Excerpt: Thorn-Chapter 3 Hyndluljóð9 min read

The Story So Far: A very young Loki (currently going under the name Lodurr) has been driven from his family home and is traveling in some pretty hostile territory. While looking for his mother and elder brother, he receives an unfortunate visit from a very specific ghost…


Lóðurr came awake with a start.

The fire had died and the world cooled. The moon shown down through the woods.

Te had had a dream of ravens and skulls and blood. Te couldn’t shake off the feeling of death. Shivering, Lóðurr drew a circle around ter and pulled out food and drink. Rekindling the fire, te heated both of them, burning the food deliberately. While they were still hot, te extinguished the fire. “Mother, I hear you.” There were tears in ter eyes. “I hear you but I pray I am wrong.”

A cold breeze flicked through the woods. Lóðurr’s eyes began to adjust to the night again. And then te saw it. The smells brought the unquiet dead, hovering outside the circle. But that’s not what caught ter attention. It was grey and as whistful as the moonlight. Dressed in the remnants of rags that were so torn that they were memories of scraps. Terrible wounds on its body and eyes that glowed like coals with hunger. Desperate, unquenchable, hunger. They were also eyes that could not see. They had been gouged out by ravens.

When Lóðurr saw what disfigurement lay between its legs, te finally understood what ter mother was talking about. And te thought about her isolation as she came up to the edge of the circle. Te used ter knife to cut her a way through. She entered and she descended on the bread and honeycup as te repaired the circle.

Te sat back down, on the opposite side of the dead fire from her. “Mother.”

It turned its stripped face towards ter.

“What happened?”

The thing tore off another piece of bread and swallowed it whole. Then it opened its mouth and allowed sound to spill from it. Its lips never moved. “Now an account shall be given of those stories which no accounts were rendered before: Hrungnir and his companion followed the skylights towards the edges of Utgard. And there we met an oss on a gray stallion, racing on top of the mists. He was bold and he was beautiful. And he wore a broad hat like your mother used to wear. And he spoke with a golden tongue, as well-shaped as hers.

Hrungnir asked what manner of thing he might be, who rode through air and water; and said that the stranger had a wondrous good steed. The stranger said ‘Grim is my name, and Way-weary; warrior and helmet-bearer.’ He said he would wager his head there was no horse in Jötunheim that would prove equally good as his steed . Hrungnir answered that Grim had a good horse, but that he had a much better paced horse called Gullfaxi. Grim laughed and galloped away.

Hrungnir had no hold on his temper. He galloped after, to prove the stranger wrong. The stranger’s horse galloped so furiously that he was on the top of the next hill first; but Hrungnir keep pursuing him until we crossed into Gladheim and far into those lands to the gates of a new gard. When he came to the hall-door, the aesir invited him to drink. This was their new home, the Asgard.

I tried to tell my son to stay but he wouldn’t listen. He went within and ordered drink brought to him, and then those flagons were brought in from which Grim’s elder son normally drank; and Hrungnir swilled from each one in turn. But when he had become drunken, he boasted that he would lift up their hall and carry it to Jötunnheim, and sink Ásgard and kill all the gods, save for the wives of the Grim, who was their leader, and his eldest son.

The asynjar thought him stupid — I did too — and they knew the empty boasts of men in their cups well. They poured for him waiting for drunken sleep to come even as the men cowered and my son vowed that he would drink all the ale of the aesir. But when his insolence no longer entertained the aesir, the aesir called on the name of the thundered.

Eldest son of the Grim, the thunderer had been away in Vandr, slaughtering any he could find there. But he had returned home and had been in a spring, bathing, when the feast had started. He was very wroth, and asked who had advised that these dogs of giants be permitted to drink there, or who had granted Hrungnir safe-conduct, or why the asynjar should pour for him as if it was a feast of the Æsir.

