Trigger Warning. Sexual Content. Fertility rites.

 

I was so young, barely a woman, on the day everything changed.

Those descended from the royal line of Nerthus are gods among my people. I never wanted to be a goddess, but that choice was not mine to make. By order of our Queen, I was sent to the remote plains of Northern Vanaheim with a single servant – to be the local goddess among common folk who had not seen me grow up.

My temple was a large hollow mound, with standing stones all around. Within it I reclined on my couch, sipping smoke from the long stem of a white clay pipe, and awaited my supplicants. A dim orange light infused my hall from the wind-eyes[1] all around; holes covered with thin vellum leather, stretched and oiled.

Beaten gold coins hung as jingles from my breast-band and belt. Below those, a blue string-skirt hid what little modesty I had left.

My dark-haired handmaiden led the couple in, all of them wearing only breechcloths[2]. The pair clutched each other, nervous as they peered through the misty hall. He was a bare-cheeked lad and she a young woman, recently married no doubt. They showed identical braids of light-brown hair down the middle of their backs, as they approached the tripod brazier on the left side of the room.

“An offering,” he said, taking herbs from the bowl beside the burning coals. “To please the goddess we honor, that she may bring us fullness.” The fumes rose as he cast them, with tentacles of smoke spreading their heady scent through the room. He inhaled and stepped back.
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Women of the Armored Combat League

Chapter 19 – Torn Between

(Click here to read from the beginning)

Once more, twelve dead Asgardians in their finest armor made around us the circle of law. Shining Balder stood out in his pale tunic, one of the few men among many fallen shield-maidens. It was odd seeing the exuberant god of peace being so quiet.

Mordgud waited on my left, both of us wearing black. Hlin was across with white tabard over mail. Syn beside her had shrouded herself in the brown hood of her cloak, hiding eyes in shadow once more.

Will siding with Syn make things better, I wondered, biting my lip, or am I gambling away the last few friends who will have me? I clenched my jaw, glancing at Garm. No, these two watched me fail, without warning me to my fate, all for political gain. They are jailers and puppeteers, not friends.

Mordgud gave me a pat on the back, with a smile I refused to return.

“Cheer up,” she whispered, “you passed your initiation test with flying colors. Once we settle this affair, you can go visit your son William.”

What? I… she… Read the rest of this entry »

Chapter 18 – The Price of Murder

(Click here to read from the beginning)

I couldn’t move. I could barely feel my body as I lay there on my back, but there were voices.

“I’m sorry, all right?” a voice said. “I didn’t mean to kill her. She was my friend too.” Syn, that had to be Syn.

Silence. I could imagine Hlin’s disapproving look. Mothers have mighty power when it comes to making people feel guilty. Good! Let her feel shame, I thought.

“I was so angry,” she continued. “She wouldn’t yield, and after she used that hellish magic I… lost control. My old habits kicked in.”

I heard a deep sigh. “That may be, but we now have a corpse rather than a captive, and that friend is lost to us forever. So close to Helheim, we may not even be able to bring back the body for a proper mourning and funeral,” Hlin said.

“I’ll carry her back myself,” Syn answered softly, her voice cracking. “I owe her that much.” Read the rest of this entry »

Chapter 17 – Bridge of Blades –

(Click here to read from the beginning)

I was floating on fluffy clouds, eyes closed, enjoying how they gently rocked me back and forth. But as the winds rose, their motion shook me with rising violence.

“Stop shaking me,” I commanded, but they did not obey. I opened my eyes.

A giant face filled my entire view of the sky, that of a man more wrinkled and ancient than time itself. What manner of wind god is this? Read the rest of this entry »

Chapter 16 – Dance of the Munin –

(Click here to read from the beginning)

Grisella’s fish were long dead by the time we reached the front of the castle, and my wife was shivering in shock. The lower half of her green dress remained soaked, and despite my warming arms around her, I kept hearing the rattling of teeth.

Ganglati stood solemn before the great doors, barring our way. No torches burned in welcome, and only the moon illuminated her wrinkled face. All was quiet around the castle, the dead resting in their mounds no doubt.

“I’ll be taking those fish, miladies,” she said with unusual gentleness. “They need to be prepared for the feast. May I ?”

Reluctantly, Grisella’s hands parted from her chest. Still clutching the hem of her skirt as a basket, she left an opening for Grisella to reach in.

“Thank you, Milady,” said the maid with a smile, “I’ll be taking good care of them.”

My wife nodded, and we watched Ganglati head for the kitchen entrance to the left.

Mordgud stepped around us to grasp the door handles. “Now that this is settled,” she said grimly, looking down, “we have a funeral feast to attend.”

I nodded, bracing myself for hours of wailing. Surely there would be professional mourners, veiled in black, pulling at their hair and crying out the loss of those three who were sacrificed. Hlin would love to see how they do it here, I thought. It was likely around three in the morning and I was less than enthused at the prospect of staying up all night for this.

