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After they fixed her, after her bones, Worn and Broken, were sawn and filed away, they were thrown out, as they threw everything out without it being useful.

On waking from Their sleep, She walked away, walked slowly but surely, finding her long lost stride.

She heard the bones rattle their farewell behind her and she cried. Salt tears. The most savoury kind; flavoured with past and future, forwards and behind.

The bones rolled and tumbled and tossed. They knocked about with roadkill badgers and the frozen frames of fallen birds on the snow road to Niflheim.

At the farthest corner of that place the bonefall tumbled over rocks. Here, femurs and clavicles, tibia and fibula, picked themselves up and clicked themselves into warriors, keen for a pint at Valhalla before offering their skills to the Allfather. Skulls looked for old friends. Metacarpals and phalanges, eager to help, reached out in handshakes or clawed at the banks of the river. They fetched and collected. It was a clattering cacophonous slurry, singing with its own hollow percussive tunes.

Bones that were not complete, those that had gone on ahead, been lost or forfeit, were cleared away into drays drawn by horses made from the thunder that weighs down a midsummer sky. Their grey blue backs glimmered and lowered with strength as they moved across Niflheim. The bones clicked and spurred on their last journey to the lake where the horses tipped the drays at the shore. These shards and splinters and fragments rested at last in the halflight of a Niflheim sunset, their creaking music a pleasant enough sound as they became the bone breakers on that cold water shore. This is where her bones, Worn and Broken, sat, pricking out of the general calcified scurf. They were worn and weary, had walked a long way in their day. The sun set in Niflheim, the bronze rays soft and cooling. The shadows of the Niflheim moonlight prickled shafts of light through the arthritic pocks and pitts of Worn and Broken, making interesting shadows.

Who knows how many suns and moons they sat there for there is no thread to be pulled tight through the tangle of all time in Niflheim.  The sunset was always bronze, always cooling, the moon always found its way making Worn and Broken display their arthritic filigree on the shoreline.

This pattern of lights was tiny and delicate and caught the black and beady eye of the Raven, Hugin. The flapping shadows of wings over Worn and Broken was soothing as a hand upon that old knee, as a plaster repairing a childhood graze.

“What’s that there?” Allfather, Odin himself, was ambling along the waterline. He had had a busy week. His business with the trolls had been fun but he had dropped in at Midgard to observe the Men and it had erased all his trollish bonhomie. He had peered into wars and picked brains and found fires burning everywhere. There was no putting it all out, not if Sleipnir stamped his hooves for a thousand years. They were a puzzle, the Men, one that twisted out of your hands and tricked you. He was weary of the noise of them.

What was it that Hugin pecked at? And now Munin was in on the game.

Odin loved this shore in Niflheim and had come here to still his thoughts on his way home. His mind rolled over the bits of bones that littered the lake edge and, in time, made the silkiest of sands, drifting with time and memory.

He had brought Thor and Loki here on many a long walk to weary them. They had skimmed scapulas across the water. Further along there he had taught Tyr his knife skills.  It was a quiet place to gather his thoughts.

What were those birds so taken with? He watched their erratic leaping and launching, their wings making black sails. He was hungry, it was time to find a meal. He thought of camp fires and cauldrons and had none.

“Hej.” he walked towards Hugin and Munin “What is it?” the birds flew to his shoulders and whispered of soups and broths. Odin’s stomach grumbled at the lack of attention he had paid to it.

“Soup sounds good but I brought nothing.” he rummaged around in the pocket of his cloak; a silver piece, a heron feather, a pebble, sand from here, dust from there.

Hugin clutched the bones, Worn and Broken, and tossed them into a bowl worn into the biggest of the stones at the shoreline. Odin looked, saw where the bronze sunset flickered its flames through the pieces.

His fire warmed and breathed and heated the stone. Lake water boiled and brewed. Herbs, snagged in the hem of his cloak were picked out and scraped in. It was a thin offering. Not a carrot. No hint of potato or parsnip. And yet, as he sat by his fire the scent of it drifted to his nostrils. It was rich, savoury. His stomach rolled in anticipation.

He needed warming through after his mooch about Midgard. He needed nourishment, after the machines drained at him with their iron heated hum, their slashing steel, still, this weedy broth would have to do.

He reached into his pocket for a round headed spoon that he had carved from a storm torn oak tree.

He blew across the piping hot liquor and wished for a hank of fresh bread, for melting butter. He sipped anyway.

The taste was sharp at first, with worry and weariness. Odin thought he might pour it away but a drop had caught in his beard and as he swiped it into his mouth the flavour burst open.

If there was fear and worry it was brewed in with a heavy stock of love. Memories, of smiling faces, laughter, hugs and grandmothers, grandfathers, of small children running ahead. It was savoury with summer walks and breezes, of held hands and small feet. It was rich with wild hills, it ticked with an energy and brightness that filtered through him like golden winter sunlight. It reminded him of the corners of Midgard where there was hope and a storybook.

It was thin, but it filled him. After he had drained the bowl dry he picked out the bones, Worn and Broken and put them into the pocket of his cloak. They settled there, down in the seam, sleeping until the next time he woke them with heat and water.


‘a highly original talent’ – Beryl Bainbridge


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