It was becoming dusk, and Thor and Loki gazed upon a barren landscape from atop their chariot. In every direction they looked, they saw a vast mire filled with dead trees and desiccated grasses. While they stopped, Thor’s goats grunted and nipped at one another; they were becoming tired and impatient… Looking far into the distance, Thor’s eyes sharpened and saw a small cabin. He quickly snapped the reins to point the goats in that direction.
“Well, my brother, isn’t it lovely here?” Loki said, while directing his eyes playfully at Thor.
“Shut up, you fool. I wanted to be there by now, but your idiot questions have been distracting…” Thor spoke in a smoldering tone. There was no jest in his insult.
“Ohhh, where is your noble temperament, brother? Hardly worthy of the prince of Asgard… is it not?”
“You know I am not even listening to you, correct? … Why are you here? You still haven’t answered that…”
“I love you, Thor… Anything to spend more time with my dear brother… Sorry, ‘step’ brother. I mean, I’d like to know what you… I mean ‘we’ are doing… but you can keep your secrets if you’d like. I’ll just provide some good company! Brother-brother time, you know.” Loki gesticulated toward Thor with mocking, exaggerated arm movements as he spoke.
Loki’s eyes were so intense that they sparkled with excitement… Angering Thor was his favorite pastime.
Thor was silent, looking in the opposite direction. He knew if he looked, those eyes would only enrage him further. He could beat up his brother if he wanted. It would hurt Loki. Yet, the pleasure Loki derived from making him mad enough to do it, would make Loki want to do the same thing again. Ignoring him was the only choice. At least while he was focused on his mission, it made no sense to escalate anything…
Thor snapped the reins again, and the goats sped up their gallop. They closed in towards the tiny cabin. Meanwhile, the brothers were silent. Loki took occasional glances in hopes of provoking him further, but Thor wouldn’t take the bait. When the God of Thunder came to the farmstead, he tied the chariot to a dead tree near the front door. Behind the house was a small corral. Judging by the size, it was likely for goats, but there was nothing inside the fence now. The house was neat, well kept, but it was clear that these were people of simple means.
“We will stop here.” Thor said with his hoarse voice.
“Okay, brother!” Loki spoke with mocking positivity.
Thor walked to the door… He tried to maintain as much distance as possible from Loki as he did.
He stopped and took a deep inhale at the door.
*KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK*
The firm impact on the heavy oak led to a deep, residual sound which likely had a physical force inside the building. Perhaps because of this, the man who answered the door looked completely bewildered when he cracked it open. A single, terrified eye peered out.
“Hello, noble sir. I am Thor of Asgard. This is my brother, Loki. We are on route to Jotunheim. Your hospitality and a couple beds would be appreciated. We will leave in the first light of the morning.”
The host, opening the door further, spoke tersely, “Oh yes, please come in… Thjalfi! Come quickly. Grab Roskva. We have guests.”
The man then asked his daughter, Roskva, and his son, Thjalfi, to prepare the table to feed the guests. But before they could, Loki perked up; “Don’t worry about food. We can eat Thor’s goats… Yes, we’ll have a grand feast. Thor can bring them back to life afterwards. Easy task for this Asgardian prince!”
Thor sharpened his eyes and looked directly at Loki who only returned a haughty, simple smile.
Thor spoke with his teeth slightly gritted: “This is true. I will get them if you build up the fire in your hearth. I will be back.”
The father again spoke quickly, “Oh yes, thank you. I’ll use all our wood… Thank you, thank you…” He was glad to have a chore to occupy himself, and he threw the wood from against the wall into the central fire.
Thor meanwhile left out the only door. After their eyes followed Thor out, they turned to Loki who stared back at his hosts. Loki looked back at them as though they were inanimate objects. They could have been logs on the ground — or the ones just thrown into the fire, for all that Loki cared. He didn’t like humans. He thought they were weak and dumb, always had. He refused to even insult them. Meanwhile, they gave him warm, deferential smiles, which only made Loki redouble his contempt for them. He sneered and looked away.
Thankfully for everyone, Thor re-entered before too long. They all watched as he kneeled to drop the hides of his goats on the floor while he balanced the carcasses on his other arm. He then walked to the center of the room and threw a rope over the timbers above the fire. He arranged the meat over the now roaring flames.
