• Published 8th Oct 2012
  • 2,816 Views, 89 Comments

The Lovers' Edda - Simon_oSullivan



A love story of two ponies from the frozen lands of the North.

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Breyting af hjarta

Breyting af hjarta (A change of heart)

Hearth Fire locked herself in her bedroom. It was a small place, with her king size bed occupying about half the room’s floorspace. Two nightstands flanked it, one on each side. Across the room stood a large mirror, with a small office table on its left and a wardrobe on its right. There was only a window in the room that covered the whole upper half of the wall that faced the door.

As she lay on the bed, she shook her head with a sigh. Despite Mjǫllna’s suffering, she was convinced that, on the long run, her daughter would look back at this moment and thank her for it, and much more after finding a nice stallion in Ponyville for her. Hearth Fire was lost on her thoughts, wondering if Big Macintosh was still dating Cheerilee, when she looked through the window, noticing the back clouds that were covering the night sky.

“That’s odd,” she said with a raised eyebrow as she walked towards the window. “The weather forecast didn’t say anything about a thunderstorm.”

Hearth Fire shrugged the oddity off as she returned to her thoughts, sitting at her office table, right next to a large mirror that rested in front of her bed. When the first thunder echoed throughout the room and the lightning flash flooded the room, she hopped from the chair, turning to the window. Her empty lungs begged for air as she heaved and rested her forehooves on the table in an attempt to recover from the shock. As she slowly caught her breath and recovered from the sudden fright, she let out a soft snicker at her own gullibility.

“Those pegasi have overdone themselves this time,” she said, turning back to look at the papers in front of her.

When she was about to take her quill, she spotted something through the corner of her eye. She would’ve sworn that there was a reflection in the mirror, but when she tried to look at it, there was nothing there; she could only see her room and herself in it. She shook her head in disbelief, sighing at her own imagination, before returning to her writing. The scratching of the quill against the paper was the only sound between the thunders outside for a short while. When she had a small draft in front of her, she looked at the mirror again and noticed that her fiery red mane had gone messy, to which she let out a slightly annoyed huff. On the other side of the room rested a large cupboard with a pair of saddlebags hanging from its left side. Hearth Fire grabbed the brush inside it and combed those rebel hairs.

“Perfect!” she exclaimed proudly. “That should do it.”

As she spoke those words, another flash of lightning happened, once again covering the room with a blinding light, the thunder coming immediately after it. When it faded, what Hearth Fire saw on the mirror made her drop the comb and jump to the bed with her mouth wide opened but unable to scream, her face twisted with an expression of horror.

Instead of her reflection, in front of her was standing a completely different mare. Her coat was the color of tempered bronze, protected by an iron chain shirt. A steel circlet with decorative wings welded to its sides could be barely seen under her long, wavy mane of silver. On her right shoulder rested an exquisitely elaborated spear that was as long as herself, with runes painted on the weapon’s wooden shaft and forged on its head. Her bleached gold-colored eyes looked down on Hearth Fire with a soul piercing frown.

Hearth Fire’s lips trembled as she tried in vain to form words. The mare in reflecting in the mirror was a familiar face, but the deep anger in her eyes didn’t help to lessen the shock. “G-g-g-grandma Gleipna?” she stuttered. The reflection didn’t move a muscle, simply staring at Hearth Fire with a threatening gaze. “H-how are you… this is impossible! What are you? Speak!” Again, there was no answer. With a huff, Hearth Fire looked out of the window with a frown. “Mjǫllna’s friends must be out there, playing a prank on me for what I did. How dare they try to trick me into thinking my ancestors are plotting against me?!” she added with a growl.

She got up from her bed, ignoring the mirror as she walked towards the window, shouting to nopony in particular. “Very funny, ponies! Leave me alone already! And let the deceased rest in peace!” she cried in anger, taking another moment to keep looking around for Mjǫllna or any of her friends. Finding nopony, she returned to her bed, checking the mirror to see that, as she expected, the reflection wasn’t there anymore. Hearth Fire shook her head. ”Those meddling mares can’t understand it; I did for her own good! She couldn’t have fallen in love with him that fast!”

Lightning struck once more, but neither the sound nor the light called Hearth Fire’s attention this time. However, her ears perked up at the sound of a familiar voice. She looked to her right, her jaw dropping as the mirror showed her something she’d never expected to see.

-o-

“Fillies and gentlecolts!” announced Mayor Mare with pride. “Hold on to your seats, for today we have a very special show for you! Cheer with all the strength your lungs allow you to, for here comes… the Wonderbolts!”

As the renowned pegasi flew over the sky, flooding it with their trademarked stormy trails, the crowd whistled and cried in pure joy. Among them, a teenage Eldstaðr raised her front hooves, shouting ferociously.

“By Gjallarhorn!” she said with a broad smile. “Even the famed Svaðilfar would have trouble outrunning those pegasi.”

Next to her, Vínviðr snorted softly at her daughter’s comments. “I don’t think he’d have that much of a hard time, but their speed is still impressive.”

“Well, this is going to be exciting to see,” admitted Eldstaðr.

“Of course it’s going to be!” exclaimed a pegasus next to her. “These are the best fliers in Equestria!”

Eldstaðr looked at the stallion, who showed a wide grin with pearl white teeth. He was a young and well-toned Pegasus with a teal coat and wavy, shoulder-length silvery mane and tail. When he spoke, he didn’t look away from the Wonderbolts.

“They’re really good indeed!” admitted Eldstaðr joyfully.

“Every pegasus I know would love to join them!” continued the stallion, flapping his wings frantically.

Eldstaðr chuckled, shaking her head with a smile. “Well, not anymore, I’m afraid. I’m not interested in joining them.”

The stallion quickly turned with widened eyes, staring at her in disbelief. “You can’t be serious!”

“I am,” she said with a shrug. “I’m fine with what I do now.”

“And what do you do that’s better than joining the Wonderbolts?”

“I’m a blacksmith apprentice,” she stated proudly as she hit her chest. “My mother’s teaching me the family business. We’ve been the local blacksmiths in Ponyville for three generations!”

To this statement, the stallion couldn’t avoid raising an eyebrow. “Well, that’s something I’d never heard before.”

“Hope you don’t have any problem with that,” taunted Eldstaðr as she flexed her right front leg, showing off her toned muscles. “I’m sure I can wipe the floor with your flank if you do,” she added with a wink.

The stallion looked at his own front legs; they were fibrous, but not bulky at all. While Eldstaðr wasn’t that buffed, she still looked much stronger than him. “I… don’t think I want to try it,” he said, focusing his attention back on the Wonderbolts, who were getting to the grand finale.

Eldstaðr chuckled, crossing her front legs in front of her as she kept the balance with the flapping of her wings. “You’re a fun guy. What’s your name?”

“I’m Solar Beam.” As he spoke those words, the Wonderbolts performed their final trick, creating three rings in the sky over the public and spiraling them up, making a tower of thunder clouds. Thunders struck rhythmically as the flashes of lightning created patterns that resembled the very same Wonderbolts that were performing. “Woah, that’s awesome!” cheered Solar Beam.

Eldstaðr nodded at his words. “Solar Beam the Wonderbolt? It suits you.”

With a light blush, Solar Beam looked at her, letting out a humble smile. “Do… do you really think so?”

“Of course! Sounds magnanimous!”

“Gosh, I… never considered it like that,” he replied shyly. “What’s your name?“

”Eldstaðr,” she announced with a proud grin. “Eldstaðr Vínviðsdóttir.”

To this, Solar Beam’s eyes widened as he seemed to be trying to repeat the name to himself. After a few failed tries, he shook his head with a sad grimace.“Would you mind if I called you Eldi? I don’t think I’ll be able to say your whole name correctly even once.”

Eldstaðr chuckled, pushing her long, fiery mane aside. “I guess I won’t mind, Beamie.” She spoke the last word with a slightly mocking tone, but showing a playful smile.

“Oh, I… guess I don’t mind you calling me that,” replied Solar Beam with a more intense blush.

“But only if you agree to have wrestling match,” added Eldstaðr with a satisfied smirk.

Solar Beam stepped back, barely pushing another pony back. “W-what?”

“We have an old saying in Scandineighvia: you don’t know a mare until you’ve had a strong drink and a hooffight with her,” she quoted as she turned to her mother, whispering something to her ear.

The stallion stared at the mare for a moment, forgetting himself in her exotic charm. Her messed up red mane rested sensually on her strong shoulders and lay on the upper part of her back, contrasting with absolute perfection with her yellow coat. There was something in her bright orange eyes that called his attention as she casually threw inquisitive glances at him. Trying not to look rude or brazen, he quickly peeked at her cutie mark through the corner of his eye, seeing a perfectly clear, cozy-looking bonfire. The tip of Hearth Fire’s tail slowly brushed the floor under it.

Solar Beam took a deep breath before speaking.”I… I think I like the idea,” he said with a blush. “But I wouldn’t like anypony to get hurt.”

Hearth Fire laughed it off as she rested a hoof on his shoulder. “Don’t worry, Beamie,” she replied with a wink. “I’ll be gentle this time.”

-o-

Hearth Fire stared at the mirror in awe, noticing that even the smallest detail of that day had been perfectly portrayed. The conversation, the setting and even the little mannerisms she used to have as they flirted were nailed. She looked at her front hooves in shock, noticing that the muscle mass from her youth long gone. She was still a fit and healthy mare, but far from the imposing one she was back then. There was no way any of her daughter’s friends could know about this, and even if Vínviðr had told them about it, the precision of details was perfect.

Her mind raced through memories of what her mother had taught her about supernatural creatures. She discarded the draugr, for they had physical bodies, although rotten, and Gleipna looked as if she did when alive. The fact that it was her own grandmother made her also push away the idea of her being a fylgja, for those were spirit animal companions. Landvættir were the ones that looked over the prosperity of the land and, while that possibly meant that there might be at least one in Sweet Apple Acres, they wouldn’t take Gleipna’s form. Then she came to a realisation, her body slightly trembling at the thought of having invoked the ire of a dís, the protector spirits attached to a family. Remembering what Vínvðr told her about them, she came to the conclusion that the ghost was using its nature-bending powers to control the thunderstorm. Another flash of lightning erased the scene from the mirror, showing once again the reflection of the armored mare. Her face, however, showed an incredulous grimace, as if she didn’t believe Hearth Fire’s forgetfulness.

That expression relaxed Hearth Fire a bit. “So it’s really you, granny,” she said with a slightly uneasy tone. “Are you going to mock me for what happened with Beamie? Yes, I was very young and gullible, and I liked him! It was odd; it felt like I was the stallion in the relationship.” Hearth Fire shook her head violently with a huff, walking towards her bed. “Look at me, talking to a mirror. I must be becoming crazy.” She then turned back to the mirror, noticing that she was reflecting again in the mirror. As she let out a relieved sigh, she continued to speak. ”Well? Is that all you have? You just showed me that I was as stupid as she is now! The only difference is that I know that things will end up badly!”

Another flash of lightning accompanied by thunder was the only reply as another scene began reflecting in the mirror.

-o-

“Dinner will be ready in a moment, Beamie!” said Eldstaðr from the kitchen.

