Stratford On Avon historic map 1902 Public Domain image

Part 2: Heimdall’s Seven

 

My steed and I left no traces in the snow as we departed. Mary Arden’s dead body lay behind me; Asgard and my friends just a short ride away through the skies. My duty was clear, yet I stopped, my face hardening in anger. “It’s not fair.” I could see the bridge out of the city only a few streets away.

Hoof-Tosser stopped and let his head droop as he glanced back. “There’s nothing to be done about it Gná. Humans die, children lose their parents, we cannot save them all. They go to their afterlife no matter what.”

“Mary Arden won’t go to the afterlife, nor will her children be reunited with her when they die, will they ?” He didn’t answer. “Will they !” I pressed.

“No need to shout,” his voice said in my head, “I hear you perfectly. And no, they won’t.”

“And why is that ?” I yelled, my face creasing in rage, “It’s because I  am Mary Arden. I am their mother, and I will not let them grow up without her.”

“You cannot return, dear one! Your curse… “

“I know I cannot, but Mary Arden can,” I said, eyes narrowing.

He turned and ambled back to me, eyes wide. “But you just said you are Mary Arden.”

“Then we’ll have to find another one, won’t we?” I smiled lopsidedly, eyes glinting.

He shook his mane. “You’ve lost your mind! You can’t possibly…”

“Oh but I can. Watch me.” Face grim, I called my power, my megin to me, feeling its channels glowing within my body, suffusing my blood, with all the might of my ancestors, allowing it to flow with increasing intensity as I sped and deepened my breathing. Breath is life, breath is flow, by breath I set my wyrd in motion.

I could do this; I had to. With palms open to the cloudy winter sky I called:

“Iostr![1] Arhalda! Vestra! Kari! Hear me Winds, from South-East I speak! Hear me Father, aunts and uncle! My need is great, I beg this boon: hold your breath ’til I am done.”

I stabbed my left hand skyward, hooking strands from each direction one finger at a time. Toes curling in my boots, I clutched at the lines of power below the earth – like a bird perched on a branch.

Grudgingly my kin gave the reins they held in Midgard. Snow halted its descent as the North agreed, flakes hanging frozen in mid-air while a low rumbling “humph” reverberated behind and in my belly.

A flute note rang from the West. Bird songs and sounds faded as she consented, till the tone’s breath faltered away to nothing.

People and pigeons slowed and became still as statues when the South gave her shrieking command to cease all strife.

Finally, my father’s voice whispered in my left ear; “There will be a price,” while the last gasping breath of awareness was stolen from each creature

Slowly, I closed my hand into a fist, straining against every small breeze, every gust, every wisp of wind that moved over Midgard. The little ones resisted, but I continued, grinding my teeth until all of them obeyed my will. When I was done, my breath alone stirred the eerie silence.

A grain of sand slowed its descent in a distant hourglass, falling ever slower until it stayed there suspended. I had stopped the Winds – All the winds. This is how we flew, Valkyries and I, by stopping the wind under our horses’ hooves, freezing air to make it still as solid ground. All sky-maidens could do so over a small area, to intervene in battle or fetch a soul, but I was a true daughter of the Winds and could do much more… at a cost.

I felt a horse’s nose bump into my chest. “Stop this!” He said, “You are letting human emotions cloud your reason.”

“I… will… not.” My breathing was labored, the effort crushing me like a corset. Eyes closed in concentration, I felt my way along his side until I could grab the saddle, step into the stirrup and pull myself on. “Ride… Hoof-Tosser,” I said as I settled in, his mane firmly in hand. “Take… to the skies.”

He snorted, but broke into a gallop. “You are insane, but it is good to ride with you once more. I will do as you ask, against my better judgment.”

Leaning into his neck, I allowed myself to laugh, enjoying his muscular form between my legs once more.

“To Asgard, quickly!” I said. “I do not know how long I can hold back the Winds.” Instead of forming the usual solid path of air below his pounding hooves, I had to release a sloping road for us to follow up into the skies – one where time was not frozen solid. Birds were suspended, unmoving as we passed them on our way up, a disturbing sight for a being of motion such as I.

“Where in Asgard?” he asked.

“I… Gefjon’s farmstead, she has souls there in her care. Surely we can borrow one for this, and she owes me favors.”

We punched a hole through a cloud as we rode, and I called out: “Heimdall! Let us in!”

Continuing our ascent, we soon reaching the sparkling world border of the upper atmosphere, still with no welcome from the White Watcher. Air was getting thinner and more inhospitable as the önd,[2] the life-breath that sustained us, thinned as well.

“Heimdall,” I yelled again, “we’re dying out here, there’s a life at stake; we need your welcome quickly!”

I felt a sudden rise in air pressure and sighed in relief as a warm gust ruffled my bangs, announcing he’d opened the ways between. We didn’t see a rippling veil, nor the usual rainbow bridge. It wasn’t even a doorway or tunnel that led to his watchpost on Himminbjorg, the Cliff of Heaven in Asgard.

A gigantic hand came hurtling toward me, crashing through the shimmering barrier with a boom.

In fright I shrieked, raising my arm as a shield to no avail.