Meanwhile, Thjalfi and Roskva set the table. Loki, who had done nothing the entire time, sat down first. Meanwhile, while the meat was cooking, Thor asked the old man some questions about the route to Jotunheim. His questions were direct, and the answers given were clear and simple. The man knew the immediate area around his farm perfectly well, but had no idea of anything outside of this region…. Still, Thor gained a little insight from their conversation. Roskva and Thjalfi were silent the entire time.
After the meat was cooked, Loki and Thor each took a huge portion, and one-third was given to the family. They were astounded by the thought of eating so much by themselves. Half-starved though, they felt truly elated. But as soon as they all grabbed their first pieces, Loki was already walking away from the table after finishing his portion… He laid the bones of the animal on the pelt, and even the usually careless Loki, did this task very intently…
Walking back to the table, he pointed at the family, “You not going to eat yours?” They were baffled. How could he have eaten so fast? Was he serious about eating theirs as well?! They all gave dumbfounded looks, so Loki continued: “You’re too full to even speak? Ok, I’ll help you. Nooo problem… See Thor, what a man of the people does? No waste, right?” Loki ate everything. All three of the family members ate only what was already in their hands.
“Since you all are finished eating last, you can take the rest of the bones over to the pelt.” Loki said contemptuously but gave a cold, mocking smile.
The herders were a little disoriented, but Thjalfi lowered his head and took the bones without saying a word. As he approached the pelt though, he caught the sweet fragrance of the meat. He was still very hungry, and the smell excited him beyond measure. Before he laid it down, he leaned down upon one of the bones to break it with his shin. It snapped, but Thjalfi muffled the sound by adding pressure with his hand around the fracture point. From inside, he quickly ate the marrow before hiding the broken bone under the pile afterwards.
Later, the humans led Thor and Loki to the beds of the two children. And the father who typically laid on the floor with a mat, was flanked by his son and daughter on the ground. The night passed uneventfully.
In the morning, Loki awoke after Thor; his brother had already gone outside with the pelts and bones. After the goats were brought back to life, Loki came to watch his brother get them attached to the chariot.
“What is wrong with that one?” Loki pointed at the left goat.
Thor listened to his brother seriously at this moment. He came over to the goat that Loki pointed at. It was clearly favoring one leg, putting little or no weight on it.
“Tanngrisnir, what is the problem?” The God of Thunder seemed genuinely concerned.
Thor grabbed the goat’s leg and it instantly bucked with its back leg, hitting Thor in the neck. Thor was a little shocked and looked at the leg again; this time without grabbing at it. It shook, as Tanngrisnir tried to stabilize it. The bone was broken. Thor instantly understood what had happened. Without another thought, Thor grabbed Loki by the neck. Loki’s feet dangled as his brother’s crushing fingers compressed his throat. Thor’s face started to show tiny tendrils of lightning that arched around his eyes. Loki muscled out a couple broken sounds before saying, “Gahhh-ahhh-aah, I did… naaa-othing…(coughs)…They broke it.” With this, Thor released him. Loki struggled to regain his breath but still had a half smile. He knew he was going to see a “show” now… Thor grabbed his hammer, Mjolnir, and headed back into the cabin…
Thor kicked in the door. “Who did it! Who? Say it now!?” Thor was livid, literally shaking with ferocity.
“What? Did what? The father was clueless, but Thjafi already had an idea. He looked downward, terrified. Thor stared in rage. The father still did not know what was happening, but judging by the look on Thor’s face, a drastic action must be taken.
“Take my children as servants on your journey! Thjalfi is an incredible runner. He can outrun the wolves in an open field. He will help you go forward. Roskva can track any animal. She is a good shot with the bow as well. They can help you until you finish your mission. Please, let them help you…”
The sharp edge of Thor’s eyes dulled slightly. It was subtle, but Thjalfi seemed to sense it and looked up. He locked eyes with Thor momentarily, before looking down again.
“Fine, we could use some help… Now that my goat is lame. Your children can carry our provisions. YOU can take my goats inside of your pen in the back until the bone heals. This is my deal. Do you accept?”
“Yes, yes…Please, take them. I will take great care of your goats. I will bring them green grass from over the meadow. I promise. I promise.” The old man spoke, as usual, very quickly.
Thor nodded. The deal was done. Roskva still had no idea what had happened – neither did the father honestly. Luckily, his offer hit the correct note to calm the storm inside of Thor.
