As Åsa and Fjiorn’s eyes locked, the dancers faded and the drumming muted until they were the only two corporeal beings in a hall full of ghosts and whispers.
Slowly they bridged the gap that separated them.
Fjiorn raised a hand tentatively towards his wife, as though fearful that this was yet another insubstantial vision. But the hand that intercepted his was real and warm.
“How did you manage to find me?”
A shadow of a smile flitted across her gaze.
“With great difficulty. You hide so well.”
Boldly now, he leaned in until their mouths met.
After a while they moved apart, if nothing other than to appease the need to breathe.
They gasped in air and stared long and hard into each other’s eyes.
“Where are we?” she asked at last.
He shook his head.
“I cannot say, but you and I were both amongst these shadows, dancing and oblivious, like all these others.”
He looked around again now, trying to find his sleeping self, but it was nowhere in sight.
Åsa’s eyes shone.
“When are you coming home?” she asked.
“I must complete a task.”
“I need to stop Ragnarøkkr,” he said, as though he had just informed her
he needed to feed the goats.
“Who tasked you with that?”
Now she frowned.
“But there is no goat-god.”
“He has eyes like a goat, and he came to me immediately after the lightning struck me, so…”
He lifted his hand to cup the burnt flesh where his ear had been.
“And he told you to stop the end of the worlds?” she mused. “Why would a god ask a human to undertake a task that even the gods cannot complete?”
The disbelief in her voice was palpable. But before Fjiorn could reply, she continued.
“Fjiorn, who is this goat-god, really? Are you sure he is who he says he is?”
He shook his head.
“He has not named himself.”
“Then that is the first thing I would ask him, his name.”
“I challenged him by calling him Loki, but he denied that name.”
“Well, of course he would! Why do you think he is known as the prince of lies?”
“And what if he is not lying? What if this task…”
His words were cut off by a sudden implosion of air that left this world with a sucking sound that spread across the hall and through the dancers like a peal of thunder.
Completely oblivious, the dancers continued to dance.
“Is someone enquiring about Loki?”
The goat-god had appeared between them, but Fjiorn promptly moved past him and positioned himself protectively in front of Åsa.
And as he did, he recognised what was different about the goat-god. The eyes had moved and were now closer together and appeared much more human.
“My, look at you,” the goat-god said, unperturbed by Fjiorn’s scrutiny. “Such a courageous human, for one who is not even a warrior.”
He craned his neck to look past him at Åsa.
“And you! What a marvellous husband and wife you make. Exemplary models of true partnership and dedication.”
The mockery in the god’s tone was not lost on Fjiorn, but it was Åsa who spoke first.
“You are not a god!” she exclaimed. “So, what are you?”
The goat-man straightened under Åsa’s fierce gaze.
“Well, since you ask, I am obliged to answer. My name is Tanngrisnir, and my lord is the storm god, Thor…”
If a goat can look sheepish, that is what now happened to Tanngrisnir.
“He doesn’t, however, know that I am here.”
“What?” Fjiorn exclaimed. “You said I had been chosen by him! I mean, I was struck by lightning from Mjölnir, Thor’s hammer. It was his hammer, wasn’t it?”
“All lightning comes from his hammer, but the god did not strike it this time.”
“Oh, great mother sun!” Åsa exclaimed. “It was you who struck the hammer, wasn’t it! So, it was your lightning, not Thor’s, that struck my husband?”
The goat-man shrugged.
“Well, Thor was asleep, and I had to do it…”
Fjiorn’s eyes narrowed.
“Wait a minute, I know who you are! You’re one of Thor’s war-goats. You … you pull his chariot, you and your brother, what’s his name?”
“Tanngnióstr,” the goat-man answered with a sigh. “But…”
Fjiorn cut him off.
“How did you even know how to use Thor’s hammer?”
Tanngrisnir laughed nervously.
“I’ve seen him use it often enough. He kills both me and my brother every night and eats us to sustain himself, and then he uses his hammer to bring us back to life in the morning.”
“But you’re a goat,” Åsa pointed out. “How did you acquire hands? And a human body? You couldn’t wield Thor’s hammer without hands...”
An uncomfortable silence preceded his answer.
“Ah, I had some help with that...”
“Oh, really?” Åsa hissed. “And pray, do tell, who helped you?”
Tanngrisnir looked around the room as if looking for an easy escape route. Then he cleared his throat.
“Well, ah, Loki of course,” he said with a shrug. “Who else?”