The Temptation Of Balder
It was not that the Trickster did not have any ideas at all on how to besmudge the great reputation of the son of Odin,..., he just wasn't sure which of his plans had the best chance of luring the Pure One to his downfall. It would not be enough to catch Balder in a simple lie, or some other trivial indiscretion. It had to be something so grand that it would follow him around for the rest of his life, like a shadow on a sunny day.
Loki was almost giddy with all the possibilities. Should he try something easy at first like catching the husband of Nanna cheating, or trapping him by making him break an oath ? Or should he go for all the gold by ensnaring Balder with charges of stealing, infidelity, or,...., dare he even consider it,.... murder ! Loki giggled uncontrollably at the thought of Balder being brought before his own father on charges that he killed another sentient creature.
Despite his normal inclination for boldness, Loki decided that in this case discretion was the better part of deceit, and he chose to try something simple the first time. And the instrument of his trickery would once again be the Goddess Idunn, and her golden apples. Every day the Asgardians needed to eat a golden apple to retain their youth, or they would quickly wither into old age and eventually perish as do all mortals. Each Asgardian was entitled to be given one youth giving apple, by the maiden who understood and maintained the trees that grew the fruit of eternal life, but no more. If he could somehow make Balder take a bite out of a second apple, then Idunn would call him out before the Gods for being greedy. But how could he separate Idunn from her golden apples long enough to steal a few for his plan? That was the question.
Loki thought long and hard, but quickly realized that the only way to take the golden apples from Idunn was through violence, or extreme trickery, and since that time not long ago when he lured the Giver of Youth into the forest so that Thjazi could abduct Idunn, she no longer trusted him, nor did many of the Gods for that matter. Then his mind reached deep into its bag of tricks, and he came up with a sinister, but simple plan.
" Well,...., if the golden apples cannot be parted from their deliverer, then maybe I will be able to separate them from their source ! " he whispered to himself as a wicked grin rose up from each corner of his mouth.
Balder was surprised to see that Loki had not gone back to Jotunheim, but had instead chose to remain at his great hall as his guest. Despite Nanna's misgivings, the daughter of Nep adhered to the ancient tradition of hospitality and agreed that he was welcome at Breiðablik.
Loki spent his entire first day at Balder's gleaming hall playing games with Balder, and engaging in conversation with the God of Light. Loki's excuse for staying with Balder was to ask Odin's son if the Gods viewed him differently since the incident with Thjazi. Balder, as honest and forthcoming as ever, explained to the Jotun that he had lost much favor and trust with both the Gods of Asgard, and Vanaheim. To keep the conversation going Loki pleaded his case, stating that he had been threatened by Thjazi and had no choice but cooperate with his plan.
On the second day Loki suggested that they take a peaceful walk through the beautiful woods, known as the Gullskogr, where the golden apples grew on the sacred trees, to continue their discussion of how he could get back in the good graces of the Gods. Balder, who always enjoyed a walk in the Golden Forest, was more than happy to accompany the seemingly distraught Jotun.
For hours they talked as they strolled among the fruit bearing golden trees. In the middle of discussing Thor's great dislike of him, Loki stopped, and pointed to the path up ahead. Before Balder could look Loki magically made one of the golden apples fall from its limb.
" Now that is a shame. See there in the distance how a precious golden apple lies upon the ground no longer being nourished by the limb on which it formed. Would it not be wrong to allow the God's youth- giving fruit to shrivel and rot ? " he asked Balder innocently.
The Shining God thought for a moment before answering.
" We Gods are allowed but one golden apple per day,.... but I do see your point of it being a pity to let it rot. To not protect something as important as a golden apple would be a shame that borders on a criminal act. " he replied.
" I think you should take it home with you. Better that you and your wife consume it then it be allowed to go to waste. " he told Balder.
Balder thought for a moment before picking up the apple and placing it into the pouch that he wore around his waist.
" Well,...., it would be wrong to leave it here. " he finally had to admit.
