Orctober Profiles: Bàlegyr


That name had been a talisman for as long as Grimnir could remember, its owner nothing short of the god in whose shadow he had dwelt; he had no memory of his sire save as the echo of a thunderous voice, a menacing shape roughhewn from half-recalled memories and tales grown wild in the retelling.

Grimnir’s father; the last of the Nine Fathers of the kaunar — a feat accomplished largely through luck and self-preservation — and considered by most to be the greatest.  He forged a kingdom in the Kjolen Mountains, centered at the dark peak of Orkahaugr, that lasted for over a thousand years.  He was the source for countless legendary monsters, from Balor of the Eye in Irish myth to Grendel of the Anglo-Saxons (though this was purposefully hijacked by his son, Hrungnir, who encouraged the Danes and Norse to call him ‘Grendel’, the Bone-grinder).

With Skríkja, daughter of Kjallandi, Bàlegyr fathered twenty-three sons and an unknown number of daughters.  He whelped even more bastards on captive women.  Not even Grimnir knew the extent of his father’s profligacy.

If you’ve read the Grimnir Saga, then you’re familiar with Bàlegyr’s end; we need not reiterate it here.  Instead, let me tell you the Tale of the Three Dwarf Brothers . . .

In Niðavellir there was born to Thrár the Elder three sons: Thráinn, the eldest, who was a smith of gold; Náinn, the middle, who was a smith of iron; and Dáinn, the youngest, who was a smith of silver.  Thráinn earned renown by forging the ornaments of the Gods.  Náinn made his mark by forging the weapons of the Jötnar lords of Jötunheimr.  But, youthful Dáinn accrued no renown, for in his esteem silver was the metal of witches and women, and no great works could be forged alone of silver.

His bitterness at being denied the glory he felt was his birthright festered.  Thus, after many long years of toiling in his brothers’ shadows, cursing his plight, Dáinn son of Thrár the Elder was visited by Loki — Loki who admired silver and thought it the best and noblest of metals.  Through honeyed words and false promises, the Tangled God lured Dáinn to the feast-hall of Mánavargr, his cup-bearer.  There, under the pretense of a blót, Loki’s servants fed the collected dvergar the afterbirth of his monstrous children . . . and they were changed.

Dáinn reveled in his newfound power.  He had become stronger, faster, and more savage than his brothers.  He rebuked the smithing of silver and stole ingots of iron from his brother, Náinn.  With it, he turned his black-nailed hands to the forging of weapons — especially a mace of great power he dubbed Maugrónðr, the Corpse-Hammer.  Dáinn fought and feuded and murdered those who crossed him.  Such were his crimes that their father, Thrár the Elder, cursed him for a monster and cast him from their smithy.  “My son is dead!” he exclaimed.  “The Baleful One, I name you!”  Thus, in the tongue of the dvergar, Dáinn son of Thrár the Elder was renamed Bàlegyr, the Baleful One.

Dáinn took his revenge, however.  The night of the kaunar’s flight from Niðavellir, under cloud-girt skies, he crept back into the fortress of his father, Thrár the Elder, and slew him as he slept.  Thus did Bàlegyr, the Baleful One, forever earn the enmity of the dvergar . . .

Bálegyr was a swag-bellied ape, dark of skin and broad in the shoulders, though not especially tall.  His legs were bowed; his arms long and thick with knotty muscle.  He had no neck to speak of, and a head like a ship’s bollard — round and hard and covered in scars.  A plaited top-knot of gray-black hair hung from his scalp and down over his shoulder, its ends captured by a hollowed-out and carved length of bone.  His right eye was a gaping socket bisected by a terrible scar, a gift from his duel with Kjallandi; his left blazed like Grimnir’s.  He wore a scarlet gambeson as another might wear a robe, unlaced and open, over trousers of rust-colored cloth and leather.  A black sash constrained his not-inconsiderable gut.  Cradled in his arm, Bálegyr carried a mace, its head that of a snarling wolf wrought in blackened iron.  This was Maugrónðr, the Corpse-Hammer.

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