After Baldr had left, Loki quietly went off, wandering. Long did he, who knows more paths between the places than so many others, stray aimlessly about. A dread that seemed to originate from the depths of his very bones forced him onward, and onward, and onward. No path that he took, no river, no bridge he crossed, no long night spent wandering, let Loki put it behind himself. To the contrary: the fear grew with each passing day; it became greater and greater, while Loki didn’t do what he had to.
He wanted certainty, but at the same time, he feared certainty even more than he feared fearing certainty.
Loki wandered for many years, eating nothing, and drinking but little. But in the end, he was so spent that he could not take one more step. He had forgotten where he was. There was nothing but him, and his silent companion.
Then, finally, Loki turned to face her, and thanked her. For one last time, she showed herself in her full, terrifying magnitude. Then, she left him alone and went away.
Loki, however, lit a fire. He cut a piece of wood and carved a magic rune into it. Now, he didn’t hesitate any longer, but spoke a word of power over it and gave it to the flames. As the fire began licking the wood, Loki knelt on the ground, gazing deeply into the fire, and into the pattern of the threads of his own fate.
He did not ask the Norns for compassion, and he was given none. But they did give him insight, and what he saw, gave him certainty at long last, of what he had only ever suspected.
When the fire went out, Loki was no longer quite the same as before. He had looked into his future, his futures, and he saw that he would meet his patient companion again. But this encounter, held no fear for him anymore. Just certainty.
Odin knew that Frigga was hiding something from him. But she avoided him, so that he could not find an opportunity to get to the bottom of her secret. “Let us talk about it later”, she would say, pleading important affairs that needed seeing to.
“I have to familiarise the new milk maid with everything”, it was this time.
Perhaps, if Odin had looked more closely at her, he would have sensed something about the milk maid — a feeling of familiarity, of recognition. A feeling that he had seen her before. But Odin did not look, for she seemed quaint and unimportant to him.
Baldr spoke to no one about what had transpired between him and Loki. He was not used to being rejected, and he felt equally shocked and shamed by it.
But Loki had vanished. Nobody knew where he had gone, and not even Odin’s ravens were able to bring news.
Meanwhile, it seemed as though Baldr was finding his way back to form: like before, it looked as if nothing could harm him, and no one remembered ever having seen Baldr wounded. Only Baldr knew that this time, it was true. Nothing could touch him anymore.
For this was his mother’s work: she had taken an oath from all things, plants, animals, even earth itself, that they would not harm Baldr.
And so, blades shattered as if struck by magic, shots went wide or struck obstacles that seemed to appear out of thin air. For a while, it looked as though Baldr could protect his secret. But he never forgot what Loki had shown him.
Sometimes, he hoped that Loki had been mistaken. That his own death did not lie before him. He imagined his friend running towards him, beaming with relief, and everything would be forgotten… forgotten, like his injuries and his blood.
But as much as he hoped and trembled, his heart knew it would not come to that. Baldr spoke less and less with Odin, as he saw that Odin, too, knew what he, Baldr, had to do. And neither Odin’s nor Baldr’s heart harboured any doubt that Loki would, eventually, succeed in finding a way.
One evening, Nanna told him that Loki had reappeared, that Sigyn had spoken of it. It stung Baldr dearly that he hadn’t sought him out — for a long time had passed since they had last seen each other, and he would only too gladly have met his friend again. But in his heart of heart, he knew that the time had not yet come.
And then, they discovered Baldr’s secret. It happened during a hunt: Baldr and his party had closed in on a stately young stag, and Baldr, who elicited the least suspicion, had circled him, and had closed the distance but for a few paces.
Later, no one would remember exactly how it happened, or who had shot the arrow: as if warned, the stag bolted and ran away.
It happened faster than Baldr could have reacted. The arrow flew straight towards him, and surely would have hit him fatally, if it hadn’t instead — before everybody’s unbelieving eyes — burst into pieces at the very last moment. Baldr was unharmed. Not even a splinter of wood hat found its way into his skin… and all had watched it happen.