Today is my stop on the blog tour for Children by Bjørn Larssen. I have an excerpt to share with you all.
WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT
Magni never wanted to be like his father, a murderous, absent, cheating alcoholic: Thor – the feared and beloved God of thunder. When Thor destroys everything and everyone his son knows and loves, Magni vows to stop the violence. His dream is to bring peace and prosperity to the Nine Worlds, then settle down with the man he loves. But is it possible to remain good in a place this bad? How do you escape cruelty in a universe built on it, or the shadow of your father when everyone calls you by his name?
Maya knows she’s a failure and a disappointment to her foster-parents. How could a child raised by Freya and Freyr – Goddess of love and God of sex – have no interest in the greatest of pleasures? Obviously, it couldn’t be the torture they subjected her to, or treating her as a tool that might someday be useful. Maya, her rage at their games more powerful than she knows, wants freedom to pursue her own destiny. But how do you forge your own life away from your God-parents when you’re nothing more than human?
A retelling of the Norse myths unlike any other, Children will answer all the questions you never knew you had about the heathen Nine Worlds… before leading you into the Tenth.
HERE’S AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
The crimson-clad guard manning the sentry tower leaned out so far, I worried for his safety. I couldn’t blame him, though. I had never seen anything like it either.
Thor was a sight to behold. The veil covered his face and hair, tens of golden rings hid his hairy fingers, but there was nothing that could have been done about the massive shoulders or his height. I’d have given a lot to look under that veil and I was certain King Thrymr would as well. He seemed taken aback by the fact that the top of his head barely reached where I expected the bride’s stubbly chin to be. I heard the not-quite-rhythmical steps of boots hitting the ground, then a brief bleat of the fanfares’ cacophony. Despite all the preparations the surprise was complete, especially as the ladies arrived in time to break the fast, rather than sup.
The bride tried to cross her arms on her chest and the maid elbowed her in the ribs. The sickly feeling that all this would end badly mixed in my stomach with the urge to hysterically cackle.
“My lady,” said the King, looking up at the thick veil, taking a step forward, then a step back. He cleared his throat. “My lady…”
“Your Grace,” squeaked Loki. She looked perfect. Her dress was nice, but not too nice. She was pretty, but not beautiful, in a way that suggested she came from a good family, but not one that would be invited to a royal wedding. The modest, tight braids and slightly pouty lips made her noticeable, but not breathtaking. “It is our great pleasure to arrive here. Her Grace, Lady Freya, is not allowed to speak until the vows are exchanged.”
Loki. Nobody else would have come up with this. Playing a cruel, elaborate, and, frankly, hilarious prank on someone who saw Loki as his best friend.
“She will have to speak to exchange our vows,” said the King, his eyes fixed on Freya’s very well-padded bosom.
“That is exactly what I meant, Your Majesty.”
“She’s very…” The King paused. “Wide.”
“Lady Freya is… a… wearing the latest fashions from Ásgard. Layers. Very popular among the Gods.”
“I see. And you are?”
“I am Lady Freya’s maid. Just a humble and unimportant woman, me. O-overjoyed to be chosen by the Goddess herself.”
Nothing about the genius of Loki, the wisest and wittiest of the Gods? I tried to stare straight and cross my eyes. It hurt.
“And what is your name?”
“My name – is – ah – ah, I am so excited I almost forgot my own name, Your Excellency, your presence strikes me so strongly! Sigyn, that’s it, yes, my name is Si-sigyn.”
“Good,” said the King, his eyes nervously wandering between “Sigyn” and the multi-layered mountain. “Would my lady like to refresh herself after the journey? How did you get over here so fast? Hmm?”
“In Freyr’s magical ship,” croaked Loki. I could almost hear her sweating. “He brought us here, said his goodbyes, then departed. He will not be returning, since Freya and I are staying here, in the beautiful City of Light that we’ve heard so much about.”
“Sigyn,” said the King, “spare me your beautiful words. Neither of you would be here if Mjölnir didn’t make it into my hands. Does she want a bath or not? Hmm?”
“Ah, no, it is a custom among the Gods that nobody can see the bride without her gown and veil on before the vows—”
“Is it? I would still like to see the face so beautiful a thousand poets can’t find words to describe it.”
If he’d addressed the real Freya this way, he’d be reduced to minced meat by now.
Loki’s back straightened up, as if she grew a bit, and everyone including the King inadvertently took a step back. “Your Grace. Lady Freya can look like any woman. That’s why the poets can’t describe her. Once you are married, you will be bedding a different woman every night, if such is your wish, yet she will always be the same Goddess, always yours, untouched by anybody else. You will see every side of Her Grace. After the vows are exchanged.” Loki cleared her throat, then her shoulders dropped, so did her eyes, fingers modestly steepled in her lap. “Your Excellent Majesty,” she finished in near-whisper, and everyone seemed to start breathing again.
The King gawked, as did everyone else including me, then returned to the immobile bride. “Freya, my love, let us feast. What could I possibly please you with?”
“Oh no, no,” exclaimed Loki. “It is a custom among the Gods not to speak, drink, or eat for seven days…”
The growl of thunder made everyone wince, including me. Some of the crimson-clad men looked doubtfully at the cloudless sky.
“Except,” Loki continued almost without a break, “for the feast right before the wedding. Today marks six days of Her Grace’s preparations. She is ready to be wed any time.”
“I believe our letter only reached you two days ago.”
