I don't own anything. Buffy is not owned by me. It is owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me. The Mines of Svartálfaheim
“Are you allright?” Willow asked as she examined her friend. “You look a bit... ruffled.”
“Thanks,” Buffy said dryly. “I'll take ruffled. Way better than I really look.”
“Well... it's not too bad. You know, for someone who took a beating and got covered in tar, and other stuff like... what are those? Intestiney bits?”
Buffy glanced down and flicked some dried viscera from her pants that she had missed during her earlier cleaning. “Something gross, anyway. How 'bout you? Run into any trouble?”
Willow shrugged. “Nothin' I couldn't handle.”
“Same here,” Buffy agreed nodding. “Was just all worried-like, what with the collapse and the last words being a dumb fight.”
Willow smiled slightly. “Yeah. If you'd left it like that, I would have had to... had to... well, I'd have dragged you back to life again, just so that those weren't our last words!”
Buffy smiled grimly. “Preferably after digging me out of their this time.” At Willow's suddenly pained expression Buffy laughed nervously. “See, that was Slayer humor. Gallows humor, that's our funny. Anyway, don't we have a short beardy guy to find? Or something else, equally full of awkwardy pushing pastedness.”
“Right,” Willow agreed, clearing her throat and avoiding meeting Buffy's eyes. Muttering an incantation, she created another tracking mote to find a dwarf capable of fixing Gram. They both frowned as it point towards the waterfall. “I guess we need to go under it.”
“Watch out for creepy fish,” Buffy said as she walked around the lake to the base of the falls.
“Yup,” Buffy affirmed with a nod. “Way creepy. All with the eyelessness and the way-too-pale. They looked more like somethin' to slay than fillet.”
“Right, cave fish,” Willow said, nodding. “Which, given, could be pretty creepy. Um... one didn't do that to you, did it?”
Buffy glanced back down at her clothing's current state of disrepair. “No. Well, I don't think so.”
“You don't think so?” Willow asked.
“I didn't get a good look at it,” Buffy said sheepishly. “Or, you know, any look at it. It kinda hit me from behind, and broke my flashlight. Had to do the blind fighting thing. Which, incidentally? Overrated for fighting underground baddies. Cheating, probably eyeless, baddies.”
Buffy was glad to find a narrow path that she could squeeze through between the cave wall and the waterfall without getting too wet, and soon she found herself in a wide, slick passage behind the falls. Shaking the cold water from their hair and clothing, they walked for some time in silence, neither sure how to begin the conversation they both felt they needed to have, now that they were out of mortal danger. It was much easier to insist to yourself that you would talk things out when you weren't sure if your loved one would make it, than it was to actually do it when you had found them whole.
Willow was the first one to notice the subtle changes around them, although it took her some time until she was certain. “Hey, Buffy, look!”
Buffy followed her friend's finger, which was pointing at a part of the wall. “What?”
“Tool marks!” Willow said, excitedly. “Not just any tool marks, either. Looks like someone took a sample from the wall. Probably a prospector.”
“Okay...” Buffy said, her voice trailing off leadingly.
Willow rolled her eyes. “That means someone did some mining near here at some point. And dwarves? Everything says that they're awesome with the mining. So we're getting close.”
“Good,” Buffy said, sighing. “I reached my lifetime's worth of cave wandering about three hours ago. Actually, I think I hit it my first year slaying, but if I hadn't? Definitely have now.”
“Oh come on, it's not that bad,” Willow cajoled. “Some of those caves were pretty, like the one with the gypsum flowers, remember? And the underground waterfall was pretty nifty, right? And, ooh! We're in an ancient dwarven mine! Dwarven. Mine.”
“Unless they've got shoe shops? Wasted trip.”
Willow pouted. “But... but... dwarven mine!”
“No shoes, no interest,” Buffy said repressively.
