Remove these ads. Join the Worldbuilders Guild

In the world of Altearth

Visit Altearth

Ongoing 1277 Words

Chapter 22

782 0 0

We said our goodbyes to Hel, Baldr and Nanna. I was a little jumpy, wondering if we might have broken some obscure rule and would have to stay in Helheim. Instead, we were shown off with as much ceremony as we'd been greeted.

We stepped into the bifrost and I let the overwhelming sensory experience wash over me. I zoned out for a moment, until something caught my attention. I jerked into alertness, reaching out with my senses and energy to try to find it. It took me a moment to latch on to the feeling as being the disturbance.

It was a sense of betrayal, like some being had violated their own nature. It felt like someone had been hurt by that. There was anger and tears, and bitter, bitter vengeance growing over the years.

"Tyr. Fenrir." I reached out to the feeling and pulled it close. I popped out of the bifrost and stood in shock at the expanse of emptiness.

Before me was blackness. Not the blackness of a sealed room with no light. Not the blackness of deep space. Not the blackness of unconsciousness. Somehow, all of those were glowing with presence and life compared to this.

I drew in a ragged breath, near tears for no reason at all, except that the blackness somehow stole hope from my mind and heart. I turned back to the bifrost, convinced that the silver-blue ribbon couldn't possibly exist here.

The bifrost wound its way around a giant tree, with infinite roots reflecting its infinite branches. The tree itself was alight with the vibrant glow of fire and ice. The ice floated along the top of a giant river, while the underside of the current sparked with flame and magma.

I stared in horrified fascination as scenes along the tree stood out clearly to me. A spot within the roots, near one of three massive, main roots, suddenly jumped into focus. The Well of Urdr sat among the twisting wood, while women of all kinds moved around it, tending their work.

A thread weaving along the lowest roots grew into the monster serpent, Niðhoggr, who chewed on a mid-sized root until it was just a few ragged strands of fiber. The beast moved its head to nip at a spirit floating nearby.

I jerked away from the scene only to find myself staring at the uppermost branches. Several of the boughs resolved into the tines of the antlers of four giant bull elk. An eagle flapped down to rest on one of the tine-branches. The elk shook its head, and the eagle took off, flying around the crown of the tree several times before attempting to rest again.

A small movement showed a large brown squirrel with a thinly furred tail and black tufts on its ears. It raced over to the eagle, chittering. The raptor let out a scream before taking off around the branches again.

I knew the squirrel must be Ratatoskr, the troublemaker, taking a likely made-up message down to the serpent. When the message was delivered, the serpent growled and shifted.

That was how the universe’s heart beat. The giant eagle shook the branches, and the giant serpent shook the roots, and that pulse kept the tree growing steadily.

I could also see Helheim, where we'd just left, along the path of the ice and fire river, Élivágar. I could see from here that the river was actually a network of waterways flowing throughout the worlds. The river flowed around the tree, coming out of and going back into the black void behind Yggdrasil.

I turned back to the void, Ginnungagap, and tried looking into it again. This time, I spied a small glimmer to one side, along Élivágar, near the Great Tree. With a thought and a shift, I sped over to the spot. On the icy side of the river network, a huge sheet of ice had formed. Within it, there was a hollow, as though there had been something within the ice that had been since freed.

Buri, I thought. The ancestor of humans and gods all had been licked out of the salty cosmic ice by the great cosmic cow. What a start for life in the Nine Realms...

But why was I here?

I thought back to the feelings I'd latched on to in the bifrost. I had thought they were about Tyr and Fenrir, but neither of them had any real connection to Ginnungagap. At least, no more than the general stuff that everyone had.

"You are one of the mortals of Midgard." The gentle voice sounded muted in the void, but it still startled me.

I turned to find myself face to face with a wide brown face. The eyes were covered with long strands of thick, wooly hair, and the long furry ears each twitched under a large tuft of even more of the thick hair. I pulled back and gaped at the black nose before refocusing on the creature as a whole.

"A-a cow!" I said. "I mean, you're a cow! Er, I mean... Um, you have to be that cow." I glanced at the heavy head that bore no horns. The Fourteenth Runespell tingled against my chest. "Auðumbla, the hornless cosmic cow, creator of the rivers of milk that fed the first beings, and licker of the salt that produced Buri."

"I am," the cow said. "Why are you here?"

I shook my head. "I was just trying to figure that out. I was in the bifrost, and I felt what I thought was the guilt and betrayal of Tyr and Fenrir. Instead, I ended up here."

The cow nodded. "Betrayal is not unique to the wolf and the one-handed god."

I frowned. "Did something happen here? A betrayal of that magnitude?"

Auðumbla looked at me, then turned to the ice wall. She licked at it a few times. "It took three days to reveal the thing inside the ice.  Before that, there had only been the ice and me. I wanted another thing. I didn't know what it would be or what it would bring."

I reached out to touch the ice with my hand. It felt like ice, normal ice, melting slightly under the warmth of my fingers. I licked them and tasted the salt. It was strangely delicious, and I nearly reached out for another taste.

"I returned to the ice over and over," the cow continued. "First was the giant, Ymir, who drank of my milk while I tasted the ice. Others came from them. But not Buri. I uncovered Buri."

I nodded, entranced by the storytelling of the soft-spoken bovine who had helped create the Nine Worlds.

"Buri's son, Borr, found Bestla, and they created Odin, Vili and Ve, knowledge, will and spirit." The cow paused. "When the brothers were born, I sometimes felt like someone was feeding from me again. I thought it might be Ymir again, but it continued after the brothers killed the giant and used their body to form the Nine Worlds."

I frowned. "There was someone else?"

The creature blinked at me from under the hair covering her eyes. "I do not know. And you should not be out here. One can lose much in the void, even themselves."

I swallowed hard, cutting my eyes to the terrible but seductive darkness. It called to me, sang to me, like howling wolves.

I backed up, moving toward the bifrost. "Thank you, Auðumbla."

I turned and only looked back once, curious about the lack of response. The cow had gone back to licking the salty ice, ignoring me as though I'd ceased to exist.

Support AuthorGoddess's efforts!

Please Login in order to comment!