"Peace," said Odin. "We have slain thy son, it would seem, but it was unwittingly that we did the deed. We will give a recompense for the death of thy son."
"What recompense will ye give?" said Hreidmar, looking at Odin with eyes that were small and sharp.
Then did Odin, the Eldest of the Gods, say a word that was unworthy of his wisdom and his power. He might have said, "I will bring thee a draught of Mimir's well water as a recompense for thy son's death." But instead of thinking of wisdom, Odin All-Father thought of gold. "Set a price on the life of thy son and we will pay that price in gold," he said.
"Maybe ye are great kings traveling through the world," Hreidmar said. "If ye are ye will have to find gold that will cover every hair upon the skin of him whom ye have killed."
Then did Odin, his mind being fixed upon the gold, think upon a certain treasure, a treasure that was guarded by a Dwarf. No other treasure in the nine worlds would be great enough to make the recompense that Hreidmar claimed. He thought upon this treasure and he thought on how it might be taken and yet he was ashamed of his thought.
"Dost thou, Loki, know of Andvari's hoard?" he said.
"I know of it," said Loki sharply, "and I know where it is hidden. Wilt thou, Odin, win leave for me to fetch Andvari's hoard?"
Odin spoke to Hreidmar. "I will stay with thee as a hostage," he said, "if thou wilt let this one go to fetch a treasure that will cover the otter's skin hair by hair."
"I will let this be done," said old Hreidmar with the sharp and cunning eyes. "Go now," said he to Loki. Then Loki went from the house.
Andvari was a Dwarf who, in the early days, had gained for himself the greatest treasure in the nine worlds. So that he might guard this treasure unceasingly he changed himself into a fish—into a pike—and he swam in the water before the cave where the hoard was hidden.
All in Asgard knew of the Dwarf and of the hoard he guarded. And there was a thought amongst all that this hoard was not to be meddled with and that some evil was joined to it. But now Odin had given the word that it was to be taken from the Dwarf. Loki set out for Andvari's cave rejoicingly. He came to the pool before the cave and he watched for a sight of Andvari. Soon he saw the pike swimming cautiously before the cave.
He would have to catch the pike and hold him till the treasure was given for ransom. As he watched the pike became aware of him. Suddenly he flung himself forward in the water and went with speed down the stream.
Not with his hands and not with any hook and line could Loki catch that pike. How, then, could he take him? Only with a net that was woven by magic. Then Loki thought of where he might get such a net.
Ran, the wife of old AEgir, the Giant King of the Sea, had a net that was woven by magic. In it she took all that was wrecked on the sea. Loki thought of Ran's net and he turned and went back to AEgir's hall to ask for the Queen. But Ran was seldom in her husband's dwelling. She was now down by the rocks of the sea.
He found Ran, the cold Queen, standing in the flow of the sea, drawing out of the depths with the net that she held in her hands every piece of treasure that was washed that way. She had made a heap of the things she had drawn out of the sea, corals and amber, and bits of gold and silver, but still she was plying her net greedily.
"Thou knowst me, AEgir's wife," said Loki to her.
"I know thee, Loki," said Queen Ran.
"Lend me thy net," said Loki.
"That I will not do," said Queen Ran.
"Lend me thy net that I may catch Andvari the Dwarf who boasts that he has a greater treasure than ever thou wilt take out of the sea," said Loki.
The cold Queen of the sea ceased plying her net. She looked at Loki steadily. Yes, if he were going to catch Andvari she would lend her net to him. She hated all the Dwarfs because this one and that one had told her they had greater treasures than ever she would be mistress of. But especially she hated Andvari, the Dwarf who had the greatest treasure in the nine worlds.
"There is nothing more to gather here," she said, "and if thou wilt swear to bring me back my net by tomorrow I shall lend it to you."
"I swear by the sparks of Muspelheim that I will bring thy net back to thee by tomorrow, O Queen of AEgir," Loki cried. Then Ran put into his hands the Magic Net. Back then he went to where the Dwarf, transformed, was guarding his wondrous hoard.
Dark was the pool in which Andvari floated as a pike; dark it was, but to him it was all golden with the light of his wondrous treasure. For the sake of this hoard he had given up his companionship with the Dwarfs and his delight in making and shaping the things of their workmanship. For the sake of his hoard he had taken on himself the dumbness and deafness of a fish.
Now as he swam about before the cave he was aware again of a shadow above him. He slipped toward the shadow of the bank. Then as he turned round he saw a net sweeping toward him. He sank down in the water. But the Magic Net had spread out and he sank into its meshes.
Suddenly he was out of the water and was left gasping on the bank. He would have died had he not undone his transformation.
Soon he appeared as a Dwarf. "Andvari, you are caught; it is one of the AEsir who has taken you," he heard his captor say.
"Loki," he gasped.
"Thou art caught and thou shalt be held," Loki said to him. "It is the will of the AEsir that thou give up thy hoard to me."
"My hoard, my hoard!" the Dwarf shouted. "Never will I give up my hoard."
"I hold thee till thou givest it to me," said Loki.
"Unjust, unjust," shouted Andvari. "It is only thou, Loki, who art unjust. I will go to the throne of Odin and I will have Odin punish thee for striving to rob me of my treasure."
"Odin has sent me to fetch thy hoard to him," said Loki.
"Can it be that all the AEsir are unjust? Ah, yes. In the beginning of things they cheated the Giant who built the wall round their City. The AEsir are unjust."
Loki had Andvari in his power. And after the Dwarf had raged against him and defied him, he tormented him; at last, trembling with rage and with his face covered with tears, Andvari took Loki into his cavern, and, turning a rock aside, showed him the mass of gold and gems that was his hoard.
At once Loki began to gather into the Magic Net lumps and ingots and circlets of gold with gems that were rubies and sapphires and emeralds. He saw Andvari snatch at something on the heap, but he made no sign of marking it. At last all was gathered into the net, and Loki stood there ready to bear the Dwarf's hoard away.
"There is one thing more to be given," said Loki, "the ring that you, Andvari, snatched from the heap."
"I snatched nothing," said the Dwarf. But he shook with anger and his teeth gnashed together and froth came on his lips. "I snatched nothing from the heap."
But Loki pulled up his arm and there fell to the ground the ring that Andvari had hidden under his armpit.
It was the most precious thing in all the hoard. Had it been left with him Andvari would have thought that he still possessed a treasure, for this ring of itself could make gold. It was made out of gold that was refined of all impurities and it was engraven with a rune of power.
Loki took up this most precious ring and put it on his finger. Then the Dwarf screamed at him, turning his thumbs toward him in a curse:
The ring with the rune Of power upon it: May it weigh down your fortune, And load you with evil, You, Loki, and all Who lust to possess The ring I have cherished.
As Andvari uttered this curse Loki saw a figure rise up in the cave and move toward him. As this figure came near he knew who it was: Gulveig, a Giant woman who had once been in Asgard.
Far back in the early days, when the Gods had come to their holy hill and before Asgard was built, three women of the Giants had come amongst the AEsir. After the Three had been with them for a time, the lives of the AEsir changed. Then did they begin to value and to hoard the gold that they had played with. Then did they think of war. Odin hurled his spear amongst the messengers that came from the Vanir, and war came into the world.
The Three were driven out of Asgard. Peace was made with the Vanir. The Apples of Lasting Youth were grown in Asgard. The eagerness for gold was curbed. But never again were the AEsir as happy as they were before the women came to them from the Giants.
Gulveig was one of the Three who had blighted the early happiness of the Gods. And, behold, she was in the cave where Andvari had hoarded his treasure and with a smile upon her face she was advancing toward Loki.
"So, Loki," she said, "thou seest me again. And Odin who sent thee to this cave will see me again. Lo, Loki! I go to Odin to be thy messenger and to tell him that thou comest with Andvari's hoard."
And speaking so, and smiling into his face, Gulveig went out of the cave with swift and light steps. Loki drew the ends of the Magic Net together and gathering all the treasures in its meshes he, too, went out.
Odin, the Eldest of the Gods, stood leaning on his spear and looking at the skin of the otter that was spread out before him. One came into the dwelling swiftly. Odin looked and saw that she who had come in on such swift, glad feet was Gulveig who, once with her two companions, had troubled the happiness of the Gods. Odin raised his spear to cast it at her.
"Lay thy spear down, Odin," she said. "I dwelt for long in the Dwarf's cave. But thy word unloosed me, and the curse said over Andvari's ring has sent me here. Lay thy spear down, and look on me, O Eldest of the Gods.
"Thou didst cast me out of Asgard, but thy word has brought me to come back to thee. And if ye two, Odin and Loki, have bought yourselves free with gold and may enter Asgard, surely I, Gulveig, am free to enter Asgard also."
Odin lowered his spear, sighing deeply. "Surely it is so, Gulveig," he said. "I may not forbid thee to enter Asgard. Would I had thought of giving the man Kvasir's Mead or Mimir's well water rather than this gold as a recompense."
As they spoke Loki came into Hreidmar's dwelling. He laid on the floor the Magic Net. Old Hreidmar with his sharp eyes, and huge Fafnir, and lean and hungry-looking Regin came in to gaze on the gold and gems that shone through the meshes. They began to push each other away from gazing at the gold. Then Hreidmar cried out, "No one may be here but these two kings and I while we measure out the gold and gems and see whether the recompense be sufficient. Go without, go without, sons of mine."
Then Fafnir and Regin were forced to go out of the dwelling. They went out slowly, and Gulveig went with them, whispering to both.
With shaking hands old Hreidmar spread out the skin that once covered his son. He drew out the ears and the tail and the paws so that every single hair could be shown. For long he was on his hands and knees, his sharp eyes searching, searching over every line of the skin. And still on his knees he said, "Begin now, O kings, and cover with a gem or a piece of gold every hair on the skin that was my son's."
Odin stood leaning on his spear, watching the gold and gems being paid out. Loki took the gold—the ingots, and the lumps and the circlets; he took the gems—the rubies, and the emeralds and the sapphires, and he began to place them over each hair. Soon the middle of the skin was all covered. Then he put the gems and the gold over the paws and the tail. Soon the otter-skin was so glittering that one would think it could light up the world. And still Loki went on finding a place where a gem or a piece of gold might be put.
