Sunday, 30 March 2008

My adaption of the Volsung Saga:

The Cursed Ring Saga - an improvisation of the actual Volsung Saga

One day the Gods went hunting.
Loki slew an otter with a sling.
A farmer came a yelling.
“That’s my son you’re about to skin.”

Odin asked what could be done.
“Cover his fur with gold from tail to tongue.”
The farmer asked in payment for his son.
So the Gods searched for gold all day long.

A pile was made from what they had borrowed and sold.
Yet they needed one more small piece of gold.
Loki ran far away and begged and pleaded,
A dwarf for a gold ring he had just completed.

“This ring bears a curse.” The dwarf told Loki.
“To wear it makes you greedy and unlucky.”
Loki took the ring besides,
And managed to cover the last piece of hide.

After the Gods had paid and gone.
The farmer split the gold between his last two sons.
The youngest got coins, the eldest jewels and the ring.
And so my most cursed and tragic tale begins.

The eldest was called Fafnir and became greedy and scary.
He told his younger brother; in a well he saw a fairy.
So when his brother went to look into this.
With a quick push and a shove all the gold became his.

The next victim was father, already in despair.
For he had now lost two sons, what a terrible scare.
Murdered in his sleep he was, oh what a fright.
Now Fafnir had everything including birth right.

Still clutching the ring Fafnir stole away,
Dragging all his gold into a cave, avoiding the day.
His greed began to churn deep inside,
Turning him in to a dragon, with a jet black hide.

Many years passed as Fafnir slept upon his gold.
Until one day a man rode in, both strong and bold.
“I slay you in honour of the King.” He cried.
And so the fight began. The man won and it was Fafnir who died.

The next part of my story is of heartache and woe.
Yet if you still truly wish to listen and to know.
Return to this spot by the fire when the moon is round.
And I shall continue my tale of great treasures lost and found.

Springtime: A short peice about rediscovering what's precious in life:

