Nihtbealu

You have gathered to the Symbel, one and all,
So now listen to my tale, the very best any scop has ever told,
It is a story that will awe everyone, small and tall.
Come closer, sit down beside the scop’s chair, be bold!
This is the story of Thrydwulf, unknowing son of the goddess of night,
Whose chariot brings the shroud of darkness over the sun,
Thus relieving Sigel of her toil, extinguishing day’s golden light.
Now I must turn this tale to its true subject, Niht’s son.
Thrydwulf sat on his straw softened bed, sharpening his sword.
He rolled the wire wrapped grip between his weathered hands.
The blade was etched with strange symbols spelling a single word.
The weapon had travelled with him to distant lands.
Finished, the god-thane slid the bog iron blade into its crimson sheath.
The wire inlayed pommel and guard glittered with copper, silver, and gold.
He smiled, revealing his wolfish teeth.
The blade had been left with him at the king’s throne, or so he had been told.
The warrior donned his suit of rings.
The god-thane opened the iron hinged door.
This was his duty to his generous lord, a king of kings.
The son of Niht was going off to war.
He mounted Hrimfaxi, the horse he had found wandering lost in the woods
He rode off, pondering his mysterious appearance at King Swidhelm’s throne.
Men had come with tales explaining his past, but he knew them all to be falsehoods.
The son of Niht weaved his way through the woods alone,
Preparing to join the war party setting out to battle King Rægenheri
He lurched through the woods at a startling speed.
The thane did not have the time to tarry.
His steadfast warhorse was impressive indeed.
He met his fellow thanes just before night fell.
The god thane feasted with his brothers in arms.
What the outcome of the next day would be, no one could tell.
He joined the watchmen, a group of men of lesser station ready to sound alarms.
Thrydwulf placed himself in front of his king’s tent.
Sleep evaded the thane just as it always had.
He could still detect the meat and ale’s scent.
The feast was a generous gift from King Swidhelm, and for it every man was glad.
The drink quenched both the thirst and uneasiness of the men.
Thrydwulf gazed into the darkness, and though it obscured the sight of his fellows,
The god thane could see clearly, in the distant bushes, a foxes den.
The son of Niht walked slowly over to the pit and felt the breath of bellows.
A sooty malformed face jutted out of the sand rimmed hole.
The dwarf climbed to the surface, a hammer and set of tongs gripped in its hand.
The dwarf stared at the god thane grumpily, a toe sticking out of his boot’s sole.
“You going to force me to forge you a sword?” the dwarf asked, kicking the sand.
“I’m much too wise for that,” Thrydwulf replied.
The dwarf’s eyes fixed on the sword at Thrydwulf’s waist.
Studying the craftsmanship, it sighed.
“Let me get a closer look at that blade,” the dwarf whispered in anxious haste.
Thrydwulf drew the weapon but refused to relinquish it entirely.
“You are a smart one.  I probably would’ve stolen it,” the creature confessed.
“Dwarf smelted bog ore.  Forged by Wayland himself,” the creature said worshipfully.
“What does the inscription say?” Thrydwulf pressed.
“Murk.”  The tiny smith translated, stroking his ragged beard with a gnarled finger.
That shred of knowledge was a glorious gift to the son of Niht.
The dwarf said “The forge is cooling. I’m afraid I can no longer linger.”
Thrydwulf gazed off into the darkness with perfect sight.
“Goodbye, friend,” the god thane replied as the dwarf crept back into his fiery forge.
Niht’s son stroked Murk’s hilt as he had so many times before.
He always knew his blade to be a masterful work,
But never would he have dreamed it to have been made by Wayland, the smith of lore.
The god thane paced, fingering his golden torque.
He resumed his place just outside of the King’s tent, waiting for Sigel’s light.
The thanes emerged from the swirling mists.
Their boar crests gleamed as they heard the cry of a swooping kite.
Precious torques gleamed, partly shadowed within the diving twists.
These were treasures all, to be taken by those who the blades did not bite.
Every thane’s eyes fixed on Thrydwulf’s master blade.
A moment of silence, then chaos reigned.
Sword met spear, axe met shield, and lives began to fade.
Men killed and died, and sunlight waned.
Blood soaked the frozen ground as the moon rose.
Thrydwulf and Swidhelm, alone against the darkness.
The veil of night began to close.
The enemies came on, their onslaught endless.
Seven of Rægenheri’s men were left.
Their blades danced under the light of Mona’s bone white sphere.
Finally King Swidhelm’s skull was cleft,
The moon began to disappear
As rage and anguish consumed the son of Niht.
The god thane’s face took on a deadly leer
He screamed, his enemies blinded by the vanishing light.
The thanes muttered curses as they stumbled through the shadows.
Only the god thane’s eyes could penetrate the consuming dark.
Thrydwulf could here the laments of his companions’ widows,
He gazed at the corpse of his dead monarch.
His blade wove deadly slices past the helpless thanes’ desperate defenses.
“Every deity has its place.  Each must not infringe on others!” Mona screeched
“This half mortal must pay the price for his crime!  This is the most serious of cases.”
Her face was contorted with fury, the color of bones well bleached.
The assembled gods sat in silence, musing.
Niht tried to change their minds.
But soon it became clear that she was losing.
Forseta proclaimed that they would send monsters and soldiers of all kinds,
To hunt the god thane that Mona was accusing,
But the moon goddess herself could not join the fray.
The twelve Ese judges were in agreement.
Niht could not think of words powerful enough to say.
Her agony could only be expressed by a wordless lament.
Thrydwulf wiped the trails of blood from Murk.
The moon was returning as the darkness cleared.