Solar Beam, however, wasn’t paying attention to her; instead, his eyes were solely focused on the months old foal who lay in the pillow in front of him. With an ochre coat that matched the sofa she was on, the filly playfully waved her hooves around. Her short cream mane was tied up with a bow in a ponytail. She looked with her light brown eyes at Solar Beam.

“Did you hear that, Mjǫllna?” he asked with a smile as he took the months-old filly from the sofa and lifted her above his head. “Mommy’s making dinner!”

Solar Beam took off, slowly flying in circles over the furniture for Mjǫllna to enjoy the ride, but not fast enough to make her sick. It had taken a few disastrous and icky attempts to get it right, but the uncontrollable laughter of the foal as she felt the wind on her face was worth everything for the stallion.

After a short flight, Solar Beam put Mjǫllna on the couch again, moving slightly to the side and waving his wing over her. The foal tried to grab the feathers, but every time she was about to touch them, Solar Beam lifted them, only to lower them again and tickle Mjǫllna’s belly, causing her to giggle frantically and wiggle her legs to try shooing the feathers away.

Solar Beam lowered his head to snuggle his nose against Mjǫllna’s. As she giggled, the foal stretched her forelegs, trying to grab her father’s face. Ignored by the two ponies, Eldstaðr flew out of the kitchen with a smoking pot, turning to see her family playing together. Her long mane was tied up and covered by an orange silken hood, just like Vínviðr’s.

“Beamie, I thought I told you not to play too much with Mjǫllna before dinner,” said Eldstaðr with a concerned voice, but without losing her smile. “She gets tired and doesn’t eat her food.”

Mjǫllna stopped giggling for a moment, still showing a wide, toothless grin before softly biting Solar Beam’s muzzle. The stallion couldn’t hold a chuckle as the foal began sucking his nose. “I think she’s more hungry than she is tired, Eldi,” he replied as he carefully lifted Mjǫllna.

“I’m going to put this on the table for it to cool down a bit,” she said with a nod, slowly resting the pot on the table. “Put Mjǫllna on her chair while I call mother for dinner too.”

“Will do!”

As Eldstaðr went outside to the smithy, Solar Beam flew across the room making “whoosh” sounds as Mjǫllna clapped and laughed. After a couple flips, the stallion landed next to the filly’s high chair, sitting her there before fastening the safety belt and lowering the tray.

“The things I have to do for you not to try and run away from dinner,” said Solar Beam with a chuckle.

Both Eldstaðr and Vínviðr walked inside to see Solar Beam serving the soup in all four dishes. Once he was done, he flew over the table and grabbed a jug, pouring water in each of the three drinking horns on the table and the small plastic glass in front of Mjǫllna’s chair. The mares took their seats as they witnessed Solar Beam cooling the foal’s soup by fanning with his wings, to which she applauded with a chuckle.

“Now, Mjǫllna, get ready, for here comes the tired Wonderbolt, ready to get home. Whoosh!” he said, moving the small spoon around carefully for the soup not to spill. The followed the tip of the spoon with her eyes. When it got close enough, she opened her mouth, waiting for the tasty soup.

“Beamie,” said Eldstaðr, blowing to her own plate to cool it, “if you only feed Mjǫllna, your soup will be cold already.”

“Leave him, Eldstaðr,” interjected Vínviðr as she rested a hoof on her daughter’s shoulder. “They’re both enjoying themselves. Besides, I love seeing Mjǫllna eat without giving as much trouble as she usually does,” she added with a giggle

“I have no idea how he does it,” admitted Eldstaðr with a shrug. She smiled as she saw Solar Beam cleaning the dripping soup away from Mjǫllna’s muzzle with a napkin. “But I better learn to do it,” she continued, chuckling at the heartwarming scene.

-o-

Hearth Fire was staring at the mirror in disbelief, but with a slowly growing nostalgic smile. As the scene went on, she peacefully sat on the floor, keeping her attention on Solar Beam. Her mind rushed through her own past, remembering every single moment where her husband and Mjǫllna were together. It was impossible to see the stallion without a smile in her face when the foal was around. Dazzled by the scene, she slowly moved her hoof closer to the mirror, trying to caress her husband.

When she was about to rest her hoof on the mirror, a flash of lightning removed the scene, replacing it with Gleipna’s reflection once more. Despite being the third time it happened, it caught her off-guard, making her jump away from the armored mare’s image. As she breathed heavily from the shock, she noticed that the spirit’s facial expression was different again; her eyes showed concern and had a small, condescending smile.

“What do you want to say with this?” grunted Hearth Fire as she slowly regained composure. “That I should’ve let them be together because having foals makes everything better? I love Mj͑ǫllna, and I’ll never regret bringing her to this world, but I refuse to believe that she should date a stallion who’s going to leave and never come back!” The mare took a step forward, facing the ghost’s reflection with a frown. “If you’re really the protector spirit of my family and know everything about my life, where were you when Solar Beam left and left me shattered? Where?!” she demanded in a fit of rage.

Though Hearth Fire expected a thunder and a flash of lightning, the former was much louder than the previous ones, forcing her to cover her ears and close her eyes. Once the sound had faded, she noticed the cries of a foal. She looked up to see the new scene the mirror was projecting.

-o-

Vínviðr stood at the house’s door, with Mjǫllna resting on her foreleg. In front of the mare, outside the house, Solar Beam had a couple full saddlebags and tried to avoid eye contact with her.

“Solar, please,” pleaded Vínviðr with a comforting voice. “Eldstaðr didn’t mean any of what she said.”

“No, Vínviðr, she’s right,” replied Solar Beam with a shake of his head. “I’m not worthy of being Mjǫllna’s father. I should be better, but I’m only a failure after another.”

“You don’t have to be a Wonderbolt or anything special to show that you deserve being a worthy parent,” explained Vínviðr, taking a step forward and resting her free hoof on his shoulder. “I’ve seen enough to know that you’re a wonderful father.”

Mjǫllna stretched her tiny forelegs forward, trying to reach for her father. “Yaya,” she said as she attempted to set free from her grandmother’s grip.

Vínviðr looked at the filly, and then turned to Solar Beam. “Please, do it for her.”

Tears fell down the stallion’s cheeks as he stared at the filly in front of him. Taking a step forward, he lowered his head to let Mjǫllna hug his face as she used to do.

“I’m sorry, Mjǫllna,” he said between sobs. “I’ll make sure you won’t lack anything, I promise.”

“Then stay, Solar,” insisted Vínviðr. “Be the father the filly needs.”

Solar Beam took a step back, releasing himself from the foal’s hug, which made her smile turn into a frown. “I’m not what she deserves; I can’t be here.”

Without those words, the stallion slowly turned around and flapped his wings to fly away.

“Yaya!” shouted the Mjǫllna, trying even harder to set herself free and grab Solar. “Yaya! Yaya!”
Vínviðr hugged the filly, kissing her head as the crying got muffled by the mare’s chest.

“Mjǫllna,” said Vínviðr with a tender voice before wiping the tears from the foal’s face. “Don’t be mad at Solar Beam. We’re going to make him proud of you.”

Mjǫllna sobbed as she looked at her grandmother. “Ya… yaya?” she insisted, her lower lip trembling as she tried to contain her desire to keep on crying.

“He will return, Mjǫllna. I don’t know when, but when he feels he’s ready. For now,” she continued while swinging the small filly, “I trust that he’ll fulfill his promise. And don’t get angry at your mother either, my dear; we Scandineighvians are passionate ponies. Our emotions are more intense than Equestrians’. I’ll talk to her when you get to sleep.”

Vínviðr looked up to the sky, seeing how Solar Beam disappeared in the horizon. When he was nowhere to be seen anymore, the mare walked inside the house and closed the door behind him.

-o-

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!

Without letting the scene finish, Hearth Fire grabbed the mirror and turned it around, the wooden back facing the crying mare.

“You died before I even met Beamie!” she yelled as she pointed at the flipped furniture. “You know nothing! You can’t judge me! I didn’t want him to leave us! To leave me! I didn’t know that it had affected him that much! And what happened there has nothing to do with what I did with Mjǫllna and Drakkar!”

Another flash of lightning flooded the room, but Hearth Fire didn’t see whatever would be reflected this time. However, her fur stood on end as she thought of the spirit’s possible reactions. With a gulp, the mare took a step back.

“Y-you’ve given your opinion,” stuttered Hearth Fire, slowly crawling to the bed’s pillow without looking away from the mirror. “B-but what’s done is done!” Her voice sounded warped by doubt and fear, but she tried her best to ignore those emotions that threatened to shatter her adamant decision.

Once she reached the pillow, she got under the sheets. Hearth Fire looked at the turned mirror through the corner of her eye every now and then, curious about what might be reflecting on it at the time. However, the fear of actually seeing what was there kept her in bed as the mixture of emotions kept her awake for a long time until exhaustion finally allowed her to sleep.

-o-

As they walked back home from Twilight's library, Vínviðr had been trying to cheer her granddaughter up, but her efforts had taken her nowhere.

“We should try crafting something together,” offered Vínviðr with a forced smile. “Just like the good old days when you were a filly. What do you say?”

“I don't want to disturb the neighbors,” said Mjǫllna with a weak shake of her head.

“That wasn't a problem half a year ago, when I had to apologize to the ponies in your name due to your ceaseless work,” she replied with a smirk. However, it slowly faded away as Mjǫllna shook her head again.

“I just... don't feel like working at the smithy now, granny. Thanks for trying to cheer me up, though,” she added as she turned to face her grandmother with a weak smile.

Her gesture was welcomed by a sad frown that, as they reached their house and opened the door, was quickly replaced by a furious one. Not even the idea of working on the craft that earned her cutie mark would put a smile on her face. When she was a little filly, she saved bits of her allowance to buy herself some earmuffs so the sound of the hammer against metal didn't hurt her small ears and could stay with her. She found joy in the most monotonous of tasks; she just wanted to help and learn the profession. The older she became, the more responsibilities Vínviðr would allow her to take. She still remembered the day Mjǫllna got her cutie mark; when she became fifteen and her training was over, she was free to use the smithy without supervision, and crafted a solid, if not really aesthetic-looking, shield. It served its purpose, though, and her trademark hammer and lightning bolt appeared on her haunches shortly after. Blacksmithing had always meant the world to her, and that experience only enhanced that feeling. Knowing that not only that would cure Mjǫllna's sadness only made Vínviðr despise Hearth Fire even more.

“I'm going to have a serious talk with your mother,” announced Vínviðr as she began walking up the stairs to Hearth Fire's room. “Nopony makes my little Mjǫllna cry and gets away with it,” she added with a soft growl.

“Granny, no!” she cried as she grabbed her left foreleg and softly pulled it towards her. “Please, stay with me. I don't want to be left alone.” Mjǫllna's eyes were red, and her grip on Vínviðr's leg was strong but not enough to hurt.

The sight of her shattered granddaughter made the mare's anger fade away. Letting her issues aside, Vínviðr turned to Mjǫllna and hugged her tightly. “Of course, my dear,” she said while caressing Mjǫllna's mane. “I'll stay with you.”

