The Story So Far: Loki has been tasked to figure out why the vandr — the people at war with the aesir — have an uncommon grasp on the aesirs coming and going. This has taken him to the plains of Gladsheim, where he sometimes spends time as a horse.
Nothing on the plains of Gladsheim save the occasional herder tending to their flocks.
At least a couple had tried to woo Hvedrungr towards them, assuming that she was a lost mare, or something of the kind. And one of those times, Hvedrungr had let them, since the person in question was quiet fair of face and body. There was… quite the reaction when Hvedrungr took the form of Lodurr, but they shared the bedroll that night and that was an adventure in and of itself.
This carried on for a couple of weeks. Until an unusual frost snapped in, making one night bitterly cold. Lodurr left behind Hvedrungr’s form to build a fire.
A haunch of mutton was set across the fire.
And of course, it’s scent drew others.
Lodurr saw the eyes first, dim like coals, across from him. Then the blood that dripped from the mouth. The jaw extended.
Lodurr cut a slice of flesh from the haunch. Tossed it to the ghost, which greedily devoured it.
More! it screamed and lunged forward. Lodurr flicked outward with his blade and the fire roared, disrupting the dis.
When the dis reformed, it seemed quieter. Lodurr cut himself a slice, chewed thoughtfully, and then tossed another to the ghost.
The dis raised up her head, to show the slit throat that Lodurr had mistaken as her mouth. The cuts were jagged but knife-made. A dull knife or one long in use by an owner who just didn’t care.
He looked at the wound, looked at the way she was dressed. A herder. And then it struck him and he felt like an idiot. What better way to watch the aes than to drive their animals in the field?
“Do you know who did this to you?”
The ghost held up a hand and clenched in it was a fistful of flaxen hair.
The eyes glimmered steadily, out there in the dark.
Lodurr tossed her another slice and waited until she started to eat. “On my mother’s body, so I swear, I will soak the fields in the blood of the one who killed you.
The eyes seem to flare up and then to fade.
Lodurr came up behind and embraced the beautiful herder. “What delights do you have for me?”
The herder arched back and stroked the back of Lodurr’s head. “My would-be mare, my beautiful elf. Racing the plains of Gladsheim here and there.” They turned and kissed Lodurr fully and deeply. Coming back up for air. “I was hoping you’d come back.”
Lodurr smiled. “Me as well.” He stroked the herder’s hair. “I missed every inch of you, including the patch gnawed on by a goat.
The herder, embarrassed, reached up to pat a bald spot on their head. “I will never again nap when goats are near.
Lodurr took a step back, just far enough to smile and look over them. “You are so beautiful. Too beautiful to be an aes.”
“You are too kind.”
“No.” Lodurr shook his head. “I don’t think so.” And faster than the eye could blink, a blade was in his hand and then pushed up, through the flesh under the jaw. Through the tongue and the soft palate. And into the brain.
And with a second knife, Lodurr bled them.
Lodurr found six others. Total of seven, a proper warband. Their leader was the palest vandr Lodurr had ever seen, a true child of the court who apparently rarely saw the sun. His teeth were stained with vandr drinks so that they appeared golden, even at a distance. But with a welcoming smile and a very friendly demeanor, Lodurr would have mistaken the leader’s intent as guileless and truthful, had he not already known the deceit.
Lodurr had changed guise by then to match that of the herder that the other vandr had slain. It seemed fitting and there were times at night, when the temperature was at its lowest, that he could feel her sated smile.
This was how he figured out that the lead vandr had a target. A mere slip of a girl, new to adulthood, flush with the impatience of wanting a lover. And the leader, for all his bluster, seemed smitten by her as well, though that certainly didn’t stop him from ferreting out little tidbits about the aes gard. Mainly through loving words, a tender touch, and then wondering aloud what life would be like living among the aes.
The poor girl was more than ready to provide the vandr with the details of life among the gods. And yet, the two were more than coy with each other, willing only the briefest holding of hands or the occasional embrace.
And it occurred to Lodurr that the remaining five were hardened warriors but this one, this one was tender. This was the kind of thing done to prove that a boy had reached the age of a man. The jotunn left their children out in the wild. The alfr demanded a unique creation. The aes? Their children were sent out to fight. But the vandr had a different way.
They apparently wore down their opponents, like waves over time.
And this was the newest addition to their fold.
Which left Lodurr with a question.
Was it worth killing these people?
They weren’t Beauty’s warband. And the vandr, while arrogant, didn’t spend much time hunting the jotunn. They traded with the alfr.
Lodurr watched as the boy brought out a necklace and showed it to the maid. Gefjun. That was her name. And his, Hallinskiði. The necklace was distinctive enough that Lodurr drew in his breath.
Brisingamen. The necklace he made when te were called Lopt.
No… on second glance… it was a copy—a poor one at that—but effective. The maid reached for the necklace as Hallinskiði lay on the grass and placed her leg over him, and that was enough to drive both of him into a fit of passion.
And that passion gave Lodurr an idea.