At last he stood up. Every gem and every piece of gold had been taken out of the net. And every hair on the otter's skin had been covered with a gem or a piece of gold.
And still old Hreidmar on his hands and knees was peering over the skin, searching, searching for a hair that was not covered. At last he lifted himself up on his knees. His mouth was open, but he was speechless. He touched Odin on the knees, and when Odin bent down he showed him a hair upon the lip that was left uncovered.
"What meanest thou?" Loki cried, turning upon the crouching man.
"Your ransom is not paid yet—look, here is still a hair uncovered. You may not go until every hair is covered with gold or a gem."
"Peace, old man," said Loki roughly. "All the Dwarf's hoard has been given thee."
"Ye may not go until every hair has been covered," Hreidmar said again.
"There is no more gold or gems," Loki answered.
"Then ye may not go," cried Hreidmar, springing up.
It was true. Odin and Loki might not leave that dwelling until the recompense they had agreed to was paid in full. Where now would the AEsir go for gold?
And then Odin saw the gleam of gold on Loki's finger: it was the ring he had forced from Andvari. "Thy fingerring," said Odin. "Put thy fingerring over the hair on the otter's skin."
Loki took off the ring that was engraved with the rune of power, and he put it on the lip-hair of the otter's skin. Then Hreidmar clapped his hands and screamed aloud. Huge Fafnir and lean and hungry-looking Regin came within, and Gulveig came behind them. They stood around the skin of the son and the brother that was all glittering with gold and gems. But they looked at each other more than they looked on the glittering mass, and very deadly were the looks that Fafnir and Regin cast upon their father and cast upon each other.
Over Bifroest, the Rainbow Bridge, went all of the AEsir and the Vanir that had been at old AEgir's feast—Frey and Freya, Frigga, Iduna, and Sif; Tyr with his sword and Thor in his chariot drawn by the goats. Loki came behind them, and behind them all came Odin, the Father of the Gods. He went slowly with his head bent, for he knew that an unwelcome one was following—Gulveig, who once had been cast out of Asgard and whose return now the Gods might not gainsay.
THE WITCH'S HEART
FOREBODING IN ASGARD
What happened afterwards is to the shame of the Gods, and mortals may hardly speak of it. Gulveig the Witch came into Asgard, for Heimdall might not forbid her entrance. She came within and she had her seat amongst the AEsir and the Vanir. She walked through Asgard with a smile upon her face, and where she walked and where she smiled Care and dire Foreboding came.
Those who felt the care and the foreboding most deeply were Bragi the Poet and his wife, the fair and simple Iduna, she who gathered the apples that kept age from the Dwellers in Asgard. Bragi ceased to tell his never-ending tale. Then one day, overcome by the fear and the foreboding that was creeping through Asgard, Iduna slipped down Ygdrassil, the World Tree, and no one was left to pluck the apples with which the AEsir and the Vanir stayed their youth.
Then were all the Dwellers in Asgard in sore dismay. Strength and beauty began to fade from all. Thor found it hard to lift Mioelnir, his great hammer, and the flesh under Freya's necklace lost its white radiance. And still Gulveig the Witch walked smiling through Asgard, although now she was hated by all.
It was Odin and Frey who went in search of Iduna. She would have been found and brought back without delay if Frey had had with him the magic sword that he had bartered for Gerda. In his search he had to strive with one who guarded the lake wherein Iduna had hidden herself. Beli was the one he strove against. He overcame him in the end with a weapon made of stags' antlers. Ah, it was not then but later that Frey lamented the loss of his sword: it was when the Riders of Muspell came against Asgard, and the Vanir, who might have prevailed, prevailed not because of the loss of Frey's sword.
They found Iduna and they brought her back. But still Care and Foreboding crept through Asgard. And it was known, too, that the witch Gulveig was changing the thoughts of the Gods.
At last Odin had to judge Gulveig. He judged her and decreed her death. And only Gungnir, the spear of Odin, might slay Gulveig, who was not of mortal race.
Odin hurled Gungnir. The spear went through Gulveig. But still she stood smiling at the Gods. A second time Odin hurled his spear. A second time Gungnir pierced the witch. She stood livid as one dead but fell not down. A third time Odin hurled his spear. And now, pierced for the third time, the witch gave a scream that made all Asgard shudder and she fell in death on the ground.
"I have slain in these halls where slaying is forbidden," Odin said. "Take now the corpse of Gulveig and burn it on the ramparts, so that no trace of the witch who has troubled us will remain in Asgard."
They brought the corpse of Gulveig the witch out on the ramparts and they lighted fires under the pile on which they laid her and they called upon Hraesvelgur to fan up the flame:
Hraesvelgur is the Giant, Who on heaven's edge sits In the guise of an eagle; And the winds, it is said, Rush down on the earth From his outspreading pinions.
Far away was Loki when all this was being done. Often now he went from Asgard, and his journeys were to look upon that wondrous treasure that had passed from the keeping of the Dwarf Andvari. It was Gulveig who had kept the imagination of that treasure within his mind. Now, when he came back and heard the whispers of what had been done, a rage flamed up within him. For Loki was one of those whose minds were being changed by the presence and the whispers of the witch Gulveig. His mind was being changed to hatred of the Gods. Now he went to the place of Gulveig's burning. All her body was in ashes, but her heart had not been devoured by the flames. And Loki in his rage took the heart of the witch and ate it. Oh, black and direful was it in Asgard, the day that Loki ate the heart that the flames would not devour!
LOKI THE BETRAYER
He stole Frigga's dress of falcon feathers. Then as a falcon he flew out of Asgard. Joetunheim was the place that he flew toward.
The anger and the fierceness of the hawk was within Loki as he flew through the Giants' Realm. The heights and the chasms of that dread land made his spirits mount up like fire. He saw the whirlpools and the smoking mountains and had joy of these sights. Higher and higher he soared until, looking toward the South, he saw the flaming land of Muspelheim. Higher and higher still he soared. With his falcon's eyes he saw the gleam of Surtur's flaming sword. All the fire of Muspelheim and all the gloom of Joetunheim would one day be brought against Asgard and against Midgard. But Loki was no longer dismayed to think of the ruin of Asgard's beauty and the ruin of Midgard's promise.
He hovered around one of the dwellings in Joetunheim. Why had he come to it? Because he had seen two of the women of that dwelling, and his rage against the Asyniur and the Vanir was such that the ugliness and the evil of these women was pleasing to him.
He hovered before the open door of the Giant's house and he looked upon those who were within. Gerrioed, the most savage of all the Giants, was there. And beside him, squatting on the ground, were his two evil and ugly daughters, Gialp and Greip.
They were big and bulky, black and rugged, with horses' teeth and hair that was like horses' manes. Gialp was the uglier of the two, if one could be said to be uglier than the other, for her nose was a yard long and her eyes were crooked.
What were they talking about as they sat there, one scratching the other? Of Asgard and the Dwellers in Asgard whom they hated. Thor was the one whom they hated most of all, and they were speaking of all they would like to do to him.
"I would keep Thor bound in chains," said Gerrioed the Giant, "and I would beat him to death with my iron club."
"I would grind his bones to powder," said Greip.
"I would tear the flesh off his bones," said Gialp. "Father, can you not catch this Thor and bring him to us alive?"
"Not so long as he has his hammer Mioelnir, and the gloves with which he grasps his hammer, and the belt that doubles his strength."
"Oh, if we could catch him without his hammer and his belt and his gloves," cried Gialp and Greip together.
At that moment they saw the falcon hovering before the door. They were eager now for something to hold and torment and so the hearts of the three became set upon catching the falcon. They did not stir from the place where they were sitting, but they called the child Glapp, who was swinging from the roof-tree, and they bade him go out and try to catch the falcon.
All concealed by the great leaves the child Glapp climbed up the ivy that was around the door. The falcon came hovering near. Then Glapp caught it by the wings and fell down through the ivy, screaming and struggling as he was being beaten, and clawed, and torn by the wings and the talons and the beak of the falcon.
Gerrioed and Greip and Gialp rushed out and kept hold of the falcon. As the Giant held him in his hands and looked him over he knew that this was no bird-creature. The eyes showed him to be of Alfheim or Asgard. The Giant took him and shut him in a box till he would speak.
Soon he tapped at the closed box and when Gerrioed opened it Loki spoke to him. So glad was the savage Giant to have one of the Dwellers in Asgard in his power that he and his daughters did nothing but laugh and chuckle to each other for days. And all this time they left Loki in the closed box to waste with hunger.
When they opened the box again Loki spoke to them. He told them he would do any injury to the Dwellers in Asgard that would please them if they would let him go.
"Will you bring Thor to us?" said Greip.
"Will you bring Thor to us without his hammer, and without the gloves with which he grasps his hammer, and without his belt?" said Gialp.
"I will bring him to you if you will let me go," Loki said. "Thor is easily deceived and I can bring him to you without his hammer and his belt and his gloves."
"We will let you go, Loki," said the Giant, "if you will swear by the gloom of Joetunheim that you will bring Thor to us as you say."
Loki swore that he would do so by the gloom of Joetunheim—"Yea, and by the fires of Muspelheim," he added. The Giant and his daughters let him go, and he flew back to Asgard.
He restored to Frigga her falcon dress. All blamed him for having stolen it, but when he told how he had been shut up without food in Gerrioed's dwelling those who judged him thought he had been punished enough for the theft. He spoke as before to the Dwellers in Asgard, and the rage and hatred he had against them since he had eaten Gulveig's heart he kept from bursting forth.
He talked to Thor of the adventures they had together in Joetunheim. Thor would now roar with laughter when he talked of the time when he went as a bride to Thrym the Giant.
Loki was able to persuade him to make another journey to Joetunheim. "And I want to speak to you of what I saw in Gerrioed's dwelling," he said. "I saw there the hair of Sif, your wife."
"The hair of Sif, my wife," said Thor in surprise.
