Thursday, 29 September 2016

Whatever Happened to the Loki Lads?

At the time of the sun going below the earth, Fenrir son of Loki did have a great thirst upon him, and for this reason he was to be found once again drinking ale at the longhouse of Utgard in the land of Jötunheimr. In silence he watched as two serfs at the end of the hall held up a series of tableaux carved in relief upon great oak panels. The two serfs held first the one relief, then another, and then a third and yet more. Old Ganglati had seated himself at a table to one side from which he did tell the story that was seen upon those oaken panels. He shuffled his runestones and addressed all who would hear tell of the swimming match.

'Kjartan Ólafsson coming in from behind there, and King Ólafur Tryggvason sees not what is about to happen for the waters of the Vimur are still in his eyes and his vision is obscured.'

'Come on, Tryggvason,' Fenrir did mutter to himself before taking a gulp of his ale, words of encouragement for those who could not hear him. 'Come on, son.'

The serfs set down their relief and took another from the pile for to show the guests of the longhouse. The tableau showed Ólafsson pressing down upon the crown of his opponent, ducking him into the waters as Ganglati continued to give account.

'We've seen the king in this position before and it would be only a fool that would decree so soon an end to this match.'

'Hello, Fenrir. I thought I might find you in here.' The words were spoken by the serpent Jörmungandr who had come in from the cold of the ice and snow, for it was still upon his brow and his shoulders, and his face wore the look of an unhappy dog. 'Can I get you anything?'

Fenrir raised a hand to silence his brother, for this seemed a critical moment in the relating of the swimming match. In truth, he did not even set eye upon his brother, for he was so rapt.

'I'll take that as a no then, shall I?' Jörmungandr shook his head and sat himself down upon the bench, whereupon the serving-maid Ganglöt did attend to him. 'What do you fancy this evening,  Jörmungandr?'

'It's nice of you to offer, Ganglöt,' Jörmungandr smiled, 'but I think I'll stick to the ale if it's all the same.'

Ganglöt did giggle in a most pleasing manner, and then went away to fetch an ale, and so the serpent did turn his attention to the swimming match as related by means of oaken panel and the testimony of old Ganglati. 'I expect the king will be up against Eirik of Oprustader in the play-offs.'

For the first time, Fenrir drew his eyes from the tableau of the oaken panels to set them upon his brother with a gaze measured equally in restraint and warlike intent.

Jörmungandr gulped, understanding the fullness of his error. 'I mean if he wins, of course.'

Fenrir did then speak but his words were so quiet as to be unheard, their import revealed only in the sour furrow of his brow and the vigour with which he then drained his vessel of ale.

Jörmungandr set forth a smile with some caution. 'Well, you wolfed that down!'

'Very funny.' Fenrir took a carved token from within his robe of the kind serving as a stake to those who enjoy the sport of gambling, and he snapped it in two pieces in a spirit of disgust. No more did he attend to the speech of old Ganglati who did now give account of the victory of King Ólafur Tryggvason as his aides held aloft a wooden panel carved with a tableau of the same.

At that moment the serving-maid Ganglöt returned from the barrel with a great vessel of ale which she set before Jörmungandr, and as Jörmungandr took his first refreshing mouthful, a voice was heard, fluting and fussy like that of a woman.

'So this is where you've got to. You'll spoil your dinner, you know. I thought you said you were coming straight home.'

The words did cause great surprise to Jörmungandr who spluttered as his eyes became most wide and he did spray a froth of ale forth upon the table.

'Hello Gullveig,' said Fenrir to the woman who had spoken the words, then adding a diplomatic 'pet,' as though the endearment were an afterthought.

The woman Gullveig, betrothed of Jörmungandr, stood at the side of the table regarding these two sons of Loki with a certain measure of disdain, although she had not forgotten her manners and returned Fenrir's greeting accordingly, and in doing so, noted that he was without ale for the serving-maid Ganglöt had taken away his vessel. She turned then to her betrothed and said through lips drawn tight as the fundament of a scared man, 'Well, at least it's nice to see that your brother doesn't need to get drunk to enjoy himself. You should take a leaf out of his book, Jörmungandr.'

At that moment the serving-maid Ganglöt set another large vessel of ale down before Fenrir, who rubbed his hands together, licked his lips, and said, 'lovely. Thank you, Ganglöt.'

Gullveig rolled her eyes and looked up towards the rafters of the longhouse as though seeking fortification from above. 'Jörmungandr,' she began, 'you do remember that your uncle Thor is coming over for dinner this evening?'

'How could I have forgotten?' Jörmungandr spoke with a bitter tone, being well aware of the appointment, and finding himself less than happy at having been reminded. Swiftly he drained his vessel then called out to Ganglöt that she should bring him another. Noticing that his betrothed now regarded him with displeasure he submitted a diplomatic smile and told her, 'Holtland courage, dearest. You've said yourself how much he does go on.'

A great crack of thunder could be heard splitting the heavens all across the land of Jötunheimr. It was like a great bell which sounded within the building and all who were present felt it beneath their feet.

'Silly old sod,' said Fenrir with feeling.

Jörmungandr rolled his eyes, clearly thinking that his point had been illustrated very well.

'All the same,' Gullveig protested, 'he's your uncle, and it's your job we're thinking about, so it would be nice if I weren't the only one making an effort.' Her eyes did then seem heavy with dew as though she would soon burst forth with tears. 'And we still need to replace the mat in the guest bedroom after your father's little accident, and Berit will soon be closing up shop for the evening. I mean what are you going to tell Thor if he asks about the mess?'

'I'll tell him Loki had one too many when he came to stay at Jul, and I'm sure he'll be able to work out the rest for himself. You can hardly see the stain and they are brothers, you know? Sometimes you seem to think I'm made of mats.'

'Don't be so silly, Jörmungandr. I just want us to make the right impression is all.'

Jörmungandr's head sank forward so that it was upon the table.

Gullveig pursed her lips in the manner of a duck or some other water bird. 'Can I trust you to pick something up from Berit's hut and hurry home once you've had your drink?'

'Yes, darling,' said Jörmungandr with his face still pressed to the wood of the table as though conceding defeat to a powerful enemy.

'Never mind buying a mat,' Fenrir quipped in dour spirit as Gullveig took her leave of the longhouse, 'she believes that you are one! A door mat!'

At that very moment, the lur-horn did sound, played by old Ganglati to formally conclude his account of the swimming match. He blew four descending and mournful notes upon the instrument, with the last drawn out longer than the others, and it did seem to all as though the music made mock of Jörmungandr's sorry lot.

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