GastropnirAnother often-sought place in Jotunheim is Gastropnir. This is the castle of Mengloth, the famed Healer of Jotunheim. It lies in the westernmost part of Jotunheim, near the shore of the Vanaheim Ocean, and is perched on the peak of Lyfjaberg Mountain. Lyfjaberg is easily visible from both the shore and from the mountain chain surrounding Utgard; it is the tallest mountain in the western chain. There is a twisting road that circles the mountain, but it filled with hazards. The castle itself is said to have been carved from the bones of the giant Leirbrimir; the local story, however, is the Leirbrimir was a mountain Jotun who turned himself into part of the mountainside and stayed that way, and the jutting cliff that had been his body formed the foundation for the castle.
The front gate is enormous, of wrought iron shaped like twining vines, nicknamed Clanging Thrymgjol. It was supposedly forged by the three sons of the dwarf Solblindi. Two hounds, Gif and Geri, are constantly on watch outside and will not let anyone through. Attempting to bribe them with food will not work, as they are trained to deal with that: one will eat the food while the other watches. (It is quite likely that they are not ordinary hounds at all, but shapeshifted Jotnar.)
The gatekeeper, and general majordomo, of the place is Fjolsvid. He is a fairly large and intimidating-looking giant, but in actuality he is rather loquacious and enjoys chatting with passersby. His willingness to gossip, however, does not mean that he will be willing to let just anyone through. It is best to send a message to Mengloth first, asking to visit. She is the best-known healer among all Jotunkind, especially for women's complaints. Folk of all races come to her to study, including Eir the healer of Asgard who is her colleague. While she is most sought after for healing, she values her privacy and does not consider herself a public utility. If you seek her out for healing or for study, be prepared to pay for it, and you had better be serious on either count. Her fortress is not called "Guest-crusher" for nothing.
Mengloth is married to a mortal man named Svipdag (not to be confused with the Svipdag who is a long-dead husband of Freya) who may be from Midgard, or even long ago from this world. He is often out hunting among the Jotun, who consider him one of them. Mengloth's six handmaidens are named Hlifthrasa (Help-breather); Thjodvara (Folk-Guardian); Bjort (Shining); Bleik (White); the twin sisters Blid (Mild) and Frid (Pretty) who are actually Vanir and younger sisters or cousins of Freya; Aurboda (Gold-Giver) who is the mother of Gerda, Frey's wife. A handmaiden named Eir is also listed; there is some argument as to whether this is the same Eir, goddess of healing, who serves Frigga. While I have not met Mengloth's Eir, being as the name is loosely translated as "healing", it could simply be another Eir. It could also be that Frigga's Eir herself comes to visit and trade learning; from my dealings with both of them, it is clear to me that they are colleagues at the least, and likely friends.
If you should get inside Gastropnir, you will see many halls around a courtyard that is open to the sky. One of them seems to be made of flame, or moving lava; the walls flicker as you look at it. This is Lyr, the Hall of Heat, a hall built specially for Sinmora the Lady of Muspellheim, who enjoys visiting Mengloth, by her godson Loki and a team of hired duergar-craftsmen. Avoid going inside, as it is extremely hot in there; the floor is of burnished gold that is almost molten in places. Lyr is sometimes used for heating patients with chills, or water is poured on the floor and it becomes a purifying sauna. It is also the keeping-place for Surt and Sinmora's flaming sword/wand Laevatein, which is the source of all the heat. Laevatein was forged by Loki as a gift for his godparents, and it is kept in a bowl-shaped iron box sealed with nine locks. Don't get any ideas about stealing it, as no one without serious amounts of fire-giant blood could even touch it, and anyway the warders of Gastropnir keep an eagle's eye on it while outsiders are about.
Many folk who don't journey, and whose only view into the Nine Worlds is through the clouded lens of lore, have claimed that Mengloth isn't really a person unto herself but is actually a "heiti" or ritual name of either Frigga or Freya. Since I have had some dealings with all three of those ladies, I can assure you that Mengloth is indeed her own person, a tall Jotun-woman who loves jewelry and is usually draped in strings of beads, many of which seem to be healing amulets. She is noted to be exceptionally good with women's physical complaints, although she will take on any sort of healing problem if she decides that you are worth it.
For offerings, remember that Mengloth loves jewelry, especially jewelry that she can't get herself from her own area. She has access to the mines of Jotunheim, so she naturally gets a good deal of crystals and polished stone, but items like shell beads, unusual stones, or cut gems would be much more difficult for her to come by. Linen for bandages is also prized by her; all linen in the Nine Worlds is farmed in Vanaheim and must be imported.
ThrymheimOn top of a mountain in the northeastern chain is Thrymheim, the royal court of Jotunheim. Thrym is a frost-thurse, born in Niflheim, who was elected High King and Chieftain of all Giantkind. His duties are largely ceremonial, although he is called upon to mediate disputes between tribal leaders, and make decisions on problems that they might find too large or impactful to handle themselves. (What decisions Utgard-Loki or Surt wouldn't choose to handle themselves, I can't imagine, although I suppose there might be some.) Getting to Thrymheim takes some doing, as the passes are often frozen with many feet of snow. Native guides are good here; it's not too hard to find a giant who is willing to visit Thrym's table and drink his beer.
Thrym the Old is a jovial, white-bearded giant with a generous table who throws fine parties. The best offering to give at his table is that of entertainment - songs, stories, juggling, etc. In fact, if you announce at the door that you have entertainment to share, you will likely be let in immediately. Remember that the best songs and stories are ones that they likely wouldn't have heard, but that would be understandable to them and their culture, and choose your repertoire carefully. Laugh at Thrym's jokes, smile and nod when he tells war stories, don't talk politics, and don't get drunk and say things you'll regret. If Thrym or any other Jotun there challenges you to a drinking contest, turn them down with good humor, perhaps saying modestly that you are a lightweight and could never win against their obvious prowess. Which, frankly, is likely to be completely true.
Keep in mind, however, that under his jovial manner Thrym is much colder and more hard-hearted than you might think. He hates the Aesir with a passion, and if you are sworn to them, you'd better not talk about it. Avoid the subject, and don't challenge him on it. Even if he knows that you wear a Thor's hammer about your neck, he'll let you in if you are entertaining, but leave your politics at the door and talk about neutral subjects. This is another reason not to get drunk while visiting.
The beer brewed at Thrymheim, by the way, is some of the best around, and is extremely strong for beer. Its recipe was started by Olvalde, a giant whose name means "Ale-Emperor", and was continued by his sons Thjatsi (the infamous giant who kidnapped Iduna, was killed by Thor, and whose daughter is Skadi), Gang, and Ide. The latter two brothers are still alive and brewing. Be careful when you drink it; it tends to give mortals a terrible hangover.
Another giant-figure who often lives at Thrym's court (although she has a modest hall slightly to the north of it) is Thorgerdr. While she passes as a frost-giantess in Jotunheim - she can throw wind and rain and hail with the best of them, and often does - she is actually Finnish in origin and spends part of the year in Lapland with the Saami. Somewhere along the line she started spending time in Scandinavia, and got inducted into this pantheon as a patron deity of Halogaland in north Norway. Unlike a giantess, her age waxes and wanes from sturdy maiden to iron-grey-haired matron throughout the year.
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