"Yes, the hair I once cut off from Sif's head," said Loki. "Gerrioed was the one who found it when I cast it away. They light their hall with Sif's hair. Oh, yes, they don't need torches where Sif's hair is."
"I should like to see it," said Thor.
"Then pay Gerrioed a visit," Loki replied. "But if you go to his house you will have to go without your hammer Mioelnir, and without your gloves and your belt."
"Where will I leave Mioelnir, and my gloves and my belt?" Thor asked.
"Leave them in Valaskjalf, Odin's own dwelling," said cunning Loki. "Leave them there and come to Gerrioed's dwelling. Surely you will be well treated there."
"Yes, I will leave them in Valaskjalf and go with you to Gerrioed's dwelling," Thor said.
Thor left his hammer, his gloves, and his belt in Valaskjalf. Then he and Loki went toward Joetunheim. When they were near the end of their journey, they came to a wide river, and with a young Giant whom they met on the bank they began to ford it.
Suddenly the river began to rise. Loki and the young Giant would have been swept away only Thor gripped both of them. Higher and higher the river rose, and rougher and rougher it became. Thor had to plant his feet firmly on the bottom or he and the two he held would have been swept down by the flood. He struggled across, holding Loki and the young Giant. A mountain ash grew out of the bank, and, while the two held to him, he grasped it with his hands. The river rose still higher, but Thor was able to draw Loki and the young Giant to the bank, and then he himself scrambled up on it.
Now looking up the river he saw a sight that filled him with rage. A Giantess was pouring a flood into it. This it was that was making the river rise and seethe. Thor pulled a rock out of the bank and hurled it at her. It struck her and flung her into the flood. Then she struggled out of the water and went yelping away. This Giantess was Gialp, Gerrioed's ugly and evil daughter.
Nothing would do the young Giant whom Thor had helped across but that the pair would go and visit Grid, his mother, who lived in a cave in the hillside. Loki would not go and was angered to hear that Thor thought of going. But Thor, seeing that the Giant youth was friendly, was willing enough to go to Grid's dwelling.
"Go then, but get soon to Gerrioed's dwelling yonder. I will wait for you there," said Loki. He watched Thor go up the hillside to Grid's cave. He waited until he saw Thor come back down the hillside and go toward Gerrioed's dwelling. He watched Thor go into the house where, as he thought, death awaited him. Then in a madness for what he had done, Loki, with his head drawn down on his shoulders, started running like a bird along the ground.
Grid, the old Giantess, was seated on the floor of the cave grinding corn between two stones. "Who is it?" she said, as her son led Thor within. "One of the AEsir! What Giant do you go to injure now, Asa Thor?"
"I go to injure no Giant, old Grid," Thor replied. "Look upon me! Cannot you see that I have not Mioelnir, my mighty hammer, with me, nor my belt, nor my gloves of iron?"
"But where in Joetunheim do you go?"
"To the house of a friendly Giant, old Grid—to the house of Gerrioed."
"Gerrioed a friendly Giant! You are out of your wits, Asa Thor. Is he not out of his wits, my son—this one who saved you from the flood, as you say?"
"Tell him of Gerrioed, old mother," said the Giant youth.
"Do not go to his house, Asa Thor. Do not go to his house."
"My word has been given, and I should be a craven if I stayed away now, just because an old crone sitting at a quernstone tells me I am going into a trap."
"I will give you something that will help you, Asa Thor. Lucky for you I am mistress of magical things. Take this staff in your hands. It is a staff of power and will stand you instead of Mioelnir."
"I will take it since you offer it in kindness, old dame, this worm-eaten staff."
"And take these mittens, too. They will serve you for your gauntlets of iron."
"I will take them since you offer them in kindness, old dame, these worn old mittens."
"And take this length of string. It will serve you for your belt of prowess."
"I will take it since you offer it in kindness, old dame, this ragged length of string."
"'Tis well indeed for you, Asa Thor, that I am mistress of magical things."
Thor put the worn length of string around his waist, and as he did he knew that Grid, the old Giantess, was indeed the mistress of magical things. For immediately he felt his strength augmented as when he put on his own belt of strength. He then drew on the mittens and took the staff that she gave him in his hands.
He left the cave of Grid, the old Giantess, and went to Gerrioed's dwelling. Loki was not there. It was then that Thor began to think that perhaps old Grid was right and that a trap was being laid for him.
No one was in the hall. He came out of the hall and into a great stone chamber and he saw no one there either. But in the center of the stone chamber there was a stone seat, and Thor went to it and seated himself upon it.
No sooner was he seated than the chair flew upwards. Thor would have been crushed against the stone roof only that he held his staff up. So great was the power in the staff, so great was the strength that the string around him gave, that the chair was thrust downward. The stone chair crashed down upon the stone floor.
There were horrible screams from under it. Thor lifted up the seat and saw two ugly, broken bodies there. The Giant's daughters, Gialp and Greip, had hidden themselves under the chair to watch his death. But the stone that was to have crushed him against the ceiling had crushed them against the floor.
Thor strode out of that chamber with his teeth set hard. A great fire was blazing in the hall, and standing beside that fire he saw Gerrioed, the long-armed Giant.
He held a tongs into the fire. As Thor came toward him he lifted up the tongs and flung from it a blazing wedge of iron. It whizzed straight toward Thor's forehead. Thor put up his hands and caught the blazing wedge of iron between the mittens that old Grid had given him. Quickly he hurled it back at Gerrioed. It struck the Giant on the forehead and went blazing through him.
Gerrioed crashed down into the fire, and the burning iron made a blaze all around him. And when Thor reached Grid's cave (he went there to restore to the old Giantess the string, the mittens, and the staff of power she had given him) he saw the Giant's dwelling in such a blaze that one would think the fires of Muspelheim were all around it.
LOKI AGAINST THE AESIR
The AEsir were the guests of the Vanir: in Frey's palace the Dwellers in Asgard met and feasted in friendship. Odin and Tyr were there, Vidar and Vali, Nioerd, Frey, Heimdall, and Bragi. The Asyniur and the Vana were also—Frigga, Freya, Iduna, Gerda, Skadi, Sif, and Nanna. Thor and Loki were not at the feast, for they had left Asgard together.
In Frey's palace the vessels were of shining gold; they made light for the table and they moved of their own accord to serve those who were feasting. All was peace and friendship there until Loki entered the feast hall.
Frey, smiling a welcome, showed a bench to Loki. It was beside Bragi's and next to Freya's. Loki did not take the place; instead he shouted out, "Not beside Bragi will I sit; not beside Bragi, the most craven of all the Dwellers in Asgard."
Bragi sprang up at that affront, but his wife, the mild Iduna, quieted his anger. Freya turned to Loki and reproved him for speaking injurious words at a feast.
"Freya," said Loki, "why were you not so mild when Odur was with you? Would it not have been well to have been wifely with your husband instead of breaking faith with him for the sake of a necklace that you craved of the Giant women?"
Amazement fell on all at the bitterness that was in Loki's words and looks. Tyr and Nioerd stood up from their seats. But then the voice of Odin was heard and all was still for the words of the All-Father.
"Take the place beside Vidar, my silent son, O Loki," said Odin, "and let thy tongue which drips bitterness be silent."
"All the AEsir and the Vanir listen to thy words, O Odin, as if thou wert always wise and just," Loki said. "But must we forget that thou didst bring war into the world when thou didst fling thy spear at the envoys of the Vanir? And didst thou not permit me to work craftily on the one who built the wall around Asgard for a price? Thou dost speak, O Odin, and all the AEsir and the Vanir listen to thee! But was it not thou who, thinking not of wisdom but of gold when a ransom had to be made, brought the witch Gulveig out of the cave where she stayed with the Dwarf's treasure? Thou wert not always wise nor always just, O Odin, and we at the table here need not listen to thee as if always thou wert."
Then Skadi, the wife of Nioerd, flung words at Loki. She spoke with all the fierceness of her Giant blood. "Why should we not rise up and chase from the hall this chattering crow?" she said.
"Skadi," said Loki, "remember that the ransom for thy father's death has not yet been paid. Thou wert glad to snatch a husband instead of it. Remember who it was that killed thy Giant father. It was I, Loki. And no ransom have I paid thee for it, although thou hast come amongst us in Asgard."
Then Loki fixed his eyes on Frey, the giver of the feast, and all knew that with bitter words he was about to assail him. But Tyr, the brave swordsman, rose up and said, "Not against Frey mayst thou speak, O Loki. Frey is generous; he is the one amongst us who spares the vanquished and frees the captive."
"Cease speaking, Tyr," said Loki. "Thou mayst not always have a hand to hold that sword of thine. Remember this saying of mine in days to come.
"Frey," said he, "because thou art the giver of the feast they think I will not speak the truth about thee. But I am not to be bribed by a feast. Didst thou not send Skirnir to Gymer's dwelling to befool Gymer's flighty daughter? Didst thou not bribe him into frightening her into a marriage with thee, who, men say, wert the slayer of her brother? Yea, Frey. Thou didst part with a charge, with the magic sword that thou shouldst have kept for the battle. Thou hadst cause to grieve when thou didst meet Beli by the lake."
When he said this all who were there of the Vanir rose up, their faces threatening Loki.
"Sit still, ye Vanir," Loki railed. "If the AEsir are to bear the brunt of Joetunheim's and Muspelheim's war upon Asgard it was your part to be the first or the last on Vigard's plain. But already ye have lost the battle for Asgard, for the weapon that was put into Frey's hands he bartered for Gerda the Giantess. Ha! Surtur shall triumph over you because of Frey's bewitchment."
In horror they looked at the one who could let his hatred speak of Surtur's triumph. All would have laid hands on Loki only Odin's voice rang out. Then another appeared at the entrance of the feasting hall. It was Thor. With his hammer upon his shoulder, his gloves of iron on his hands, and his belt of prowess around him, he stood marking Loki with wrathful eyes.
"Ha, Loki, betrayer," he shouted. "Thou didst plan to leave me dead in Gerrioed's house, but now thou wilt meet death by the stroke of this hammer."
His hands were raised to hurl Mioelnir. But the words that Odin spoke were heard. "Not in this hall may slaying be done, son Thor. Keep thy hands upon thy hammer."