It wasn't much longer before the tunnel became larger and more regular, and even Buffy could easily tell that it had been tunneled by tool wielding creatures. Eventually iron latticework started to support the roof in some places, and small glowing stones placed at wide intervals provided some basic lighting. Most of the tunnel was fairly uniform in size, although every once in a while they entered large, hollowed out rooms, which had obviously once housed veins of ore and precious minerals. In a few places these raw materials still sparkled in the walls, but for the most part such things had been completely harvested.
Eventually they reached a large, round chamber, with four passages leading from it, each heading in directions ninety degrees from the previous one. The ceiling overhead was so high above that even shining her flashlight straight up, Buffy's keen Slayer vision didn't allow her to see it. At the center of the room was a raised platform, with several long chains connected to it, extending into the distance above.
The two women approached it, examining the stone platform with interest. Some of the chains were connected to a metal grill that lay on the platform, while others passed through it to connect to the stone itself. A small box with a lever extending to waist height sat to one side of the metal grill.
“Looks like some kinda elevator,” Buffy said after a long moment.
Willow nodded in agreement, then examined her tracking mote carefully. “I think we need to take it,” she finally pronounced. “It wants us to go up.”
“Who am I to argue with a green spark,” Buffy said dryly. “Let's just take the rickety deathtrap. Sounds like fun.”
“We could fly,” Willow offered.
“A world of no,” Buffy said, shaking her head rapidly. “Rickety death trap it is.”
Climbing on board, they grabbed onto the chains that were attached to the lift itself, and then pulled the lever. Chains rattled and the platform shook, before slowly beginning to rise. Before long the process speeded up, until they felt wind blowing past their faces as they shot upwards through the dark.
The journey was deeply unsettling, as even the slightest motion on either of their parts caused the lift to begin rocking back and forth. Even when they did stand perfectly they were still shaken roughly about by the vibrations of the device. Finally, to both of their relief, the lift began to slow down, and their flashlights showed a narrow opening above, which led into a larger chamber. When they entered the chamber, the lift came to a halt, allowing the two shaken women to get their bearings at last.
The room they were now in was much fancier than the mines below had been. The walls were perfectly smooth stone, with gentle arches and a curved roof overhead. Numerous lights were scattered around the walls, and a huge stone double door was the only apparent exit from the room.
Walking up to the doors, the two women examined them for a moment, before Buffy shrugged and grabbed the handle. She grunted with the effort, but slowly the door swung open, revealing another hallway, very similar in design to the room they were standing in. Walking inside, Buffy closed the door carefully, before looking at her friend. “I'm thinkin' this is some kinda living area, 'stead of the mines we were in.”
“Yeah,” Willow agreed with a nod. “Look at the craftsmanship! That's sedimentary rock, but its smooth as glass. I've never seen anything like it, and this is just a hallway leading to a mine! Can you imagine what their homes look like, or their fancy places?”
“Prob'ly pretty fancy,” Buffy agreed blandly as they walked down the hallway.
The mote of light led them through a maze of twisting passages, and without it they would have long ago become completely lost. Finally it led them into a round room, with a stone door along one wall. The tracking spell pointed at the door for a moment, before winking out.
“This's gonna be great,” Willow said excitedly. “A real, live dwarf.” Unable to contain herself any longer, she knocked rapidly on the door. She all but vibrated as they waited, and finally, after long moments, they heard the door unlock before slowly being opened.
The man who answered the door did have a thick black beard and long black hair, but that was where the resemblance to the dwarf Willow had been expecting ended. He was nearly six feet tall, with a thin build, and skin so pale that he looked like a vampire. His black eyes glittered coldly as he glared down at them. “Whattaya want?” he growled.
Willow's jaw had been dropped from the moment the door had opened, and she tried to rally after the man had spoken. “Yeah... um, I was wondering, um, are you a dwarf?”
The man snorted. “You c'n call me that. Name's Eitri.”
“But... but you aren't short!” Willow protested. “Or stocky! Or Scottish sounding.”
