Read the second chapter of The Testament of Loki

The Testament of LokiJust six days until Loki, the trickster god, returns for a brand new adventure. We can’t wait to share The Testament of Loki with you on the 17th May. Today, we’re giving you a sneak peek at the second chapter of The Testament of Loki. If you missed our first chapter extract catch up here.

Ragnarok was the End of Worlds.

Asgard fell, centuries ago, and the old gods have been defeated. Some are dead, while others have been consigned to eternal torment in the netherworld – among them, the legendary trickster, Loki. A god who betrayed every side and still lost everything, who has lain forgotten as time passed and the world of humans moved on to new beliefs, new idol and new deities . . .

But now mankind dreams of the Norse Gods once again, the river Dream is but a stone’s throw from their dark prison, and Loki is the first to escape into a new reality.

The first, but not the only one to. Other, darker, things have escaped with him, who seek to destroy everything that he covets. If he is to reclaim what has been lost, Loki will need allies, a plan, and plenty of tricks . . .

 

Chapter Two

THEY TOLD THE WORLDS THAT I was dead. Trust me, Death is better by far than the punishment dealt to me. Death has a kind of dignity. Even Hel, that empire of dust, would have been a blessed relief. Quite apart from the fact that its ruler was a relative, and therefore open to bribery, it remains the one place

in the Worlds where Chaos has no sway, and where, by and large, the deceased can stay  put.

But there is a special place reserved for those who dared to shape the Worlds; who held the seats of office; whose crowning arrogance was to assume that godhood was eternal. The Oracle describes  it thus:

I see a hall on the shores of Death A-crawl with snakes and serpents.

Netherworld, in which the damned Await the time of judgement.

Except that the time of judgement was past. The verdict: per- petual twilight, along with the gods of yesteryear; gods from Worlds we never knew and empires that were already dust when Asgard’s walls were rising. A painfully slow dissolution, with, in the case of Yours Truly, an added dose of suffering, delivered by none other than my monstrous son – Jormungand, Devourer of Gods, the good old World Serpent in poison. Both of us chained to the same rock, much in the same way that Odin himself had once left me bound not so long ago, with nothing  to do but struggle and scream and watch the seconds and min- utes float past like flotsam on the river.

I know what you’re  thinking.  Yes,  my  son.  That’s  what  you get when demon  blood  grows  hot  and  irresponsible.  And yes, I had a wife in Asgard, and yes, she was  better than     I deserved, but Angrboda of Ironwood was more than just alluring. She gave me three children: Fenris, Hel, and the Serpent Jormungand – frankly, the thickest of the bunch, and  by  far  the  least  appealing.  His  conversation  in  Netherworld – such as it was – was  limited to angry hissing, slightly angrier hissing and furious hissing, all of which drizzled venom down  my  bound  and  helpless  body,  as  well  as  producing   a terrible stench. All in all, not what you’d  call the best kind of father–son bonding. Which is why, in despair, I turned to Dream, even though that glimmer of hope hurt far more than submission.

You  see, no faith can truly die until the last of the faithful   are gone: and sometimes the faithful are stubbornly, cruelly persistent. Even when their fallen gods plead to be forgotten, yearning for the silence of death and the peace of dissolution, there’s always a zealot who just won’t quit, or a temple for tour- ists to gawk at, or an inscription on a stone, or a statue in the sand – anything to make Men dream—

Or, of course, a story.

Stories are the worst of all for keeping those torches burning. Stories told by firelight; whispered in the darkness; kept    in carefully handwritten tomes; passed down through gener- ations; written down in secret codes or scratched on pieces of bark and stone. Stories are how gods are born. They remain as a form of worship. And stories are what kept us alive – albeit   in a twilight state; stripped of all our powers; tormented by our memories; feeling ourselves slip away, but still present in stor- ies  and dreams.

Humans are avid dreamers, of course. Their appetite for stories is vast; and every night they create new dreams; new, ephemeral Worlds to explore. Some of those Worlds are tiny,  no larger than a soap-bubble. Some are as tall as glaciers; im- placable as Destiny. Some last for less than a second or two; others may last up to a minute. Just long enough, in theory, for someone – let’s say, a renegade god – to enter the dream   and, from there, to follow the silver thread that leads into the dreamer’s  sleeping mind—

It can be done, in theory. But it isn’t easy. To take control of a dreamer; to inhabit his consciousness – that takes a special kind of skill. Frankly, not all humans want to be possessed by a god. And their dreams are mostly volatile things; too weak for us to grasp at. It would take thousands – millions – of people sharing the exact same dream to give it any kind of strength, or provide even a chance of escape.

But Hope is a cruel torturer, worst of all the demons. While there was hope, we could not turn away from what was hap- pening. Through reflections in Dream, we watched everything we knew disappear. We watched as our runes were forgotten, replaced by the new Roman alphabet. We saw the rise of a new god, enforcing his message of love and peace with a series of wars and purges. We watched the dark days of the Folk, when stories (and even dreams) were banned, and just to speak our names was a crime. We lost ourselves in darkness, and the pain was unimaginable.

And yet somehow, even through those times, our stories re- mained alive in the Worlds. A layer of darkness was lifted. We watched: on occasion we would see reflections of ourselves in Dream. Sometimes there were paintings, or perhaps a piece of music; some shared experience of the Folk that seemed to offer  a kind of hope. And then there were books; there was  reading; a thing we’d scarcely bothered  with, back in the day, when stories were something that flew from mouth to mouth, and runes were something you carved in stone. And then there was the final part of the Oracle’s prophecy, the verse that seemed to offer us a hope of something  better:

I see a new world rising. Green And lovely from the ocean.

Mountains rise, bright torrents flow, Eagles hunt for salmon.

 Of course, that could have been another of the Oracle’s tricks: a misdirection to keep us in hope, and therefore prolong our torment. With the passing of time, that World seemed increas- ingly out of reach. Watching through Dream became almost too painful for us to bear. Everything seemed to indicate that the new World was  not for us. Its mountains and its rivers were for other gods to rule and enjoy. One by one, we succumbed to despair; we closed our eyes to the green world.

But demons are tougher in some ways than gods. And though I missed corporeal form (especially the food, sleep and sex), my primal state was  discorporate. Boredom was  as much my foe as torment in that darkness: and with nothing left to hope for, what else was  there to do but watch?

And so I watched as a new World was built. I watched as a man set foot on the Moon. I watched the rise of the paperback; the movies; computers; video games. Order reigned: an Order that owed little to our influence. It seemed as if the gods of old had been put aside for  ever.

But Order, it seems, cannot exist without a certain amount of Chaos. My element is fire; and fire never goes out of fashion.    In homes and around campfires; in lightning and  in  wildfire; in dreams and stories I was revered. I was almost worshipped. Order, for all its rules, loved to dream. And there, after years of searching, I found, hidden among the dreams of the Folk, some corner of a foreign field that was  forever Asgard.

You see, just like the Worlds themselves, the Folk and their dreams were expanding. Television, computer games, e-books, apps: all these concepts I’d glimpsed in the dark had come together to make a world in which dreams could not just be shared, but manipulated. And the river Dream  runs  through that too, that world they call the internet – a fitting term for a medium able to catch the gods themselves—

And finally I began to see the possibility of escape.

 

 

 

 

Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris is the author of the Whitbread-shortlisted Chocolat (made  into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp)  and many other bestselling novels. Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as ‘mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion’. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16, is currently studying Old Norse, and lives with her husband and daughter in Yorkshire, about 15 miles from the place she was born.

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