The Story so far: Loki and his two companions–Oske and Hoenir–travel to the home of Loki’s great-uncle Mimir, hoping to outrun the misfortune that’s plagued them at the Hall of Hreithmar. The visit… does not go as expected.
“Are we there?”
“You ask that every few steps.”
Hoenir snorted. “My knees are older than yours by far, young Lodurr. And my brother can still rip the arms off monsters, but me? I get tired after so much walking. Good food and good drink. Those are what will put flesh back on these old bones.”
“Then I have some good news for you.”
The three travelers crested the hill they had been walking up.
“There it is. The high hall at Mimisbrunnr.”
The Hall held witness over the end of the world. At the northern cliff overlooking a deep, powerful-flowing fjord, pines that had been growing since the world began had been replanted and shaped, forming an intertwining hull, a cocoon that preserved the life inside it, yet also gave the distinct impression of being alive itself. The doors to the great hall faced the fjord itself, a platform jutting out over the roaring waters below. From the platform hung thick cords that crossed over the gap, huge oiled planks making up the bridge across it.
“The alfr say that the bottom of the fjord was where they first came into the world. Olvaldi commissioned the hall so that they would never forget. The hall itself has tunnels which bore down into the mountain, where they make food from curdled milk and brew all manner of strange.”
“You had me at ‘brew.’” Hoenir quipped to Lodurr. He looked to Oske. “You’ve never been here?”
Oske shrugged. “I’ve never been invited. I still haven’t been invited.”
The three walked on, until the bridge was there. And the long drop.
Hoenir looked down. “Surely this doesn’t seem wise.”
Oske shrugged. “Who can tell what fate has in store?”
Hoenir grimaced. “A long drop and drowning forever in the arms of Ran, if we’re not careful.”
Oske snorted and stepped onto the bridge.
Halfway across, through the mist of the waters below them, they spotting someone coming to meet them. Oske raised a hand. “Hail and well met.”
The other raised a hand in an almost perfect mirror to Oske’s gesture, and the path before them and behind them vanished. The three came to an immediate stop.
“This is… concerning.” Hoenir remarked. Lodurr remained silent.
Oske acted as if nothing was amiss. “To whom am I addressing.”
The other took several steps forward. An alfar, presenting as female. She smiled. “I am brewmaster to the House of the mighty weaver. And what are you called, grey traveler.”
“The voice of opposition, they call me, and thirsty I come from a hard journey to your hall. I wait for your welcome, for long have I traveled with my wayfarers, Strong Who Serves and that which blazes.”
“This is the house of Endings, traveler. Fools who enter, never leave.”
“Is it the fool who seeks the simple comfort of a mug in a house of plenty?”
“What force compels the wise to tread to the end of the world?”
“Why, ill fortune, is its name!” Oske smiled. “And it can lead wise or foolish alike to their end. But who will sort the wise from the fools, the guest or the host’s sage gray?”
“Should you stand there on the hall’s great floor or let a seat bear your weight, what do you offer for the privilege of keeping your tongue?”
Oske smiled and slapped his hands against his chest. “Why nothing less than ourselves, our company, and the stories we hold just past these parched lips.”
The brewmaster smiles. “I think your companions would blanch at the thought of lives offered so cheaply. For the opportunity to take your head, the price is paid. The old ways of guest and host hold here at the end of all things.” She tapped the plank in front of her and the missing planks reappeared. “You are welcome in our house. Come.”
The inside of the hall was blood warm and moist. Their furs and packs were taken, placed aside in a nook, packed behind fresh straw. Food was brought; a brothy, herbed soup and stone ground rye flatcakes. There was no place for them to sit, not until the master of the house entered the room.
“Little wind!” Ivaldi exclaimed and he embraced Lodurr. “How were your travels among my children.”
Lodurr blushed slightly at the attention. “Fair enough, but I’m afraid an incident involving a large otter and a pike prevents me from returning there anytime soon.”
“You must tell me all about it when you have the time. And who have we here?” Ivaldi turned to the others. “Ah…” He looked over Oske. “It’s… been a long time. Since the wedding, yes?”
“That would make you the other brother.” Ivaldi added. “The one who did not come to the wedding.”
Hoenir shrugged. “We figured one troublemaker returning to the house was enough.”
Oske leaned towards Ivaldi. “I have been searching for you, you know.”
“I know. Which is why you had to use the youth over there. He thinks it was his idea, yes?”
Lodurr looked pained. “It was my idea.”
Ivaldi sighed as he put a hand on Lodurr’s arm. “Let me guess. You spent time together, got in some trouble, and then you knew you had to take him someplace safe. You felt in his debt, yes?”
Lodurr had no answer.
“This one…” Ivaldi pointed to Oske. “— knows charms upon charms. He killed a god. And from her dying curse, he holds the dread knowledge to hear her spirit behind the eyes of many things. Ravens, wolves…” Ivaldi fixed a hard glare on Oske. “A horn-covered head…”
Hoenir put a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Oske, you didn’t…”
Oske pushed Hoenir’s hand off his shoulder. “The stones spoke. The water babbled. The winds whispered. You have made a thing, great weaver. And I would bear my part of it.”
Ivaldi chuffed. “Would you now? What if it is too heady a drink? What if the price it extracts is too high? Would you still yearn for its sting on your lips, then?”
“I set the stakes in world so the mountain-risi would not rise. Thrust a spear in the night’s hide for the stars to shine. I hung a moon and a sun. There is no price I would not dare.”
“Ah yes, longbeard. I’m sure of that. “Even family.”
Oske grew still. “You know the answer to that.”
“Yes, I do.” Ivaldi looked fiercer that Lodurr had ever seen before. “You will get a chance at your drink, swift-in-deceit. But these two will have to pay the price as well.”