Brief one tonight. I’m preparing to release a new ebook, “The Thunderer” containing three stories featuring everyone’s favorite God of Thunder.
When a struggling family man is mugged on his way home, a homeless drifter saves him. Strangeness follows this drifter who proves to be more than he at first appears.
We had reached a vaulted room. At the far side stood a dais with a throne. On the throne sat a, what, a werewolf? Some kind of half man, half wolf. No not wolf. Coyote.
“Welcome, nephew,” the creature said.
“Trickster you may be,” Donner said. “But that does not make you my uncle.”
“Am I not?”
“You are not so clever as he. You are trickster and tricked. He was ever the trickster never the tricked.”
“No? Was there not…”
Donner bowed. “One time only. And I am not so sure that he did not merely pretend to be tricked as part of some larger joke.”
The creature waved its hand in dismissal.
“Return the child,” Donner said.
“I claim that child as my own.”
I shouted before I could think. “No!”
Donner put a hand on my arm. “I think not, Coyote.” He smiled. “Stories in pictures, to entertain children. Such a simple thing. And yet this child believes in those stories. She believes in me. Her heart calls to me. She is under my protection. Return the child.”
The creature, Coyote, stood. “And if I refuse?”
Donner set his sack on the floor and opened it. He reached in and pulled out a wide belt of hinged metal plates. He buckled the belt around his waist. Next he drew from the sack two gloves, also of jointed metal, and slipped them onto his hands. Finally he pulled forth the largest hammer I had ever seen, at least a twenty pound sledgehammer with a handle only about ten inches long.
“Return the child!” Donner’s voice boomed like thunder.
“I claim the child as mine, to be raised in the old ways. Perhaps if she has no family to claim her…” Somehow–I did not see Coyote move–he was holding a bow and quiver of arrows. He drew and pointed. I knew that I saw my death.
The arrow flew. Donner lashed out with an arm and swept it around me. He pivoted, drawing me in and placing himself between me and Coyote. I heard a meaty thunk and six inches of arrow protruded from the front of Donner’s left shoulder.
My knees felt weak. Donner grinned down at me. “Flee up the passage. This is my work, my fight.”
I looked back over my shoulder. The passage was gone. “What passage?”
Donner pushed me back and turned to face Coyote. I saw the remainder of the arrow protruding from his back. “Ever the Trickster.” His arm swung with invisible speed. His hammer flashed across the room. Coyote stepped aside, evading the missile which struck instead the throne, reducing it to rubble.
Then, impossibly, the hammer flew back to Donner’s hand.
Donner? No, say the name I knew from my own childhood. Thor.
I stared. Thor. The stories I’d heard from my own childhood brought to life. Thor. Thor of the hammer, the hammer that always returned to its masters hand. The hammer that never missed.
And yet it had just missed.
Thor and Loki journey to the land of the giants. There, Thor faces his most difficult challenge, and his deadliest foe.
Toward evening Skrymir stopped. Thor caught up with him, breathless, Thjalfi at his side. Loki arrived a few heartbeats later.
“We will pass the night here, I think,” Skrymir said.
Thor looked up at the giant. “You said your brother’s place was near.”
“And so it is.” Skrymir nodded amiably. “We shall reach it soon come morning.” He stretched. “I am tired and think I will sleep. Here.” He dropped the bag. “There is food within. Eat.”
With that, Skrymir lay on the ground and was instantly asleep.
Thor dragged the bag to a sheltered spot between two great roots of the oak. He sat and began to work at the knots sealing the bag.
Thor pressed his thumb and forefinger into one of the cords tying the bag closed and pulled. The cord refused to budge. He tried another with the same result. Frowning, he tried to work the tie over the end of the bag. That, too, failed.
“Thor?” Loki looked down from where he sat on one of the oak’s roots.
“The bag will not open.”
Loki chuckled. “The mighty Thor, stymied by a cord?”
Thor held up the bag and stared at it for a moment. He took a handful of its cloth in each fist. He pulled, straining his back and shoulder muscles.
The bag did not give.
Thor threw the bag to the ground.
