First Eyes

She\’s old this one. Older than worlds, older than gods; her wisdom sees before and and after, in between and under, over and behind. Outside, by herself she sits alone, \’til others come. With rings and bracelets, precious gifts they beg her to speak, tempt her to taste Time and weave meaning from all that passes before her.

Taste she does, until it fills her up, until chin strikes chest and braids fall down like serpents. Until she is raised high and gives voice to the ways and to the walking, to the dancing and the screams of joy, the howls of the wolf and the cries of the eagle. To the hissing of the wyrms and the moans of the dying and the silence of the heart and the roaring of the foaming wave.

Her gaze be glassy, eyes like darkened wells as great sighs come upon her, for she has once more found the eye of the Terrible One, as was and is, and shall be. Held now, the weird words spill from ancient lips…

Falcon flew in feathered cloak high above the world in wandering gyre, eyes sharper than swords. Down below lay prey, things that ran and skipped and hurried on as she wheeled. Down she struck, from on high, cutting through the air like a knife through bone, beak biting bone like gleaming axe, glorious in her hunger amidst the green.

Far she saw with wings unfurled, fast was her sight\’s flight as she beheld raven-shapes some distance yonder, black amidst the day. With blood-blessed beak she took to the air, to sit and watch the raven\’s-feast at play.

But no battle found Falcon that day, no battle though full fury still raged unleashed beneath her. As ravens flocked, she beheld a bright-one dancing, pounding the earth with joy. Many were the rings upon his arm, and shining was his head, burning with silvered wisdom as yet unseen.

The grammar of youth was upon his skin, etched in ash and ink as hunter\’s hoard sprung to life in flesh. Beasts and birds, grim runes and charms flew from that hide; songs were sung with raven\’s croak and eagle\’s scream as he danced, shadow brothers all around in raucous joy.

Proud Falcon saw spear then, saw axe and smoke; skull and bone, ruined flesh and running blood thick with pain and wonder\’s wisdom. Deep strength and fierce terror stalking the earth, under hill and over dale; wanderings and homecoming both bitter and sweet – all these she saw in the dance of he who brings treats to wolves and morsels to crows.

All these and more; death\’s head struck as hard as iron amidst the pyre of worlds, a bone-white smile amidst the ashes of all things. War-foam clung to him like a maiden, battle-sweat adorned him like rubies, gleaming in the dawn. Hollow-eyed was his stare, passageway beyond time and place. Sweet his kisses and hands upon the limbs of women, cunning his heart and twice as cold – cold enough to burn stronger than a thousand suns.

So it was that Falcon gave a cry and soared towards the coming of night. She lay there in soft twilight, caressed by shadow, her feathered cloak beside her in the cool evening. White were her limbs and burnished was her hair, fair of face and fairer still of form was she when all unveiled; her charm subtle and esnaring, supple as willow, strong as birch.

Thus came he to find her there upon the hillside, his own cloak of dark feathers joining hers upon the ground. Hooded in darkness was his face, and many tales crawled their way across his hide; strange and mysterious glyphs coupling with fantastical creatures upon his very skin.

Despite the mask, she felt his eye upon her, and returned his gaze boldly, as was her way. Her vision pierced him as his own eye roved, and she knew him deeply. To her was revealed the silver in his hair, the greyness of his beard and the strength of his ice-born will, to him was shown the fairest of all, proud and strong.

Many shapes were his, flesh flowing like water under will; the secrets of wyrd words which stir the soul and lend them strength, bind them in battle and set them to sicken and die at a word. As they spoke together in the twilight, she knew he spoke with secret tongue, tasting the air and coiling about it like a snake to squeeze it for its essence

As he reached for her, she deftly kept him at a distance, spinning phantoms for his eager fingers that would vanish without trace as he brought them to his lips. As he wove words and spun a bed of speech, so she felt the cords of a bond thickening between them, a snare of impossible things that would bind her more surely than any cord.

But free she was, and wise in the ways of men, and she took that weaving and unpicked it, unravelling his work with a smile which would set many a mortal man\’s heart to leap within their chest and fly to her hand. Wise as well, in the ways of death and the things women know, and men can only dream.