Without more words, Vínviðr guided Mjǫllna towards the small bench in the living room with the different carvings that represented the Æsir and Vanir. She then sat her in front of Freyja, Goddess of magic and love.

“I know you aren't as devoted as I was,” said Vínviðr as he kept both hooves on Mjǫllna's shoulders, “but I'm sure that a prayer to Freyja might make her show mercy of you and help you stay together.”

“But granny, I don't think-”

“Shh,” interrupted Vínviðr, hugging her granddaughter from behind. “It's okay. We'll try it anyway.”

“But it's not fair for the Gods,” interjected Mjǫllna. “I've been able to do everything on my own until now.”

“It's not a sign of weakness to pray,” explained Vínviðr. “Expose the goddess your prayer with all the strength of your heart, and she will try and help us in these dark times.”

Mjǫllna, feeling her grandmother's warm words, nodding as her lips trembled when Vínviðr moved aside and sat next to her. Mjǫllna's eyes widened as she saw Vínviðr in front of an idol representing Frigg, Goddess of Marriage.

“Granny!” she exclaimed with a gasp.

Vínviðr chuckled at her granddaughter's reaction. “I know. I suppose that she might lend us a hoof too. Besides,” she added with a smile, “if he's been able to make you so happy, you both have my blessing.”

“But we never talked about that yet,” replied Mjǫllna with a raised eyebrow.

Laughing at how Mjǫllna's sorrow had been momentarily replaced for surprise, Vínviðr tapped her granddaughter's shoulder with a hoof. “Being a Scandineighvian stallion himself, he wouldn't take much longer before proposing. Let's just say I'd rather cover all the bases.”

For the first time since the incident, Mjǫllna let out a short giggle, her slips showing a sincere smile. “Thank you, granny. I means a lot to me.”

“I wouldn't do this if it didn't, Mjǫllna,” she assured with a condescending nod. She then looked behind them, glancing at the couch they had in the opposite end of the room. “We could get us a blanket so we could stay here tonight. What do you say?”

“Are we going to pray that long?” inquired Mjǫllna.

“As long as you need,” replied Vínviðr before pecking her granddaughter's cheek.

Both mares closed their eyes and lowered their heads as they internally chanted prayers in their heads.

-o-

In Twilight’s library, the first beams of the morning sun lit the wooden floor as they entered through the window. Drakkar was leaning on the table, his forelegs supporting his weight as he stared at the door with a saddened grimace. Neither Spike nor Twilight knew what to say to him. The young dragon had made breakfast for the three of them, and the uncomfortable silence that overwhelmed the room made the tension even worse to stand. The only reactions they could get from Drakkar were approving nods the first time he tried the pancakes with maple syrup.

The three of them looked at the door when knocks were heard.

“Come in!” said Twilight with a raised eyebrow.

“We don’t usually get visits until much later,” admitted Spike.

The door opened, letting Applejack, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash in. The former had a concerned look on her face, while the other two were overjoyed to see the giant stallion.

“Drakkar!” called Rainbow Dash as she flew towards him.

“Bifrǫst. Didn’t expect you to be here,” replied Drakkar with a slowly growing smile.

“Are you kiddin’?” she asked, spreading her front hooves in disbelief. ”I want to hear about that fight with the timber wolves! Applejack told me that you owned a whole pack by yourself!”

“She did?” repeated Drakkar as she turned to face the farmpony.

“Ah skipped the nasty details,” said Applejack with a reassuring nod.

“But I wanted to hear about those!” insisted Rainbow Dash, staying in mid air. “How did you get rid of them? How many were there?”

At the sudden wave of questions, Drakkar raised both front hooves. “Bifrǫst, please, I’d rather not talk about that right now.”

“But I’m sure it’s super duper amazing!” exclaimed Pinkie Pie with a jump. “You saved three fillies from those meanies!” As she spoke those words, she began punching the air around her while screaming karate cries. “Take that! And that! And this! Hii-ya!” How she was able to stand on her hind legs with a front hoof stretched forward and a face that looked like she suffered from constipation was a mystery to all the ponies in the room. After staying in that position for a short while, she returned to a normal stance, hopping next to Rainbow Dash. “I’m sure Mjǫllna’s really proud of you!” she added with a wink.

“Girls, it’s not a good time to talk about that,” warned Twilight with a worried voice as Drakkar lowered his head.

“Why? What happened?” asked Rainbow Dash, shrugging.

“Apparently Mjǫllna got tricked into believing that Drakkar had a fillyfriend in his homeland,” explained Twilight, keeping an eye on Drakkar for his behavior. Luckily, he didn’t seem to be moody or reacting in any way at her words.

“What?! Who’d do such a thing?” inquired Applejack with anger.

“Mjǫllna’s mother, for what Vínviðr told us last night,” replied Spike as he rested his crossed arms on his chest. “Drakkar said he’d tell who Gisli was and then he would return to Scandineighvia.”

“But you know she was tricked!” cried Rainbow Dash angrily. “I still remember how you both behaved at the drinking contest; that’s not something that a simple lie can shatter!”

“Ahm not that sure, Dash,” corrected Applejack. “Distrust hurts bad enough to shatter friendships. Ah don’t think love is that resilient either.”

“Hey, Drakkar,” said Pinkie, lowering her body to get to look at the stallion in the eyes. “Can we stay here and listen to the story? I love stories!”

The huge smile in her face made him hesitate for a moment. With a short sigh, he looked at all the mares and the young dragon in the room, slightly nodding. “I appreciate it. If you two want to stay too—”

“Stories about your hometown? Count me in!” exclaimed Rainbow Dash as she performed a back flip. “What do you say, AJ?”

“Ahm curious about this Gisli here too,” she admitted with a raised eyebrow. “Ah’ll stay for the story too.”

As Drakkar was about to speak, there were knocks at the door once more. Applejack used her tail to open it, letting a small group of mares in. Fluttershy and Rarity walked forward and stood aside, both trying to comfort Mjǫllna. To everypony’s surprise, Vínviðr moved in front of Drakkar, slightly bowing to him.

“Hofkarl Drakkar,” she greeted while resting a hoof on her chest.

“Vínviðr Gleipnadóttir,” replied Drakkar, bowing back to her. “It’s an honor to meet the descendants of such a heroine.”

“I am aware of what happened last night,” continued Vínviðr with a serious frown. “If it’s alright with you, I’d like to hear the story too.”

“I want to know what happened too,” said Fluttershy as she hugged Mjǫllna with one of her wings.

“We all want to know,” seconded Rarity. “We might have our… differences, but if my friends are concerned about you, I’ll add my two bits if that helps you to go through the ordeal.”

Drakkar moved his head slowly to check that everypony in the room nodded at Rarity’s statement. As he politely obliged, Vínviðr returned to Mjǫllna’s side, tenderly holding her hoof. After letting out a long sigh, Drakkar’s horn began to glow, slowly growing in intensity.

“Are you going to use the spell I taught you?” asked Twilight with a casual smile.

“I have to,” replied Drakkar as he closed his eyes. “I wrote an edda about what happened, and I have never translated it because I never thought I… I needed to tell it somewhere else.”

“Why not just tell us what happened?” asked Spike with a shrug.

“Spike, that’s rude!” interjected Twilight with a frown.

“She deserves the best I can offer,” replied Drakkar, slowly raising his head as the brightness of his horn became much more intense. “Á Veiðǫrvar húsi,” he started as a stream of magic burst from his horn, creating a screen where the story came to life.

-o-

Inside a longhouse, a couple pegasi mares worked on a small, colt-size overcoat. The older one had a beautiful orange coat, with a singing rooster head covering her flank. Her short golden mane was covered in a napkin, only leaving a visible lock hanging on her left side. Her citrine eyes paid attention to the other young mare as she tried to knit the piece of clothing.

“You’re doing well, Hveiti,” said the older pegasus with a smile.

“Thank you, mother,” she replied with a proud grin. The young mare’s teal mane was tied in a ponytail, resting on her back as the tip barely covered the spring of wheat that was her cutie mark. Her mane contrasted perfectly with her orange coat. Though she appreciated her mother’s compliment, she didn’t move her turquoise eyes from the overcoat. “Do you think Drakkar will like it?”

“I’m sure of it, dear,” said the older pegasus.

As the two mares kept chatting, a stallion and a colt, both unicorns, moved inside the house. The two of them had their hooves dirty with soil.

“We’re done with the crops for now,” said the large, dark blue stallion as he wiped the sweat from his forehead, putting away some of the long brown locks of mane that had stuck to it.

“Can I go out and play now, father?” said the young Drakkar. He was a perfect miniature version of his current self, save for the lack of cutie mark and his mane and tail being shorter. The former was only shoulder length, and the latter was too short to even caress the floor with the tip yet.

“You told me you wanted to come hunting with me, Drakkar,” replied the father with a raised eyebrow.

“Oh, right!” cried Drakkar with a joyful hop. “I’ll spot every single animal out there!”

“Veiðǫr, my love,” said the older mare, “are you sure that bringing Drakkar with you is a good idea?”

“Hani, he’s twelve already,” replied Veiðǫr with a smirk. “I think it’s time for him to start getting used to the family business.”

“I know, but why don’t you take him fishing instead?” insisted Hani.

“Because the pony I work for has enough fish for a few weeks, and his jerky supplies are running out,” explained Veiðǫr patiently, but sounding slightly annoyed, as if they’ve had the conversation several times before.

“Father, we’re just worried about you and Drakkar, that’s all,” added Hveiti. “We know elks don’t pose a threat, but you’re still walking into úlfsvetir territory.”

“That’s what patrols are there for, Hveiti; I trust them enough to know that they’ve taken care of them.” He then looked at Drakkar, patting him on the back with a smile. “Come on, get the bow and the quiver; I’m going to teach you to hunt.”

“Yes, father!”

Without another word, Drakkar trotted across the longhouse and grabbed the wooden bow and the leather quiver, the arrows making a distinctive sound as they clashed against each other. Veiðǫr took everything away from his son and moved towards the door.

“We’ll be here for dinner, Hani,” he said with a quick nod.

“Don’t worry, husband; everything will be ready by the time you’re back,” replied Hani. “Take care, Drakkar,” she added with a quick wave of her hoof.

“I will! Bye, mother! Bye, sister!”

“Aren’t you forgetting something, brother?” inquired Hveiti with a raised eyebrow.

Both mares stared at the young colt with raised eyebrow as he returned a confused look. It wasn’t until Hani tipped her cheek with her hoof that Drakkar realized that they wanted. As Veiðǫr chuckled, Drakkar trotted towards her mother and sister and pecked them on the cheeks.

“The thrill of the hunt makes the youngster forgetful,” said Veiðǫr, laughing as Drakkar trotted back to him. “Alright, kid; let’s move.”

As both ponies got out of the house, Drakkar’s ears perked up at the sound of his name.

“Drakkar!” called an Earth pony colt from far away as he galloped towards them, followed closely by a unicorn filly.

“Megin-gjarð! Kynngi!” replied Drakkar back with a waving hoof.

