Fatherless Eir – Prologue

Posted: September 12, 2018 in Aesir & Asynjur, Eir, Handmaidens, Vanir
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Birthing Rope

Prologue – Nations At War

(Story index) – Next Chapter

Odin’s daughter cried out when she was born – a wail worthy of any Valkyrie announcing the death and sorrows to come. It made him proud, showing her battle spirit was strong. Even the chanting crescendo of seven midwives was not as loud as the scream of his newborn shield-maiden. Strips of red cloth hung from all rafters in the birthing hall, and blessings rained down from these like the blood of her ancestors, drop by drop in the dim light of clay oil lamps. None sat on the benches lining the side walls, and green fresh-cut grasses carpeted the ground of the birchwood longhouse. Three log pillars supported the roof. The women, clustered near the one at the front, used the door flap to let in more air as needed. He was at the opposite end, where breathing was more challenging. Burning pine sap vapors filled his nostrils with a cleansing scent, made cloying by the stifling heat. His blue tunic was soaked, clinging to his skin, sweat dripping from his brow onto the thundering drum he held.

The youngest midwife poured one last ladle of reddish water upon hot stones in the pit at the center of the hall, raising a scalding cloud of steam. Until now, that hiss had been the grandmothers and grandfathers breathing life into this new spark. The last pouring though, that was for the first breath of the babe, and the warming steam all around saved her from the cold shock of separation. It eased the transition from the womb to the world.

He had lost so many good people during the war, it was good to see new life from his loins. When her end came, as it comes to all, seven mourners would raise wails within these walls to ease her passage from the world into the mists beyond. To the Vanir, death and birth were journeys that mirrored each other, Odin reflected as he pounded the last birthing beats on his oiled drum. For now though, his heart swelled with joy and a large grin split his face. It was time to approach his newest daughter!

His lover’s golden braid had come loose while she clung to the thick vertical birthing rope, knotted to serve as handholds. She was finally allowed to sit, and the babe was bathed before being placed in her arms.

“She’s beautiful,” he breathed as he knelt before her, eyes ablaze in wonder.

“And she will go where I cannot,” Vanagreta nodded in exhausted exhilaration as she cradled her child close.

===

The Asa-King reveled in the simple life of fatherhood, watching the little girl learn to walk.

“Come to me, Eir,” he said from his seat in the leisure hall next to the central fire. The mansion had many rooms, for his lady was a noble of the royal line of Nerthus. He may have been a fool for a pretty face, but he wanted to be a comfortable fool. More than that, he had wanted to sire powerful children while in Vanaheim – ones he hoped would return with him to Asgard.

She giggled, stood up on shaky legs, and waddled over into his waiting arms. She squeaked as he picked her up and scrunched her face at the tickle of his graying beard.

“I wish you hadn’t given her a low caste name,” Vanagreta said, leaning cross armed in the door frame.

“Her hair is copper, it seemed appropriate to name her that,” he shrugged. “And it won’t matter if she ever comes to Asgard.”

“Which she won’t,” the lady countered with an arched eyebrow.

“Of course, darling,” he said with a well-practiced smile. “It was just a stray thought.”

“Don’t think I don’t know your mind, you old schemer!” she scolded with a bemused expression.

He simply nodded, held up the babe, and continued dreaming of the goddess she might become.

===

Like a fight between lovers, the Aesir-Vanir war had begun as a misunderstanding – a poorly chosen word; a perceived disrespect. Insults followed, like steel striking flint; tempers smoldered and fell upon the dry grass of old grievances. Then bloody bodies dropped, and there was no going back, as the flames of vengeance spread and clouded even the keenest minds with hatred.

The sky gods had waged years of war against the earth gods, though neither gained the upper hand. Peace-loving Frigga sent her messenger maiden to Nerthus many times before a truce could be forged. The Aesir lass flew across the sky upon her steed Hoof-Tosser, to the consternation of many Vanir below. “What flies there?” they asked, “What fares there? Or moves through the air?” In answer, they only had the ringing echoes of Gna’s elfin laughter, her being daughter to an Alfar and a Wind.