Loki’s hands were shaking. Fortunately, I was the only one who wasn’t looking at the bride. “Frigg, the wife of Odin, predicted the future. Regretfully, it is not up to me to reveal anything else, your Royal Highness. So, I’ve already said too much, please excuse me, I am not the wisest…”
I nearly fell off the windowsill. If swallows could laugh, I was yet to discover how, so instead I mildly shat on the roof. Loki’s gaze shot up for just a blink and the slight grin that crossed her face was for me. It was neither a friendly nor a threatening expression, just an acknowledgement. Shifters knew shifters. She wouldn’t know who I was, but she knew I was not a bird.
“Drinking and eating is perfectly fine before the wedding, as long as Lady Freya’s modesty remains covered until the vows are exchanged, and then you shall kiss the sweetest lips in the Nine Worlds, caress the most wonderful hair, look into the eyes that are like…”
“Eyes, yes,” interrupted King Thrymr. “I would like to at least look into her eyes. Once. Even the most modest of women don’t hide their eyes from their betrothed. How do I know this isn’t a magical trick, hmm? It might be a golem for all I know.”
“A go-go-golem?! Your Majestic Highness!”
“I want to look into her eyes, or Mjölnir stays here forever.”
Loki nervously licked her lips before turning towards the mountainous bride, who hadn’t moved since they arrived. “Lady Freya, Your Grace, would you agree – even though it is breaking all of the customs that the Gods have ever agreed on – to look into the King’s eyes with all the love and affection that you can muster?”
“Muster?” asked the King, but Loki was already standing on the tips of her toes to reach the veil. The King recoiled so rapidly he nearly fell on his royal backside. “Dread Gods!” he roared. “I mean… by Freya… what… her eyes… such anger, I swear…”
“It is not anger at all, it is the light of love and fire of her desire, your… High Royalness. Freya has loved and desired you for many years.”
One of the highly royal eyebrows wandered up. “Really?” the King asked, almost lazily. Loki was in trouble.
“Oh, yes, yes yes yes! In fact! This is why Mjölnir found its way into your hands!”
“Is she grinding her teeth?”
“In excitement! She has confided in me for a long time that it was her dream to become the queen of Jötunheim. Freya and Loki, the trickster, the wisest of the Gods, the wittiest, the…”
“I know who Loki is.”
In the brief silence I heard Loki swallow loudly before the blabbering commenced. “Ah, of course, everybody knows who Loki is… what was I… So, Loki and Freya, or perhaps the other way round, they came up with a perfect plan to ensure that Thor would never bother the beautiful Jötunheim again. Loki stole Thor’s hammer…”
Lady Freya cleared her throat, causing the ground to shake slightly.
“A-a-and gave it to Lady Freya, so that she could send it over to you, knowing that you would understand the gift comes from her heart… from her love…”
“Hmm. I did not see love in those eyes.”
The gown seemed to tighten even more around the bride’s shoulders.
“You will see it very soon, Your Excellent Royalness, you will see everything and more, once the vows are exchanged between the two of you. I hope you don’t mind, but we are very tired after the journey, especially Her Grace Freya, who had no sleep and no food and not even a drop of mead – I mean water – before coming here. Can you imagine her excitement to finally meet His Grace King Thrymr himself in person? Her Grace is de-lir-ious with happiness and desire, she’s been dreaming about this moment for…”
“Delirious,” muttered the King. “I can believe that. Let us feast, then. I will sit next to my beloved and make sure that—”
“Oh! How could I have forgotten!” cried Loki. “That will not be possible, since the Gods’ custom is to not even accidentally touch their beloved before the vows are exchanged. We have already broken the universal law by allowing you to look into Lady Freya’s eyes, and, Your Very Highly Excellent Grace, it is dangerous even for someone as powerful as you to meddle with the laws of the Universe. It is not just some woman you are about to marry, she is the most important of all the Goddesses. And she will be yours very soon – in fact, er, how soon?”
“Soon. Before I allow you inside, I gather you have no weapons?”
The bride growled.
“Poor Lady Freya,” gasped Loki. “She is so tired, even her voice is different, her throat must be so dry! Soon she will be sleeping in your royal bed, which I have obviously never seen, but I am certain someone as powerful as you must have the most luxurious bed in the Nine Worlds… We have no weapons of any sort, we have full trust in your hospitality, your Royal Highness. You may search me, but I must deny you the right to search Her Grace. I swear on Odin’s staff and Freya’s own golden hair that you will find no w-weapons whatsoever.”
Loki was clearly terrified. Could this be someone else’s plan that she hadn’t been made aware of? Now she stood, unprepared, between Thor, who was undergoing a very public humiliation, and the King, who used his reputation and wealth to show the whole of Jötunheim he was powerful enough to marry Freya. This made even me feel uneasy. Who was that man with the blue orb? Could it have been Odin? Why?!
As the bride sailed majestically towards the entrance, I decided I knew enough for the time being. Magni must be shitting rocks by now and I had nothing more to gain by sitting here.
Genre: Fantasy || Pages: 460 || Published on October 3, 2020
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Many thanks to StoryTellers On Tour for organizing this blog tour. The tour schedule can found here.
Bjørn Larssen is a Norse heathen made in Poland, but mostly located in a Dutch suburb, except for his heart which he lost in Iceland. Born in 1977, he self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one, following this achievement several decades later with his first book containing multiple sentences and winning awards he didn’t design himself. His writing is described as ‘dark’ and ‘literary’, but he remains incapable of taking anything seriously for more than 60 seconds.
Bjørn has a degree in mathematics and has worked as a graphic designer, a model, a bartender, and a blacksmith (not all at the same time). His hobbies include sitting by open fires, dressing like an extra from Vikings, installing operating systems, and dreaming about living in a log cabin in the north of Iceland. He owns one (1) husband and is owned by one (1) neighbourhood cat.