Then Hrungnir answered, looking at the over-muscled fool with drunken eyes, and said that the lout’s father had invited him to drink, and he was under his safe-conduct. The thunderer declared that Hrungnir should revoke that invitation and fight him then and there. Hrungnir answered that the ǫ́ss would have scant renown for killing him, weaponless as he was. It would be a greater trial of his courage if he dared fight with Hrungnir on the border of the Utgard.

‘And it was a great folly,’ said my son, ‘when I left my shield behind; if I had my weapons here, then we should try single-combat. But as matters stand, I declare you a coward if you slay me, a weaponless man.’ None seemed anxious for the thunderer to rise to the challenge, for weapons were forbidden in the Great Hall during times of feast and single combat set for another time was a more honored tradition.

One asked what my son called himself, so that they would know what kin to send the body, and he replied “I am Hrungnir, known also as Helblindi…” Not another another word came from that could be heard above the howl of outrage from the Aesir. The Grim, himself rose to his feet and his look was one of pity.

The thunderer’s face was red with battle-fury.

The thunderer strode over to the smith’s stone by the great fire and seized the smith’s hammer for his own. Hrungnir stumbled back even as he searched for a weapon to use. All he could find was a hone, used to sharpen knives for carving, though the knives were long gone. The Grim was shouting that blood was not to be spilt. His voice was not heard over that of his angry kinsmen. But, also, he did not prevent Hrungnir from fleeing the angry crowd.

Then Hrungnir went his way and galloped furiously away. The Thunderer had taken his father’s horse, and it was faster still than Hrungnir’s. Gullfaxi, well-labored at this point, stumbled and off the horse we came, as the thunderer and his audience of Aesir came to watch our tribulation. First among them, a thrall — a slave — of the Thunderer. The rest just circled around. The Grim was not among them. Just his court, his people.

The thunderer came towards my son and knocked him aside with the hammer. I stepped between the two. I asked what gave such great offense that even the mighty aesir were shaken. He laughed and said I was so thin, it was if I had only been fed white clay: I was tall but had no heart of a man. More like that of a mare.

He raised his hammer to strike me and I was sore afraid, and I wet myself when I saw it. His blow knocked me to the ground. My dress bunched above my waist as I tried to crawl away and they saw what was between my legs. They laughed.

“This one is argr.” They said. “He is no man.”

The thunderer called me Mökkurkálfi — Mist Calf. I spit in his arrogant face.

He stepped over me and Hrungnir placed his feet firmly on the shield of Allmother’s earth. He raised the hone over his head and hurled it at the mad ǫ́ss. The thunderer shattered it with his hammer. Splinters of the stone hit his face, marking it with bloody, little holes. Taking the smith’s hammer to the side, he twirled it and then smashed it into your brother’s skull.

As he hit him again and again, he screamed “You cannot have my father’s name!” One of your brother’s eyes came out of his skull and blood came from the other one. But even Aesir tire after a time and when the thunderer paused, your brother rose his arms and slapped the Thunderer hard on both sides of the head. The Thunderer fell where he stood and your brother rose. For a moment, all felt the heat of your brother’s fury and they feared him. Then, he fell on top of the thunderer.

For a moment, none of them did anything. Then a child came out and picked the hammer off the ground. He smashed the head of Hrungnir over and over until the juices of it wakened the Thunderer. Then the young one said. ‘I came late: I would have struck this jotunn dead with my fist, if I had met him first.’

The thunderer rose to his feet and welcomed the child. As he spoke, his thrall grabbed a fish knife from one of the others and came to me, lying still stunned from hammer blow and the death of my child. And he cut me and he cut me and he cut me and he cut me.”

The thing then stopped and stared at Lóðurr.

“He gave the child Gullfaxi. And the Grim said that the thunderer did wrong to give the good horse to the son of a jotunn and not to his father.”

Lóðurr felt like te was going to vomit. Ter mother’s shade waited there, head cocked to the side. “Is there something else?”

“I want a kiss.”

Her skull split sideways and flopped open, exposing row after row of sharp teeth and she lunged.

“Lóðurr.” Te extended ter name into the campfire in front of ter and it roared back to life. By the time it flared out, all the shades of the dead had gone.

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