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October 2011

October 2011 -- Scandinavian Mythology

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  • To Love Loki
    by Gerri Leen

    The giantess Angrboda slipped through the shadows in the guise of a wolf, moving silently among the trees until she reached the cave where her lover Loki was imprisoned. Ice formed where she walked, the ground freezing in stars around each step, so she stopped--Loki's wife Sigyn would feel the strange cold and see the ice if Angrboda ventured too far into the light.

    She could tell that Loki felt her even without the cold. He was chained to three boulders--one for each of the children the gods had taken from Angrboda--and he turned his head toward where she stood in the darkness. The snake that rained poison on Loki's forehead sensed her, too. It twisted to look at her, hissing, sounding like their serpent son Jormundgand had when he'd been just a small thing, before he could encircle the world.

    "What is it?" Sigyn turned, and the bowl she held, the bowl that was supposed to catch the poison, moved with her.

    Loki screamed as poison dripped past the bowl and landed on his skin, burning into him.

    Sigyn ignored her husband's cries of pain as she scanned the darkness, her nostrils flaring. "I know you're there." Her voice was filled not with hatred, but with resignation.

    Angrboda stepped forward, rough fur giving way to skin that had the strength and hue of her ironwood groves. She took a deep breath and exhaled, and the air around her grew chill.

    "This is not your place." Sigyn looked tired. The hand that held the bowl shook terribly.

    Angrboda almost pitied her. "Isn't it time to empty that?"

    "No, I just--oh." The bowl, which Sigyn had just emptied, was nearly full.

    Angrboda might not hold Loki's heart, but she still had her magic, even in this dark place.

    Loki's eyes burned as he stared at her. "If only you had brought a bowl, the two of you could take turns and I might never feel the poison."

    "We've spent our lives taking turns." Angroboda glanced at Sigyn; the other woman didn't meet her eyes. "And I believe Hel took my only bowl with her. When your brothers exiled her." Their beautiful daughter, half rotted in Helheim, a place Angrboda could not go, since it would hold anyone who entered. She and Hel talked from opposite sides of the river Gjoll, their voices barely carrying over the ice-and-dagger border between the worlds. Angrboda would give anything for just one embrace--anything except her own freedom. She was afraid her daughter knew that, too.

    "Hel prospers in her domain." Loki's voice held none of the seductiveness that had first drawn Angrboda to him. His voice was raw from screaming, his eyes red where poison had dripped into them. She knew the poison would not kill him, would not even blind him. The agony of any drop was short lived. The expectation of the agony was probably far worse--Loki had a vivid imagination. It had been that, and his passion for life, that had ensnared her.

    Sigyn stared at her bowl. "I have to dump it."

    Loki took a deep breath, then nodded.

    Sigyn hurried to the small stream that meandered through the caverns; exhaustion showed in her every move.

    "Sleep," Angrboda whispered, her small magic licking out again, and her rival sank to the ground, the contents of the bowl splashing onto the ground, soaking in.

    "No, it must go in the stream or--" Loki tensed, but nothing happened--as Angrboda expected and he clearly did not, judging from the look on his face.

    She laughed. "She could have just dumped it into the ground from where she sat and saved you any pain."

    Loki stared at his sleeping wife.

    "Her revenge, perhaps? Little moments, savored slowly."

    A drop of poison fell; Loki screamed, and Sigyn stirred only enough to roll over.

    "Why?" he whispered.

    "There is a price to devotion, Loki. If you'd ever been devoted to anyone other than yourself, you'd know that." Angrboda strode across the cave, ice crystallizing where she walked, tendrils of it reaching out to where Sigyn slept.

    Loki looked at the ice, the fire in his eyes somehow melting it. "Let her sleep."

    "Because you love her? Or because you don't want her waking up when I've finally come to see you?"

    "Couldn't it be both?"

    "With you? I'm sure there are more reasons than just the two." She sat on the stone that supported his hips.

    It was immediately covered with ice, and he shivered. "Ah, I'd forgotten what loving you was like."

    "You've forgotten you warmed me up." That was the other reason she'd fallen for him: the heat they'd generated had been such an unexpected thing.

    A drop of poison gathered at the serpent's lips. It started to fall, and Angrboda caught it in her cupped palm.

    The pain was intense. But she'd lost her children, been denied their father, the man she'd spent most of her life wanting more than anything. What was this burning compared to that?

    "Thank you," he said, and a sweet smile lit his face.

    He'd smiled like that when he'd wooed her, and when their children had been born.

    And when he'd left her.

    She tipped her palm; the poison rolled onto his forehead, and he screamed.

    His scream made her feel powerful. His scream tore into what was left of her heart and savaged it like wolves feeding.

    "I loved you," she whispered, then she turned back into a wolf. Raising her muzzle to the roof--to the sky beyond it--she howled.

    Sigyn woke, her face falling when she saw that the bowl had spilled. She glanced back at Loki, who shook his head and said, "No more trips to the stream, my wife."

    Sigyn's eyes held the kind of hatred that comes from love beaten and burned into something else.

    Angrboda heard Fenrir howling from far off. She could imagine their wolf-son's humiliation, sword stuck in his open mouth to keep him from biting, the whip-thin strand Gleipnir binding him until Ragnarok--that time when her children would break free, when they would, at last, be free again, even if only to die with their teeth in their enemies' throats.

    She howled again, heard the cry echoed behind her. Turning, she saw Loki, mouth open to the poison, not screaming this time. Howling. In the language of their eldest child.

    Fenrir's cry changed, the normal note of longing edging into something far deeper. It would have broken Angrboda's heart, if Loki had not already shattered it.

    She fled, tearing back to the land that welcomed her. A pack of wolves materialized out of the Ironwood, and they yipped and romped, their eyes blazing in the night. She let them dance around her, rolled and played and tried to forget the cave, the man, the pain.

    Angrboda heard Loki howl again. This time, the song was for her: a song of love--a song of regret.

    It sounded sweet and sincere, poetry in each perfect note.

    She didn't believe a word of it.

    Gerri Leen is celebrating the release of her first book, Life Without Crows, a collection of short stories published by Hadley Rille Books. She has over fifty stories and poems published in such places as: She Nailed a Stake Through His Head, Sword and Sorceress XXIII, Return to Luna, Sniplits, Triangulation: Dark Glass, Footprints, Sails & Sorcery, and GlassFire. Gerri lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle.
    Would you like to support our contributors? As a subscriber, you could use your subscription fee to pay this author for their work, as well as receive lots of extra subscriber perks!



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