The Journey Begins

This particular health journey began, if I’m being honest, because I needed a change in my life. I was about the weight I wanted to be. I felt pretty good health-wise. I know that studies say that as you get older if you don’t work to maintain your muscle, you will lose it, and I am getting older. And…it is American Ninja Warrior season. That is always an inspiration for me. I have so often looked at these amazing athletes and told myself I could never do that.

This time, instead of saying I could never do that, my inner voice said, okay, maybe I don’t want to do that, but I can work towards it and improve my health. Wow. That was super positive inner voice!

A Dead Man Walking

Cover art by Liz Charnes

10 Bloggers, 300 Words Each…
And this is what you get.
Please let me know what you think!

Part 1 by Denny McBride

Darla Nyte plugged her PalmPal into her car’s navport and set her office as the destination. The car drove, and she half-heard the radio report of the mysterious death of the young heir to the Bond family business fortune while she observed the faces of other riders as they passed. Most were lined with worry or concern. Darla smiled, pleased with her own good fortune.

America had endured a long, difficult recovery following 20 years of the disastrous Great Again wars and the resulting Trumpocalypse that finally prompted the Joint Chiefs to forcefully remove the ancient, senile President from the Oval Office handcuffed to his hospital bed. Darla was one of the MPs escorting the removal detail. She had been appalled by the corpulent, ranting despot as he raged, apopleptic and foaming at the mouth, unwilling or unable to accept his ignominious end.

While the country worked to heal and recover, Darla had remained in the Army. When her final term of enlistment was up, she had enough money saved to buy a small apartment and an even smaller office in the city, where she achieved her dream of opening the Nyte Detective Agency.

She parked and took the stairs 5 floors up to her lobby. Her assistant, Steve, greeted her. “You’ve got a doozy of a case in there today, Boss.” She sat down behind her desk and was struck by the strange pair across from her. The older man wore a white lab coat with a name tag identifying him as a coroner, and the extremely handsome younger man was uncommonly pale. He stood and extended his hand. Darla stood and shook with him. His hand was dry but shockingly cold. “I’m Franklin Bond,” he said, “and I want you to figure out who killed me.”

Part 2 by Jo Frei

You’re already here!

Darla covered her surprise by taking a sip of the coffee that Steve had left for her. She made a face at the awful taste. She was going to have to teach him how to make a better cup of joe. Sighing to herself, she lifted her gaze to Franklin. “It would seem to me that if you are dead, you would be your own best witness,” she said.

Franklin gifted her with a beatific smile. Her breath caught in her throat. He was completely not her type, but he made her heart skip a beat. “I assure you that I am quite dead,” Franklin said. “I brought Dr. Dawson here to testify to that fact.”

Dr. Dawson, looking a bit shell-shocked, said, “By every scientific test we ran, he is dead.” He handed her a signed death certificate. “Thank you, Dr. Dawson, I think you can leave now,” Franklin said. Dr. Dawson, looking much relieved, headed out the door.

“So, Ms. Nyte, now that I have assured you that I am indeed dead, will you help me find my murderer?”

Darla tilted her head and looked hard at Franklin. “Before I agree to accept your case, I will need to hear more,” she said. “First you must to agree to this,” Franklin replied, pushing his PalmPal across her desk. She looked down and saw what appeared to be a standard non-disclosure agreement. After reading it, she had the AI notarize it with her thumbprint and retinal scan, then handed it back. Her PalmPal chirped to let her know that it had her copy and that it had been filed.

Franklin sat back looking satisfied. “I am cursed with being a draugr until our family heirloom is recovered and returned to my family,” he told her.

Part 3 by Liz Charnes

A draugr? That’s a new one. Darla sat, careful to remain professional. No need to vex the crazy. “What do you remember?”

Franklin ran a hand through his thick blonde hair, frustration marring his handsome face. “I don’t know. It’s all a blur. The last thing I remember is dinner the night I died. It was at my Uncle Jeff’s home with him, his new wife Alina, my sister Ingrid, and her husband Malcolm.” He grimaced. “It was bad. Ingrid and Alina were at each other’s throats.” He paused. “I’m sorry. That’s probably not relevant.”

