Apple again. Perhaps he’d give the giant his cup and sip the ale Hrungnir disdained so. He sipped again, the sweet tartness spilling over his tongue, reminding him why the apple wine had become so famous among gods and Jotun alike. Perhaps he’d wait, sit back and watch as his grandfather did. Was this buffoon worth his anger?

“If grandfather does not do something soon, then I will.” Magni clenched his fist so tightly his goblet cracked.

He had best nip this in the bud. Magni could get into a great deal of trouble if he interfered in the Odin’s plans. “Peace, brother. The Old Man is up to something.”

Magni grumbled, but drained his cup. “So be it, brother.”

Modi sighed. Sometimes reining in Magni’s temper was a full-time job, but where Magni would balk at such interference from others, he accepted it from his twin. Strength and Anger, they were called, just pieces of their father rather than the whole. But some forgot that Anger was as strong as his brother, and that while Strength was quiet, that did not mean he held no anger.

“Allow me to teach the wretch some manners, Father.”

Modi refrained from rolling his eyes, his attention once more on the fool of a Jotun seated at his grandfather’s table. Of course Thor would step up, offer to defend the non-existent virtue of the goddesses, especially if there was a chance he would get in their furs this evening.

Yet another reason Magni wished so desperately for Sif. If his father had truly loved her, been faithful to her, then perhaps Magni would have been content.

Instead, both he and his twin had to watch while the women they loved were mauled by an ass parading as a man, and do nothing.

“So be it, my son.” Odin stood and clapped his hands, and Modi instantly found his attention focused solely on him. As Valhalla fell silent, he was reminded of why his grandfather was the king of the gods. “Hrungnir, you have abused the hospitality of my hall.”

“And lost, it seems, to Sleipnir.” Loki was hanging out the window, his dark, fiery hair blowing in the wind. The wistful pride as he spoke of his bestial son was strange. Had Loki not voluntarily given Sleipnir to Odin, giving up all claims to the creature? “Look, Sleipnir returns, leading the way for Gullfaxi.”

“No! You lie.” Hrungnir tossed his mug at the Trickster, who danced out of the way at the last minute.

“Normally I would say I do, but in this case, I don’t.” Loki grinned, that maddening look that had sent more than one warrior reaching for his blade. And in truth, he was proven right, for Sleipnir leapt into Valhalla with a triumphant whinny, his white mane tossing around him as the stallion reared on his hind legs. The beast smelled of sweat, the exertion of defeating the golden-maned Gullfaxi glistening on his hide.

“My pet. You have done well.” Odin stepped forward and offered Sleipnir his favorite treat, an entire apple from Idunn’s garden. “Rest, my pet. I will have need of you later.”

The horse snorted and shook his head, accepting the apple with grace before leaving the hall. It astonished Modi that such a slender beast carried the great Odin upon his back. Some days he looked as if a stiff breeze would break him.

“Father.” Thor stood before the throne, waiting for Odin to acknowledge him.

Odin turned to his son, and Modi shuddered. Odin did not look pleased, his single eye gleaming with godly light. Thor paled, but did not move. Modi was never after certain if it was bravery or foolishness, but Odin seemed to soften in his regard toward his favorite child. “Yes, my son.”

Thor nodded once and turned to the Jotun Hrungnir. “Face me, and know your death.”

Hrungnir stood, his stone shield before him, his stone mace held aloft. “You think to attack me, a guest in your house?”

Loki laughed. “A guest or a pest, it matters not if you have overstayed your welcome.”

“Silence, Loki.” The Trickster glared at Odin, unflinching, but Odin was unmoved. “Allow Thor to deal with this.”

Loki bowed. “Of course, Old Man. As you wish.” Loki picked up his mug and settled back at the table, but his sharp, bright gaze following Hrungir’s every move.

Modi blinked. How had the Trickster gotten his hands on some ale? Everyone else held the goblets Odin used to serve his wine, but not Loki. Had Odin decided his precious apple wine was too good to pass the lips of a Jotun? Or had he turned it down, simply to be contrary? Modi would put nothing past the Trickster when it came to his quiet feud with Odin. For all Morgan knew the wine was in the mug and Loki was simply out to annoy the leader of the gods.

Thus it was that, as he had paid far too much attention to Loki’s antics, Modi missed the cowardly attack of Hrungnir. The Jotun flung his stone weapon at Thor’s head.

But Thor was the consummate warrior and had fought Jotun before. He knew their tricks. Wielding the hammer Mjolnir, he shattered the thrown weapon before it could reach him.

Yet still, the Jotun took first blood, for a piece of the shattered mace struck Thor upon the head, cutting him deeply. Enraged, Thor swung Mjolnir and hit Hrungnir square on top of his head, shattering his skull with a sound not unlike that which the Jotun’s mace had made upon impact with the mighty hammer. Hrungnir crumpled to the ground, dead, but Thor, blinded by blood in his eyes, also fell, crushed beneath the giant’s body. Hrungnir had his father trapped.

The hall fell silent as the Jotun did not move.

Nor did the thunder god as he lay nearly hidden beneath the greater girth of the Jotun.

“Father!” Magni was the first to move, racing to Thor’s side. Modi swiftly followed, ready to assist his brother in lifting the giant corpse off their father. He was strength. He could do this.

But before he could reach the corpse, Magni had lifted it and flung it aside like a rag doll, his rage and fear giving him the strength he needed to save Thor. Their father groaned, sending a shaft of relief racing through Modi’s veins.

“You ass! Jump out of the way next time.”

Loki burst into laughter, falling out of his seat to roll on the ground like a child. Even the Fates smiled at his brother, amused by his outburst no doubt. Modi stilled, his heart yearning as he took in Skuld’s beauty.

Skuld should always be smiling like that. If he could, he would see to it that she knew no other expression.

But he couldn’t, so he turned back to his brother and his father. Thor grumbled but took Magni’s hand and allowed his son to lift him to his feet. “You are strong, my son. Truly worthy to be called my own. In recognition of this, I give you Gullfaxi, mine enemy’s steed, for your own.”

For a split second, Magni’s expression was filled with joy, but it was soon shattered.

“Hold, my son. How dare you give such a fine steed to the bastard child of a Jotun rather than your own father?” Odin swept between Magni and Thor, glaring at the latter as if he’d performed some foul deed rather than reward his own child. “Gullfaxi is mine, won by the might of my steed.”


“Enough!” The Godspear flashed into Odin’s hand, the butt crashing into the golden floor of Valhalla and echoing throughout the hold of the gods. “It is done. Be grateful I allow the boy to live among us.”

If Modi could pray, he would, just so that he never saw that look of pain on his brother’s face again. Magni felt everything deeply, but especially Odin’s rejection. If they had been children of Sif, they would have had his full approval, but no. That was denied them, as were the ones they loved.

“He is my son!” Thor roared his own anger at his father, but Odin held up his hand, stopping him.

“Your son he may be, but he is barely one of us. Remember that, as I do.”

Thor growled, and thunder rumbled outside the hall. “He and his brother shall wield Mjolnir when Ragnarrok fells us all. Remember that, Father.” And Thor stalked off, leaving Magni and Modi both to face the tender mercies of the man they called Grandfather.

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