The Children of Odin The Book of Northern Myths

Page: 79

In the dazzling plumage of a swan the young battle-maiden flew down from Asgard. Not yet had she to go to the battlefields. Waters drew her, and as she waited on[Pg 171] the will of the All-Father she sought out a lake that had golden sands for its shore, and as a maiden bathed in it.

Now there dwelt near this lake a young hero whose name was Agnar. And one day as Agnar lay by the lake he saw a swan with dazzling plumage fly down to it. And while she was in the reeds the swan-feather dress slipped off her, and Agnar beheld the swan change to a maiden.

So bright was her hair, so strong and swift were all her movements, that he knew her for one of Odin's battle-maidens; for one of those who give victory and choose the slain. Very daring was Agnar, and he set his mind upon capturing this battle-maiden even though he should bring on himself the wrath of Odin by doing it.

He hid the swan-feather dress that she had left in the reeds. When she came out of the water she might not fly away. Agnar gave back to her the swan-feather dress, but she had to promise that she would be his battle-maiden.

And as they talked together the young Valkyrie saw in him a hero that one from Asgard might help. Very brave and very noble was Agnar. Brynhild went with him as his battle-maiden, and she told him much from the Runes of Wisdom that she knew, and she showed him that the All-Father's last hope was in the bravery of the heroes of the earth; with the Chosen from the Slain for his Champions he would make battle in defence of Asgard.

Always Brynhild was with Agnar's battalions; above the battles she hovered, her bright hair and flashing battle-dress outshining the spears and swords and shields of the warriors.

But the gray-beard King Helmgunnar made war on[Pg 172] the young Agnar. Odin favored the gray-beard King, and to him he promised the victory. Brynhild knew the will of the All-Father. But to Agnar, not to Helmgunnar, she gave the victory.

Doomed was Brynhild on the instant she went against Odin's will. Never again might she come into Asgard. A mortal woman she was now, and the Norns began to spin the thread of her mortal destiny.

Sorrowful was Odin All-Father that the wisest of his battle-maidens might never appear in Asgard nor walk by the benches at the feasts of his Champions in Valhalla. He rode down on Sleipner to where Brynhild was. And when he came before her it was his, and not her head that was bowed down.

For she knew now that the World of Men was paying a bitter price for the strength that Asgard would have in the last battle. The bravest and noblest were being taken from Midgard to fill up the ranks of Odin's Champions. And Brynhild's heart was full of anger against the rulers of Asgard, and she cared no more to be of them.