It wasn’t, but it made for some lucrative gossip she could sell later. One good thing that came of the Trumpocalypse was the demise of NDAs. These days only fools thought non-disclosure agreements had any power. “Why doesn’t your sister like your uncle’s wife?”

“Alina was a strip… Uh, exotic dancer.” He chuckled. “Jeff’s got a thing for exotic dancers.”

“Don’t we all?” Darla winked, then swallowed a burp. Damned acid reflux. Where are my Rolaids? “Anything else you remember?”

Franklin shook his head. “Other than the fighting, no. I was tired, so I went to the summer house. When I awoke, the room was dark, and I was dead.”
“That’s it?” The Rolaids were hiding under her calendar. She took two, then two more just in case. “You died in your sleep?”

He nodded. “Pretty much. Oh!” He snapped his fingers. “And the Spear of Destiny was missing!”

Oh, for God’s sake. Darla felt a headache coming on. “You’re saying that your family has the Spear of Destiny? The Spear that supposedly…”

“… killed Jesus Christ, yes, my family has…er, had, the Spear of Destiny,” Franklin finished. “My great-grandfather brought it back after World War II.”
Darla stood. “Frank, you need a therapist, not a P.I. I can’t help you.”

Part 4 by Kristian Fogarty

“You must help me, Ms. Nyte. I’d hoped you would do so voluntarily, but I took a precaution in case you wouldn’t.” He smirked, “How was your coffee?”

Darla felt a cold feeling in her stomach, a feeling of dread, as she caught the threat in his question. “What did you put in my coffee, you freak?!”

“Nothing that will harm you permanently, dear, there’s no need to call me names. Have I not suffered enough? It’s not easy being dead, you know? I have a dose of the antidote to the potion, and I will give it to you if you help me. Please find out who murdered me and help me retrieve the Spear of Destiny. Then I can rest.”

“I don’t seem to have much choice, now, do I? I think we should start at your uncle’s home, the scene of the crime. By the way, how did your uncle and the others react when you woke up dead?”

“I don’t know. No one else was there.”

“Tell me more about your uncle, his wife, your sister, and her husband. They are after all the chief suspects here.”

“Uncle Jeff has always been an eccentric, but then, most of us are in our family. You don’t become guardians of a holy relic without it affecting you. Alina is a tramp on the make, nothing more. I believe Ingrid, who’s ten years older than I am, rather resents me, the heir, but I don’t think she would have murdered me. Her husband Malcolm has always been … distant. I never knew what went on in his head.”

“Well, let’s get back to your uncle’s and start looking around. What is that stuff you put in my coffee going to do to me exactly?”

Part 5 by Melisa Lewis

“It’s a hallucinogenic. Ancient Mayans supposedly used it to see the future. Some people say it opens your mind to unimaginable possibilities.” Franklin stood, ignoring the perplexed and worried look on Darla’s face. “Will you drive? The law doesn’t look kindly on deceased drivers.”

Darla nodded and gathered her belongings as quickly as possible, her mind counting down the minutes until she might start hallucinating.

On the ride over, Darla was increasingly uncomfortable, noticing her breath was the only sound between the two of them. They arrived at a large stone mansion surrounded by wrought iron gates. Security cameras swiveled about and turned toward the car as they drove up to the intercom. Franklin reached over her and placed his forefinger on a scanner. Darla arched her head back to stay out of his way. She noticed he smelled like sandalwood and citrus. She quickly reminded herself that the shoulder that grazed her chin was cold because he was dead, not because of the weather.

The gates creaked open, and they drove just a few feet inside when a tall man with a fur coat and skinny blue jeans held up his hand to stop them. His thinning hair was greased back, and he wore a gold ring on every finger.

Franklin stuck his head out the window and hollered, “Uncle Jeff! Is something the matter?”

“You’re not welcome here, Franklin! You are a thief! I’m filing a police report! Stay back now, don’t come any closer!” Uncle Jeff remained planted with his hands out in front of him. Darla checked Franklin’s expression, unsure if she was starting to hallucinate or if she really did see a smirk as he lowered his head back into the car.