I was bored. I was bored of all the pitiful looks, mournful tears and sighs of regret. I wanted to; needed to get away from it all before I became as miserable as everyone else. I wanted to walk along the road and dance with the blossom falling in the breeze. I wanted to run around on the grass, to fall and roll amongst the yellow nodding daffodils and dozing heads of snow drops. I wanted to live life. Yet everyone else thought it was wrong. I knew it was right, I was right. I knew it was what he would have wanted. Not to sit in this old unfamiliar church listening to relatives and friends I have never heard of or ever met rant on about how he did this, and how he did that. Has everyone forgotten its springtime? The whole world is calling it, heralding it, singing it outside if anyone but me cared to notice. I know we should mourn him, everyone has a right to but if all these strange faces claim to know him the least like I did then they would surely understand my boredom and frustration on such a beautiful day. But no, they’re all adults and adults take things extremely seriously. Don’t run you might fall over and break your leg. Don’t pick flowers you might get stung by a bee. Don’t play conquers you might get some in your eye and blind yourself. Don’t ride your bike without a helmet you might get run over by a car. That’s all I ever hear and especially since he died three weeks ago. It seems no one remembers how to smile, how to laugh anymore or if they do it’s usually about him and not anything original or genuinely funny. My mum’s become the worst of them all. She’s been nothing but misery since. Even when I pointed out in excitement the mother duck and her ducklings on the stream as we drove up all I got was a fierce glare, a piercing gaze like superman’s that can see through thick concrete walls. It was like she was peering into me to find a glitch or error to explain why I am not miserable like she is.
I was so happy and relived when the funeral service was over and Granddad was happily asleep in his grave although I can imagine his ghost walking around behind all the adults, his so called friends and family in black, pulling faces or yelling silly words into their ears but they would hear nothing but the wind and bird song.
But sadly as my mum informed me we had to attend the Wake afterwards. Who on earth thought to call a tea party after a funeral a Wake? It’s quite a silly name in my opinion. Surely the Farewell party would be better for it. But regardless of the fact I found myself stuck amongst them all yet again for a while in a big white pavilion on the village playing field. I sulked in a corner as mum refused to let me go play on the swings or the climbing frame. So I had to content myself with frowning at the floor and my shoes and glaring secretly against them all for being so miserable on such a fine day. It did seem forever before there were signs that things were finally ending. People came up to me and said goodbye, all of them strangers, I smiled and waved goodbye. Mum nudged me in the shoulder to remind me to say thank you for coming. I asked mum what we were doing next and she replied that we would stay behind to help my aunt, can’t remember her name and I know I didn’t even know it then, to clear up the tea cups and such and shift the tables back into the church store cupboard. Great I thought with a false smile. Back to boredom again.
It was as I was making the tea cups towers inside a plastic crate that Mrs Croft first introduced herself to me. She was a nice woman, black as dark clay that may have been burnt in a kiln. Her eyes seemed to always be laughing and when she smiled at me I couldn’t help but smile back in return already acknowledging her as a friend before a word was spoken. She came over and said hello and actually asked if I would like to carry the basket of cups to her car to take them back to the church. I could say nothing else but yes, if only because she asked so nicely and to say no would get a real telling off from Mum who was busy nattering rather than packing stuff away. I called to her and told her I’m helping Mrs Croft with stuff to the church, she just replied ‘very good dear behave yourself’ and returned back to talking to two very old looking women.
Oh the breeze! It was so refreshing to be out of the pavilion, I literally just stopped to let the breeze cool me down and play with my hair. I was surprised when Mrs Croft didn’t hurry me along and tell me off for being slow; she merely smiled ever so sweetly and said ‘it is such a beautiful day’ before pointing out her car on the chalk rubble car park.
When we were both sat in the car as she drove along I couldn’t help but watch all the daffodils and snowdrops dip their head as we passed; like a crowd of floral people acknowledging royalty upon the road. We arrived back at the big stone church rather quickly as it wasn’t that far a drive from the playing field. As we arrived another woman left waving at Mrs Croft as we passed.
We got the boxes of cups and cutlery into the cupboard fairly swiftly without much conversation apart from when she told me where to put things. We came back out of the church again into the warming sunlight and Mrs Croft stopped. She looked down at me with the biggest smile and asked if I would like to see something. At first I was wary as she was a stranger to me but I felt like I knew her a lot more than all the strangers who attended the funeral so I said yes and I knew I could scream and run away if she tried anything funny. She seemed too nice to do anything bad to me anyway.
She beckoned me to follow and we walked between the gravestones towards the back of the church where we came to a big black iron gate and behind it seemed to be an opaque glass door. I couldn’t see through it but I could see small fluttering things landing on the glass before disappearing again in a blur of movement. My childish heart leapt to my mouth and I shouted ‘you’ve got fairies in there!’ Of course I was young and I was definitely wrong sadly.
Mrs Croft just giggled and said “Kind of, their not real fairies but they do look like them. Come in and see for yourself.”
At that she pulled out a gold chain from around her neck where a silver key was hung, she unlocked the lock, pulled the chain away and opened the gate. I couldn’t contain myself I had to see what things were flying around in there. I ran up to the glass door and slowly pushed it open.
At first all I saw was a small walk way and either side large leaved plants and tall ones with flowers and there were rows of vine like things stretching from wall to wall. Strange looking things were dangling off them, they looked like autumn leaves all curled up and dry. But then I saw the beauty behind it all. Butterflies. They were everywhere. In every size. In every colour. In every shape. Big ones, small ones, dark ones, bright ones, some were sitting on the leaves, some dangling off flowers. Some appeared to be gathering round what looked like mouldy pieces of food. All I could say was ‘Wow.’
“Welcome to my Butterfly Nursery.” Mrs Croft said as she came in and shut the door behind us.
“Where do they all come from? What are they all doing in here?” question after question came spilling out of my mouth like a water spout.
Mrs Croft merely smiled and answered each question in turn whilst showing me round. She showed me that the leaf like things were actually chrysalis, ‘butterflies in sleeping bags’ she called them. I learnt how each different caterpillar became a different butterfly. Before this I only ever thought caterpillars were always green and they changed into purple butterflies like the books at school showed me. She explained how butterflies like to eat rotten food for its juices and sugars. She made it clear to me that they aren’t all held captive in her greenhouse, the roof windows have special holes for them to fly out of but not so big as to let insect eating birds in. It was so amazing! So awesome! So cool! I immediately wished my friends and mum were there to share it. I quickly asked if we could show all this to my mum which she replied ‘only if your mum wishes to’ meaning if she wasn’t too miserable. But the sight was so incredibly beautiful that I was willing to risk the disapproval of mum for asking such a thing on such a day.
We left carefully making sure none of the flying butterflies followed us or got caught in the door when we shut it. Whilst Mrs Croft was securing the chain and lock once more I raced through the gravestones no longer caring about whose dead mum, dad, Auntie or Uncle I stepped on and headed straight for the car park. When who should arrive but mum and the two other women in their car with more stuff. I ran up to them eager to tell them such wonderful news about the butterflies. I was no more than a foot away when Mum got out, looked at me seriously with a hint of puzzlement and said ‘stop.’
So I did, if only because I was confused by the expression on her face. She looked ready to cry and laugh at the same time and her stare at me was so intense all I could do was look down at my chest for I felt shame for some unknown cause. It was then I saw what she was really looking at.
A small white butterfly, small enough to fit in the palm of my hand had attached itself to the red buttons on my black wool jacket. It seemed to shine like the moon in the sunshine; it didn’t seem at all alarmed or even afraid to be so close to me. It twitched its long antenna at me as if saying hello before with a brief flap of its wings it flew away towards the tree tops and blended in with the white blossom flowers.
“Look’s like you have a special friend there.” Mum said as she came towards me.
I looked up with a big proud smile and my smile became a grin for this time in such a long while mum seemed genuinely happy; this was the mum I had known three weeks ago. As I excitedly led her away the daffodils and snowdrops nodded their approval as the breeze aroused applause from amongst the trees young leaves.

