The children of chaos

The story of how the Aesir found the children of Loki… and dealt with them.

The haunted woods

Tyr exhaled a heavy breath, his eyes scanning the shadowed boughs of the Ironwood forest. This deep, primordial tangle of ancient trees and gnarled roots was one of the most treacherous realms in all of Jotunheim. A place where the very sap running through the bark seemed to throb with an unseen, malevolent power.

Foul whispers echoed from every twist and hollow, carried on breezes that sent branches creaking and groaning. Tyr’s hand instinctively tightened around the hilt of his sword as a fresh chorus of unnatural sounds drifted through the gloom – the distant howls of predators that could only be the fabled wolf spawn of the witch-giantess Angrboda.

The war-god’s jaw clenched as he pushed such haunting thoughts from his mind. He and his companions from Asgard had ventured into this accursed woodland at Odin’s behest to hunt down and eliminate those very same monstrosities. Yet even knowing the grave mission that lay ahead, Tyr could not fully shake the dread that had settled over their company.

Odin’s grim burden

His gaze fell on Odin. the Allfather’s single eye betraying none of the inner turmoil Tyr knew was going on inside his head. The great king had been uncharacteristically on edge since first calling together his most fearsome warriors for this hunt. When Tyr had pressed him on what weighed so heavily on his mind, Odin had shaken his head.

A glance at his fellow Aesir revealed that Tyr was far from alone in his disquiet. Frowns and furrowed brows creased even the most battle-hardened faces as the eerie ambiance of this cursed forest seeped into their very souls. Ironwood’s ghastly presence seemed to mock their bravery. The forest seemed to whisper that no amount of godly might could spare them from the inscrutable horrors lurking amidst the twisted boughs.

An ominous prophecy

Tyr shot a sidelong glance at Freyr riding beside him, atop his golden boar. Despite the fertility god’s youthful, almost pretty features, Tyr saw reflected the same disquiet in those emerald eyes.

“What do you make of all this, brother?” Tyr kept his voice low. The haunting whispers of Ironwood seemed to swallow even the most hushed words into its smothering embrace.

Freyr shifted uncomfortably in his saddle, as if the very act of speaking aloud in these accursed woods was an offense to some primordial power. When at last he found his voice, it was tinged with trepidation.

Frigg confided in me that the Nornir’s threads have woven a most ominous prophecy – one which strikes at the very heart of our destinies as gods. Something called Ragnarök.

“A tremor ran through Tyr at the invocation of those eternal weavers of fate. To have set in motion a cosmic unraveling so dire that even the Allfather himself had been driven into an apoplectic rage… Tyr felt his throat constrict as he considered the vile magic involved.

For while the Aesir’s alliance with the Vanir had granted them access to the arcane mysteries of sorcery, none could deny the vile taint that clung to that kind of power. “And this prophecy…?” Tyr prompted, needing no words to convey the true weight of his question to his brother-in-arms. What terrible new fate did it foretell?”

A fate to make gods tremble

Freyr’s fair features twisted in a pained wince, as if the very thought caused him physical anguish. When he at last spoke, it was in a strained murmur, as if simply giving voice to the words would make them all too real. “I know not the full extent, brother. Only that it is something from which even the bravest tremble. Something…primal. Unholy.”

Tyr grew uneasy, seeing the fear in the fertility god’s eyes as he continued his tale. “Something that would drive even Odin, the most cunning of us all, to contemplate…sacrifices…most foul”.

An oppressive silence stretched between them, thick as a shroud and nearly as suffocating. Only the mournful creaks and groans of the pitch-black woodland broke that quiet – a haunting chorus that seemed to echo the dreadful truth unspoken. If the prophecy was dire enough to compel the gods to delve into realms of magic from which even they recoiled in revulsion, perhaps it would be better if its terrible secrets remained forever undiscovered.

A pang of regret tugged at Tyr’s heart as his eyes scanned the shadowed trails winding ever deeper into Jotunheim’s foreboding woodlands. For all the Allfather’s meticulous planning, for all the courage and might gathered in their ragtag band of gods… Tyr could not help but feel a crucial element was missing from their company: Loki.