Part 6 by Kara Bernard

Her gaze drifted back to Franklin’s uncle. Darla leaned out of her window and directed the mass of fur blocking the driveway. “Mister Bond… Do you mind if I call you Jeff?”

“You get away from here, you hear me? I’m warning you, Franklin!” The rings on Jeff’s fingers clinked as his hands shook, the sound crashing like thunder in Darla’s ears. She winced as she stepped out of the car. Her thoughts went … fuzzy.

She took a step forward. “Look, Jeff, I need you to step aside. My name’s Nyte, and I’m here to – oh, god. Oh, god!” Darla sank to her knees, eyes wide, as the rotting corpse of an animal slithered its way out of Jeff’s fur coat. Matted fur dripped off its skin like oil. A slimy tongue smeared itself between black, jagged teeth. A sound like bones on metal pierced the air as the creature fell to the ground and began dragging itself toward Darla.

A collision of sounds – screams, claws on gravel, dragging limbs – forced its way under her skin. She covered her ears and shut her eyes before an ice-cold slab of flesh gripped her arm. Darla cried out, tried to pull away, and then … nothing.

She woke to the smell of cinnamon. Slowly opening her eyes, she saw Franklin kneeling beside the couch she found herself on. He held a steaming cup of tea up to her.

“Welcome to my humble abode.” He smiled. “Well, Uncle Jeff’s humble abode.”

“What?” Still groggy, Darla’s words slurred together. “Wha’appened?”

“Well, you see, the thing about hallucinogens is, well, they make you hallucinate. Sorry ‘bout that.”

Darla groaned and reached for the tea. “Wait, you said we’re inside. He let us in?”

“Hm.” The corner of his mouth twisted upward. “Not exactly.”

Part 7 by T. Shaw

“What do you mean, ‘not exactly’?”

“Shortly after you stepped out of the car and politely introduced yourself to nice Uncle Jeff, the hallucinations started. You fell, and my previously unwelcoming uncle was so startled by your altered disposition that he bent down to see if you were alright. Who knew you’d almost kill the guy?” Darla’s eyes enlarged as she sprayed Franklin with the gulp of tea she’d been about to swallow. Franklin reached for his handkerchief and annoyingly dabbed his pale face dry. Darla would have apologized, but since Franklin was the reason she had lost control of her faculties in the first place, she held back. “Like I was saying, you fought valiantly. Unfortunately for Uncle Jeff, he got a little too close. I’m pretty sure your punch to his throat is what sent you both into darkness, which is why I maintained my place on the sidelines.”

Darla set her cup of tea on a nearby end table that looked a few hundred years old. “Before becoming a detective, I served in the Army.” Darla stood up; although still shaky, she was ready to gain momentum in Franklin Bond’s case.

“Is this the same room where you woke up and realized that you were dead?” Darla began her search before Franklin could respond.

“No, this is the parlor.”

Spying several gaudy antiques, Darla said, “Seems like you and your family really admire objects with a bit of history.”

Franklin smiled. “Yes, but we most prize the Spear of Destiny.” After perusing the room with no luck, Darla decided they should visit the kitchen and interview the cooks to determine whether Franklin had been poisoned, but before exiting the room she glanced back at a portrait on the mantelpiece. The subject’s eyes reminded her of Dr. Dawson’s.

Part 8 by The Britchy One

Leaving the room, Darla stumbled and had to lean against the door frame. “Wait,” she commanded, “you want me to solve your murder, but you’re withholding facts. Why did your uncle accuse you of theft and threaten to call the police? That’s not exactly the reaction of someone who thinks you’re dead.”

“Ahh, Ms. Nyte,” Franklin chuckled, “here are the shrewd deductions you’re famous for. It’s true, I have been economical with facts. I was hoping you would solve my murder without incriminating me.”

Darla ground her teeth. Coherent thought was becoming difficult. “If you want me to solve this, give me the antidote. I can’t proceed if I can’t think.”

“Very well. I’ll give you half now, which will abate your symptoms, and the full dose upon revelation of my murderer. If you take too long, I’ll be stuck as a draugr forever.”