When Mordgud pulled open the fresh pine door and its rotting wood companion however, the sounds of a great of a celebration poured out. She gave a crooked smile and winked as she waved us in. Read the rest of this entry »

Chapter 15 – Down With The Fishes –

 

I was startled awake by the knock on the door, just one tap, repeated every few seconds. Ganglati I suppose…

My wife was still purring, head on my chest. How strange that I have a wife now, I mused, when not long ago I had a husband. For that matter, am I a widow if I’m the one who died? Or am I still married to him? I suppose it doesn’t matter, if Hela held her end of the deal, since Mary Arden’s body lives once again.

With a hand on her forehead, I pulled Grisella’s eyelids open. No response. The rapping at the door continued, so I lifted her up enough to free myself. As I walked past the iron frame mirror, I spied my reflection getting her own gambeson from atop the chest. Her face sagged as she slipped it on.

Is the other me good to my family in Midgard? Does she make little horses out of twigs to amuse William? I hope she has a kind soul. Read the rest of this entry »

Chapter 14 – The Black King’s Bride –

 

 

My wife shook herself and then stood straighter, still clinging to my waist as we watched the queen return to her throne.

“Before she can begin her mission to Guthugg,” Hela began as she sat, “we shall…”

I went pale. “Guthugg? Have you lost your mind? You can’t send her there! I won’t let you.” I enfolded my wife in my arms.

“She can do what we cannot,” Hela countered with a slight shrug.

“No. Just… no. Find someone else,” I said.

“Gna?” my lover asked. “Why are you shaking? And what’s Guthugg?”

I took a few deep breaths. “G-Guthugg,” I spat. “That’s the Christian Otherworld. That’s where she wants to send you.” I brandished a fist at the Hela.   “I won’t let you send her there to be enslaved or destroyed!”

“Gna,” the Queen spoke gently. “Even you must agree; something has to be done.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preparing to Prevail

Name means “Protectress”

The twelfth is Hlín: she is established as keeper over those whom Frigg desires to preserve from any danger; thence comes the saying, that he who escapes ‘leans.’ Her name is pronounced “Hleen” in Icelandic. (1)

 

Musings on The Hero’s Path

“Help me! Save me!” When you cry out for help to the Asynjur, when you need a hero, it is Hlin who hears and answers. You could see her as a Norse Kwan Yin, the one who “hears the lamentations of the world,” were it not for her also being a formidable warrior and weaponsmaster rather than a pacifist. She embodies the path of the hero and guides those who walk it, all of it, not just the parts people applaud. Read the rest of this entry »

 


My writer’s circle had a day where we challenged each other to do something very different from our usual style. My challenge: “Write in a universe with no gods. Main character is an atheist doing something completely mundane.” Thus Roger’s Plan was born!

Sorry, no Gna chapter this week. A new section inserted itself at the top of Chapter 13, and I haven’t had time to edit the rest of to make sure it matches. I hope you enjoy the filler!

 

Roger frowned. There was, once more, no coffee in the office coffee maker. Oh sure, there was the smell hanging around the kitchenette, but it only served to taunt him. Olivia got her coffee. George got his. Even the new guy, Richard – even he got his cup of coffee. It was like this each morning, as Sarah made and distributed the black gold to everyone but himself.

He sighed, straightened his tie, and formed his fake smile solidly onto his face before heading back into the pit. It irked him greatly that Sarah’s desk faced the kitchenette door, forcing unwelcome eye contact every time he left the coffee room.

There she sat at her cubicle, silently mocking him, with an equally fake smile as she nodded to him. The perfume of her hairspray wafted unpleasantly to his nostrils, dispelling the pleasant aroma he’d just enjoyed.

So that’s how you want to play it, eh blondie? We’ll see about that. Read the rest of this entry »

Chapter 13– Feast of the Dead –

Amazingly, we made it out in time for the evening feast.

Grisella was a fast and eager student once I got her relaxed. Gifted even, and I had no regrets on that front about our accidental marriage. If you really want to know the details of our lovemaking – and it was lovemaking, not sex – then you have a dirty mind, and I approve. I’m still not going to tell you though. Some things should stay private between wife and wife.

Down the stairs we went, hastily dressed. I ignored the outer bone doors to my left and went with her through the ebony ones. I gave a lustful glance to the vast library as we passed, but there was no time to dally since we wanted food. After all that exercise, assaulting Hela was also a lower priority than dealing with my tummy’s rumblings. Our hands were still bound. Let them wonder at that, I thought with a grin.

One last set of doors and we were in the great hall, filled with people in their best tunics, sitting on benches at the trestle tables. Same layout as when I first faced Hela, minus the dust and most of the cobwebs. I wondered how they managed to go from that “deserted for decades” look to a “fit for feasting” one every night. And presumably back to the creepy version afterward.

A minstrel played a violin nestled against his beard, a sad haunting tune, slowly making his way around the room. His colorful costume had saw-tooth trims of white and red on his long burnt-orange coat. He bowed to me as he passed and kept going.

Deeper within, Hela sat on her throne of bone. Sun had set, so again I couldn’t discern what the stained glass behind her was showing. Come to think of it, there was that whole ruined side of the castle behind what I presumed was an inner courtyard – so how was it ever illuminated? Her impassive gaze paused on us, then continued. She wore a dress of flowing black velvet tonight. Only her bony foot moved, slowly tapping along to the tune. Heh, never would’ve pegged her as the foot-tapping kind. Read the rest of this entry »