldn’t think of anything else that would wake him. Nothing else came to mind.” A tear slipped and trickled down in a straight path to the hollow of her ear where Loki’s tongue tasted it.

“It’s not your fault,” he said again, quietly. “He would have found out somehow. Let it leave your mind, Sigyn. Let it leave.”

His lips moved with magic warmth down to her neck. His hair brushed her cheek and she turned her head to let her lips graze his bent head.

“How did we come to this, Loki?” she murmured against his hair.

He did not answer for he had no answers. Instead he loosened with his teeth the golden clasp that held up her white tunic at one shoulder. The gathered cloth was heavily knotted but he undid the knot and it fell under the cloak. He nipped the skin on her shoulder. Her body shook in his arms and she caught her breath. Loosening his fingers from her grip, he reached up to peel the cloth from her breast. She arched her back like a golden bow.

He lifted his head and twisted her face to look at him, while still teasing her under the cloak with the other hand. His tongue darted into the corner of her lips and he said against her, “Say it.”

The old game had come back to life. Sigyn’s eyes danced and her hands slipped under body to find him. She reached forward to kiss him and bit his lower lip. He tightened his hold upon her. Blowing on his slightly swollen lip, she said, “You’ll have to work harder to earn it.”


He lifted her, still wrapped in Thor’s cloak, and laid her gently upon the bed. Not even her shadow would feel haste or roughness in his care. He stood, drinking in the golden streams of her hair and the milk smoothness of her cheek and the blue nectar of her eyes. He became one with her yet again, without even touching her, just as he had the first time he had seen her and claimed her as his own without any contemplation. He looked at his hands and saw their deeply-grooved lines funnel darkly across his skin. How had they come to this?

“Loki, move,” Sigyn commanded softly.

Shaken out of his reverie, he looked at her blankly and then did her bidding by moving away from the side and coming to stand at the foot of the bed. She parted the cloak and it lay behind her, a dark moth’s wide wings. Her arms reached behind her to grip the gnarled wooden headrest of the bed and she lifted her body so that only her feet rested upon the cloak. “Pull,” she ordered.

His hands shook but he managed to drag away the dark fur and throw it to one corner. Resting one knee upon the bed, he stretched out his hand to simply torture himself with the sensation of gliding his palm down the spine of her back, the curve of her buttocks, the strength of her thighs, the swell of her calf. His hands finally closed delicately around her ankles, adorning her with an anklet of his fingers. Sigyn lowered her body, letting go of the bed. She sighed as he drew runes upon the thin skin covering the ankle bone. Moments passed and then, raising herself upon her elbows she said huskily, “I want that tunic.”

Loki’s brow creased a little questioningly and he looked down at the indigo dyed tunic he was wearing. “You want me to take it off?” he asked.

“I want you to take it off and give it to me.”

He sat down on the bed, placing one leather-clad knee on either side of her legs. As he pulled the tunic over his head, he felt her feet place themselves upon his thighs. They rubbed the thick leather lazily and then with a snail’s ease took steps upwards. Loki threw the tunic, aiming for Sigyn’s chest but it fell upon her face. The sun glanced sharply, almost as though the light was curious to watch this moment too. Shadows of leaves drizzled a lacy pattern over Sigyn’s head, covered with his tunic. She should have looked ridiculous, but Loki watched spellbound as one hand lifted and ran down the top of her cloth-covered head, dancing down to where the tunic dipped with the silhouette of her nose. Her lips parted to create a dark blue shadow to which she brought her fingers. He could not move. Her hands caressed as though it was him bent over her, touching her face, under her hand. Loki watched Sigyn’s fingers close around the tunic near her chin and then she drew it slowly off her face. The shadows shuddered and her blue eyes were sealed with pleasure. The cloth slithered down the bridge of her nose and past the small indentation above her lips. When they had almost bared her lips, she suddenly caught some of the tunic between her teeth. Loki clenched his hands around her ankles and pulled her closer. She fell from the perch of her elbows but cared nothing for the jolt. Her hands cradled and crumpled the tunic. She brought it close to her face like it was a precious flower with the most delicate aroma. A sigh touched the air between them and the bunched tunic traveled langorously down her naked body.

“Sigyn.” The name came out of his lips like a pleading prayer. She opened her eyes and looked at him. He ran his hand up her legs with branding heat. “No more,” he said softly.

She dropped the tunic and lifted a hand that asked for his face to come closer. He leaned forward and her legs wrapped around his hips.

“I thought we had only just begun,” she said with a smile.

He breathed deeply and stepped off the bed to remove the remainder of his clothes. Then he fitted himself back to where he had been and bent down to lay his head upon her breasts. “Milk-skinned Sigyn,” he said, tasting her. Their breaths grew ragged as his hands roamed. They moved, they grappled and they sank into each other. And then finally she gave in. Against the rippling skin as hot as her own, she murmured, “Kjæreste.”

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