WHEN it was known that Idūna had disappeared from her
grove, there were many sorrowful faces in Asgard, and
anxious voices were heard inquiring for her. Loki
walked about with as grave a face, and asked as many
questions, as any one else; but he had a secret fear
that became stronger every day, that now, at last, the
consequence of his evil ways would find him out.
Days passed on, and the looks of care, instead of
wearing away, deepened on the faces of the Æsir. They
met, and looked at each other, and turned away sighing;
each saw that some strange change was creeping over all
the others, and none
 liked to be the first to speak of it. It came on very
gradually—a little change every day, and no day ever
passing without the change. The leaves of the trees in
Idūna's grove deepened in colour. They first became a
sombre green, then a glowing red, and, at last, a pale
brown; and when the brisk winds came and blew them
about, they moved every day more languidly.
"Let us alone," they said at length. "We are tired,
The winds, surprised, carried the new sound to
Gladsheim, and whispered it all round the banquet-hall
where the Æsir sat, and then they rushed back again,
and blew all through the grove.
"We are tired," said the leaves again; "we are tired,
we are old; we are going to die;" and at the word they
broke from the trees one by one, and fluttered to the
ground, glad to rest anywhere; and the winds, having
nothing else to do, went back to Gladsheim with the
last strange word they had learned.
The Æsir were all assembled in Valhalla; but there were
no stories told, and no songs sung.
 No one spoke much but Loki, and he was that day in a
talking humour. He moved from one to another,
whispering an unwelcome word in every ear.
"Have you noticed your mother Frigga?" he said to
Baldur. "Do you see how white her hair is growing, and
what a number of deep lines are printed on her face?"
Then he turned to Frey. "Look at your sister Freyja
and your friend Baldur," he said, "as they sit opposite
to us. What a change has come over them lately! Who
would think that that pale man and that faded woman
were Baldur the beautiful and Freyja the fair?
"You are tired—you are old—you are going to
die,"—moaned the winds, wandering all round the great
halls, and coming in and out of the hundred doorways,
and all the Æsir looked up at the sad sound. Then they
saw, for the first time, that a new guest had seated
herself that day at the table of the Æsir. There could
be no question of her fitness on the score of royalty,
for a crown rested on her brow, and in her hand
 she held a sceptre; but the fingers that grasped the
sceptre were white and fleshless, and under the crown
looked the threatening face of Hela, half corpse, half
A great fear fell on all the Æsir as they looked, and
only Odin found voice to speak to her. "Dreadful
daughter of Loki!" he said, "by what warrant do you
dare to leave the kingdom where I permit you to reign,
and come to take your place among the Æsir, who are no
mates for such as you?"
Then Hela raised her bony finger, and pointed, one by
one, to the guests that sat round. "White hair," she
said, "wrinkled faces, weary limbs, dull eyes—these are
the warrants which have summoned me from the land of
shadows to sit among the Æsir. I have come to claim
you, by these signs, as my future guests, and to tell
you that I am preparing a place for you in my kingdom."
At every word she spoke a gust of icy wind came from
her mouth and froze the blood in the listeners' veins.
If she had stayed a moment
 longer they would have stiffened into stone; but when
she had spoken thus, she rose and left the hall, and
the sighing winds went out with her.
Then, after a long silence, Bragi stood up and spoke.
"Æsir," he said, "We are to blame. It is now many
months since Idūn was carried away from us;—we have
mourned for her, but we have not yet avenged her loss.
Since she left us a strange weariness and despair have
come over us, and we sit looking on each other as if we
had ceased to be warriors and Æsir. It is plain that,
unless Idūn returns, we are lost. Let two of us
journey to the Urda fount, which we have so long
neglected to visit, and enquire of her from the
Norns—for they know all things—and then, when we have
learnt where she is, we will fight for her liberty, if
need be, till we die; for that will be an end more
fitting for us than to sit here and wither away under
the breath of Hela."
At these words of Bragi the Æsir felt a revival of
their old strength and courage. Odin approved of
Bragi's proposal, and decreed that he and Baldur should
undertake the journey to the
dwell-  ing-place of the Norns. That very evening they set
forth; for Hela's visit showed them that they had no
time to lose.
It was a weary time to the dwellers in Asgard while
they were absent. Two new citizens had taken up their
abode in the city, Age and Pain. They walked the
streets hand-in-hand, and there was no use in shutting
the doors against them; for however closely the
entrance was barred, the dwellers in the houses felt
them as they passed.