He gave Darla a small vial of clear liquid. She wouldn’t normally take anything without knowing what it was, but she’d never been in a situation like this. She felt her mind sharpen. “Where were you when you started to feel sleepy? Were you in this house? Why did your uncle accuse you of theft?” She had more questions plus the niggling feeling there was more to Dr. Dawson, but she had to start somewhere.

“You’re correct in guessing I wasn’t inside the house. I was in the summer house near the tennis court.” “I’ve had a bad run at the casinos lately, and my creditors were pressing for payment,” he whined. “I’d arranged to sell a couple of treasures that I would’ve inherited anyway. It wasn’t really theft.”

Darla wasn’t surprised at his attitude. She’d seen his type before. “Surely you weren’t selling the Spear of Destiny? Is that why you’re still here?”

Part 9 by Rachel Ann

“Do you know how much the Vatican would pay for it?” Arms crossed and frowning, Franklin’s façade of victimhood had vanished. “Anyone would’ve done the same.”

Darla was reminded of the former president thrashing in the Oval Office. His comb-over had flapped around like a wounded vulture’s wing, its white roots long overdue for a dye job. “Don’t you know who you’re dealing with!?” Trump had railed. “None of you will ever work again! Believe me!” The Velcro straps had held, but that hadn’t stopped his mouth. Nyte had to listen to that sewer-pipe overflow as she escorted his gurney to the waiting ambulance.

Why are the rich such egomaniacs? Darla wondered. If Bond is a draugr, she thought, it’s due to sheer stubbornness. Everyone owes a death, but when his came due, he’d been too arrogant to succumb.

“You can’t buy your way out,” Darla said, wrinkling her nose. “And holding me hostage won’t change facts. Your cologne won’t cover the stench of your decomposition much longer.” Franklin glared. “But you were murdered, and the culprit must be brought to justice.”

“Right. To the summer house then, shall we?” Franklin gestured. As they approached, they heard a woman’s screams. Darla kicked the door in, gun drawn. A man had a woman pressed against the wall, in flagrante delicto. Her screams weren’t of fear, but passion.

“Alina…really?” Franklin said. “With the gardener?”

The gardener’s pants slipped down farther than they already were. A metal object fell from his back pocket.

“The Spear!” Franklin yelled. “Thief!”

“What, this?” the gardener said, picking up his pants first then the object. “This is just a Hori-Hori.”

“What did you call me?” Alina shrieked.

“Not you,” he said, brandishing the Spear of Destiny, “isn’t this a weeding knife? I need it to weed the rose bushes.”

Darla stared at the gardener. She felt her mind going fuzzy again. “Doctor … Doctor Dawson?”

Part 10 by Em

“What doctor?” Alina squeaked.

“D-Dawson,” Darla stuttered, pointing a shaky index finger at the gardener.

Franklin shook with fury. “That’s not Dr. Dawson, that’s our son of a bitch of a gardener who’s stealing MY inheritance. Focus, Nyte!”

The gardener stared at Darla, his eyes burning a hole in her skull. His lips slid into a crooked smirk. Darla tried to visualize his scheme: he’d seduced the distressed Alina after dinner, coercing her while Franklin slept in the summer house. “Let’s bend the rules a bit”, he teased, sensing that Alina ached to be mischievous. After acquiring the Spear, he had spiked the air purifier with Dragon’s Breath and zombie powder. Overnight the substances numbed Franklin’s senses, made him pale, ghostly cold, and clouded his perception of reality.

“I am Dr. Dawson,” he’d whispered as Franklin lay in a drugged stupor, “you have been unjustly murdered and robbed of your most precious inheritance. Seek revenge within 12 hours or forever remain a draugr. I have retained an apt detective to solve this mystery. Give her this potion, and she’ll be compliant.”

Darla’s vision swiftly evaporated into floating shreds. The sound of cracking bones on metal reverberated in her ears once again. She shifted her gaze, and the creature revealed itself anew, hauling a horrid pile of disintegrating flesh and bones.

Darla pointed her gun at the repugnant creature and pulled the trigger repeatedly without hesitation.

“NOOO!” Alina screamed.

