~ Heathen Stories and New Myths ~
Long, far ago, she went a-riding, a-riding.
Far, long away, she went a-riding, a-riding,
On, up, and on, she went a-riding, a-riding,
Up, on, and ere she went a-riding, a-riding,
"And tell my stepson that he needs to visit," she finished with a wry smile. "It's been too long since last winter." Gna committed the message to memory, smiled at her lady, and was on Hoof-Flourisher's back and off with a breath of wind. Heimdall gave her a silent nod from his post as she cantered out of Asgard and over the Bifrost bridge. Hoof-Flourisher gathered himself as they neared the end of the bridge and launched the two of them high into the air, his legs pumping furiously to gain altitude and find the sturdy air currents.
He soon found them and the pair sailed quick and sure over Asgard and down to Midgard, where the Hunter stalked his prey. Hoof-Flourisher pranced lightly over the tops of the pines as Gna peered, sharp-eyed down through the green-black spires. The Hunter was a hard one to find, but she was determined, and soon she found him crouched by a shining brook. Hoof-Flourisher dove and landed near-silent beside the Hunter.
"Good morning, Gna" he said with a smile in his voice as he rose from his crouched position beside the icy stream.
"Good morning, Ull," she replied with a grin as he turned. The sunlight caught his tawny hair, pulled neatly back into a braid, and played across his broad shoulders. His yew longbow was slung across his back, along with his leather quiver. He wore a grey-green tunic with reindeer leggings and soft boots.
"What news?" he asked, wiping his wet hands on his leather leggings, leaving soft red streaks.
"There is a rumor that flits 'round Asgard," she began with a smile.
"That rumor being...?" Ull prompted.
"That you and the white goddess are... involved," Gna dodged.
A small smile played across his otherwise stern face, then vanished. "And if we are?" he asked, a hint of defensiveness in his firm voice.
"It is of no consequence," she replied with a smile.
"Why not?" Ull returned, getting a bit indignant now.
Hoof-Flourisher launched them both into the air at her thought. "The Queen of Heaven requests your presence, Hunter!" she called as they sailed through the air, away from the Hunter and his avenging arrows.
Ull sent one after them, just for good measure. The Messenger had gotten the best of him. You wouldn't expect her to be like that, but those who carry the thoughts and words of others know more than most, and they're almost always hungry for more. Gossip-monger she was not. Information seeker, she was. Ull ruefully shook his head. If the rest of his kith and kin wanted to know about his relationship with Skadi, let them. He only hoped his father and step-father wouldn't be too angry. And he mustn't forget about the fickle God of the Sea.
Gna fairly laughed at the Hunter as the cold air refreshed her lungs. He'd been stalked and caught at his game with his wintry love. Everyone knew that all answers were fair game when speaking with the Messenger. But she didn't need to tell Frigga anything; her mistress already knew. But, because she never shared, Gna had to sate her curiosity on her own. She patted Hoof-Flourisher on his grey neck, thankful once again for his perfect timing.
As they sailed on to visit Frey, they passed over the grey bulwark of Thrymheim, where Skadi, Goddess of Winter, and lately, of the Hunter, lived. All the Gods in Asgard had known about the incident with Loki, Ull's stray arrow, and Skadi's bow arm, but few had suspected there was more to it than that, except, of course, Gna.
On and under the branches of Yggdrasil, Gna and Hoof-Flourisher sailed, till they came to Alfheim, the realm of the light-elves and the palace Frey and Gerd. When she and Hoof-Flourisher landed, a fair-haired and well-formed elf came to greet them.
"I have a message for Frey," Gna said informally. With a small smile, the elf merely bowed and went to fetch the Vanir God.
Gna waited for some time and was beginning to suspect that she'd caught Frey and Gerd in the midst of a romantic interlude. She smiled, for what else could be expected of the God of Fertility and a beautiful giantess? So she dismounted and let Hoof-Flourisher wander amongst the slender trees and open meadows whilst she relaxed against a white birch and gazed fondly at the tree-twined palace. She could understand the Vanir, with their penchant for wild, untamed places, though they lacked discipline.
Finally, the elf returned and relayed that Frey had invited her to the palace for refreshment. Gna mentally shrugged and accepted, following the elf down the beaten path, trailed by Hoof-Flourisher. At the palace, they were met by Frey dressed in fine linen leggings and a loose gold-colored tunic and Gerd in a simple blue linen dress. Both looked as if they'd dressed rather hastily, for both Frey and Gerd had unbound hair and Gerd was not wearing her apron nor her necklaces. Both were also barefoot, but with the two of them you could never tell if it was for comfort or carelessness.
"Good morning to you, Fair Messenger!" Frey greeted heartily, gesturing for Gna to sit at a table set outside within a bower of trees and loaded for breakfast.
"And a good afternoon to you, Fair God," Gna returned archly. Gerd colored somewhat at that comment but kept a straight face and gazed serenely into Gna's eyes.
"So it is," Frey mused, glancing toward Sunna, who was high in the sky. "Sometimes it seems as though time flies faster here in Alfheim."
"I must be because we're so far from Gimle and the Tree. Time runs slower there," Gerd quipped. Both Frey and Gna grinned at that as they all sat and he dug heartily into the breakfast. Gerd offered Gna mead, and she politely accepted, refraining from draining the horn as a male counterpart would have done.
"So tell me, Gna," Frey began while munching elegantly on an open-faced sandwich. "What brings you to Alfheim and what says our Queen of Heaven?"
"She sends her congratulations," Gna said simply with a knowing smile.
"Congratulations for what?" Frey asked, looking at his love. Gerd's eyes widened and her face flushed.
"Is it true, then?" she asked, breathless and smiling.
"Is what true?" Frey demanded, puzzled.
"Well," Gna smiled, though this was not unexpected, it made things more fun, "It appears I not only bring congratulations, but glad tidings as well. Frigga congratulates you on the coming birth of your child."
"What?" Frey exclaimed, dumbfounded. Then, it dawned on him, and he leapt to his feet, radiant joy on his golden countenance. Speechless with elation, he swept up his beautiful giantess and twirled her around as she laughed. Then they stopped, breathless and Frey turned, "Thank you, Gna. You do indeed bring glad tidings."
"Are you really so surprised?" she queried with a smile, "After all, you're not the God of fertility for nothing, you know!"
"No," Frey replied, looking at his wife with a wicked grin and eyes glowing with love. "No, I am not." Gerd merely threw her head back and laughed.
Gna chuckled soft and low, then snagged a sandwich for herself from the groaning board and a rosy apple for Hoof-Flourisher and left the happy couple to their joy. Hoof-Flourisher munched happily on the sweet apple and she let him rest a bit in the golden woods of Alfheim, as she finishing her own lovely sandwich of mild white cheese and cloudberry jam. When they were both finished, she leapt onto his strong back, and he into the air, and they were on their way.
© Sarah Wassberg