Father Wade’s Son
I don’t know how’s it to work, but they say to me, I tell these tales and they’ll make them known a thousand years hence. Ask me, that’s the tallest of tales around here. But they want them. I’ll give them. Name’s Toli, squire to Sir Guy the dragon layer.
So they say, “What’s it to be, the first tale?”
And I think a long ways ere I answer. Then I says, “Haps the story of Wade best it fits.”
But while they’re nodding and doing I’m thinking more. See, Wade’s a tall tale, no disputing. But Wade’s a short tale, if you know what I mean. So I says again, “Mayhap I’ll throw in the tale of his son.”
“And who is Wade’s son?” they ask me, ‘cause they don’t know these things.
I grins a while but I don’t tell them.
So now I’ll begin.
~ ~ ~
Wade was born of a sea-lady, name of Wachilt. A well-named lady, she rose out of the sea and called, “Watch it!” At which the ship of Vulkin, king of Norðvegr, halted.
Vulkin prowled to his ship’s prow, axe a’ one hand, sword in t’other, and looked at the lady bobbing about in the water. “What’s about?” he asked her.
Well, to cut a reply short ‘cause we all know the script, she says, “Hie! I carry your child.”
But Vulkin, like another far-ganger, he weren’t having any of this. Result, they talked. And the tide upped, and then died, and upped and then died, many times over ere the talking was done. And his men in his ship muttered of pride on a man’s wedding night and those nearest delighted of the sight of the sea-lady’s bare breasts afloating.
Then, “Lock oars!” he calls to them. “I’m taking this sea-lady home.”
“Ho!” says his seamen, and, “Hum!” But none dared to say what all were thinking, that it’s ne’er a wise thing to do when you’ve already a good-working wife, or two.
But her presence seemed to cause no discord. Mayhap ‘cause none dared upset her. A sea-lady, see, she might bring on all manner of fish-smelling diseases.
Comes her time and she squirts out the child amid screams and curses and—well, you know how it is. Me, I don’t wait for any child’s birthing. My father’s son, me, I’m in and out and move along quickly.
Which is much as the sea-lady Wachilt did. Birthed the child and moved along quickly — though she did stop to yell over her slimy scaled shoulder as she was out of the door, “Yon child’s name is Wade and you’ll call him no other.”
And that is how Father Wade was born to Vulkin in his Norðvegan land.
But Wade, with only the edges of the Norðvegan fjords for striding along, soon was fretting. Barely nine year round and already he’d set his sights across the Vestravegr –that’s the North Sea to you, a misnomer if ever there was one. Don’t nobody know there’s many a good mile to the north beyond it?
Well, anyroad. Some says that Wade’s ma, the sea-lady Wachilt, saw Wade’s intent and sucked out the water, easing the troubles of his deep sea-crossing. But that’s like saying a shot-putter puts only wee dinky eggs. Na, Wade waded it. He’s got very long legs.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and gearing to say. Isn’t there another unusual lord who soon as was able was wading the fjords?
‘And Thor walked to the judgment, and waded those rivers which were called thus Körmt and Örmt and the Kerlaugs twain. Them shall Thor wade every day when he goes to the doom at Yggdrasill.’
Oh, it’s true., from the day of his tussle with that Midgard serpent, Thor’s been ever wading to land.
But, na, you’ve got the wrong lord. And I’m saying this quietly with finger to lips ‘cause, well you know how he is, subject to those moments of raging madness. Yet Wade’s name ought to tell you, if you just change it a little bit. Na-na, I’m saying no more of it. And I’ll be rightly glad if you pretend I’ve not said it at all.
Anyroads, Father Wade came here to this land. Oh, the delight of it! How he rejoiced. Like a wind, like a gale, he strode with abandon across our wide moors. None could contain him. See how I enthuse just to speak of him. But his free days were not to be long.
Father Wade met with a lady, Bell by name. Some says she’s named for her tricky nature, though some says it’s just ‘cause she’s rather large. I reckon the latter ‘cause, well, Father Wade himself is a bit of a giant. Besides, the Lady Bell keeps a giant cow so she’d have to be large herself to reach up to the udder – unless that’s why she tricked Wade into marrying her: so he’d milk the cow for her.
Well, tricky or large, Wade soon tired of her and, wading again across the sea, he got him a second wife. This one, like his ma, a proper sea-lady.
Within the nine-month she gave him three sons.
The one, Egil, has a tale told about him that once, when he was in a dire situation and needed to prove his skill at the archery, he shot an apple from the head of his three year old son! Oh, but his son’s mother weren’t pleased about that. As soon I’m to tell you, she was a valkyrie.
Of Slagfiðr I can say no more than his name. And that name is odd, you have to agree. See, the feather of Fiðr is, well, light as a feather, while the sledge of the Slag is huge-hammer heavy.
But we can disregard them, ‘cause they’re not a full part of the tale. ‘Twas the third son, the famed Wydian.
Oh, you don’t know the name Wydian? Nor Gwydion nor Volund nor Wiolant nor Velentr nor Vulcan nor Welund? See, they are his names in the other lands. But here, and to us, he is the ‘Battle-brave’ Wayland.
