Each month we share excerpts from the illustrated novel Dreams of Ýdalir with our followers. Each excerpt is accompanied by an exclusive “sneak peek”/”work in progress” of the concept art work, created by Roberto especially for the main theme and mood of the chapter it comes from.
Remember, if you want the WHOLE chapter and full finished image (plus so much more!), you can subscribe over at our Patreon Project – new issues come out on the 15th of each month.
Now for the excerpt and art:
Life in Asgard
Life in Asgard is like a dream, with its grand halls and thralls that anticipate your every need, even before you knew you had any!
There is power in that place and pomp to be sure – lots of big heads and inflated egos. There is the general scheming that happens in any royal family and the Asgardians are royals, make no mistake.
My mother Sif is remembered by mortals for her long golden hair, her magical hair that represents the golden wheat and corn. Her hair represents fertility as she is married to the God of Thunder whose lightening and nutrients fertilize the land. What they have forgotten is that she brings that fertility to the lands of Asgard as well. Much like Idunna with her apples, that bring youth to the Asgardians, my mother’s magical hair ensures that the Asgardians are fed, healthy and whole. Sif is always the quiet peacemaker. She is so gifted of that skill that one of the best-known stories of her’s that actually makes it into the books of humans is that she was able to appease the fiery Loki, even after he was the one who insulted her and her fidelity and she, the most loyal of us all!
When you are married to someone as gregarious and boisterous as The Mighty Thor himself, you learn to balance that exuberance with quiet strength, something she has in abundance…and patience, she has immense patience. Her quiet strength is no less important than his outward strength; it is actually just the other side of the same coin. My mother keeps Thor, the Mighty centered. He is the classic “big man” with many responsibilities, both at home in Asgard but also in Jotunheim, and on Midgard. He travels long and hard and my mother keeps a stable home for him while he is away. She is his counsel; keeps him abreast of all that happens at home while he is abroad. The other Gods and Goddesses in Asgard have come to rely on her counsel too, in his absence. She is held in the highest regard and given much respect. She is neither a braggart nor a gossiper. She does not involve herself in the petty business of the royal family, she keeps a healthy distance and her dedication to Thor and her family is paramount to her being.
My mother’s own people have been long forgotten, they are of another tribe. Her people are not interested in “improving” on nature; they would rather just live in it and work together with it. I think she loves Thor for his humanity – his love of the humans he cares for so much. His interactions with humans, jotuns, and others gives him other useful perspectives and so in that way he also, although he is physically at the center of Asgardian life, can often see how things can be another way.
I grew up knowing there was something different about me. Sif, my sister Thrud and of course the mighty Thor himself are all fair and golden. It was never told to me that I can remember in any case, that Thor was not my father. No one needed to tell me, it was obvious. Even to my young mind, I knew that I did not sprout from that sturdy tree. Nevertheless, Thor always treated me as one of his own. He has many children that my mother did not bring into the world, so why should I be any different? He treated us all the same, with a father’s love. I never wanted or needed for anything growing up in Asgard, and yet that was part of the problem. When I was old enough to understand something of my feelings, I realized that I felt hollow inside, something was missing – I lacked the joy, recklessness, and exuberance normally found in a young boy. In fact, I was much too serious. Everyone said this of me, “look at that dark one held so close by the ones who burn so bright” they whispered in the great halls.
It makes sense seeing that neither of my parents are of Asgard themselves. My mother, of course, has been accepted wholeheartedly, but she knows herself separate. So did I.
I had a drive from a very young age to go out into the other worlds and see something more than Asgard and all its pomp. I think I wanted to discover myself, my core, who I was. As the son of this great goddess, who was I? What did I have to offer to validate myself against the whispers?
Thor, being mighty as he is, always trained all of his children and younger kin in the use of weapons and skilled combat. I, of course, was no exception, growing up in his household. Very early on he discovered my aptitude for the bow. He was quite pleased that his stepson was able to be so stealth. Being dark, lithe and light on my feet, I enjoyed stalking and blending into the background. The writings of men say that I am pleasing to look upon, yet I have never been one to enjoy the spotlight.
From the moment I picked up my first bow, it was if it was an extension of my own arm. I felt as though we were one and I relished every moment in practice. My mind seemed to link effortlessly with the arrow and my target and from my first shot, until today, I have never missed once. Of course, this was a huge indicator of my parentage. I should have noticed the knowing looks between my mother and stepfather, but at the time I was too wrapped up in the excitement of hunting and archery, going far afield to practice my new skill and creeping up to the world that I didn’t pay it much mind, or even see that kind of a link.
It wasn’t long before my connection to the animals I hunted grew. I loved the aspect of stalking and sneaking up on a giant herd of wild deer, but I didn’t like taking lives needlessly. Of course, no one complained about the fresh venison, but I felt like there had to be another way. I enjoyed watching their movement and behaviors – they had their own minds and patterns built on the desire to survive and thrive and I respected that in them. So I began to only kill those who were weak, the old and infirm or the sick and the weak. I was never one to adorn my home with the rack of a giant buck, even though I am forever tied to all sorts of hunting imagery through the ages. I wanted to help the herds to become stronger by picking off the weaker ones that should not breed.
I loved traveling into other worlds as well. Sometimes Thor would ask me to join him on his expeditions. He trusted my intuition and I always had a plan for getting in or out of situations quietly. He told the others that I could walk unseen and unheard. In fact, a mystique began to grow around me, one that he loved to bedazzle with his stories of our feats together. Whenever we did leave Asgard, I made sure to take time to get out into the wilderness. Other worlds have other prey and other predators and I soon came to realize that some of those predators are the thralls of more highly evolved predators.
There are those who live beyond the lofty Asgardians and their cosmopolitan ways. Those who wish to bend the power of nature for their own purposes. There have always been spirits of nature, those folk who have the responsibility for a grove of sacred trees, a particular river, a lake or a cave. These spirits are born of that place and are given the all-important job of keeping track of their own part and parcel of nature. They cannot be separated from the land. They are cogs in a great wheel, keeping the balance for all of us.
Humans have come to understand these beings as elemental forces, that sometimes take on human-like or animal form and they can rage great storms or fires when things begin to become unbalanced, clearing the slate once again.
However, there are always those who are not content in their work and they seek to take that which is not theirs. These beings bend, break and re-form into something that is not healthy or whole. Those with the power of Earth, Wind, Fire or Water in their blood use that power to their own end, instead of using their innate gifts to serve the whole. They take on strange forms and eventually become apart from the nature to which they were born to serve and protect.
As I traveled I began to learn of all the intricacies that make up the worlds and keep them going, the various energies, all the cogs in the wheel. Nature is in a delicate balance.