Day 4, Alfheim: "I am a harbinger of the teind."
There is no high noon in Alfheim, and no full night, either, I expect. Everything has the sheen of morning to it, with a strange glitter, and then it fades into twilight. Lots of things have glamour over them, so I had to cope with two overlaid worlds, plus an overlay of glamour. I could see where the glamour is, like a sparkly sheen over certain trees or rocks or people, and often I could see through it.
I don't like it here.
I told the first alf that I met that I was here to give a gift to the high court. I showed my tattoo, which got the coldest reception yet. They do not like Hel at all here; I'm still figuring out why. So then I sat and waited for the high muckety-mucks to show, and spun some silk. I offered it to a fairy, but she just sniffed and said that mortal spinning was too coarse,
The high court showed, in full array - although I can see straight through their glamour, if I chose, a fact that would no doubt piss them off if they knew it - and I presented them with Allyson's runes, at which point they became considerably less hostile. They were also relieved that I had no personal message from Her Ladyship. They made me carry the fancy box ahead of them like a servant, then I was told to go off and not bother them. I asked if I could see Frey, and I was told frostily that he was not home at the moment.
So I sat and spun, until the small faeries tangled my spinning, and then I wrote letters home until they spilled my ink. I gave them candy to bribe them away, but I soon ran out, and they pinched me and pulled my hair and tied it to the chair. Eventually I figured out what was going on. Alfheim wanted me gone. The Court elves had grandly proclaimed that I could stay, out of greed for my gift and not wanting to look bad, but they could disavow the actions of the little fairies, and let them drive me out.
I found myself getting sleepy, which seemed dangerous - if I fell asleep in a hostile Alfheim, who knew when I'd wake up? I brushed my hair with Unbinding, my magical hairbrush, which helped. I needed to go check on Maegen and give her clean water, but I didn't want them following me, so I laid a "this feels like cold iron" spell on all my stuff, and used an invisibility string behind me on the path. Maegen was all right, but there was a big frog on the steps, a frog- faery that looked at me and hopped off into the stream. I yelled at him, feeling a little frantic. I gave Maegen fresh water, and returned to find one faery bitching out another for letting me slip away. I quickly gathered up my things, threw another invisibility spell over my shoulder, and crossed over to Vanaheim. There seemed no reason to stay.
Later, in Jotunheim, the lord of Utgard was to tell me why I'd been received so poorly in Alfheim. Apparently it has to do with a certain teind that they owe Hel. The alfar/faery universe, according to what he said, is a self-contained one. If they aren't killed, they live a very long time, close enough to immortality to look like that to a mortal. If they are killed, they reincarnate as another alf or faery, and as they are very good at retaining their past memories - that's a fey gift - they practically pick up where they left off, as it were.
But nature abhors a self-contained system, and there was an implication there that their system is artificial, a product of some magical deal. And Hel dislikes it, and in order to keep Her off their backs, they have to sacrifice a certain number of themselves to Her. Some of the fantasy novels that talk about the teind to Hel (or more usually the Christian Hell, as they're all operating on later Christian ideas) imply or directly say that the faeries that are part of the teind merely visit the realm of the dead for a few years and then pop back. According to what I was told, this is completely off. They are killed, for real; ritually sacrificed to Her, and She recycles their souls into non-faery bodies. Which, since the elves are terribly racist, might as well be the same as them disappearing forever. So to them, this is a constant attrition (their birth rates are low due to their immortality) for which they resent Her terribly.
(I immediately thought of the "changelings" I've known when I heard this - Robin, and some other "Otherkin" folks. It made sense.)
The problem is that they are continually late with the teind, as they resent having to slaughter a few of their own kind every few years or however often they have to do it. Hel apparently sends various messengers through as a reminder, and it seems that I was unwittingly one of these messengers. In other words, I was set up. They did react very strongly like the tenants who are late with the rent react when the super comes by to remind them of the landlord's impending eviction notice. I wondered if Hel takes a similar toll from Svartalfheim, and began to worry about how that would go. The dark elves are even less nice than the so-called light elves. I suspect the difference has less to do with morals and more to do with aesthetics, anyway. The difference between Seelie and Unseelie may have more to do with the cut of the clothes than anything else.