With his plan working to perfection Loki suggested that it was getting late, and that they should head back. Despite the fact that they had not walked all the way through the forest Loki wished to return to Breiðablik before Idunn delivered her apples. On the way back to Balder's hall Loki kept up his ruse by continuing to inquire into his current standing with each of the Gods and how he could improve it.
While Balder entered the hall, to see how Nanna and Forseti were doing, Loki waited outside by the front doors for Idunn to arrive with her basket of golden apples. Despite his best efforts the Great Deceiver could not help but grin from ear to ear as he thought of how Bragi's wife would react when she heard that the perfect Balder had stolen one of her apples.
Loki was still smiling broadly as Idunn cautiously approached him with her apple basket held tightly to her chest.
" You do not need to fear me Goddess. I mean you no harm. " Loki told her with a slight bow.
As Loki moved to the side to allow her to pass, Idunn gave the Trickster a suspicious glance. She could never trust Loki again after all he had put her through that time with the Giant in eagle form who had kidnapped her. And although it was true that the Trickster had, using Freyja's falcon coat, rescued her from Thjazi, it was also a fact that he had been the cause of her abduction as well. With the basket still held securely against her body with one hand, she knocked on the door with the other. Before Balder or Nanna could greet their guest Loki had something important that he wished to say to Idunn.
" In a pouch around his waist Balder holds an extra golden apple that he has taken from the Gullskogr. I believe that he is hoarding them ! " he told her in a low whisper.
Idunn was shocked by Loki's accusation and was about to respond when the door opened. Balder greeted Bragi's wife with great respect and honor, which Idunn returned in kind. Before walking inside she turned to give Loki a dirty look, but found that the Leveler of Lies had disappeared.
Loki transformed himself into a fly the moment Idunn's attention was redirected at Balder. Once the door was closed he flew through the keyhole to witness what he was sure to become a great firestorm of accusations, from the apple-giver. As he took up a position on the wall the two Gods stood face to face.
" Let the fun begin ! " Loki thought to himself.
Idunn did not take the Trickster's words seriously until she saw the round bulge in the pouch around Balder's waist. As an involuntary gasp escaped from her lips Idunn pointed to the Shining God's pouch and exclaimed :
" What have you got there hiding in your pouch Balder ?! " she asked fearing the answer.
Without fear or shame Balder removed the golden apple from his pouch and showed it to Idunn.
" Today, while Loki and I were walking in the Gullskogr, we spotted an overripe apple lying on the ground beginning to rot under the Asgardian suns. I thought it was best to bring it home so that Nanna could crush it into juice for Forseti. " he explained to Idunn.
Just as he finished explaining himself to the Youth-Giver Nanna walked up behind her husband carrying the newborn.
" We have been meaning to speak to you about this Idunn. As you know a child needs to begin drinking the juice of the golden apples at the earliest moment possible. " she told Bragi's wife with raised eyebrows.
Idunn gasped even louder than the first time when she realized what Nanna's expression was conveying.
" Oh my ! How rude of me not to think of Forseti ! Please forgive me ! I apologize for such a great oversight ! " she blurted out in quick succession.
" There is nothing to forgive. We too, in all the excitement, forgot to ask for an additional golden apple. " he explained.
Loki could not believe his ears ! What was happening here ! There were no accusations,...., no incriminations, not even a hint of guilt at all ! All he was hearing were apologies and understanding ! The only thing taking place here in Balder's hall was a great injustice towards his master plan, which had seemed so perfect only moments before. As Loki buzzed around trying to discover how his plan had gone so very wrong he never saw the hand that swatted him up against the door of the great hall.
" Filthy fly ! How did that vile creature get in here ! " Loki heard Balder comment as he accepted two golden apples from Idunn.
Before his mind went blank, and he lost conscious, Loki heard Idunn apologize once again.
" Again, I am so sorry ! I will remember to bring three apples tomorrow, and every day forward ! "
- End Chapter 2
- Next : Chapter 3 : A Crowded Seat At Hlidskjalf
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravenheart ), © Copyright, 2018.