( Gna's Glory )
The Final Event
There was not much time for either competitor to relax. The final competition, the one that would decide which handmaiden would become Frigga's honored messenger had to be run before nightfall. This event was the most important because the one who wanted to be a messenger for the All - Mother had to be the very best horsewoman in Asgard. And therefore the final competition was a horse race.
Hermod was to be the judge of the race, and as Odin's messenger, and the rider of Sleipnir, he was a most appropriate choice. Hermod wanted the competition to be as fair as possible, and after talking it over with Odin and Frigga it was decided that the handmaidens would be allowed to choose their horse from among those owned by the Gods. Glad, Gyllir, Glen, Skeidbrimnir, Silfrtopp, Sinir, Gils, Falhofnir, Gulltop and Lettfeti were all paraded before the handmaidens for them to inspect and choose from. The only horse that was not allowed to be ridden in the competition was Sleipnir. It was agreed by all that the rider of the most famous horse in the nine worlds would have an unfair advantage.
Gna and Syn carefully looked over the horses from head to toe before making their decision. Syn chose Silfrtopp for his large physique and firm leg muscles. Gna, however, picked Falhofnir because he seemed restless and full of fight. She also liked the fact that Falhofnir was slightly smaller, which would make it easier for him to navigate the thick forests of Midgard. Both handmaidens carefully dressed their horses, and then double checked that their saddle, straps, and reins were in perfect working order before mounting, and proceeding to the starting line.
Heimdall stood stoically at his post at the Rainbow bridge, and watched as Hermod grabbed hold of both of the horses' reins steadying them. Before he released the horses to start the race he addressed the bruised and bloodied maidens.
" I will disqualify either of you if you interfere with the other in any way. Unlike the recently concluded wrestling match, I wish to see a clean race ! " he told them in no uncertain terms.
" And I will be watching you both from Hlidskjalf, so I would suggest you both be on your best behavior ! " he added as a warning.
Then Hermod smiled.
" They have allowed me to choose the course that you will take in this great competition ! You shall travel down the Rainbow Bridge to Midgard, then ride through Jotunheim to Niflheim . There you will ride across the long bridge that crosses the Gjoll river. On the other side of that span, Modgud, the maiden who guards that bridge, will give you each a gold ribbon to tie around your wrist. You will then travel back to Asgard as fast as you can, and go to Fensalir where you will present that ribbon to Frigga. The first to do so is the winner of the race, and also, due to the current tie, the winner of the messenger competition ! " Hermod explained to them.
Hermod then released the reins and walked to the rear of the horses. With a quick slap on each of their rumps he shouted :
" On to Niflheim ! "
Syn's horse Silfrtopp took off like a flash and was much faster on the Rainbow Bridge, but once they reached the thick forests of Midgard Gna's horse Falhofnir, which was slightly smaller, made its way through the brush much easier than Silfrtopp. By the time that Gna reached the pass that led into Jotunheim she had a fairly commanding lead.
The flat frozen plains of Jotunheim, however, were perfect for Silfrtopp's long powerful strides. Long before they left Jotunheim Syn had caught up to Gna, and as they crossed the border into Niflheim Syn had taken a small lead. In Hel's domain both horses acted skittish, and neither could pull away. Whether it was the cold dampness, or the smell of death that slowed down their mounts cannot be said, but both Falhofnir and Silfrtopp slowed down to a cautious trot that could not be changed by either rider. Syn reached the Gjoll river a few lengths ahead of Gna, crossed the bridge, and received her ribbon from Modgud first. Just as Syn kicked Silfrtopp into a trot Gna reined in her horse and received her ribbon.
Though she tried valiantly Gna could not coax any more speed out of Falhofnir, and began to fall further and further behind in Jotunheim. By the time Syn reached the pass that lead back into Midgard Gna could barely see her opponent ahead. She was sure that she could make up some of the distance in Midgard's dense forests, " but would it be enough ! " she asked herself.
Syn was pushing Silfrtopp as hard as she could when she entered the pass. The Goddess peeked over her shoulder and smiled when she saw how far back Gna had fallen. As she turned back around to pass through the rock formation, Syn suddenly was hit hard in the face by something that she had not seen . So hard in fact that it threw her off of her mount ! Silfrtopp did not stop as the handmaiden lay dazed upon the ground, but continued on into Midgard alone. As her vision cleared Syn saw standing above her a large angry Jotun. The handmaiden reached down for her trusty sword , but it was not there ! Then as her head cleared she remembered that they both had decided to travel as light as possible to increase their speed, and of course their chances of winning. Syn contemplated her own death as a huge hairy hand reached out for her throat.
Gna cursed her luck when she realized that she had no weapon with which to protect her sister handmaiden. Then in her mind's eye she saw Fulla's beaten and battered body being carried into Fensalir, and she was filled with a rage that she had never felt before ! Gna kicked Falhofnir as hard as she could, and placed her body tight to the horse's back and neck. Then with the reins gripped in her hands as hard as she could she pointed Falhofnir directly at the Jotun. Gna was not sure if Falhofnir would ram the Giant or pull up at the last moment, but her horse was the only weapon she had to save the handmaiden.