Old and New: A tale of the old ways surviving in the New world of Today: specially for Viking Lovers such as myself

Old Ways in A New World:

My line of work took me to the age old city of the north, York. I had been there many times before and each time I always struggled to decide whether it was better or worse. Yet in the warm summer sunshine my mind didn’t have time to dwell on such decisions. I sipped my cappuccino in Starbucks and crossed off another name on my quota. I heard the radio announce in the corner that a serious crash had occurred on the A64 east of York; and the road would be closed for at least four hours. I paused to wonder which of my colleagues had performed well this time.
I gazed out the open door and into the street. I grinned privately noticing all the tourists, teenagers and families, who passed by going left, carried no bags but the necessaries; and how the rest of the crowd going right, held several bags from a variety of stores. York was always good at selling; it was a renowned trading centre in the old days and I am pleased it still was.
A shadow crossed over me as Geirölul finally joined me for our usual coffee break. Today she wore a silk blue dress, with a pearl white bag and the custom silver bracelet, the trade mark of our group. She took off her large yet oddly stylish hat as she sat down, revealing her always shimmering blonde hair.
“What a glorious summer day.” She remarked openly, placing hat and bag under the table.
“It is indeed. How many have you got left to visit today?” I enquired, with a wry smirk at the humour of how we all pitted against each other to finish the quota first.
“Have about fifteen maybe twenty left. How about you?”
“Same more or less. Would you like a coffee?” I offered, my hand already reaching into my own bag for my purse, causing my wavy brown hair to fall across my face.
“Oh no thanks Mist maybe once today is done. Where are the rest of the girls?”
I paused to recall our briefing at sunrise. “I think Göll is somewhere along the A64 towards Scarborough, Hlökk is travelling with her as she has some to collect there anyway. Herfjötur is around Monks Cross shopping centre. Can’t remember where the others are but I am sure they are somewhere in the area.”
“I still can’t believe the boss chose Hild and Thrúd to go to Iraq of all places.” She muttered bitterly.
I raised an eyebrow ironically. “Are you saying you would like to go there?”
She looked at me with her face downcast, a small sheepish smile appearing across her delicate lips. “Well, it would be nice to do a job abroad for a change. I’m getting bored of Europe that’s all.”
“Yeah sure you are G; you just want to visit Constantinople again for a tan boost.” I used her short nick name as we were in a public place but also because she was my best friend.
“Can you blame me though Mist? My skin’s going pale again because the sun here is too weak. Besides I prefer a natural tan; unlike all the women these days who use paint or bright light to burn themselves silly shades. A delicate gold brings out my hair more don’t you think?” She twisted some golden strands around her fingers against her cheek as if it to prove a point.
I merely nodded, always amazed at how vain she could be despite her warm heart. She sighed dramatically. “So where is your next visit of the day?”
“The hospital.” I answered.
“Great I have a child to visit there as well.”
I glanced through the windows, turning in my chair so I could see the now familiar towers of York Minster. “I can still remember the time when that great building wasn’t there G. Even when Clifford’s Tower was made of wood and not stone. That night in March, 1190 I think it was, when all those Jews were strapped inside and the tower was set alight. That was my first task as a Valkyrie.” My voice drifted off as memories flooded my heart.
“We had a very busy time that night. What with children and women crying and the men, well they weren’t being much help.”
“Oh G, have you truly forgotten how you felt when you discovered you were dead? And the uncertainty of knowing what happens next? I understood, that’s why I was able to calm half of them down before they passed on.”
“True and I admit if you weren’t there we wouldn’t have been able to escort so many to Valhalla safely. Although half the men were in the end sent to Hel to keep her well fed. She has as large an appetite for souls as her father Loki does for causing mischief.”
“Yes, our methods of selection have changed a lot since then. Now we have to copy what the Christian angels do, base our decision on their good and bad qualities.”
“I still miss the good days when it as all decided by the way you died not by the way you lived. If you died bravely or by the sword you go up, if you die of illness or old age you go down. It was so much simpler back then. The Bitfrost test can only tell us if they deserved to die, nothing of the qualities of a warrior which is what the boss is truly looking for.” She glanced at her watch. “Anyway as much as I would enjoy chatting all day we have still got work to do.”
I nodded seriously finishing the last of my drink. “Ok let’s go.”
With that we left the coffee shop and made our way through the throbbing streets towards the district hospital.

