In this interview, I visited K. M. Vanderbilt’s story world of ‘Skeins Unfurled‘ to meet her character, Tyr. Kelly was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, while Tyr was written by K. M. Vanderbilt.
Tyr situated himself more comfortably in the chair, running his finger over the carven images that decorated the table. Sweeping his gaze around the room, he found the marble clean and white, striations sparkling. Table and chairs were free of dust. Everything appeared to be in order.
His guest would be arriving soon. He wasn’t sure what to expect of the meeting, but he had prepared the usual hospitality–mead and bread. Tapping his finger on the table, he glanced out the window, green eyes meeting with sunshine and verdant hills beyond.
What did a muse want with an Aesir king? It seemed she should stick with her own kind. Then, again, that meant relinquishing his position in favor of a lesser king, and Zeus would not be afforded such consideration. His eyes narrowed at the thought, lips turning down to shift the length of his gray beard.
No, whatever the muse wanted would remain in his hands. Hand, he silently corrected, looking down to his mangled arm and the wrist which ended in a stump. He still caught himself trying to use an appendage which no longer existed.
Uncomfortable all over again, he rearranged the table, scooting the utensils and mead jug into alignment. Cup and knife gleamed, polished to a high sheen. He would not be accused of being an ungracious host. Everything would be just so.
A gust of wind whipped through the room, and when it settle,d Kelly stood there and looked around. She nodded at the nice setup of the room then fixed her gaze upon Tyr and smiled at him. “Greetings. I am Kelly. You must be Tyr, God on High, Aesir King, God of Justice. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. How are you doing today?” She always liked to start with a simple question to see how the individual would respond.
Tyr grunted, taken by surprise as he jerked back against the chair. His eyes went to the door and back to the muse. He’d expected her to come by dark water so the runner would announce her presence. Her sorcery reeked of her Olympian brethren. Stifling his distaste, he forced a tight smile, rising to offer his forearm in traditional greeting. “Well met, friend Blanchard. I am quite well. And you?”
She smiled as she accepted the traditional greeting and nodded to him. “I am well.” With the introduction out of the way, she stepped back and glimpsed around. “I have to say, it’s quite a lovely place you have here.” Then she looked back at him. “But we’re not here to talk about this room. So tell me, what is it like being the God of Justice. That doesn’t sound like a very easy job at all.”
Tyr nodded and indicated a seat at the table. “Sit with me. Drink my mead, eat my bread, and I will tell you what it means to be a god.” He sat, poured their drinks, and regarded her with a stern eye. “A god of justice must always weigh the needs of his people against their well-being. What is just is not always the easiest path, as you may imagine.” After taking a sip of the mead, he put his cup away, once more tapping his finger on the table. “I find myself having to juggle many responsibilities my people would never imagine.”
Kelly sat down and partook of his bread and mead. It was always interesting talking with a god. “People’s needs against their well-being…isn’t that the same thing though? Technically? I mean, their well-being creates those needs…” She trailed off to let him explain.
“No,” he corrected, “it is far from the same thing.” Sighing, he looked away. “They don’t always know what they need, but it falls to me to make sure their well-being is taken care of. As God on High, I have made the hard choices, some of which seem to run counter to the idea of justice, but all of it stems from the need to keep them safe, to protect what we have built here. In the end, it serves the same goal.” A pained smile tugged at one corner of his mouth as he finally met her eyes again. “I don’t expect you to understand, friend Blanchard.”
Kelly shrugged. “I may understand more than you realize, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ask questions.” She smiled. “So have you always been God on High? Or has that been something you’ve acquired? I’m not sure how gods and their ranking works here. It’s different in every realm I visit.”
“God on High is a title bestowed upon me by the Norns, the day I created Do Bzerania from the bones of the conquered worlds.” He smirked, more at ease with this vein of conversation even if he did chafe under the memories. “I became a king among kings by uniting the god realms under one rule.” He waved his good hand to dispel the idea of rankings. “Titles are trifles in the scheme of things.”
“So you rule over all the gods? I’m sure that some gods didn’t quite appreciate that.” Kelly motioned to his missing hand. “Some fought you? Rebelled? What happened exactly?” She leaned forward, setting her chin in her palm as she observed Tyr.
He glanced down at his stump, slowly pulling his arm from the table so it was hidden from view. When his gaze landed on her again, it was with rage in his eyes. “Rebellion is a crass idea. All who live in the light of Do Bzerania’s sun do so with full voice under their pantheon’s council member. I am not a dictator in that sense.” Grunting, he sat back, fingers clenching around the arm of the table. “My hand was lost due to stupidity and a long-standing hatred. The wolf abomination, Fenrir, attacked me when I came unarmed into the wastelands of Asgaard.” Teeth gritted, he very nearly choked on his tongue when he spat, “His traitorous father broke the thousand year peace and was forced from this plain. We do not honor the troll-kin and their trickery! With Loki and his family banished, the last vestiges of dissent have gone!”
Kelly listened to all this and tilted her head to a side. “What exactly did Loki do?”
Tyr leaned forward, voice dipping to a low growl. “He killed his own brother.”