And that’s who this second part of the tale is about.
Wayland, Battle-brave smith
Well, Father Wade’s sons grew quickly to men. And being men each took him a wife, Valkyries each. Wayland’s wife was the high lady swan maiden, All White. But was, she was, ‘cause after the nine years round the Valkyrie ladies left their lovers. So heartbroken were Egil and Slagfiðr that they followed after, ne’er to be seen again.
But not Wayland. Na, Wayland was fine. For All White had left him with token, a lover’s ring.
Did I say he was fine? Na-na-na, he only was fine for a while. For the fame of his metal-makings – and not only swords, he crafted many another thing – like he forged seven hundred duplicates of All White’s lovely ring, though I can’t tell you why. I mean, why would he do such a thing? Yet the tales says that he did so he must have done, I suppose.
Well, word of his skill travelled wide, reaching the ears of the hateful Niðhad, who some say was then king of the Nadders.
“I’ll have his skills,” sneered the nasty Niðhad. “Send out my night-riders. I want him captured and hamstrung and imprisoned upon the island of Sea-stead.”
And so it was done. While in dreams of All White, smith Wayland blissfully slept, he was taken.
Now held in a prison with rock-slabs as the walls, this king Niðhad forced Wayland to forge for him magical items. That was cause enough for a grudge without that the nasty Niðhad stole Wayland’s precious love-token and gave it to Bodvild, his equally bad daughter, to wear. Himself wore Wayland’s most personal sword. Wayland roiled in his innards. The day must come when he would have revenge, he swore it.
Day came when Niðhad’s two sons came to visit, sneaking in quietly when none would see them, slyly demanding certain ‘forgings’ from him.
Well, Wayland seemed meekly to obey. Yet had the brothers been listening they might’ve heard the smith softly chuckling whilst forging this flimflam they’d asked of him. For while at his anvil, with his hammer Fiðr, named for his brother, in hand Wayland was crafting a plot of deepest revenge.
The brothers returned for their wares, themselves giggling and nudging and thinking they had some mighty power o’er him. But they’d none of it, see.
While they passively waited he picked up his hammer and swinging it round in rapid circle – whack and wham! – cracked both their jaws which instantly killed them.
Of their skulls he fashioned two goblets. And laughing, he sent them to Niðhad, their father.
Of their eyes he created magnificent jewels, and sent these to the queen, their mother.
While of their teeth he crafted a brooch which he sent to Bodvild, their sister – who deserved the worst of his revenge for she currently swanned it wearing All White’s love-token.
But that ring broke, unable to bear being so close to her evil. And Bodvild brought it to Wayland to mend.
‘Cause, some says that he planned it to be. Some says that that brooch made of her brothers teeth were by some cunning means enchanted, and it was that caused the ring’s failing. Others say that All White, seeing the Princess Bodvild wearing her ring, did herself cause the failing. But I prefer the version I told ‘cause I don’t hold with too much magical doings. Makes a tale a little too tall for my telling.
“This will take some while,” he advised evil Bodvild. “Here, some wine while you wait.” I hardly need say, that wine was drugged.
He mended the ring, easily corrected now again in his hands. And while Bodvild slept he caught him some birds. From their feathers he fashioned some wings. Then he wrought his deepest revenge.
I’ll not say it outright. Thousand years hence when my tale is again told, who knows what might be the sensibilities. Might even be a lady or so amongst those hearing, and I don’t want to offend. So, enough to say that nine months round and Bodvild doubled in pain. She sweated with spasms. The pangs gripped her awful, they did. And she birthed a son, the making of him an utter mystery.
That ‘fatherless’ son was revenge indeed. For Niðhad then wanted to raise him, and in time granted him all of his lands, for his own sons, you remember, were dead.
But that’s me getting ahead. As yet Wayland is captive in that stone chamber, all hamstrung, unable to walk nor barely to stand.
There was a window, a wind’s hole, in that chamber, through which Wayland had caught him the birds, you’ll remember. Now wormlike he squirmed through it. Then he strapped on those magical wings. Then up-up, into the sky, he flew away laughing all of the way.
Free again now, Wayland set up many a smithy in all the lands bordering the Vestravegr and the German Sea. He had a particular liking for Berkshire, here. Beahilda’s Barrow, and Widug’s Low, both are known to be his. Though the best is that close by the White Horse at Uffington. All are protected by elves; they’re Wayland’s own folk, you see. He has his own pictures on many a stone – at Halton in Lancashire, and on several stone crosses (at Leeds in West Yorkshire, at Sherburn-in-Elmet and Bedale in North Yorkshire). There he’s carved in flight with his bird-feathers on. He’s said to have forged a sword for the great British King, Riderch Hael of Strathclyde, as well as Excalibur for the magician once known as Myrddynn.
Ah! And now here they bring me the mead, Toli’s reward for his telling of tall tales. Ay, I’ll tell you another tall tale, another time. For now—Oh, look, the ladies are about to start their dancing. Oh, this is too much distraction. I must leave you now.