Chapter 1: Freya's Falcon Coat
Outside the bitter cold winds of Longnight howled around the thick Duro-Crete walls of the Burg; but here in my mother’s drawing room it was warm and cozy. The soak-stones glowed warm with Tyranno Oil fire in the oven. I always thought her room was just a bit warmer than all the other rooms and halls.
Here in her chambers the gray and drab Duro-Crete walls were mostly covered with velvet curtains and antique tapestries depicting the first settlers, the gods, scenes of great clan Wars and legendary hunts.
I was lying on my favorite spot, nestled among the incredibly soft, copper-colored Nubhir furs spread out on mother’s divan. Her fur blankets were lined with smooth, luxurious shimmering ivory satin; ever since I could remember I loved the feel of them. My fur blankets were made of the coarse back pelt of Fangsnappers, were not lined at all and always had a strong musky odor. Here everything smelled wonderful.
She was sitting across from me in her favorite chair, with the thick Book of Legends on her lap and reading me another fantastic adventure of Thor the Thunder God.
Her long blonde hair glistened like spun gold in the warm yellow light of the brass reading lamp beside her. The old book rested on the maroon colored skirt of her velvet dress, the one with the golden seams I liked so much.
She was a great reader and could bring the characters of the story to life, just like now. She gestured with her slender hand and began to read:
“One morning Thor, the mighty God of Thunder, awoke from a deep slumber; he reached for his hammer as he was wont to do first thing every morning. Alas, on this day, his fist formed around thin air - the hammer had disappeared.”
Her hand was searching the thin air next to her chair and I was no longer lying down. I hadn’t heard this story before and had to sit up straight. Thor’s hammer was gone! How could he defend Asgard and make thunder without it?
She glanced at me, gave me a deep smile and continued on reading. Her voice increased in intensity and she managed to speak with a deeper voice. “Thor was beside himself. His rage was immense and would probably have been quite destructive, but without his hammer, all he could do was rant and rave. What good was the God of Thunder without his mighty weapon?”
I could only imagine, Thor without his hammer, unthinkable!
Mother’s voice became quieter and her face had a quizzical look “Of course he had his suspicion as to the identity of the thief ... it could only have been those pesky Giants! But no matter, he needed his hammer back, and quickly! First thing though, he had to find out where the Giants might have hidden it.
Who better than Loki, the shrewd one to make inquiries? Not to lose any time, Loki went to Freya and asked her for the loan of her feather-dress, the famed falcon-cloak, so he might quickly fly to the land where the Giants dwell. When Freya heard what the cloak was needed for, she was more than willing to help.
So Loki went on his way and it wasn’t long before he happened upon Thrym, one of the princes of the Giant clan. Thrym feigned surprise and inquired what could possibly be so wrong in Asgard, or perhaps Elfland, that Loki dared enter the realm of the Giants on his own.
Loki told him of his mission, to find the Hammer of Thor. Whereupon the Giant threw back his huge, ugly head, shook with thunderous laughter, and then told Loki that the hammer was well out of the reach of the Aesir, safely buried, some eight fathoms beneath the Earth’s surface. And it would never again be swung by Thor ... lest Freya herself be brought to him as his bride. Freya, of course, was Odin’s bride and the most beautiful of the Aesir”
I knew Freya would have looked exactly like my mother, for who could be more beautiful than her? “You should have a cloak of feathers too!” I said. “So you could look lovely and I could borrow it to fly around!”
She laughed. “Oh that would be grand indeed. However I doubt Freya would want to share her cloak with mere mortals, but I too wondered what that cloak would look like, especially when my father told me this story when I was a little girl.”
“What did Freya say when she heard about that?”
“Let me read you more of the story and let us find out.” She turned the page. “Loki hurried back to Asgard, to inform Freya that she needed to ready herself to become the bride of the Giant Thrym, a terrible fate but for the good of Asgard, of course!
Freya’s outrage became the stuff of legend in the halls of Asgard - the idea, she, the beautiful, wild, free-spirited Freya, the bride of that mangy dog!
Something had to be done and finally, Heimdahl, the Wise One, advised Thor that there was no other solution than that he, Thor, dress up in women’s bridal frocks and pretend to be Freya.
To say that Thor was less than taken with this idea would be an understatement. No way was he going to risk the ridicule of all Asgard. There had to be a better way!