The Trickster’s Absence

The trickster’s absence hung over them like a leaden shroud. Though Loki‘s behavior could often be venomous and chaotic, none could deny his deep cunning when it came to the lay of these giant-haunted lands.

Being born of both Jotun blood, Loki possessed an innate understanding of the vicious powers that held sway in Jotunheim. He could navigate its treacherous pitfalls and wards in a way that came as naturally as breathing to him.

Tyr’s fingers tightened their grip around his sword hilt as a fresh chorus of feral howls echoed through the gloom. Though he’d never admit it aloud, he could not deny the reassuring presence Loki would have provided in the face of such otherworldly dangers.

Wounds from the past

But Loki would never be traveling with them again. For he was rotting in captivity – a grim penance for his role in Baldr’s brutal slaying.

Tyr’s jaw tightened as he recalled that horrific day when Asgard’s brightest light was cruelly snuffed out. He had loved Baldr as a brother, had wept bitter tears over his lifeless form. Binding the traitorous Loki had brought a measure of satisfaction to temper his anguish. But no amount of retribution could ever refill the void Baldr’s death had torn in Tyr’s soul.

A faint, eerie howl shivered through the stagnant air, dragging Tyr’s mind back to their grim purpose. Odin had come to a halt, his single eye cutting through the shadows with an intensity that brooked no defiance.

“Before we proceed further, you must know the full truth of why we venture into this accursed wood,” the Allfather’s words were terse, clipped. “We are here because of an ancient prophecy foretold by the Nornir themselves.”

The terrible truth revealed

Tyr exchanged a glance with Freyr, feeling a mantle of dread descend over them. “The beasts we hunt are no ordinary monsters,” Odin continued, his tone taking on a harder edge. “They are the spawn of the giantess Angrboda – vile, unholy things gifted with her foul sorceries.” The Allfather paused, his eye slipping shut for a moment as if to steady himself under some immense burden.

When at last it reopened, it shone with an almost feverish intensity. “They are also…the progeny of my blood-brother, Loki. “A shocked silence fell over the gathered gods. Tyr felt the bottom drop out of his stomach as the full, horrific meaning of Odin’s words washed over him. To think the treacherous trickster had not only cuckolded with the vilest of giantesses… but had sired such an unholy, cosmic brood.

An eye for an eye…

“I will never forget how Loki betrayed me,” Odin’s voice had taken on a ragged, haunted edge. “But because we share a blood pact, I cannot bring myself to end his pathetic existence. Let the wretch rot in his cave.”

The Allfather’s eye bored into each of them in turn, as if willing them to share the immense burden of his pain and fury. “My son Vali has already slain Loki’s firstborn, the whelp Narfi. But that was merely the first of the trickster’s vile brood to be culled.”

Odin’s words now twisted into a sneer of disgust. “The true abominations, the ones gifted with the foulest shreds of their parents’ unholy essences, are the ones that await us here.”

… your children for my children

Tyr felt his blood run cold at the implications. They were not merely hunting wild beasts, but cosmic horrors borne of an unholy union between a depraved trickster and an eldritch giantess. Monsters whose existence represented an affront to the natural order.

As Odin turned to lead them once more into Ironwood’s haunted depths, Tyr could not help but recall the losses the Allfather had already endured at Loki’s hands. First his beloved son Baldr, now the threat of these world-ending harbingers of Ragnarök.

The god of war silently vowed that no matter what unspeakable horrors they encountered ahead, he would not allow Odin’s grief to grow any further. The blood price Loki had wrought would be paid in full, no matter how high the cost.

Getting rid of the rascals

He opened his mouth to respond, to add his voice in condemnation of Loki. But Odin’s single eye found him first, peering into Tyr’s soul with an intensity that stole the war-god’s breath.

“I am not here to slay children,” Odin’s tone brooked no argument, even as the barest flicker of sorrow played across his weathered features. “But I will protect Asgard and all the realms against the harbingers of Ragnarök.” The Allfather’s jaw clenched, tendons like steel cables rippling beneath his parchment skin as his grip tightened around Gungnir’s haft.

