“How is the boy, Eiga?” Duran asked, “I came as soon as I heard.”
The dwarf woman looked up at him and, with tears in her eyes, replied, “He saw it, Duran. He saw it shatter.”
“He saw it…shatter?” Duran replied, obviously confused and shaking his head.
Eiga’s mother opened her mouth to speak, but Oreth’s desperate cry shattered the air like glass, cutting through the minds of the two other dwarves and drawing them into his horrific vision.
Oreth was standing hip deep in the waters of a raging torrent of a river, reaching out for the firm arm of a maiden in winged plate mail.
“You are FAR too early, youngling,” the woman complained, “and you missed Valhalla by a margin wider than any miss I’ve ever seen during the drunken revels.”
Oreth was too dumbstruck to reply, and it wasn’t until another woman in similar armor strode up through the tall grass on the bank of the river and said to the first, “Fish someone out of the Kormt, sister? I’ve heard that’s good luck, though this one is a bit on the small side.”
“I…wh-...the Kormt?” Oreth finally stammered.
“He speaks, does he? Well, then, youngling…we best get you across before the festivities start,” and she stared into his chest, piercing through his armor and the flesh to see the glow of the faith that sparked within. “Heimdallr is your patron? Then perhaps you should get a good view from the bridge itself.”
She lifted him up and with a few beats of her majestic wings was borne aloft into the air over two rivers. A few moments later saw a shimmer of light and the beautiful Bifröst was clearly in view. The valkyrie kissed Oreth’s forehead and let him go, soaring off and leaving him open mouthed with his feet settling on the bridge.
And then, there was a crack.
Oreth looked down and below his boot, there was a small crack in Bifröst. “What the?” Oreth stated, taking a step away, then kneeling down to examine it. There was a bit of blood there on the bridge where the crack was emanating. “Blood, but whose?” he said to himself.
He kneeled back to take a look around and thought to himself for a while. Several moments later he heard a drip, and began looking around for the source. He found it finally on his own chest and wiped it into his finger to examine it. “Is this…blood?” he mused to himself as he gazed at it. “Bah, this makes no sense,” he said, staring into the sky, “no clouds, no rain, where is this blood coming from and why does it seem to harm the bridge?”
After a few minute of thinking quietly to himself, he finally closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose to try and relieve the pressure that his deep thought had built up and his fingers came away wet. He stared at them for long moments as the horror dawned on him. “It’s me. I am crying blood and it’s harming the bridge. What did that little girl DO to me?” he cried out to no one.
“I can’t be the cause of this,” Oreth cried out as he got to his feet. The cracking began again and Oreth looked around for the edge of the bridge. He was weeping his own blood and it was eating away at the bridge, he had to stop this. His vision was quickly fading as the blood flowed more freely, dripping from his nose and his ears now as well as he flung himself off the side Bifröst with a desperate cry.
Oreth stared at the anvil, his glowing eyes the only light in the forge that had long since gone out. A pool of slag was all that was left of his old life. Both the icon of Heimdallr and his former rod were now irregular blocks of metal. His breath was thick with dwarven ale, and his ears still run with the words of Duran Ironbelt admonishing him not to run away from his problems or the order. No, it wasn’t until the admonishing words had brought Oreth to tears and he began to cry blood that Duran began to listen. And then, he let the tears drip onto his symbol of the order and it had begun to hiss.
“My blood, Duran. My blood cracked Bifröst. It is anathema to the very god that I chose to serve. I do nothing now but hasten the coming of Ragnarok should I wish to stay by his side,” Oreth had explained to his mentor. “I shall not be her tool, Duran. I refuse. Better I should spurn Heimdallr than serve as a wretched harbinger. I can’t even remember the prayers anymore, Duran, my mind is so muddied I can hardly think straight anymore.”
Duran Ironbelt stood there speechless, “Then what will you do with your life, Oreth?”
The first rays of the sunrise penetrated through to the ceiling of the forge, and still he was no closer to figuring out how he might continue to serve. But, with the dawn, he set about the tasks of reigniting the forge and getting back to work. Working the forge felt comfortable, even after the horrid nightmare. He could still be useful as an artisan, he thought. He set about creating a spoon to test the materials that had been collected for him as he did every morning, then quenched it and examined it, smiling. “No, Oreth, you still have work to do,” he said and smiled as he poured his full effort into a new suit of armor.
Oreth had been staring into the fire for a while now. He could have sworn he saw something in the bright fire of his forge. A twinkle amid the glow as if he’d missed a bit of slag that was now catching the light. It twinkled again and, without thinking about it, he threw his hand into the intense fire of his forge and snatched something from within. There in his hand was a red hot rune that shone brightly at him; a rune of such impossible complexity that he could scarcely believe it was real, let along that it had surreptitiously formed. For many long moments he stared at it in his chiseled grip.
In the year since he had turned away from Heimdallr he had focused all of his effort into honing his craft, and it showed in his new physique. He had brought out a strength he hadn’t known he’d had, and was a frightening sight in the training ring with his new scale armor and war axe. Many were the men who feared being paired against him. But there was still something missing, and he had begun to think that Duran had been absolutely right that he not turn away. It was long moments before Oreth remembered that he should have lost much of his arm and most certainly his hand from snatching this treasure from his forge.
He took his new prize and walked out into the depths of winter, following the deeper pattern that he had seen within the rune.