Once at the hospital car park we casually walked to a shady corner away from curious eyes. Where we both unfolded our white bags into our luscious white swan feather cloaks. She tied mine around my neck and fastened with a silver brooch whilst I did the same for hers.
“Mine is on the second floor where is yours?” Geirölul asked. She no longer wore a dress under her cloak but a slinky outfit made from tanned leather delicately sewn together with silver thread. My own outfit was more colourful, a mixture of silver and blue embroidery shimmered in the frozen sunlight.
“Fourth floor I think. Wait for me here when you are done, I don’t know how long I am going to be with this one.”
With a final nod to each other we strode purposefully back round the corner across the car park and into the building. No one gave us a glance and no one got in our way.

I found the man I sought in the ward filled with other cancer sufferers. He lay in his bed as if sleeping. A woman sat beside him holding one hand yet she sat distantly as if afraid to get too close. She did not look up when I arrived. She would seem to be around my age but no one is near my age anymore. I walked silently to the end of his bed.
I lifted up one side of my cloak and pulled out smoothly my tall ash wood spear tipped with silver. My name in old futhark runes glowed upon its hand grip. All the women in the team received these spears, specially made and blessed by the boss as we called him but our real leader was his adoptive daughter Freya.
I banged the butt of my spear upon the cold plastic floor.
“Arise soul of the dead. Arise and answer my summons!”
At those words a silhouette of sparkling mist began to form over the man in the bed. After a minute it became a solid double that sat up and stared at me with blank eyes and an empty expression.
“Are you or are you not David Garret?”
The soul merely nodded slowly.
“Good. Awake David Garret. Your time has ended upon this earth and a new life will soon begin.” I stomped my staff once more. The eyes began to blink and gaze around curiously with fear.
“Who…who are you?” He managed to ask clearly shaken.
“I am your guide to the next life David.” I announced in a cool calm voice.
He looked me up and down. “You look like a strange kind of angel.”
That line had been said to me so many times it no longer made me laugh.
“I am not the angel of your God David. Your God has decided to pass your soul to my Lord’s care; but the decision still remains whether you deserve an afterlife of happiness or pain.”
“So your Lord isn’t my Lord?”
“No David. My Lord is a god of eternal ancient power despite the Christian numbers. It is he whom you will serve if you pass the test if not you will be sent to Hel’s Underworld.”
“Does your lord have a name?” I paused, not many of the deceased have been so curious as to ask about names; they usually worry about where they will go in the next life.
“Yes. His name is Wodan, Odin, All-father, Father-of-All, and Lord of the Glorious Dead, Masked One and the Wanderer. He has many more titles.” I walked towards the window and threw it open; no breeze blew through just still rays of sunshine. “Now, are you prepared to take the challenge?”
That was when something was clearly wrong. David began to laugh. Not the laugh of fear or even joy but of malice and hatred. He suddenly leaped off his bed and ran for the open window and out into the sky. He did not fall, or even scream but merely glide out over the surrounding area. I spat upon the floor muttering a foul curse, my hand grasped my spear tight with anger.
“Bláin!” I yelled into the air, knowing Geirölul would hear me despite being several floors below. “You scum of darkness! That soul is rightfully mine!”
He pivoted in the air to face me, an evil smile upon his face. “He is mine now and Hel will feast gladly on his soul.”
Bláin was a renowned trouble maker to all soul guides. He had the unfortunate magical talent of possessing a corpse upon their last breath then taking control of their souls directly.
I heard a gasp of breath as Geirölul finally joined me. Her eyes lit with fire when she spotted the cursed being flying lazily around in the air.
“Did you manage to send the child away safely?” I asked eager for some good news.
“Yes, I heard your cry just as she passed through the rainbow bridge to Asgard.”
“Good. Shall we put this dark elf back into the earth G?”
“Oh yes it’s about time I had a target to practise on.” She nodded face stern and serious. We spread out the sides of our swan feather cloaks and flew after Bláin.
As we approached he quickly flew away out towards the bridge connection to Museum Street.
“Face us you coward!” Geirölul cried out gliding in front of me over the time frozen city.
“You have to catch me first.” He taunted flying further away heading lower towards the river.
“G you go under, I will fly above. Snap trap.” I suggested one of the many catching techniques we as a team practise when we come across such situations.
As predicted Bláin flew straight under the bridge with Geirölul in close pursuit, shrieking her war cry to intimidate. Luckily he did not look back to see if we were both behind him. So as he started to climb back up again I threw my spear from up high piercing him straight in the stomach, giving Geirölul a chance to grasp and banish him.
He let out a long groan of pain before his appearance evaporated in black plumes of smoke. Our spears remained frozen in the point of impact. Beside them a wispy figure of David stood, his eyes wide and shocked at being so high yet not falling. I wasted no more time upon retrieving my spear. I scored an invisible line in the air and then using the flattened blade drew it in a long, tall arch over the line. Rainbow colours marked my magic drawing.
“Now David, no soul that deserves to go to Hel would be snatched by a dark elf so eagerly. It seems Hel likes the taste of good souls. Therefore I grant you access to Asgard. Pass under Bitfrost, our rainbow bridge and be welcomed into the next life.”
He stepped forward in the air cautiously, taking one last glance around the world he once lived in, smiled at me and walked happily through the rainbow arch doorway. His last words were thank you.
“Right I fancy another coffee after all that exercise, how about you?” Geirölul said her chest heaving for air.
“Ha!” I laughed loudly. “You know as well as I that a Valkyrie’s work is never done.”