Syn could feel the creatures nails as they scratched up against her throat. And then..... then ..... the Jotun was gone ! As she looked around Syn saw Gna hanging half off of Falhofnir trying desperately to right herself. When Gna was firmly in the saddle once again she turned her horse back and reached down her hand to Syn.
Give me your hand ! Quickly !! " she screamed.
Syn reached up and felt the firm grip of Gna's hand grab hold of her. With a slight jump, and a tug from Gna, Syn was able to leap onto Falhofnir's back. Once Syn was seated, and she felt the arms of her sister handmaiden firmly around her waist, Gna kicked Falhofnir into motion. As they passed the rock formation where the Giant had hidden , the handmaidens saw the stunned Jotun lying on the ground. Syn spit blood from her split lip on the Giant as they passed, and Gna vowed to kill the ugly creature some day.
Mounted one behind the other the two competitors rode through the woods of Midgard, and up the Rainbow Bridge to Heimdall's post. The silent sentinel only nodded as they rode by, for he could see something was amiss. When they reached the golden doors of Fensalir they were met with gasps and silence from those who came to greet the winner. No one in the crowd understood what had happened.
The two handmaidens dismounted and walked up the stairs together. Frigga had expected to see only one of the competitors at her door to receive the final gold arm ring. When they walked into the hall together All - Mother did not know quite what to say !
Odin and Thor rushed over to the handmaidens and began to ask question after question ! They both could see that Syn had been injured recently by the split lip and the dried blood that stained the front of her dress !
Syn put her hand in the air to stop them from asking more questions before answering the one's they had already asked.
" Before I tell of the circumstances of our journey there is something that I must do first ! " she told Odin and Thor.
Syn grabbed hold of Gna's hand and led her over to Frigga. With her free hand she untied Gna's golden ribbon, and handed it over to All - Mother. With tears welling up in her eyes she calmly spoke.
" Gna is the winner of the race, and of the competition ! She has shown both great honor and determination throughout the many challenges that she has had to face, and she deserves to be your messenger, my queen ! " she told Frigga.
Stunned, but still able to keep her composure, Frigga slipped the final gold ring on Gna's arm. As Frigga escorted her new messenger to stand beside her at her high - seat she announced to everyone in the hall :
" I am very proud to announce that Gna has won my competition, and from this day forward will be my new warrior messenger. Although others competed well, It was Gna who rose to the greatest heights of excellence, and stood above all others . " she told the crowd.
Then All - Mother put her arm around Gna and shouted proudly :
" I introduce to you all .... Gna my great warrior messenger ! " she told those gathered in her hall.
While the Asgardians applauded Gna's great achievement, Syn ran out of the hall. She stood at the bottom of the golden stairs crying as Silfrtoppr finally came trotting up to the great hall, without a rider. Syn lowered her head in shame and began to sob harder. Then, without warning, she felt a large hand on her shoulder ! Syn quickly spun around ready to defend herself ! When she saw that it was Odin, however, she bowed her head out of respect, but remained silent.
" Child,...., you feel that have lost because you were not the best ? " Odin asked.
" I failed to defeat my opponent. There is no honor in finishing second ! " she replied holding back her tears.
Odin lifted the handmaidens chin, and his demeanor suddenly turned angry.
" You are wrong ! " Odin responded in a booming voice.
Syn pulled her chin out of Odin's grip and gave him a sour look.
" And how am I wrong ?! I am not, nor will I ever be, Frigga's messenger ! " she exclaimed.
" It is good that you are angry ! Anger gives purpose, and with purpose comes honor ! " Odin replied.
Syn shook her head out of sheer frustration.
" And what honor have I gained in losing ? " she asked loudly.
Odin grinned from ear to ear.
" The honor of guarding my great hall ! " Valfather explained.
Odin pulled out a cloth from his belt and gently wiped the tears from Syn's eyes.
" I wish for you to manage the great doors of my hall. You will open them only for those who are invited, and you will close them before those who are not to go in. " he added with a father's smile.
Syn wiped away her tears and bowed.
" Thank you ! Thank you great Odin ! " I am greatly honored !! " she told Asgard's Lord with a huge smile.
Odin patted Syn on the shoulder and wiped away her last tear.
" Come to Valhalla early tomorrow, and I will personally show you around my great hall ! " he told her proudly.
" But first have Eir look over your injuries ! I cannot have the guardian of my hall bleeding all over my guests ! " he told Syn with a little laugh.
As Odin walked away Syn began to cry again. No matter how hard she tried she could not stop the tears from flowing. This time the tears were from sheer joy. For she had never been so happy in her entire life.
" Maybe finishing second isn't so bad after all ! " she whispered to herself.
- End Chapter 9
- Next : Chapter 10 : Never Again !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.