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Norse Mythology(7)
Author: Neil Gaiman

“What is it? It looks like a silk scarf,” said Frey, unimpressed.

“It does,” said Loki. “But if you unfold it, you will discover it is a ship, called Skidbladnir. It will always have a fair wind, wherever it goes. And although it is huge, the biggest ship you can imagine, it will fold up, as you see, like a cloth, so you can put it into your pouch.”

Frey was impressed, and Loki was relieved. They were three excellent gifts.

Now it was Brokk’s turn. His eyelids were red and swollen, and there was a huge insect bite on the side of his neck. Loki thought Brokk looked entirely too cocky, especially given the remarkable things Ivaldi’s sons had made.

Brokk took the golden arm-ring and placed it in front of Odin on his high throne. “This arm-ring is called Draupnir,” said Brokk. “Because every ninth night, eight gold arm-rings of equal beauty will drip from it. You can reward people with them, or store them, and your wealth will increase.”

Odin examined the arm-ring, then pushed it onto his arm, up high on his biceps. It gleamed there. “It is very fine,” he said.

Loki recalled that Odin had said the same thing about the spear.

Brokk walked over to Frey. He raised a cloth and revealed a huge boar with bristles made of gold.

“This is a boar my brother made for you, to pull your chariot,” said Brokk. “It will race across the sky and over the sea, faster than the fastest horse. There will never be a night so dark that its golden bristles will not give light and let you see what you are doing. It will never tire, and will never fail you. It is called Gullenbursti, the golden-bristled one.”

Frey looked impressed. Still, thought Loki, the magical ship that folded up like a cloth was every bit as impressive as an unstoppable boar that shone in the dark. Loki’s head was quite safe. And the last gift Brokk had to present was the one that Loki knew he had already managed to sabotage.

From beneath the cloth Brokk produced a hammer, and placed it in front of Thor.

Thor looked at it and sniffed.

“The handle is rather short,” he said.

Brokk nodded. “Yes,” he said. “That’s my fault. I was working the bellows. But before you dismiss it, let me tell you about what makes this hammer unique. It’s called Mjollnir, the lightning-maker. First of all, it’s unbreakable—doesn’t matter how hard you hit something with it, the hammer will always be undamaged.”

Thor looked interested. He had already broken a great many weapons over the years, normally by hitting things with them.

“If you throw the hammer, it will never miss what you throw it at.”

Thor looked even more interested. He had lost a number of otherwise excellent weapons by throwing them at things that irritated him and missing, and he had watched too many weapons he had thrown disappear into the distance, never to be seen again.

“No matter how hard or how far you throw it, it will always return to your hand.”

Thor was now actually smiling. And the thunder god did not often smile.

“You can change the size of the hammer. It will grow, and it will also shrink down so small that if you wish, you can hide it inside your shirt.”

Thor clapped his hands together in delight, and thunder echoed across Asgard.

“And yet, as you have observed,” concluded Brokk sadly, “the handle of the hammer is indeed too short. This is my fault. I failed to keep the bellows blowing while my brother, Eitri, was forging it.”

“The shortness of the handle is a minor, cosmetic problem,” said Thor. “This hammer will protect us from the frost giants. This is the finest gift I have ever seen.”

“It will protect Asgard. It will protect all of us,” said Odin with approval.

“If I were a giant, I would be very afraid of Thor if he had that hammer,” said Frey.

“Yes. It’s an excellent hammer. But Thor, what about the hair? Sif’s beautiful new golden hair!” asked Loki slightly desperately.

“What? Oh, yes. My wife has very nice hair,” said Thor. “Now. Show me how to make the hammer grow and shrink, Brokk.”

“Thor’s hammer is better even than my wonderful spear and my excellent arm-ring,” said Odin, nodding.

“The hammer is greater and more impressive than my ship and my boar,” admitted Frey. “It will keep the gods of Asgard safe.”

The gods clapped Brokk on the back and told him that he and Eitri had made the finest gift that they had ever been given.

“Good to know,” said Brokk. He turned to Loki. “So,” said Brokk. “I get to cut off your head, Laufey’s son, and take it back with me. Eitri will be so pleased. We can turn it into something useful.”

“I . . . will ransom my head,” said Loki. “I have treasures I can give you.”

“Eitri and I already have all the treasure we need,” said Brokk. “We make treasures. No, Loki. I want your head.”

Loki thought for a moment, then said, “Then you can have it. If you can catch me.” And Loki leapt high into the air and ran off, far above their heads. In moments he was gone.

Brokk looked at Thor. “Can you catch him?”

Thor shrugged. “I really shouldn’t,” he said. “But then, I would very much like to try out the hammer.”

In moments Thor returned, holding Loki tightly. Loki was glaring with impotent fury.

The dwarf Brokk took out his knife. “Come here, Loki,” he said. “I’m going to cut off your head.”

“Of course,” said Loki. “You can, of course, cut off my head. But—and I appeal to mighty Odin here—if you cut off any of my neck, you are violating the terms of our agreement, which promised you my head, and my head only.”

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