Chapter Ten: The Passage
Horses began being mounted with supplies as Thor, and his men prepped for the journey ahead. All three prisoners sat upon the ground while an additional guard kept close proximity. Loki has not been with his sons in years, and he wished their reunion could have been under different circumstances. Unable to look at his own kin, he started apologizing. “I did not mean for you both to be in this. This was of my doing.”
“It truly is,” Narfi answered back. “Did you not once in your life fathom that your misdeeds could possibly be transferred to those in relation to you?” Loki fell quiet, unable to answer his son. He knew no words could undo his decisions, and he knew no matter what was said, their fates were set.
Heartbroken and disappointed, Narfi continued talking. “My heart knew no stronger love for a father. I dreamt of such days where we all could become whole as a family and leave to a place where such a possibility could become a reality. For my entire existence, I believed such a thing could come.” Shaking his head, he asked, “Why could you not let the past be as is?”
Loki looked at both his sons and expressed a sympathetic part of him that he tried keeping buried. “They slaughtered an entire race, our race. My family, my brothers, and sisters? They … they all lay waste upon the dirt. No such burials or condolences, and for what cause? A tyrant’s pursuit of power? All were butchered mindlessly, and not one expressed sorrow or remorse for such actions. Tell me, what measures would you have taken to avenge them?”
“I would take no such action,” Váli chimed in. He explained further with logic and reason. “You survived, Father. You, of all. The guilt and burden you must carry as memories of both Mother and Father are nonexistent must weigh heavy. It could be enough to drive any mad, but you fail to see the picture before your eyes.”
“And what picture is this,” Loki asked Váli.
“You were given a chance to lead a new life. To be more than them. You had children, women who have adored you, and you created such a family when yours was stripped from your hands. You so desperately wanted to avenge the family that never was…you failed to see the family created before you now. That is why you will never know peace, Father. You were lost before our existence was thought, and now the decisions you made have led us here for the past you desperately cling to. I do hope such transgressions you have taken were worth the lives of your children.” Ending on a sour note, both Narfi and Váli turned away from their father in shame.
They could not dare talk anymore as the words stung them. As much as they loved their father, Loki never knew when to accept what fate has done and live happily with what was given. His obsession with Odin and the past consumed him, so entirely he became lost to it. Now, as they all sit shackled, Loki could do nothing but regret what he has become them.
Thor gave the signal, and two Asgardian soldiers guided Váli and Narfi to their horses. They were now set to journey to the destination Thor had planned since the death of his brother. Grabbing Loki by the arm, Thor tossed him toward Sleipnir, Odin’s black-maned, eight-legged horse. He entrusted his steed to his son as a personal extension of himself. As long as Sleipnir was near, Odin would be able to sense him and his men if their mission went awry.
“Up with you wretched snake.” Thor grabbed Loki by his clothing and helped the weakened god to his feet. Breathing heavily and barely unable to stand, Thor, tied Loki’s hands to the ends of his saddle and smiled. “You think of me as brute and witless. One’s disdain should meet such words. You shall walk, stepping in Sleipnir’s filth along the way just as it represents the god you are.”
Loki rebutted arrogantly. “Did Allfather ever express that your tongue rambles longer than it should?”
Wrapping his hand around Loki’s throat, he began to squeeze. “You dare joke? To I, of all?” Hearing one’s life slowly being snuffed gave Thor utter joy. Every whimper Loki made was like music within the god’s ears, but he knew he could not kill him prematurely.
“Aye, brute. Strike me now. Let your torturous plans simmer to ash as you take my life.” Shaking with indecisiveness, Thor reluctantly released his grip before he escalated the situation further.
“Heed my promise Loki, what is in store is far worse beyond what your mind could conjure. This I guarantee upon Allfather himself. You will suffer.” “Aye, then one might suggest not tampering with the god you’re about to torture. Hard for you to muster this thought, I can assure you but heed MY own words. It could help your quest,” he added sarcastically.
“You think you are a clever snake. I will live for the moment you realize your world is in tatters, and only then is where I will break you.” Mounting Sleipnir, he yelled at his men to start their travels.
Thor and his soldiers rode for miles telling each other war stories. They laughed and drank ale on their horses while tales of their most thrilling kills were expressed in a comical manner. Like brutes, they clanked their cups and yelled loudly, trying to reenact their proudest moments on the field. They all were lively and full of energy, which could not be said for the trickster himself. For Loki, he slugged his way through the mud and dirt, struggling to keep pace. His body was no match for the harsh terrain as his legs would betray him, buckling from exhaustion. No matter how many times he fell, though, Sleipnir continued to drag Loki whether he walked or not.
Thor could not contain this satisfaction. He grinned, knowing Loki’s despairing face slowly started showing through his sly exterior. It was a first for Thor to see Loki so beaten. It felt almost criminal to feel this sense of euphoria from someone’s misery, but Thor made the best of it.
The travel itself was moving fluidly as expected until they came upon their first destination. One of the Asgardian soldiers dropped his drink, signaling to stop. A narrow passage between mountains showed itself. It was an unknown path to most. This entrance was only known to a select few and was used in case of emergencies or evacuations due to sieges on their kingdom. Knowing he couldn’t take Loki through the main road without interference or delay, Thor’s judgment relied on this path that could save them the time and effort.
Unloading everything from their horses, Thor untied Loki’s hands. “Ah, is it wise to unbind a convicted god?” Loki advised.