“No, but blondie over there is short 'nough for the both, eh?” Eitri said. “An' why would I sound like a Scotsman? That makes no kind of sense.”
“What!” Buffy squawked. “I am not short. It's everyone else's too tall.”
“Keep tellin' yerself that, blondie, and someday even you might come to believe it,” he grunted, scratching his belly. “Now, you got business, or should I get back to my drink?”
“Least they got that part right,” Willow muttered, her nose wrinkling at the thick stink of too much alcohol that came from his breath.
“We need your help,” Buffy said.
“Right then,” Eitri said, stepping aside. “Come on in."
The inside of the house was even fancier than Willow had dreamed. The walls were covered in decorations so intricate and detailed that, despite being simple carved stone, they put any painting she had ever seen to shame. Most of them depicted scenes of blacksmithing and war, along with pictures of a variety of demons and monsters.
“Take a seat,” Eitri said, taking a huge swig of his glass of mead. He then leered at them in a manner that made both women want to scrub themselves clean... with sandpaper. “P'raps ol' Eitri c'n give you two somethin' good?”
Buffy shuddered. “A world of no. Even think
that, and I promise, you won't be able to again. Ever.”
Eitri considered that for a moment, before leering again. “Might be worth it, seein' how you'd have to handle it to do anythin' 'bout it.”
“I don't, buster,” Willow said, raising her hand and causing it glow with purple sparks. “So get that idea out of your head, right now. Eww.”
“What are you here fer,” Eitri asked with a pout. It was very disturbing to watch a man with a thick beard pout.
“We need you to fix my sword,” Buffy said, placing her hand on the hilt of Gram.
Eitri scratched himself, before taking another large swig of mead. “Naw. Don't think I will.”
“You missed the 'need' part,” Buffy said. “As in: no choice.”
“Always got a choice,” Eitri said philosophically. “That's the thing 'bout free will, ain't it?”
“And I've always got the free will choice to make you sing soprano,” Willow said, smiling brightly.
“Talk like that, don't 'xactly make me more inclined to help,” he grumbled.
“Look, I said we needed it fixed,” Buffy said. “Which means we're willing to offer anything that's reasonable. 'Cause we need it, and you can do it.”
“I c'n do it,” Eitri agreed. “How 'bout you two take me up on...”
Willow fired a bolt of purple magic, which shot from her hand and struck the chair between Eitri's legs. He gulped as he looked down at the large, smoking hole inches from his crotch. “Right. Not that then.”
“What would it take – as in, in terms that won't get you sliced 'n diced – for you to fix it?” Buffy asked.
Eitri leaned back in his seat. “Why would I want to? Some cruddy third rate sword? My brother an' I, we made Mjollnir. Nothing you have could be remotely interesting next to that.”
“It's not just some cheap sword!” Willow objected. “Regin was a dwarf, and he reforged it! And it was originally made for Odin by Wayland the Smith! Wait. You made Mjollnir? Wow! I mean... Mjollnir!”
“Regin worked it?” Eitri asked curiously, puffing out his thin chest at Willow's gushing. “An' Wayland? Never met a human who could work a smithy as well as him, it's true. Hmm... it might be a project of some interest after all. It wouldn't happen to be Gram, would it?”
“Yup,” Buffy said, drawing the broken sword.
Eitri eyed the weapon professionally. “I see why you want it fixed. You got all the pieces?”
“Think so,” Buffy said as she dumped the fragments out of the sheath and onto his table.
“'S a nice old sword, but why are you wantin' it fixed up? Goin' to another world, dealing with a dwarf... that's not the sorta thing you'd do unless you were a fool or desperate. Which is it?”
“I guess... the second, kinda?” Willow said. “The dragon Fafnir is going to attack our world. We need the sword to slay him, so it's kind of important.”
“You? Slay a dragon? How do you plan to track it down?”
Buffy shrugged. “Won't have to do too much tracking. Just wait in Sweden at the starting line and keep him from getting all rampagey.”
