The dwarves killed me.
But they could not make me stay dead.
Fjalar and Galar carried only a candle each as they led me
into the darkest room in the depths of their house. The knowledge
that I shared to all was an affront to the dwarves, who keep
their secrets for themselves; perhaps they feared
that I had somehow found out what they knew, as well,
and would share it far and wide with the rest of the world.
And perhaps I did,
And perhaps I would have done.
They thought I did not know what they planned in that darkness,
the clubs they had waiting to crush my skull.
Maybe that was why they hurried so.
I went into the darkness of that deepest room
unafraid and calm.
I know that death is not the end.
Not for man, not for dwarf, not for alf or svartalf,
not for troll or Van,
not for the Aesir or the Jotun–
and not for those born of magic and circumstance, like me
–who rose up whole from chewed berries fermented with the spit
of the Vanir and the Aesir after they were born–
me, who was born in a way no creature before
was ever birthed.
Men themselves know this; they know
things live beyond their allotted times;
of the gravewights, the draugr buried in their barrow-tombs,
moving uneasily under the weight of soil and stones,
and some nights coming out to walk.
It takes no special wisdom to know that life springs again
after death, for each creature in its own way.
And I knew that when they killed me
–(yes, I knew they planned to kill me)–
that I would go on to visit with my knowledge
to many, many others than I could ever reach on foot.
When my limp body had stopped twitching,
they hoisted me up onto a high shelf, positioned vessels
under my head,
and cut my throat to drain my blood, my life,
into vats and a single pot, catching every drop.
Every drop, every mote of me lived in that flood of red,
Though the empty vessel I left behind was of no import.
Then they stole bee’s gold from the waxen hives,
(Bygul they would have called it, as beauteous Freyja
might have called one of her cats),
and mixed that golden sweetness into the vessels.
It was there that the power of my life woke again,
making something richer and better than an ugly mixture
of thin red and thicker gold,
mixing, mingling, melding together,
and yes, making magic.
The dwarves did not fare well after my murder;
they felled the giant Gilling and his wife, but
Gilling’s son Suttungr learned of their treachery
and went to visit; through threats and violence and fear of death,
they at last convinced him
to take the wergild of the mead I had become for
the deaths of his parents.
Suttungr took the vessels to Hnitbjörg, where
his daughter Gunnlöð guarded over it;
and this is where Odin came
—most crafty, most wise—to take me away.
There have been questions about how he found me:
perhaps Mimir’s head told him of me,
or perhaps he learned of me in a view from Hliðskjálf,
or of me was by Heimdall told.
Or perhaps he just knew;
like calls to like, after all,
and he was the Highest of Aesir,
and of the spittle in that cauldron
when they made peace with the Vanir,
his was the most;
if Heimdall is said to have had nine mothers,
it could be said that I had mothers and fathers alike
in the dozens, the hundreds;
but of them all, he was chiefest.
Odin came upon nine workmen in a meadow,
himself disguised, new-named, cleverly deceiving,
and did them a service, pleasing them so well by it
that he tricked them with the tool of that service
into killing themselves,
leaving their master Baugi—
Suttungr’s brother, Gunnlöð’s uncle—
without the toil of those thralls
for the rest of his need.
So Odin—most crafty, most wise—
bargained his own labor to toil
for the feat
that he as Bölverk had done for Baugi,
that he as Bölverk had orchestrated the need for;
and named his price:
three swallows of the draught from his brother’s vats,
And Baugi agreed.
When the season’s strivings were seen,
he asked for the price he had been promised by Baugi—
and Suttungr refused to pay.
So Odin—most crafty, most wise—came, instead,
the long way, through a hole drilled into
the mountain Hnitbjörg in the form of a serpent,
to visit Gunnlöð.
Fair she was, and sweet she was, and welcoming she was.
And naive she was,
best-positioned she, who guarded over those vats,
and he charmed her with his smile,
and took her for three nights to her bed.
And so when Odin had seduced Gunnlöð,
she let him have three drinks;
a drink for each night;
But Odin drank deeper than any,
and with each drink he drained
one of those three vessels,
leaving them dry as old bone.
So father came to son,
and when an uproar rose,
he took another form
—not Bölverk, not serpent, but eagle—
and flew away.
So now I rest rightly in Asgard,
where Odin gives of me to Aes and man,
sparking the inspiration for poetry to those he gifts,
and if you have ever tasted of me
—even a sip,
a sip so small that only one tiny drop of me
one smallest of motes—
then that one tiny glittering gold and ruby drop—
swims still through your flesh and blood,
even if you tasted it years ago,
for I am with you always,
as I have shown you here today.