Thursday, December 5, 2019

Chapter one: LMJS

Loki was minding his business. Believe it or not, there were many times, unwritten and unspoken, in which Loki kept to himself. It was, mostly, during these times that others sought him out and drew him into mischievousness. It was an annoying fact that those who sought the trickster would wait for days like these-perfect days. Those rare, special days that nothing particular was going on. Drama was yesterday’s problem and family life had returned to its normal and boring cycles. Loki took advantage of these times by being proactive. He would disappear and hide in places where, he hoped, none could find him. So on this perfect day, in a secret birch grove, the trickster sat reading, minding his business, causing no trouble whatsoever.

His literary immersion was interrupted by a sharp, air-ripping explosion. The electrostatic burst traveled up his spine and discharged through his nervous system; violently jerked him back to reality. The rogue’s chest heaved uncontrollably. His wide eyes darted around the grove and settled on three ethereal ladies standing in the center of the birches. They stared at him calmly while the late summer breeze caught the hems of their skirts. They fluttered up at the same pace as his heart barged into his mouth.  Loki jumped to his feet and dropped his book. Not stopping to think, two short swords appeared in his hands and he took a defensive stance. “Who are you?” he demanded. “What’re you doing here?”

The three women opened their arms and approached him. “Do not be alarmed, Loki,” said one of the ladies. In her eyes, stars moved in spirals.

“You already know who we are,” said another lady. Swirling mist encompassed her eyes.

“Oh, but you have dropped your book,” said the third. Reaching down, she picked up the book and handed it to him. Her eyes shined like honey on feathered wings.

Loki took a deep breath but did not relax. He returned the blades to his belt. “No, I really don’t.” He said and took the book from the woman. “I hope you’re not expecting formalities.”

“All too true,” said the honey-eyed woman. “Please call me Urd. Formality is-”

“-Completely unnecessary,” said the woman with the stars in her eyes. “Please call me Verdandi.”

“And I, Skuld,” said the woman with the misty eyes. “Though you may not know us, we know you.”

“We know all about Loki,” they said in unison.

“What he was,” said Urd.

“What he will be,” said Skuld.

“And what he is now and what he can do,” said Verdandi.

“That is why we came to you,” they said in unison. All three smiled smugly at him.

The color drained from his face. His stomach dropped to the ground, so he sank back to a sitting position to join it. “Oh, shit on a stick,” said Loki.

Urd turned towards the other two women. “Shit on a stick?”

“It’s Loki’s expression for a complicated origin story with a simple Hail Mary ending,” explained Verdandi.

Urd nodded her approval. “I’ll have to start using it myself then.”

Skuld shook her head. “It’s hardly pop culture, it’ll never catch on.”

Urd crossed her arms. “Well, shit on a stick.”

“It’s also something he says when he is beyond normal words.” Verdandi pointed at him. “Now look, you’re scaring him. Be nice and tell him what we want before his eyes explode.” The sisters turned back to the trickster.

“Wait,” he whispered. He put one hand on his head and the other on his stomach. Then, he took a slow, deep breath. “Norns,” he whispered. “This is happening. Norns are happening.”

“Yes, Loki. Norns are we. And we are always happening.” Verdandi nodded at him. “Steady on.”

“Sorry, I always imagined you to be more frightening,” he said. “You know, thundering sky, bolts of ether, cracking clouds of electricity.”

“You want us to be like your brother?” asked Skuld, confused.

“Oh gods, no!” The trickster dropped his hand. “I’m sorry I mentioned it.’’

Urd shook her head. “That stuff is for mortals, Loki. They have free will. We have to scare them or they won’t listen.” A sly toothy grin grew across her pink lips. “You have nothing to fear from us-.” She paused and raised her brow.  “-if you listen.”

“We have information to trade,” said Skuld.

“We will have a need very soon,” said Verdandi.

“We need an ally,” said Urd. “Do you think you are a chance character? When we weave the fabric, we leave the knots in. And you are the biggest knot in the tapestry, my dear. ” The three laughed at the same time. 

It wasn’t the reason for it; it was the sound of it. If cats could laugh while playing with balls of string, he imagined that’s what it would be. A creepy, know-it-all, laughter that sent goosebumps down the trickster’s back. Those goosebumps transcended into a shiver that was shared between him and the birch tree he was sitting against. “Why me?” Loki desperately tried to shake off the feelings of doom but it wasn’t working. There was no way to ignore the dark shadow of the unknown the ladies cast upon him as they stood in front of him blocking out the perfect, late summer sun. They had plans for him, ineffable, Norn plans, whose express purpose was to weave the fate and destiny of mortals and gods alike. And they stood before him without pomp or ceremony, asking him to listen. Loki’s tense body and somersault gizzards became jelly. Swallowing back his nausea, he drew his knees to his chest and rested his hands on them. Loki closed his eyes and took in a long cleansing breath. Then, he lifted his head to peer at them. “What could I possibly do for you?”

“There will come a time,” started Urd. “That mankind will weave his own destiny.”

“Not this again,” whispered Loki. “That idiot seeress cursed me as a babe. A babe that brought no harm to no being.” He rolled his eyes and scoffed. “To the ice with that crusty old witch.”

