( Gna's Glory )
Let The Games Begin !
It was decided that the first contest would be the swimming competition. Njord was in charge of this event, and was the one who had initially chosen the Fjorm, one of the many branches of the Elivagar ( Ice Waves ), as the river to be used in the contest. He, along with Frigga, Odin and Skadhi, liked this river because it had a swift flow, but did not have rapids or rock obstructions, like some of the other rivers that flowed from their source Hvergelmir.
The contestants were horrified when they were told that they had to swim from the mouth of the Fjorm, where it spilled out into the sea, all the way to the spring Hvergelmir. The handmaidens became more concerned when they dipped their toes into the river, and felt the bitter coldness of the water seep straight through to their bones. Though not cold enough to cause hypothermia, the water temperature was definitely going to cause their muscles to tense up slowing their progress, and possibly causing their muscles to cramp.
Njord and Skadhi placed the spectators who had come from all parts of Asgard, and far away Alfheim, along the banks of the Fjorm, from its mouth to the finish line which was the great spring Hvergelmir. Many came with food and drink to enjoy the great spectacle . All had come to cheer on their favorite competitor.
Although Frigga and Odin had discouraged those in attendance from wagering on the events, Loki had already established the odds, and was taking bets from anyone who was willing to put down a gold coin. Gefjon, who was slightly larger than the other handmaidens was favored three to one in the event, and two to one to win the overall competition. Loki himself had made a rather large bet on Gefjon to win Frigga's Challenge, and he looked to lose a lot of gold if she lost.
Frigga, Odin, and Skadhi sat on high - seats at the spring and awaited the competitors as they approached the finish line. Frigga herself held in her hands the first of the gold arm rings that she would award to the winner when they emerged triumphantly from the cold water.
Njord stayed behind with the handmaidens. He would give the signal to start the race, and then follow along the bank to make sure that none of the contestants cheated. Eir was also to travel with the Noatun God in case any of the swimmers needed medical aid.
Aegir and Ran graciously offered to have their daughters swim behind the competitors in case one of the handmaidens came into trouble and needed to be rescued. These sea maidens were incredible swimmers, and could quickly grab hold of a struggling handmaiden, whisking her to shore before any harm came to them.
As the competitors lined up at the bank it was impossible not to notice that Gefjon was much taller than the other maidens. Gna, Syn, Hlin, Vor, and Var, all had similar body shapes and muscle tones, but from appearances alone it seemed that Gefjon, as Loki was betting , was the odds on favorite to win.
Njord signaled the start of the race by throwing his spear to the other side of the river. When the point stuck in the mud on the far bank all six swimmers dove into the cold water. From the very beginning it was apparent that Gefjon' s size was a burden and not an asset in the flowing waters of the Fjorm. With every stroke she fell further and further behind, and soon she could no longer see the other competitors. To Loki's great dismay Gefjon was the first to drop out of the event.
Syn and Gna were setting such a blistering pace with their long efficient strokes and powerful kicks that Var, Vor, and Hlin had to overexert themselves to simply keep up. Vor and Hlin were able to stay up with the leaders only a short time before fading off into the distance. Var, however, fell back, but was strong enough to keep them within sight, and only fell a few strokes behind. It was becoming clear to all those cheering from the banks that this was a two Goddess race.
The closer the competitors came to the spring Hvergelmir the faster the river flowed. It seemed to the swimmers that for every two strokes they took, they were pushed back one stroke by the powerful current. The leaders began to struggle in the swift water while the unfit became exhausted despite their best efforts.
Vor was the second to succumb to the unrelenting flow of the Fjorm river. Halfway through a stroke she cried out in pain, and floundered with a severe cramp in her leg. Ran's daughter Kara quickly grabbed hold of the maiden, who was in agony, and helped her to the shore where Eir began to gently massage the tightened muscle.
Hlin did not need assistance. When she felt she had nothing left she slowly swam to shore, and retired from the race.
Gna and Syn went head to head as they entered the ever narrowing river which was coming to its head at the spring. To their surprise Var had conserved some of her energy by hanging back, and had a very strong kick at the finish of the race.
In the end, however, the race was decided not by a length, or a stroke, but by a single finger. As Gna and Syn both reached out for the edge of the spring at the same moment, it was the tip of Gna's finger that touched the edge of the well first as witnessed by Njord who stood above them as they stretched themselves to the limit. Var was only a stroke behind, and despite not winning, was proud of her finish.
Gna could barely walk over to Frigga's high - seat when she was summoned. She had never felt such fatigue in her whole life. When Frigga slipped the golden ring onto her arm, however, the Goddess suddenly felt a surge of adrenaline. The handmaiden first bowed to All- Mother, and then turned and waved to the cheering crowd.
After the competitors had rested a bit Skadhi called them together for the next contest. Skadhi explained to the handmaidens that they would be given twelve axes each, which they were to throw against a twenty foot wall that had been erected for the competition. The axes had to be thrown against the wall in such a way they they would either be able to walk up the axes as though they were steps, or climb up them as if they were a ladder. The first maiden on the ground on the other side would be declared the winner.
To begin the event, Tyr, who was judging this competition, threw an axe against the wall. When the axe cut hard into the wood the competitors picked up their axes and took careful aim. One by one each handmaiden tried to place the axes exactly where they wanted them on the wall. The spectators could tell by the expressions on the competitor's faces if they had placed the axes accurately or not. They reacted to each throw with an "ew " , or an "ah" !
Hlin and Vor were having the most trouble. Though accurate their axes were not digging very deeply into the wall, and it seemed very clear to everyone watching that they would not hold their weight. Gefjon's axes were hitting hard, and were placed fairly well for climbing, but only time would tell if they would hold her extra weight. Var through her axes hard but she lacked accuracy and the pattern the axes made looked like a difficult one to climb. Gna's placement was extremely accurate and her axes made almost a perfect vertical ladder. Syn was slightly slower than Gna, and she chose to make steps out of her axes which were fairly evenly spaced.
Gna reached the wall first, with Syn, Gefjon, Var, Hlin and Vor next in line. Hlin and Vor only climbed up a short way before their axes gave way, and they fell back to the ground. Gefjon made it to the next to last axe before it came loose. Unable to maintain her balance the handmaiden fell onto the ground hard. Gna who watched Gefjon fall next to her, was struggling with her climb because it required her to use her hands and feet. Var, on the other hand, had tried to make a staircase, but her placement was woefully poor, and she had to reach out awkwardly to grab hold of the next axe. Syn, however, came at the wall from the side and ran up the axes as easily as if they were the golden stairs at Fensalir. With a final leap she grabbed a hold of the top of the wall and pulled herself over feet first.
Tyr stood on the far side of the wall and announced the order of finish as their feet hit the ground :
" Syn..... Gna......... Var......................." Tyr yelled to the crowd.
Then he waited for a moment to see if there were any more who would finish. When no one else came over the wall he shouted to the crowd.
" The contest is concluded ! The handmaiden Syn is the winner ! " he reported happily.
Tyr then escorted the winner back to the other side of the wall where Frigga waited with a gold arm ring. Syn bowed before Frigga, and then presented her arm to the All - Mother, who proudly slid the gold ring on her arm. Odin who had been very quiet until now walked over to Syn and congratulated her as well.
At the end of the first day both Gna and Syn were tied with one arm ring each. Loki who had bet most of his fortune on Gefjon was beginning to think it was time to leave Asgard before it was time to pay up !
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : The Second Day
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.