Once hostilities had halted, Odin called upon his menfolk and those of the Vanir to come together and seal this alliance. They spoke and they spat to seal their promise of peace. But saliva of gods was deemed so holy that it could not to be wasted, and thus they had all spit into a vat. The collective wisdom of deities was mixed with precious powders and shaped into the form of a man. This man was named Kvasir, and he was wisest of them all, for no question could be asked to which he did not have an answer. They rejoiced at this great miracle, but argued about where he should live. The Vanir claimed the all-knowing man as one of their own, and so did the Aesir. Were it not for Snotra’s soothing words and Gna’s great diplomacy, it would have come to blows and broken the budding alliance.

Njord was the one who found the solution, though the cost to him was great. He and his children, Frey and Freya, volunteered to live in Asgard as peace hostages. Then Odin offered his oracular uncle Mimir and his quiet brother Hoenir to the Vanir. This arrangement went well at first. So well in fact, that Odin had gone with a number of his men to visit Vanaheim.

“We of Asgard are mighty, but we are few,” Odin had told his Aesir companions as they sailed, “and we need to populate our land with more strong sons and daughters. So I urge you to befriend the mightiest of their women, to gain their trust and their lust, so that you may sire more children for our tribe. Do this, and I will reward you with a position on my council.” The men smiled and nodded, for Odin had chosen those who would enjoy such a task. Thor was left at home to defend the kingdom – their virtuous defender would never have agreed to such a plan.

“This will, of course, help cement the peace between our peoples, so it is not entirely selfish. Give them pleasure, and only do so with their consent. Even if hatred still burns within your heart for the lives they took, we do not wish to give them reason to start the war anew. Let us take this chance instead to learn to love our new allies,” the Aesir king said with a wink, and received a chorus of chuckles from his audience.

It was Vanagreta whom Odin seduced, the Pearl of the Vanir. She was a daughter of the Royal Line of Nerthus, and her power lay in bringing perfection to the crops. Under her care, the kernels of wheat grew plumper with each planting, and the carrots grew sweeter, as she carefully selected which seeds to bless and propagate from the best of the previous year. With an eye toward improving her own progeny, she had accepted the advances of the All-Father during many nights of passion, and soon grew with child. Their romance could be told, but that would be another story.

While the Asa-men seduced their way across the land, the Vanir grew discontent with their hostages. They had made Odin’s brother Hoenir a chieftain among them, but whenever he was asked an opinion on a difficult issue at assemblies, he said others should decide. Suspecting they had been cheated with a half-wit for a hostage, one of the Vans flew into a rage. Yet it was not on the useless Hoenir that his anger focused, but rather on the far more valuable oracle of Asgard.

Gifted with prophecy, Mimir’s eyes unfocused as he saw his own doom unfolding. Alas there was nothing he could do to forestall it. Every choice he could make ended in his death, and so he let the Vans push him down onto a table while he muttered an incantation. A battle axe came down moments after his final words, and the head rolled. Most men would have lost consciousness from shock, but the ancient giant was made of sterner stuff – for what little good it did him. And so he survived decapitation for another full minute, silently praying for the wellbeing of his sister Vör. If anyone had inspected him then, they would have spied the tears he shed, for now she would be more alone than ever as an ancient giantess in Asgard.

No longer will I be able to watch out for you, little sister, I am so sorry I got you involved in the plans of my nephew, were his final thoughts before darkness extinguished this mighty mind.

Wrapped in a blanket, the Vans sent their message of displeasure in a willow basket.

===

Three loud raps on the door were heard, but Odin saw none before him when he opened it. A peal of thunder was heard as he sought his visitor through the rain, but only a wicker cradle lay on his doorstep. Curious, he took it in and peeled back the cloth.

When the Asa-King peered down at the grisly package though, he grew grim, blood draining from his face – almost matching the gray of his tunic and beard. Setting it down, he pressed palms to his eyes and attempted to steady his ragged breathing while his lover approached.

“What is wrong, my darling?” She asked, brows furrowed in concern. Then she saw the unseeing dead eye peeking from the basket, and took a step back.

“Me and my kin have overstayed our welcome,” he said with a quivering voice, “and I must depart.”

