Good Witch, Bad Witch !
A Kingdom Cursed
About the time Ulfrun began to walk and talk things began to change in the Jotun kingdom. At first these occurrences of bad luck were confined to the king's great hall, but as time went by they expanded throughout the kingdom and affected many of his Jotun people. In the beginning they were just little things. A serving maiden came down with an odd illness. Boils erupted all over her body that oozed an ugly black pus. The servant maiden recovered, but she was horribly scarred for life. Then while a king' s guard was putting away Ulfrun' s toys he slipped on one of them, fell awkwardly on the floor, and broke his neck. Everyone in the hall was too concerned with the fallen warrior to notice little Ulfrun giggling over the guard's misfortune.
Another servant, who had taken away a horn of mead that the child was trying to sip from, choked to death that same night on a piece of bread that became lodged in her throat. Once again no one paid any attention to the little princess at the end of the table who was smiling as she was drinking mead from one of the adult's horns. The elders were all too busy trying to save the life of the poor servant.
Then, one year the spring became rather rainy, which allowed the crops a good start, but the summer was much warmer than usual with little or no rain. Many of the crops failed, and the entire Jotun kingdom suffered through a hungry winter. But little Ulfrun did not mind. She had been displeased by all the rain that spring which kept her inside. Little Ulfrun was very happy, however, when she was able to play outside all summer long in the warm sunshine.
At first the king' s subjects mentioned it only as a passing remark, or when they were with family members. As time went by more and more of these unfortunate accidents occurred, and the Jotuns began to say it louder and louder. And what they were saying was that someone, or something, had cursed the whole of Jotunheim ! The king thought it utter nonsense, and did nothing for several years. Then one winter the king' s entire army came down with a mysterious stomach ailment, and the king could no longer ignore what his people were thinking. King Hastigi decided to go and visit a Seer.
Everyone throughout Jotunheim knew of the old woman who lived by herself in a cave high on the side of a mountain. It was said that she was one of the oldest Jotun' s alive, and that she was the only Jotun who remembered Bergelmir, the Jotun who survived the flood of Ymir's blood. It was thought that she was only a child when she met Bergelmir, but the stories she told elevated the Giantess to a status of honor almost as grand as the king and queen themselves. No one knew who her mother or father had been, or if she ever had a husband, or offspring. She was a mystery to some. To the children of Jotunheim she was simply the crazy old woman who lived in a cave. But to the elder Jotuns she was Kolgabrud, mystic Seer, and all knowing !
Kolgabrud was so honored that it would have been considered wrong to summon her to the king's hall. So King Hastigi, Queen Imd, and Princess Ulfrun, had to journey up a dangerous winding mountain ridge path to see her. Before the old Giantess would cast the bones and cover them with sacrificial blood, she mentioned to the king and queen that there was talk of a young child who lived in the Jarnvid forest who was growing up to be a very powerful witch. When the king asked if this child was the source of the evil that had befallen his kingdom, the Seer told him that she was not sure, but that the ritual casting of the ancient bones would reveal the evil that was causing their problems. Queen Imd, grew tense, but remained silent when she heard mention of a witch in the Jarnvid forest. Ulfrun, however, though she pretended to be playing with her doll, was conjuring a spell that put the old woman's life force inside the doll.
The king was impatient for the casting to begin, but Kolgabrud explained that they had to wait until the middle of night, the witching hour, for the casting and reading to be most accurate. As the hour approached the Giantess set up on a small table what she needed to read the bones. In a bowl she placed the ancient bones, some herbs, and then she placed an old glass bottle on the table that she claimed contained some of Ymir's blood that had been collected by Bergelmir on the day he was murdered by the Gods. She carefully wiggled the cork out of the bottle and then sprinkled a few drops over the bones. As she did so a mist slowly rose from the bones, much like the way fog rises from the ground. Then Kolgabrud took a knife from out of her waistband and gripped her other hand around the blade. With a quick motion she sliced through her hand and allowed her blood to drip into the misty mixture. " Here I mix, as our ancient Seers once did, my blood with the blood of our first ancestor, and with this mixing I bring that time forward to this time, to see what is hidden from the mortal eye ! " she said to no one in particular. Kolgabrud then spilled the contents of the bowl onto the table. The king and queen glanced at each other with questioning eyes, while at the other end of the cave Ulfrun grabbed the doll tightly with both hands.