Fingers of swirling of color the size of large tree trunks wrapped around us, as one would grab a small fairy riding a mouse, pinning me against Hoof-Tosser’s body. They then pulled us through the veil into the star field of space, before accelerating to the point where stars became lines of light.

With a pop we appeared in Asgard, barely noticing the blue sky’s return before we were slammed onto the dusty ground. I fell off Hoof-Tosser, fortunately, or he would have crushed me, but I was stunned, winded, and almost lost hold of my spell.

I raised myself on hands and knees, spitting dirt, only to see Heimdall and his seven warriors – wearing tabards with Odin’s gray and night-blue livery over chain mail – surrounding us at spear point.

“What,” he demanded with spittle foam flying out onto his beard, “is the meaning of this?” His graying hair was tightly pulled back into a short braid, as it always was while on duty,  to show off his missing left ear.

We were just past the rocky plateau where the Rainbow Bridge receives heroic souls to Asgard, though clearly we weren’t very welcome today. He was angry? Well so was I!

“I’d be more gladdened,” I scowled, “by your getting creative with your powers if you weren’t throwing a tantrum with me along for the ride. Thirty-three Midgard years I’ve been gone, and this is the greeting I get? Was that enough time for you to become an even bigger ass than before?” I tried to stand but one of the warriors knocked me down again with the blunt end of his spear.

“Stay down,” he ordered, “until my Lord Heimdall is done interrogating you.”

I briefly glared at him, before returning my gaze to the White World’s surly gatekeeper. I was formulating the most scathing insult I could find when he interrupted my thoughts.

“You do not have permission from our King to stop time in Midgard, and further, have no idea what missions are currently afoot there. Explain yourself at once or be branded a traitor to the realm!”

I really didn’t have time for this. There’s no such thing as a true time-stop, and if there were it would mean the death of anything within. Time was just slowed to a crawl, and I could feel it leaking away through my fingers.

“I’m dead, I mean… my children’s mother is dead,” I said, “and I must save her before it’s too late. Every second we wait, she decays further. Please, Lord of the Rainbow bridge,” I pled, “let me pass and resolve this matter quickly.”

He pondered my words as too many seconds flew by. “Release Midgard, and I will consider your words while I take you to our Lord Odin for judgment.”

“I… will … not!” I spat as I started pulling myself up. The same warrior tried to knock me down but I was ready this time, grabbed his spear and flung him over me to crash into his fellows. That move’s a lot easier when you can make people light as a feather. I snarled triumphantly at Heimdall. He just frowned even deeper and pointed to my right where Hoof-Tosser was still laying on his side… with four spears ready to pierce him.

“No! Please don’t hurt him!” I cried, raising open hands.

“Do as you’re told. I don’t want to injure him unless you force my hand.”

Defeated I sank to my knees, eyes resting worriedly on my companion, and nodded. “Father… help me,” I whispered, “all my megin, my power, is already in use holding Midgard, I have little to spare.”

An Eastern breeze started whistling, coming from over the cliff’s edge.

“Get up, both of you,” our keeper commanded, and we did.

The breeze rapidly turned to a wind, and the wind to a gale.

“What…” was all our jailor had time to utter before he and all his guards were thrown further inland by a hurricane force gust of wind.

Only I and Hoof-Tosser were spared, and I took off running toward the cliff, hoping he would follow while the warriors tumbled away.

“Wait for me!” he called out in my head just as I jumped into the Void Between Worlds.

Heimdall surely would not follow, I thought with a grin, since no one who’s done it has ever returned! Wait, maybe that’s not such a good…

 


Note: All comments are appreciated and help fuel faster writing and posting of these stories. 

[1] The East Wind’s name is pronounced “ee-oster.” East, South, West and North are named here, corresponding to the index, middle, ring and pinky fingers.

[2]Önd is is similar to prana, and pronounced like “und” with lips pursed. A closer match for ö is the “eu” sound in French – there is no such sound in English.

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Comments
  1. I can *see* it in my mind…the descriptive prose you use is fantastic. 🙂 Another amazing addition, I look forward to the journey!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lofnbard says:

      Thank you, and I really appreciate you commenting! Two years ago I was all dialog and action. I’ve worked hard to add all the senses and I’m glad to hear it’s working. 🙂

      Like

  2. sonyjalerulv says:

    I agree, very good descriptions. Being pulled in by a very angry Heimdall, good idea.

    Like

  3. sonyjalerulv says:

    I wanted to edit my comment but it don’t seem possible. I love the title btw, Heartcleft road. Very fitting. The explanation of how she can ride in the air is very interesting, a logical extension of her powers. The very end of this chapter made me smile (the ‘oops what did I just do’moment) but also worry.

    Like

    • lofnbard says:

      Yeah, I really like the title.
      As someone pointed out, the difference between a fairy tale and a fantasy novel is the amount of world-building and backstory involved. The writer needs to know how powers work and what’s going on in the world in much finer detail, at least where they intersect with their characters. The Eddas are pretty clear in stating that gods do not fly without borrowing a bird shape — they run, swim or ride through the skies, so I had to figure out how that worked and what range of powers it would give Gna. Each mechanic implies some limitations, and we see those hard limits causing her grief in later chapters as I use them against her. Because if it was easy to get out of this mess with a mere finger twitch, it wouldn’t any fun at all. 🙂

      Like

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