Then shrinking from the wrath in the eyes of Thor, Loki passed out of the feast hall. He went beyond the walls of Asgard and crossed Bifroest, the Rainbow Bridge. And he cursed Bifroest, and longed to see the day when the armies of Muspelheim would break it down in their rush against Asgard.
East of Midgard there was a place more evil than any region in Joetunheim. It was Jarnvid, the Iron Wood. There dwelt witches who were the most foul of all witches. And they had a queen over them, a hag, mother of many sons who took upon themselves the shapes of wolves. Two of her sons were Skoll and Hati, who pursued Sol, the Sun, and Mani, the Moon. She had a third son, who was Managarm, the wolf who was to be filled with the life-blood of men, who was to swallow up the Moon, and stain the heavens and earth with blood. To Jarnvid, the Iron Wood, Loki made his way. And he wed one of the witches there, Angerboda, and they had children that took on dread shapes. Loki's offspring were the most terrible of the foes that were to come against the AEsir and the Vanir in the time that was called the Twilight of the Gods.
Against the time when the riders of Muspelheim, with the Giants and the evil powers of the Underworld, would bring on battle, Odin All-Father was preparing a host of defenders for Asgard. They were not of the AEsir nor of the Vanir; they were of the race of mortal men, heroes chosen from amongst the slain on fields of battle in Midgard.
To choose the heroes, and to give victory to those whom he willed to have victory, Odin had battle-maidens that went to the fields of war. Beautiful were those battle-maidens and fearless; wise were they also, for to them Odin showed the Runes of Wisdom. Valkyries, Choosers of the Slain, they were named.
Those who were chosen on the fields of the slain were called in Asgard the Einherjar. For them Odin made ready a great Hall. Valhalla, the Hall of the Slain, it was called. Five hundred and forty doors had Valhalla, and out of each door eight hundred Champions might pass. Every day the Champions put on their armor and took their weapons down from the walls, and went forth and battled with each other. All who were wounded were made whole again, and in peace and goodly fellowship they sat down to the feast that Odin prepared for them. Odin himself sat with his Champions, drinking wine but eating no meat.
For meat the Champions ate the flesh of the boar Saehrimnir; every day the boar was killed and cooked, and every morning it was whole again. For drink they had the mead that was made from the milk of the goat Heidrun, the goat that browsed on the leaves of the tree Laeradir. And the Valkyries, the wise and fearless battle-maidens, went amongst them, filling up the drinking-horns with the heady mead.
Youngest of all the battle-maidens was Brynhild. Nevertheless, to her Odin All-Father had shown more of the Runes of Wisdom than he had shown to any of her sisters. And when the time came for Brynhild to journey down into Midgard he gave her a swan-feather dress such as he had given before to the three Valkyrie sisters—Alvit, Olrun, and Hladgrun.
In the dazzling plumage of a swan the young battle-maiden flew down from Asgard. Not yet had she to go to the battlefields. Waters drew her, and as she waited on the will of the All-Father she sought out a lake that had golden sands for its shore, and as a maiden bathed in it.
Now there dwelt near this lake a young hero whose name was Agnar. And one day as Agnar lay by the lake he saw a swan with dazzling plumage fly down to it. And while she was in the reeds the swan-feather dress slipped off her, and Agnar beheld the swan change to a maiden.
So bright was her hair, so strong and swift were all her movements, that he knew her for one of Odin's battle-maidens; for one of those who give victory and choose the slain. Very daring was Agnar, and he set his mind upon capturing this battle-maiden even though he should bring on himself the wrath of Odin by doing it.
He hid the swan-feather dress that she had left in the reeds. When she came out of the water she might not fly away. Agnar gave back to her the swan-feather dress, but she had to promise that she would be his battle-maiden.
And as they talked together the young Valkyrie saw in him a hero that one from Asgard might help. Very brave and very noble was Agnar. Brynhild went with him as his battle-maiden, and she told him much from the Runes of Wisdom that she knew, and she showed him that the All-Father's last hope was in the bravery of the heroes of the earth; with the Chosen from the Slain for his Champions he would make battle in defence of Asgard.
Always Brynhild was with Agnar's battalions; above the battles she hovered, her bright hair and flashing battle-dress outshining the spears and swords and shields of the warriors.
But the gray-beard King Helmgunnar made war on the young Agnar. Odin favored the gray-beard King, and to him he promised the victory. Brynhild knew the will of the All-Father. But to Agnar, not to Helmgunnar, she gave the victory.
Doomed was Brynhild on the instant she went against Odin's will. Never again might she come into Asgard. A mortal woman she was now, and the Norns began to spin the thread of her mortal destiny.
Sorrowful was Odin All-Father that the wisest of his battle-maidens might never appear in Asgard nor walk by the benches at the feasts of his Champions in Valhalla. He rode down on Sleipner to where Brynhild was. And when he came before her it was his, and not her head that was bowed down.
For she knew now that the World of Men was paying a bitter price for the strength that Asgard would have in the last battle. The bravest and noblest were being taken from Midgard to fill up the ranks of Odin's Champions. And Brynhild's heart was full of anger against the rulers of Asgard, and she cared no more to be of them.
Odin looked on his unflinching battle-maiden, and he said, "Is there aught thou wouldst have me bestow on thee in thy mortal life, Brynhild?"
"Naught save this," Brynhild answered, "that in my mortal life no one but a man without fear, the bravest hero in the world, may claim me for wife."
All-Father bowed his head in thought. "It shall be as thou hast asked," he said. "Only he who is without fear shall come near thee."
Then on the top of the mountain that is called Hindfell he had a Hall built that faced the south. Ten Dwarfs built it of black stone. And when the Hall was built he put round it a wall of mounting and circling fire.
More did Odin All-Father: he took a thorn of the Tree of Sleep and he put it into the flesh of the battle-maiden. Then, with her helmet on her head and the breast-mail of the Valkyrie upon her, he lifted Brynhild in his arms and carried her through the wall of mounting and circling fire. He laid her upon the couch that was within the Hall. There she would lie in slumber until the hero who was without fear should ride through the flame and waken her to the life of a mortal woman.
He took farewell of her and he rode back to Asgard on Sleipner. He might not foresee what fate would be hers as a mortal woman. But the fire he had left went mounting and circling around the Hall that the Dwarfs had built. For ages that fire would be a fence around where Brynhild, once a Valkyrie, lay in sleep.
THE CHILDREN OF LOKI
The children of Loki and the witch Angerboda were not as the children of men: they were formless as water, or air, or fire is formless, but it was given to each of them to take on the form that was most like to their own greed.
Now the Dwellers in Asgard knew that these powers of evil had been born into the world and they thought it well that they should take on forms and appear before them in Asgard. So they sent one to Jarnvid, the Iron Wood, bidding Loki bring before the Gods the powers born of him and the witch Angerboda. So Loki came into Asgard once more. And his offspring took on forms and showed themselves to the Gods. The first, whose greed was destruction, showed himself as a fearful Wolf. Fenrir he was named. And the second, whose greed was slow destruction, showed itself as a Serpent. Joermungand it was called. The third, whose greed was for withering of all life, took on a form also. When the Gods saw it they were affrighted. For this had the form of a woman, and one side of her was that of a living woman and the other side of her was that of a corpse. Fear ran through Asgard as this form was revealed and as the name that went with it, Hela, was uttered.
Far out of sight of the Gods Hela was thrust. Odin took her and hurled her down to the deeps that are below the world. He cast her down to Niflheim, where she took to herself power over the nine regions. There, in the place that is lowest of all, Hela reigns. Her hall is Elvidnir; it is set round with high walls and it has barred gates; Precipice is the threshold of that hall; Hunger is the table within it; Care is the bed, and Burning Anguish is the hanging of the chamber.
Thor laid hold upon Joermungand. He flung the serpent into the ocean that engirdles the world. But in the depths of the ocean Joermungand flourished. It grew and grew until it encircled the whole world. And men knew it as the Midgard Serpent.
Fenrir the Wolf might not be seized upon by any of the AEsir. Fearfully he ranged through Asgard and they were only able to bring him to the outer courts by promising to give him all the food he was able to eat.
The AEsir shrank from feeding Fenrir. But Tyr, the brave swordsman, was willing to bring food to the Wolf's lair. Every day he brought him huge provision and fed him with the point of his sword. The Wolf grew and grew until he became monstrous and a terror in the minds of the Dwellers in Asgard.
At last the Gods in council considered it and decided that Fenrir must be bound. The chain that they would bind him with was called Laeding. In their own smithy the Gods made it and its weight was greater than Thor's hammer.
Not by force could the Gods get the fetter upon Fenrir, so they sent Skirnir, the servant of Frey, to beguile the Wolf into letting it go upon him. Skirnir came to his lair and stood near him, and he was dwarfed by the Wolf's monstrous size.
"How great may thy strength be, Mighty One?" Skirnir asked. "Couldst thou break this chain easily? The Gods would try thee."
In scorn Fenrir looked down on the fetter Skirnir dragged. In scorn he stood still allowing Laeding to be placed upon him. Then, with an effort that was the least part of his strength, he stretched himself and broke the chain in two.
The Gods were dismayed. But they took more iron, and with greater fires and mightier hammer blows they forged another fetter. Dromi, this one was called, and it was half again as strong as Laeding was. Skirnir the Venturesome brought it to the Wolf's lair, and in scorn Fenrir let the mightier chain be placed upon him.
He shook himself and the chain held. Then his eyes became fiery and he stretched himself with a growl and a snarl. Dromi broke across, and Fenrir stood looking balefully at Skirnir.
The Gods saw that no chain they could forge would bind Fenrir and they fell more and more into fear of him. They took council again and they bethought them of the wonder-work the Dwarfs had made for them, the spear Gungnir, the ship Skidbladnir, the hammer Mioelnir. Could the Dwarfs be got to make the fetter to bind Fenrir? If they would do it the Gods would add to their domain.
Skirnir went down to Svartheim with the message from Asgard. The Dwarf Chief swelled with pride to think that it was left to them to make the fetter that would bind Fenrir.
