My voice isn’t exactly wonderful, but it’s kind.
Often I have observed lovers chasing each other through my orchard. War-goddess Sif; her hair as wheat fell with gentleness among the grass. Extended to her was one of my apples golden, granted with softness from a brutal hand. It is always like magic when they pass through; Thor’s brontide encouraging the apples to dance.
Yes, so many lovers’ stories were born here. Then time passes and their children come to play beneath the warmth and safety of my trees.
We the Aesir are often brutal for it is required. I have wielded spear and shield to defend my apple trees, and when my golden charms met dawn, I alone prevailed once.
But I was so alone.
“If I had gone to Valhalla,” I sang quietly, tending to my apple tree while frost-burns and sticky ichor warmth still adorned my arm, “who would be there to meet me?”
It was then one warrior stumbled into my orchard, but he would not have been able to harm me. His steps were heavy and his face pallid. He gripped his tunic as he slumped against the tree.
“Surely you are a vision to sing me home with such a song,” he said. The god’s voice was pleasant enough, but I was focused; my ichor ran into the dirt as I worked my hands into it, caring for a dying tree.
“Is it dying?” he asked softly. “Your tree.”
I ignored the question because I was so close to being able to answer. Carefully, with the grace of a poet and a warrior, I remained kneeling and extended a hand up to the tree. A branch lowered.
I picked one of the golden apples and observed it; I felt the warmth of it in my hand before removing a one of the tree’s leaves, fingers easing the tree before leaf was plucked. Then, with a gentle smile, I puffed my cheeks and then exhaled, sending the leaf upwards. The journey continued.
“Yes. You hope to go home to Valhalla with the Allfather; this tree wishes to remain in my orchard,” I explained. I looked down towards the apple in my hand; I was bleeding and conscious of it. In moments like this, I was well-aware of everything.
Only then did I look at him; he lost his breath nearly as he spoke my name.
“Idunn of the Orchard…” he began. “Will you sing me to my rest?”
I observed him with alarm as he began to close his eyes, slumped against my tree. The warrior was aged, and he wanted to hear from me a song. I reached for his hand and I felt a song spring in my heart, like apple trees from seeds.
I resisted, though.
“You are Bragi, then. Warrior-poet and worshipped by skalds.”
His face held more lines than the sky held stars. I tried to think of the leaf and the mother-tree and placed love and kindness in the apple I still held in my sod-covered hands. The tree was still struggling against the frost that had once permeated it, but I was on the side of warmth; of love.
“Listen to me, poet. You must eat this. It is colder and crisper than it should be, but it is your song that can bring warmth to this orchard. Please, help me save my apples.”
As he started to die, he looked concerned at my arm. I understood what he did not have the strength to say. I took a hasty bite and then offered the fruit to him. When he saw that my wound had started to close, he accepted the apple from my hand. I had to hold it steady for him, but he plundered it with voracity; it was his final chance at life, the last of his sweetness, and his eyes met mine as he sat back again to rest and chew. I took a place next to him, my spear still within reach.
Blood had long ago soaked through his tunic. He looked up at the stars and the moons; and then he looked at me.
“Was I too late?” he asked.
Caution left my smile as it grew fuller than the moons. It mattered not whether he was old nor young; it was clear this god had been inspired by near death, by battle, and by me. I kept focused on those eyes until I moved to look towards his chest. Was he still breathing?
He was, and he no longer held the body of an aged god; his muscles were firm and fit beneath the tunic, I could tell. A look at his face confirmed this, but he still didn’t know.
My own wound continued to close as frost left the tree, the orchard, and the sky; the summer breeze of Asgard’s strength enveloped us so gently and truthfully that I feared the other realms might break in jealousy.
“You arrived just in time,” I said, as I rested my head on his arm. “I will sing for you if you will sing for me,” I revealed.
I was alone no more.