For she took up his threads and slipped them amidst her hair, free of their binding, yet a keepsake for herself. As they trembled there, threaded through her locks, she had the knowledge of him, the strangeness of his ways; the wandering grey wolf ever greedy for knowledge, the stranger on the road with a bargain to give

Slayer of thralls, raiser of men, harrier and hallower; as he smiled and told tales, she saw them unfold before her as the night wore on, living and breathing countless lives and innumerable deaths. They clustered around him, his brothers and sisters, \’til the air was thick with them and they pressed themselves against her.

She who quickened and set the heart aflame, she who unfurled the secrets of the soul and read them with sharp eyes and deft fingers, she smiled at him then, seeing in them a bondage as profound as love.

Violently had he seized them, those kin of his; come upon them in silence and stealth and devoured them as easily as breathing, shattering their lives with terrible force, infusing them with his own fury until they stood again as brothers to fall ravenously upon the world in a tide of burning darkness.

Just as her beauty froze the breath in the throat, so his fierceness set the winds to roar and the breath to burn; this she saw and this she knew, as he tried to woo the maid before him. But it was her fingers upon his arm that burned like brands, her eyes that spoke of untold secrets, her smile that promised unimagined pleasures

It was her hand that traced his features, reading beneath the skin and setting the fire of his desire to flare and crackle through the bones that were not the bones of men. Her touch that set him to pause, to search his word-hoard from top to bottom, to break apart and recast his speech again and again so as to describe her loveliness.

It was her eyes that met his and gleamed with the gold of battle and the heated promise of lust, eyes that saw the coming storm at whose head he rode and the paths that it would open for all. His words fell upon her ears and she felt herself stir, as she had ever stirred in the presence of awe.

With promises and truths he sang to her, with hidden sounds he woke the earth, and still she remained apart, though several times he came close and she did not flee. Such was the dance then, intricate and fine as time rolled on, until dawn arose and the blue hour came anew.

Bathed in honeyed dew, she watched him take up his cloak of fine dark feathers that gleamed the colour of oil on water, watched his fine eagle\’s head and flashing eye as he spread great wings and threw himself aloft with thunder\’s voice answering their every beat.

With a great cry, he circled her thrice before departing, a single feather left beside her, black upon her falcon-cloak. She took it to her lips and tasted it, smiling secretly to herself as she lay deep in thought.

And so it was long ages later, when the grim spearman came a\’knocking upon the gates of the Ases\’s realm; grizzled his hair and old his bones as he returned to his place amongst the gods, a stranger even there.

With a retinue of warriors did he return, brothers and harriers all; dry were their eyes and drier their souls, the sea-foam was long gone from them – they drank no water, only mead. They ate no bread, feasting only on flesh; colder by far than even the grave could stand, they were his kin.

Long were the hours they feasted, fought and strove together in the hall, long were the nights and short the days they spent in battle. Until at last their grim lord gathered them in his cloak to witness a great doom\’s unfurlinq.

For to the halls of the Ases had come Gullveig the gold greedy; wreathed in rings and amber.

Burnished and bright was her hair, as flame flickers over gold. Pale and lovely were her limbs, shining was her face. Woman-wise was she who stood before the gods, bewitching and intoxicating as the old grey wolf drank his mead and watched her weave her spell.

In her hair a silver thread, gleaming like newly-fallen snow, as clear as a frosty moon; honeyed was her voice as the gods heard her spell – those great rulers enthralled by her will. Thus it was when ancient One Eye raised his cup to his lips and drained the draught down with a smile upon his lips.

She met his gaze, there and then, knowing and wise as he rose from his seat to stand before her. Spear in hand, he pierced her there in the hall. Twice more, and thrice a burning too, and from the ashes she arose, still living.

Fury surged throughout the halls of the gods then, awful and terrible in its strength as the Wanes took to the field and made war for her injury, though she was stronger than ever before. Above the host sang the Old One\’s spear, and the walls were torn down and trampled.

Fierce the battle and much battle-dew wet the field, \’til at last the gods held counsel as the ravens feasted and the wolves did gnaw on bones. Wise words exchanged, and peace was struck, yet between her and he, only ever a smile of promised things to come did pass.

And as for those, well, that is another tale…