“The giant tricks us. He violates guesting law. He offered food and then withheld it by this…this trick.
“He…tricks…us.” Thor drew his hammer from his belt and stalked to the sleeping giant. He held the hammer overhead the swung it down in a massive strike against Skrymir’s head.
Skrymir’s eyes opened and he blinked sleepily. “Has a leaf fallen on my head?”
Skrymir rolled, his eyes falling on Thor who stood dumbfounded, Mjölnir hanging loosely in his grasp. “Why, Thor? Have you eaten? Are you ready to sleep for the night.”
“We…we are just going to sleep,” Thor said.
“Rest well then, Thunderer.”
“And you, Skrymir.”
Thor retreated to the meager shelter formed by the tree roots, chewing at his lower lip. Never before had Mjölnir failed him.
In the waning days of the Viking colonies on Greenland, a young warrior follows Skraelings that had been raiding their village, and learns the truth of the old stories.
Yes, children, let me sit by the fire. The cold gets into my bones these days. I will tell you a story.
That story? Yes, though your parents frown and the priests scowl, I will tell the story, for I have seen the truth of the old tales and they have not.
Night came and we found ourselves a hollow shielded from the wind. It had a small cliff with a slight overhang. There we stopped for the night. We built a small fire before the cliff. The rocks would hold the heat, you see, and would keep us warmer with a smaller fire than if we were out in the open.
Eirik set the order of the watch, to keep the fire lit as much as to watch for the skraelings, and the rest of us huddled between the fire and the rocks wrapped in our cloaks and slept.
That night I was, all of us were, awakened by a mighty thunderclap. I had never heard one so loud, not even the time I was standing three arm spans from Aelfred Olegsson’s chimney when lightning struck it. I thought I had been struck deaf but was proven wrong when the thunder returned, not with the crack following a lightning flash or the low rumble of distant thunder but in a steady roar that went on and on and on.
I held my hands to my ears and huddled on the ground calling on the Christian God to still the noise and take the pain away. I could see the others doing the same. But that God did not answer, or if He did, the answer was “no.”
Even in my pain, I could see that lightning was flashing over the ridge, striking in the next valley. This lightning against the sky shone into our own hollow and turned it to day. We could feel the very heat of it against our skins even through the pain of the thunder.
Even through all that, some part of my mind could only wonder that the skies were still clear. There was no storm to create that unnatural thunder.
Eventually that horrid thunder ceased. I tried to stand but the ground spun under me and I fell to crack my teeth against the stones. The world continued to spin and I could only crawl as though I were stupid with drink.
I felt a hand on my arm and looked to see that Eirik had grasped me. He too, was crawling, so I was not alone with whatever madness had infected my body. Blood poured from his nose and I reached up to my lip to find that I, too, was bleeding from the nose. Eirik’s mouth moved but I could hear no words, nor could I hear my own when I tried to speak. I knew then that I had been struck deaf.
Yes child, I can hear you. The curse was only for a time and had already begun to lift before dawn reared its head.
While it may shame a good Greenlander to say it, we were terribly a-frighted and huddled under that overhang, not daring to sleep, until dawn broke the sky.
As I said, by dawn the curse of deafness was starting to lift. I could hear Eirik’s words as though from a great distance. And his words frightened me even more than did the horrid thunder. He asked who would go with him to the next valley to see the cause of that terrible sound.
I wanted to flee. Whatever could make such thunder would be too horrible for any man to face. And yet, if I fled, then it would always be with me and I would always fear to look behind lest I find it coming for me.
I was not the first to say I would go with Eirik, but nor was I the last. In the end, no one refused.
If stories of Vikings and the Gods of the North appeal you you, you might also like my story The Spaewife:
What can a spaewife do, when even the gods are against her and the future she foresees is full of horrors?
For years Katla Gudmarsdottir told no one of the things the Norns, controllers of fate, told her were coming. She shared forecastings of when to plant and when to harvest and other simple things, but not the dread visions the Norns gave her.
Now Ulfarr, the Foul one, has kidnapped her and holds her children hostage for her foretelling.
And alone, forsaken even by the Norns, Katla must save herself, her children and her people.