Franklin dropped like a stone.

Uncle Jeff ran in to the room. “What’s with all the—“. The sight of the half-naked Alina, the exposed gardener, and Franklin’s lifeless body in a spreading pool of blood scorched him mad. “MURDERER!”

Darla saw only stars, spinning in infinite spirals.

Dawson pulled his pants up and sauntered out, simpering as he fondled the Spear in his pocket.

#metoo #hope

I am not a young woman. I am approaching mid-life; within 2 years if I live as long as my grandmother did. I have been watching today’s women take a stand against the misogynistic treatment they receive, against the biases and prejudices.

First, let me say that I am proud. I am so very proud of women today for stepping forward and braving the backlash they fully expected in order to tell their truth. The only hope they had was that the next generation of women, or even the next woman, wouldn’t have to face that sort of treatment.

Second, I need to say I am sorry. I am sorry I wasn’t one of those women.

I have said, “boys will be boys.” I have dressed in a gender neutral manner in order to be successful in industries that are dominated by men in order to avoid the derogatory comments, the leers, the ‘easy’ assignments, and the general biases prevalent in the business. I hid my feelings from partners to avoid comments about PMS. I submitted to dominant behavior because I was afraid of physical violence even as I was living with mental and emotional violence. I worked to support ‘my man’ who quit his jobs because they, ‘didn’t respect him enough,’ or ‘violated his morals,’ or ‘didn’t challenge him.’ I have been woken in the night by an erect penis being shoved in my mouth and expected to perform oral sex. I have been reduced to tears in the back corner of a closet while my husband stood over me yelling. I have seen my young daughter step in front of me to protect me when my second husband raised his hand to hit me. I had a boss stick his tongue in my mouth, without consent, after asking me to continue my employment as his mistress rather than his office manager. I have had a sexual partner, who agreed to ground rules for our sexual intercourse, penetrate me anally, without a condom, while chocking me. I was too afraid to do anything but comply. My current husband told me that in order to be a ‘good wife’ I should subsume my needs for his because his health is fragile, yet when my father died, and I asked for support, I was refused due to his long-standing health concerns and his need for self-preservation. When I said I felt betrayed and hurt, I was told that I was being unfair.

Please understand. I do not want your sympathy. I want you to understand that I accepted this behavior as ‘normal’ or ‘okay.’ I wondered what I had done wrong. Why I deserved this. I never once stood up for myself.

None of this is okay. How did I not see that? How did I become so indoctrinated…come to think so little of myself?

Now, nearing mid-life, my children young women in their own right, showing me the way, I vow to myself, no more. I will not allow myself to be disrespected. I will not apologize for my feelings or my thoughts or my opinions. I will report inappropriate behavior. I will support anyone, and I mean anyone, who has been, or is being mistreated. I hold myself accountable to you, my fellows in this journey.


Resting against the cool marble she breathed in the scents of fall. This was her favorite time of year. The leaves collect under the trees, flowers shed their petals and leaves and retreat underground, and streams begin to slow in their travels. The chill, the smell of decomposition and mold that lightly tinges the air, all renewed her sense of purpose. It brought Surma to life too. He chased the squirrels and rabbits while they ran for their lives. Surma’s antics were always good for a laugh. As she pushed herself away from the gravestone, Kalma called to Surma, “Come on, Surma, time to get to work.” As they headed for the gates, mold began to spread in their wake, and the flowers left in tribute to the dead, died in turn.

