The small temple on top of the hill behind the palace was not the chief temple the Jotunn had built for the Norns, but it was no less beautiful. It clung to the spikey ridge, a marvel carved from stone and ice by the first Jotunn. Wind had softened the once sharp edges but it still stood strong.
The sounds of battle were distant as Farbauti, spouse of Laufey, fled along the path up the hill. The chief temple was under attack, but Farbauti would have chosen the ancient temple in any case. In his arms he carried the babe he had born just as the battle begun.
A tiny thing with ugly strands of black hair flattened to its head. The birth had been hard despite the tiny size of the child and he was still bleeding as he hurried along.
This child was the perfect sacrifice to the Norns. It was their only chance to win this battle against the conquering Aesir and would be sacrificed in their oldest temple. The sacrifice would please the Norns.
The child whimpered against Farbauti’s chest and he held it tighter. He could hear heavy footsteps following him. Those were not those of a Jotunn, he knew instinctively. This was an Aesir.
He tried to run faster, but his strength started to leave him. It didn’t matter, he hadn’t counted on his own survival. The survival of his people was all that counted now.
Odin, son of Bor, threw his spear just as the giant was at the entrance of the small structure that had to be a temple. He had given chase as soon as he had seen Laufey’s spouse running away from battle.
Farbauti crumpled onto the ground when the spear hit him. Something flew from his arms. The howling wind masked most sound but Odin thought he heard the wailing of a baby as he ran closer.
Farbauti had scrambled onto his elbows and edged closer inside the temple, a knife in his left hand. Just as he tried to lunge for the tiny, screaming baby, his strength failed him and he collapsed back down.
Odin stepped around him and picked up the baby, that was screaming now. Instead of joining the battle, Farbauti had been intent on murdering a child. His own, if the blood seeping through the loincloth of the giant on the ground was anything to go by. Interesting.
Six Einherjar had to hold Laufey. The king of the frost giants was bleeding profusely from his wounds. He still snarled as Odin entered the room. Odin gestured to the ropes that held Laufey.
“I am sure, Laufey understands that he is defeated.”
The kings stared at each other. Laufey had a deep gash along his right side, which cut to his ribs, and several smaller gashes on his thighs. The place were Odin’s right eye had been was a bloody mess. Finally Laufey nodded nearly imperceptibly.
“I will talk to Laufey about the terms of his surrender in private,” Odin announced. His Einherjar left. Silence descended. It was Laufey who broke it.
“You found the child.”
“Indeed. I believe your consort was about to murder it.”
Laufey did not ask how he just bowed his head in acknowledgment of the news.
“But the child lives.”
“It does. It is your son.”
“Then I have a proposal concerning his future.”
Odin made a deal with Laufey. He would ask his own son, Thor, to marry the child once both were adults. Thor had the option to decline. If the child proved to be a good consort (obedient, devoted and faithful), Odin would return the casket when the first child was born.
It was a gamble. A risky gamble which touched the lives of thousands. But the two kings swore their oath.
Laufey didn’t have any choice. Odin felt that this way, the Jotunns would have a chance to redeem themselves.
It was up to the Norns if they could take that chance and save their realm. The decision was not his anymore.
When Odin left, Laufey walked up the hill to find the body of his spouse, his tiny child in his arms. It was screaming at the top of its lungs now. Good. Despite its deformity, it might live to fulfil the contract.
Farbauti hadn’t achieved what he set out to do. But maybe, just maybe, his actions had saved Jotunheim after all. Laufey couldn't hold the failure against his beloved in any case; Odin was a mighty foe. The defeated king broke down next to the frozen body by the temple door.