The Norns speak to me and they tell me terrible things. I give thanks to the gods that I do not understand most of the things they tell me, for what I do understand is awful enough.
The Foul One, Ulfarr, wanting my power to serve him, had murdered my husband, imprisoned me, and spirited my children away to who knew where. And now he returned with his men.
"You!" The Foul One's voice rang clear across the hall, bringing sudden silence.
I looked back to see him pointing at me.
I shook my head.
"You will come here!"
I shook my head again.
He gestured and two of his men strode across the hall toward me. I huddled back against the bench on which I had slept. Hopeless, I knew. The men grabbed me by the arms and half led, half dragged me to stand before the Foul One.
"I brought you here," the Foul One said, "to tell your futures for me."
"Where are my children?" I said.
The Foul One's Norn stood impassive behind him. Although having the form of a woman, as all Norns do, she also resembled the man who was her charge.
The Foul One grinned. "They are safe. I have given them to the keeping of a family that owes homage to me. They will remain safe so long as you do as I bid."
I drew myself upright. "They will remain safe? As you claimed my husband Sveinna would remain safe if I came with you? You lied."
The Foul One spread his hands. "Your man--Sveinna you said--would have come for you. And he would have died. The end result would be the same."
"Sveinna was not a liar," I said to him. "You are. And now you say my children will be safe? How do I know you do not lie now?"
The Foul One chuckled. "You do not. But you do know this. If you do not do as I bid, I will most certainly kill them. And they shall be three days dying. Or perhaps they are already dead. You would..." He paused. "You do not know. You would not fear so if you did. You have not foreseen their future."
I sighed. My children's Norns had not told me of their fate. And I thanked the gods that they had not. For while I had fear, I also had hope. "The Norns speak to me as they will," I said. "I cannot command them."
"For your sake," the Foul One's voice was soft, almost mild, "and for the sake of your children, you will find a way." His voice returned to a normal level. "Now tell me, what is the manner of my eventual death?"
I looked past him to his Norn. She laughed but said nothing. I could not direct my anger at her. Frustrated at my true target, I instead spat in the Foul One's face.
He reached up with his right hand to wipe away the spittle. Then his hand moved in a blur. Pain burst against my right cheek and the next thing I knew I lay face down on the floor. More pain as the toe of the Foul One's boot collided with my side, just below the ribs. The next kick hit me in the hip. The Foul One reached down and twisted his left hand in my hair, hauling me bodily back to my feet.
He rammed his right fist into my stomach and released my hair. I fell to my hand and knees retching. I spat bile, mixed with blood from where my teeth had cut lips and cheek.
My blood marked the floor.
Again, the Foul One twisted his hand in my hair and hauled me upright. But no more blows fell. "You will answer the question."
I shifted my eyes from him to his Norn and prepared to endure whatever torments he offered if she did not speak.
"Seventy summers he will see," the Norn said, "And yet, with a blade in hand will he die."
I repeated the Norn's words. The Foul One released me and I fell, to huddle on the floor.
"Behold!" he said. "Seventy summers, then death in battle. A long, full life followed by Valhalla! It is prophesied!"
I wept. Vengeance forever denied me. He would live and I, and my children, what of us?