Three Things

Cruising the items on the folding tables, she didn’t know what she was looking through all this junk in the hope of finding. She wasn’t even sure why she was here.
It had all started with that hug…that ridiculous hug that had just gone too far. She hadn’t meant for it to go too far. She wasn’t much of a hugger. The whole concept of wrapping your arms around someone you barely knew, and trying to negotiate whose face would go where in order to keep them from touching while wrapping your arms around each other seemed ridiculous. Who really wanted to be that close? Apparently large portions of the population, that’s who. Generally she would be in and out, one pound on the back and move on, but this time, it went too far. This time, after she’d successfully moved her face out of danger, and had her arms around his body, instead of her accustomed pound, she had placed her hands flat on his back and moved her arms up and down! Why had she done that?!?
With that one move she had opened the door to disaster. Before she knew it he was touching her back as well, and she LIKED it! When did that happen? She didn’t like being touched. She didn’t like being physically close to other people. He did feel awfully good under her hands though. Under his clothes, his skin felt soft and firm at the same time. As he’d moved his arms she could feel the muscle bunch and move under her palms. It was captivating. She’s lost track of herself focused on how it all felt. The next thing she had known it was over. He had moved back and was smiling at her. She froze to the core when she realized that she actually smiled back. A squeak escaped her, and she had turned and run.
Now here she was at a yard sale two blocks away, looking at tables of other people’s junk trying to get those feelings out of her mind. The feel of him still tingled in her hands. Quickly she snatched a watch off the table. Broken. Of course. And yet the rough feel of the chipped crystal took her mind off her feelings and she though she heard…yes…a faint ticking. Only the face was broken, not the internal workings. She ended up paying a dollar for the cracked watch and taking it with her as she continued to walk away from the scene of her breakdown.
Lost in her own thoughts, she pulled out her tin of peppermints and put two in her mouth. “Can I have one?” a deep voice said from behind her. She slowly turned, offering the mints to him. He’d followed. Her heart skipped a beat. Instead of reaching for the tin, he reached for her. He slowly brought his mouth to hers giving her plenty of time to pull away or say no, but she was lost in his eyes and the moment passed.
Yes…it had all started with that hug that had gone too far.


Hel’s not so bad…the place or the person.

I was born of Frigg and sired by Odin, younger brother to Thor…yes, that Thor. Being the youngest, mom was always a bit overprotective. She was always calling me her ‘fair beauty’ and bragging about my bravery. She even named a flower after me called Baldr’s Brow [or more commonly Mayweed…flattering, right?]. Needless to say, when mom wasn’t around, life could be rough with the other gods.

When I had grown a bit, I started having the dreams. I dreamt of my death. They weren’t clear dreams like some have where they can see exactly what’s going to happen and how, no, they were the gloomy dark dreams with people laughing and shouting and you just knew it would all end badly. Frankly it was pretty depressing. I was muddling through until mom started having the dreams too.

She told dad, and Thor, and of course everyone had to make a big deal over it. Oh no! Dreams are true foretellings! His death is the harbinger of Ragnarok! The good news was that mom made Thor stop hitting me with Mjolnir…at least for a while. When he would try she would yell, ‘Thor! Do you want to start Ragnarok?!?’ It would have been funny if I didn’t know he’d find a way to get me later.

Mom decided to embark on a campaign to get EVERYTHING to agree not to hurt me. She dragged me around from god to god, animal to animal, plant to plant and so on until she got everything to agree. Nothing would hurt me…they’d promised Frigg and NO ONE wanted to piss her off.

That’s when things got really bad.

Since everything had agreed not to hurt me, she got back to her other hobbies secure in the knowledge that I was safe. I started a new fad in Valhalla. Well, Thor started it actually. It was called Baldr Toss. Basically everyone, and I mean everyone [I even saw dad there a time or two], would throw things at me…constantly. It didn’t matter what I was doing, or where I was, anyone who saw me would toss whatever happened to be near at hand at me…as hard as they could.  Near as I can tell, the object was to get me to jump out of my skin.  At least that was when they laughed the most. I was finally popular.

It turns out though that mom had forgotten to ask one thing…just one…to be nice to me.  Mistletoe. Cute, harmless mistletoe. I guess she thought it just wouldn’t or couldn’t hurt me…or maybe by then she was just bored.  Either way, it never made promises.

I guess Loki must’ve followed us around as mom was extracting promises and put two and two together because I hear he’s the one who made it…the spear.  All I know is that one day, as I was doing my best not to jump at the flying projectiles [I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction and frankly I was getting way to used to having things thrown at me], I was struck, and killed by a spear.  Everyone was sooo shocked! Mom was t’d off!