Loki, who was watching — expecting a little more violence — looked at Thor confused.
“What! They are coming with us? Why?!”
“To annoy you as much as you annoy me. It is settled. You’ll still be able to spend your precious time with your ‘beloved’ brother, don’t worry. We are walking now.”
Loki scowled at the humans. “Yuuuhhck! Stay behind… Far behind. And carry this!” He threw his bag at Thjafi who caught it. Loki followed Thor who was already a good distance in the direction of the far off mountains. Loki did not know where they were. He could only follow his step brother, and he was followed by Roskva.
Thjafi balanced Loki’s back on his shoulder and walked in the very back. He did not speak to his sister.
The day was bright and clear, but as they walked, a foulness in the air became more prominent. Thjalfi was bothered by it but kept silent. Even with the heavy bag, Thjalfi was also becoming impatient with the company’s pace. It was too slow for him. He had an almost god-like build and continence, as he was the most gifted runner in the kingdom. He typically walked very proudly. But now, his guilt slumped his posture slightly. He felt terrible for his sister who was completely innocent, now carrying the heavy bag all day… He watched Roskva simply soldier on carrying the heavy pack of Thor. She was mad. But she was confused enough, and scared enough, to not talk — to anyone. She knew her arrogant brother did something terrible, but now wasn’t the time to address it…
It eventually came to dusk again, and they, again, had good luck coming to a large structure just before nightfall. It was a massive, cavernous hall. It seemed abandoned and completely out-of-place… Regardless, it was a shelter. After Thor checked some small tunnels inside for safety, the four slept the night near the entrance.
In the morning, it was Roskva who awoke first. It was a distant thundering that roused her. She was usually a light sleeper, but the fear made it so she barely slept at all. She looked out the doorway and saw no rain; she became curious. She got up and looked out of the hall into the morning sky to see not a single cloud… Thor, hearing all of this all, stood up and also walked to the entrance. Something was very strange with this thunderous sound. He lifted his war-hammer to his side and walked outside — Roskva followed.
When he passed over a small berm, Thor saw in the valley a massive giant sleeping under a tree. They were obviously in Jotunheim now… The “thunder” was his snoring. The size of this creature was remarkable. Even the tall and stoic Thor looked like a mouse in comparison. Yet, Thor knew the stories of his father killing Ymir, the largest giant of them all, long ago. Apparently, Ymir was hundreds of times larger than even the biggest giant now, so this one should be no problem for him to defeat. Thor steadied himself and approached. When he came within range, he leaped straight into the air to rain down a massive blow to the giant’s forehead.
WHAMMM!! The hammer connected perfectly with his target and the ground literally shook.
At this moment, the giant opened his eyes. Roskva thought maybe it was his last movement before it died, but the next thing he did was… smile.
It spoke in a warm, jovial tone. “Well, hello there, little one. Aren’t you adorable? Oh, ow… my head… hurts, a little. Maybe an acorn fell on me. Or maybe a tiny pebble from a bird’s nest. Oh well. Anyway, nice to meet you… Oh! And you too, little mistress! I am Skrymir.”
Despite the incredible tension in both Roskva and Thor, they could not help but respond pleasantly to the friendly giant. Thor, who was slightly dazed, — suddenly so unsure of his strength — spoke first. “Hello, noble giant. I am Thor, and she is my attendant. We were just traveling through your land.”
“Oh really, how wonderful! I am traveling as well. Where, may I ask, are you going?”
“I am on a quest. I may not say. We are heading to the north though.”
“Really! Me too. Let me accompany you. I can block the sun from hitting you little creatures as you walk. C’mon!”
After saying this, the giant stood up, reaching for something in the distance. When they saw what it was, they were shocked. It was the “great hall” they had slept the night in. It, apparently, was his glove. Roskva hoped her brother had made it out before the giant had put it on. But Thor, still a little disoriented, just watched the giant dumbly.
“Let’s go, my little friends,” Skyrmir said.
And just like that, the two were off together. Apparently, Thor cared little for the well-being of the other two, and he simply followed the giant. Behind Roskva, came her brother (with both bags). Roskva made happy eye contact with her brother and gave him a half-smile. Loki, looking still half asleep, came slightly later but looked terribly annoyed and confused. He squinted at the scene and made a discontented growling sound.
These three followed the giant as well, leaving the dense forest to enter an open plain together — heading due north…