Vanagreta cried and then raged, commanding him to remain and raise their daughter who was now three winters old.

“You must stay! Your daughter needs you. And I need you. You cannot just leave. We have a…”

“Would that I could,” he interrupted in sorrow, as he had come to care deeply for them both, “but I must return to my home while my neck and head remain attached. It is not safe for me to stay.”

“Coward!” she cried as she beat upon his chest, golden hair coming undone from its braids. “This is the deed of one man, a few at most. Nerthus will see justice done!”

Little Eir woke and wandered to the doorway. She spied upon her screaming mother, clutching in confusion the wolf doll given by her father.

“No, it is time for me to go. But you could come with me,” he continued, eyebrows raised high in hope.

“And what? Be your mistress? I know well that you have a wife, and hold no wish to join the hostages our people have lost. Certainly not as a mere concubine!”

“It’s not like that,” he protested weakly. “You’d be honored as…”

“Go,” she said through clenched teeth, turning around to hide her tears. “Go and be cursed, you cowardly scum. I curse you once, that you shall never see your daughter again, for I shall raise her to hate you. I curse you again, that you shall lose what you treasure most, for I am goddess of pearls and perfection. Thrice I curse you, that you shall forget your daughter’s name as soon as you leave this house, so that you may not seek her out.”

With a heavy hearted groan, Odin looked once more at unblinking eye of his uncle in the basket, then to his daughter. He went to one knee and embraced her one final time as she ran to him, whispering a charm in her ear as he did.

“Daddy?” the girl whimpered. “Don’t you love me?”

He pursed his lips tight, holding back tears, and then disentangled from her arms as he stood.

“No,” he lied. “You were a selfish mistake, and I don’t need you anymore.” He would not have her pining for a missing father. Better to make a clean cut and let the wound heal.

“But Daddy…”

“Live a good life, my little copper cup of joy, and forget about the foolish man who sired you. I wish… I… I wish things could have been different. Grow wise,” he said, and as his voice grew hoarse with emotion he added, “If there is any part of me that lives within you, then make your mother proud.” His throat closed then, allowing no further words to leave his lips. Only a soft rasp of anguish rumbled as his fists opened and closed, hands that would likely never hold the girl again.

Her doll fell from her grasp as she erupted into tears of mewling lament. Turning her head, she witnessed her father take his wide brimmed hat and cloak, slipping them on as he regarded her with a weary haunted gaze. She barely saw him go out into the rain, eyes clouded by her own downpour of salty drops.

Her mother, still turned away, wrung her own hands but never looked back.

Once outside, he blinked, and the past three years grew hazy in his memory – as if they had been a dream. Yet the head of his Mimir drew his attention, and he assumed that the wetness upon his cheeks was for that loss. Grief now struck him full force as he walked away, face stern, yet soaked by the storm of his eyes that would not cease.

As he journeyed back to his ship, he felt a hollow ache within his breast. A part of his very soul had been stolen and he vowed to get it back, whatever it was, so that it could fill the terrible heart void he felt. He was a king though, not a bare-cheeked lad weeping over lost loves. With clenching jaw and narrowing eyes, he stopped at a market. He would need embalming herbs to preserve the head.

Note: Eir is one of the words for “copper” in Icelandic.

(Story index) – Next Chapter

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Comments
  1. Ly says:

    YAY for new story from you!

    This is a great start to the new story and I can’t wait to read more and see how it turns out. 😀😀😀

    Like

    • lofnbard says:

      Thank you! I got this story in 2011 after dedicating a weekend of First Aid and CPR training as offering to Eir. It was much shorter and didn’t quite feel right. But I’ve outlined a new version over the summer and I hope this one works. She’s young and foolish, but she grows out of it.

      One thing I can say with certainty is that she’s a battle medic, and is not sweetness and light.

      Like

  2. Ly says:

    Also to add, the Odin as tourist view is a great intro.

    Again great to see more story – I feel like I get to know the goddesses more when I read them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. caelesti says:

    Welcome back! Beautifully & vividly told.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amber Drake says:

    A great story!
    I can’t wait to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

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