“Through whatever means necessary.” The words hung in the air, an unspoken damnation made flesh. For they all knew the terrible truth – that no matter how monstrous, how unholy Loki’s offspring had become…they were still but innocent pawns birthed into this cosmic game of deception and betrayal.

Tyr felt his stomach churn at the prospect of what may be required of them. But he could not deny the cold, brutal logic of Odin’s words. If these spawn of Loki and Angrboda were indeed the heralds of the apocalyptic prophecy foretold, then they must be neutralized.

No matter the cost. No matter how it scorched their very souls.

The hunt begins

And so they ventured forth in the direction of the howling. They had a clear purpose now.

Odin’s jaw was set in a grim line, Gungnir’s haft gripped so tightly in his calloused hands that the knuckles shown pale as a corpse’s bones. The Allfather’s single eye cut through the shadows, daring the monstrosities to reveal themselves and face the terrible judgment he had wrought.

Tyr’s own sword hand tensed around the leather-bound hilt as the eerie sounds seemed to converge on their location. A cold sweat beaded his brow, his mouth suddenly as dry and parched as the endless deserts of Muspelheim.

For what foulness, what perversions of the natural order might emerge from the tangled boughs to greet them, he could not begin to fathom. Then, through the gnarled trunks, a flicker of movement caught Tyr’s eye. At first, he thought his strained senses were playing tricks on him.

A girl amid beasts

But no… there, amidst the shadows, a small, upright form began to appear. Tyr’s breath caught in his throat as his eyes struggled to make sense of what he was seeing. It was…a little girl?

Frolicking and playing amidst the twisted boughs as if this woodland were the most innocent of glades? The war-god’s instincts screamed that this could be no mere human child. Not in this place, not with the unholy magic saturating the very air. His grip tightened around his sword’s hilt as a wolf padded into view, quickly followed by a large snake slithering from the undergrowth.

Tyr’s eyes went wide as the realization washed over him. This was no innocent scene of childlike wonder, but rather an unholy covey – a mother and her brood, borne of the most blasphemous of unions. As if to cement this horrific revelation, the serpent reared back and spoke in a sibilant, unnatural tongue.

A happy unnatural family

“Don’t you worrysisss. We will hunt for food oursselvesss.” The little girl – no, the abomination masquerading in that guise – responded with a mocking laugh that sent chills down Tyr’s spine. “The Allfather has come for us, dear brothers. What are you doing here in the realm of giants, old man?”

One side of her face remained that of an ordinary, almost beautiful, young girl. But the other… Tyr felt his stomach lurch at the sight of necrotic flesh sloughing off the bone. An empty socket where her eye should have been, staring into the void. This was no mere child, but the very harbinger of Ragnarok itself given hideous form. “The first of Loki’s vile brood to be culled”, he thought to himself.

Devil’s spawn indeed..

Tyr’s mouth worked soundlessly as he exchanged a look of stunned horror with Freyr. He could see the same sickening realization dawning over the fertility god’s features. They had been prepared to confront monsters, cosmic horrors of myth and nightmare given fang and sinew. But to have the very threat they had steeled themselves against take the form of an innocent child, a mere babe in the woods… It was a violation of something primal and sacred, a line that perhaps even the gods themselves should never have dared cross. Yet here they all stood, in the emerald heart of Ironwood.

And somewhere in that lightless hollow where the little monster’s remaining eye stared, Tyr could have sworn he saw the barest flicker of amusement, as if the abomination could taste the horror and revulsion roiling through him. As if it knew they had already been ensnared in its cosmic webs, helpless to resist.

The children of chaos

Odin took stock of the scene before them – the little girl frozen between worlds of life and death, her monstrous siblings slithering and prowling at her side. His single eye narrowed as he appraised them. “I am here because I need to be,” the Allfather’s tone was resolute. “After all, I need to make sure that my blood-brother’s… children… are taken care of.

“Odin’s grip tightened around Gungnir’s haft as he glared at the massive wolf pup and coiled serpent. Though they had tracked these foul beasts into Ironwood’s haunted core, to finally lay eyes upon Loki’s cosmic blasphemies birthed from that deceitful trickster’s loins…it curdled even Odin’s battle-hardened spirit.

