The Fire Dragon's Quest
( Part Three Of The Ítreksjóð Trilogy )
To Hel And Back
With his right hand he conjured up a ball of cosmic energy that lit up the cave, while in the other he eyed the little coin that had caused so much trouble.
" If you were not cursed by a dragon there would be many in the nine realms who would wish to own you. There are so many poor and wretched beings throughout the cosmos who could benefit from your great worth. They could by food, clothing, or a horse to help them with their farming. But alas, you are cursed and no one will will want you,... no one is that desperate,... or that destitute,... to risk owning such a coin like you . " he told the coin as if he were speaking to a living being.
Loki took a deep breath and slowly exhaled as he racked his brain for a solution to his little golden problem. As he stood there in deep contemplation he tumbled the coin in between his fingers. Back and forth, back and forth, the coin traveled many times along his hand before a wicked grin turned the corners of his mouth upward.
" Who is the poorest of the poor ? Who has almost nothing, and yet must share her meager resources with all those who come to her domain ? " he asked himself in a giddy childlike voice.
Loki flipped the coin up in the air with his thumb before catching it in mid - flight.
" You and I are going on a little trip my cursed little friend ! " he explained to the gold piece.
The trickster held the coin up to his ear.
" You would love to come along ? Well ! Then we should leave at once ! " he replied in the fictitious conversation he was having with the coin.
The path to Niflheim made for a strange journey indeed. It began with a gentle walk through a lush forest, with birds chirping, and squirrels scurrying to and fro, but it quickly began to change. The trees became smaller and sicker looking along the way as he traveled onward and downward, and the animals became fewer and fewer. The closer Loki came to Niflheim the greater the stench of death, and the smell of rotting plant life became. And where the signs of life ended, the mist began.
Loki had seen many eerie things in his long life, but the mist got to him every time he walked within it's confines. There was a cold dampness, that no matter how many layers of clothing you wore, seeped inside of the traveler to Hel, and lodged itself onto the spine of all those who were still living. For the chill of death was meant for the deceased, and not for those who still held warmth within their bodies.
As he neared his daughter's domain Loki began to hear the constant moaning that was as prevalent here as the tiny drops of moisture that landed on every part of a being's body in this land of the dead. The death cries of thousands upon thousands of the recently departed humans sounded like a chorus, with the deep tones of men blending in perfectly with the higher pitched notes of the women and children. It was hard for a God or Jotun to deal with the incessant roar of the dead, but any living human walking the path to Hel's hall would be instantly driven mad by such a cacophony of sound.
Loki knew he had almost reached his destination when he heard the creaking of boards, and the hard thumping of hundreds of feet, as the dead slowly and reluctantly crossed the infamous Gjallarbru into Niflheim. And when he heard the booming voice of the one who guarded the bridge to Hel he stopped for a moment to listen.
" Why have you come to Hel's house ?! " the voice demanded to know.
A meek male answered :
" The last thing I remember was being kicked in the head by my horse. " he told the Giantess.
"You may pass ! " the female commanded before asking the next visitor in line.
"And you ?! " Why have you come ? ! "
Another male, much cockier than the first, answered boldly.
" I was hung for raping and killing my neighbors wife ! " he stated as a matter of fact.
There was a short interlude of silence before Loki heard sharp metal piercing flesh, and a scream that could only have come from the man who had just answered the guard's question. A moment later the Mischief Maker heard a splash.
" Then you will wade through Gjoll to Nastrond,.... there to be forever tormented by the dragon Nidhoggr ! " the voice shouted to the dead man.
When Loki heard only silence he walked across the bridge. Before he reached the other side, however, a spear was thrust up against his chest and he was forced to stop.
" Modgud ! It is I,.... Loki ! Do you not know me by now ? ! " he asked.
The guardian of the Gjallarbru gave Hel's father an evil look.
" We allow the broken, the battered, the burned, and even the most horrible of deceased humans into Niflheim and Nastrond, but what you carry with you shall not pass as long as I stand on guard here ! " she told Loki angrily.
Hel's father was about to complain further about the way he was being treated when his daughter came limping over to the Gjallarbru bridge with Garm on a strong leash by her side.
" Hel ! I believe that Modgud has lost all of her senses. She will not let me pass ! " he told her in a high whiny voice.
Then he added quickly :
" I have brought you a present ! Something very special to help fill your empty coffers ! "
Hel looked upon her father through the eyes of the dead. Her expression was almost blank, but there was a hint of disappointment etched upon her face, if you looked closely enough. The Queen of the Dead pointed a bony finger at the one who had helped to spawn her, and spoke slowly and without emotion to him.
" Even above the awful stench of death and decay, that permeates throughout my domain, I can still smell the curse which you carry with you. You call me daughter, father, and yet I see in your eyes the glimmer of deceit, and in your words the lies of a manipulator. " she told her father.
Loki folded his arms across his chest and pouted before responding to his daughter.
" Then you will not let your own father pass and welcome him into to your hall ? " he asked with a glimmer of hope in his voice.
Hel turned her back on her father, and began to walk back to the rusty gates, known to some as Helgrind, Nagrind, or Valgrind. She did not bother to turn around again as she spoke her final words to Loki.
" When you come to see me as a father I will welcome you into my hall, but not before. " she told Loki. Then she opened the rusty gate and disappeared inside.
Modgud poked her spear into Loki's belly.
" Be gone trickster ! For I will not be as kind as your daughter if you stay !! " she informed him.
" Loki considered a hundred possible ways to kill Modgud, but for his daughter's sake he turned and walked away. Besides, Modgud was not the problem at the moment. It was the Dragon God Ítreksjóð who was worrying him, and the fire breather would soon be coming for his cursed coin. As Loki headed back to Svartalfheim he began to plan other ways to dispose of the coin.
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : " Let The Midgardians Deal With It ! "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.