"We Dwarfs can make a fetter that will bind the Wolf," he said. "Out of six things we will make it."
"What are these six things?" Skirnir asked.
"The roots of stones, the breath of a fish, the beards of women, the noise made by the footfalls of cats, the sinews of bears, the spittle of a bird."
"I have never heard the noise made by a cat's footfall, nor have I seen the roots of stones nor the beards of women. But use what things you will, O Helper of the Gods."
The Chief brought his six things together and the Dwarfs in their smithy worked for days and nights. They forged a fetter that was named Gleipnir. Smooth and soft as a silken string it was. Skirnir brought it to Asgard and put it into the hands of the Gods.
Then a day came when the Gods said that once again they should try to put a fetter upon Fenrir. But if he was to be bound they would bind him far from Asgard. Lyngvi was an island that they often went to to make sport, and they spoke of going there. Fenrir growled that he would go with them. He came and he sported in his own terrible way. And then as if it were to make more sport, one of the AEsir shook out the smooth cord and showed it to Fenrir.
"It is stronger than you might think, Mighty One," they said. "Will you not let it go upon you that we may see you break it?"
Fenrir out of his fiery eyes looked scorn upon them. "What fame would there be for me," he said, "in breaking such a binding?"
They showed him that none in their company could break it, slender as it was. "Thou only art able to break it, Mighty One," they said.
"The cord is slender, but there may be an enchantment in it," Fenrir said.
"Thou canst not break it, Fenrir, and we need not dread thee any more," the Gods said.
Then was the Wolf ravenous wroth, for he lived on the fear that he made in the minds of the Gods. "I am loth to have this binding upon me," he said, "but if one of the AEsir will put his hand in my mouth as a pledge that I shall be freed of it, I will let ye put it on me."
The Gods looked wistfully on one another. It would be health to them all to have Fenrir bound, but who would lose his hand to have it done? One and then another of the AEsir stepped backward. But not Tyr, the brave swordsman. He stepped to Fenrir and laid his left hand before those tremendous jaws.
"Not thy left hand—thy swordhand, O Tyr," growled Fenrir, and Tyr put his swordhand into that terrible mouth.
Then the cord Gleipnir was put upon Fenrir. With fiery eyes he watched the Gods bind him. When the binding was on him he stretched himself as before. He stretched himself to a monstrous size but the binding did not break off him. Then with fury he snapped his jaws upon the hand, and Tyr's hand, the swordsman's hand, was torn off.
But Fenrir was bound. They fixed a mighty chain to the fetter, and they passed the chain through a hole they bored through a great rock. The monstrous Wolf made terrible efforts to break loose, but the rock and the chain and the fetter held. Then seeing him secured, and to avenge the loss of Tyr's hand, the Gods took Tyr's sword and drove it to the hilt through his underjaw. Horribly the Wolf howled. Mightily the foam flowed down from his jaws. That foam flowing made a river that is called Von—a river of fury that flowed on until Ragnaroek came, the Twilight of the Gods.
In Asgard there were two places that meant strength and joy to the AEsir and the Vanir: one was the garden where grew the apples that Iduna gathered, and the other was the Peace Stead, where, in a palace called Breidablik, Baldur the Well-Beloved dwelt.
In the Peace Stead no crime had ever been committed, no blood had ever been shed, no falseness had ever been spoken. Contentment came into the minds of all in Asgard when they thought upon this place. Ah! Were it not that the Peace Stead was there, happy with Baldur's presence, the minds of the AEsir and the Vanir might have become gloomy and stern from thinking on the direful things that were arrayed against them.
Baldur was beautiful. So beautiful was he that all the white blossoms on the earth were called by his name. Baldur was happy. So happy was he that all the birds on the earth sang his name. So just and so wise was Baldur that the judgment he pronounced might never be altered. Nothing foul or unclean had ever come near where he had his dwelling:
'Tis Breidablik called, Where Baldur the Fair Hath built him a bower, In the land where I know Least loathliness lies.
Healing things were done in Baldur's Stead. Tyr's wrist was healed of the wounds that Fenrir's fangs had made. And there Frey's mind became less troubled with the foreboding that Loki had filled it with when he railed at him about the bartering of his sword.
Now after Fenrir had been bound to the rock in the faraway island the AEsir and the Vanir knew a while of contentment. They passed bright days in Baldur's Stead, listening to the birds that made music there. And it was there that Bragi the Poet wove into his never-ending story the tale of Thor's adventures amongst the Giants.
But even into Baldur's Stead foreboding came. One day little Hnossa, the child of Freya and the lost Odur, was brought there in such sorrow that no one outside could comfort her. Nanna, Baldur's gentle wife, took the child upon her lap and found ways of soothing her. Then Hnossa told of a dream that had filled her with fright.
She had dreamt of Hela, the Queen that is half living woman and half corpse. In her dream Hela had come into Asgard saying, "A lord of the AEsir I must have to dwell with me in my realm beneath the earth." Hnossa had such fear from this dream that she had fallen into a deep sorrow.
A silence fell upon all when the dream of Hnossa was told. Nanna looked wistfully at Odin All-Father. And Odin, looking at Frigga, saw that a fear had entered her breast.
He left the Peace Stead and went to his watchtower Hlidskjalf. He waited there till Hugin and Munin should come to him. Every day his two ravens flew through the world, and coming back to him told him of all that was happening. And now they might tell him of happenings that would let him guess if Hela had indeed turned her thoughts toward Asgard, or if she had the power to draw one down to her dismal abode.
The ravens flew to him, and lighting one on each of his shoulders, told him of things that were being said up and down Ygdrassil, the World Tree. Ratatoesk the Squirrel was saying them. And Ratatoesk had heard them from the brood of serpents that with Nidhoegg, the great dragon, gnawed ever at the root of Ygdrassil. He told it to the Eagle that sat ever on the topmost bough, that in Hela's habitation a bed was spread and a chair was left empty for some lordly comer.
And hearing this, Odin thought that it were better that Fenrir the Wolf should range ravenously through Asgard than that Hela should win one from amongst them to fill that chair and lie in that bed.
He mounted Sleipner, his eight-legged steed, and rode down toward the abodes of the Dead. For three days and three nights of silence and darkness he journeyed on. Once one of the hounds of Helheim broke loose and bayed upon Sleipner's tracks. For a day and a night Garm, the hound, pursued them, and Odin smelled the blood that dripped from his monstrous jaws.
At last he came to where, wrapped in their shrouds, a field of the Dead lay. He dismounted from Sleipner and called upon one to rise and speak with him. It was on Volva, a dead prophetess, he called. And when he pronounced her name he uttered a rune that had the power to break the sleep of the Dead.
There was a groaning in the middle of where the shrouded ones lay. Then Odin cried, out, "Arise, Volva, prophetess." There was a stir in the middle of where the shrouded ones lay, and a head and shoulders were thrust up from amongst the Dead.
"Who calls on Volva the Prophetess? The rains have drenched my flesh and the storms have shaken my bones for more seasons than the living know. No living voice has a right to call me from my sleep with the Dead."
"It is Vegtam the Wanderer who calls. For whom is the bed prepared and the seat left empty in Hela's habitation?"
"For Baldur, Odin's son, is the bed prepared and the seat left empty. Now let me go back to my sleep with the Dead."
But now Odin saw beyond Volva's prophecy. "Who is it," he cried out, "that stands with unbowed head and that will not lament for Baldur? Answer, Volva, prophetess!"
"Thou seest far, but thou canst not see clearly. Thou art Odin. I can see clearly but I cannot see far. Now let me go back to my sleep with the Dead."
"Volva, prophetess!" Odin cried out again.
But the voice from amongst the shrouded ones said, "Thou canst not wake me any more until the fires of Muspelheim blaze above my head."
Then there was silence in the field of the Dead, and Odin turned Sleipner, his steed, and for four days, through the gloom and silence, he journeyed back to Asgard.
Frigga had felt the fear that Odin had felt. She looked toward Baldur, and the shade of Hela came between her and her son. But then she heard the birds sing in the Peace Stead and she knew that none of all the things in the world would injure Baldur.
And to make it sure she went to all the things that could hurt him and from each of them she took an oath that it would not injure Baldur, the Well-Beloved. She took an oath from fire and from water, from iron and from all metals, from earths and stones and great trees, from birds and beasts and creeping things, from poisons and diseases. Very readily they all gave the oath that they would work no injury on Baldur.
Then when Frigga went back and told what she had accomplished the gloom that had lain on Asgard lifted. Baldur would be spared to them. Hela might have a place prepared in her dark habitation, but neither fire nor water, nor iron nor any metals, nor earths nor stones nor great woods, nor birds nor beasts nor creeping things, nor poisons nor diseases, would help her to bring him down. "Hela has no arms to draw you to her," the AEsir and the Vanir cried to Baldur.
Hope was renewed for them and they made games to honor Baldur. They had him stand in the Peace Stead and they brought against him all the things that had sworn to leave him hurtless. And neither the battle-axe flung full at him, nor the stone out of the sling, nor the burning brand, nor the deluge of water would injure the beloved of Asgard. The AEsir and the Vanir laughed joyously to see these things fall harmlessly from him while a throng came to join them in the games; Dwarfs and friendly Giants.
But Loki the Hater came in with that throng. He watched the games from afar. He saw the missiles and the weapons being flung and he saw Baldur stand smiling and happy under the strokes of metal and stones and great woods. He wondered at the sight, but he knew that he might not ask the meaning of it from the ones who knew him.
He changed his shape into that of an old woman and he went amongst those who were making sport for Baldur. He spoke to Dwarfs and friendly Giants. "Go to Frigga and ask. Go to Frigga and ask," was all the answer Loki got from any of them.
Then to Fensalir, Frigga's mansion, Loki went. He told those in the mansion that he was Groa, the old Enchantress who was drawing out of Thor's head the fragments of a grindstone that a Giant's throw had embedded in it. Frigga knew about Groa and she praised the Enchantress for what she had done.
"Many fragments of the great grindstone have I taken out of Thor's head by the charms I know," said the pretended Groa. "Thor was so grateful that he brought back to me the husband that he once had carried off to the end of the earth. So overjoyed was I to find my husband restored that I forgot the rest of the charms. And I left some fragments of the stone in Thor's head."
