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Hrothgar was home. His quest had been a success. Hrothgar the Mighty. Hrothgar, victorious. Hrothgar and his hubris. He boasted, as warriors should. He told tales, and hired poets to sing of his heroics. It was fitting. He was a warrior; he would become king. His reputation was his legacy.
And yet he was not wise, this warrior. He claimed to have conquered the Norns. The Norns, whose weft was time and warp was fate. Even the Gods were subject to their craft. And her husband voiced his disbelief, claiming to spin his own thread, weave his own way. Hrothgar’s boast: the Norns are needless. A dare to shape his doom. Did he not know he was nothing to the Norns?
Wealhtheow scolded “watch your tongue!”
And Hrothgar laughed.
“The Norns know!”
“The Norns know nothing!” he replied. “Those three witches do not have their eyes on me.”
Wealhtheow was aghast. Such ignorance would lead to impotence. “There are not three, but three thousand. A Norn born for every warrior to decide his doom. Warriors die; Norns do not. Do not doubt that they know.”
Hrothgar scoffed. His wife: a woman, a foreigner. What could she know of Norns? He said no more, left Wealhtheow to her lunacy.
Wealhtheow knew about Norns. Her mother had taught her well; to tempt the Norns was to ask for terror. Her husband had mocked the Norns by name. When or where they would bring their doom was unknowable. They would strike not only Hrothgar, but his home, his people. Their vengeance would wreck his reputation; their doom destroy his clan. Wealhtheow could not avert their punishment; the Norns are not usually merciful. Urd and her sisters worked in strange ways; their weird word was worked in yarn, over years. But perhaps, perhaps if she begged and debased herself, grovel before the Norns . . . perhaps the Spear-Danes would be spared. Not Hrothgar, but his home. His people. Her people, her children allowed to live. If the Norns notice, if they choose to acknowledge her service. Wealhtheow would take on the task, attempt to weave peace with the goddesses. The Norns know.