“So, you don't know where his lair is?” Eitri asked, his eyes sparkling with avarice.
Buffy examined him for a long moment, recognizing his expression, although it took her a bit to figure out what had caused it. When she did it took everything she had to contain her smirk. “Yup,” she began innocently. “When we slay him, he won't be able to go back to his big ol' lair. All that gold and jewels... just left to rot, since we'd have no way of ever finding it. 'Course, if we can't kill him, it won't matter, since he'd be there to protect it...”
“Hmm,” Eitri said. “I suppose I'm not too busy right now. I won't mind seein' some of Wayland's ol' work.”
“So you'll fix it then?” Willow asked excitedly.
“No,” Eitri said, shaking his head. “Only way I could would be to have my brother with me. But he was taken by trolls. If he were somehow rescued, I'd be able to fix it in a jiffy, but...”
“Should dwarves really say jiffy?” Willow muttered. The others ignored her.
“Well, I guess if someone were to rescue him, then maybe it could be fixed,” Buffy said innocently. “And then I'd be all busy doing the Slayer thing, so no time for long, pointless treasure hunts.”
“Yup,” Eitri said, nodding with a straight face. “If someone were to look for him, he'd be held by trolls in Járnviðr. That's in Jotunheim, you know.”
Buffy looked at Willow, who shrugged. “We'll need to take Ratatoskr again, but it's not much more of a trip than the one here.”
“Great,” Buffy said unenthusiastically. “We'll be back soon.”
“Take your time,” Eitri said, taking another huge swig of mead. “They probably ain't eatin' him or anythin'. Too gristly.”
Buffy and Willow left his home, pausing outside his door and looking at each other. Willow pouted and spoke. “What a rip off. I mean, I've been looking forward to meeting a real live dwarf ever since I found out magic was real, and when I do... This sucks.”
“He looked a lot like a vampire,” Buffy said thoughtfully.
“Yeah,” Willow agreed. “Still, we can't stake him, 'cause he's the only one who can fix Gram.”
Buffy made a face. “Yeah. We have to go on a quest for him, and we gave up an entire dragon hoard of treasure just to get it fixed.”
“And we already had to fight a draugr, and loot his tomb, which means you got cursed too,” Willow pointed out helpfully.
“Great, I'd been trying to repress. Anyway, the point is: this sword better be awesome. Like, really awesome. If it can't cut a tomato, and a can, and maybe make some julienne fries, I'm gonna be pissed.”
Willow rolled her eyes. “An ancient magic sword, and you'd be satisfied with a Ginsu.”
“It's not my fault they have so many commercials,” Buffy defended. “I barely have time for TV anymore, and I still want to buy a set. You think maybe they're evil, with some kinda mind control thingie makin' them look so good?”
“Nope,” Willow said as she pulled out a piece of chalk. “I think you just stay up too late watching infomercials. They have them on at night, 'cause sleepy people buy stupid stuff. Like anything on that late. Now I've gotta concentrate, or we might try for Ratatoskr and get Hrungnir instead, and that would be of the bad.”
“Wouldn't want that,” Buffy agreed dryly as she watched her friend work. A few minutes later she was climbing on the back of the giant green squirrel, and the two women departed for the land were the trolls lived.
As they travelled, Buffy couldn't shake the niggling feeling that she was forgetting something very important involving the homeland of the trolls. Author's Notes
While the name 'dwarf' has become very popular for a certain kind of creature in Norse mythology, the oldest accounts don't ascribe many of the traits we would expect from that term. The original dwarves were never described as short, only as having dark hair and beards, corpse-pale skin, and needing to live underground as they would burn up in the sun. Germanic folklore also had a different creature that more resembles modern dwarves, and somewhere along the way the two creatures apparently merged in the stories. In fact, the Prose Edda seems to indicate that dwarves and svartálfar (which is to say, black elves or 'dark elves') are one and the same.