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Norse Mythology(6)
Author: Neil Gaiman

“Got it,” said Brokk.

Eitri left the room and began to work. Brokk waited until he heard Eitri’s call, and he started to pump the bellows.

The black fly circled the room thoughtfully, then landed on Brokk’s neck. The insect stepped aside daintily to avoid a rivulet of sweat, for the air was hot and close in the forge. It bit Brokk’s neck as hard as it could. Scarlet blood joined the sweat on Brokk’s neck, but the dwarf did not stop pumping.

Eitri returned. He removed a white-hot arm-ring from the forge. He dropped it into the stone cooling pool in the forge to quench it. There was a cloud of steam as the arm-ring fell into the water. The ring cooled, moving rapidly to orange, to red hot, and then, as it cooled, to gold.

“It’s called Draupnir,” said Eitri.

“The dripper? That’s a funny name for a ring,” said Brokk.

“Not for this one,” said Eitri, and he explained to Brokk what was so very special about the arm-ring.

“Now,” said Eitri, “there’s something I’ve had in mind to make for a very long time now. My masterwork. But it’s even trickier than the other two. So what you have to do is—”

“Pump, and don’t stop pumping?” said Brokk.

“That’s right,” said Eitri. “Even more than before. Do not change your pace, or the whole thing will be ruined.” Eitri picked up an ingot of pig iron, bigger than any ingot that the black fly (who was Loki) had ever seen before, and he hefted it into the forge.

He left the room and called out to Brokk to begin pumping.

Brokk began to pump, and the sound of Eitri’s hammers began as Eitri pulled and shaped and welded and joined.

Loki, in fly shape, decided that there was no more time for subtlety. Eitri’s masterpiece would be something that would impress the gods, and if the gods were impressed enough, then he would lose his head. Loki landed between Brokk’s eyes and started to bite the dwarf’s eyelids. The dwarf continued to pump, his eyes stinging. Loki bit deeper, harder, more desperately. Now blood ran from the dwarf’s eyelids, into his eyes and down his face, blinding him.

Brokk squinted and shook his head, trying to dislodge the fly. He jerked his head from side to side. He contorted his mouth and tried blowing air up at the fly. It was no good. The fly continued to bite, and the dwarf could see nothing but blood. A sharp pain filled his head.

Brokk counted, and at the bottom of the downstroke he whipped one hand from the bellows and swiped at the fly, with such speed and such strength that Loki barely escaped with his life. Brokk grabbed the bellows once again and continued to pump.

“Enough!” called Eitri.

The black fly flew unsteadily about the room. Eitri opened the door, allowing the fly to escape.

Eitri looked at his brother with disappointment. Brokk’s face was a mess of blood and sweat. “I don’t know what you were playing at that time,” said Eitri. “But you came close to ruining everything. The temperature was all over the place at the end. As it is, it’s nowhere near as impressive as I’d hoped. We’ll just have to see.”

Loki, in Loki shape, strolled in through the open door. “So, all ready for the contest?” he asked.

“Brokk can go to Asgard and present my gifts to the gods and cut off your head,” said Eitri. “I like it best here at my forge, making things.”

Brokk stared at Loki through swollen eyelids. “I’m looking forward to cutting off your head,” said Brokk. “It got personal.”


In Asgard, three gods sat on their thrones: one-eyed Odin the all-father, red-bearded Thor of the thunders, and handsome Frey of the summer’s harvest. They would be the judges.

Loki stood before them, beside the three almost identical sons of Ivaldi.

Brokk, black-bearded and brooding, was there alone, standing to one side, the things he had brought hidden beneath sheets.

“So,” said Odin. “What are we judging?”

“Treasures,” said Loki. “The sons of Ivaldi have made gifts for you, great Odin, and for Thor, and for Frey, and so have Eitri and Brokk. It is up to you to decide which of the six things is the finest treasure. I myself will show you the gifts made by the sons of Ivaldi.”

He presented Odin with the spear called Gungnir. It was a beautiful spear, carved with intricate runes.

“It will penetrate anything, and when you throw it, it will always find its mark,” said Loki. Odin had but one eye, after all, and sometimes his aim could be less than perfect. “And, just as important, an oath taken on this spear is unbreakable.”

Odin hefted the spear. “It is very fine,” was all he said.

“And here,” said Loki proudly, “is a flowing head of golden hair. Made of real gold. It will attach itself to the head of the person who needs it and grow and behave in every way as if it were real hair. A hundred thousand strands of gold.”

“I will test it,” said Thor. “Sif, come here.”

Sif rose and came to the front, her head covered. She removed her headscarf. The gods gasped when they saw Sif’s naked head, bald and pink, and then she carefully placed the dwarfs’ golden wig on her head and shook her hair. They watched as the base of the wig joined itself to her scalp, and then Sif stood in front of them even more radiant and beautiful than before.

“Impressive,” said Thor. “Good job!”

Sif tossed her golden hair and walked out of the hall into the sunlight, to show her new hair to her friends.

The last of the sons of Ivaldi’s remarkable gifts was small, and folded like cloth. This cloth Loki placed in front of Frey.

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