Let us tell you a tale.
≈ VII ≈
xii. The Saga of Frostwood
Another day, another throne room. Mithrilon had saved a length of moon hide before he sent the duke’s boot makings back to his father. It had worked as the perfect lure to get him in the room with the king of the gods, where he now knelt, measuring the king’s feet.
He was nearly finished, but he was no closer to snatching the Míresgal from the king’s crown than he had been back in Nidavellir. But he had taken his time with the measuring, charming and flattering the king and the room as Rínor regaled the assembly with the stories nobles tend to tell.
The king’s friends and consorts littered the overstuffed leather and velvet chaises that edged the room, spilling onto floors strewn with down pillows and furs. Then again, if gods can’t drip with extravagance, who can? Everyone was now also dripping with drink, as upon his first cleverly landed joke, the king had called to have a cup of wine brought for Mithrilon.
Each subsequent peal of laughter brought a flurry of servants to refill the drained wine cups of the assembled entourage. By now the king, whose queen was not in attendance at this gathering, was bragging, in much detail, of his extramarital exploits in the realm.
“I do enjoy the fiery ones, but the cold ones are just as steamy. It’s so much more exclusive.” said the king. He looked down at Mithrilon going about his work. “I would say you should try it, dear boy, but only we gods, well, and the Vanir, too, I suppose, can even get near the fire and ice elementals, much less lie with them.”
He turned his attention back to his fawning sycophants. “The ice queens are too cold for me though, I prefer the mist spirits. Mist-resses are the best sorts of mistresses.”
The room may as well have been filled with a pack of braying hounds. Mithrilon painted a manic grin on his face and made an off color remark bolstering the king’s masculinity.
Rínor clapped Mithrilon’s shoulder with his hand. “This one! I like this one. And I think I’m going to like these boots, too.”
The king’s head had tilted down a bit too far between drink and addressing Mithrilon, and his crown slipped off his head. In a blink, Mithrilon caught it before it hit the floor. He froze for a moment, as did the rest of the room. The king lurched forward to grab drunkenly at the crown, and settled it back on his head. “Good hands!” he said.
Rínor continued, “Did you…” his head tilted sharply to the side this time to speak to a gaggle of courtiers, and his crown slipped down the side of his head again, but this time he himself stopped it before it fell, now preferring to hold it in his hand for expediency’s sake.
“Did you know they have a Míresgal too? Seems silly, elementals needing elemental magic.” He let forth a resonant hiccup. “Hithfaerdes told me they don’t even know where it is anymore, probably buried down deep beneath the glaciers. Ah, what do they care, they don’t need it and no one else can claim it.”
He leaned further, as if speaking confidentially to the whole room. “The last time I was out sailing the Southern Sea, I could swear I saw a white light flickering inside the glacier, right on the edge where the ice cliffs turn to waterfalls that flow to the sea. One of these days it it going to pop right out into the ocean.”
As soon as the talk had turned to the Míresgal, as it always seemed to with proud, boastful royalty, in his limited experience, Mithrilon had grabbed hold of his Luck Stone in his pocket. And just now, as his thumb smoothed over the surface, the king was wracked by a great belch, and dropped his crown a third time. This time right into Mithrilon’s hand.
“Well look at that, this cobbler can catch anything! Shall we see if he can juggle?”
“I can do better than that, your majesty.” said Mithrilon, handing back the crown, now that all eyes were on him. “I can catch anything! Blindfolded, if you like.” While not actually true by any means, he had an idea. And luck was on his side.
“Well then, let’s make a wager! We will tie a cloth over your eyes, and you will catch...how about this apple?” If I win, this pair of boots will be made free of charge. And if you win, I will commission another pair. Deal?”
“Yes, my lord, that sounds like an excellent deal.”
A servant in turquoise livery shuffled out of the corner with a cloth to bind Mithrilon’s eyes.
“Let fly!” shouted a courtier.
Mithrilon felt the fruit coming, and caught it with ease. He pulled a bit of the cloth back to see out of one eye.
“Excellent! But far too easy. Let’s up the bet. Two pairs free of charge versus five commissioned.”
“Your majesty.” Mithrilon replaced the cloth over his eye, still feeling green magic in his hands.
The king drained his wine cup and threw it. Hard, and without warning. Still, Mithrilon caught it.
“Again!” shouted the king, with a less congenial note in his tone than before. “Three for 10.”
This time, when Mithrilon’s hands flattened upon each other around the object, he felt a searing line of pain cross his palms, a sharp and shallow slash on each side. The king had thrown a dagger this time. Mithrilon peeked from beneath the cloth again, concern growing. That concern was not assuaged by the color of the king’s face.
“That’s it, I have one for you. And a new bet.” He pulled his crown from his head and popped the Míresgal from its setting. “If you can catch THIS...you get to keep it.”
Mithrilon gulped. Hard. Surely the king assumed that if he did catch it, and he had no reason to believe he wouldn’t, he would be dashed ages into the past or the future, leaving the stone right where it was. And it might. But there was only one way to find out.
“Majesty.” Mithrilon replaced the cloth and braced himself for whatever was going to happen. Every breath in the room caught in their throats, the assembled onlookers watched the king. And then he threw.
In a blink, Mithrilon was gone. And so was the Míresgal.