Fall From Heaven
April 4th, 2023
There once was an Eagle at the top of the world.
Its outspread wings canvased the vaulted sky, the aurora dancing through its feathers and the stars resting on its pinions. In its talons it grasped the very highest branches of Yggdrassil, the World Tree, upon which all nine worlds rested. No being rose higher than the Eagle, it owned the sky above all the worlds and roosted at the peak of the heavens where Ymir’s broken cranium was forged into the vault of the sky an endless age ago. Time did not matter to the Eagle. It did not matter to most outside the worlds. The Eagle would always remain at its perch as it had done since Yggdrassil sprang into existence. It remembered the worlds before time, when there was nothing in existence but fire and ice, and the Eagle knew that in time the worlds would be consumed and fire and ice would be all that remained again.
From its roost atop the world the Eagle could see all of creation. It could see with perfect clarity the sights of the nine realms, the Eagle knew their histories and peoples, could watch them from its perch. The Eagle grew wise from this grand vision. The Eagle grew proud.
There are other creatures that live upon the World Tree, other entities as old as time who inhabit all of the worlds and none. There were the four harts, Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Durathror, who danced about its branches like the winds. There was the squirrel, Ratatoskr, that was the quickest on the branches. He spoke often with the Eagle, admired her perch and clarity of vision. The Eagle in turn was fond of the squirrel, and used him as her messenger.
There was another creature on the World Tree. Deep within its roots, where the rays of light from Sol and Mani never reached, there was a place where the gnarled roots of Yggdrassil bound the bodies and souls of murderers, adulterers, and oath-breakers. This was the most cursed place on Yggdrassil, the Well of Hvergelmir, where no water flowed but instead venom poured from the mouths of serpents beyond counting in number. Here in this terrible place lived the king of all serpents, an ancient ravenous beat that gnawed on corpse and root alike, Yggdrassil’s most terrible prisoner, Nidhoggr.
The serpent’s existence was torment compared to the Eagle’s life at the tree’s crown. Venom from countless lesser serpents dripped into its body until its very blood could melt steel. It gnawed and swallowed and chewed upon the corpses of the honorless and the cursed until its body grew rotten and skeletal and its breath carried every terrible plague. Even with its terrible agony the serpent Nidhoggr grew stronger and smarter. The roots of Yggdrassil tapped into the great wells of time, fate, and knowledge, and the tree itself was rich with power. As Nidhoggr’s fangs sank deep, damaging the tree over eons, it learned the most terrible powers of Seidr, Witchcraft. It learned how to ensorcel and command the dead to do its bidding. It saw the turning of the worlds and bided its time in agony, waiting and hoping for the moment to strike.
For an eternity the Eagle had mocked the serpent. Trapped so low and so far from light and warmth. She mocked its pain and agony with laughter and jeers by way of her swift-footed messenger Ratatoskr. Nidhoggr could never catch the squirrel, and was forced to endure centuries of insults and mockery from the lofty Eagle. Nidhoggr was patient, however, and knew how to bide its time. It endured the insults as it endured the agony. All it could do, all it had to do, was wait.
There was a witch goddess, Huldra, who had been lured to Hvergelmir by Nihoggr’s insidious call. The wyrm had enraptured her ambitioned and enslaved her mind, and in that moment all creation shook. The roots shattered, the serpents slithered free, and on terrible bat’s wings the dragon of Yggdrassil broke free and it knew its first meal.
With a terrible roar Nidhoggr rose upon Yggdrassil leaving chaos in its wake. The branches shook and snapped, the worlds tumbled, and the end of days began. As had been predicted so very long ago, Nidhoggr broke free.
The dragon attacked the Eagle, tore at its body with gnashing tooth and vengeful claw. Their battle tore the crown of Yggdrassil apart, shattering the ordered roost of the Eagle. It fought valiantly and boldly, but the Eagle had grown arrogant, its position unchallenged and its beak and talons dull. The dragon, however, had its teeth and claws sharpened on the World Tree’s roots, and the strength of eons in its jaws. Though their battle was fierce its outcome was certain from the start, and with a triumphant roar the Nidhoggr cast the Eagle down from its perch, letting its shattered body fall where it may so it could die in the dust as Nidhoggr felt it deserved.
Whether chance or destiny guided its fall, who can say, but chance rarely has any bearing on a Primordial such as the Eagle. Its power broken and its body torn apart the great eagle fell not to the tree’s roots but to Midgard, cascading down with the aurora in its wake and shining brightly like a meteor. This strange object that fell from the sky would by many who saw it be seen as the first sign of the Day’s of Revelation, falling in Mid-October before the hungry dragon Nidhoggr set its own eyes upon Midgard on October 31st.