As the bones rolled to a stop, the mist became a window into the unknown. " In the mist of truth, where lies cannot be hidden, I see a little girl. " the Seer said slowly. She is evil through and through..... a witch casting spells.... she is death and disease.... she is blight and famine.... she is... is.... ! " the Giantess stopped for a moment and stared beyond the mist, beyond the king and queen, and looked directly at Ulfrun. The king stood up and shouted : " Who is the evil one ! Give me the child' s name !!" he demanded.
Ulfrun smiled as she pulled the head off of the doll, and the allowed Kolgabrud's life force to spill out. Then she watched with joy as the old Giantess stood up, and grabbed her head screaming in agony. As Kolgabrud fell back down into her chair her dead eyes were still pointing directly at Ulfrun. The king and queen rushed to help the ancient Seer, but there was nothing that they could do. The oldest and wisest of all Jotuns was gone forever.
The king and queen were shaken by the unfortunate death of Kolgabrud, but the king felt that she had been given him an answer to his question, even if the Seer had not been able to give a name to the evil that plagued Jotunheim. There was a young witch living in the Jarnvid forest, and she was the evil one who was causing his lands, and his people to be cursed ! The answer to their problem was a simple one. He would send his best commander, Hrimdung, to Jarnvid with his fiercest warriors to hunt down and kill this evil witch !
Hrimdung wasted no time once he was commanded by the king to kill the evil witch. He gathered up his best Jotun warriors, and enough supplies for their journey, and by noon of the next day he was off to the Jarnvid forest to take care of what he called, " The Witch problem ! " King Hastigi and most of the local villagers were there to see him off, and wish the warriors well, but the queen was absent. She had told the king that she had to leave early in the morning on urgent business.
Queen Imd left as soon as the first rays of light filtered out over the high mountains, and set out for the Jarnvid forest. Her excuse for leaving so early was that her sister, who lived in the valley, was sick, and in need of her care. Her intention, however, was to warn the trolls of the impending danger ! Imd rode her fast steed harder than she had ever ridden it before. As the sun shone directly overhead she reached the forest. As she quickly dismounted Imd noticed that her horse had begun to lather up from being pushed so hard. She felt sorry for her mount, but there were matters that were more important than the health of a horse. Imd then stood at the edge of the forest, and did exactly what she had done many times before.
" Branmir ! Amvid ! Please ! I need to speak to you ! " she shouted over and over again. Suddenly, as if they had appeared out of thin air, two trolls and a very ugly child began walking towards her. " Oh, thank Ymir that you heard me ! " the queen said relieved. The little troll woman Amvid stepped forward. " It has been a while. How are you Queen Imd ? " she asked politely. The queen ran over and knelt down in front of Amvid. " There is no time for pleasantries ! The king, my husband, has sent warriors here to kill Eistla ! A Seer told him about a young witch living here in Jarnvid, and King Hastigi is sure that this witch is the one who has been cursing Jotunheim for a number of years now ! " the queen told the little troll frantically.
Branmir stepped forward and stood before the queen. " Eistla has been a wonderful child . It is true that she has great powers, but she uses them here in Jarnvid to heal the sick, make plants grow, and to keep the wild animals away. She is a good witch, not an evil one, I assure you . " he calmly told the queen. The queen stood up and ran over to Eistla . As she looked into the child's black eyes she asked just one question. " Is it you who is causing my husband's kingdom so much harm ? " she asked. Eistla placed a misshapen hand on Queen Imd's shoulder. " I know that you saved me by bringing me here to the Jarnvid forest, and I am grateful. I would not harm you or your people. " she said in a pleasant voice that in no way matched her looks.
Queen Imd could see a kindness in Eistla's coal black eyes, and felt a warmth radiate from her personality. Then a thought came over the queen that made her physically shiver. She remembered back to what the stranger Utgard - Loki had told her and her husband. " One of those babies must not be allowed to live ! I placed a curse on the child that it would be the most evil thing in all the nine worlds ! " Queen Imd trembled as she thought : " If it is not Eistla then it must be.... " the queen stopped herself before finishing the thought . For surely her beautiful little daughter Ulfrun would not hurt anyone !
- End Chapter 3,
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 4 : Dragons, Wolves and Monsters !