Wlvn hugged Raini goodbye while a few golden teardrops fell from Mother Vrya’s eyes to glisten in the sunlight at her feet. Raini stepped back then, because she knew it had past time for her visitors to go. Vrya nodded and tried to smile. She clapped her hands, twice, and Wlvn and all his companions along with their horses vanished from that hillside village and reappeared hundreds of miles to the east, on the edge of a broad meadow. A big fire, a virtual bonfire roared on the other side of a small stream that meandered gently through the grasses. People could be seen in the distance. They sat around the fire and talked quietly, like they were ready to hold a meeting, and only waiting for the presentation to arrive.
“Stay here,” Vrya spoke to the group as she took hold of Wlvn’s hand. The others could not exactly see the people by the fire, but they had to feel something. No one argued. Even the horses kept to their side of the stream.
Vrya brought Wlvn over the running water and to the fire where Wlvn got a good look at who sat waiting and had a good guess on who they were waiting for. He watched Vrya as she went to sit beside her brother Vry and her father Njord. Baldur and Nana were seated on a log to Wlvn’s right. The other four were across the fire. It was Frigga and Odin, with Thor and Tyr beside their parents. Wlvn stared at Odin, the god who would one day be his grandfather. It took a moment to figure out what was wrong. Odin still had two perfectly good eyes, and no eye patch. It looked like Odin got ready to speak, but Wlvn spoke first.
“How did this abomination happen?” Wlvn went to one knee and traded places through time to let the Nameless god kneel in his place. Nameless added one word to his question. “Grandfather?” Then he looked down at the ground to humbly await an answer. Nameless knew that Wlvn would hear whatever he heard, and maybe the assembled gods knew it as well, but it felt important to appear as one of the gods. No strictly human ears should hear how badly the gods screwed up.
Odin examined Nameless with inscrutable eyes before he opened his mouth. “I promised.” He stood and confessed. “He is Ymir, the grandson of Ymir and the last of the blood. In the first days, we drove the giants back to their place and the slaughter was terrible. All of the family of Ymir was destroyed but this one. He feared for his life, but as a sign of grace and peace, I promised. No god would take his life, or disable him, or cause him injury, or stand against him in the way he chose to live until the end of days. Now, he has built this desolate world and enslaved the humans that we were made to test and try and protect.”
“The gods don’t make promises, and for this very good reason,” Nameless said.
Odin put a hand to his beard, a rich brown colored beard, and not at all white. “Yes. So it has been told that you have said this. Where did you hear this bit of wisdom?”
“From you, Grandfather.” Nameless looked up. “Or I will hear it from you after many centuries in the future, after you seek and find great wisdom. In that day, you will see all things in a different way. I can say no more.” Nameless swallowed. The gods sometimes shared insights with certain mortals, but no one but the Kairos shared such insights with the gods.
Frigga reached up to help Odin back to his seat. “But will you do the thing you have promised?” she asked.
Nameless went away again so Wlvn could return to his own time and place. “I did not promise,” he said. “But it is my intention and I pledge to give it my best try. I may fail. I may die.”
“That is why I gave you strength enough to stand up to that monster,” Thor spoke first.
“Indeed.” Wlvn looked around the assembly. “I am grateful for all of the gifts that all of you have given me, but I don’t see how I can use them against the Titan. You promised the power of the gods would not be turned against Ymir to do him harm, and are these gifts not the power of the gods? Besides, I have been counted among the gods even though I am mostly just a normal, mortal human. No one knows exactly what that means, to be counted among the gods, but maybe it means I cannot harm the Titan any more than you can.”
“But you will try.” Baldur spoke up and took Nana’s hand. Clearly, they had Eir on their mind.
Wlvn nodded. “I will try.” Wlvn got to his feet and glanced back at his group. “But before I can try, you must answer three questions.” He needed clarification. “First, I have three companions that do not qualify—five if we include the mermaid and my own swan wife. Wlkn is young as the result of Ydunna’s carelessness. He tasted the golden apples of the gods. Boritz retains some of the blood of Perun, and his mate, Andrea is Greek, not native to this world. Those that remain are my little ones. You did not promise that my little ones or any weapon forged by their great skill would not harm the Titan, did you?”
“No such promise was made,” Tyr answered with a look at his father, who made no correction.
“Second,” Wlvn went straight on. “You need to keep Loki out of the fight.” He paused, because he expected a response. Apparently, everyone thought to pause until Odin spoke.
“Now, he is really not such a bad fellow.”
“I’ll stop him. I’ll keep him out. I’ll do it.” Thor, Tyr and Vry all spoke together.
“It will be my pleasure,” Baldur said with a determination in his voice that quieted the others. Wlvn looked at the father of Eir and knew this was the beginning of bad blood between the two. Loki stealing the baby, holding the young girl’s childhood hostage was unforgiveable. Wlvn knew that Loki would one day trick Baldur into losing his life, but he dared not say anything. His job was to keep history on track, not change it, no matter how much he might want to see it turn out different.
“What is the third thing?” Nana changed the subject in the face of her husband’s understated fury.
“I need my family back.” He turned to face Mother Vrya. “We are going home. We need to all go home together and face the future as a family.” He glanced back at his motley followers. “I suppose a few more horses would not hurt, if there is some way to sneak a few out of enemy controlled territory.”
“And the question?”
Wlvn nodded. “I ask, if I die, but my family survives, please take them and my friends to freedom and do not leave them in the land of hopelessness.”
“How is this not a promise?” Odin asked. He had clearly been thinking about it.
“Because it is a one-time thing. A promise is forever. Call it a pledge if you will. If all that you promised Ymir was a pledge for as long as the season of grace and peace lasted, that season could have come to an end years ago.” Wlvn did not wait for an answer to his third question. He turned to walk off, but Thor interrupted.
“What about the women? Have you selected one to wife, or would you like them all?”
“I believe the women have all paired off with other men, and I already have a wonderful wife. Trust me, one wife is about all an ordinary man can handle.” The men grinned, except Thor who didn’t get it. To be sure, Baldur and Odin tried not to grin too hard. The women looked like they were trying to decide if they were complimented or insulted.
Mother Vrya walked with Wlvn. “An interesting thing to say.”
“Flern just married Kined in my memory of the future,” Wlvn said. “She better be his one and only wife.”
Vrya slowly smiled. “You are my son even when you are not my son,” she said.
Badl and Moriah had a fire going and something cooking. Wlkn smiled. Andrea shook her head while Brmr and Elleya appeared to be in a talking contest. Strn and Gndr sat on a log, a bit off to the side, and kept one eye on Boritz. They looked excited on seeing Wlvn, but quickly put their hands in their laps when they caught sight of Vrya.
“I better ride with Brmr,” Vrya said. “She is not the best horsewoman, and neither am I, but I can keep us up on the horse’s back.”
Wlvn nodded and went to hug his wife who stayed out of the way. Brmr saw and shouted. “Wlvn!” She got between them. “My baby brother is going to be a big one,” she said and laid a gentle hand on Shana’s tummy.
“Not brother. Nephew, or maybe niece.” Wlvn looked at Vrya. She raised one eyebrow but said nothing.