Me? I was off to visit Hel, and get away from the rest of the family until Ragnarok! It is so nice to get away. No one throws things at me anymore, and everyone pretty much minds their own business here. I have met some great people, and no one compares me to Thor. I did have a brief scare when mom started trying to convince Hel to let me go back home. Luckily I’d had a long talk with Hel about what it was like at home and so Hel really negotiated hard [no one says no to Frigg!]. Hel agreed to let me go if EVERYTHING wept for me. Mom did a phenomenal job. She convinced rocks to weep, that rascally mistletoe, dwarves, gods…she came so close.  In the end, just the female giantess Thokk refused, and I got to stay. So here I sit in Hel, where it’s quiet and peaceful, until Ragnarok when Thor’s sons and I will rule the New World.

Rumor has it that Thokk was really Loki in disguise. Hel only winks when I ask her if her dad had anything to do with it.  When all is said and done, I don’t care what the other’s say, Loki, you rock!


Have you ever really loved someone even when you knew they were not good for you to be around? That’s exactly how my relationship with Odin has gone. We are blood-brothers and I worshiped the ground he walked on. He could do no wrong. This story is the beginning of my disillusionment.

“I want a place for gods to live. A place to call home, to gather and to separate ourselves from mere mortals.” Odin announced. “Who shall we honor with the right to build the fortifications around our Valhalla?”

When none stepped forward, Odin turned to me, “Loki! Surely you know someone with enough talent to create for the gods. Who shall offer their services?” “Njolderson is a wonderous builder who would easily do justice to the gods.” I replied. “So shall it be,” Odin said. “Call him here.”

I listened to the negotiations. Njolderson would settle for nothing less than Freyja to wife as payment for his talents. I could feel my heart begin to ache as the realization dawned that the gods had no intention of allowing Njolderson to marry Freyja, and yet they wanted to work to be done by Njolderson and no other after seeing his work. Finally they agreed. If Njolderson completed the work within three seasons without the help of any man, he would have Freyja to wife. Seeing how in love with Freyja Njolderson was, I suggested that he be allowed to have help from Svaoilfari, his magnificent stallion, and Odin agreed.

Njolderson worked from dawn to dusk creating an amazing fortification. As the seasons passed, I heard ugly talk in Valhalla. Many did not feel that Freyja should be given in marriage to any not a god. I began to fear for Njoldrson. Odin did not speak against him, but he also did not silence the dissenters. My fear grew with each passing day.

Finally, three days before the end of the third season, when Njolderson was nearly complete with the fortifications, the gods convened to determine who to blame. That was the day my heart began to break. After much wrangling, the gods all turned to me. They agreed that I should be the one to make the builder forfeit and if I could not, or would not, they would beat me. Through all of this Odin sat silent upon his throne watching. He spoke not one word in my defense…this man who had chosen to take me as a blood brother.  In fear I agreed, much to my shame, to find a way to make Njolderson fail to achieve his fortifications in time.

That night, as Njolderson drove Svaoilfari to fetch stone, I transformed myself into the form of a mare and ran out of the woods causing Svaoilfari to tear his tack and chase me. I allow Svaoilfari to catch me so that I can at least give Njoldreson a foal to make up for the loss of Freyja and in recompense for his hard work. Sure enough, Njolderson was not able to complete his work because of my delay. He was incredibly close, but not complete.

Njolderson, upon realizing that he had not won his bride, went into a rage, threatening to destroy his work. The gods call for Thor pointing out that Njoldrson is jotuun. Thor brings Mjollnir around and I watch as Njolderson’s skull is smashed to splinters. I have to fight back nausea. Looking to meet my blood-brother’s eye for commiseration, instead I see him watching with a slight smile on his face.

I am at a loss. Who is this man? I have bound my life to his with sacred blood. Now it appears that I will have to defend the world from him and his ‘gods.’ And yet, I still love the man he was. Maybe if I keep trying I can get through to him. Maybe he can again become the man I knew.

When I gave birth to my child Sleipnir, the gray, eight-legged, best horse among gods or men, I gifted him to my brother Odin. “Odin, care for my child. Keep him close. He will take care of you always.” What I didn’t say was that he would also keep an eye on my dearest friend, my brother, and warn me when I may need to intervene to save innocent lives…