Thor threw the tattered rope to the ground and pointed Mjolnir at the god’s chest. Sparks of lightning radiated throughout the hammer, ready to unleash its power harnessed within. “Is it truly wise to agitate a god with such a weapon?” Thor countered.
“If one’s agitation is called for one’s demise, aye, it is.” Loki agreed.
Chuckling at his silver-tongued ways, Thor grabbed the mischievous god’s shoulder and pressed Mjolnir into his chest. Painful grunts escaped Loki’s throat struggling to breathe. The sheer pressure of Thor’s weapon was so immense, it could cave Loki in. If the god did not agitate Thor as such, he wouldn’t endure this kind of torment. But, one’s ways cannot be undone so easily, for taunting Thor was the only joy Loki had left.
Gasping for air, Thor blissfully smiled at him. “Your outcome to your destination falls upon your actions, you slithering worm. Either walk, or I bash one’s legs to dust and force you to crawl in such disgraceful manners. Content I am for the choice you make.” Pushing Loki first toward the passageway, he reluctantly went first along with Thor, followed by his two sons and the guards protecting the rear.
The trail was, at most, four feet wide. Most of them had to shuffle themselves through just to keep a steady pace. Barely being able to walk through this claustrophobic pathway, Loki stated if their travels really had to go this route. He did not like being confined, and although this wasn’t the same, its lack of spacing gave him causes to be concerned. Looking back at Thor, he simply ignored Loki’s comment and told him to press forward. He had no time nor patience for the god’s stupidity.
Suddenly, the pebbles beneath their feet started to move as the ground lightly rumbled. They all stopped in place and looked at one another. One of the soldiers spoke out with worry. “What sort of sorcery is this?”
Thor ran his fingertips among the walls and shook his head. “Magic is not among us. Something moves these grounds.”
A loud roar was let out that violently shook the earth below. Cracks formed along the rocks and grew in size, causing their erosion. Pieces of them fell toward the gods as they covered their heads for safety. Thor grabbed his hammer and pointed toward the sky. He summoned the power of lightning to disintegrate the falling debris into powder. The shaking went on for a full minute before it slowly mellowed down. Able to stand on their feet again, Váli asked what that commotion was. The fear in Thor’s eyes rattled them all. He knew what caused the tremor. He has heard stories of these events and the signs that follow. Looking up at the captives and fellow comrades, Thor told them the truth. “Yggdrasil is faltering.”
“This cannot be … if the great tree trembles,” one soldier said.
“Then Ragnarök has commenced,” the second finished. “Fimbulwinter will soon follow, war and death will reign among the cosmos.”
Thor sighed in exasperation. There was nothing to be done. If Ragnarök truly was among them, no god, not even the Allfather himself could stop what will come. All they could do was do what they do best, fight the onslaught that dares threaten their realm. “Come now, we still have important matters to deal with.” Looking at Loki, he told him to press ahead. Even the end of days would not stop Thor from seeing Loki’s punishment fulfilled.
Thirty minutes passed before the group reached the end of the trail. Coming out of the mountain, they were greeted by a giantess who stood barefoot and ten feet in height. She wore clothing made from the fur of wolves and had the darkest eyes. A bow rested on her left shoulder, and a bag created from the skin of deer rested on her right.
She bowed her head respectfully at the god. Reciprocating the same gesture, Thor smiled up at the giantess. “Skadi, the mountains have been plentiful, I assume?” She looked down at him and responded back to the god. “The seasons have gifted a bountiful hunt. One could not ask for better.” Turning her head to Loki, she stared at him intently. The giantess then grabbed the trickster’s face and looked into his eyes.
“You are of royal blood,” she blurted.
“Aye, the son of Laufey and Fárbauti,” Thor informed her.
“I knew of those giants long ago.” She let go of his face and stood up straight. “Their savagery is what caused the downfall of our race. Saddening to see a fellow giant be punished after all that’s ensued. Thought you smarter son of mischief.”
“You know of me?” Loki asked.
“Stories of Baldur’s death travel greatly. Even among these mountains.” Turning her attention back onto Thor, the giantess went straight to the point. “You wish to use the cavern bridge that will lead you to Jotunheim, Son of Odin?”
“We implore urgency on the matter, your gracefulness,” Thor expressed humbly. “We dare not risk exposure of the criminal in the public’s eye as I fear crowds will have his head before his true punishment is commenced on him.”
“Odin has always been kind to me,” she responded. “He has never tampered with my home or what inhabits within. It only fits I show the same kindness to his son. This way, I will help aid you on your quest.” Thor respectfully bowed to the giantess again and thanked her for her kindness.
Skadi turned around and told them to stay close as she took the lead up the mountain. Only she knew the precise location of the bridge, and for a good reason. For the common folk, they believed there was only one between worlds when, in fact, there were several. Even the thunder god himself thought it as well until Allfather let him in on the secret. There were several hidden bridges made during the war of gods and giants. They used these portals as a battle tactic to transport soldiers more stealthily. Once the war was won, most bridges were cut off from the realm and destroyed.
Only one remained intact, and it was Skadi’s, a generous offering from Odin himself for her wisdom she shared about her home world, which led to their victory. He personally knew she would never use it in such a distasteful fashion as all she ever wanted to do was hunt and be secluded in the mountains. Instead of being confined to hunt in one world, he and Heimdall made it possible for her to hunt in all nine, which kept her rather busy. The facade she puts on for the gods may come off as cold and emotionless, but deep down, she was overjoyed and thankful for such a gift bestowed upon her even if she did not express it loudly.