Posted: Jul 28, 2019, 4:21am
A Man woke behind foggy dry eyes. He could smell the burning embers of the great bonfire that had been light during the night. The ashen pile that he sat around was now cold and lifeless. A Man tried to raise himself from his makeshift bed, a wrap of cloaks and furs, but found he was held down to the ground by weariness and fatigue. It was hard to know how long he had slept, the sky never seemed to darken, but he would have thought it was hours.
His companion for the night had certainly seemed to have slept soundly. Móðguðr was awake and dressed, smiling as she twisted and braided her hair and looked down at the River Gjöll. Already her armour was fitted back onto her body, and her sword was lying across her lap.
A Man began to peel back the layers of the wrapped blankets. However, as each layer came away he found that the cold wind seemed not to bite as his bones as the day before. He wasn’t warm but the shiver didn’t shake his spine any longer. Móðguðr never appeared to let the cold get to her either, happy behind her breastplate and iron giant’s skin. Or perhaps it was the waters of life in her blood.
On the breeze there was the wailing wind, howling through the trees. It almost sounded like that of a woman, reaching out in pain through the layers of the world. As suddenly as it came it went again, the world settling itself.
‘You didn’t cross in the night,’ said Móðguðr, finishing her braid.
‘I thought you would wake,’ said A Man, finishing dressing.
Móðguðr smirked, ‘You would usually be right. But your music lulled me to a sleep I have never slept before. I use to have a wolf to keep watch at night. But she’s gone now.’
‘What happened,’ asked A Man.
‘She was taken, after the End. It took her, the great beast the dominates the skies. Níðhöggr, it is called. It broke free from its prison in Nástrǫnd when the End came.’
‘I felt its bite,’ said A Man, looking down at the ice-y pale scars that cover his body.
‘No doubt,’ said Móðguðr, ‘It is a fearsome hunter. I am surprised you escaped at all. It chews on the corpses of the dead. I suspect your still living soul hides you from It. For now.’
‘It did not hide my friend.’
‘I said 'hide', not make you invisible. Níðhöggr’s hunger was never satisfied before the Ragnarök. Now, when the souls no longer come over the bridge, It is starved.’
‘Then how will I get to Hvergelmir, without a dragon taking what I have left?’
Móðguðr smiled and lifted her sword. A Man braced himself for a slash across the face, curling into a habitual defensive position. But rather than strike down upon A Man, Móðguðr sliced the blade through a lock of her hair. The braid fell from to the ground and landed in the snow. A Man looked upon it closely. The inky jet blackness was almost jewel-like against the snowy white ground. It was long and thick, lying like a severed arm. At both ends, it was tied tightly with blue ribbons.
‘Giant’s hair,’ said Móðguðr as A Man reached his hand out to touch it. The fibres were cold and hard, bending like a thousand armoured snakes coiled together. ‘As strong as mythril usually. Perhaps a small bit of myself, born in the waters of Hvergelmir, will help protect you on your journey.
A Man was astounded. He gently picked up the strand and pondered what to do with it. Móðguðr reached down and helped fix it around his chest like a bandoleer.
‘Thank you,’ said A Man, ‘Truly. But why would you do this for me?’
‘As I said when we first did meet,’ said Móðguðr, ‘You look to be a lost soul, cursed even. Neither living nor dead, slowly turning to a draugr. You have my pity, something neither those on either side of this bridge has ever had.’
‘Perhaps there is something I can do in return?’ asked A Man, almost pleading.
Móðguðr thought for a moment, slightly taken aback. Then she smiled. ‘Return from Hvergelmir with one thing.’
‘Return here with your name.’