The Fangs of Hel

August 1, 2008
By
Upon the day of Dróttinsdagrb, Garfunkle and his father, Hrothgarkin traversed a forest in the realm of Miðgarðr, world of humans. They had decided to camp in the forest that night, as it was late and the forest was growing dark. The stygian shadows of dusk had begun to settle over the kingdom of Midgard. A friend of Hrothgarkin, Sigyn had also journeyed into the forest to hunt with them. He assisted in lighting a fire and preparing the camp-site as the shadows grew darker and the night-lurkers stirred. The troupe settled down for the night in a clearing. The smell of cooking meat hung in the air as a deer carcass spun on a spit. Garfunkle noticed that there was no scurrying of nocturnal animals, but assumed it was only the fire keeping them away. Sigyn sat telling a joke, making the others laugh, but suddenly Hrothgarkin stood erect and snatched up his bow, drawing an arrow he had pulled from his quiver as he leveled the bow into the forest. He trained the arrow on something out of sight to Garfunkle. Sigyn slowly eased his dagger out of his sheath and dropped into a ready stance. Garfunkle locked eyes with his father and knew one thing although nothing was said. He had to hide. Garfunkle ran to a nearby tree and crouched in a small hole in the tree’s trunk. Nothing stirred for a moment as Hrothgarkin and Sigyn tensed.
Suddenly a beast heaved itself out of the shadows at Sigyn. The thing had fur dark as night and its eyes seeming to glow with fire. Hrothgarkin loosed his arrow at the beast as it soared through the air. The arrow never found its mark however, as the beast twisted in mid-air, dodging the arrow. Sigyn got no chance to defend himself as the beast swatted the dagger out of his hand, causing it to land a few feet from Garfunkle’s hiding place, and knocked him onto the leafy ground. The dead leaves of the forest crunched as man and beast crashed to the ground. The beast then tore out Sigyn’s throat, a red blossom blooming from Sigyn’s shoulders. The red liquid splashed onto the ground, staining the forest with dark, glistening blood. The beast rose and growled, blood dripping from its fangs.
Garfunkle watched in horror as Hrothgarkin drew another arrow as the beast charged at him. Hrothgarkin loosed his arrow, leaving a bloodied shaft sticking out of the beasts shoulder. The beast charged on, un-wavered. Hrothgarkin knew he had no time for another shot and dropped his bow. He met the beast head on with a dagger that appeared in his hand. Once again both beings crashed into the ground. The beast clawed at Hrothgarkin’s stomach and mauled his arm as Hrothgarkin stabbed the beast again and again. Finally Hrothgarkin buried his knife deep in the neck of the beast. It leaped away with a terrible screeching roar and tore off into the forest. Hrothgarkin lay panting on the forest floor as Garfunkle slowly emerged from the tree, still covering his ears, clearly shaken by the beast’s roar.
“It will be back.” Hrothgarkin croaked as Garfunkle rushed to his father’s side. The ground was splattered with the blood of three different beings, the corpse of Sigyn still lying on the ground. Garfunkle turned away from the mangled body of Sigyn, almost losing his midday meal.
“I know that beast,” Hrothgarkin said, “It is the spawn of Garmr, Stygia, which stalks its prey with poisonous fangs. I will die soon, my son.”
Those last six words caused Garfunkle to gasp, but he did not weep for he was at the age of manhood and so he remained strong.
“It will be back for me,” Hrothgarkin said once more, “It always comes back to finish its prey. Boy, help me up. Prop me against this tree and hand me my bow and quiver.”
Garfunkle did as his father said, but he couldn’t stop his hands from shaking the whole time. Hrothgarkin drove a few arrows into the soft earth half a pace to his right and laid his bow across his knees. Hrothgarkin could survey the area around him, and anything approaching him would have to pass through the clearing of the camp, unless it circled around behind him.

