Geira approached the fire, standing at the edge of the embers and tossed in a copper coin. Before anyone began a story, there had to be tribute. It was an old tradition, and from where it came no one rightly knew. Watching her do the ritual caused a panic in Laufey. Padding his pockets, there were no coins to be had. Looking over at Anke, he nudged the boy. Anke stirred and gave Laufey an accusatory stare. Laufey begged for a copper as innocently as he could until Anke relented and gave him one. Holding the sliver of currency Laufey felt content once more.
The way Geira told her stories reminded Laufey of the older ones, and how they told tales. Giera was a follower of the old ways in all things except faith. She sauntered around the fire until she found her spot and sat down cross-legged. She generated a construct shaped like a poker and prodded the coals.
"Once there was a craftsman that lived deep in the woods. His trade was in exotic items and trinkets. Some said that he was a half-breed, and that long ago him mother had lain with a dwarf, for he was very good at what he did. He was so good that one day whilst he was at the market place in the forest glen that he charmed a lady with his skill. She was very beautiful, the woman. Her hair was like white gold, spun by the elves of the forgotten realms. It was not long until the man found himself infatuated with her, and decided to marry her.
"On their wedding night the craftsman finds out that she is a goddess, none other than Eir, handmaiden to Frigg (who is betrothed to Odin High-Father). She hid her true identity from him out of fear, for she knew the gods would disapprove of their courtship, yet her love for the man was so strong that she did not care any longer what consequences they would incur. The man was at a loss for words then. He felt a deep fear in his heart, but he knew what was right. He would stand beside her, for it was the right thing to do.
"One day, Frigg was walking the halls of Valhalla going about her business. When she called for Eir to come to her aid, the young handmaiden was nowhere to be found. Perplexed and annoyed by this she sent her step-son Thor to find the girl. After much searching in all the halls of Asgard, Hugin the raven of Odin came to him.
"'What you seek lies in the land of Midgard, in the Vale of the Deep Wood. She has married a common man and no longer seeks the company of her brethren.'
"Hearing this Thor became very angry and rode the lightning down to Midgard, landing in the glen outside of the craftsman's home. Eir and her husband were already waiting for him, standing side by side.
"'What is the meaning of this blasphemy, a mortal willingly consorting with Gods?'
"Bravely the craftsman stepped forward and answered the thunder god, looking him in the eye.
"'Eir is my love, my heart, my being, and I will not give her up.'
"'Oh?' Thor replied. 'Then I will destroy you.'
"The man thought about this for a little while. It was not an ideal outcome in the least. As Thor charged his hammer with the power of thunder and lightning, the craftsman called out to him his wager.
"'If I can craft a bow, one better than any bow you have ever used, you will accept me as an equal. If I fail I will submit to your destruction. Give me no more than three years and I will do this.'
"Thor held back his hammer, intrigued with the idea, and let the man go to work.
"It was three years later, then, that the Son of Odin returned to the Craftsman and saw before him a bow made of the finest Yew tree, inlaid with gold and silver knots. For a moment even the god was impressed with the work of the craftsman. When he looked closely however, there was no drawstring, nor quiver of arrows, and the Thunder God suddenly became very angry.
"'What is the meaning of this?'" He bellowed. 'This is no bow!'
"The Craftsman nodded in agreement but raised his hand in clarification.
"'Now that the bow is finished I must now make the drawstring,' the craftsman said. 'It will be made from the gut of the strongest troll in the land, but the troll only comes around every 10 years. Sadly his time above ground has passed and I must wait for his return once more.'
"Now Thor liked the idea of his bow to be crafted from the entrails of his foes, so he relented in his anger. The Son of Odin agreed then to meet once more in ten years, but not before having a pleasant dinner and meeting the three boys Eir had borne with the craftsman.
"Ten years later, excited to finally use his bow, Thor returned yet again to find the Craftsman stringing the bow in the glen outside his workshop. Notching an arrow, he drew it back and fired a bolt at an oak tree. Thor heard the splitting of timber and bark erupt from the glen and saw the terrible destruction the arrow made upon the tree.
"Thor emerged from the shadows of the glen impressed. It was indeed a fine bow, but would it be enough for him to stave the Craftsman's destruction? Thor looked back to the cottage door and saw Eir, still as youthful as she was ten years before, standing in the doorway with her arms around a young man, her oldest son.
"'So you have made my bow,' he said, 'Now may I determine if it is worth your life?'
"The Craftsman considered Thor's words a moment and approached the Thunder God bravely.
"'It may be concluded that this is indeed a fine bow, that it can fire the bolts of men and rend a thousand foes in a single shot.'
"Thor nodded in agreement.
"'But,' continued the Craftsman, 'This is still no bow for a god. I have yet to make arrows of my own, those of which will be greater than any before it made by the hands of Man.'
"Thor by now had gotten wind of the man's schemes. Even he was not that dense. Yet, out of respect for the man's talents at forging weapons he heard the Craftsman's words.
"'There is a wood unlike any other, deep in the forest called Ghost Birch, where a solitary tree has grown since the beginning of the world. Its branches are slender, but stronger than iron, and the arrows it makes will weigh lighter than a goose feather. From this tree I will make six arrows, each taking seven years to harvest, for the tree would otherwise die. After 42 years I will have for you a quiver of arrows the likes of which no waking mortal has, nor every will, see in the age of Man.'
"Thor laughed at the Craftsman, impressed by his cunning, and turned to walk away.
"'Very well, mortal,' Thor replied, 'Perhaps then I will finally have my bow.'
"So the years passed, the Craftsman aging with his sons as Eir remained youthful. All of the years he remained faithful to her, still hunting for her, even into his twilight years. Occasionally he used the bow intended for Thor, but found the bursting properties of the bow too much for human game.
"After 42 years, Thor came to the Crasftsman's cottage in the wood, but did not find him in the glen. So stepping into the cottage, Thor beheld the man on his deathbed readying himself for the great sleep. Eir and her children silently regarded the god, and looked to the corner where a bow stood upright with a quiver set beside it. Thor walked over to the bow, picking it up and feeling it in his hands. True to the Craftsman's words, the arrows were lighter than any material he had felt, even lighter than the steel of dark elves. Grabbing the things that the man had promised, Thor shrugged his shoulders and prepared to leave the cottage when the old man sat himself up in bed. Thor turned back to face the man and was pricked by curiosity.
"'What was your aim, mortal? That you would give me this in exchange for love?'
"The Craftsman smiled and sank back into bed, closing his eyes forever."