“Could you introduce me to your brethren?” The words dripped with paternal disdain.

Getting to know the kids

The girl-creature calling favored them with a smile utterly devoid of warmth or childlike innocence. A grotesque rictus splitting her face between the radiant beauty of youth and the desiccated horror of the grave.

“This here is Jörmungandr,” she intoned in a monotone voice. As if on cue, the giant serpent reared back, his fangs yawning wide as viscous venom dripped from its curved lengths in smoking, acidic droplets. Each hissing splatter burned the ground in smoldering craters, curls of noxious smoke wafting upwards.

“And this is Fenrir.”Tyr’s breath caught in his throat as Hel indicated the wolf bounding towards them on over-sized paws. But rather than an unholy terror, this “Fenrir” appeared every bit the playful pup, lolling tongue and wagging tail as he circled the war-god’s boots.

A seemingly normal animal

Unable to resist the disarming display, Tyr cautiously knelt and offered his hand. Fenrir enthusiastically lapped and nuzzled the palm before flopping at the god’s feet, exposing his furry belly for scratches with a contented whine. For a moment, the hardened warrior saw only an innocent beast, his rough fingers carding through the thick coat as Fenrir’s tail whipped happily back and forth.

But then Tyr’s eyes strayed higher, up the pup’s thick neck to the already massive head, and he shuddered. This was no mere wolf, but a beast that would grow extremely powerful one day. And yet here he frolicked and played, utterly ignorant of the role his vile parents had condemned him to. Perhaps it be averted? Perhaps it could be trained?

A queen in the making

“And my name is Hel.” The war-god’s hand stilled as that dispassionate voice like shards of ice in his mind’s eye dragged his attention back to the blasphemous creature. Tyr recoiled from the pitiless, lightless pits where her eyes should have been, suddenly revolted by the perverse duality of her childlike form on the one hand, in contrast to her shape of death and decay on the other.

“I have been taking care of my brothers since our mother left us,” Hel continued in that same affectless monotone, not a flicker of emotion playing across her features. “I think she might be dead.”

The words hung in the air like a shroud, more dreadful for their mundane delivery than if she had howled them from the depths of the void. Tyr felt a shiver trace his spine as the full, horrific implications came into focus.

Decisions to make

This…thing…this perverse melding of life and death given form…she did not merely tend to her brothers as any normal child might care for siblings. No, in the absence of their witch mother, this Hel had been tasked with shepherding the path of Loki’s profane spawn until they reached their full, apocalyptic potential.

As Fenrir rolled at his feet, all playful innocence and chuffing contentment, Tyr could not help but wonder whether the pup was even aware of the terrible, all-consuming role that had been inscribed into his very being. Or did some deeper part of the beast already understand the profane purpose it had been damned to fulfill?

The war-god’s hand clenched into a white-knuckled fist as his gaze swept over the unholy family idyll. This was why they had come, was it not? To confront the heralds of Ragnarok itself and ensure the apocalyptic prophecy was averted, no matter the cost.

Yet seeing Loki’s brood now, beholding the sheer, cosmic wrongness of their existence… Tyr felt his resolve waver. For in that moment, he was struck by the realization that no matter how they might try to justify the need, no matter what prophecy had been foretold…

They were about to commit a most unforgivable of sins. For they had come to Ironwood to slay innocent children.

A brief moment of compassion

Tyr could not deny the sadness that welled up from some part of him. For all their cosmic wrongness, all the profane circumstances surrounding their very existence… they were but innocent children.

Abandoned by the craven parents who had birthed them, their hopes for any sort of loving reunion now snuffed out alongside their monstrous mother.

And into that void of despair had ridden the Aesir, come to confront these ill-fated offspring of betrayal. To do…what, exactly? The question hung like a shroud over Tyr’s troubled thoughts.

A brief moment of compassion

Odin stepped forward, placing his hand on Hel’s withered shoulder. For a moment, an almost paternal tenderness seemed to soften the king’s weathered features.