Kelly waited to see if there was more, but when he said nothing, she shrugged. “Well, that’s a horrible thing indeed, I’ve met people who’ve done worse. Maybe it’s worse though when a god kills a god. I don’t know how all this works.” She met his gaze. “Okay, answer me this question I’ve always wondered. Are gods actually immortal? I mean, a god can die, then they’re not really immortal.”
Taken aback by the question, Tyr shook his head. “Another crass idea.” Scoffing, he attempted to dodge the true answer. It was dangerous to touch that information. “We are immortal, Muse. Do not think otherwise.”
“I think you’re merely immortal until you die. And I think your time of death is one set in stone but unknown to anyone including you. So yes, nothing can kill you until then, but then…then you’d be as mortal as the rest of us. It must be a startling realization for gods when that moment comes because they’re so used to immortality. I suppose mortals have a slight advantage in that regard.” She shrugged. “Not that it matters. They’re merely mortal.”
Then she shifted the conversation to something she had considered earlier. “You said that you must balance the well-being of all. Where does free will play into all this? Or is that a myth as well?”
Though he ground his teeth in irritation, Tyr gladly accepted the change of topic. “Free will exists. The wyrd is composed of choices. All make choices, and those choices have far flung consequences. They may not reveal themselves in weft and warp for thousands of years.” His thoughts turned inward to the wasted death mask of the Arbiter of the Future, the destruction of the Norns and their visions of Ragnarok. “But they do exist.” He exhaled, long and slow. “Control is an illusion.” But it was little more than a whisper.
“Control is an illusion?” Kelly raised her brows. “Some people say choice is an illusion—that all things are already predestined or set in stone and cannot be changed.”
“Lies.” He stared into her eyes, judging her intent. “Inevitably, everything moves toward an end,” he said, “but we have no control over anything but our own choices, how we respond to the challenges laid before us.” Cocking his head to the side, he smiled and said, “You choose to address me as an equal, and I choose to let it stand because I have offered hospitality. Our conversation will end without bloodshed, but it is because of choice rather than a predetermined set of events. 1000 years from now, what credence does this hold for the wyrd?” Shrugging, he answered, “None knows that answer now. But we are given the choice to comport ourselves however we please…and we also accept we must deal with the consequences of that choice.”
Kelly smiled at him. Even if he chose to strike out at her, she knew it would have no effect on her. That was the safeguard she was given when traveling to realms. No one could touch her unless she allowed it. It always amused her when someone tried to attack her only to pass through her.
However, she kept all this to herself and asked him yet another question. “And how did you respond to Freyr’s betrayal?”
Tyr’s self-satisfied grin faltered. Looking down at his good hand and the burnt skin there, he replied evenly, “I answered it in kind. His betrayal threatened the well-being of all the gods.” When he met her eyes, it was without an ounce of remorse. “I will tell you that justice is not about turning your cheek to a blow. It demands blood, and I took it from all who tried to trample on the dreams we built here.”
“We built? Or you?” She met his gaze unflinching.
“Perhaps it was me.” He shrugged. “They all benefit from it now. Is it not the same thing?”
“Do they? Or do you? Do you get the peace you want, but at what cost? Does it even matter what they want? Because, after all, you know what’s best for them.” She tilted her head to a side.
“As I said, I am not a dictator.” Smirking once more, he leaned back and crossed his arms. “My wife leads the Egyptian pantheon, and her voice is not diminished, but strengthened by that alliance. Zeus, also, has married into the strength of the Aesir. We are as one now.” Raising a brow, he reminded, “Our voices rule this gathering with as much fairness as can be afforded, but war is sometimes needed. If it results in lasting peace, I fail to see the difference.”
“All this talk of gods and goddesses. Makes me wonder where are the mortals are in all of this? How do they fit in?” She folded her arms as she sat back in her chair to watch and listen.
“The mortals…” Chuckling, he rapped his knuckle on the table a few times, watching the movement as he sought words to frame his answer. “They live upon their own plain. The middle-realm was theirs to do with as they pleased, but now they serve our will. They choose a patron, offer worship, and fuel the power of our world. In turn, we offer protection and blessing.” Pausing his tapping, he looked up at her. “Freyr’s betrayal brought that unfortunate aspect back into their lives. If he had left Dodriki abandoned as the Norns decreed, the mortals would be free of gods’ interference. Now, we have no choice but to rule their realm alongside ours. To do otherwise invites destruction.”
Kelly regarded him for a long moment before finally speaking her mind. “You have a very interesting life, that is for sure. So why do you hate the Jötunn so much? You’ve basically have everything you want. Why the hatred toward them?”
“That—“ He sighed and shook his head, eyes tightening at the corners as he glared at the table. “The God Wars saw us as allies, but I mentioned their trickery. They intended to destroy us by unexpected betrayal when they could not meet us by force. In the end, I was forced to kill them all.” Sighing, he met her gaze. “That is what justice demands, what weighing needs versus well-being means. I gave them every opportunity to be as one with us, to live among us as did the other pantheons.” Shaking his head, he added under his breath, “Had I known the corruption they spread, I would have sent Freyr and Loki to the same end when I had the chance.”
“And where is mercy in all this? Where this is justice, there is also mercy, so how that that work with everything you do?”
“Mercy is afforded when it is deserved.” His face remained locked into a stoic mask. “Mercy exists as a tool. Loki knows it’s touch, for whatever the Norns saw in him worth salvaging. I trust to that still, even if everything he touches turns to putrid rot.”
Pointing at her, he said, “Do not think me merciless because I kill when it is demanded. Freyr and Loki may be shorn from the gathering, but they live still. Odin—wherever he may be—lives still. All are traitors, but their betrayals have been answered, mercy dispensed.”
Kelly stared at him for a very long time. She could tell he was irritated with her, but she knew they only had a little longer before she would leave. She enjoyed probing this god too much.
Leaning forward, she searched his eyes, reading him. “Mercy is a tool….so who decides to use that tool? You? As the god of Justice, how can you make that decision? It would be completely against your constitution. Who counterbalances you?”
“I am also a tool,” he responded evenly. “I may make the hard decisions, but I do it with support from those who remain.” He expanded to explain, “When Loki killed Baldr, it was the Norns who decreed punishment. My word does serve as law in the absolute. I am not without fault, though I do take into consideration all facets which may be examined. Wyrd is a strange concept to grasp in that sense, but all choices have consequences. Loki’s choice moved the pantheons to answer. It trickled down to affect us all—Freyr and Odin became entangled in it, for instance. Freyr refused to remain among the gathering and was thus corrupted by Odin. And Odin… Well, he chose a banished mongrel over his own kind, and that moved us to an answer to preserve our lives. One choice can have far-flung consequences, and it falls in our laps to make another choice, and so on.”
Kelly noticed how he really didn’t answer her question, but she allowed it. Yet she paused to consider his words and what her next question should. “Do you mind if I meander a bit? I like to pace a bit. It helps me think.” She didn’t wait for his answer but stood and meandered around the room, taking in all the oddities she saw there.
Finally, she turned back to him. “It almost sounds as though a single god made a single choice, and chaos erupted from there. Why do you think Loki did it?”
“I make no claims to know the inner workings of a troll, but that question has plagued me for some time.” He watched her for a moment before revealing the truth. “Had Loki not killed Baldr, you may have had this meeting with a different God on High. Baldr was considered more suited to the task of peace than an old conqueror. And perhaps he may have been a good replacement, but we will never know what may have been. Loki made a choice, and it changed everything down to undoing the skeins of the worlds’ end.”
“You don’t wish to be God on High?” Kelly lifted her brows as she glimpsed at him before turning way to look at the interesting artifacts.
“I tremble to think of putting this mantle on another’s shoulders.” He looked out the window, finger once more taping up that tapping rhythm. “I would not wish it on another.”
Kelly finally turned to face him. “That doesn’t answer my question.” And she approached the table, placing her hands on the back of a chair, leaning in to meet his face. “Did you not want to be God on High at all? Was it a responsibility you only took because there was no other to take it?”
“I answered your question.” It was said with resignation, though. “I vied against Odin for title of King of the Aesir before I knew what it would mean. I took the mantle of God on High because I conquered the god realms and so had the burden of their people to take under my wing. What am I if I take them and do not offer the rule that title assumes?”
“Why did you take all of it?” She studied him. “Why did you take all of it?”
“Because it was what it meant to rule as Aesir in that time upon Asgaard.” He tried to keep the sadness from his gaze, but it did not abate. “Things change.”
Kelly regarded him and then nodded. She offered him a smile as she straightened her posture. “Well, you would be pleased to know my time here has about come to an end. That means it’s an end of this…interrogation, I suppose you may call it. I appreciate all the answers you have provided for me though. It is quite insightful.”
Nodding, he took a deep breath, burying the things the muse had dredged up. “You are a most insistent creature, friend Blanchard.” Regarding her with narrowed gaze, Tyr said, “A most odd meeting, though not entirely unpleasant.”
Kelly had to smirk. “Well, I enjoyed it even if you didn’t. I learned quite a bit, that is for sure.” But then she met his gaze and told him. “Something weighs heavy on you though. You keep it to yourself, locked away. It’s a source of sorrow and regret. Something you may not let the others ever see because they have to see you as strong. If I had more time, I would ask you to open up to me since…after all, I’m a mere mortal who will, of course, die before a mere minute has passed for you in this realm. But unfortunately, I am tied to time, and my time here has come to an end. Perhaps another time….if your’e willing to have me back, of course.” She smiled gently at him.
He took a deep breath, truly examining her. How strange that she could see through the heart. What he wouldn’t give for that ability—to intuit intent beyond masks and false words. Almost wistfully, he nodded and agreed, “Another time.”
She bowed to him and then vanished away in a gust of wind.
YOU CAN FIND THE CONTINUATION OF THIS INTERVIEW ON K. M. VANDERBILT’S WEBSITE HERE: http://www.kmvanderbilt.com/single-post/2017/01/05/Tyr-An-Interview-Part-2
K. M. Vanderbilt’s book ‘Skeins Unfurled: Prequel to the Breadth Key Cycle’ is now available. You can find it here: getBook.at/SkeinsUnfurled
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