The Earth pony colt was imposing for his age. Despite from being as young as Drakkar, he stood taller than him and the rest of the foals, and he had a worryingly powerful build for such a young pony. Due to his oversize, some ponies called him “jǫtunhestr”, the giant pony, but after a couple beatings, the nickname was never pronounced loudly again when he’s around. His coat was the color of copper and showed a dark brown short mane that barely covered his ears, and his large, rubble-color eyes shone full of youth and energy.

Next to him stayed Kynngi, a filly of outstanding beauty. She was the only female of the happy trio, and a proud seer apprentice. Despite being a fast learner when it came to magic, her enthusiasm made it a bit hard to control her outbursts during her practices. Her amethyst eyes contrasted perfectly with her salmon coat and long, wavy crimson mane.

“Ready for the glíma, Drakkar?” asked Megin-gjarð with a wide grin. “Kynngi wants to hang around too.”

“I’m here to make sure you don’t cause trouble again,” replied Kynngi with a raised eyebrow. “Remember the last time you got too far and broke the neighbor’s fence and scared his cattle? You had to work for him for a few weeks.”

“Sorry, but I’m going hunting with my father,” said Drakkar as he scratched the back of his neck. “We’ll arrive at dinner time, so I guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that.”

“Be careful out there, Drakkar,” warned Kynngi with a concerned voice.

“I’ll be fine,” he assured as he looked at Veiðǫr with a wide, proud grin. “I know father will take care of me.”

“Let’s go, son,” said Veiðǫr, caressing Drakkar’s head and messing with his mane. “We have to get going.”

“Yes, father.” With a wink and a hit on his chest, Drakkar turned to his friends. “I’ll be back and we’ll play tomorrow. Take care until then!”

-o-

Both ponies scouted the northern forests, searching for prey and watching their step, for the fallen leaves crunched noisily under their hooves.

“Listen, son,” explained his father, “one of the keys to being a hunter is making sure you are silent as a snake. A lot of animals’ hearing is very keen, and even a broken twig will make them know you’re there.”

“Yes, father,” replied Drakkar. Though he had been mimicking his father’s constant looking at the floor and forward alternatively as they walked together, he now did it for a logical reason. “Anything else I should know?”

“A lot, but we’ll go little by little.”Veiðǫr sniffed the air around him and looked his surroundings, noticing a scratched tree close to them. “Ah, we’re close, my son. Look,” he said, pointing at the scratches.

“There’s something close, right?” asked Drakkar as he touched the damaged tree. “An animal has marked this tree.”

“Antlers,” seconded Veiðǫr with an approving nod. “Probably from an elk.”

“Should we go for the males only?” inquired Drakkar, to which his father replied with a surprised look.

“Very good, little one!” replied his father, caressing his forehead. “When spotting an elk herd, we usually hunt males down and let females alive to let them breed. That way, we assure ourselves a constant supply of meat.”

“I see.” Drakkar gave a nod and chuckled as his father kept close to him. The sound of shaking leaves made both ponies’ ears perk up and turn to the shaking bush. “Father,” he whispered as he slowly walked back, hiding behind the stallion.

“Don’t worry, Drakkar,” he replied lowly nocking an arrow on the bow and magically pulling the string. “I’m ready.”

As the stallion remained motionless, waiting for whatever was on the other side of the foliage, Drakkar slowly moved forward, staying as close to his father as possible. A loud bark came from behind the bush, catching them off-guard. To their surprise, from among the leaves walked out a small bear. Despite being a very young specimen, it was still larger than Drakkar. When it saw the two ponies, the animal fell on its haunches and stared at them.

“A bear cub?” inquired Veiðǫr with a raised eyebrow as he lowered the bow.

“It’s beautiful, father!” exclaimed Drakkar, trotting in front of the animal. “Hail, baby bear!” he greeted cheerfully. “Are you lost?”

“Stay here, Drakkar,” warned his father, checking their surroundings. “The mother must be around here somewhere.”

“Can I play with the cub while we wait?” When Drakkar spoke those words, the bear got closer to him and sniffed around his neck, making the colt giggle. “Hey, that tickles!” he said, softly pushing it away.

Veiðǫr looked around him a second time, slightly distracted by Drakkar’s laughter. However, the place looked deserted. Despite the marks they spotted on the trees before, the land seemed worryingly quiet. “Okay, but be very careful. It might be a cub, but it’s still big and strong and could hurt you. Hopefully, I won’t be away too long,” said the stallion before resuming with a more severe voice. “But don’t grow fond of the cub; we’re taking it with its mother as soon as I find her.”

With those words, Veiðǫr wandered among the bushes the cub had come from. Drakkar’s giggling made him chuckle softly, but shook his head, somehow knowing that his advice had gone nowhere. When he looked to his right, the sight of a bear lying on the ground made the stallion’s eyes widen in horror. Some lesser facial traits identified the animal as a female, being surely the mother of the cub. What terrified Veiðǫr, upon further inspection, were the frostbitten wounds that she had across her side. Chunks of ice were scattered around her, signs that she had been able to take one of the beasts down and made them retreat before succumbing to her wounds.

“Úlfsvetir,” he growled, tenderly resting his hoof on her forehead. “Rest in peace, proud warrior, for your sacrifice won’t be in vain.”

Without a moment to lose, Veiðǫr galloped back to where Drakkar and the cub were. The young colt had been playing with the small bear, probably pushing and fighting, and was sitting next to it, exhausted. The cub was lying down on one of its sides while staring at Drakkar, who turned to face his father when he arrived. However, his ears drooped when he noticed the grim look on Veiðǫr’s face.

“Father?” said Drakkar. “Have you found the cub’s mother?”

Veiðǫr closed his eyes and shook his head slowly. “Úlfsvetir attacked her. We must return to report that the packs are moving sooner this season.”

“But what about her?” insisted Drakkar, hugging the cub as he kept eye contact with his father.

“We’re—” Veiðǫr stopped, blinking at his son’s words. “Her? How do you know it’s a female?”

To this, Drakkar blushed, looking away shamefully. “I… I was playing pushing with her and she fell on her side. I accidentally looked there and…”

With a loud laugh at the colt’s behavior, Veiðǫr shook his hoof. “It’s okay, Drakkar; that’ll make naming her easier.”

Drakkar’s ears perked up again, followed by a slowly widening grin and sparkling eyes. “Does that mean we can keep her?”

“Of course!” replied Veiðǫr with a smile. “Her mother fought hard to protect her, and we’re going to continue with her task. Besides, you know that bears are a good omen, and apparently she likes you already,” he added with a chuckle as the cub got up and pushed Drakkar with a paw. “Do you have a name in mind?”

Drakkar and the young cub stared at each other, tilting their heads in opposite directions. After a moment, the colt pointed at her and spoke. “Gisli.” Though his father nodded at the name, the cub stared in confusion. Raising an eyebrow, Drakkar hit his chest with a hoof. “Drakkar.” Following that, he pointed at her again, repeating her name. “Gisli.” This time, the bear replied with a loud bark and walking towards him, standing clumsily on her hind legs. Veiðǫr stood back, staring at how the cub stood almost as tall as him. After a moment, the cub fell slowly on all fours.

“I… think she likes it,” said Veiðǫr with a chuckle.

“Yes! Welcome to the family, Gisli!” cried Drakkar, jumping towards the bear and giving her a hug. Veiðǫr laughed at how his son’s front hooves were barely able to surround the cub’s neck.

“Come on, we have to leave before the úlfsvetir come back for the mother,” warned Veiðǫr as he walked back to the city, closely followed by a joyfully hopping Drakkar and Gisli.

-o-

The images created through the spell slowly faded away as Drakkar stopped talking and pressed a hoof against his forehead with a slightly painful grimace.

“Drakkar, are you okay?” asked Twilight, snapping out of the story’s charm. “You might need to take some rest. “

“You told me the spell was easy, and that even foals could use it,” grunted Drakkar.

“And it is, but even a small weight become a heavy burden on the long run,” she explained patiently. She then looked at the rest of the mares with a slightly concerned look. “Girls, Drakkar needs some rest before moving on.” As everypony nodded approvingly, Twilight guided Drakkar to the restroom to give him some medicine.

“Did you see him?!” said Pinkie Pie, pressing her cheeks with her hooves. “He was fluffy wuffy adorable!”

“And a pet bear, no less! That’s radical!” seconded Rainbow Dash. “No wonder he gets along with Harry! Right, Fluttershy?”

“Oh, yes,” admitted Fluttershy, showing a sad frown. “Though I’m sad about the cub’s mother. She tried to defend her from harm.”

“Ah don’t think that teaching a youngster to hunt so soon might be a good idea,” said Applejack with a shrug. “But then again, that’s a different country and it’s the family business.”

“It’s just like my mother used to tell me,” said Vínviðr with a nostalgic look on her face.

“It’s really a delightful tale, don’t you think, Mjǫllna?” asked Rarity, turning to look at the mare. However, instead of finding a joyful expression, Rarity only saw terror in her face. Her skin had grown pale and was covering her mouth with a hoof. “Darling, what’s wrong?” she asked with deep worry, grabbing her free hoof.

At Rarity’s touch, Mjǫllna clenched the unicorn’s hooves with hers. “This is the last gift of one of my dearest friends,” quoted Mjǫllna, remembering the words Drakkar told him when she asked about the conflict with Rarity.

“What are you talking about?” insisted Rarity, surprised at her behavior.

Mjǫllna took a deep breath, shaking her head slowly. “I have a horrible feeling about where this will go.”

-o-

Hearth Fire rested on her bed as her hooves pressed her forehead. As she looked at the wooden frame of the turned mirror, the mare sighed in relief. After the frustrating she had gone through due to the memories of her past, she was able to slowly soothe again. However, those visions had taken their toll on her. Solar Beam was crazy for both Mjǫllna and herself, and she had missed his warm embrace during the two decades they’d been away from each other. No matter what happened, Solar Beam had never been an irresponsible father. The money and toys he sent through the years proved that he was an enviable paternal figure despite his lack of confidence in the matter. Though Mjǫllna’s joy was obvious when she unwrapped the boxes to find new toys to play with, Hearth Fire’s happiness was twice as her daughter’s; both for seeing the filly happy and to know that Solar Beam still cared for all of them.

As her mind dwelled through the memories of her past, she remembered the letters that came with the money envelopes and that she kept them in the upper drawer of the left nightstand. Without a second thought, she opened it to find the bulky stack. There were removed parts in most of them, either cut out of erased to the point of being unreadable. Hearth Fire refused to read about Solar Beam portraying himself as a failure, but the lack of sender in the letters made it impossible for her to reply to him to say otherwise, or even to tell him about Mjǫllna. As she read them, her eyes slowly became watery and a slowly growing smile sprung.

Hearth Fire’s ears perked up at the sudden cry of a foal that came from inside the house. Snapping out of her nostalgic trance-like state, she carefully rearranged the letters and put them inside their drawer before getting out of her room and walking down the stairs. As her mind raced trying to understand what a foal was doing inside her house, she heard a familiar voice singing a lullaby, making her heart sink. Without a doubt, Hearth Fire flew down to the living room, freezing on the spot at impossible sight.