Food for Thought:

Life is a buffet when most of the good food has been eaten.
You are left with a selection of childhood sausage rolls
That may be hollow with neglect.
A bowl of crinkle cut crisps
Those are the lovers you have and have yet to meet.
You do not know if you will like their flavour
Until you give them a taste.
Adult sized portions of quiche
Often containing many gruelling years in education
Or an endless struggle to get a decent job without one.
Then there are the sandwiches no one likes
Usually containing shredded cheese.
That falls out like the greying hair on your head
And the base of your bank balance.

Yet if you’re lucky; and are not too distracted
By the commercially cheap chicken legs.
You may just spot the last remaining slice of happiness
Topped with fresh strawberries and lined with cream.
You must grab it, taste it, and savour it.
And save a piece forever in your heart and mind.

Cute as Candy:

God or some other great being of creation
Must have been having a sugar rush
When they made the first golden Labradors.

They gave them eyes 36% cocoa chocolate brown.
Glazed with mischief and innocence.
Turned their fur the pale gold of a Caramac bar.
They used a chewed up piece of black liquorice for a nose.
Implanted a flap of candy floss pink as a tongue.
And gave a tail that can wag faster than sherbet fizzes in your mouth.

They made a creature that can melt hearts
Tougher than Scarborough Rock.
A vision of delicious cuteness.

Love and Lust:

Love and lust,
Two sides of the same coin,
Two ends of the same rope
That in the middle ties two people.
Or three depending on
Who loves whom?

Love is the blanket you held close
When a child
Shielding you from fear
And loneliness.
Love, the need to belong.
A happiness so rare and fine,
Which only one person can bring.
It’s the gold needle in a million haystacks.

Lust is a tornado,
A raging bull, charging you
Into the arms of others.
Often the arms of those
That your heart does not belong.
Lust is driving drunk on a mud track,
Wearing no seat belt,
With no brakes to stop you
Before it’s not just your heart
That you break.

How not to be a Jelly at Exams:

This is a story about Terry,
A student who wanted to do well.
She didn’t smoke or drink sherry.
As far as anyone could tell.

She studied hard in seminars,
Always arrived there on time.
Didn’t go out with boys in fast cars.
In fact she was in her prime!

But two weeks before her exams
A new sound came from her room.
She was found ringing her hands
Overcome with a stressful gloom.

Revision was too much she said.
So much to learn, to plan, to do,
None of it was fitting in her head
She felt like such a silly moo.

Her friends gave her cuddles.
Her mother made her smile.
Her boyfriend made her noodles.
She stayed quiet all the while.

The group sought academic advice,
From their tutor the following day.
He understood their plea and was nice,
Showing them an easier way.

They decided to revise together
To share the burden and the strain.
Soon Terry started to feel better
For her mind was in less pain.

Soon the time of exams began,
Nearly all had churning bellies.
But one small group, each holding hands.
These friends did not tremble like jellies.

Exams are an awful time of year.
But if you turn to tutors and friends.
You will find nothing to fear.

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