He marveled at his blade, a masterful work.
His arm had taken a wild slash, a small wound, but one that seared.
He mounted Hrimfaxi, his dark mare,
And rode off through the shadows his eyes could pierce.
Soon he came upon the dwarf’s small lair.
He stopped by the sand rimmed pit, his grimace fierce.
“Hello, good son of Niht,” the dwarf smith said.
“What?” Thrydwulf replied.
“You have a god’s blood, young thane.”
“How do you know?” the god thane pried.
Hrimfaxi shook her mane.
The dwarf answered, “We have records of all blades made by the master smith,
And I recognize that horse as Niht’s, named Hrimfaxi.”
The thane shook his head. “I can’t possibly be the son of a goddess of myth.”
“You don’t sleep, can see at night, and change darkness, correct?” the smith said wearily.
The dwarf leaned against a knotted oak tree with scars on two leafless limbs.
The god thane was speechless.  Dead friends, gods, dwarves, and magic swords?
Thrydwulf shook his bloodstained head. These were the things of hymns.
Yet of all the stories, all the words,
These were the only ones that had the ability to explain.
The moon had vanished at his time of need.
He, the dead man, had become the attackers’ bane.
More fiercely than before, the god thane’s wound began to bleed.
“Let me fix that for you, young son of Niht,” the dwarf said calmly.
“In hopes that you may one day do a favor for me.”
The dwarf hopped into the hole and stoked the forge coals deftly.
Thrydwulf hopped into the steadily widening hole.  The forge was impossibly roomy.
He was surprised to find that he could easily stand tall.
He stared around his surroundings.
Well crafted blades leaned against the forge wall.
He admired the shields, helms, and other things.
He reached to touch a silver and gold hilt.
A rod of metal smacked his hand away.
“That piece is not for you,” the dwarf said, his head at a slight tilt.
Thrydwulf walked the implied way.
“I’m afraid I still don’t know your name, dwarf,” Thrydwulf stated.
“Dvalrin is my name, young half god,” the dwarf said, pouring green liquid onto the cut.
The cut sealed, and Thrydwulf’s pain was soon sated.
Dwarf and man exited through the underground forge and hut.
It was not long before the elves came, their deadly bows drawn,
The elf shot rained down, pricking the two companions.
Upon Thrydwulf the implications soon would dawn.
No mere man, the arrows’ shadows had caught his eyes like beacons.
He tore after the elves, and cornered them in a sunny meadow.
There shadows warped, changing into strangling cords.
The attackers died, and as they did, so faded the plaguing arrow.
Thrydwulf took one of the bows, a hunting tool fit for lords.
Next the two companions encountered a mighty beast.
The dragon’s scales were mottled black.
The creature stood seven ells, at least.
It was clear to both that the monster would soon attack.
Through the dragons legs, Hrimfaxi wove, Murk spinning and slicing.
The blade bit deep, but could not deal a killing blow.
Instead its effect was little more than rage enticing.
He fired arrows at the creature with the elf bow,
But they could not pierce the dragon’s scaly hide.
The bow suddenly lengthened, the drawstring widening.
A notch appeared in Murk’s pommel. This could turn the tide.
With his god like strength, the son of Niht pulled back the drawstring.
The blade buried itself in the dragon’s massive heart.
An old man crept out of the woods.
“What is your name? Speak man!” Thrydwulf commanded.
His face once wrinkled beneath his three different colored hoods,
“I am the one who made your sword.  I am called Wayland,” he said
The old man shifted into a muscular youth, a hammer in his hand.
The dwarf looked at the fellow smith in awe.
The smith god warned, “You insulted Mona.  For recompense, your death is her demand.”
“Then I will fight her,” said the god thane, with a clenched jaw.
“A duel is the only way this can be resolved.  How may I reach her?”
The smith god sighed.
Thrydwulf’s death would be the most likely outcome to occur.
“Become the night,” Wayland replied.
The god transformed into an eagle, and took to the sky.
Niht’s son pondered the smith god’s answer.
He waited until the moon was high,
Concentrating, the god thane built his anger,
Then abruptly let his mind go blank.
His body began to disintegrate.
Slowly, into the night he sank.
He appeared next to Mona, the goddess who for him did wait
“The boy comes to pay for his mistake,”  the goddess pursed.
She drew a shining silver blade.
Their blades clashed, and both cursed.
Light and dark: Each were made, and soon unmade.
“Your father fell by your own sword.  His name was king Rægenheri.”
The god thane screamed in rage.
His fury became a terrible wrath that his sword would carry.
It was the only way to stop the guilt from transforming his body into a guilt-filled cage.
Sparks flew as half god and goddess clashed.
Finally the half god was seized with a mighty inspiration.
The moon goddess’s own shadow dashed
To Thrydwulf’s aid.  The son of Niht, the god thane, dissolved back into night.
To this day, Mona battles her shadow, and when it takes the upper hand,
Darkness overcomes the moon’s light.
The dwarf returned to his home, down under the hole rimmed with sand.
Thrydwulf mourned his father’s death
Reluctantly, he claimed the old king’s land.
Thus concludes my story of the son of Niht,
Where darkness brought good
And light brought evil.
Now all have feasted on everything they could.
Let us sleep under Niht’s dark veil.

[T.M. Robinson, a high school student at The Colorado Springs School, lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has been writing fiction since third grade, when he transformed the vocabulary sentences he was supposed to do for homework into a cohesive story. His first story to be accepted by a publisher was “The Boundary”, in the anthology Carnival, and his first to be published was “Becoming Necropolis”, in the anthology Mass Dissidence.]

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