“That tapestry seems far away now, but time is exponential in its momentum,” said Skuld.

“We must set the frame for the weaving,” said Urd. “It begins-”  

“-After the Twilight of the Gods, I know!” Loki stood and threw up his hands. “This about Ragnarok- again!” He stopped paying attention to the women and paced in a little circle.

“Ragnarok?” muttered Verdandi. The sisters exchanged puzzled expressions. “Sure, why not?” She shrugged. The other two nodded in agreement.

Loki continued. “And I am supposed to be a component of that battle, fighting on the side of blah, blah, blah! But in the meantime-”

“But in the meantime-” said Verdandi.

“-But in the meantime, I would like to keep my head safely on my neck for a change,” said Loki. “I have changed my ways-”

Skuld flashed a golden light at him from her pointed finger. “-Have a care, Loki.” Her voice changed from mortal-like to the deep reverberating echo of a divine goddess giving a command. “Know to whom you speak!”

Loki couldn’t bring himself to argue with her. He closed his eyes and huffed. “Okay, fine. I have tried to cut down my adventures to a minimum.”

“But Loki, this is not a good thing,” said Urd. “It's through a story's hero that the plot moves along.”

“I haven't plotted or eavesdropped in at least five weeks and-” Loki stopped pacing.

“If the Hero stops moving, so does the story,” said Verdandi.

“And we can't have an unmoving hero in our story,” said Urd. “What would it end with?”

“Boredom,” said Skuld. She feigned a yawn and stretched.

“Hero?” asked Loki. “Do you think for one minute I’m going to swallow that! If you weren’t paying attention, let me be the first to inform you that I have been put firmly in the villain camp. If you don’t believe me, ask my family. And it all goes back to that damn prophecy.”

“If it makes you feel better, we could call you the main character,” said Urd.

“I’m never the main character,” said Loki. “Not with a brother like mine.”

“Baldyr?” asked Verdandi, fluttering her eyes and faking a swoon.

The wind blew through the grove. It loosened pieces of paper-like bark from the great birch that stood above them. They drifted downwards and fluttered in front of Loki’s frozen snarl. A base growl grew in his belly and ended with a bass snort. He reached out and snatched one, crumbling it in his hand before forcefully throwing it to the ground.

“Baldyr?” asked Urd. Verdandi laughed like a hyena. “You couldn’t get much further than if you had mentioned Captain Hammer.” 

“Oh, Penny, I love you!” Verdandi dropped off a cliff of hysterics. Loki’s growl increased in tone and pitch and metaphorical flames shot from his eyes.   

Skuld fanned herself with her hand. “My! The fire in your eyes is making me warm,
Loki. Has anyone told you how pretty you are when you’re irritated?”

Urd rolled her eyes. “He’s talking about Thor, you foozler.”

“Nobody uses that word anymore, Urd. Call her a meathead and move on,” corrected Skuld. “Also, stop dropping jokes that are spoilers. No one gets it except us.”

“Are you quite done?” yelled Loki.

“Loki, we are Norns. We sit and weave fate and destinies. Time doesn’t pass for us like the gods or mortals. We sit apart. How in Muspell do you think we amuse ourselves?” asked Skuld. “Do you think we take visitors for tea? Throw birthday parties? By the Nine, we have to blow off steam too.” The woman turned to the other two. “However, I do agree that we need to stop. We do not need to milk this cow any further, and you shouldn’t be the butt of our jokes. Especially, since you aren’t in on it.” Skuld gave Urd and Verdandi a gestured warning.

“Well, shit on a stick,” said Urd.

“It’ll never catch,” replied Skuld. “Could the past stop repeating herself, please? The present needs to breathe.” Verdandi’s laughter turned into snorting.

“I’m not a main character!” yelled Loki.

“Well, aren't you?” asked Urd. She walked a few steps over to her snorting sister and kicked her in the shin. 

Verdandi jerked back to reality. She reached down to rub her leg. “Nobody wants to be the villain,” pouted Verdandi. “I don’t know why. Villains are proactive. Everybody likes a bit of action. What difference does the motive make? In the end, motive doesn’t matter! Stories don’t happen in the prologue!”

“My story does!” shouted Loki. “I’m not a hero and I’m not a villain. And maybe more people would know that if the story did start in the prologue.”

Urd raised her brow. “Then, it wouldn’t be a prologue, Loki. It would be a story about you reacting to something. And that would make you a motivated main character, wouldn’t it?”

“That is why we chose you,” said Skuld. “The main character, who is not boring, for our story.”

Loki put his hands on his hips. “So what is it that you want exactly?”

Urd came closer. “The time will come when mankind will weave his own fate,” she said.

Skuld and Verdandi sat down on the grass cross-legged. “Then, what?” they asked in unison. “What will become of us?”

“We shall be cast away, beyond the World Tree, to weave another beginning,” said Urd. She danced away from Loki and tiptoed around her sisters.

“And what shall we leave behind?” asked Skuld and Verdandi in unison.

“An object of power?” said Urd.