So Loki said, repeating a story that was true. "Now I remember the rest of the charm," he said, "and I can draw out the fragments of the stone that are left. But will you not tell me, O Queen, what is the meaning of the extraordinary things I saw the AEsir and the Vanir doing?"
"I will tell you," said Frigga, looking kindly and happily at the pretended old woman. "They are hurling all manner of heavy and dangerous things at Baldur, my beloved son. And all Asgard cheers to see that neither metal nor stone nor great wood will hurt him."
"But why will they not hurt him?" said the pretended Enchantress.
"Because I have drawn an oath from all dangerous and threatening things to leave Baldur hurtless," said Frigga.
"From all things, lady? Is there no thing in all the world that has not taken an oath to leave Baldur hurtless?"
"Well, indeed, there is one thing that has not taken the oath. But that thing is so small and weak that I passed it by without taking thought of it."
"What can it be, lady?"
"The Mistletoe that is without root or strength. It grows on the eastern side of Valhalla. I passed it by without drawing an oath from it."
"Surely you were not wrong to pass it by. What could the Mistletoe—the rootless Mistletoe—do against Baldur?"
Saying this the pretended Enchantress hobbled off.
But not far did the pretender go hobbling. He changed his gait and hurried to the eastern side of Valhalla. There a great oak tree flourished and out of a branch of it a little bush of Mistletoe grew. Loki broke off a spray and with it in his hand he went to where the AEsir and the Vanir were still playing games to honor Baldur.
All were laughing as Loki drew near, for the Giants and the Dwarfs, the Asyniur and the Vana, were all casting missiles. The Giants threw too far and the Dwarfs could not throw far enough, while the Asyniur and the Vana threw far and wide of the mark. In the midst of all that glee and gamesomeness it was strange to see one standing joyless. But one stood so, and he was of the AEsir—Hoedur, Baldur's blind brother.
"Why do you not enter the game?" said Loki to him in his changed voice.
"I have no missile to throw at Baldur," Hoedur said.
"Take this and throw it," said Loki. "It is a twig of the Mistletoe."
"I cannot see to throw it," said Hoedur.
"I will guide your hand," said Loki. He put the twig of Mistletoe in Hoedur's hand and he guided the hand for the throw. The twig flew toward Baldur. It struck him on the breast and it pierced him. Then Baldur fell down with a deep groan.
The AEsir and the Vanir, the Dwarfs and the friendly Giants, stood still in doubt and fear and amazement. Loki slipped away. And blind Hoedur, from whose hand the twig of Mistletoe had gone, stood quiet, not knowing that his throw had bereft Baldur of life.
Then a wailing rose around the Peace Stead. It was from the Asyniur and the Vana. Baldur was dead, and they began to lament him. And while they were lamenting him, the beloved of Asgard, Odin came amongst them.
"Hela has won our Baldur from us," Odin said to Frigga as they both bent over the body of their beloved son.
"Nay, I will not say it," Frigga said.
When the AEsir and the Vanir had won their senses back the mother of Baldur went amongst them. "Who amongst you would win my love and goodwill?" she said. "Whoever would let him ride down to Hela's dark realm and ask the Queen to take ransom for Baldur. It may be she will take it and let Baldur come back to us. Who amongst you will go? Odin's steed is ready for the journey."
Then forth stepped Hermod the Nimble, the brother of Baldur. He mounted Sleipner and turned the eight-legged steed down toward Hela's dark realm.
For nine days and nine nights Hermod rode on. His way was through rugged glens, one deeper and darker than the other. He came to the river that is called Gioell and to the bridge across it that is all glittering with gold. The pale maid who guards the bridge spoke to him.
"The hue of life is still on thee," said Modgudur, the pale maid. "Why dost thou journey down to Hela's deathly realm?"
"I am Hermod," he said, "and I go to see if Hela will take ransom for Baldur."
"Fearful is Hela's habitation for one to come to," said Modgudur, the pale maid. "All round it is a steep wall that even thy steed might hardly leap. Its threshold is Precipice. The bed therein is Care, the table is Hunger, the hanging of the chamber is Burning Anguish."
"It may be that Hela will take ransom for Baldur."
"If all things in the world still lament for Baldur, Hela will have to take ransom and let him go from her," said Modgudur, the pale maid that guards the glittering bridge.
"It is well, then, for all things lament Baldur. I will go to her and make her take ransom."
"Thou mayst not pass until it is of a surety that all things still lament him. Go back to the world and make sure. If thou dost come to this glittering bridge and tell me that all things still lament Baldur, I will let thee pass and Hela will have to hearken to thee."
"I will come back to thee, and thou, Modgudur, pale maid, wilt have to let me pass."
"Then I will let thee pass," said Modgudur.
Joyously Hermod turned Sleipner and rode back through the rugged glens, each one less gloomy than the other. He reached the upper world, and saw that all things were still lamenting for Baldur. Joyously Hermod rode onward. He met the Vanir in the middle of the world and he told them the happy tidings.
Then Hermod and the Vanir went through the world seeking out each thing and finding that each thing still wept for Baldur. But one day Hermod came upon a crow that was sitting on the dead branch of a tree. The crow made no lament as he came near. She rose up and flew away and Hermod followed her to make sure that she lamented for Baldur.
He lost sight of her near a cave. And then before the cave he saw a hag with blackened teeth who raised no voice of lament. "If thou art the crow that came flying here, make lament for Baldur," Hermod said.
"I, Thaukt, will make no lament for Baldur," the hag said, "let Hela keep what she holds."
"All things weep tears for Baldur," Hermod said.
"I will weep dry tears for him," said the hag.
She hobbled into her cave, and as Hermod followed a crow fluttered out. He knew that this was Thaukt, the evil hag, transformed. He followed her, and she went through the world croaking, "Let Hela keep what she holds. Let Hela keep what she holds."
Then Hermod knew that he might not ride to Hela's habitation. All things knew that there was one thing in the world that would not lament for Baldur. The Vanir came back to him, and with head bowed over Sleipner's mane, Hermod rode into Asgard.
Now the AEsir and the Vanir, knowing that no ransom would be taken for Baldur and that the joy and content of Asgard were gone indeed, made ready his body for the burning. First they covered Baldur's body with a rich robe, and each left beside it his most precious possession. Then they all took leave of him, kissing him upon the brow. But Nanna, his gentle wife, flung herself on his dead breast and her heart broke and she died of her grief. Then did the AEsir and the Vanir weep afresh. And they took the body of Nanna and they placed it side by side with Baldur's.
On his own great ship, Ringhorn, would Baldur be placed with Nanna beside him. Then the ship would be launched on the water and all would be burned with fire.
But it was found that none of the AEsir or the Vanir were able to launch Baldur's great ship. Hyrroken, a Giantess, was sent for. She came mounted on a great wolf with twisted serpents for a bridle. Four Giants held fast the wolf when she alighted. She came to the ship and with a single push she sent it into the sea. The rollers struck out fire as the ship dashed across them.
Then when it rode the water fires mounted on the ship. And in the blaze of the fires one was seen bending over the body of Baldur and whispering into his ear. It was Odin All-Father. Then he went down off the ship and all the fires rose into a mighty burning. Speechlessly the AEsir and the Vanir watched with tears streaming down their faces while all things lamented, crying, "Baldur the Beautiful is dead, is dead."
And what was it that Odin All-Father whispered to Baldur as he bent above him with the flames of the burning ship around? He whispered of a heaven above Asgard that Surtur's flames might not reach, and of a life that would come to beauty again after the World of Men and the World of the Gods had been searched through and through with fire.
The crow went flying toward the North, croaking as she flew, "Let Hela keep what she holds. Let Hela keep what she holds." That crow was the hag Thaukt transformed, and the hag Thaukt was Loki.
He flew to the North and came into the wastes of Joetunheim. As a crow he lived there, hiding himself from the wrath of the Gods. He told the Giants that the time had come for them to build the ship Naglfar, the ship that was to be built out of the nails of dead men, and that was to sail to Asgard on the day of Ragnaroek with the Giant Hrymer steering it. And harkening to what he said the Giants then and there began to build Naglfar, the ship that Gods and men wished to remain unbuilt for long.
Then Loki, tiring of the wastes of Joetunheim, flew to the burning South. As a lizard he lived amongst the rocks of Muspelheim, and he made the Fire Giants rejoice when he told them of the loss of Frey's sword and of Tyr's right hand.
But still in Asgard there was one who wept for Loki—Siguna, his wife. Although he had left her and had shown his hatred for her, Siguna wept for her evil husband.
He left Muspelheim as he had left Joetunheim and he came to live in the World of Men. He knew that he had now come into a place where the wrath of the Gods might find him, and so he made plans to be ever ready for escape. He had come to the River where, ages before, he had slain the otter that was the son of the Enchanter, and on the very rock where the otter had eaten the salmon on the day of his killing, Loki built his house. He made four doors to it so that he might see in every direction. And the power that he kept for himself was the power of transforming himself into a salmon.
Often as a salmon he swam in the River. But even for the fishes that swam beside him Loki had hatred. Out of flax and yarn he wove a net that men might have the means of taking them out of the water.
The wrath that the Gods had against Loki did not pass away. It was he who, as Thaukt, the Hag, had given Hela the power to keep Baldur unransomed. It was he who had put into Hoedur's hand the sprig of Mistletoe that had bereft Baldur of life. Empty was Asgard now that Baldur lived no more in the Peace Stead, and stern and gloomy grew the minds of the AEsir and the Vanir with thinking on the direful things that were arrayed against them. Odin in his hall of Valhalla thought only of the ways by which he could bring heroes to him to be his help in defending Asgard.
The Gods searched through the world and they found at last the place where Loki had made his dwelling. He was weaving the net to take fishes when he saw them coming from four directions. He threw the net into the fire so that it was burnt, and he sprang into the River and transformed himself into a salmon. When the Gods entered his dwelling they found only the burnt-out fire.
