PYRAMID POWER – snippet 45:
“I mean, take that Gylfaginning—the beguiling of Gylfi,” said Fenrir sagely. “It’s never really clear just who is beguiling who. The wordsmithing in that question and answer structure is confusing with all of the protagonists in the tale being kennings for Odin.”
Jörmungand rolled her eyes. “Oh please, brother! That’s the entire point. The author was just trying to be clever.”
Liz found it something of a revelation about Loki, that his wolfish son and dragon daughter could and did argue interminably about Norse literature. It had been Loki who had insisted that they should learn to read, Liz discovered. Of course his tastes were antediluvian, and he was wrong about this, that and the next, but it was Loki who shaped them away from being mere creatures of the stomach like Bitar and Smitar.
That would have been easier to deal with than the constant bickering about literary merit sometimes, though. At least Bitar and Smitar agreed about food occasionally.
Still, listening on the sidelines while they traveled across this broad braided flood plain had taught Liz something about the dwarves they were heading for. They were maggots who had feasted on the flesh of the dead Ymir (whoever he was) but had acquired consciousness, and the appearance of men. They were artificers of precious metals and gems. The Norse didn’t seem to have any objection to creatures that had, as far as Liz could see, the same origins as politicians and certain members of the legal fraternity. Jerry would have stretched that to bank managers as well. The thought of him made Liz’s eyes prick with tears, to the extent that she nearly fell off her horse when it stopped, because the others had stopped.
They’d come to a long, low bluff that ran along the edge of the wash of gravel. It was pockmarked with caves, or, as Liz suspected, delvings. Nothing came out of the first few that Thor bellowed into. But, after trying a fair number, they got a grumpy “What is it this time?”
A short, stocky man peered out of a cave-mouth. His face was so sooty that it was nearly as black as his hair.
“Are you the sons of Ivaldi?” asked Thor.
Dirty face nodded. “One of them, yes. What do you want?”
Fenrir leapt, knocked the son of Ivaldi down, and put his jaws around the dirty neck. The huge wolf’s growl was low-pitched and menacing enough to make Liz’s ears buzz.
“Fenrir!” yelled Liz. “What are you doing?”
“The chain that bound him was made by the sons of Ivaldi,” said Jörmungand. “Brother is known to carry a grudge. I think that he’s about to eat a dwarf smith. I think he should wash its hands first. You should always wash hands before eating.”
“It wasn’t me!” squeaked the dwarf. “That was Dwalin.”
“And who might you be?” asked Jörmungand grimly.
“Ah. Loki has some words to say to you.”
“Look. It was a long time ago. And it was a fair wager.”
“It was,” rumbled Thor. “One of Loki’s more impulsive and stupider ones, and he got out of paying it. And Fenrir, it wasn’t this one that made the chain Gleipnir. Let him up. I want to ask if he has seen Mjöllnir, the hammer he made for me.”
Reluctantly, Fenrir let go, and stepped off the dwarf’s back. “I’ll go and sniff in these holes for this Dwalin. I’ve got the scent of you sons of Ivaldi now.”
“Dwalin guards his mine with magic,” said the dwarf, rubbing his neck. “Anyway, he was just the craftsman doing the job he was hired to do. We didn’t know what would get done with it.”
“You find the hole. I’ll fill it with venom,” said Jörmungand. “Even the maker must realize that there is price to be paid.”
“And I still want to know if you’ve seen Mjöllnir,” said Thor.
The dwarf shook his head. “It may have lost much of its virtue anyway in the time of fading, or you would be able to call it to you. But it does not lie among the dwarves. Someone would have told me if my workmanship had showed up.”
Thor sighed. “We’ll just have to try elsewhere. You dwarves always seemed the most likely people to buy it. Well, we’d better move out.”
“What about them?” The dwarf pointed to Jörmungand and Fenrir, now checking out the next cave.
“Their business,” said Thor, with a shrug.
“But… but… we thought they were your mortal enemies?” said the dwarf, betraying that he knew more about what was being done with their products in the wider mythworld than he’d been prepared to acknowledge.
“We became drinking buddies and sorted out our differences. During the fading. And Fenrir was tricked with Gleipnir. He feels that it was no part of the dwarves’ affairs to help to trap him.”
“It was a business transaction,” protested Sindri.
“Who paid for it? We thought you did it out of respect for the Æsir,” said Thrúd.
“Well, yes. We wouldn’t have done it without respect. But business is business, you know. Dwalin is not a bad fellow. Besides, he owes me. If he gets killed he can hardly pay me back, can he?”
“So who paid for it, then?” demanded Fenrir, pausing in his sniffing.
“Odin. Like the spear and the boar and the hammer. All the treasures except for Sif’s hair. Loki paid for that.”
Liz held up a hand. “Wait a minute. What hammer? Do I get this right? You made this hammer Thor’s looking for?”
“Yes. One of my best bits of work,” said the dwarf, proudly, “even if it was a bit short in the handle.”
“How much for another one?” said Liz. “Just like the other one, but with the right length handle.”
“Um. Well the price would have to include leaving Dwalin alive. “
“I think we would look for a suitable discount for that. And some blood-price, from this Dwalin. Fenrir could use a suitable collar. A protective one,” said Thor.
Jörmungand looked at the dwarf with a thoughtful eye. “Jewelry, or perhaps some fashion accessories,” suggested Liz.
By the time they got back with a new hammer, a collar of protection against spears and arrows (with warranty) and a sea-jewel necklet that Liz badly envied, but in several sizes smaller, Loki was champing at the bit.
Fenrir was dispatched to Utgardaloki, and Jörmungand to the hag of Jarnvid. And the rest set off for the well of Mirmir.