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The Children of Odin The Book of Northern Myths

Page: 65

Hreidmar served fish to them and they ate. "And what adventures have ye met upon your travels?" Hreidmar asked. "Few folk come this way to tell me of happenings."

"I killed an otter with a cast of a stone," Loki said with a laugh.

"You killed an otter!" Hreidmar cried. "Where did you kill one?"

"Where I killed him is of no import to you, old man," said Loki. "His skin is a good one, however. I have it at my belt."

Hreidmar snatched the skin out of Loki's belt. As soon as he held the skin before his eyes he shrieked out, "Fafnir, Regin, my sons, come here and bring the thralls of your smithies. Come, come, come!"

"Why dost thou make such an outcry, old man?" said Odin.

"Ye have slain my son Otter," shrieked the old man. "This in my hands is the skin of my son."

As Hreidmar said this two young men bearing the forehammers of the smithies came in followed by the thralls. "Strike these men dead with your forehammers, O Fafnir, O Regin," their father cried. "Otter, who used to stay in the river, and whom I changed by enchantment into a river beast that he might fish for me, has been slain by these men."

"Peace," said Odin. "We have slain thy son, it would seem, but it was unwittingly that we did the deed. We will give a recompense for the death of thy son."[Pg 139]

"What recompense will ye give?" said Hreidmar, looking at Odin with eyes that were small and sharp.

Then did Odin, the Eldest of the Gods, say a word that was unworthy of his wisdom and his power. He might have said, "I will bring thee a draught of Mimir's well water as a recompense for thy son's death." But instead of thinking of wisdom, Odin All-Father thought of gold. "Set a price on the life of thy son and we will pay that price in gold," he said.

"Maybe ye are great kings traveling through the world," Hreidmar said. "If ye are ye will have to find gold that will cover every hair upon the skin of him whom ye have killed."

Then did Odin, his mind being fixed upon the gold, think upon a certain treasure, a treasure that was guarded by a Dwarf. No other treasure in the nine worlds would be great enough to make the recompense that Hreidmar claimed. He thought upon this treasure and he thought on how it might be taken and yet he was ashamed of his thought.

"Dost thou, Loki, know of Andvari's hoard?" he said.

"I know of it," said Loki sharply, "and I know where it is hidden. Wilt thou, Odin, win leave for me to fetch Andvari's hoard?"

Odin spoke to Hreidmar. "I will stay with thee as a hostage," he said, "if thou wilt let this one go to fetch a treasure that will cover the otter's skin hair by hair."

"I will let this be done," said old Hreidmar with the sharp and cunning eyes. "Go now," said he to Loki. Then Loki went from the house.[Pg 140]

Andvari was a Dwarf who, in the early days, had gained for himself the greatest treasure in the nine worlds. So that he might guard this treasure unceasingly he changed himself into a fish—into a pike—and he swam in the water before the cave where the hoard was hidden.

All in Asgard knew of the Dwarf and of the hoard he guarded. And there was a thought amongst all that this hoard was not to be meddled with and that some evil was joined to it. But now Odin had given the word that it was to be taken from the Dwarf. Loki set out for Andvari's cave rejoicingly. He came to the pool before the cave and he watched for a sight of Andvari. Soon he saw the pike swimming cautiously before the cave.


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