“You are destined for great things, my child,” Odin’s words were low, gentle…regretful. “The way you have taken care of your brothers, I think you are fit to administer a realm of your own. “Tyr’s breath caught in his throat as realization blossomed. Odin meant to…to grant this unholy thing sovereignty over her own demesne?

His hand instinctively tightened around his sword’s hilt as he exchanged an apprehensive look with Freyr. Could the Allfather’s judgment truly have become so clouded by his pain and desperation? To reward one of Loki’s vile get with the very thing that made gods of the Aesir?

The realm of the dead

Yet as Tyr turned back towards the unnatural family, he found Odin smiling that same sad, weary smile. A look of profound understanding passing between the ancient king and the abomination cradled in his arm. “I think you would do well in Niflheim. You could be its ruler.”

Hel’s remaining eye widened almost imperceptibly, the first flicker of emotion she had yet displayed. “Will I have subjects to rule over?” Her tone remained as chill as the grave, but carried an undercurrent of…hope? Longing? “A queen is no queen if she does not have subjects to rule over.”

“You will have many subjects, my dear.” Odin’s words were solemn. “I promise you that those that do not join me in Valhalla will be bound for your realm.” A tremor passed through Tyr’s very soul as the full meaning and implication of the Allfather’s words settled over him.

He was not merely gifting this Hel with sovereignty over some trifling pocket realm, but rather…dominion over the entire underworld itself. The land of the dishonorable dead, where all those unworthy of the eternal halls of the slain would be condemned to spend their afterlives.

Hel regarded Odin for a long moment, her expression utterly inscrutable. Then, finally, she gave a slow nod of acceptance.

One down, two to go

The Allfather closed his remaining eye, and the air around them grew thick and heavy, saturated with the eldritch energies of the ancient rites. Odin’s lips moved in silent incantations as potent magic began to unspool, weaving itself like a shroud around the unnatural creature standing before him.

In a matter of moments, Hel’s form had dissolved into ethereal mists that swirled and eddied with pulsing, emerald luminance. Then, with a final whispered utterance from the king, the spectral cloud imploded in a blinding flare of sorcerous force.

When Tyr’s vision finally cleared, Hel was gone. Spirited away to assume her new duty as the dread queen of the underworld – the first of Loki’s cosmic brood to be bound to their foretold destinies.

As the war-god exchanged stunned looks with his companions, he could not help but wonder over the sheer enormity of what Odin had just wrought. Had the Allfather’s desperation to avert the apocalyptic prophecy truly driven him to such unthinkable acts as elevating one of the harbingers of Ragnarok itself to rule over the eternal souls of the dead?

A promise to grow

In that moment, the war-god could not deny the terrible truth that perhaps even the bravest of the Aesir were ill-prepared to confront. Sometimes, the only way to avert an apocalypse…was to help give it form. Tyr watched in amazement as Odin’s guile took shape before his very eyes. Having already spirited Hel away to her foretold realm, the Allfather now turned his focus to the next of Loki’s cosmic brood – the massive serpent Jörmungandr.

“Jörmungandr,” Odin’s tone was almost paternal as he addressed the coiled leviathan. “It is clear to me that you are longing for freedom. Liberty to be who you are. Freedom to live. Space to GROW.”

The war-god felt his breath catch as the Allfather emphasized that final, weighted word. For they all knew the terrible potential for unbridled growth that slumbered within this unholy serpent’s cosmic essence.

Jörmungandr’s forked tongue flicked out, tasting the air as if scenting the very promise of liberty itself. The serpent regarded Odin with rapt attention, betraying an intelligence that belied its bestial form.

“I think you and I can help each other out,” the king continued in that same, reasonable tone. “I can give you all the freedom that you want. You will grow bigger and bigger until you can easily curl around Midgard itself.”

A tremor passed through Tyr at the thought. To allow this vile, world-serpent progeny of Loki and Angrboda to attain such staggering, cosmic proportions…it beggared belief that Odin would even entertain such madness.

The serpent that eats its tail

Yet Jörmungandr seemed to shiver with satisfaction at the prospect, a hiss escaping its fanged maw. “When the time comes, I want you to do exactly that,” Odin pressed on, his single eye glittering with some unknowable purpose. “Show me your greatness by doing everything in your power to encircle Midgard.”