But there was one amongst them who could understand all that he saw. In the ashes were the marks of the burnt net and he knew that these were the tracing of something to catch fishes. And from the marks left in the ashes he made a net that was the same as the one Loki had burnt.
With it in their hands the Gods went down the River, dragging the net through the water. Loki was affrighted to find the thing of his own weaving brought against him. He lay between two stones at the bottom of the River, and the net passed over him.
But the Gods knew that the net had touched something at the bottom. They fastened weights to it and they dragged the net through the River again. Loki knew that he might not escape it this time and he rose in the water and swam toward the sea. The Gods caught sight of him as he leaped over a waterfall. They followed him, dragging the net. Thor waded behind, ready to seize him should he turn back.
Loki came out at the mouth of the River and behold! There was a great eagle hovering over the waves of the sea and ready to swoop down on fishes. He turned back in the River. He made a leap that took him over the net that the Gods were dragging. But Thor was behind the net and he caught the salmon in his powerful hands and he held him for all the struggle that Loki made. No fish had ever struggled so before. Loki got himself free all but his tail, but Thor held to the tail and brought him amongst the rocks and forced him to take on his proper form.
He was in the hands of those whose wrath was strong against him. They brought him to a cavern and they bound him to three sharp-pointed rocks. With cords that were made of the sinews of wolves they bound him, and they transformed the cords into iron bands. There they would have left Loki bound and helpless. But Skadi, with her fierce Giant blood, was not content that he should be left untormented. She found a serpent that had deadly venom and she hung this serpent above Loki's head. The drops of venom fell upon him, bringing him anguish drop by drop, minute by minute. So Loki's torture went on.
But Siguna with the pitying heart came to his relief. She exiled herself from Asgard, and endured the darkness and the cold of the cavern, that she might take some of the torment away from him who was her husband. Over Loki Siguna stood, holding in her hands a cup into which fell the serpent's venom, thus sparing him from the full measure of anguish. Now and then Siguna had to turn aside to spill out the flowing cup, and then the drops of venom fell upon Loki and he screamed in agony, twisting in his bonds. It was then that men felt the earth quake. There in his bonds Loki stayed until the coming of Ragnaroek, the Twilight of the Gods.
THE SWORD OF THE VOLSUNGS AND THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS
In Midgard, in a northern Kingdom, a King reigned whose name was Alv; he was wise and good, and he had in his house a fosterson whose name was Sigurd.
Sigurd was fearless and strong; so fearless and so strong was he that he once captured a bear of the forest and drove him to the King's Hall. His mother's name was Hiordis. Once, before Sigurd was born, Alv and his father who was King before him went on an expedition across the sea and came into another country. While they were yet afar off they heard the din of a great battle. They came to the battlefield, but they found no living warriors on it, only heaps of slain. One warrior they marked: he was white-bearded and old and yet he seemed the noblest-looking man Alv or his father had ever looked on. His arms showed that he was a King amongst one of the bands of warriors.
They went through the forest searching for survivors of the battle. And, hidden in a dell in the forest, they came upon two women. One was tall with blue, unflinching eyes and ruddy hair, but wearing the garb of a serving-maid. The other wore the rich dress of a Queen, but she was of low stature and her manner was covert and shrinking.
When Alv and his father drew near, the one who had on her the raiment of a Queen said, "Help us, lords, and protect us, and we will show you where a treasure is hidden. A great battle has been fought between the men of King Lygni and the men of King Sigmund, and the men of King Lygni have won the victory and have gone from the field. But King Sigmund is slain, and we who are of his household hid his treasure and we can show it to you."
"The noble warrior, white-haired and white-bearded, who lies yonder—is he King Sigmund?"
The woman answered, "Yes, lord, and I am his Queen."
"We have heard of King Sigmund," said Alv's father. "His fame and the fame of his race, the Volsungs, is over the wide world."
Alv said no word to either of the women, but his eyes stayed on the one who had on the garb of a serving-maid. She was on her knees, wrapping in a beast's skin two pieces of a broken sword.
"You will surely protect us, good lords," said she who had on the queenly dress.
"Yea, wife of King Sigmund, we will protect you and your serving-maid," said Alv's father, the old King.
Then the women took the warriors to a wild place on the seashore and they showed them where King Sigmund's treasure was hidden amongst the rocks: cups of gold and mighty armrings and jeweled collars. Prince Alv and his father put the treasure on the ship and brought the two women aboard. Then they sailed from the land.
That was before Sigurd, the fosterson of King Alv, was born.
Now the mother of Alv was wise and little of what she saw escaped her noting. She saw that of the two women that her son and her husband had brought into their kingdom, the one who wore the dress of the serving-maid had unflinching eyes and a high beauty, while the one who wore the queenly dress was shrinking and unstately. One night when all the women of the household were sitting round her, spinning wool by the light of torches in the hall, the Queen-mother said to the one who wore the queenly garb:
"Thou art good at rising in the morning. How dost thou know in the dark hours when it wears to dawn?"
The one clad in the queenly garb said, "When I was young I used to rise to milk the cows, and I waken ever since at the same hour."
The Queen-mother said to herself, "It is a strange country in which the royal maids rise to milk the cows."
Then she said to the one who wore the clothes of the serving-maid:
"How dost thou know in the dark hours when the dawn is coming?"
"My father," she said, "gave me the ring of gold that I wear, and always before it is time to rise I feel it grow cold on my finger."
"It is a strange country, truly," said the Queen-mother to herself, "in which the serving-maids wear rings of gold."
When all the others had left she spoke to the two women who had been brought into her country. To the one who wore the clothes of a serving-maid she said:
"Thou art the Queen."
Then the one who wore the queenly clothes said, "Thou art right, lady. She is the Queen, and I cannot any longer pretend to be other than I am."
Then the other woman spoke. Said she: "I am the Queen as thou hast said—the Queen of King Sigmund who was slain. Because a King sought for me I changed clothes with my serving-maid, my wish being to baffle those who might be sent to carry me away.
"Know that I am Hiordis, a King's daughter. Many men came to my father to ask for me in marriage, and of those that came there were two whom I heard much of: one was King Lygni and the other was King Sigmund of the race of the Volsungs. The King, my father, told me it was for me to choose between these two. Now King Sigmund was old, but he was the most famous warrior in the whole world, and I chose him rather than King Lygni.
"We were wed. But King Lygni did not lose desire of me, and in a while he came against King Sigmund's kingdom with a great army of men. We hid our treasure by the seashore, and I and my maid watched the battle from the borders of the forest. With the help of Gram, his wondrous sword, and his own great warrior strength, Sigmund was able to harry the great force that came against him. But suddenly he was stricken down. Then was the battle lost. Only King Lygni's men survived it, and they scattered to search for me and the treasure of the King.
"I came to where my lord lay on the field of battle, and he raised himself on his shield when I came, and he told me that death was very near him. A stranger had entered the battle at the time when it seemed that the men of King Lygni must draw away. With the spear that he held in his hand he struck at Sigmund's sword, and Gram, the wondrous sword, was broken in two pieces. Then did King Sigmund get his death-wound. 'It must be I shall die,' he said, 'for the spear against which my sword broke was Gungnir, Odin's spear. Only that spear could have shattered the sword that Odin gave my fathers. Now must I go to Valhalla, Odin's Hall of Heroes.'
"'I weep,' I said, 'because I have no son who might call himself of the great race of the Volsungs.'
"'For that you need not weep,' said Sigmund, 'a son will be born to you, my son and yours, and you shall name him Sigurd. Take now the broken pieces of my wondrous sword and give them to my son when he shall be of warrior age.'
"Then did Sigmund turn his face to the ground and the death-struggle came on him. Odin's Valkyrie took his spirit from the battlefield. And I lifted up the broken pieces of the sword, and with my serving-maid I went and hid in a deep dell in the forest. Then your husband and your son found us and they brought us to your kingdom where we have been kindly treated, O Queen."
Such was the history that Hiordis, the wife of King Sigmund, told to the mother of Prince Alv.
Soon afterwards the child was born to her that was Sigmund's son. Sigurd she named him. And after Sigurd was born the old King died and Prince Alv became King in his stead. He married Hiordis, she of the ruddy hair, the unflinching ways, and the high beauty, and he brought up her son Sigurd in his house as his fosterson.
Sigurd, the son of Sigmund, before he came to warrior's age, was known for his strength and his swiftness and for the fearlessness that shone round him like a glow. "Mighty was the race he sprang from, the Volsung race," men said, "but Sigurd will be as mighty as any that have gone before him." He built himself a hut in the forest that he might hunt wild beasts and live near to one who was to train him in many crafts.
This one was Regin, a maker of swords and a cunning man besides. It was said of Regin that he was an Enchanter and that he had been in the world for longer than the generations of men. No one remembered, nor no one's father remembered, when Regin had come into that country. He taught Sigurd the art of working in metals and he taught him, too, the lore of other days. But ever as he taught him he looked at Sigurd strangely, not as a man looks at his fellow, but as a lynx looks at a stronger beast.
One day Regin said to young Sigurd, "King Alv has thy father's treasure, men say, and yet he treats thee as if thou wert thrall-born."
Now Sigurd knew that Regin said this that he might anger him and thereafter use him to his own ends. He said, "King Alv is a wise and a good King, and he would let me have riches if I had need of them."
"Thou dost go about as a footboy, and not as a King's son."
"Any day that it likes me I might have a horse to ride," Sigurd said.
"So thou dost say," said Regin, and he turned from Sigurd and went to blow the fire of his smithy.
Sigurd was made angry and he threw down the irons on which he was working and he ran to the horse-pastures by the great River. A herd of horses was there, gray and black and roan and chestnut, the best of the horses that King Alv possessed. As he came near to where the herd grazed he saw a stranger near, an ancient but robust man, wearing a strange cloak of blue and leaning on a staff to watch the horses. Sigurd, though young, had seen Kings in their halls, but this man had a bearing that was more lofty than any King's he had ever looked on.
"Thou art going to choose a horse for thyself," said the stranger to Sigurd.
"Yea, father," Sigurd said.
"Drive the herd first into the River," the stranger said.
