Trial By Fire Games

RAGNAROK

The tale of Ragnarok

“An Axe-age, a Sword-age,
shields will be gashed:
there will be a wind-age and a wolf-age
before the world is wrecked.”

The first sign of Ragnarok will come when an evil appetite is finally sated: the Nidhogg serpent, the dark snake of Niflheim, will gnaw through the roots of Yggdrasil the world tree, collapsing her trunk and redirect the seething streams of Hvergelmir to flood the plains of the nine worlds and Asgard. The Fimbul-winter will freeze the surging waters, raising jagged wave spires and looming glaciers to the very heights of the walls of Valhalla.

Then the children of the old giantess in Iron Wood, the wolves Skoll and Hati, will strike the first blows. Skoll will devour Sol drenching Asgard with gore and condemning the world to darkness. Hati will rend the Moon and the stars will vanish from the sky. Immediately the world will descend into an unending frozen night. These terrible wolf-kin will transform the flooded plain of Asgard into a frozen wasteland: the final battlefield, the barren tundra of Vigrid (“battle-surge”).

As the Skald* speaks it,
“Grim Fimbul raged, and o’er the world
Tempestuous winds and snow storms hurled;
The roaring ocean icebergs ground,
And flung its frozen foam around
E’en to the top of mountain height;
No warming air,
Nor radiance fair
Of gentle Summer’s soft’ning light,
Tempered this dreadful glacial night.”

Midgard will suffer three years of terrible war. Warfare of fathers against sons; tribes and clans will tear at their own flesh; kinsmen spilling fellow kinsmen’s blood. Only when the Fimbulvetr – the Final Winter – grips Midgard in its terrible grasp for three years further, only then will the hosts of Ragnarok begin to muster.

All fetters will be broken. Loki shall rise from his rocky crag, and Fenrir will run free. The order of the Gods will weaken and shatter as all manner of Jotun and Troll, Vargr one and all, will roam freely across the nine worlds.

“Full long had Loki writhed enchained,
Tormented, tortured, agonized;
Stretched at gigantic length,
Useless his Jotun strength,
Tearing at iron fetters fast;
Heavings and howlings – all in vain!
There had he tossed long ages past,
Revolving schemes of deeds accursed,
Wild hopes of wrath and vengeance nursed
For these alone, he, freedom prized,
That, with his pristine power regained,
His hatred fierce might wreak at last;
Joyful to him was Vigrid’s plain.”

On Vigrid will the host of the Rokkr gather from the nine worlds. Fenris will run free at the head of a pack of the most terrible wolf-beasts who will rage and howl against the living; a mountain of lava will flow from Muspelheim and all the host of Surtur will muster from this boiling rock, driven to battle on Vigrid; the terrible wilderness of Jotunheim will spread to the now frozen soil of Asgard, guiding the trickster Skrymir and his frost giants to the battle, eager to seize their piece of the broken realm of the Gods.

Hel and her fellow inmates in Niflheim will claw their way up from the cold ground, the corpses of the cowardly and straw-dead joining their queen as she moves to find vengeance on the Aesir for cursing her to the dusty realm of the dead; then Loki will come with all manner of traitor and villain at his side, some lead by trickery and others by a hunger to avenge their deaths at the hands of the champions of Valhalla; and finally, Jormungand the Midgard Serpent will break through the ice and devour all who fall into his ravenous maw, hungry only for the screams of the doomed!

Three roosters will crow on the final morning on the day of days, heralding the doom of the Gods: red plumed Fjalar will wake the giants of Jotun and Muspelheim; then golden combed Gullinkambi will rouse from their sleep the Aesir and their kinsmen in Valhalla; finally, the rust red cock of cold Niflheim will raise the dead in Hel’s dank hall.

“So came, with blood and tempest shock,
Wild Ragnarok!
The Day of Doom –
The hour was come!
Shrill crowed Valhalla’s golden Cock!
The crimson bird of Hel replied.
Fierce Fenrir flung his fetters wide,
Deep howling, rushing with ravening jaws,
Nostrils flame flashing, outstretched claws,
Hot eyeballs glaring for his prey;
On-leaping thro’ the gulfs of air,
With jaws agape from Earth to Heaven,
A yawning chasm of red fear!
Well knew the Wolf, that awful Day,
What prey should to his maw be given.”

Hel will march forth with her father Loki at her side, all the ghastly host of Niflheim in their wake. The frosty Hrimthursar of Jotunheim will ride the seas in Naglfar, the ship built from dead men’s nails, captained by the giant Hrym the Decrepit One, the army lead by Skyrmir the braggart.

“Now at the head of Hel’s pale host,
Those livid armies of the lost,
The unchained Loki furious came.
Grimmer and closer, thro’ the gloom
On pressed they to the plain of Doom.”

Fenrir will charge forward to battle, his gaping maw so wide that his tongue scrapes against the frozen seas and his fangs tear white scars against the night sky. His brother Jormungand will writhe and thrash against thick ice, breaking chasms through which he spews his rage: each breath black poison against frozen ground and all the earth and the sky will be drowned in venomous tantrum unbound!

“Scorching on high, rolled pillared flame;
With baying that thro’ Nature pierced,
From Gnipa, Garm, the Hel-Dog burst;
In mad chaotic rout,
Thro’ baleful light,
The powers of Night
Reeled and careered about!”

