Hey folks, wise people have told me that prologues are a thing of the past, usually quite literally. In the case of the prologue for Legacy, it was also a somewhat self-indulgent writing exercise– as background for the book, I’d been reading a fair amount of Scandanavian mythology, and it was essentially me taking a stab at writing an Edda. All very well and good, and I had fun with it. But look, it’s a werewolf romance. I’m a firm believer in diving into the meat of the story, and this was really just world building.
That said, if you want to know the kind of stories that Aunt Hattie would tell a somewhat bewildered young girl named Marissa, here you are:
When she was a little girl, her Aunt told her a story. Somehow, she could never forget it…
Once the Earth was to be eaten. But as it turned out, that didn’t happen.
Loki, trickster god, fire bringer and scourge of the complacent, birthed three beasts that wandered the Earth in the darkness. Men hid in their caves staring out into the Dark, seeing the dim light of their fires reflected from inhuman eyes.
But the beasts grew old and sank into the depths of the Earth, their ancient roars only heard distantly at night when the lights of the Aesir grew too bright.
So all was well, and men drank honey wine and ate thick cuts of meat, singing songs that claimed much and proved little. But deep below their feet, the beasts bred, spawning Loki’s grandchildren of the sea, the air, and of the Earth.
Three were Loki’s grandchildren of the Earth, called the Vargr, and great was their hunger. The first, Skoll, charged howling for the Sun, the second, Hati, for the Moon, and the third, Fenrir, crouched waiting to eat Midgard itself.
The Aesir broke from their feasts and saw the danger to the worlds. They rode out to challenge Fenrir, but their spears bent on his skin and his teeth shredded their shields. They became afraid.
Then Tyr spoke among them and said, “Listen, if a vale is shattered with stonefall one does not yell threats at the rocks. One finds another vale.”
And some of the Aesir called him Earg, for coward. These Tyr slew in the Holmgang, as is the custom with men. As for the others, they did not call him anything, but simply listened.
The remaining Aesir followed Tyr down to the underside of Midgard where the Earth drips slowly into the realm of Hel. And they kept their eyes averted from the skies below their heads, lest they see the wraiths of the men Tyr had just slain, for the newly dead still bear grudges.
Looking to their feet, they saw the Earth split and the kingdom of the Dvergar opened, spilling the little men around their feet. Tyr seized the largest of them all in his hand, for this was their king. As strong as he was small, the Dvergar King threw Tyr into the sky, so great was his anger at being so treated. Among the Dvergar, they still call this day the Instruction of Tyr, or Tiwscalding.
As quick to anger as Tyr was, he wasn’t foolish. As he was flung upwards, he spied the roots of Yggdrasil arcing around him, and he seized the roots with his legs, leaving him suspended between the Realm of Hel and Midgard.
The roots moved around Tyr, and he hewed at them with his axe. With each blow he cried, “Thus I serve the Dvergar King!” And this was true, at least in a sense.
The tree Yggdrasil sensed the truth of Tyr’s words and did not crush him as it had first thought to. For he who slays a good servant in his master’s place will find himself bound in the next world. And it is better to drink mead than the horn that carries it.
Swelling with anger, Yggdrasil stretched into the roots of the Dvergar kingdom, filling their great underground halls with shoots off its trunk. And the Dvergar that were not crushed with the collapsing chambers cried to their king.
Standing on the bottom of Midgard, high below his kingdom, the King of the Dvergar was laughing at Tyr dangling so far below him and entertaining bets with his retainers as to how long the Aesir would last before being taken by Hel.
Then the cries came to his ears and he realized that he had not won after all. A brave man will never stop fighting, but he can admit defeat.
So the King wept in anger, but held his tongue as he asked Tyr to leave the tree be.
Tyr said, “I took you in my hand to honor you and you repaid me with abuse!” And this was not true. But the Dvergar King was not Yggdrasil and was unable to sense the deceit of man.
The Dvergar King took his beard in his mouth, which is how his kind admits wrong without saying it aloud. He asked Tyr what the wergild would be for him to cease his abuse of the Great Tree.
Tyr asked for help in subduing the Wolf Fenrir.
“Ah,” said the miniature King, “that will be tricky.”
“It is no matter, for if we do nothing the Wolf will consume Midgard.” Tyr pointed to the horizon, where the great fangs of Fenrir could be seen glinting in the light of the frightened Moon.
“I live in Midgard,” said the King.
“As do I,” said Tyr.
“Then I will help,” said the King, “but you must do exactly as I say.”
“I so promise,” said Tyr, this time speaking the truth.
“I need the beard of a woman, the sound of a cat’s tread, the sweat of a bird, the modesty of a skald, and the scream of a fish.”
“These are hard things to get,” said Tyr. But he had no choice, so he and the other Aesir ranged far and wide to collect them. They took them from Midgard and gave to the Dvergar, which is why none of these things can be found in our world today.
“Thank you,” said the King of the Dvergar, who gave them to his finest craftsmen. They worked quickly (for they could see the fangs of Fenris and had no desire to be eaten) and forged the insubstantial into a ribbon called Gelipnir. It was as soft as a girl’s cheek, as light as a spider’s web, yet as strong as an oath and as long as a world.
“This is it?” said Tyr, for he had expected a weapon.
“You cannot kill Fenris,” said the King.
“I was hoping,” said Tyr.
“But you can bind him,” said the King. “Wrap these binds around his legs and mouth, and tie the ends together. He will not move, nor be able to snap at Midgard. And we all we be glad for this.”
“Easier to say than to do,” said Tyr, which was the truth.
“I wish I could help,” said the King, which was not.
They Aesir walked the long road on the underside of Midgard, catching the pallid deer that lived there by the light of the Moon when the Moon was chased by Garum and the light of the Sun when it was chased by Harum. The Aesir feasted on some deer, and the others they cast into the waiting maw of Fenrir, who was willing to eat them while waiting to pounce on Midgard. Fortunately, he was not that hungry, not just yet.
Coming to the Wolf, Tyr cried out “Greetings wolf!”
“Greetings dinner!” growled Fenrir. “Have you come to plead with me? I thought I’d wait a while before eating.”
“I appreciate that,” said Tyr, “and as thanks, we have come to adorn you with a ribbon.”
Fenrir sniffed at the ribbon Gleipnir. “Your adornment has the scent of a binding to me.” For in those days wolves were as cautious of the gifts of men as they are now.
“I promise you, it is not a binding,” said Tyr, who was lying once again, as is the custom of men.
“I imagine you wish to wrap that not-a-binding around my muzzle.”
“Something like that, yes.”
“Oddly,” said the wolf, “I can’t think of a single reason I should let you.”
“How about a promise?”
“Oh, this should be good,” said Fenrir.
“I promise you that we will tell no one of your fear of the Gleipnir. How the Skalds would laugh to hear of the great wolf Fenrir, afraid of a woman’s ribbon!” At this, Tyr tried to chuckle, but could not. The fangs were too close and large.
Growling in anger, Fenrir replied, “Do not speak to me of fear, you who come to plead for your life.”
“You did say something about eating our world. It arose my concern,” said Tyr, “but not fear.”
The wolf snorted, his breath striking down the thin trees of the Underworld. “Then, man without fear, place your hand in my mouth as I am bound. Thus I will know the truth of your words.”
And Tyr did this, although he was not happy. The Aesir bound Fenrir, which held him fast. And greatly did Fenrir struggle, but the more he struggled, the tighter his bounds were. Soon, he was held fast, and could nip only a little at the ends of the Earth, which is why the ice breaks into floes there.
And all the Aesir laughed to see this, save Tyr; he lost a hand.