Excerpt: Thorn-Chapter 9 Ask & Embla

The Story So Far: Loki and his two traveling companions have drunk from Mimir’s elixir. Filled with knowledge and power but also damaged from the experience, they decide to create something: humans


The two brothers were huddled next to a fire. The night had been long and almost brutally cold. The things they had created, those gentle mockeries of aes and aesynja still lay on the beach. Their thrashing had stilled at the recognition of the condition; they lived and thought and felt but they could not move.

Lodurr poked at the fire. “Why did they do this?”

“Who?”

“The three who were from the seas. The fates. Fate. Why bring this horror?”

Oske shrugged and absently rubbed at the socket of his missing eye. “Maybe it isn’t a horror.” He said, tired. “Maybe we just didn’t have the strength. If my other brother…”

Hoenir looked to him.

Oske shook his head. “Long dead now. Long enough at least that I should not be moaning about it like a fool in his cups. I thought…” he sighed. “I thought I had the strength to do something beautiful for a change. Not to say this world isn’t beautiful…”

“But it’s based on a death.”

Oske snorted. “Aren’t all things? Whether it’s based on a little death or a large one, don’t all things end?”

Lodurr smiled “You’re asking me? I’m fresh to this world, barely full-grown, let alone wise enough to tackle questions like that.” He poked the fire, again. “Besides, I only want to answer to this.” He pointed back to the bodies. “Not the mysteries of the universe.”

“Best we leave it.”

The advice was sound, if sad, and Lodurr recognized it. But as equally as he recognized it, he saw that something had shifted within him. If Oske had paid the price with vision, and Hoenir with speech, then Lodurr’s price had been patience. He could no longer tolerate it. No longer deal with the boredom that came with acceptance. Things had to have a conclusion.

They had to.

The fire in his eyes reflected the passion on seeing this through to the end. Lodurr grabbed a brand from the fire and headed off to the beach.

“Come back!” he screamed. “Come back and tell us how to make this right!”

He hurtled the brand as far as he could into the surf, watched as it sputtered and died and then marched right back to the fire to get another. The third time he did so, Oske muttered that he’d put the fire out before he got a response.

Lodurr just grinned with a peculiar kind of madness. “Then scream into the cold.”

The third brand that he threw seemed to arc up and into the darkness only to descend behind the horizon. And a sea wind rushed back and roared past them all. Lodurr seemed to listen intently.

There was a snatch of song upon that wind.

And now he knew what it meant.

They could hear him cackling from the beach all the way over to the fire. And then he dashed over to them. “It’s a love song. It was always a love song.”

“What was?”

“What the wyrda sang. And what they meant. Is mise tarraing na farraige. It’s in the language of the alfr. The Old Tongue. Their mother’s tongue. The lover of the great screamer. Her words.”

And Lodurr began to sing:

I am the drag of the sea.
The big, fierce wave
I am the surf crashing

I am the doe that grows seven tines
The cliff hawk
I am the dewy sun

I am the fair face of the flower
The bristled sow
I am the selkie in the water

I am the calm lake
The word of experience
I am the echo in the valley

We were born in struggle
We are the goddesses who inflame the hidden heart
Our passion will blaze on the hills

We come to the turn of the moon
From the place where the sunset falls.

Oske frowned. “I don’t understand.”

Lodurr twirled around. “The song! The dance. The connection. Love. You cannot make a birth. Cannot force creation. You can only bear its presence.”

Oske shook his head. “You’ve gone mad.”

Hoenir simply watched in wonder, as if part of him understood.

“Life cannot come from one alone. Life will always come from two.”

Lodurr spun again and then abandoned all pretext. Te’s form became slighter, more in the way of the alfr. Te’s demeanor grew sharper and more insightful. Te felt free, once more.

“Argr.” Oske said, though without any specific malice.

Lodurr reached down ter throat and tore out ter name. Discarded it into the fire. Then pulled out the coal of it with his bare hand and raced over to the two forms, giddy with glee.

Lopt squatted over the two, ter hand smoldering. “I’ll tell you a story.”

Their limbs started to squirm again. Their hands shook with the effort of wanting to move.

“The world is so big and we are very small. Follow the cold and you will find the Ginunngap, the place between the legs of the All-mother, where all life comes from. That’s past Niflheim, Mist-home, where the dead wander so they can feel the cutting of their ghostflesh and find peace in long cold slumber. Alfheim lies towards the sea. That’s the place of the children of the mor regin. In losalfheim, they live in great halls, modeled on the ships that took them into the world. But others bury themselves in the flesh of the Allmother like maggots on a wound. Those are the people of svartalfheim and they produce things of great beauty from what they dig from the ground.

There’s Helheim, the hidden lands. My companion, Oske, knows the way but you won’t find it easily. It’s hidden. And towards the black trees, towards the smoke, is Muspelheim. That’s where the Skinner lives, and he has a very, very long reach.

Towards the sun’s rise, there is the land of the beautiful ones, Vandrheim. Bright as the sun in their dress and jewelry, they hold gold above all else but they are dangerous. And from Thyrmheim, you can see them and Thrudheim and Gladheim rises highest above all, even clouds. And there is Jotunheim.”

Lopt took ter finger and drew it over the cooling coal. Painted a unique symbol on one, then the other. “There is a tradition in the heart of the world. To name something that binds them to the world. Among the alf, it is their ancestors; among the jotunn, it is a feature of Allmother.”

Lopt looked at the coal, blew on it, and felt its warmth blossom into pain once more. “Once, I had two siblings. One died; one I saved, but I do not know that one’s fate. Both of their names were taken from them. So now I gift them to you.”

Te put the coal in ter mouth, held his mouth open over their faces, and watched as the faces blushed with life. The blush then spread from its source and infused their bodies.

Lopt crushed the coal with ter teeth and spat the ashes onto one, them to the other. They rose and te helped them to their feet.

Then te brought them gently to the surf lapping up onto the shore.Te kissed the woman on her head. “You are Elm” te said.

Te then kissed the man on his head. Visions of ter little brother being lead away by Ran filled ter heart and tears came. “You are Ash.”

And with that, the two came fully being and fell to their knees, weeping as the moon set and, behind them, the sun began to turn night into day.

Oske watched the whole thing with wonder.

“Then from the many, did three come forth. On the land they found, ashen and trembling, empty of wit and spirit. And third did give to them their final blessings. Hue and speech and senses. From ash they rose and from ash they must return.”

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