A walk-through Hel…Heim Part one
This is my journey to meet with Hel for the first time. Again, I remind everyone that these stories are for entertainment only. I hope you enjoy part one of a two part series.
The long house that stood off in the distance set on top of a high hill was less of a long house and more like a castle trying to be a long house. It was cloaked in deep greys and blacks, standing ominously alone beneath a dark sky. The bridge under my feet was weathered and cracked with age; as vines grew up the sides, wilted and struggling, slowly trying to take it over. Carefully I approached the side of the bridge and saw a river unlike any I had ever seen before. At first, I thought it to be frozen, but the more I looked, I saw broken shields with forgotten clan and family crests with wounds from battles so long ago, not even history could remember them. Swords and spears mixed themselves in with the scarred wood of the shields, broken, shattered and covered in rust from blows during combat. Rarely, a skeletal hand or the yawning maw of a skull could be spotted along side the tattered banners that no longer held the dye that once told their stories.
The sky above me was a tarnished brown, making everything below it to glow a light sepia. The fields behind me were completely barren and only grew dust as the yellow clouds above flashed dangerously with lightning and promised rain that would never fall. A tough wind carried itself across the bridge and seemed to flow right through my body, causing me to shiver. This wasn’t a friendly place for a mortal. This land belonged to the oath breakers, the murders, the unspoken ones.
Anxious to reach my destination, I began my journey across the broken and shattered bridge, being mindful of where I stepped to avoid the painful fall below. The planks beneath my feet creaked and groaned from my weight and I considered going back, returning to the safety of what I knew, but a curiosity pushed me forward. I had to know who she was. The one who I had dreamt about so often, the one that followed me but never approached.
As I crossed the midway point of the bridge, something remarkable happened. The dark greys and blacks of the seemingly bare landscape shifted into a lush and beautiful green sprinkled with vibrant purples, reds, and yellows. The tainted brown skies above me broke out into an alluring blue smattered with cotton white clouds over the fields of wheat, rye, corn and more that I couldn’t identify. People lovingly tended the fields all around me, stretching out as far as the eye could see. I gazed up at the long house that wasn’t and noticed it too had changed. It morphed from the dark greys and ominous blacks with it’s castle like demeanor to the warm deep browns and tans of the Earth, making it inviting and beckoned to some part of my soul, telling me that was home.
Curiosity pushed me to the side of the now pristine grey stone bridge that had beautiful carvings along the sides. The river below still held a mixture of weapons and shields, but the crests and banners were as vibrant as the day they were made. The swords and spear tips shone brightly in the sun as if they had never seen a single battle and all were ready to be taken up once again. The family crests and banners seemed cheery and inviting as they wove themselves together as one.
I looked ahead to the gravel road and saw an iron gate ahead. Two black masses stood in wait; one mass much larger than the other. As I approached, I realized that the large mass was a wolf, who came to its feet and growled at me, and the smaller a woman, hunched with a mane of deep black hair and a welcoming smile that stretched across her face. The woman stepped forward and placed a comforting hand on the giant beasts’ side and held the other out indicating that I stop.
“Do not fear Garmr. He just gets uneasy around the living.” Her voice was deep and scratchy, but kind as she addressed me. “I am Modi. I guard these gates. To what do the land of the dead owe the gift of your presence, mortal. What brings you to the gates of Helheim?”
I swallowed hard, looking to the giant gaping maw of Garmr, to his razor-sharp teeth dripping with saliva and thought about him ripping me apart slowly. My stomach dropped slightly and my knees became weak. I realized too late that this was a very bad idea.
“I wanted to meet the one who looks after those that came before me.” I said, faltering slightly as Garmr stepped towards me and began sniffing me all over. My heart raced in my throat like it had forgotten that its place was in my chest. I stood as still as I could while he investigated me, seeming to decide that I was ok for the living. He slowly sunk down onto his haunches, still towering over me, and looked me right in the eyes.
“And your family name?” Modi asked as she lightly patted Garmr on the side, approving of his investigation of me.
