As most of you know by now, I’ve returned to the world of Ragnarok on Ice in an upcoming novel entitled Hat Trick: A Ragnarok on Ice Story. Good news – the rough draft is finished and is soon headed to editing. In the mean time, I’m very excited about the tale and want to share a bit with you.
Before you read, if you’ve never read the original series, that’s no problem. This can be read as a standalone or as the fourth entry. We’ve got new leads, old faces, and a villain as ruthless as they come. I hope you enjoy the sneak preview. Let me know what you think!
A very long time ago, before the Bifrost Bridge was closed to Midgard; there was a human who piqued the interest of Odin, Allfather to the Nine Realms. This human was the king of his own realm and ruled with pride and dignity. Odin, pleased with the way this human treated his subjects and followed the old teachings, showed him favor. With such a blessing, the human king was able to unite his people and even drive away an ancient creature that plagued the lands.
Unfortunately, as he grew older, arrogance began to take the human king. As time went on, the king began to view himself as greater than the Allfather and even started shaming the old teachings. To make matters worse, Loki the Trickster, found an opportunity to cause even more mischief. Giving the human king one of the rare golden apples of Idavoll, the king was further gifted extended life and power to rival even that of Odin’s.
The Allfather, furious with the revelation, went back to Midgard and found the human king ready for him. He challenged the Allfather to a duel atop of a cliff that overlooked the cold, dark sea. There, for two days and two nights, they two raged in battle, neither giving the other a chance to end it. However, at the end of the second night, the Fates determined Odin was to be victorious. Gungnir pierced the chest of the human king and Odin tossed him from the cliff into the sea below.
After the battle, Odin struck the human king’s name from recorded history and rare whisperings of him soon fell into myth and legend. Even to this day, most aren’t sure what is fairytale and what is truth. And this is where our story begins.
You wish to know the name of that human king? You would not believe me if I told you, yet as one of the only beings who remembers the story properly, I shall fill you in. His name has found its way back on to the tongues of humans, but only as a tale they tell their children. In fact, I think you may have heard of him already –
His name is Beowulf.
I looked out the window of my room; great another snow filled day here in paradise – aka Manchester, Pennsylvania. I should’ve been like my brother Ty and went back to Svartalfheim after my parents went missing. But no, I wanted a normal life, so I stuck around here. Man, what an epic failure that was.
Forgive me if this story sounds a bit familiar, they say history is always doomed to repeat itself and in my family that’s one hundred and ten percent true. Gods, my family… We had more twists and turns in the family tree than Yggdrasil. I guess that’s to be expected when your great-great grandfather is the Trickster Loki. And don’t even get me started on the bloody curse of the wolf that also happens to run deep.
So my name is Jack Skelton, Jr – but feel free to call me JJ, everyone does. A number of years ago my dad and his hockey playing buddies (Thor, Freyr, and even Uncle Stan) saved the realms from a bunch of nut-jobs and freaks. I guess to a lot of people that meant something. For me and my brother Ty, it became a burden.
Ty takes after our mom. Her name’s Rumil and she’s a dark elf. Their skin color is naturally blue and if it wasn’t for some weird runes they had inserted into their body, they’d stick out like sore thumbs. Not that any of that matters now – Ty is back in mom’s ancestral home and I doubt he’s even bothering with the rune anymore. You see, a year ago to this date, everyone disappeared.
Two days after my eighteenth birthday, the day started normally enough. Mom was yelling at us for being late and dad was sleeping on the couch. After we ate breakfast, I was getting ready to walk to school in my senior year with Ty. As soon as we left the house, a loud bang echoed down the street. The force of the noise was so strong; it knocked us into the snow. We scrambled to our feet and ran in – both of our parents were gone.
It didn’t just stop there either – Freyr and Kacey, Stan and Valkyrie, and even Thor; everyone was gone. The local police couldn’t do anything about it and eventually the cases went cold. Six months went with nothing, that is until the elves showed up. Did I mention my mom was the current Queen of Svartalfheim? Well, yeah, her disappearance didn’t go unnoticed.
The elves wanted both of us to return to our mom’s home in Svartalfheim, and Ty went. Me, nope, not having any of it. I was mad – I mean honestly, how could any of this happen again? Why wasn’t anything being done to find my mom and dad? It’s as if both realms were like to bad, but it’s time to move on. Helheim no, it was nowhere near time to move on!
So I stayed, living in my family’s house by myself. I was nineteen now and there was enough money in the bank to take care of things. Dad’s real estate business had boomed, so to say we weren’t well off would be a lie. And the townspeople left me alone. Most knew I was a brooding teenage. The story was that Ty went off to live with mom’s family out west. That kept the questions to a minimum.
There was a knock at the door. This happened from time to time, but I ignored it. Eventually whoever it was would go away. They knocked again and I put my headphones in. Nothing like some good old classic rock to tune the world out. I pulled up my email, just to see if any of the people I reached out to responded saying they could help. Nope, not a single response.
Even with the headphones in and my attention elsewhere, my sixth sense, my dark elf blood kicked in. Someone was trying to break into the house. I jumped up and reached under my bed, pulling out a black box. Opening it, I grabbed my Blackwood bow and the arrows that lay beside it. This was my sixteenth birthday present from my mom’s side. I put an arrow on the bowstring and turned towards the threat. There wasn’t anything there that I could see, but I knew it was there.
“Put that bow down young one before you hurt yourself.”
I aimed the bow all over the room, looking for the source of the voice. “Who’s there? Show yourself, coward.”
It wasn’t a person; it was a large black bird, perhaps a raven? It jumped off the television center and fly around the room, its blue eyes shining in a ghostly way. It circled one more time before landing on the coffee table. “Jack Junior, it has been far too long.”