In front of her, Solar Beam was sitting on the couch, trying in vain to cheer a months old foal up. After a closer inspection, Hearth Fire recognized Mjǫllna’s coat and mane colors. The filly was crying her lungs out, pressing her forehead against the young stallion’s chest, but his melodious voice wasn’t doing anything to make her happy. The mare didn’t move a muscle at the scene as Solar Beam tried everything, from flying around the room with her to tickling her with his feather’s wings, but nothing was working.

Hearth Fire didn’t even give herself a moment to consider how it was possible for the stallion to look as young as the last time they saw each other, or the fact Mjǫllna was a foal; she simply galloped towards them. However, she came to a sudden halt when she took the first step, to which Solar Beam quickly turned to face her, the fury in his eyes freezing the blood in her veins.

“What have you done to our daughter?” asked Solar Beam coldly as he wrapped the filly with his wings. “When Mjǫllna was born, we swore we’d do everything to make our little filly happy. And even then you made her cry! What’s wrong with you?!”

Hearth Fire’s lips moved without making a sound, shaking her head in disbelief as her mind tried and failed to understand what was going on. “I-I-I—” she stuttered, only to get verbally overrun by the stallion.

“You what? What justifies doing this to our daughter? Where did that loving wife and mother go?” grunted Solar Beam.

Despite the attack, Hearth Fire didn’t cower at the words, replying with an indignant huff. “How dare you to say that about me? You left us! I had to take care of her with my mother since you left! She tried to keep you here, but you didn’t listen!”

“Do you really need me to remind you why I wouldn’t stay no matter what Vínviðr said? Remember the words you said to me?” To Hearth Fire’s horror, Solar Beam’s voice suddenly changed to match her teenage voice. “I don’t have time for your whining! Our Mjǫllna needs a real stallion for a father, not a crybaby!”

Hearth Fire remained motionless as the filly’s crying was the only sound in the room. When the mare opened her mouth in an attempt to speak, Solar Beam interrupter her again with a swift move of his wing.

“You were my wife, Eldstaðr,” he said with his normal voice. At the sound of her full name, Hearth Fire’s ears drooped and she took as step back. “You knew that getting into the Wonderbolt Academy was my life! Your words were the only thing that lifted my spirit when I felt down!” With every sentence, Solar Beam walked forward, forcing Hearth Fire back. “And you told me that after failing at what I considered something important! I needed to be able to succeed in the toughest of challenges if I wanted to be a good father for Mjǫllna!”

“Do you think I haven’t regretted those words in all these years?!” cried Hearth Fire back, shaking her head as she tried to keep the tears from falling. “I was horribly busy with an important order and had to put up with an insufferable customer! I know it’s not an excuse, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel good for saying that! When I tried to apologize, you had already left! I searched for you for hours, trying to make up for what I did!”

Solar Beam looked down to see Mjǫllna, the young filly still sobbing between his forelegs. “I can forgive you for what you did to me, but this?” he said, showing Hearth Fire the crying foal. “This makes me regret the time when I called you my beloved wife. I expected more from you, Eldstaðr.”

“Beamie, wait!” begged Hearth Fire, throwing herself to his hooves, grabbing them tightly. “You have to listen to me!”

Solar Beam looked down upon her with a frown. “I refuse to listen to you; nothing is worth it if I have to see Mjǫllna like this.”

With those words, the stallion took off, releasing himself from Hearth Fire’s grip and flying away. The mare quickly got up and tried to follow him as he got out of the house, but when she flew outside of the living room, she found herself in the empty streets. There was nopony out there, and not even the slightest trace of Solar Beam’s whereabouts. Completely powerless, Hearth Fire fell on her knees, drowning in her sorrow as she rested her forehead on the ground.

“Please, don’t leave me again,” begged Hearth Fire in a low voice as she hugged herself with her wings. She then looked to the sky, letting out a soul-tearing wail with all the strength of her lungs. “Beamie, come back!

-o-

Hearth Fire’s own screams woke her up, jumping out of her bed in a pile of sweat. Her ragged breathing hurt her slightly sore throat and her reddened eyes were moist with tears. She lifted a wing to cover her face from the sunlight as she looked around her, mildly disoriented. After she recomposed herself, she looked at the turned mirror, charging to it and turning it to its normal position, grabbing the frame tightly as she screamed at her own reflection.

Make it stop!” she roared, shaking the large mirror. “Keep Beamie out of this! He doesn’t know! He doesn’t hate me! He never would!” She furiously shook the mirror again with all her strength, almost lifting it as she kept screaming and throwing threats at it. “Show yourself, Gleipna! Show yourself and say that Beamie hates me! I dare you!” she roared as she slammed the wooden frame against the floor. Despite the loud noise it caused, the mirror suffered no damage, reflecting the enraged Hearth Fire that stood in front of it.

Though the dís didn’t appear in the mirror no matter how much Hearth Fire demanded it, the mare’s limbs shook under her weight and fell noisily on her hind quarters. Her forehead then hit the mirror as she closed her eyes shut. The seconds seemed to stretch into minutes and hours as Hearth Fire whimpered in silence. Her mind had fought against everything that had been thrown to her, but her stalwart stubbornness couldn’t take it anymore.

“Forgive me,” begged Hearth Fire without looking up. “I’m sorry, granny. I’ve failed all of you. My mother, my daughter, you…” Her voice trembled as she tried to speak the last name that came to mind. “B… Beamie. I’ve failed Beamie.” Though the tears didn’t let her see clearly, she turned to face the nightstand where the letters from her husband rested. “He has never been here for more than twenty years. And he still took time to make sure that Mjǫllna never lacked anything. If he were here to see what I’ve done…”

Hearth Fire’s mind blocked any possible end of that sentence. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she looked at the mirror, speaking with a pleading voice.

“Grandma, please,” she asked as her lower lip trembled. “Help me. Give me something… anything to fix the damage I’ve caused.”

-o-

After a short break, both Twilight and Drakkar returned from the restroom, the stallion showing a slightly less pained expression. Of all the mares sitting them, only Mjǫllna stared at him with deep concern and sorrow, for she was the only who knew what awaited to be told.

“I apologize for the sudden break, everypony,” said Drakkar as he pressed his hoof firmly against his head.

“We understand, Hófkarl,” replied Vínviðr with a light bow. “Whenever you're ready you might continue.”

Drakkar looked around him to see how the rest of the mares nodded in approval. His horn glowed dimly as he resumed telling his story before bursting once more into the magic screen to the stallion's past.

-o-

The young Drakkar took great care of Gisli as she grew up. During the first few weeks, the young bear was still in nursing age, and the colt fed her with a bottle he bought at the animal training grounds' hospital. He also begged for his mother and sister to knit a sheet for her not to get cold. However, despite the mare's willingness, they didn't have that much spare wool to make one. That didn't stop Drakkar from offering the bear the best he had; he gave his own sheet to her, sleeping with the animal from them on.

Once Gisli became old enough, Drakkar would take her to the river to fish. The young bear quickly got the hang of it, clawing salmons out with ease after only a few failed attempts. The young colt, however, missed every time, his short spear sinking in the sand under the water. In frustration, he threw the weapon away before sitting down and enjoying the sight of his friend catching her meal. He paid close attention to how Gisli waited for a specific moment to slap the water. After a few days, he noticed that the patterns, though random, had some predictable parts. Disregarding his father's spear, he began using his own hooves to take fishes out.

The townsponies regarded Drakkar highly; as the relationship between the stallion and Gisli improved, the ponies in charge of the shrines and training grounds offered to take care of the bear. Though he loved the attention his friend was getting, the bear growled at any pony that dared to take her from them. Most ponies regarded this as a great omen, and some of the trainers considered Drakkar a possible candidate for the famed bear riders.

As years went by, Drakkar and Gisli became inseparable. The animal waited at the barracks' door during his training sessions. The family business split in two; Veiðǫr would go hunting to the forest and Gisli and Drakkar would go fishing. The now grown stallion had mastered the bears' fish-catching style and had adapted to some of their habits, which helped a lot during their patrols. As a unicorn, he was taught the language of bears and the spell to transform his words to roars, growls and barks, though he also practiced the non-unicorn way.

The academy training was ferocious, and there were few days where Drakkar returned home without a bruise or far from exhausted. Despite being friends, Megin-gjarð never held back when it came to training, being the responsible of some of Drakkar's bruises. Sometimes, if Drakkar looked way more beaten than usual, Gisli would offer to take the stallion home.

Despite the training grounds being quite merciless, it also had its good moments. Both Drakkar and Megin-gjarð completed their training, getting praises from their parents and mentors. As for Kynngi, she was able to master Scandineighvian magic just soon enough to join her friends in their patrol group. Having been friends since they were foals, they were assigned to a small group together, knowing that they would work better as a team than others.

Soldiers!” cried a sturdy dark green pegasus as he walked in front of a group of ponies. His long alabaster mane tied back in a pony tail was covered in snowflakes. As he spoke, his bronze eyes scanned the troops. “Winter has come, and you all know what that means! Úlfsvetir packs are going to start threatening our borders, and we're going to double the patrols as usual! I'll be calling the ponies that will take this week's groups. Take a step forward as I name you! Drakkar Veiðǫrvarson!”

The stallion obeyed, followed closely by Gisli. Despite being younger, he was just like his current self, only lacking the bear pelt. His attempt to show a neutral expression were betrayed by his slowly growing excited smile. As the captain, his yellow mane was overflowing with snow. He still lacked his cutie mark, but being blessed with a bear companion made everypony overlook that detail, though it wasn't a bit deal in their society. “Ready to serve, Captain Brim-sker!” he said as he hit his bare chest with a hoof.

The pegasus nodded in approval at the response, taking another look at the small wax board he had the names written down on. “Megin-gjarð Hǫggson!” he called.

Among the small group of ponies outstood the cyclopean earth pony, and most of them slowly followed him with their eyes as he took the step forward. Much to the copper-color stallion's dismay, he had lived up to his mockery name's expectations; he was a whole head taller than Drakkar, and he was one of the tallest ponies in their academy. An ox pelt covered Megin-gjarð's powerful shoulders, which doubled in girth even the bulkiest stallions'. A layer of fat made his muscles less obvious at plain sight, but the fact that such a behemoth was able to stand, walk and even gallop was evidence enough that the so-called jǫtunhestr had a peerless might.

The ox hide was slightly hidden behind a bushy, well groomed brown beard that matched his wavy, shoulder-length mane. Tied to his right foreleg rested a round iron shield that was made specifically for him. The chain shirt he wore had taken him years of saving to purchase it, for the amount of iron used for it was twice the normal one. His strong flanks showed a shield with a belt wrapping it, the buckle having a thunder as a relief.

At your command, Captain,” announced Megin-gjarð with a deep voice, staring down at his superior with his rubble-colored eyes as he showed a confident smile.

Brim-sker showed no sign of discomfort at the gargantuan pony that dwarfed every single soldier in their army. On the contrary, he had kept an eye on Megin-gjarð and admired the stallion that had become a paragon of Scandineighvian warfare. ”Kynngi Tunglskindóttir!” he said, looking at the only mare among the squad.

