where stars blacked out
through the lands of fog
through the blue winter blizzards
Down through the maelstrom
Down through the caverns
Travelling down to the center of the earth.
I went down there
where the ghouls go
where no living man treads
past the screaming dungeons
past the icy sloes
past Night's citadel
beyond Sindri's golden hall
beneath the mountains where
dwarves mine the rocky deeps.
past the holy lair of the dreaded giant
whose head guards the spring of ancestral truth.
right to the midst of the middle root
of that largest of all trees.
I saw walls sheltering undying lands
filled with animals of every kind
from all four corners of the earth ;
a castle was being built there, with full halls
and tables set for a bright master soon to come
who they said would rule in peace
when the age was regenerated.
All the way, the Moon guided me
I remembered his song.
The pathways his milky beams cast.
At a root larger than any mountain
dwarfing the most massive of jotnar
near the mouth of a frosty cave
I met a satyr son of Mimir
guarding the holiest of lands
arms crossed and axe by his side.
That dwarf was stocky
and larger than a ten-foot oak,
but small for a giant, I suppose.
If I were to grasp what I came for,
I must get past this most formidable
of guards. I slipped into shadows
staying absolutely still until
the underworld sun began to set.
Then with intrepid footsteps
I leapt upon his eyes with cloth
binding him blind from behind
and transfixing him to the cave wall with a spear.
Do you want your life? I asked him.
Surely he nodded, as any might.
For a faithful vow to deliver me safe
to the Mysterious Mother of Night
who wove starry riddles on a loom
stretched across the roots of the immense tree,
I released him from his bonds,
for well I knew how. Then, kneeling
before Her Holy Majesty, trembling,
my elvish head bowed in fright and awe,
I yielded the silver-ivory sickle
the Moon had given to me, and waited
full many hours before the Crone noticed at all,
or so it seemed, to deign to turn and meet my eyes.
In terror it seemed that death looked me still through,
and then I saw beyond in that face, some mystery
I cannot tell, whence the most gentle and wise
of grandmotherly faces, and she smiled,
but her eyes were stern, cold and starry jotunn eyes.
Surely the grandam towered a full fifteen feet
o'er my already tall, slender height.
When she saw the sickle, those stone-cold eyes
hinted the trace of a smile, as the crescent moon
shimmering on the surface of a foggy lake, then left
her corded, gauze root-tangled loom, and walked
so regal, with such dignity as she ruled the entire realm
beneath, and so it seemed, she did, and at
the dwarf-lord's nudge of axe, I followed
through thickets of leaf-shrouded corridors
leading up and down paths that seemed
to follow the undulations of the root itself.
Before us, an immense circular wall of marble
engraved with silver snakes and dragons, runes of gold,
upon granite foundations thicker than a fortress' walls
sheltered the subtle sound of splashing, and then I knew --
as I saw towering down within the chasm
the terrifying beheaded head of the Giant-lord
at least six feet across, with moss for beard, and hair
like tangles of root-threads and loamy rhizomes,
if he had sprouted from the tree itself it would have seemed fit --
I knew this was the very well, the deepest of all wisdom ever spoken.
Up she strode and stroked his root-tangled hair hanging o'er
the chasm as to let his dangling mouth drink
what deep, rich mead swelled within that marble cistern.
I followed, and a golden axe strewn with pattern-forged checkers
slammed down in front of me. "None," stormed Miming,
the Giant's dwarvish son,
"shall go further than this, unless a sacrifice you'd give."
The Mysterious Mother of Night whispered
into the hanging Giant's head, whose severed throat
uttered gutteral roars like elephants thundering upon
gravel pathways, in an old dwarvish language I could not
ken, and it seemed they argued, if the sound of the earth
rumbling, and the echoes of the wind that seemed
to whisp from her lips could argue. Then those terrible
eyes of ancient, giant wisdom turned
towards me, and earthquakes quivering spoke out
the mouth of that mighty well-master of old.
"Speak now, archer's son of the shining bow,
kin of witches and eldar, whose grandfather wed
jotnar. A riddle will answer your gleaming head, or
your head shall adorn this grove forevermore."
I am forbidden to speak that arcane, trying puzzle
the largest and most intimidating of riddlers put
to the test of my maternal-learned spells, but with luck
and the strength of deep-summoning, closing eyes
and sinking vastly towards my lower power, chanting
the most ancient of elvish tongues, the maternal lore
did not fail me. I have my head to prove it!
The sickle I surrendered. "With great peril
this curse is yielded to the nephew of its maker.
Bring it forthwith to the Gods, and do not tarry,
do not dawdle, for the wretched blade's fury
surpasses even the power of the thunder, and could bring
down the heaven's might in fire. Trusted you are
with a great and mighty task, do not fail, or all
the worlds might tumble." The words thoomed
out of his older-than-worlds mouth like behemoths
upon the dusty bosom of moaning mother earth, and
Miming handed me the mighty sword, scabbard locked
in nine most awesome tangles and binds, and bowing,
I wound my way out, back
towards the realm of night
past the gates of frost
up the dripping, sightless caves that wound
forever so it seemed before the dimmest light
of moon shimmered once more upon Midgard's plains,
and there I was, back where I began.