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this thing all things devours

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This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.


Fenrir remembers everything.

His first memory is of ice, a thousand years and more before his birth. Before that, there is an unquenchable fire.

He remembers the first things (or the things that are called first, by the Aesir): the ancient one born of ice, and the young children who come after, who will one day call themselves gods. He remembers their first breaths, their halting explorations of empty mist, and the first talk of something else. And then this: blood spilled on snow, an enmity born, and a world built out of bones.

He remembers first parent Ymir’s death cry, the flood of gore that drowns most of his kin, the eyebrows arranged around a little enclosure where the trees are taught to walk and breathe and speak. Fenrir’s own parent knows something of memory independent of birth: Lodur sets the spark of life in the tree people and teaches them to laugh decades before Loki is born in the Iron Wood.

Fenrir remembers that, too, though it was an unremarkable birth as such things go. Hardly worthy of comment, except for what came after.

And he remembers the after, as well, the after which is also a before, and a now. Words fail in their meanings, but he remembers still. Fenrir’s father loves words with all the tenderness of a mother with a babe at the breast, and all the laughing violence of a child. But then, all words are lies.

Fenrir’s own birth comes (is coming, came, will come) on a cold howling dark night beneath the eaves of the Iron Wood. He remembers his parents’ fierce delight, and their smiles. And, further off, the sudden starting awareness of the one who calls himself Allfather. Fenrir calls his awareness fear, but only because he sees how it will end (how it has ended, how it will begin, how it is).

He remembers the trick that bound him, together with the day-century-seconds of his torturous binding. The sword in his mouth is a festering wound, and a memory. He consumes the sun and the moon, and tomorrow he will eat Tyr’s hand. Light flits and shatters on the walls of his prison, and in the corners of his cave, small flowers gleam in the lawns of Asgard and the nine worlds sink, engulfed in fire, into the sea.

Fenrir remembers the end.

Yesterday, Fenrir’s bonds will break and he goes less to war than to fulfillment, less to completion than simply back to himself. Along the way, he ate the Allfather. But words fail, and nothing is (will be, has ever been) permanent. Nothing but memory, which is the greatest lie of all, a thought imposing linearity on the world.

So Fenrir lies bound (is waiting to be bound, escapes his bonds), and from his slavering mouth flow deep, hastening rivers which rush on, inexorable, wearing away at rock, carving and recarving their paths into this world of bone, flowing on to the sea. The Aesir learn the prophecies of Ragnarok, and Loki is bound, and Balder is killed, and the final battle (first battle, only battle) is fought, and the giant Ymir slain and the world built out of bone. A fire consumes everything. A flood washed all away. Some clever storyteller will remember, and lie, and make the world from branches and failing words.

There is (was, will be) ice, and unquenchable fire. Fenrir remembers everything.