Hero Tales

Page: 43

All night long the supperless three sat hungry around the fire; and, every time they peeped into the kettle, the meat was as raw and gustless as before. Morning came, but no breakfast. And all day long Loki kept stirring the fire, and Odin and Hoenir waited hopefully but impatiently. When the sun again went down, the flesh was still uncooked, and their supper seemed no nearer ready than it was the night before. As they were about yielding to despair, they heard a noise overhead; and, looking up, they saw a huge gray eagle sitting on the dead branch of an oak.

"Ha, ha!" cried the bird. "You are pretty fellows indeed! To sit hungry by the fire a night and a day, rather than eat raw flesh, becomes you well. Do but give me my share of it as it is, and I warrant you the rest shall boil, and you shall have a fat supper."

"Agreed," answered Loki eagerly. "Come down and get your share."

The eagle waited for no second asking. Down he swooped right over the blazing fire, and snatched not only the eagle's share, but also what the Lybians call the lion's share; that is, he grasped in his strong talons the kettle, with all the meat in it, and, flapping his huge wings, slowly rose into the air, carrying his booty with him. The three Asas were astonished. Loki was filled with anger. He seized a long pole, upon the end of which a sharp hook was fixed, and struck at the treacherous bird. The hook stuck fast in the eagle's back, and Loki could not loose his hold of the other end of the pole. The great bird soared high above the tree-tops, and over the hills, and carried the astonished mischief-maker with him.

But it was no eagle. It was no bird that had thus outwitted the hungry Asas: it was the giant Old Winter, clothed in his eagle plumage. Over the lonely woods, and the snow-crowned mountains, and the frozen sea, he flew, dragging the helpless Loki through tree-tops, and over jagged rocks, scratching and bruising his body, and almost tearing his arms from his shoulders. At last he alighted on the craggy top of an iceberg, where the storm winds shrieked, and the air was filled with driving snow. As soon as Loki could speak, he begged the cunning giant to carry him back to his comrades,—-Odin and Hoenir.

"On one condition only will I carry you back," answered Old Winter. "Swear to me that you will betray into my hands Dame Idun and her golden key."

Loki asked no questions, but gladly gave the oath; and the giant flew back with him across the sea, and dropped him, torn and bleeding and lame, by the side of the fire, where Odin and Hoenir still lingered. And the three made all haste to leave that cheerless place, and returned to Odin's glad home in Asgard.

Some weeks after this, Loki, the Prince of Mischief-makers, went to Bragi's house to see Idun. He found her busied with her household cares, not thinking of a visit from anyone.