“No!” said Skuld. “We shall not leave behind something for humanity to kill each other for. No object of power.”

“Something of great wealth?” asked Urd, as she danced behind her sisters.

“No!” said Verdandi. “That, also, humanity will kill for.”

“Some great knowledge, wisdom, intelligence?” asked Urd. She stopped dancing.

The two sisters rose from the ground. The three stood together in the sunlight. “Yes, a legacy of knowledge, wisdom, and intelligence. A story so strong it shall be told by children for countless generations. This shall be our legacy when we are beyond this Tree and in the next.”

“We can't do this without Loki,” said Urd. “And in exchange, we will give him information to set him to his task.”

“I don't have a choice do I?” asked Loki.

“It is your divine mandate,” said Skuld.

“Your reason for being,” said Verdandi.

“You don't have a choice,” said Urd.

“But you know this ends badly for me. Why would you do this? It’s cruel,” said Loki.
“Loki,” said Verdandi. She reached out and stroked his cheek. “Heroes are not abandoned by the divine.” Then, she smacked her palm on his forehead.
 Loki’s world turned into a grayscale landscape. A deep cold fog seeped up from the ground. Images emerged from the fog, speaking in water-static voices that time could not touch. People he knew and those he did not. Some cursed his name, others praised it. As they did, the images melted back into the cloud from whence they came. A kneeling Freyja looked up at him in agony. Thor in underwear sat cross-legged in a cage. A spectral woman rose as a human and slowly changed into a monster with eight legs. An army of men burst through a treeline towards him. A large woman carried a half-dead child, looked at him and smiled. A satyr holding a wooden sword rose from the mist and melted back again. A misty girl turned to him and thanked him in multiple voices.  Finally, a phantom doppelganger rose from the fog. He was bound to a boulder, and the gaping mouth of a serpent hovered above him. Its maw was pried open and its saliva was dripping down his back. The spectral Loki screamed but not in pain. The water-static voice pleaded for the freedom of another. “Please go. I love you. I can’t bear to see you suffer too. Leave me! Leave, you stupid bitch! Leave!” The visions melted back into the cloud. The fog sapped back into the earth. Color returned to the world and Loki found himself on his knees.
 “Life and Death have no true meaning. For there are far worse things to fear for those who do not cooperate,” said Skuld. 

“Heroes are helped in their time of greatest need,” said Urd, smiling. "What is tangled may be undone."

“Just have a little faith in us,” they said in unison.

“All will be made good in the end, with or without true knowledge,” said Skuld.
“Please,” he whispered. The dread of damnation trembled through his body like the stammer in his words. “I’ll cooperate. I’ll do it. Name it. Whatever you want.”

“Shave Sif’s head,” they said in unison.

He waited for the punchline but all he received was silence. Loki nodded and gestured at them to continue. “Shave Sif’s head. That’s funny. Now, what do you really want me to do?” Three blank faces stared at him. His eyes darted back and forth. “You can’t be serious.”

“Serious as plague,” giggled Urd.

“Take the golden locks. Find Arachne the Weaver, she travels the Realms of Zeus to the south. Have her weave a golden veil,” said Verdandi.

“When the time is right, give that veil to your daughter,” said Skuld.

“Can I ask why?” asked Loki slowly.

“Sif is the protector of the home's hearth, shield-maiden of the sacred fires,” said Verdandi.

“Her hair holds back the cold of Niflheim,” said Urd.

“The rest you have to find out for yourself,” said Skuld. “Now, step to it. The quicker the better.”

“We must leave you now,” they said in unison. The sisters glowed brightly and disappeared in an implosion of magic. It made a tiny popping sound. The little grove returned to its perfect day. But for Loki, his perfect day was ruined.

Author’s Statement
This is the first chapter of a story called Loki’s Mysterious Journey South. It started as a short story explaining why Loki shaved Sif’s head and the mystery of what he did with the hair once he had shaved it off. This story took on a life of its own and I could not resist its siren call. I am in the process of expanding, layering and polishing the rest into a full-fledged novel. This story is special to me because I’m not aware of any other story being from Loki’s point of view. I felt that I should give him a voice and a chance to tell his side of the story. I was always fascinated by myth, fairy tales, legends, and lore. It’s my dream to write one of my own. That’s my literary goal to write fairytales and myth style stories for adults.
Loki’s Mysterious Journey South is a story about Brotherhood. Loki has an agenda but it is being thwarted by Thor’s pride. Loki finds himself having to bail his brother out of trouble while trying to accomplish his goal set to him by the Norns. Despite Loki’s best efforts, he finds his fate and destiny inexplicably tied with Thor’s. It's a story of accountability, responsibility, tolerance, flexibility, and adaptability to familial connections.
Jessica Dodge was born in Kokomo, Indiana. She had a normal city life. Then, bad stuff happened. In 2015, she landed in rural Tennessee with her truck-driving parents. Now, she spends her time healing, writing, housesitting, and feeding the cat. Jessica is an oral storytelling champion and writer. She has written for Fandom Magazine and articles for Historical re-enactment publications. Her hobbies include any kind of geek culture and she is currently training to run. 

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