This episode of Previously, “Loki Gets Offered a Deal,” is a piece of ancient Weird Luck history — a scene that takes place several centuries before the webcomic or any of the other Weird Luck stories we’ve published so far.
Story and art by me.
See you next Wednesday,
Loki Gets Offered a Deal
The pub stood in a village on the northern coast of Ireland, amid rocky hills covered in green. It rained often there, and was raining this morning. But the violet robes of the five hooded figures who appeared at the front door were perfectly dry, and covered with the alkali dust of a desert plateau.
At this early hour there was no one in the pub’s dim common room but the barkeep. The five figures slowly approached the bar, faces hidden in the shadows of their hoods. They chanted as they came, each in a different pitch and rhythm, in syllables that were part of no language.
Had any of the villagers been present, they would no doubt have found the appearance of these odd strangers alarming, but the barkeep seemed unconcerned as they crossed the room toward him. He was a foreigner here himself, and his own appearance would also have been disconcerting to the natives if they could see through his illusions. For these visitors, he dispensed with those illusions, not bothering to conceal the frost-white tone of his skin or the flickering orange orbs that were his eyes.
He stood with his arms folded and watched as four of the visitors arrayed themselves behind the fifth and commenced swaying and dancing in place, several feet from the bar, still chanting. The fifth visitor stepped forward and removed her hood, revealing a skeletally thin face framed by a wild tangled mass of white hair. Her long yellow teeth were bared in a feral grin; the irises of her wide mad eyes were a bright purple.
“You are Loki,” she said in a voice like a serpent’s hiss. She swayed and twisted as she spoke, long bony hands waving in the air. “You are the Trickster-god, meant to die in the battle of Ragnarok, who secretly tricked his way out of his prophesied death.”
Loki’s voice crackled like fire. “Former Trickster-god,” he said. “As it turned out, the only way to trick my way out of my fate was to make certain changes to my very nature. A final great trick before my retirement. A retirement I’m quite enjoying, by the by, and thanks for asking. And now that you’ve told me who I once was, my skeletal serpentine seeress, tell me who you are, and your noisy companions.”
“I am Hyssop Shatterfog Blacknoise Evermad, and we are priests of Kaligast, God of Chaos and Death and Madness and the Endless Plateau.”
“I have heard of Kaligast,” said Loki. “He is a crow-god and a gallows-god, among other things, and I’ve had my fill of those. State your business and let’s be done with it.”
“As part of the trick you pulled to escape your fate,” the priestess hissed, “you slew Muninn, the great Raven of Memory. You still possess his bones, buried beneath the foundations of this temple.”
“It’s not a temple,” said Loki, “it’s a pub. A place of business and pleasure. But I’ll grant that I might possibly be in possession of the bones you mention.”
“Our god has commanded us to create a sacred artifact that will be a vessel for his chaotic magic, as a gift to one he loves. We wish to craft this artifact from the skull of Muninn.”
“I care not for your purposes nor for the will of your mad gallows-god. Can you give me any compelling reason to allow you to take the skull of Muninn away with you?”
“You built this pub at a crossroads of realities, a place where worlds meet. This enabled us to get here, as it enabled you to get here yourself. If you will give us the skull of Muninn, we will teach you how to awaken and master the full power of this crossroads. The pub itself will become a crossroads, a gateway between worlds, no longer tied to the earth of any one world. Visitors will be able to enter from myriad worlds, and exit to other worlds, at your will.”
Loki considered this offer for several minutes, as the priests stood there patiently swaying and chanting. He was no longer subject to the insatiable need for novelty and the chronically low boredom threshold that are the twin afflictions of all great Tricksters, and he had found himself surprisingly content with the quiet stability of the past few centuries. Nonetheless, he had to admit he’d been finding things just a little bit dull lately. While he had no intention of giving up the steady life of a pub owner, the prospect of a more varied and less provincial clientele was quite appealing.
He reached across the counter and clasped the long bony hand of the priestess of Kaligast. “You have yourself a deal,” he said.