Sigurd drove the horses into the wide River. Some were swept down by the current, others struggled back and clambered up the bank of the pastures. But one swam across the river, and throwing up his head neighed as for a victory. Sigurd marked him; a gray horse he was, young and proud, with a great flowing mane. He went through the water and caught this horse, mounted him, and brought him back across the River.
"Thou hast done well," said the stranger. "Grani, whom thou hast got, is of the breed of Sleipner, the horse of Odin."
"And I am of the race of the sons of Odin," cried Sigurd, his eyes wide and shining with the very light of the sun. "I am of the race of the sons of Odin, for my father was Sigmund, and his father was Volsung, and his father was Rerir, and his father was Sigi, who was the son of Odin."
The stranger, leaning on his staff looked on the youth steadily. Only one of his eyes was to be seen, but that eye, Sigurd thought, might see through a stone. "All thou hast named," the stranger said, "were as swords of Odin to send men to Valhalla, Odin's Hall of Heroes. And of all that thou hast named there were none but were chosen by Odin's Valkyries for battles in Asgard."
Cried Sigurd, "Too much of what is brave and noble in the world is taken by Odin for his battles in Asgard."
The stranger leaned on his staff and his head was bowed. "What wouldst thou?" he said, and it did not seem to Sigurd that he spoke to him. "What wouldst thou? The leaves wither and fall off Ygdrassil, and the day of Ragnaroek comes." Then he raised his head and spoke to Sigurd. "The time is near," he said, "when thou mayst possess thyself of the pieces of thy father's sword."
Then the man in the strange cloak of blue went climbing up the hill and Sigurd watched him pass away from his sight. He had held back Grani, his proud horse, but now he turned him and let him gallop along the River in a race that was as swift as the wind.
THE SWORD GRAM AND THE DRAGON FAFNIR
Mounted upon Grani, his proud horse, Sigurd rode to the Hall and showed himself to Alv, the King, and to Hiordis, his mother. Before the Hall he shouted out the Volsung name, and King Alv felt as he watched him that this youth was a match for a score of men, and Hiordis, his mother, saw the blue flame of his eyes and thought to herself that his way through the world would be as the way of the eagle through the air.
Having shown himself before the Hall, Sigurd dismounted from Grani, and stroked and caressed him with his hands and told him that now he might go back and take pasture with the herd. The proud horse breathed fondly over Sigurd and bounded away.
Then Sigurd strode on until he came to the hut in the forest where he worked with the cunning smith Regin. No one was in the hut when he entered. But over the anvil, in the smoke of the smithy fire, there was a work of Regin's hands. Sigurd looked upon it, and a hatred for the thing that was shown rose up in him.
The work of Regin's hands was a shield, a great shield of iron. Hammered out on that shield and colored with red and brown colors was the image of a Dragon, a Dragon lengthening himself out of a cave. Sigurd thought it was the image of the most hateful thing in the world, and the light of the smithy fire falling on it, and the smoke of the smithy fire rising round it, made it seem verily a Dragon living in his own element of fire and reek.
While he was still gazing on the loathly image, Regin, the cunning smith, came into the smithy. He stood by the wall and he watched Sigurd. His back was bent; his hair fell over his eyes that were all fiery, and he looked like a beast that runs behind the hedges.
"Aye, thou dost look on Fafnir the Dragon, son of the Volsungs," he said to Sigurd. "Mayhap it is thou who wilt slay him."
"I would not strive with such a beast. He is all horrible to me," Sigurd said.
"With a good sword thou mightst slay him and win for thyself more renown than ever thy fathers had," Regin whispered.
"I shall win renown as my fathers won renown, in battle with men and in conquest of kingdoms," Sigurd said.
"Thou art not a true Volsung or thou wouldst gladly go where most danger and dread is," said Regin. "Thou hast heard of Fafnir the Dragon, whose image I have wrought here. If thou dost ride to the crest of the hills thou mayst look across to the desolate land where Fafnir has his haunt. Know that once it was fair land where men had peace and prosperity, but Fafnir came and made his den in a cave near by, and his breathings as he went to and came from the River withered up the land and made it the barren waste that men called Gnita Heath. Now, if thou art a true Volsung, thou wilt slay the Dragon, and let that land become fair again, and bring the people back to it and so add to King Alv's domain."
"I have nought to do with the slaying of Dragons," Sigurd said. "I have to make war on King Lygni, and avenge upon him the slaying of Sigmund, my father."
"What is the slaying of Lygni and the conquest of his kingdom to the slaying of Fafnir the Dragon?" Regin cried. "I will tell thee what no one else knows of Fafnir the Dragon. He guards a hoard of gold and jewels the like of which was never seen in the world. All this hoard you can make yours by slaying him."
"I do not covet riches," Sigurd said.
"No riches is like to the riches that Fafnir guards. His hoard is the hoard that the Dwarf Andvari had from the world's early days. Once the Gods themselves paid it over as a ransom. And if thou wilt win this hoard thou wilt be as one of the Gods."
"How dost thou know that of which thou speakst, Regin?" Sigurd said.
"I know, and one day I may tell thee how I know."
"And one day I may harken to thee. But speak to me no more of this Dragon. I would have thee make a sword, a sword that will be mightier and better shapen than any sword in the world. Thou canst do this, Regin, for thou art accounted the best swordsmith amongst men."
Regin looked at Sigurd out of his small and cunning eyes and he thought it was best to make himself active. So he took the weightiest pieces of iron and put them into his furnace and he brought out the secret tools that he used when a masterwork was claimed from his hands.
All day Sigurd worked beside him keeping the fire at its best glow and bringing water to cool the blade as it was fashioned and refashioned. And as he worked he thought only about the blade and about how he would make war upon King Lygni, and avenge the man who was slain before he himself was born.
All day he thought only of war and of the beaten blade. But at night his dreams were not upon wars nor shapen blades but upon Fafnir the Dragon. He saw the heath that was left barren by his breath, and he saw the cave where he had his den, and he saw him crawling down from his cave, his scales glittering like rings of mail, and his length the length of a company of men on the march.
The next day he worked with Regin to shape the great sword. When it was shapen with all the cunning Regin knew it looked indeed a mighty sword. Then Regin sharpened it and Sigurd polished it. And at last he held the great sword by its iron hilt.
Then Sigurd took the shield that had the image of Fafnir the Dragon upon it and he put the shield over the anvil of the smithy. Raising the great sword in both his hands he struck full on the iron shield.
The stroke of the sword sheared away some of the shield, but the blade broke in Sigurd's hands. Then in anger he turned on Regin, crying out, "Thou hast made a knave's sword for me. To work with thee again! Thou must make me a Volsung's sword."
Then he went out and called to Grani, his horse, and mounted him and rode to the river bank like the sweep of the wind.
Regin took more pieces of iron and began to forge a new sword, uttering as he worked runes that were about the hoard that Fafnir the Dragon guarded. And Sigurd that night dreamt of glittering treasure that he coveted not, masses of gold and heaps of glistening jewels.
He was Regin's help the next day and they both worked to make a sword that would be mightier than the first. For three days they worked upon it, and then Regin put into Sigurd's hands a sword, sharpened and polished, that was mightier and more splendid looking than the one that had been forged before. And again Sigurd took the shield that had the image of the Dragon upon it and he put it upon the anvil. Then he raised his arms and struck his full blow. The sword cut through the shield, but when it struck the anvil it shivered in his hands.
He left the smithy angrily and called to Grani, his proud horse. He mounted and rode on like the sweep of the wind.
Later he came to his mother's bower and stood before Hiordis. "A greater sword must I have," said he, "than one that is made of metal dug out of the earth. The time has come, mother, when thou must put into my hands the broken pieces of Gram, the sword of Sigmund and the Volsungs."
Hiordis measured him with the glance of her eyes, and she saw that her son was a mighty youth and one fit to use the sword of Sigmund and the Volsungs. She bade him go with her to the King's Hall. Out of the great stone chest that was in her chamber she took the beast's skin and the broken blade that was wrapped in it. She gave the pieces into the hands of her son. "Behold the halves of Gram," she said, "of Gram, the mighty sword that in the far-off days Odin left in the Branstock, in the tree of the house of Volsung. I would see Gram new-shapen in thy hands, my son."
Then she embraced him as she had never embraced him before, and standing there with her ruddy hair about her she told him of the glory of Gram and of the deeds of his fathers in whose hands the sword had shone.
Then Sigurd went to the smithy, and he wakened Regin out of his sleep, and he made him look on the shining halves of Sigmund's sword. He commanded him to make out of these halves a sword for his hand.
Regin worked for days in his smithy and Sigurd never left his side. At last the blade was forged, and when Sigurd held it in his hand fire ran along the edge of it.
Again he laid the shield that had the image of the Dragon upon it on the anvil of the smithy. Again, with his hands on its iron hilt, he raised the sword for a full stroke. He struck, and the sword cut through the shield and sheared through the anvil, cutting away its iron horn. Then did Sigurd know that he had in his hands the Volsungs' sword. He went without and called to Grani, and like the sweep of the wind rode down to the River's bank. Shreds of wool were floating down the water. Sigurd struck at them with his sword, and the fine wool was divided against the water's edge. Hardness and fineness, Gram could cut through both.
That night Gram, the Volsungs' sword, was under his head when he slept, but still his dreams were filled with images that he had not regarded in the day time; the shine of a hoard that he coveted not, and the gleam of the scales of a Dragon that was too loathly for him to battle with.
THE DRAGON'S BLOOD
Sigurd went to war: with the men that King Alv gave him he marched into the country that was ruled over by the slayer of his father. The war that he waged was short and the battles that he won were not perilous. Old was King Lygni now, and feeble was his grasp upon his people. Sigurd slew him and took away his treasure and added his lands to the lands of King Alv.
But Sigurd was not content with the victory he had gained. He had dreamt of stark battles and of renown that would be hardily won. What was the war he had waged to the wars that Sigmund his father, and Volsung his father's father, had waged in their days? Not content was Sigurd. He led his men back by the hills from the crests of which he could look upon the Dragon's haunts. And having come as far as those hills he bade his men return to King Alv's hall with the spoils he had won.