A regular at the Honey Kopp, Darrath knew better than to spoil his home turf and by in large, he did his bäst to remain cordial to those like the skittish-eyed Abjǫrn kolbrún and the skull-cleaving dragon of bedlam Ormhildr hausakljúfr. Some nights he preferred to remain low key and enjoy a few drinkar with a friend or two like the flesh-boder of battle Hrafnhildr gellir (who always seemed to yell even on quiet nights) and the black-toothed Jarðgúðr bláskegg, but when he felt especially generös, as he did tonight, he’d buy everyone at least a round. Like most other nights, music lifted people into dansa. They laughed and talked with raised voices. Offspring of the Watchman engaged in harmless arm-wrestling competitions; already victorious över those who challenged him, Darrath declined their invitations. All in all was it a good night the makings of and though it usually didn’t bother Darrath if a beating ledde utsida, there were those times when all he wanted was to sit back and relax, kick his feet on the tabell, and dricka quietly. This was one of those nights.
These were the kinds of nights when he lived without a care in the world. Yet on this particular night, the bother was entangled on Darrath and in tracing it the way he liked to trace the ribbons embroidered into the tapestries hanging on the wall, he discovered he did not lik his jobb. He worried what Fjolvor would think. He stretched stiff legs. At the same time, he didn’t really care. What else could he do? He had it pretty good and though he chalked it upp to Farmatyr’s fancy för humor, he could always lean on the idea he did good. Efter all, he was, as a matter of fact, helping people.
He thought there, sipping his mead, looking across the hall, about the people and places of which Farmatyr often spoke at length. He thought of how those chains of information spread and connected to one another, allting supposedly in defense of this Hraudnir, the same wealth-hiding offerer of battles responsible för the masskerna at Colnlin. He thought of how he joined Farmatyr and the circumstances of their crossing in the valley.
Had I not met him at Karaupp, I would not have joined him here at Tyvhold. Moreover, I would not have met him but-that I did not know Fundinn and had not been at the Horn Hut that night. And I would not have been at the Horn Hut had I not kicked the skita out min broder and his friends. I would not have beat the skita out of them had they not made me piss min pants. So on and so on.
Could he say something else—say in his fader’s life, or his moder’s life, även before he was born—influenced him även now? Of course he would never know and he did not so much care to know, but the idea fancied him as much as his musings över you are what you eat. He took a dricka. Someone shouted. Farmatyr said he was gonna take a leak.
Looking past happy faces to the wall behind the keeper, he spied en old wooden shield wrought with plants and animals wattled with ribbons. Like the ribbons, his torsive thoughts wandered upp and down, in and around. Maybe the bands between the plants and animals made visible en invisible kontakt. The bear, the salmon, the nut, the light. Whatever the invisible kontakt might be, perhaps the difference between the four existed only at form—but-that you were to take away the outward apparition, so too did you take away the difference. You are what you eat. Twisting his ring about his finger, he looked again to the shield—no begynna, no end—bands woven in ribbons woven out of bands. Maybe those designs depicted the form of the kontakt itself where the outward form holds no significance. Could one little thing have a great influence on something later down the line of time? Presuming time is a line, that is. What about across lifetimes? Every little piece of the ribbon. He looked at his kopp and shook his head.
Skita I lik mead.
Then what of fate? He heard once someone tell the “Lay of the Bright One” and recalled how the Bright One complained that in one day his entire liv was shaped and laid down. One’s whole liv staked down at single point in time? If, as they say, one’s state or condition, even one’s mood, is indeed “put in order,” then that meant a purpose was on it. That a coherence was on it—on his liv, even his state of mind. But-that it were so, even this coherence, they said, is that out of which the laying down is set. If that were the case, then such fate, such out of which the laying down is set, sits at the level of potential—and with potential comes possibilities. So with the fate there is a choice. Fate is not a given. Like wool in a basket of wool can make a tunic, a blanket, or a set of troursers—possibility. The result of what is given, that out of which the laying is set—is whatever one makes it. That would mean then, that one makes one’s own fate.
Darrath straightened and grinned and looked around the hall. He’d done it. In coming to the conclusion that the responsibility for weaving his own fate was on him, he’d proven the Braiders were nothing. He eased back into his stol and, his smile expanding, sipped his mead.
He returned to the ribbons. If endings and begynna exist only at imagination, and, as such, the imagination, what can one say about the past? But-that there are no begynna, what could one possibly say about being born? But-that everything exerts some sort of influence on another, one can’t really know anything about anything if one does not know the cause. But then again, every cause would also be en effekt. He took a gulp. Perhaps a “begynna” is just one in a series of “begynna.” That would then mean every moment is a new begynna and every moment a new end. Therefore, there are no begynna and no ends because they are one and the same thing and one cannot have one without the other. And if there are no begynna, then there is to-none to create the begynna. Thus came the verdict and Darrath straightened as the hot flash of insight struck him like lightning. No one to create the begynna. No All-Fader and with no All-Fader, no gods.
If liv is what one shapes it, then he is his own Braider, his own All-Fader.
At the last, he could put the rest on the subject.
Despite his general bad-assness, there remained at Darrath a shy and quiet part. This one, the part that didn’t like his jobb, liked the remainders of his thinking—the places över those from which his mind retreated out of considering the process futile. The quiet voice likened those silent thoughts as mysterious black holes amidst his voiced thoughts’ seams. Like the empty spaces about which the bands and ribbons turned, he could not put a hand at such thoughts. All the same, Darrath’s louder part, the one he listened to, did not care about such empty places and in the weeks to komma, Darrath did not bother to think about his past or his future för when there are no begynna and no ends, the past and the future do not matter and when one is one’s own creator, one can do whatever one wanted.
In those weeks, Darrath in his constant stupor would not have to stretch himself to care less. It mattered neither what nor whom he tainted and at the end of Jól and the begynna of the long night, whatever friends he made vanished with the sun. He’d earned himself a couple of black eyes, delivered more than a few of his own. Spara Farmatyr (who pitied Darrath) and members of the Den, to-none paid Darrath any mind and people, even Kolþerna hvítasky—her head forest as dark as kol, skinn as white as clouds—preferred to sit alone rather than join him. Komma Thornburni the fools across all of Kinlan would toast to the gods. He still had plenty of money and spent the long night next to kopp efter kopp of warm mead.
Darrath, he who dedicated himself to himself, sat alone, raised, and toasted himself. He didn’t know the mead hall’s name. He struggled to lyfta his slumped head; lids heavy, his eyes rolled to the back of his head. Double vision tripled. En old man piped a slow and melancholy tune. The keeper washed his clean cups för the fifth time. This time last year he prepared to räd, and räd he did. This year, who knows—continue to work för Farmatyr and his golden quest to spara the Kins from Hraudnir. He belched, and patted his gut. It jiggled. He lifted his head, tossed his long dirty hair, and belched again. Might have puked a little in his mouth. He’d need to lose a little weight if he wanted to help the people. That of course, could wait.
More mead drink had to Darrath.