I gave it to her, forcing myself to break the staring match I had found myself in. There’s nothing quite like having a staring match with Hel’s Hound. I’m pretty sure my heart actually stopped at one point. His tongue lolled out of his mouth and he gently closed his eyes while he panted, putting me at ease knowing he no longer saw me as a threat.
“Ah, yes. It has been some time since your ancestors have entered these halls.” She closed her eyes for a moment, concentrating. “She is expecting you. A word of advice, don’t stare.” She turned and opened the gate, allowing me entrance into the world beyond. I reached out to pat Garmr instinctively, not really thinking about him tearing me limb from limb anymore and felt him lean into my hand. I caught the surprised look on Modi’s face and laughed a little to myself.
“I can’t help myself. I see a dog, I have to pet.” I shrugged and her deep laugh echoed around me.
“You’re really not afraid of him?” She asked curiously with a raised brow.
“Not anymore. He was just protecting what is his. Being a good boy.” I tried and failed to keep the sweet gushy voice I use for all good boys out of my speech. I caught the look Modi was giving me and stopped petting Garmr and awkwardly clapped my hands in front of me. “I guess I should probably be going now.”
I stepped through the gate, but paused before continuing on. The trek before me was intimidating and a wild idea shot through my head. I turned back towards Modi just as she was closing the gate. “Do you think Garmr would like to escort me? So I don’t get lost? I’m told it’s dangerous for a mortal to wander the lands of the dead alone.”
Modi’s laugh was deep and from the belly as she gestured towards Garmr. “I’m not his keeper, you will have to ask him.” She left the gate partially open and returned to her post, taking on a stone like quality.
“What do you think, Garmr? Want to show me the way?”
Garmr gleefully leaped to his feet and bounded ahead of me as I quickly got out of his way, as you would if a dog roughly the size of an elephant came running excitedly towards you. He would trot ahead of me and pause while I caught up, but I couldn’t help but take my time looking at everything around me. This was a place for my ancestors, I wanted to know what life was like for them here.
There were cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens all free range and happily grazing away at the fields that surrounded me. People dotted the landscape, working together to tend the crops or harvest what was ready. No one seemed underfed, sad, lonely. It was a pleasant space to be. Warmth and loving kindness seeped into my bones and a true feeling of joy spread a smile across my face. I wanted to talk to some of people here, to see what life was like, but as soon as I started to leave the gravel road, Garmr stopped me, a warning in his eyes.
As we walked, I noticed villages seemingly rise up and disappear without a moments pause. We passed small towns filled with little houses with flower beds bursting with color. A small stone bridge took us over a river that trickled happily across the rocks below and large forests appeared from nothing and just as quickly disappearing. The sun overhead never moved, but it wasn’t overwhelming either. We passed what seemed like hundreds of little hamlets before we came to a large set of stone steps that was framed on either side with beautiful flowers of every color imaginable. Garmr gently nudged the small of my back, causing me to stumble forward a few steps before licking the entirety of my face. I laughed and patted his side in thanks. Bounding off, without the dead weight of a mortal, he could cover an impressive amount of distance in one leap.
Despite the nervous energy I had towards the meeting that was before me, I smiled and laughed at his joy as he launched himself through the world with ease. I turned back to the steps, my smile remaining, as I took in the sheer beauty of the land of the ancestors that surrounded me. I thought to myself that anyone who could tend a world like this, with people working together in harmony, happy, whole, and without need couldn’t be as scary as I had been told.
This is where I will end this story for now. I will complete the other half of this tomorrow. It is important that I talked about my journey through Helheim for the first time because it gave me a grasp on its ruler before I ever even met her and was the determining factor for my actions that follow this trek. My experience in Helheim reshaped my relationship with my ancestors and with my Gods, as this was one of my first solo journeys through the worlds. Again, I exaggerated some details, but the meat and potatoes of the original journey are there. I will leave it up to you to determine what is true, and what is false. But the thing that this adventure taught me, is in my travels, I have learned that the worlds my Gods rule over often reflect who they are deep down, just like how our own individual worlds reflect who we are deep down. I hope you enjoyed this first half of my meeting with Hel. Stay tuned for the second part where I do, possibly, the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.