Then the sons of Muspel – the Fire Giants – will storm Asgard from the south, shattering the Bifrost bridge with the weight of their fury. Surtur will lead them, his sword blazing with all the fires of Muspelheim.

“Leading his gleaming band, rode Surtur,
‘Mid the red ranks of raging fire;
His very sword a ray of light
Snatched from the Sun!
Flinging on high
Flame banners flaunting to the sky,
Onward they came at headlong pace;
The Rainbow Bridge, ‘neath furious race,
Shivered and sank – its work was done!”

But the gods will not be idle in this time. Heimdall will raise such a blast from the great Gjallarhorn that the trumpet to battle will echo among the nine worlds. The Aesir will make a council of war, while Odin consults the head of Mimir – the wisest and deepest thinker among the Aesir – at his Spring, the font of wisdom. Thus will all brightest blades and sharpest wits of the Gods be honed on this day of days.

“Great Gjallar-horn, with startling clang!
That summons well the Aesir knew!
Then for the third time, crowed the Cock
Assembling all for Ragnarok!”

The Gods will make ready for battle, adorned in all their finest war gear. Then the champions of Valhalla, the Einherjar, will march: each host eight hundred strong; from five hundred doors long; burst from Odin’s Hall in eager throng; hungry to die for glory on this terrible day.

“Now, wakened by Valkyriar,
Brave armies of Einherjar
With stiffened fingers bound on swords;
With shield and lance,
‘Mid bright spears’ glance,
Pressed on amid the hastening gods.
Then, golden-helmed Odin at their head,
Valhalla’s hosts to Vigrid led;
With polished armor shining bright,
And cuirass gleaming thro’ the night,
On to the final battle sped.”

Their fates are fixed by Odin’s glimpse of this day, but the breath of battle will draw war-cries of challenges from all ranks, old feuds again renewed. Odin will fight at the fore-front and cut a path to face Fenrir. Their duel will shake the black sky with howl and curse, the gnashing of tooth, the bite of spear, but the outcome will be as foretold. Fenrir will trap bold Allfather in his terrible jaws and swallow him whole.

“Blood-stained the helmet’s burnished gold
In struggles mad o’er Earth they rolled.
At last, huge Fenrir’s wide-stretched jaw
Engulfed the God in grizzly maw;
Thus, by foul Loki’s fearful son,
Was greatest ill to Asgard done.”

Thor, though close by his father’s side, will be unable to help, so quickly will he be gripped in Jormungand’s serpent coils. They are familiar foes and their battle will be epic and close. Thor will kill the Midgardsorm, but in doing he will become drenched in that horrid viper’s poison spittle – thus, victorious only nine steps more will he take before he too is overcome by death’s grim shadow.

“Caught in the loathsome toils
Of Jormungandur’s coils,
Thro’ all this fearful war
No aid could bear the Thunderer:
The Serpent, armed with fatal sting,
Loud clanking now with scaly side,
Fierce fold on fold out-lapping wide,
With toss and fling
To crush the Aesir-champion tried.
At length,
With wondrous strength,
Great Thor the horrid coils off flung;
Beneath the blows of Mjolnir dread,
The savage Monster, stricken dead,
In jet-black gore lay weltering.
But, in that awful combat, stung
By venomed fang, nine steps and more
Back recoiled the unconquered Thor,
And in his last world-Victory died.”

The victory song of Fenris Wolf will be loud but not long, choked from his bloody throat by the great foot of Vidar. The brave Aesir will press his heavy shoe down into the earth, driving the other jaw to the sky, thus tearing the wolf apart in vengeance for his father.

“Lo! Vidar, as avenger, came
Of Odin’s fame!
The Monster in his mighty grasp,
Resistless clasp,
He seized; loud howlings broke,
And far, affrighted echoes woke.
Upon his writhing foe
Planting his iron shoe,
Rending and tearing with vast strength,
Until, at length,
Split he Fenrir’s jaws asunder!”

The guardian of the gates of Niflheim, Garm, hound of Hel, will tear out the throat of Tyr as the one-handed god impales the giant dog, thus each will kill and be killed. The most stalwart among the Aesir will face his hated former kinsman when Heimdal finds Loki on the field of Vigrid, and they too will be the end of the other. Finally, Freyr will fall to Surtur, defenseless without his dancing sword, the Hlegand blade now Skirnir’s Gift.

In his triumph Surtur with his flaming sword will scar the world, stabbing fire into the nine worlds. A torrent of fire that will turn Jotunheim, Niflheim, and Midgard all to ash. All creatures will die in this final act: eternal Einherjar; mighty giants and lowly dwarf; all men and women – save two – will fall; creatures of Utgard and the underworld will stir no more. The earth will sink into the sea, and black starless night will mark the grave of the Gods.

“Ended the frightful war.
Alone, as conqueror,
Stood Surtur, Victor!
With ruined Nature’s birth,
Down sank the blackened Earth
In boiling sea.
All smold’ring fell!
That which from Chaos came,
To Chaos back returned;
Disastrously,
In the eclipse of Asgard’s lords,
Faded the twilight of the gods.”

Assembled and embellished by Subadai, proxy of Odin.