Knowing this creature meant me no harm, I rested the bow on the couch. “Huginn, what are you doing here?”
To be honest, I tuned out most of his story. Huginn was an old family friend, but really he was more a part of dad’s life. It was only at the end did my ears perk up at his long windedness. “With the Thunderer missing, as well as your parents and all the heroes of Yggdrasil, the task has fallen to me to locate them.”
“Wait a minute; you’re going to find everyone?” I jumped up off the couch. “I’m coming with you.”
The bird was annoyed that I interrupted him. I’m pretty sure he mumbled something along the lines that I was as impatient as my dad. “I am going to attempt to do that, but I already have my help. I came to you to find out what happened in the events leading up to their disappearance.”
“Who do you have to help you?”
“Me.” A large black dog stepped out of the shadow of the dining room table. That could be only one creature – Garm. He walked over and joined Huginn, his eyes creeping me out the entire time. “The resemblance to your father is uncanny.”
A lot of people said I was really my dad’s junior. My wild brown hair, my devil may care grin, all of it ended up being very similar to dad’s. Even mom would joke that one day I’d be just as much of a pain as my dad. “You seem smaller than I remember.”
“The last time I saw you, you only came up to my front shoulders.”
As a liaison to Hel, who was my great aunt I think (?), Garm was always out roaming a different land. Life sort of got away from everyone and it led to time passing without seeing each other. “I guess that’s true.” I rubbed his head though, knowing that he liked it.
“So where were we?” Huginn broke up the moment and tried to get us back on track. “You were about to tell us what happened before…”
The raven stopped. His blue eyes exploded in flames and he began floating in air. This time when he spoke, it wasn’t his pompous tone; it was richer, deeper, like something out of a movie:
“The Raven has matured, ready for his burden.
The human king has returned, his whereabouts uncertain.
To find those who are missing, confronting him is urgent.”
After he spoke the last word, he returned to normal. “No, this cannot be!”
I looked over at Garm, wondering just what in the world happened in my living room. The black hellhound seemed just as confused as I was. “Huginn, did you just relay a prophecy? When did you start doing that?”
“Muninn and I both are capable of prophecy, though it is generally left to The Norns.” His feathers ruffled and he looked quite dismayed. “It seems your presence in this adventure has just become necessary, Jack.”
I hated when people were so formal with my name. “Please, just call me JJ.”
“As you wish, JJ.” It didn’t seem natural for him. “In something even I have not foreseen, your role in this is essential.”
I was suspicious of his quick relenting. “What changed bird?”
Instead of answering, it looked as if he was going to choke. His body began to shake and he began hacking. This was downright disgusting. On the last lurch, a silver ring flew out of his mouth and landed on the laminate floor. It looked just like Huginn, complete with blue eyes that sparkled in the light. He jumped off the table and landed beside it. “This is meant for you.”
I think he wanted me to pick it up, but I saw it come out of him and was in no hurry to grab this. Birds, from my understanding, were full of disease. “I appreciate the gift, but I think I’ll pass.”
He grabbed the ring with his beak and flung it at me. I had no choice but to catch it. “You imbecile, that is from the royal treasury of Asgard! Put that on this instant!”
In my hand, the silver felt warm, like a feeling of belonging to me. I slid the ring on my right ring finger and immediately felt different. “What just happened?”
“I shall save you the long explanation. In short, you are destined to be the one known as the Raven and our meeting today as brought us one step closer to finding the heroes of Yggdrasil.”
I felt the ring again. “The Raven? As in like your boss or something?”
Huginn was about to go off, you could tell, so Garm stepped in. “Long ago, when Odin pulled Huginn and Muninn out of his thought and memory, the ring you are wearing was created. In a time of great need, when the Allfather no longer could be called upon, a hero with the power to control the ravens would emerge. It seems your family’s role in shaping history is not quite completed yet, young JJ.”
I didn’t want that kind of responsibility. “I don’t want to shape history; I just want to find my mom and dad.”
“They go hand in hand.” Garm walked over and pushed my hand, the one with the ring, on top of his head. “I am most sorry this has fallen to you, yet the ring fits, so there is no other choice but acceptance.”
I felt as if even if I wanted to, I probably couldn’t pull the ring off. In fact, the moment I touched it, Huginn’s words filled my mind. After hearing them a second time, I had even more questions. “If I’m the Raven, who is the human king you spoke of?”
Neither answered. That wasn’t a good sign. “Aww c’mon guys, you can tell me.”
“We do not know.” Garm hung his head in shame. “For some reason, the memory is fleeting, just out of reach.”
“This memory block has been caused by the Allfather.” Huginn took to the air in the living room, flying around again. “There might be one who is willing to help us, but that will come with a price.”
I clapped my hands together, I was getting more information in ten minutes from these two than I had in a blasted year. “Whoever it is, I’m sure they’ll be willing to help for the cause.”
Huginn flew in low beside Garm and whispered something into the dog’s ear. Whatever he said caused Garm to take a quick, sharp breath. “I do not know about this.”
Whatever was happening, I was over it. “Okay guys, break it up. Whatever we got to do, we’re going to do. As the leader of this expedition, we’re going to see whoever can help us piece together the puzzle, got it?”
Garm just shook his head, leaving Huginn to act as their spokes-bird. “As you say, you are the Raven.”
“Good.” Now then, all I needed was a name. “So who do we have to go talk to and how can we get to him?”
“We must make way to the northern reaches of Jotenheim. It is there, along the rocky shores of the northern sea, we will find Odin’s brother Villi.”
Not realizing what I was about to get myself into, “So, what are we waiting for? Let’s go talk to this guy!”