This was originally written for a story contest in July of 2013 and won for stories about Hel. Since it’s October, and I use Halloween’s death-y themes as a Blot for Hel, I figured I’d post this.
She blinked her one good eye pointedly at the man who knelt before her.
“Let Baldr come home? This is his home, now.”
“Frigga weeps for him,” Hermod pleaded. “Odin weeps for him. We all weep for him.”
“You all do?”
“All but your wretched father.”
She cleared her half-throat and rattled the bony finger of her raised hand in warning.
“I will not have you disrespecting him in my hall.”
The living god, there only on business, nodded far too energetically, which Hel knew perfectly well was an insincere gesture.
She ignored his silent response and thought for several moments, considering the weight of letting the fair-haired Ás go and setting a terrible precedent for the impermanence of death. The confidence offered by Frigga’s success in convincing all but the bloodied edge of Mistletoe to keep her son safe made it seem like a bad idea to acquiesce. There was little stopping her from extracting that one last promise.
But it also held potential for a powerful lesson.
With the gentle rattle of her necklace of bones and glass beads, she stood.
“If you all weep for him, you may bring Baldr back to Asgard.” Hermod had come up from his knees and removed his helmet to express his gratitude, but she stopped him. “Remember. This offer is not made lightly, and if anything,” she leaned forward for emphasis and he utterly failed to hold back his disgust at the cracking of her spine. “One single thing, fails to do this, Baldr will remain here, under my care, never to return to his former home as you know it.” She straightened herself again, leaning on her seat. “And I know you know how that story will end.”
He hesitantly met her gaze, then nodded. This time it was sincere.
“Frigga will be thrilled to hear of this. Thank you, my lady.”
He returned to his feet, nodded to his brother on his way out, and made his way along the lines of assembled dead to the door.
Frigga, upon hearing the conditions, had nearly thrown her frantic spinning work to the floor and rushed out to return to her previous work of dealmaking. All of the weapons held out to her by her Husband’s dead had been more than happy to agree. The bees and bee-wolves had been, as well. The mistletoe, still youthful but just old and corrupted enough to feel guilty for spilling Baldr’s blood, wept tears that matched her berries.
In her travels, pleading and sometimes begging those she met to shed even a single tear for her dead son, she finally came upon Thokk.
She had once been of auburn hair, judging by the last few strands with any hint of color that stuck out from under her hood. Upon hearing of Frigga’s goal, she was clearly offended.
“I know the agony of a lost child,” she finally said, “and I especially know the agony of a child taken from you by force. No one wept for our loss but us. But you, you travel everywhere you can, insisting that we weep for a boy some of us do not even know, hoping to cheat death?” She paused, collecting herself. “Why ask Hel to tolerate the same? Let her keep what truly belongs to her.”
Hel had been mindful of the pressure caused by the grief throughout the tree above her, but had kept her focus on one empty pocket. Baldr had finally approached her, suspecting that something was amiss in her constant staring at one place.
“There is one person who will not grieve for you,” she explained, not taking her gaze off of the area above her.
Needless to say, Baldr seemed a little offended.
“Someone who knows you, but saw value in your death.”
He silently hinted that he wanted her to continue.
“Making sure promises are kept and that balance is maintained. Deals are kept and oaths are honored.”
“My own father won’t grieve for me?”
“Oh, no, your father grieves.” She finally met Baldr’s gaze. “And that would be putting it gently.”