Donned in a short robe decorated with Futhark runes across the neck and sleeves and wearing a couple cufflinks with falcon feathers, the salmon-coat mare stepped forward. As she did, her long crimson mane and tail, both tied up in loose ponytails, left trails on the snow. Even under her robes, her exuberant curves were noticeable, specially her wide hips; but nothing matched her aquamarine eyes, which stared coldly at the horizon. A ring with cat whiskers attached to it decorated her horn. “Seer ready to serve,” she said with a sweet voice, slightly imposing due to the tenacity of her words.

You three will come with me for the usual patrol across the Northern border,” said Brim-sker with a nod, before looking at the other ponies. “The rest of you will go to the southern border of the city. Remember; don't go further than three miles away.”

Yes, Captain!” replies the ponies at the same time before trotting down the street.

Brim-sker kept his imposing visage as the group moved away, only to slowly show a more informal smile to the three ponies in front of him. “Alright, crew, let's get moving.”

-o-

The four ponies and Gisli moved through the snowy fields beyond the city. A trail of hoofsteps were left behind, slowly getting covered by the few snowflakes that fall. Leading the group were Brim-sker and Megin-gjarð, followed closely by Drakkar, who was flanked by Gisli and Kynngi.

Nothing for now,” announced Brim-sker with a growl.

They had been patrolling the Northern fields for a couple hours and they had yet to see a pack of úlfvetir around. Being aware of the creature's powers only made the situation more unsettling. Winter wolves could travel through snow as sharks do through water, making them impossible to track. However, the beasts were only able to make use of this ability in the mountains, where even Megin-gjarð could find himself buried in snow. After hunting the creatures for centuries, they'd also found that úlsvetir didn't heal naturally, requiring being buried in the snow to regenerate damaged body parts, and even then the process was slow.

Something's wrong indeed,” seconded Megin-gjarð while looking around him. “We should've spotted a pack a while ago.”

Gisli suddenly stopped walking,making Drakkar stay in place too, followed by the rest of the group.

What's going on, Gisli?” asked Drakkar.

The bear didn't reply at first, only sniffing the air around her. At this gesture, the ponies began searching around the area without a second thought. Soon, Gisli started barking to their left, specifically to the snowy ground. Drakkar's eyes widened in shock before screaming to the rest.

They're here!” cried Drakkar as he jumped to Gisli's side.

The other ponies took defensive stances, with Megin-Gjarð covering Kynngi with his shield, which was large enough to conceal a grown mare. Brim-sker extended his wings and unsheathed his sword, holding the short hilt tightly in his mouth, ready to charge against anything that jumped on them. Behind Megin-gjarð's shield, Kynngi's horn began to shine with raw magic.

Several portions of white field began to shake and rise as menacing growls were heard from under it. As the slumbering úlfsvetir woke and stood on all fours, the snow slipped down from their bodies, revealing their horrible bodies. They were made entirely of chunks of sculpted ice, which gave them a coarse appearance, but with a little imagination, you could call them “wolves”.

Everypony ready?” asked Brim-sker without looking away from the wolves.

About a dozen,” growled Megin-gjarð with an amused grin. “These monsters are learning. Kynngi,” he continued as he looked under the shield, only to be greeted by an intense glow.

Put the shield away!” ordered the mare, to which Megin-gjarð obeyed without hesitation. As a couple monsters turned to face her, Kynngi took a step forward, challenging the úlfsvetir. “Eldr múspel sól!” she cried as she lowered her head, pointing at them with the horn.

When the last word's echo faded, the aura changed to a fiery color, expelling a cone of fire that caught the two wolves off-guard. While one of them was able to react on time and the spell only hit its tail, the other one wasn't so lucky. The merciless flames direly affected the monster, the ice that formed him melting by the seconds. Its legs became too frail to support its own weight, and as soon as it tried to move away, one of them snapped, making it fall on its side.

Drakkar and Gisli stood back to back, watching for any monster coming at them. Brim-sker stayed by Kynngi's side, ready to protect the seer from the beasts. Megin-gjarð, however, charged against them with his shield raised, taking three of the creatures to the ground with a ferocious rush, a deafening sound of ice against metal overcoming the howls and barks.

Gisli mauled every úlfsvetir that tried to jump to her neck, though Drakkar was having a hard time behind her. In his attempts to protect the bear, he had sacrificed mobility and, despite being strong for a unicorn, he could barely keep one of the beasts at bay. Despite the thick fur, the monster's paws were still freezing, feeling the slowly increasing pain on his shoulders as he pushed the wolf's neck away to avoid getting bitten. The úlfsvetir's chill breath in his muzzle made him frown. Noticing that the beast was leaning on him, Drakkar took a long step aside, showing a wide, sardonic grin as the creature fell off balance and fell on its ide. Without a second doubt, the unicorn slammed the creature's ice head with both forehooves, shattering it into pieces. The monster's decapitated body shook and ran on the spot for a brief moment, trying to flee until it stopped moving.

After the first moments of the fight, the úlfsvetir had taken a specific strategy; of the ten remaining wolves, three were surrounding Megin-gjarð, yet keeping themselves at a safety distance from the mastodon-size stallion. Their attempts to corner him had failed so far, and the beasts were simply distracting him, hoping that the others would finish with the rest of the giant's pack to overwhelm him together.

Another three were trying to separate Brim-sker from Kynngi to take her down, but the Captain remained stalwart, slashing his sword in arcs that forced the wolves back. Already aware of the mare's capabilities, the úlfsvetir had paid more attention to her, and her spells barely hit them, if at all.

The remaining four took turns to try and attack Gisli, the ferocious bear flanked by Drakkar as both fought their way out of their cornering. Both sides exchanged roars and barks as they walked in circles, each one looking for open defenses to jump at. Two úlfsvetir rushed to Drakkar, forcing him to jump to his right to dodge the attack. The creatures now stood between the stallion and Gisli, growling menacingly as they followed him with their crystalized eyes. Whenever he tried to go back to the bear's side, one of the wolves tried to bite his neck. On her own, Gisli began walking back as the úlfsvetir assaulted tirelessly. In one of the attacks, one of the two creatures jumped towards Gisli, only to get mauled and thrown back. As soon as the first beast fell to the ground, the second one pounced over the bear, its right front paw landing on Gisli's eye and resting its hind legs on her belly. As the beast barked with ferocity, its claws shredded her right eye and tore her body, causing severe frostbite in the damaged skin. In extreme pain, Gisli let out loud yaps as she tried to wrestle the beast down.

Gisli!” screamed Drakkar as he witnessed the scene in horror.

Drakkar, watch out!” called Megin-gjarð from afar.

The warning came far too late, though. As Drakkar began to gallop towards Gisli's to assist her, he was tackled by one of the wolves. As the bear collapsed on the snow with pained growls, her attacker stood over her, howling victoriously. The rest of the pack joined it, a cacophony of incoming doom that made the ponies cringe. Drakkar shook his head in disbelief as words failed to come out, only to snap out of his shock when an ice-cold drop of saliva fell on his neck. He turned to meet the chilling breath of the úlfsvetir that had tackled him, its crystalline tongue dripping expectant. With renewed confidence, the wolves assaulted again.

Drakkar's sorrow was soon replaced by a frown as his breathing became faster and heavier. Mist came out of his mouth between gritted teeth, his horn glowing with great intensity. Before the beast had time to bite Drakkar's neck, the stallion bucked the creature away, cracking its lower half slightly and getting it off him. Drakkar got up with a jump, throwing a loud, bellowing roar that resounded across the field. He quickly turned to the úlfsvetir standing on Gisli, and he charged without a second thought. After tacking the beast down, the stallion began punching the beast's icy head relentlessly, breaking small shards of it with every hit and not stopping until it became a cold, formless stump.

The remaining úlfsvetir focused their attention on Drakkar for a moment, enough distraction for Megin-gjarð to bash one of them with his shield, crushing it against a tree they had tried to corner him against, shattering its body to pieces as the head and haunches trembled for a moment before coming to a halt.

Kynngi, it's our chance to separate the pack!” cried Brim-sker.

With a nod, the mare began accumulating large amounts of magic. “Máttr jafnvægi hrind!” cried Kynngi as she lowered her head, aiming at the charging wolves with her ferociously glowing horn.

An unrelenting force blast flung the úlfsvetir away and scattered them across the battlefield. Once divided in smaller groups, the ponies charged to counterattack. Megin-gjarð, who shattered the creatures apart with a single punch of his heavy iron shield, switched his attention between the creatures and Drakkar.

After losing another two pack members, the úlfsvetir barked at each other, only to turn around and run away. However, the frenzied Drakkar jumped on one of them, stomping the body with both hooves as he bit one of its forelegs. To everypony's horror, Drakkar pulled with all his rage-enhanced strength, ripping the frozen limb apart and swinging it to beat the beast with it. The limp creature tried to get up and return with its fleeing pack, but Drakkar slammed it again with its ice limb, breaking the improvised weapon and the monster's body in the process. Spitting what remained of the icy appendage, Drakkar roared again and galloped towards the remaining wolves, only to get tackled by Megin-gjarð, who rested his weight on Drakkar to immobilize him.

Drakkar, by Þórshamarr!” cried Megin-gjarð as his friend used all his strength to set himself free. ”Calm down! They're gone now!” The giant stallion had to move his head back, for Drakkar tried to bite him in his attempts to get him off.

What his oldest friend didn't achieved, a pained moan from Gisli did. The sound of his bear companion slowly brought him back to his senses. His breathing slowly returned to normal; still ragged due to the tremendous physical effort, but not violent anymore. As he began to look for Gisli, Megin-gjarð got up from him and pointed his friend where the bear was.

Gisli!“ cried Drakkar as he rushed towards her. He gasped in horror at the sight of the bear. Her right eye had been clawed out with a vertical cut, bloodless due to frostbite. Gisli covered the wounds of her belly, but when the stallion pushed her weakened paw away, he saw the severe damage the úlfsvetir had caused. ”It's okay, Gisli, I'm here now!”

Brim-sker walked towards Drakkar, followed closely by Kynngi and Megin-gjarð. The Captain peeked at the animal's wounds from a distance, keeping Drakkar's friends from disturbing him.

Is she going to be okay, Captain?” asked Kynngi with great concern, her lips trembling at the sight in front of her.

To her horror, Brim-sker shook his head slowly. “Frostbitten wounds are a huge deal even when they're just skindeep.” He discreetly pointed at Gisli's belly and eye wounds. “Those are very deep; she probably has suffered internal damage. I'm afraid that-”

No!” roared Drakkar, shaking his head furiously. “Don't listen to him, Gisli! You're a strong bear; you will make it! You have to...” the stallion drowned a sob as he rested his forehead on the bear's neck. “You will make it!”

Gisli enveloped Drakkar with her right foreleg, letting out a short number of low grunts.

Don't say that!” scolded Drakkar as he grabbed Gisli's cheeks and stared at her only working eye. “You're going to live! We'll go fishing together again! You don't have to come scouting with me; you can stay with mother at home and wait for me!”

Did she just say—” started Megin-gjarð, but Kynngi's furious stare shut him up.

I know what she said,” she whispered with a frown. “But now it's not the time to even think about that!”

Drakkar,” called Brim-sker. “I'll return to the barracks to report the situation and call for some help to take Gisli back.” Drakkar didn't reply, only lying on the snow next to the dying bear. He rested his head on her side, feeling the weight of her foreleg on his back. Before leaving, Brim-sker looked at the other two soldiers. “You two will stay here to both help the others find you and take care of those two.”

