Verdandi found her sister sitting with a pile of yarn in her lap. The youngest of the three sisters had a deep frown of concentration set in her brow.
“What is it, sister?” Verdandi asked.
Skuld looked up from her work, releasing another line of knitting from its fine, tight stitches.
“I don’t like how this one’s gone. I’m going to redo some of the more recent bits.”
Verdandi frowned, “You’d best ask our sister before you get too far.”
Skuld shook her head, still pulling stitches, “Urd has drunk too much and too often from the Well. She is mad.”
“Still,” Verdandi told her, “She is the eldest and has seen the most. She has the gift of hindsight and can give you perspective on what you are doing.”
With a sigh, Skuld began to wrap the yarn into a neat and tidy ball with a practiced hand. “Fine.”
Verdandi chided her, careful to keep her tone light. “Besides, I worked very hard at that one. It was almost finished.”
“I’m sorry, sister, I just saw a happier ending and I do not see how these last bits will ever fit the pattern.”
“We knit men’s lives, we do not live it for them. You may have foreseen happiness, but until the stitches are made, nothing is set in stone.”
Skuld nodded and packed the yarn back into the bag along with the needles and remainder of the project. She had felt bad pulling out Verdandi’s work. The stitches of the last few years of this particular man’s life were as complex as any she had ever seen. Color changes, multi-braided cables, bits of lacework, it was beautiful and rich, the colors deep and warm, but there was sadness threaded with the beauty and the complexity of the work had proven too much even for her skilled sister. There were mistakes here and there, mistakes that Skuld simply could not ignore if the future were to unwind from the skein as she had foreseen.
Project bag in hand, Skuld approached the great tree Yggdrasil and the well at its base, the Well of Urd. Her eldest sister sat there, a plain ceramic mug dangling from her hand.
“Sister?” Skuld called to her and the older woman, eldest of the three, looked up, her eyes glazed as if with drink.
“He comes to hang,” she said, her voice sounding distant and detached, void of emotion. “He will hang for nine days and then he will understand the way of things better than even you or I.”
“Sister, Odin has come and gone. He is as old and grey now as yourself.”
Urd, whose attention had wandered as she spoke her prophecy of things that had already occurred, turned and smiled, her eyes brightening.
“Little sister Skuld, how lovely.” Urd smiled at the young woman, patting the unoccupied, moss-covered rock beside her. “What brings you to see me? Is it time to cut the next strand?”
“No, sister. I come to ask your advice.” Skuld offered the bag of yarn and needles to the woman. “I have pulled out stitches, just a few rows.”
“What? Why?” Urd pulled out the contents of the bag and the sheet of paper outlining the pattern as Skuld had foreseen it decades before. “Verdandi can’t be pleased. You know the past cannot be changed.”
“But see, there are errors.” Skuld argued, pointing out where in the pattern Verdandi’s fingers had missed a stitch or where the color change was a bit wonky.
“The pattern changes as it is knit, you know that.” Urd counted the rows, nodding as she ran one finger down the pattern, the other down the fabric of soft, woolen stitches. “Yes, I see the errors now, but they cannot be undone. Mistakes are a part of life, dear Skuld.”
“And man’s free will guides our sister’s hands, I know sister.” Skuld nodded. “But these errors have changed the future too much, they rewrite the pattern.”
Urd checked the pattern again, nodding. “Indeed it does. Perhaps you should go and have a look at your stashes. If you look closely, there is the start of a mirrored version of the beginning here, near the end.”
Leaning to the side a bit, Urd dredged her mug into the Well. Skuld noted the action out of the corner of her eye, her brow crinkling in worry. She would have a further discussion with Verdandi later. Perhaps Odin could talk some sense into the woman who had seen more than she should. He was, after all, the local expert in such things.
Returning her attention to the pattern and fabric, Skuld tried to read it backwards and indeed the pattern began to mirror itself. As she did so, the visions came, gentle and reassuring this time, unlike their usual violence. She did not shake on the ground, but instead closed her eyes, taking the pattern and a pencil into her hands.
A few furious, scribbling moments later, she opened her eyes to find Urd holding out a goblet to her. It was the same golden vessel Odin had drunk from when he came to offer his eye to them in exchange for a drink from the Well. Skuld sipped the cool, sweet water and understood that she was, as always, in alignment with the universe.
“Better?” Urd asked, her voice slurred. “You went on a little ride, dear sister?”
Placing the goblet back in its place by the well, Skuld smiled.
“Yes. It will not be the same ending, but it will be a happy one.”
Urd patted her hand, missing once or twice in her stupor. “Of course it will, it all works out how it’s supposed to in the end, you know. Always does.”
Standing up, Skuld kissed her sister on the cheek. “Be well, dear Urd. I will bring this back when the time comes to cut the thread.”
Urd nodded, her eyes sleepy with drunkenness.
Her mood renewed with excitement, Skuld jogged back to her own place, a little hut on the edge of the pasture surrounding Yggdrasil. Inside, baskets and boxes and shelves upon shelves were filled with yarn of every weight, color, and length. Referencing her corrected pattern, she repacked the bag with a smile.
When she returned to Verdandi’s side, she was beaming with barely-contained glee.
“It’s all right now, dear sister. I have corrected the pattern. You’ll be pleased.”
Verdandi smirked. “I’m so glad, I’ve reached the end of my rope with this one. So simple and boring, I thought I’d never be done.”
Looking down at the basic, clean pattern of stitches spread across Verdandi’s lap, Skuld sighed a little sigh.
“Urd is deep in her cups today, sister. This man shall get an extra day of life.”
“But the pattern is complete!” Verdandi reminded her.
Skuld laughed. “Patterns change as you knit them, sister. You know that.”
Author’s Note: The title, Frogging, is in reference to a term used in knitting. To frog something is to rip out stitches in order to make repairs to errors, or to completely take a project apart in order to start over.
[A pixel-slinger by trade, Jennifer Lyn Parsons is a life-long lover of story, forging a new path as a teller of tales. Her work can be found in 365tomorrows and Dark Valentine Magazine. She also edits the women’s speculative fiction journal Luna Station Quarterly. She can be reached through her website.]