Excerpt: Thorn-Chapter 1 Laufeyson

The Story so far: Well… not much. This is the first chapter, after all. Here begins the story of Loki, from his birth to the end of the world, in the order which exposes all the secrets of the line of Odin and his family. Dark and twisted and endlessly fascinating, it has enthralled people since its history began.

Names follow Name.

Birthmother was Farbuiti, Far-Striker, otherwise known as the finger of the storm or lightning. She was rarely at home, preferring the company of other women of Utgard or the lands abroad. Nal was lovemother to Birch. Her name meant “Needle”, like the pine needles that littered the forest floor from the autumn equinox to winter solstice. But she just as often went by the nickname that Far-Striker gave her. Laufey or “tinder”. Laufey could be relied upon to stoke the fires of passion, but first she needed a spark. And that spark was her wife or her children. Always them.

Birch’s elder brother was named Almr by Far-Striker for the color of his hair. On Elm’s naming day, Nal granted Elm, as eldest child, one of Farbauti’s many names: HelBlindi, or the lightning’s flash. According to Nal, when she was well into honeycups, she had never seen Far-Striker as angry as she had been when she heard that Elm had been given that name. She left for three years, only returning because a deal had been made and the deal would be done.

One for Kin.

Two for Fate.

Three for the Fire.

That was the deal between Farbauti and Nal, set by the seidr, the wise ones among the íviðjur. Not every íviðja was seidr, but no thur could be one. Only the íviðjur who were seidr could seal a bargain of such power. Not every family in the Utgard had two mothers but a few did. And Nal was proud that hers was the envy of so many others. Far-Striker had caught the attention of both thur and íviðja when she arrived in Jotunheim. They called her Thud and Ud and Ome before they knew her. Svipal, Hnikar and Bileygr after they did. Nal was the only one sly enough to gain both favor and Far-Striker’s deal.

Birch was the same age as Elm had been when Birch was born. Seven years and now Nal’s wife was pregnant for the third and final time. Nal had called upon her sisters for seidr, for truth and a foretelling. The autumn moon was rising. The equinox was here, one of the sacred days when the seidr marked the year, and the last time they could query the dead before they went back to sleep in the sea-dark blood of All-mother.

Birch had been following her mother since Nal had crept out from Utgard in the quiet of the early morning. Nal had found herbs to purge herself, bathed herself of in a cold river and then spent time in a hot spring. Her clothing she changed to a very simple, white linen shift, like the ones young jotunn wore on the eve of adulthood. Elm had been sewing one quite like it, as his time was coming to be recognized. In that shift, she climbed a hillside until she came to an open space that led into a wooded valley. She squatted there and waited for fires to be lit in the distance, and for the sun to start to set.

All this time, Birch watched her.

Just as the lights began to dance above her in the night sky, Nal rose and made her way to the edge of the forest. And once again, she waited. The seidr íviðjur came for her. Cloaked and silent, blades ready. Old ones. Young ones. Pregnant ones. All fierce ones. They surrounded Nal and Birch felt an urge to rush to her side, to protect her. But Nal’s eyes darted in Birch’s direction and she realized her mother had known where she was all along. She didn’t move.

Blank covered faces, hidden by a screen of linen. Speaking as one. “You have asked for a telling.”

Nal nodded. “I have.”

“You may not enter here.”

Nal froze, just for a moment, pain crossing her face and threatening to surge outwards, but she pulled away from it, returning a smile. “I know.”

The oldest stepped forward and spoke alone. “Do you wish your youngest to enter?”

Birch froze. The others knew she was there.

Nal froze for a second time, emotions warring across her body. She shuddered as she came to a decision. “My youngest has not come to a time of decision.”

The oldest seidr nodded and the group of women withdrew.

Nal was shaking.

Birch was quiet. “What did that mean?”

“You are… complicated, little one. And I don’t want to anger your mother.”

Birch rolled her eyes. “I wouldn’t tell her.”

Nal looked at Birch. “She already knows.”

Birch’s expression was confused. “How… is she already in there?”

Nal nodded. “That’s why she’s in the Utgard. To learn seidr.”

Birch felt a shock. “She’s not from the Utgard?”

“No, child. She’s not.”

“But what about me?”

“One day you will have to choose. You will have to choose many things.”

“And I can choose to go in there?”

“Maybe. One day.”

“Can you choose to go in there?”

This time Nal let the tears flow. “No. They won’t let me.”

Birch was outraged. If her other mother could… “That’s not fair. Why not?”

“I am…” Nal gestured between her legs. “I am disfigured. I’m not whole.” Her eyes darted to the woods. “And you can only do seidr if you are whole.” He voice cracked. “So they tell me.”

“What do we do now?”

“We go home. They will give us the telling. In words… or in dreams. It will come.”

Nal took Birch by the hand. “Let’s go.”

Birch dreamed of fire and snakes and wolves and a cloaked íviðjur, like the seidr but only half her face was covered. Then the women appeared from the forest, robes dark as the midnight ocean, blank faces shining like the moon. Blades dripping with fresh blood, pointed to the sky. Voices howling as one:

“How should one untangle the life of the Tangler?”

Their faces turned towards him. “Thus.”

Thunder shook Birch, deafening him. Yet, their voices remained clear.

“Call him son of lightning and tinder, or of needles, brother of the calm of the storm and of the lightning’s flash, father of the misfortune of hope and of vast omen, and of the concealed. And the oppressive night and the slayer; kinsman and uncle, wicked companion and bench-mate of the mad poet and the aes, visitor and chest trapping of the bloody spear, thief of risi and gýgr, of the goat, of amber, of the crafter’s balm, kinsman of the slippery one. Husband of the victorious lover, foe of the gods, harmer of the kin-wife, forger of the wicked, the sly god, slanderer and cheat of the gods. Contriver of the bright one’s death, the bound god, quarreling adversary of the one who brightens the world
And the shadow that darkens it.”

The dream-sky suddenly shook and lit up with the brightest lights Birch had ever seen. “Even the sons of people not yet conceived sing of the end: the famed sky-lights defender ready in wisdom, strives at the place of final conflict with the Tangled One, Lightning’s wicked-sly offspring; the son of mothers eight and one, mighty in wrath, possesses the Stone before the Tangler comes.”

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