With saddened nods, Drakkar's friends saluted at the Captain as he left. The heartbreaking wails from behind them made it hard for both ponies to look at their friend. A stallion who had never shed a tear despite suffering serious wounds during training sessions had now reddened eyes and moist cheeks. Drakkar gently hugged Gisli's neck, letting out a soul-tearing scream when the bear's breathing stopped.

Neither Megin-gjarð nor Kynngi had had the heart to say a word to Drakkar; they simply lay next to him, hugging the whimpering stallion. When the support group arrived, they lowered their heads at the scene, giving Drakkar their sympathies. After putting Gisli's lifeless body on a cartwheel, Drakkar finally got up, only to walk next to it on their way home.

-o-

Drakkar remained at home since the incident, mourning Gisli's passing when duty didn't call. Knowing how much his son loved going fishing with the bear, Veiðǫr offered him to switch jobs to ease his burden. For a long time, Drakkar would focus on hunting while his father would fish in the river. The patrols were much more melancholic too since Drakkar didn't have Gisli around. Megin-gjarð's usual jokes didn't seem to affect him, and no amount of Kynngi's kind words were able to cheer him. Even after the patrolling was done, Drakkar would gently refuse to share a drink with his friends, only to return home until he was called again.

The whole neighborhood where Drakkar lived showed their sympathies. A lot of ponies had seen the young Drakkar and Gisli grow for years, and the friendship that bound them together had been borrowed as an example to follow in a few stories across Scandineighvia, but never got popular enough to get known in different cities of Fimbulvetr; no having witnessed the true story made it hard to believe.

A lot of ponies, lead by Brim-sker, begged to the Jarl for a warrior's funeral for Gisli, as she had died a warrior's death. Having heard about the events at the Northern fields from several sources that told the same story, the Jarl approved the event. In the town square, a pyre had been set, and Gisli's corpse rested on it, covered with a linen sheet. Everypony was there, including the Jarl Hríðvetr himself, both to bid the bear the last farewell and to give Drakkar moral support. The stallion was magically holding a lit off torch, flanked by Megin-gjarð on his left and by his father Veiðǫr on his right. As both ponies comforted him by resting a hoof on his shoulders, Kynngi stepped forward with a dimly shining horn. Closing her eyes, she leaned her head forward, tapping the torch with her horn.

Eldr múspel sól,” she said lowly.

The small amount of raw magic on her horn quickly turned into a small ember that lit the torch. Both Megin-gjarð and Veiðǫr stepped back as Drakkar moved forward, standing a couple feet away from the pyre. The torch's heat warmed the left side of the stallion's face while he remained motionless, staring at Gisli. As he rested both forehooves on the sturdy wooden structure, Drakkar lowered his head.

You were not the oldest friend I had, Gisli,” he said in a low voice, caressing the sheet that covered the bear's body, “but were the one with who I've spent the most time. I remember when we found you in the forest as a baby, though you were already bigger than me,” he added with a weak chuckle. Drakkar shook his head slowly, biting his lower lip in a failed attempt to contain his watery eyes from breaking into tears. “You taught me to fish and were my training partner. I also remember when you carried me on your back and we walked across the yard.” Drakkar's lips trembled as he wiped the falling tears off his eyes, drowning a sob. “I don't know if bears can go to Valhǫll, but you've surely earned your place there. If you're there, wait for me, and we shall charge against our enemies together once more. May you fare well, my good friend,” he finished.

He took a deep breath before resting the flaming torch on the pyre, her head shaking slightly as part of him wanted to look away. However, he knew that Gisli wanted him to be strong, and gathered all the self-control he could gather to stare at the scene. As Drakkar took a step back at the slowly growing flames, Veiðǫr and Megin-gjarð returned to his side.

You've done great, son,” said Veiðǫr, resting a hoof on Drakkar's shoulder. “I'm sure Gisli's proud of you.”

Thank you, father,” he replied as he grabbed his father's hoof.

And now it's time to toast to our ursine shield sister!” announced Megin-gjarð before lifting Drakkar with one leg.

Not yet, soldier,” interjected a voice that made everypony look at who spoke.

The crowd's attention focused on Jarl Hríðvetr, the elderly ruler of Scandineighvia. Despite being in his mid sixties, the dark gray earth pony showed off a decently sculpted build from dozens of fought battles in his youth. A short, well groomed ivory beard concealed his wrinkled muzzle, and the top part of his head was bald, compensated by the shoulder-length white mane he had. Ochre eyes stared at Drakkar, who reacted by reaching a hoof on his chest.

Captain Brim-sker,” called the Jarl without looking away from Drakkar. “This is the famed stallion whose ferocity saved the lives of the patrol group, if I'm correctly informed.”

Yes, my Jarl,” replied Brim-sker with a fierce nod. “Every member of the group fought with bravery despite being outnumbered.”

The other two will also receive their rewards too, Captain,” said Hríðvetr with a shake of his hoof. He then spoke directly to Drakkar. “My sources have informed of what happened up there, and convinced me to allow your friend this honor,” he added as he magnanimously pointed at the burning pyre.

I am aware, my Jarl, and there are no words, even for a skáld such as myself, to express my gratitude,” replied Drakkar, pressing his lips against each other.

However, Gisli had a last will,” continued the Jarl. Drakkar's eyes widened at those words, vigorously shaking his head. Hríðvetr raised a hoof in front of him. “Child, I feel your pain, but I refuse to reject Gisli's last wish. And I'm sure you don't want to disappoint her either.” The Jarl didn't sound threatening; a condescending smile was drawn on his lips. “You can close your eyes if you think it'll make it easier.”

Drakkar slowly nodded before taking a deep breath, and then closed his eyes. When he did so, Brim-sker gestured with his hoof for two ponies to get closer. They were carrying Gisli's skinned, cured pelt. Though they had worked their best to make sure they didn't damage it, the wound she suffered that cost her the right eye couldn't be fixed. Megin-gjarð stretched his hoof and nodded slightly, to which Brim-sker replied by giving him the pelt. Holding the pelt by its forelegs, the earth pony slowly rested it on Drakkar's back. Gisli's upper jaw remained on his head like a hood, and Megin-gjarð carefully wrapped his friend's neck with the pelt's forelegs.

Drakkar suddenly gasped, his eyes wide open in shock as he felt goosebumps all over his body. The first pony who noticed such reaction was Jarl Hríðvetr, who stared back at him with a wide, paternal smile. He rested a hoof on Drakkar's chest before speaking again.

The bear is our totemic spirit, young warrior,” said the Jarl, “and one of them has chosen to protect you. Such is the strength of what binds you. I know the burden of losing somepony important, but you must look forward to the future and make sure you'll never fail them.”

With tears falling down his cheeks, Drakkar nodded rapidly. “I will never fail her, my Jarl.”

Good, because that's not the only thing I wanted to say.” Hríðvetr raised a hoof and gestured for Captain Brim-sker to come closer. “Drakkar Veiðǫrvarson! Megin-gjarð Hǫggsson!” At the sound of their names, both stallions stood straight up. “For your tenacity in the battlefield, and by my authority as the Jarl of Scandineighvia, I grant both of you the title of hoofcarl,” he announced with a satisfied smile. The Jarl then looked up at Megin-garð with a raised eyebrow. “We usually grant bear pelts to those who reach your rank, but I admit that the ox suits you, warrior.” Hríðvetr slowly moved away from the two stallions, leaving them staring at each other with glowing grins. “As for you, Kynngi Tunglskindóttir,” he said, making the mare to salute respectfully, “you've proven yourself to be a competent seer, and I want you to assist your companions on their patrolling as soon as you finish your training.”

Yes, my Jarl!” replied Kynngi with a proud nod, looking at her friends through the corner of her eye, the three ponies' mouths trembling as they tried to contain a broad grin.

And now that these formalities have been solved,” said the Jarl as he stretched a hoof to grab a wooden mug of mead, only to rise it while smiling, “we shall toast to these brave warriors and their fallen companion!”

Everypony toasted loudly, the sounds of clashing mugs and the lack of synchronization as they spoke made the crowd's words unintelligible, but the three ponies looked at each other, grins slowly growing. They grabbed mugs of their own, and toasted with a laugh, dripping a little mead to the ground as they did. Letting his friends drink, Drakkar turned to face the burning pyre, raising his mug at it.

To you, Gisli,” said Drakkar as his horn glowed.

The stallion looked up to the sky, the aura that surrounded his horn enveloping his throat. With a barely noticed roar due to the noise in the place, Drakkar bid Gisli a last farewell. Distracted as he enjoyed the celebration, he didn't notice that both Megin-gjarð and Kynngi were staring at him.

What?” he asked with a raised eyebrow, following his friend's eyes that were looking at his side. To his astound, his flank sparkled with dancing lights as a picture spawned on it. He gasped in awe at the roaring bear head that appeared on him. It was sideways, looking towards Drakkar's head, but barely showing specific details like fangs or whiskers.

Haha, took you long enough to get yours!” cried Megin-Gjarð with a loug laugh, hugging Drakakr with his free foreleg.

Now the three of us have cutie marks!” continued Kynngi. She whipped her tail to raise the lower part of her, showing the sparkling vial with a blue bubbling solution that decorated it.

And the most important thing,” added Drakkar as he kept staring at his cutie mark with a relaxed smile. “Gisli's going to be with us to celebrate our victories to come.”

-o-

The screen melted away as the glow surrounding Drakkar's horn faded. He covered his eyes with a hoof, sobbing as he tried to hold the tears back. When he moved the hoof away, he stared at his audience and saw that all of them were crying.

Rainbow Dash seemed to be making great efforts to avoid shedding tears to keep her appearance, but her slightly moist cheeks, as well as her drooped ears and wings made her sorrow obvious. With her Stetson hat pressed tightly against her chest, Applejack lowered her head as the story was over, wiping her eyes as she did. In a corner, Rarity and Pinkie were doing their best to soothe a shattered Fluttershy that had her face buried on her unicorn friend's chest. As her pink friend tried to cheer her up saying that, in the end, the story had a happy ending for all, Rarity could only look at Drakkar through the corner of her watery eyes. Next to him, Twilight and Spike stared at where the screen was, sorrowfully shaking their heads.

“So... that pelt you're wearing,” pointed Rainbow Dash with a trembling voice.

Drakkar lowered his head before putting his mane away to show the hidden pelt's head. As the story had mentioned, the bear's right eye had been clawed out, and the scar, though treated, was obvious from a distance.

“I... I would never have suspected that,” tried to say Rarity without letting Fluttershy go. “I'm terribly sorry, Drakkar.”

“I'm glad we solved this issues of ours before I leave,” admitted Drakkar sadly as he hid the pelt's head under his mane again.

“But you can't leave yet!” exclaimed Twilight. “What about the Princesses? The diplomatic treatise!”

”I've always looked up for my land and lord,” he said with a shake of his head. “But I can't this time. I've fulfilled my duty,” he added as he magically pulled a few papers from under the pelt. “The maps have been updated. I require nothing else.”

