Loki smiled even more widely. “Did you not swear back then, great Odin, that you would drink at a banqueting table only if Loki, your sworn blood brother, drank with you?”
Odin’s good gray eye stared into Loki’s green eyes, and it was Odin who looked away.
“Let the wolf’s father feast with us,” said Odin gruffly, and he made his son Vidar move over to make room for Loki to sit down beside him.
Loki grinned with malice and delight. He called for more of Aegir’s ale and gulped it down.
One by one that night Loki insulted the gods and the goddesses. He told the gods that they were cowards, told the goddesses that they were gullible and unchaste. Each insult was woven with just enough truth to make it wound. He told them that they were fools, reminded them of things they thought were safely forgotten. He sneered and jeered and raised old scandals, and would not stop making everyone there miserable until Thor arrived at the feast.
Thor ended the conversation very simply: he threatened to use Mjollnir to shut Loki’s evil mouth for good and send him to Hel, all the way to the hall of the dead.
Loki left the feast then, but before he swaggered out, he turned to Aegir. “You brewed fine ale,” said Loki to the sea giant. “But there will never be another autumn feast here. Flames will take this hall; your skin will be burned from your back by the fire. Everything you love will be taken from you. This I swear.”
And he walked away from the gods of Asgard, into the dark.
Loki sobered up the next morning and thought about what he had done the night before. He felt no shame, for shame was not Loki’s way, but he knew that he had pushed the gods too far.
Loki had a home on a mountain near the sea, and decided to wait there until the gods had forgotten him. He had a house on the top of the mountain with four doors, one on each side, allowing him to see danger coming toward him from any direction.
During the day Loki would transform himself into a salmon, and he would hide in the pool at the bottom of Franang’s Falls, a high waterfall that tumbled down the mountainside. A stream connected the pool to a little river, and the river led directly to the sea.
Loki liked plans and counterplans. As a salmon he was fairly safe, he knew. The gods themselves could not catch salmon as they swam.
But then he began to doubt himself. He wondered, Could there be a way of catching a fish in the deep waters of the pool beneath the waterfall?
How would he, the craftiest of all, the most cunning planner, catch a salmon?
Loki took a ball of nettle yarn, and he began to knot and weave it into a fishing net, the first such net ever to be made. Yes, he thought. If I used this net, I could catch a salmon.
Now, he thought, to work out a counterplan: what will I do if the gods weave a net like this one?
He examined the net he had made.
Salmon can jump, he thought. They can swim upstream, even travel up waterfalls. I could jump over the net.
Something drew his attention. He peered out from first one door and then another. He was startled: the gods were coming up the mountainside, and they had almost reached his house.
Loki flung the net into the fire and watched it burn with satisfaction. Then he stepped into Franang’s Falls. In the shape of a silver salmon, Loki was swept over the waterfall, and he vanished into the depths of the deep pool at the base of the mountain.
The Aesir reached Loki’s house on the mountain. They waited by each door, cutting off Loki’s escape, if he was still inside.
Kvasir, wisest of the gods, walked in through the first door. Once he had been dead, and mead had been brewed from his blood, but now he was alive once more. He could tell from the fire and from the half-drunk cup of wine beside it that Loki had been there only moments before he arrived.
There was no clue to where Loki could have gone, though. Kvasir scanned the sky. Then he looked down at the floor and at the fireplace.
“He’s gone, the sniveling little weasel,” said Thor, coming in through another of the four doors. “He could have transformed himself into anything. We’ll never find him.”
“Do not be so hasty,” said Kvasir. “Look.”
“It’s only ashes,” said Thor.
“But look at the pattern of it,” said Kvasir. He bent down, touched the ash on the floor beside the fire, sniffed it, then touched it to his tongue. “It is the ash of a cord that has been thrown into the fire and burned. Cord just like that ball of nettle twine in the corner.”
Thor rolled his eyes. “I do not think that the ashes of a burned cord are going to tell us where Loki is.”
“You think not? But look at the pattern—a criss-cross diamond shape. And the squares are perfectly regular.”
“Kvasir, you are wasting all our time admiring the shapes that the ash makes. This is foolishness. Every moment we spend staring at the ash is time in which Loki is getting farther and farther away.”
“Perhaps you are right, Thor. But to make the squares in the cord that regular, you would need something to space them with, like that piece of scrap wood on the floor by your foot. You would need to tie one end of the cord to something as you wove it—something like that stick jutting from the floor over there. Then you would knot and thread your rope, weaving it, so that one piece of cord would form a . . . Hmm. I wonder what Loki called it. I will call it a net.”
“Why are you still jabbering?” said Thor. “Why are you staring at ash and at sticks and scraps of wood when we could be chasing Loki? Kvasir! As you ponder and talk your nonsense he is getting away from us!”
“I think that such a net as this would be best used to trap fish,” said Kvasir.