Part I

Written for the Teens Can Write Too! blog chain, this is a retelling of the Norse myth that deals with the birth of the horse Sleipnir.

It’s a long way back to Asgard and the road isn’t easy. The colt I’m leading doesn’t like to travel so slowly, but there is no way I am going to ride on him. Not with the pain I am in, the agony that threatens to overwhelm me whenever I try to sit down. Besides, the idea seems highly … inappropriate.

We didn’t come this far, originally, but after Svaðilfari left and I realised what had happened, I couldn’t bear the thought of the gods finding me. So I ran, through the trees and the mountains and across the land, until I was so large that I could run no further, and then I stopped and I waited for what I knew was coming.

But I have started from the end of my story. I am Loke. They call me the Trickster and the god of mischief and lies – they forget that at times I have been referred to as the god of the hearth or of the fireside. I am there to make a house a home. Oh, but no one remembers that.

“Loke!” they say. “Get us out of trouble! It’s all your fault, anyway.”

My fault? Quite often I have been trying to do the Aesir a favour, and yet they never see that. The giant’s blood that runs through me thanks to my mother makes me untrustworthy. Hated.

Asgard is not a secure place, and some time ago the gods decided that we needed to build a wall to protect us from attacks by the giants and other enemies. However, it is a large land and such a wall would take a very long time to build. While we were discussing the logistics, a man came up to us. He was a builder.

“I’ll build your wall,” he said to Othin, recognising the god with the most authority instantly and making a beeline for him. “I’ll build the whole thing in three seasons.”

“That’s impossible.”

“Well, I want something in return.” He was a big fellow, this man, and I had the impression that the others would not lightly refuse his demands. “Freyja, for a start.”

I glanced across at the goddess, who looked absolutely furious. I didn’t blame her. I actually quite liked Freyja – she was occasionally nice to me, though for her sake I’d suffered a few indignities. The idea of her marrying this huge builder wasn’t exactly appealing.

“That’s a big request,” said Othin, glancing at me with his one good eye. Come and sort this out, Loke, he was saying. I didn’t move. “Is there anything else you want?”

“The sun and the moon.”

Admittedly, the gods have a pretty sketchy idea of astronomy, and it would seem this bloke’s was worse, but it was clear to me that he was being ridiculous now. Nevertheless, at Othin’s prompting I stepped forward. “Done,” I said, and Freyja looked at me, totally outraged. “But we have conditions.”

“Go ahead.”

“You’ve got one season, not three. If it’s not finished, you don’t get any of the payment you’ve asked for. And you can’t have any help.”

“What about my stallion? Can he help?”

I imagined that a pack horse or something would be more useful than a stallion, but I agreed to that, and the others looked dubious but agreed because, well, they haven’t got a brain between them. Hence why do the negotiating. The builder shook my hand (nearly breaking it), and went off to get started.

“Loke, are you mad? We can’t possible give him Freyja.” Othin seemed furious. Didn’t he realise I had done him a favour?

“Oh, so the sun and the moon don’t matter to you?” I grinned. None of them like it when I grin, so I do it as often as possible. “It’s impossible for him to finish the wall in one season. It’s winter, for goodness’ sake. But he’ll do his best, and when spring comes he’ll at least have laid the foundations and we’ll have got free labour. Magic.”

It’s not magic, but the idea of business is just as strange to the gods as spells are to the people of Midgard, so I watched Othin nod slowly. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Loke.”

The wall progressed at high speed. The horse seemed to be doing most of the work. One morning I went down to the builder and asked him about it. “What’s it called?” I said.

He seemed surprised to be addressed. He really was massive, I realised. Taller than me, and I’ve got genes from my giantess mother, Laufey. “Svaðilfari,” he said.

“Good name for a horse,” I commented. Personally, I would have chosen something simpler like, I don’t know, Arthur.

Winter flew by and as the snows began to melt it was clear that the wall was almost finished. Othin called me to his throne room. “Loke,” he said. “You convinced us to agree to this. Now you get us out of this mess.”

The End

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