The Eagle crashed in the far north lands, in the deep forests of the place now called Finland. There she would have remained until death had the falling creature not attracted the attention of a freshly-awakened pantheon. Not knowing where this strange thing was or where it came from, most ignored it or cursed it for an ill omen. One god, however, the Finnish god of the Forge, Ilmarinen, saw the thing for the shattered beauty it was, broken and neglected like a fallen chandelier. He took the eagle, at the edge of death, to his forge in the hopes of mending what he could.
Where once there had been flawless feather the color of night divine steel would have to take its place. It was Ilmarinen who had made the sky, and he could see that it was from the vault of the sky that the Eagle had come. He worked ceaselessly to repair its broken wings and feathers, and created wings of obsidian and moonlight so flawless they appeared as real feathers.
Ilmarinen’s forge, however, was a flawed and tricky thing. Whatever metals were placed within came out fearsome, ill-tempered, or simply cursed. When he placed the living Eagle in the forge, the metal set and new life began to flow into her but her form was forever altered. Gone was the shape of a proud and noble Eagle, daughter of the sky. Instead from the furnace he pulled the shape of the most feared and hated beast in Finland.
The Eagle had become a wolf.
Horrified by what she had become, the Eagle fled into the woods, traveling South into the darkness, with the wings upon her back all that remained of her noble heritage.
“That is what I am.” Angel said. Cat had taken a seat to listen, eyes wide, to Angel’s story. It was an unreal feeling, being given something that was both a life story and a fairy tale.
“How did you wind up in Rome?” Cat asked after the silence in Angel’s voice final settled.
“As I said I ran South. I wanted my revenge on Nidhoggr, but I don’t have the power…I doubt I ever did. I wasn’t used to supporting a wolf’s body, by the time Capitolina found me I was barely alive. I owe her my life and far more.”
“But if you’re a Primordial” Cat said “You should be really powerful, like a god even!”
“I was once.” Angel said. “But when Nidhoggr threw me from my perch my power was broken. Ilmarinen may have healed my injuries but in a wolf’s body my old strength will never return to me. I’m merely a shadow of my former power.”
“But still you’re a Primordial. A sword made from your feather would be really powerful, wouldn’t it?” Cat said excitedly. She was prepared to be shot down again, but she wasn’t prepared for Angel to get angry.
The room darkened, the evening light streaming in through the windows turned black, and there was a shift in the air as Angel’s wings spread from her back. For the first time Cat could see what Angel had meant in her story. She saw pinpoints of starlight reflected in her feathers and eyes. She could see shimmering blue lights surrounding her. For a moment all of Cat’s courage faded from her as she suddenly felt very very small.
“Do you think you could carry that power?” Angel demanded, and Cat winced away from the fierce tone in her voice. “A sword bound to a Primordial’s essence would call to them and they would come running, like a moth to a flame, to devour you and snuff out any threat to their power.”
“I’m not afraid!” Cat tried to covnince herself as well as Angel. “Could you at least give me a chance?”
The air shifted again, the light returned, and with a heavy sound Angel half-collapsed onto the table, one arm supporting her as her fingers dug into the wood with a mechanical grinding sound, her breath coming in quick halting breaths.
“Weaker every day…” Angel muttered ruefully to herself before rising to face Cat, her face returning to its stony mask.
“Are you okay, Miss Angel?” Cat asked, concern breaking through her earlier boldness.
“I will be fine.” Angel said, placing a hand to her chest and taking a deep breath.
“…why do they call you Angel anyway?” Cat asked.
“I never had a proper name.” Angel said “It was one Ilmarinen gave me when he found me.”
“Where is Ilmarinen?”
“I suspect he’s still in Finland…I regret leaving him on occasion, I was not in a…proper state of mind.”
“So it’s still a no on the sword, huh?” Cat asked after a moment with a hopeful smile.
“I would entrust such a blade to someone who had proven themselves worthy.”
“Like a knight?” Cat asked eagerly.
“Like a hero.” Angel said. “Like Sigurd, Karna, or Achilles. Do you claim to be the equal of any of these beings?”
“…no.” Cat admitted. “But it’s hard to prove yourself without a sword! It’s not like Sigurd got Balmung afterhe killed Fafnir.”
Angel made a brief noise not unlike a sudden exhalation through her nose. Had that been a laugh?
“There is something to that.” Angel said. “I Will be keeping a close watch on you, Catarina Alobrandini.” She said, her eyes twinkling with starlight.
“Go to Sicily, I’m not sure about a sword, but I believe you may yet find something there.”
The Cities Eternal©2016, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa
((JP Link: https://www.jukepop.com/home/read/9042?chapter=35&sl=539 ))