“But what about Shining Armor?” insisted Twilight, desperation rasping her voice. “You can't disappoint him! He enjoyed your company and has spoken wonders about you and Fimbulvetr in the Crystal Empire! Why are you—”

“Twilight,” interrupted Vínviðr with a frown. “Though I appreciate your attempt to keep him here, I don't think that's the way to do so.”

“But the Princesses...”

“They're benevolent, youngster,” she insisted. “They will understand.”

Both Mjǫllna and Drakkar stood in front of each other, but neither of them looked at the other. The mare's tail pointed downwards, and her drooped ears were slightly covered by her mane. Drakkar took a deep breath as he looked at the closed exit. As he took the first step towards it, the library's door slammed open with a thunderous sound that echoed throughout the whole room and caused everypony to jump back in shock. In front of them all stood Hearth Fire, breathing heavily as she kept her wings extended.

“Bíð!” she demanded, keeping her maximum wingspan as she spoke.

Vínviðr and Mjǫllna stared at the scene with dropped jaws, the surprise having surpassed the sorrow. Drakkar took a step forward, getting closer to the pegasus.

“Hverr Þú ert?” asked Drakkar with a frown.

“Ek heiti Eldstaðr Vínviðsdóttir,” she announced with a loud, proud voice. The stallion raised an eyebrow, slowly turning to face a befuddled Mjǫllna At the same time, Vínviðr's eyes remained widened at the sound her daughter’s full name. “Hófkarl,” continued Eldstaðr, “you must listen to me! You can't leave like this!” Every mare in the room threw a surprised gaze at her, seeing how her wings slowly folded and rested gently on her sides.

Drakkar took another step forward, but the pegasus remained on her spot. “I know the whole story, Eldstaðr,” he spoke with a growl. “I don't know what you're trying to do here, but I refuse to believe that-”

“I didn’t see the consequences of my wrongdoings on my own, Hófkarl,” interrupted Eldstaðr with a shake of her hoof. “You must thank a servant of the Æsir for that.” At the sound of the word, Drakkar's ears perked up, and gently sat on the floor while keeping the mare in front of him. Noticing that her words had caught the stallion's attention, the mare continued to speak. “In my ignorance and despise towards my heritage, I attempted to poison your love and put you away from each other. I feared for my daughter. I feared that you'd break her heart when you had to return to your homeland. But then,” she continued as her voice trembled and she lowered her head. “But then, Freyja sent somepony to show me that I was wrong.”

“Mjǫllna believed that I had a mare in Scandineighvia,” replied Drakkar solemn shake of his head. “Whether it was your doing or her own, she wouldn't trust my loyalty.”

“You gave her reasons to do so,” corrected Eldstaðr as she pointed at him.

At the accusation, the stallion growled at first, but at the raised hoof and serious yet non-threatening visage the mare showed, he took a deep breath and asked. “Explain yourself.”

“Lies and conspiracies take effect if there are doubts,” said Eldstaðr, gesturing for Mjǫllna to come closer. “You refused to talk about Gisli, which was suspicious gesture in the eyes of a morally weakened mare. You say that she didn't trust you, Hófkarl, and you are half right. However,” she continued, gesturing for Drakkar to lend her his hoof, “you must not fear telling the mare you love about your past.”

“Much less when there's nothing to be ashamed of,” added Vínviðr, who remained on her spot. “Gisli was a great friend, and you hold her memory dear.”

“Your life should hold no secrets for the mare you love,” continued Eldstaðr, now holding Drakkar's and Mjǫllna's hooves. “I can see that, despite your pain, you don't want to leave.” The stallion turned to face his lover, unable to hold back a growing smile as he stared into those mesmerizing light brown eyes. At that sight, Mjǫllna recovered her usual joy, grabbing Drakkar's hoof before he could react.

“Drakkar,” started Mjǫllna as he got close to the stallion, “I'm really sorry about what happened. I should've known that you wouldn't—”

“Your grandmother's right,” interrupted Drakkar. As they spoke, the other ponies and Spike kept their eyes on the couple. They remained silent, ears perked up to catch every word that both spoke. “I understand that I might have given you reasons to be jealous. Gisli was very important in my life, but I don't like talking about it because...” Drakkar tried to look away, but Mjǫllna's hoof pushed his cheek so they kept eye contact. With a half smile, he finished the sentence. ”Because it hurts to remember that I lost her. It's true that I still have her,“ he continued as he caressed the hanging paw on his chest, “but we don't play or fish together as we used to do.”

Eldstaðr ceremoniously put their hooves together, facing the couple as she spoke. “If you are to be together, if shall not be my hoof the one that breaks your love apart. Hófkarl,” she continued as she looked at the stallion, “I don't expect you to forgive me, but in the name of Freyja and Frigg, I beg to you to show forgiveness to my daughter.”

Drakkar let out a long sigh before chuckling softly as Mjǫllna's eyes glowed with hope and her smile slowly turned into a grin. ”I don't think I'd be able to stay angry at her.”

To those words, Twilight and her friends beamed, still paying close attention to every action both ponies took. Eldstaðr let the couple's hooves go, noticing that they still held on to each other, much to her satisfaction. At the sight of the mares' support, Eldstaðr took off, flying a few feet away from them. “And now, a kiss to make up and settle this down.”

Mjǫllna and Drakkar stared in each other's eyes, both showing slowly growing smiles. The rest of the ponies on the room walked closer, unable to hold their enthusiasm at the incoming happy ending. However, the couple's expression changed to a slightly brazen one.

“Thinking of something special for a makeup?” inquired Mjǫllna as she rested her free hoof on Drakkar's chest.

“In front of so many ponies?” asked Drakkar with a teasing gaze.

“They can look away,” she replied with a chuckle before resting her weight on the hoof that lay on him.

The mares surrounding them looked at each other with broad smiles on their faces as they exchanged approving and excited nods. Catching everypony by surprise, Mjǫllna included, Drakkar grabbed his beloved from the waist, lifting her without effort, standing on his hind legs as he did. While Mjǫllna laughed at the unexpected gesture, Drakkar pulled her towards him, tightly hugging her so she wouldn't fall. Her head stood a few inches higher than his own. With a grin that showed her pristine teeth, Mjǫllna enveloped Drakkar's neck, concealing her forehooves under his long mane. As she lowered her head to reach his lips and join in a kiss, her tail fastened around his back.

“Oh, my goodness,” whispered Fluttershy as she looked away.

“Darlings, please, save something for the honeymoon,” said Rarity while fanning herself with a hoof. Though she turning her face away, she kept peeking at the scene through the corner of her eye.

“Glad you could solve this problem, sugahcube,” admitted Applejack as she tipped down her Stetson to give the couple some privacy.

“Way to go, Drakkar!” cried Rainbow before performing a back flip in the air and raising her forehooves victoriously.

“Yay!” exclaimed Pinkie with a jump that almost caused her to hit the ceiling. “This calls for a party! I've been working on a make up party for weeks, but never had a chance to prepare it!”

“I think those two would prefer some time on their own, Pinkie,” interjected Twilight, blushing as she spoke. “But as Applejack said, I'm happy to see that you were able to end this misunderstanding.”

-o-

Eldstaðr waited patiently with a humble smile as Drakkar and her daughter kept joined in the kiss that was the paragon of passion. From the outside, it seemed as if nothing had happened, as if nothing existed that had damaged their trust on each other. However, Eldstaðr knew that it represented much more; it reminded her to the old days when she and Solar Beam started dating. As Mjǫllna separated her lips from Drakkar's to catch her breath, only to dive her tongue inside his mouth once more, Eldstaðr looked away with a chuckle; like mother, like daughter.

After a long while, Drakkar slowly lowered Mjǫllna to the floor again as their lips moved away from each other. Both lovers look on each other's eyes, and was the mare who broke the silence.

“I hope we don't have to get into arguments to get more of those,” joked Mjǫllna with a wink and a wiggle of her tail.

“As long as they all end like this, I wouldn't mind to get into a few more,” replied Drakkar with a raised eyebrow.

“You know what we could do right now?” she said, turning to Vínviðr. “Granny, remember when I told you that Drakkar knew the legend of Gleipna?” When Vínviðr nodded at her statement, Mjǫllna returned her attention to Drakkar. “Can you tell the story now? I'm sure mother would love to hear it too.”

“If you're not too tired, Hófkarl,” said Eldstaðr with a short bow, “I'd gladly listen to it.”

“I really hope it's a happy story,” added Pinkie Pie. “We're in a happy moment now, and I don't want anything to ruin it!”

“Happy?” repeated Drakkar, a grin sprouting on his muzzle. “This is more than a happy story, Pinkie; this is a legend that has been sung in my hometown for more than half a century.” His horn glowed slightly, ready to summon the magic screen once more. “A story that inspired many, a tale of a mare who earned the right to become the adoptive daughter of not any valkyrie, but the leader of them all. This is the tale of the heroine and shieldmare Gleipna Brynhildóttir!”

“For refusing to use magic of any kind,” said Twilight as he stared at his glowing horn, “you seem to have some decent reserves. You might be able to become a battle crier as you called them!”

“That would come really handy if you end up having a unicorn filly,” snorted Vínviðr. “I'm sure you'd love to have her become a respectful seer.”

Though Drakkar had ignored Twilight's comment, Vínviðr's caught him completely off-guard. The magic that had been accumulating around his horn faded away as he turned to face the mare.

“Oh, don't be so surprised, Hófkarl,” continued Eldstaðr with a raised eyebrow. “That was far from a 'let's forget everything happened and be a cute couple again' kind of kiss.”

“Mother, we'll cross that bridge when we get there,” said Mjǫllna with a giggle. “For now, it's story time!”

Twilight and her friends giggled at the sudden blush Drakkar showed before clearing his throat and closing his eyes. At the stallion's reaction, Mjǫllna chuckled softly, but gently stepped back to let him some space; she and Vínviðr had been the only ones that looked at him while he told the story, and noticed he gestured and moved a lot as he spoke. The three Scandineighvian mares stood next to one another; Mjǫllna in the middle, her mother on her left and Vínviðr on her right.

The mood surrounding the room was totally different during the new story; Drakkar chanted proudly about Gleipna's feats, inspiring the mares around him. Mjǫllna and her family stared in awe as they listened, with Vínviðr shedding tears as she heard about and saw her late mother as a ferocious pegasus shieldmare that rammed through enemy lines to protect her shield-sisters. Mjǫllna hugged her grandmother and rested her head on her shoulder. Though Eldstaðr enjoyed the story too, there was a moment where a chill traveled across her spine and her eyes widened in horror. Close to the end of the story, Gleipna swore an oath that would become engraved in Eldstaðr's mind forever.

“At this time I vow, and let the Jarlar of Fimbulvetr know that I shall charge without fear against those who threaten my folks! Æsir and Vanir, overlords of Ásgarðr, witness my oath! Those who dare harm my kin, either of blood or shield, shall suffer my wrath till death and beyond!”

Author's Note:

Translations:

“Bíð!” = Wait!
“Hverr Þú ert?”: "Who are you?"
“Ek heiti Eldstaðr Vínviðsdóttir,” = “I am Eldstaðr Vínviðsdóttir,” (literally means I am called)