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Winter Thrice by Steven Rossa



Down here everything has become old and stale, as if time has finally abandoned me to decay. My walls are decorated in shadows across shades of cold blue and gray; I bore at the sight of it all. Frostbite has made my home numb and dull under a suffocating mist, a never-ending blanket for the never-ending sleep. I have been biding my time patiently in this most melancholy place, under the world near the roots of everything. My subjects grow in numbers at the slow pace of a lifetime each, the afterbirth of the true warriors. I have been patient, this will not due any longer.

***

            The roots had grown like a spider’s web through his ears and nose, his hair entwined with them over the ages. They wrapped around his head and up into his neck, holding him upright for all eternity. Below, three Norns sat like statues guarding the secrets of the universe. The well of wisdom lay calm at their feet, underneath the great titan’s head. Then, slowly from her solemn position, one of the Norns moved forward. Her sisters and the giant were in a deep sleep, the time was right, she had to act swiftly.

The Norn reached out slowly, grasping a drinking horn that was resting among the roots. She took it and knelt to the pool, causing gentle ripples as she dipped it into the water. The Norn’s eyes glanced upward at the others, all still in a ritualistic trance. She was full of fear and excitement not felt since the First War, when she was truly most alive. The Norn quietly stowed the horn upon filling it to the top, careful to not spill. She then unsheathed her dagger and cut a long slender root free from the overgrowth, concealing it within her robe afterward. She moved closer now towards the monstrous head, trembling as she severed a fistful of hair from the slumbering God of old. Her final task would be the most dangerous. After collecting her trinkets, the Norn moved even closer now, until she was upon the titan. She carved a small piece of an exposed tooth away, pocketing it immediately. Quickly and without hesitation she made her escape to deliver the magical gifts to her mistress.

***

“What have you brought me, Norn?” Hel demanded to her agent as she approached.

“I have what I promised. I bring you the power of death and destruction. I bring you your fate, I bring Ragnarök,” the Norn whispered.

            The Norn lay the three items on the floor at her feet gently, side by side. Hel was visibly perplexed; her face appeared puzzled and angered by such simple things. She scoffed as she examined each item in haste, wondering what use a stick, a piece of bone, and string could possibly have to her.

“Is this some sort of joke, Norn? Why have you wasted my time and littered my floor with such things?” Hel demanded, growing enraged.

“These are not mere items of Midgard, these come from the bottom of the World Tree, they come from the shrine of Mimir!”

Astonished at the Norn’s explanation, Hel nearly gasped aloud as she realized the significance of it all. “This stick, this is wood from Yggdrasill! What are these other items then? Quickly now, tell me!”

“The twine is of Mimir’s hair, and the bone is from one of his teeth,” the Norn replied, as she gently picked up the morbid gifts. She began to wrap the long gray locks of hair around the tooth like the roots of Yggdrasill around Mimir’s head. She then fastened the shard to the end of the root-staff, revealing a spear made of both titan and World Tree. “I give you this, Hel of Niflheim. A weapon even the All Father cannot defend against. I give you the spear of Mimir.”

“I am impressed, Norn. You have outdone yourself, truly. But tell me old woman, how will I use this against Odin, the all-seeing and all-knowing one? How will I ever defeat him if he can see his own fate? Surely he will know what I plan.”

“I have one more gift for you,” the Norn said through a crooked smile, reaching into her dark cloak. “I have water from the well which grants both wisdom and power,” she explained, presenting the final gift.

“I still do not understand. This will give me the same knowledge that Odin possesses and nothing more. I will see the fate of the nine worlds. I already know how that story ends and it is not with me as the victor.”

“I have inscribed the horn, my Goddess of Death. The runes I have carved in its side will need a blood sacrifice, though. One of greatest importance to you. Then, once you spill this revered blood into the water, drink from it and you will not only know the fate of the universe but have the ability to re-imagine it, and Ragnarök, as you wish! You merely need to envision the future you long for as you sip, and it shall be so.”

“And Odin cannot see or know what will then be, he only knows what once was?” Hel questioned further.

“Precisely. You will have the power to alter the events of Ragnarök in any way you wish. You can decide who will win and who will lose. Who will live and who will die. You can determine your own new fate and the fates of all, and it will come to be by the time you finish drinking.”

“You have outdone yourself, Norn,” Hel said, now smiling with a glimmer of light flickering in her eyes for the first time in ages.

“Tell me, how do you dream the story of Ragnarök now? How will you be victorious over the Gods and all the warriors of the realms? In this moment I cannot foresee what has yet to be realized, for what I know is to be undone and all will be anew to me.”

“I suppose I will tell you, Norn. Not that it matters much anyway. A plague. I will send horror and death so inescapably dark and terrible no man can withstand it. I will send pestilence upon Midgard and across all the worlds, killing every living being and sending them here to me, filling my army’s ranks beyond any adversaries. Then, my army of the dead will outnumber all the warriors of Valhalla and their pitiful Gods. I, with this spear, shall bring the long winter and finally slay Odin.”

“And who shall be your sacrifice? Death requires life; it must be the blood of a being you hold in highest regard, someone or something that has such a meaning they demand the death of all. Whom do you hold dearest, Hel?”

“You mean to tell me you cannot foresee even this simple act, Norn? She who spins the threads of fate and sees the future of everything?”

“No, my visions blur and are lost in seas of gray as fate is taken out of my hands. Now, as our future begins to alter, I cannot foresee how you will re-write fate until you commit to the deed.”

Hel stepped forward now, moving to the side of the Norn as she placed a hand upon her shoulder and whispered gently, “Why I hold you, of course, in my highest regard. Who else has given me so much? My deepest desires all delivered by one woman; this is the one I hold dearest.”

Suddenly, the tip of the spear pierced the Norn’s ribs just as Odin had been pierced while hanging from Yggdrasill so many years ago. Blood, as dark as the Norn’s cloak spilled while life left the helpless Norn. As Hel pulled the spear out, the Norn collapsed lifelessly to the floor, shock and betrayal forever affixed to her face. Holding the tip of the spear over the horn, blood dripped from Mimir’s shard of tooth into the well water. Hel imagined what would soon be. Her mind held witness, Ragnarök re-envisioned in silence and solitude from her dead underworld.

“No more leftover scraps from Father's table.”

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