The serpent bobbed its immense head in what could only be interpreted as agreement. Tyr watched, dumbstruck, as Odin raised his hand and the air thrummed with eldritch energies. Only later, when the two of them had retreated to a secure distance, did the Allfather lean in and confide the true depths of his cunning.

“That vile worm will indeed grow powerful enough to coil its way around the whole of the mortal realm,” Odin murmured with a smile. “But in doing so, it will eventually be compelled to consume its own tail, trapping itself in an endless, cosmic ouroboros.” Tyr felt a shiver trace his spine at the audacious simplicity of the Allfather’s ploy. To turn Jörmungandr’s own insatiable hunger and lust for growth against it, binding the world-serpent in a perpetual cycle of self-destruction. It was a cruel fate, to be certain. But one that the war-god could not deny held a brutal sort of genius – neutralizing one of the deadliest harbingers of Ragnarok through its own innate, cosmic drives.

Two down, one to go

As the eldritch energies swirled and pulsed around them, Tyr could not help but dread what other unthinkable bargains Odin might be compelled to strike. For if dealing with the spawn of his own blood-brother required such profane acts…Then how much more terrible must be the sacrifices still to come if they hoped to avert the apocalyptic prophecy altogether? The thought curdled Tyr’s soul nearly to shattering as Jörmungandr’s massive form dissolved into emerald ether.

When the blinding flare of sorcery at last faded, the world-serpent was gone – spirited away to the vast, briny depths of Midgard’s oceans to begin its cosmic cycle anew. Tyr could only hope that when the time finally came for the serpent to make its move, Odin’s calculations would prove true. For if they did not…then they would have merely postponed the terrible harbingers of Ragnarok’s arrival, not averted it. And at what cost to their very souls?

A promise of companionship

Odin then turned to Tyr, his single eye appraising the wolf pup contentedly gnawing at the war-god’s boot. “What about that one?” he asked, a heaviness underlying his words. Tyr followed the Allfather’s gesture down to the young Fenrir.

Despite all they had just borne witness to – the cosmic wrongness of Loki’s brood, the profane bargains Odin had been forced to strike – the sight of the playful pup brought a rare grin to the grizzled warrior’s features.

“Don’t you worry about this one,” Tyr replied, his hand coming to rest atop Fenrir’s massive head. The wolf looked back up at him, bright eyes shining with unbridled adoration as he eagerly nodded his agreement.

For all the horrors they had confronted this day, all the sins they had committed in the name of staving off apocalyptic prophecy…in this moment, the bond between man and beast seemed almost painfully innocent. Untainted by the vile betrayal and deceit that hung over Loki’s other spawn like a sepulchral shroud.

Sealing the fate of the universe

Odin regarded the pair in silence, his weathered face etched in an unreadable mask. Yet Tyr could not help but notice the barest flicker of…sadness? As if the Allfather had already glimpsed the cruel fate that awaited this simple, unbreakable kinship.

Moments stretched into minutes, minutes that could have lasted an eternity in that haunted woodland’s embrace. The only sounds were the mournful creaks of ancient timber and Fenrir’s contented pants against Tyr’s armored bulk.At last, Odin’s lips parted in a soul-weary sigh. “Fine… but he is your responsibility.

Putting off the inevitable

“The words hung in the air, more weighted than even the most terrible of oaths. For they all knew the truth – that no matter how noble Tyr’s intentions, no matter how pure the affection he held for this single pup… Fenrir’s cosmic role had already been inscribed.

One day, perhaps sooner than any of them dared hope, the war god would be forced to make a choice no friend to animals should ever have to face. Tyr felt his throat constrict at the thought, his hand reflexively tightening in Fenrir’s thick ruff.

But such regrets would have to keep until the menace of Ragnarok had been averted. With a slow nod of acceptance, Tyr fell in behind Odin as the Allfather began leading them from Ironwood’s haunted depths at last. The wolf pup loped dutifully at the war-god’s side, utterly oblivious to the profane spectacle they had all just taken part in. Unaware of the apocalypse that was yet to come.