“Go now Garfunkle,” Hrothgarkin said to Garfunkle, “Once it has finished with me, it will come after you. I’ll make sure you have time to get away. Go back to the house and get supplies for your journey. Travel to the house of your uncle, Domalde. You will be safe there. Live a good honorable life, and forget this ever happened. Remember me as I was. Go now.”
“But father, I canno-“ but Garfunkle never got to finish what he was saying as Hrothgarkin cut him off and told him to leave once more. Suddenly, a roar pierced the silence of the forest, the horrible screeching roar of Stygia. Garfunkle stood frozen, not hearing the curses Hrothgarkin shouted at him. Stygia emerged from the trees into the clearing warily, sniffing the air. Hrothgarkin slowly pulled an arrow free from the ground silently, and fitted it onto the string of his bow. Stygia caught sight of Hrothgarkin and charged. Both Hrothgarkin and Stygia let fourth a roar as Hrothgarkin loosed arrow after arrow. Nonetheless, Stygia charged forward, seemingly oblivious of it’s body bristling with arrows and the knife sticking out of its neck.
Garfunkle knew he had to do something, as Hrothgarkin had only one arrow left. Garfunkle ran to the camp and snatched up his father’s sword as Hrothgarkin fired his last arrow. Garfunkle charged towards the beast, hoping to intercept it a few paces in front of his father. At that moment Hrothgarkin had run out of arrows and chucked his bow at Stygia in hopeless desperation. Time moved slower as Garfunkle came to a halt and raised the sword high in the air. He brought it down with all his strength, arching his back. The blade met the flesh of Stygia at the nape of its neck. The head came free of its body, flying through the air as Garfunkle completed his swing. The lifeless body of Stygia slid limply to the ground as its cause of death, the sword, met the ground and halted. Garfunkle stood panting, and his hands shook, having let go of the sword which was now stuck in the ground.
Hrothgarkin sat in shock at the sight before him. The great beast Stygia had been slain by a mere mortal. Garfunkle was still contemplating what he had done when a flash of celestial light appeared behind him. As the light faded away, Thor, an Æsir god appeared. As the shock faded away both Garfunkle and Hrothgarkin threw themselves to the ground to worship, Hrothgarkin more fell more then lowered himself. Then Thor spoke. It was like a bellowing thunder.
“Garfunkle!” he said, and Garfunkle looked up from his position on the ground. “I witnessed your courage from the high seat in the realm of the Æsir, where I look down upon the other kingdoms. You will assist me.” Thor went on as Garfunkle stared at him, still shocked. “It seems that Garmr has escaped from the realm of Hel,” gesturing to Stygia, “Garmr has taken residence in a nearby cave. Only it can save your father. The saliva of that beast will cure the poisoned wound of your father. You must find a way to collect the saliva and slay the beast if you can, it should be asleep now.”
Thor meant to use Garfunkle for his own ambitions. Garfunkle would slay the hated Garmr, which he banished to Hel. It would pay for escaping.
Garfunkle agreed to do this task; he would do anything to save his father. At that moment Hrothgarkin called him over.
“Be careful, Garfunkle,” Garfunkle realized that his father no longer called him “boy”.
“I know you must do this, for the honor of our family. Just be careful.”
“I will father.” Garfunkle responded. Garfunkle began to think of a plan. Thor would escort Garfunkle to the cave and return to Hrothgarkin. Garfunkle could call Thor if he needed him. So they set off towards the cave, Garfunkle dragging the body of Sigyn. As they reached the mouth of the cave Garfunkle descended and Thor returned to Hrothgarkin. When Garfunkle walked into the cave, he hit a wall of darkness. He waited a few moments for his vision to adjust. His heart was pounding as he walked deeper into the cave. Then he heard it, the resonant booming of Garmr’s breathing. Then he saw Garmr.
A huge wolf-like creature lying on its stomach, paws tucked under its gigantic head. Garfunkle was afraid. Icy cold gripped his heart and he couldn’t move another inch. Then he remembered why he was doing this. He took one step after the other towards the huge hound, its breathing causing a small whirlwind. Garfunkle laid the corpse of Sigyn beneath Garmr’s head. As planned, Garmr began to salivate from the smells, but it did not wake the hound. Garfunkle grabbed the stone basin he had taken into the caves and began to collect the saliva dripping from Garmr’s fangs. In a few minutes the basin was full. It was time to strike.
Garmr rolled over, exposing its belly. Garfunkle pulled out his sword and stalked up to the large beast after setting the basin on the floor. He then plunged the sword deep into Garmr’s exposed flesh. Garmr let loose a booming roar and leaped to its feet. It swiveled its head as Garfunkle stood frozen. He jumped to the side as Garmr charged him. Garfunkle then proceeded to scoop up the basin and sprint for his life. Garmr charged on after him, seemingly unaware of the sword in its belly. Garfunkle and Garmr were reaching the mouth of the cave, but Garfunkle he knew he would probably not make it, so he called for Thor at the top of his lungs.
Suddenly Thor appeared and gestured for him to hurry, letting fourth a burst of lightning to blind Garmr. Garfunkle dove out of the mouth of the cave a second before Thor struck the cave with a hammer. The entrance to the cave collapsed, trapping Garmr. It would then return to the kingdom of Hel and remain there until Ragnarök. Garfunkle would save his father with the saliva and be made one of the Æsir by Thor.





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