Again, my vision of Vanaheim is hugely pre-medieval Celt-based.


He was accepted into Billing's Dun with the welcome he had become used to among the Vanir. They rejoiced to see newcomers to their Halls with a joy that Odin had rarely seen at home, save perhaps after a great victory.

Every dun was a tight-knit group. A chieftain who ruled as head, beside his kin and family and those without ties of blood who were nearest him. They lived each in their own home – little better than a hut – some little ways from the Great Hall of the chief. Most had cattle of their own and horses and perhaps some kind of garden. All did their share to provide for the good of the dun. A few were thralls, taken from other duns in time of war. But they were hard to tell from their free companions.

It was a foreign way to Odin.

He was welcomed with the excited yapping of the dun's hounds, with song and the good smells of cooking meat, for a scout had seen him coming along the ridge that skirted the wood and Billing would show the best of what he had to their wandering guest. A tall, young woman – certainly not Billing's wife, as would normally be the case, probably his eldest daughter, then – met Odin as he entered the Great Hall and pressed into his hands the ceremonial cup of their heady fermented mare's milk.

Some of the women and children and a great majority of the men came into the Great Hall for the feast that evening and the room was filled with talk and laughter and smoke from the long fire that ran down the center of the hall.

Though even now, all these hours later, he had yet to see the vexing creature he'd met in the pool.

Odin had drunk much of the drink the women were continually pouring into his cup and his head hummed pleasantly warm. The men surrounding him spoke easily and freely, in the Vana way, boasting their many deeds and conquests and laughed with delight to hear Odin's answers.

The care he'd taken at first to hide his true identity was largely left behind him. The Vanir loved stories, the less likely the better and they did not ask overmany questions to ascertain the truth. Their settlements, while being close among themselves, were less closely connected to one another than any in Asgard, lending itself to their fantastic stories. News was slow and winding when it came, like honey in the bite of winter.

As they contested companionably amongst themselves it came again to be Odin's turn. Thinking of his journey there, he swore that he had never been refused by any woman.

This won laughter from his companions, but Odin did not protest it. He only drained his cup once more and set it down on the table-top before him.

Then he saw her. Her red-tinted hair was bound up behind her and a golden band was about her forehead. She was across the room, beyond the fire, greeting her father, rubbing the ears of the great hunting dog that sat by his side with her slender white hand.

"Oh!" the man beside him guffawed, "So you've set yourself for that one, have you? Choose another, my friend, if you'd have your boast untarnished."

"Who is she?" Odin asked, never taking his eyes from her. She moved gracefully and smiled as she spoke.

"That one is Frigga, second-daughter to the chief. She scorns the company of even the most accomplished of men."

"Is she a witch?"

The man looked at him a startled moment. "You truly are a stranger here," he said. "The power of it is in her blood and she knows the ways of seithr," he shook his head, "But it is not as you ask. She works alongside the men of our dun. It's only that she refuses even the most innocent of advances. Try your charms elsewhere, Friend, or else embrace defeat."

The laughter of the others and their conversation carried on like the low sound of the tides washing to and fro on the banks of the sea. The light of the fire cast a red glow on the hall. It shivered in the haze that rose from the long fire.

A slim hand came from behind him, taking his cup. He closed his fingers lightning quick about the wrist.

"You missed," he said.

She gave a breath of a laugh, bending at the waist to fill his cup. He let her go.

"I never miss," she told him.