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FOREBODING IN ASGARD
HAT happened afterwards is to the shame of
the Gods, and mortals may hardly speak of it.
Gulveig the Witch came into Asgard, for
Heimdall might not forbid her entrance. She came
within and she had her seat amongst the Æsir
and the Vanir. She walked through Asgard
with a smile upon her face, and where she walked and where she
smiled Care and dire Foreboding came.
Those who felt the care and the foreboding most deeply were
Bragi the Poet and his wife, the fair and simple Iduna, she who
gathered the apples that kept age from the Dwellers in Asgard.
Bragi ceased to tell his never-ending tale. Then one day,
overcome by the fear and the foreboding that was creeping through
 Asgard, Iduna slipped down Ygdrassil, the World Tree, and
no one was Heft to pluck the apples with which the Æsir and the
Vanir stayed their youth.
Then were all the Dwellers in Asgard in sore dismay. Strength
and beauty began to fade from all. Thor found it hard to lift
Miölnir, his great hammer, and the flesh under Freya's necklace
lost its white radiance. And still Gulveig the Witch walked
smiling through Asgard, although now she was hated by all.
It was Odin and Frey who went in search of Iduna. She would
have been found and brought back without delay if Frey had
had with him the magic sword that he had bartered for Gerda.
In his search he had to strive with one who guarded the lake
wherein Iduna had hidden herself. Beli was the one he strove
against. He overcame him in the end with a weapon made of
stags' antlers. Ah, it was not then but later that Frey lamented
the loss of his sword: it was when the Riders of Muspell came
against Asgard, and the Vanir, who might have prevailed,
prevailed not because of the loss of Frey's sword.
They found Iduna and they brought her back. But still Care
and Foreboding crept through Asgard. And it was known, too,
that the witch Gulveig was changing the thoughts of the Gods.
At last Odin had to judge Gulveig. He judged her and decreed
her death. And only Gungnir, the spear of Odin, might slay
Gulveig, who was not of mortal race.
Odin hurled Gungnir. The spear went through Gulveig.
But still she stood smiling at the Gods. A second time Odin
 hurled his spear. A second time Gungnir pierced the witch.
She stood livid as one dead but fell not down. A third time Odin
hurled his spear. And now, pierced for the third time, the witch
gave a scream that made all Asgard shudder and she fell in
death on the ground.
"I have slain in these halls where slaying is forbidden," Odin
said. "Take now the corpse of Gulveig and burn it on the
ramparts, so that no trace of the witch who has troubled us will
remain in Asgard."
They brought the corpse of Gulveig the witch out on the
ramparts and they lighted fires under the pile on which they laid
her and they called upon HrÆsvelgur to fan up the flame
HrÆsvelgur is the Giant,
Who on heaven's edge sits
In the guise of an eagle;
And the winds, it is said,
Rush down on the earth
From his outspreading pinions.
Far away was Loki when all this was being done. Often now
he went from Asgard, and his journeys were to look upon that
wondrous treasure that had passed from the keeping of the dwarf
Andvari. It was Gulveig who had kept the imagination of that
treasure within his mind. Now, when he came back and heard
the whispers of what had been done, a rage flamed up within
him. For Loki was one of those whose minds were being changed
 by the presence and the whispers of the witch Gulveig. His mind
was being changed to hatred of the Gods. Now he went to the
place of Gulveig's burning. All her body was in ashes, but her
heart had not been devoured by the flames. And Loki in his
rage took the heart of the witch and ate it. Oh, black and direful
was it in Asgard, the day that Loki ate the heart that the flames
would not devour!