However nobody could come up with a better plan. Everyone knew that the Giants had had their eyes on Asgard for a long time, and with the help of the hammer, they might even accomplish this goal. And that would simply not do! Especially since Odin was asleep and could not be woken for 100 years.
Loki even offered to accompany Thor, decked out as his handmaiden and soon, the great rams were ready to draw Thor’s wagon across the heavens. Mountains split open, forests burst into flames, and the rumble from the mighty wagon could be heard from a long way off. Thrym believed it to herald the arrival of his bride. He bade his hall to be decked and the tables readied for a great feast.
“As night fell, the great meal had begun. Thor alone ate a whole roasted Ochsen, eight salmons, and every bit of the sweetmeats that had been served for the women; this meal he washed down with three barrels of mead. Thrym thought this just a bit odd, but Loki whispered to him that Freya had not eaten for eight days, as he was too overcome with longing for the Giant Prince. Now that was more to the brute’s liking, and he felt a desire to kiss his betrothed. But as he lifted “her” veil, he pulled back in shock ... the eyes he encountered glittered as with madness. Again, Loki explained that Freya had not slept for many nights, from longing for her groom.
Then the giant’s oldest sister came forth and bade “Freya” to take her golden bracelets from her arms and give it to her; with these she would insure the old giantess’ favor and good will.
Meanwhile Thrym, impatient with the ways of women, called for the hammer to be brought and laid in his bride’s lap. Thus would their union be sealed before the Gods.
Those words were music to Thor’s ears. No sooner did he hold his hammer in his hand than that he sprang from his chair and his the first blow killed Thrym outright.
None of the clan of the giants survived that night, not even the old woman who had asked for his bracelets in return for her favor. He paid her in blood instead of trinkets.”
She closed the book with a loud thud that brought me back to reality. “And it was thus that the God of Thunder reclaimed his hammer.”
“What is an Ochsen?” I asked.
“It is a huge animal with horns, twice the size of the biggest Fangsnapper you ever going to see. It is an animal that lives on Earth, I never seen of course”
“Not even Uncle Hogun could eat an entire Fangsnapper!”
She laughed. “No, I am sure not even your huge Uncle Hogun could do that.” She put the book aside, got up and brushed over her skirt. “And now it is time for my little warrior to go to sleep.”
“He could not have done it without the help of Loki and the wise Heimdahl.” I concluded.
She nodded. “This is very true, Eric and that is the message in this story. It means not all problems can be solved with raw strength and weapons; but sometimes other methods are more effective. Of course, Thor being Thor ended the story his way and made sure no one would ever again get the idea and steal his hammer.”
My Father had entered the room, his eyes glassy and his nose red from too much ale and mead, made a growling sound that rolled from the bottom of his massive chest and then said, “Loki is a trickster and he deceived Thor many times after. No Neo Viking should ever listen to this particular story.”
Mother pursed her lips and said, “But he is one of the gods and half-brother to Thor and he did help the Thunderer to get his hammer back!”
Father tried to think of a reply but could not really argue with that so he glared at me. “This is no place for a warrior born. Look at you, lying on furs in the boudoir of a woman. You are too old now to be in your mother’s dressing room. All this warmth will make you soft like a woman. You are to go outside right now and keep watch on the tower. The cold wind will clear your mind of all that soft rubbish and steel you to be a man!”
Mother protested. “Isegrim he is five years old! What is wrong with me reading him the legends of the Gods? He is not going out on that freezing tower in the middle of Longnight. There hasn’t been a guard up there for 500 years! He is no warrior yet, he is a little boy!”
Father uncoiled his ever-present whip; that he carried on a sling attached to his wrist. The whip was made of a length of steel cable. He bellowed loudly and angrily: “Know thy place woman! It is not proper for a wench or anyone to question my decisions!”
I could smell the mead on him as he rushed past me towards mother.
She stood there not moving an inch and held her chin high. “You do not scare me with your whip! You are drunk. Now leave my chamber! My Father will hear of this if you do not leave now!”
Father screamed: “No one gives me commands in my Burg, you are but a woman and your only duty is to please me! He slashed the cable across my mother’s face. I heard the crack of the steel cable, my mother’s cry of agony and there was blood everywhere.