Born Immortal Chapter 14

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The next morning Astyr went jogging with Randy and they made plans to go for a ride the next day. She was already busy today, Grima wanted to teach her how to read runes and then Hakon was going to pick her up to go visit with Gunnar again. Astyr jogged two laps with Randy so that she could spend more time catching up and hearing about his week. Even though she saw him every morning, they couldn't talk while riding on his motorcycle. So she listened to his stories of people who came into the shop where he worked as a mechanic and she told him about her week at school. There was an easy familiarity between them and Astyr was sorry to have to say goodbye again all too soon.

She spent the next few hours with Grima learning how to read Old Norse manuscripts written in runes. It was easy to learn the twenty-four different symbols that made up the alphabet and as soon as she knew the sounds each rune stood for, she merely had to memorize the meanings of all the words. Before lunch, she was easily reading a story about the truce that had ended the Aesir-Vanir war. "I always thought that runes were only carved on stones and metal." Astyr said. "Where did you get all of these manuscripts from? Museums would kill to find things like these."

Grima laughed at that. "Yes, museums would fight for these if they knew they existed, Astyr. But these were my own personal accounts of the stories my parents told me and I wouldn't want to give them up or have to explain how I got them. And humans never find things like these because we make sure not to leave them behind. They have enough stories of us already. And now that they outnumber us and have technology on their side, we're safer staying off the radar."

"So your parents fought in this war?" Astyr asked. "What was the war about?"

"Yes, my parents fought." Grima said, "And the war was about the same thing all wars are fought for; power and control. In this case, it was for control of the humans."

"Why were the Aesir and the Vanir fighting over humans?" Astyr asked.

"We fought over humans for the same reason they fight over land to grow crops on, Astyr." Grima replied. "You have to remember that in those times there weren't a lot of humans around, yet, and they were helpless creatures who lived in small bands fighting for survival. When our kind realized that they were a rich source of energy, we started to keep them and taught them how to farm and raise food so that we could have a healthy supply whenever we needed. The Aesir mainly lived in southwest Asia at that time, the humans even named the continent after us, and that is why all of their histories point to Mesopotamia as the beginning of their civilization. But changes in the weather sent bands of wild humans into farther territories and when the Vanir started to copy us, some of our elders thought that they should pay us a tribute. The Vanir didn't agree, of course; they felt that wild humans belonged to no one and could be caught and drained by anyone. We didn't think it right that they were killing them; it was wasteful and would have seen the humans as extinct as the other hominids who had crossed paths with the Vanir before. So we invaded their territory even though they outnumbered us. The fighting lasted for hundreds of years and when both sides were tired and worn down, we agreed to a truce. The Vanir were allowed to keep humans as long as they treated them well, and we returned to our lands. We left some of our people with them to ensure they followed the terms of the treaty and the children of some of their elders came with us to ensure the safety of the Aesir who had remained behind. Of course, after so long, there were those who had come to find love and there was much intermarriage after the war. You can't really find much difference at all anymore between the two races."

Astyr took a moment to think about all of this. "So, none of the other races took part in this war?" she asked.

"Oh, yes," Grima said, "The issue of how to deal with humans affected all of us. They all had a stake in the outcome of our war. The Alfar naturally sided with us because they are far more closely bound to the energy of nature. They don't like to see the balance upset by extinctions. The Jotnar took our side as well but that was a purely political decision. Their bodies use energy only to become big and strong, they cannot manipulate it in any other way, but if they mate with an Aesir, their children can. They took our side just to make sure they would still be accepted in marriage by us. The Nithavelir sided with the Vanir because they can only process energy when they absorb it internally; the idea of draining every drop of blood they could find really appealed to them."

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