white-ice morning in Hel's Hall
ninth of the Nine Worlds, when
Odin donned the Hel-shoes, cast the runes
and rode to ask his questions of
Because he was a god, twisted she
from her ashen bed
and by force
began to speak
of what she knew:
found, said the blackened lips,
cold is a serpent that holds, pushing its
ribbon-chest deep into mountain,
slow-cracking the heads of the spirits within
for gold to brighten its rippling scales.
Will you hear more?
saw, moved the fleshless jaw,
grow wide and thicken,
putting on its
that its dead mouth kisses every shoulder,
that the tree it circles
will shake down a harvest of lives
to grind out
all you love.
found, rattled the dustdry throat,
cold will make red daggers, hanging
borrowed blood to temper
oblivion's poppy snowflakes,
pierce the heart of hearts
and white alike
vanish from sight.
So I saw, whispered the husk of Hel,
that snow will
that the white wolf no sword can kill
will eat desire, that you
are a basket of bones made for wildflowers
withering in a wind of empty hours.
Will you hear more?
One-Eyed shucked his Hel-shoes
jumped back in Sleipnir's saddle,
the Ninth World,
where the wisdom he begged
had frozen on his tongue.
Kerry's Wednesday Challenge: Worldbuilding
Kerry O'Connor has asked us to write around the subject of alternative worlds. Here I've reached into the the realm of Norse myth, and as usual, taken a few liberties with the tales of the Old Gods.
Process notes: In Norse mythology, Hel was the realm of those dead who had not died in battle, and also the name of the female figure who ruled it. It was where Odin the One-eyed, first of the Aesir and god of poetry, war, death, wisdom and wandering, journeyed to raise a dead Seeress to tell him of the future. She prophesies the events of Ragnarök,* the twilight, or perhaps re-making, of the gods, where the children of the antagonistic god of disorder and mischief, Loki, the Midgard Serpent and Fenrir the Wolf, will battle the gods, and the World Tree will 'shake and groan.'
Hel-shoes (helskór) were put on the Norse dead to walk the road to the Otherworld.
Sleipnir is Odin's magical eight-legged horse.
* I probably ought to add that following the events of Ragnarök, the völva also prophesies that a beautiful new world will emerge, where men and gods live in peace and plenty. Some believe that this a post-Christian introduction, but regardless, it satisfies the happily ever after need we humans have.
Image: Odin Rides to Hel, by W.G. Collingwood
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons