How Wada Came to Wear the Horns

All the gods have their roles just as all men have roles,
All the gods have their jobs just as men have jobs,
All the gods have their orlæg just as all men have their orlæg,
All the gods have their wyrd just as all men have their wyrd.

In the worlds above and below there are smiths, there are farmers, there are builders, there are warriors, there are healers, there are shepherds, there are kings, there are vassals; the worlds above and below have their roles and they require the gods and men to fulfill them. This is a story about the order the gods uphold and bargains made and oaths broken.

There was a farmer among the gods who plowed his field, within the furrow he turned over he found a child. He had no wife and no children of his own and so he took her home and raised her. She grew into a beautiful goddess with golden sheaves of hair. He named her Sūle but she grew up as Sibb.

Sibb sang in the fields, her golden hair woven with leaves the hearty green of summer. She sang under the quickbeam tree ripe with red fruit. Her song captured the heart of all who heard it.

She was unhappy though because although she was beloved by all that heard her, she wanted to love as well. In time, many suitors approached her father. He was overwhelmed by the number of them and their persistence until he begged of her that she should marry one of them, any of them. He yearned to have grand children to dote on. Yet she had no love for any of them. One of those suitors, perhaps least suited to Sibb, was Wada.

Wada was shepherd to the flocks of Heofon, the Wolcenheord. He had walked long along the paths and fields and rivers of the many worlds as he tended the flocks. There was not a land that he did not know for his flock went to every one. He alone had full knowledge of secret songs to control and tend to his flock as they grazed the sky. He had seen all the herbs of the land and knew their needs and their magics.

It was the job, the duty, of Wada to gather his flock and send them to pasture in the heavens above. His hounds Nebal and Mista would harry and chase the flock from the lands below toward the sky. They would then stay on the ground to keep the flock from returning early. The fleece of his flock gathered the wetness of the underworld and they carried that dew dripping from their wool would rain down on all the lands. Often at night the cloudy sheep would return to the cool lands below to lay on the ground to sleep. Other nights he pastured them up high to rain down through the night.

Wada was wise and wily; he hatched a plan to win Sibb’s heart. Wada had heard Sibb’s singing on his walks across the lands of the many worlds and had fallen in love with her; but Sibb did not love Wada. How could she, she knew him not. Sibb’s father begged her to marry soon and so Wada struck a bargain with her – “Marry me, be my wife for a year and a day. Be with me and in all ways a wife faithful and true. Through that year I will prove to you that I do love you and if you still do not love me by the end of that year and a day then we will no longer be married if you do not wish to be.”

Sibb considered the offer, her father could not complain because she would finally be married and she would escape her suitors but in the end maintain her freedom. Sibb struck the bargain and they were wed the next day with her father’s blessing, so began the spring of their marriage.

Marriage suited Sibb and she was content in it, though marriage to Wada did not. He was older than she, dark of hair, wooly of arm and chest, snored and bleated in his sleep, and perpetually smelled of grass and herbs. Despite this, Sibb was wife to Wada in every way. And as he had thought, with every day she was growing to care for him more and more because he was kind and gentle. Love it wasn’t, but instead a growing contentedness. He shared with her his songs, his craft, his herbs. She shared with him her songs and her wisdom. They were in every way husband and wife save one, Sibb still did not truly love Wada. Despite this, Sibb waxed larger and showed she was with Wada’s child.

One day in the early summer, only a few months into her marriage, she was singing under the quickbeam as a man red of hair and beard strode by. He heard her song and fell in love with her voice immediately. Thunor, struck by wonder, went to her and asked her what song it was that she sang. They spoke the whole day through and by evening he was well and truly smitten. She did not think of Wada for her heart had begun to fall for another. Thunor kissed her under the quickbeam tree and Sibb had begun to fall in love with Thunor in return.

Knowing now what love could be, as the months passed Sibb drifted more distant from Wada as she was grew closer in love with Thunor. Yet Sibb was bound by promise and bargain to a year and a day of marriage to Wada. Despite this, every day when Wada would leave for the fields before dawn, she would wake and rush to the quickbeam tree and sing until Thunor would come to her.

In the early winter of their marriage she bore Wada a son, Wuldor they called him and he was as dark of hair as his father was. Sib loved her son, but held no real love for her husband though he was gentle and loving to her. She instead held love for Thunor who came to her in the day while Wada was away tending his heavenly sheep.

Sibb would often leave Wuldor with her father who loved and doted on him so she could walk among the fields and sing her songs and be with Thunor. Thunor knew Sibb was wed to Wada but that did not stop him, he courted her nonetheless because he loved her and was assured by her in the temporary nature of her bargain with Wada.

In the spring when Sibb’s bargain was coming to a close and only a few days remained, Thunor began to bring gifts to Sibb. On the first day he brought her a golden apple. On the next day Thunor brought her a bunch of grapes. On the next beautiful flowers. When these unseasonable and wondrous gifts appeared Wada became suspicious. There were only a couple of days left in his bargain and Wada was worried that although he had loved her, Sibb did not love him in return despite his love for her.

He decided to seek the truth that day. One day short of a year had passed since they had been wed, and he would have two more days to get Sibb to love him or she might leave. Wada hatched a plan to see where these gifts came from, that day he told Sibb that he would not return that night, he said he needed to tend his flock because an ewe was to bear. Yet he did not let loose his flock and instead that cloudless morning Sibb ran out to meet Thunor and she told him Wada was not returning that night of all nights.

Thunor chided her and sowed the doubt deeper saying “If Wada truly loved you, he would not have left you on this night of all nights, now that one year has run its course on your marriage.” He kissed her there under the quickbeam. As they lay together under the tree and Thunor spoke sweetly and softly to her, they did not see that up in the tree watching them was a serpent. Wada had used his magic to shift his shape and become a snake to watch his wife Sibb.

His heart broken, Wada saw how she loved Thunor; her heart and love would never be his for now it belonged to another. How long had this been? How much of his year had been stolen from him? And with it, all chances of years to come. Enraged, he saw them run to his house. Sibb let Thunor in through the window at dark as to not arouse suspicion in the house. Through the window, Wada watched with cold eyes.

“Sibb, you are more dear to me than even the bright Sun. You are the light of my life and have brightened my days these past months more than you could know.”, Thunor said. Hearing this, Wada knew just what he would do. Thunor had stolen how many days from Wada, how many months? Wada quickly made a plan that if his days were to be stolen in such a manner then he would seek to steal Sunne, steal the day from Thunor, for if he could not have Sibb then he would take the light of Sol.

Before dawn while Thunor still slept in Wada’s bed, Wada rose with his hounds Nebal and Mista and awaited the sun. If Thunor would steal his last day with his light, Wada would steal the light of the world, bright Sunne.

Wada urged his entire flock into the skies, goaded every last sheep to climb and cover the sky. He himself climbed up the world tree and waited for dawn. At first sight of the rays of the sun, at first sight of Sunne, Wada set loose the hounds Nebal and Mista and they chased the bright rays of the morning, rising up and nipping the heels of Sunna’s horse. Wada set himself upon her path and he turned himself into a great serpent which gaped its maw toward Sunne.

An uproar of wind and baying of hounds woke Thunor and Sibb and he knew he had no time to waste. The world was without sun, it was dark and dreary and gray and rainy and long past due for the light of day. Thunor had no time to climb the world tree to the sky, it was all happening so fast, so Sibb used the magic she had learned from Wada to shift the shape of Thunor into a great eagle and he soared to the top of the world and fought the serpent formed Wada, lightning flashing, until Wada had lost his footing being in such a footless form in that place less accustomed to him. He lost grip of Sunne and fell back towards the earth. After him Thunor flung his striker in a great bolt of lightning and roared that Wada should stay down.

Beaten and broken lay Wada there upon the earth as the rain fell around him. His heavenly flock dispersed as and ran away, drying the skies. Sibb went to him and said “My year is ended, though you had not the time to tell. You snake, you were off chasing Sunne, another woman.” She used magic on Wada as he lay there; she made him to wear the horns. His serpent head sprouted out the horns of a ram. Wada changed back into a man and found the horns remained.

“You call yourself wife, but you were unfaithful. A husband should not have to watch his wife as he does his flock, a wife you have to watch to do right is not worth marrying.” He said all he had seen of her; that she can lay no accusation on him for he had been faithful, instead he had seen her lay with Thunor that very night, the night that would have made a year of their marriage. That he had heard Thunor mark the many months that they had been meeting in secret, that at least a full half a year not to mention the last day that had been stolen from his bargain with her. Sibb, caught so unprepared for his having known those secrets, turned red as the fruit of the quickbeam she was so fond of. Wada banished her from his land, banished her from the whole of the underlands, and banished Thunor. And rightly so for they had so wronged Wada with their misdeeds to him. From that day on, all those who lay with another while wed are said to have made their spouse wear the horns.

Sibb and Thunor were married that very day, one day short of Wada’s bargain. And of the previous night, she had quickened in herself a child, a child of Thunor, also short of the bargain. That godly child of Thunor was born to her thereafter.

Wada, sore and sour did not turn out his sheep, the flocks of heofon, to graze that day or the next. Day after day he withheld his flock. For a full year, not a single cloud crossed the sky. He pastured them in the underground lands instead, withholding the water they would shed onto the earth. Grain dried in the field, plants withered, the green earth browned, rivers ran dry, and the land lay parched. The gods suffered, the people suffered, and men of middangeard suffered especially.

Ordinarily, it had always been that Wada pastured his flock at night in the cool and wet lands where their fleece dripped the dew onto all the worlds as they grazed the sky. But in withholding them the world went without, without the clouds, that heavenly flock, there was no rain. All the worlds begged to the gods to bring the rain, even to Wada, even those that had been too proud before, they begged of him that he should once more send up his flocks to graze the skies. Wada responded every time that he would return the flocks of heofon when Thunor admitted his misdeeds and made amends and when Wuldor came to live with him and learned to tend his flocks as a son should learn from his father.

Thunor was enraged by these demands and came down himself to the underlands and fought with Wada, the din they made was immense and the earth itself shook, but Thunor was as unsure of foot in the Underlands as Wada had been above. Wada beat him back, repelled him every time Thunor entered his lands for he was strongest there where he knew every rock and tree. They were matched it would seem, that above Thunor would prevail but below Wada was match enough to win their quarrels. In the end Wada would not tend the flocks unless Thunor did as he was bid and made amends. And since no one truly knew how to command the flocks of heofon besides Wada the worlds were at his mercy.

Finally Thunor too had enough and he called on Wada to come to the halls of the gods so they might hear what he demanded and to try and make peace.

In the hall of Tiw, before his justice, Wada demanded an apology and a new hall for his had been spoiled by Thunor, a great hall should be built for him because injury was added to insult. He demanded that he should be made ruler of his own lands, not beholden to others. He demanded that Wuldor should live with him to learn to herd the flocks of heofon.

To these Tiw asked if Thunor would agree to his part. Thunor adamantly refused to apologize for he felt he did no wrong.

Tiw did decide then that Thunor himself would raise a great and mighty hall for Wada and in return would not apologize. Tiw would have Wada raised up as a lord of his own lands but great Tiw in Heofon would receive a tithe of goats from Wada if he was to be made a lord in that way. And Wuldor would live with Wada half of the year, as was fair to both.

To this Wada, Sibb, and Thunor did agreed but since none were truly happy, they could not settle for full peace but instead since all were half met they would have to settle for truce. Half on one side and half on the other called for a half peace.

Wada was not happy, though it did put him back to his duty. Yet, ever wiley he found ways to his advantage. He gave Tiw his tithe of goats only once, for he gave goats enchanted with magic from the underlands so that they would return to life once killed; these Tiw gave to Thunor as a fitting gift to remind him of these affairs. And Wada would take Wuldor for the summers when the main work needed to be done, he would return to the overlands for winter.

And so Wada became a lord of his land, deep in the cool and wet parts of the under lands where he bedded his flock down. Wada still would occasionally withhold the flocks of heofon when he felt slighted because he never did receive an apology. And every once and a while Wada would release his whole flock as cover to try to climb up and take the form of a snake to try to steal Sunne, even if only for one day. When he tries, Thunor knows him in any disguise by his horns and the two rumble and crash and clash until Wada returns to his own halls. Thunor too occasionally travels to the underlands and the two clash until the earth itself rumbles. For true peace they never achieved and never would for no apology was ever made on either side nor would there be made. But for the most part, an uneasy truce is kept between the two and balance is found in the earth.

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