Issue 5 cover

Imperfect Verse

by Rose Lemberg

Issue 5 :: Winter 2009 (stories)

I said to my father, “Circle my waist with a frost-biting sword and send me to battle the Aesir.”

“I won’t let you run around with a blade like some boy.” King of the giants, he towered above the warriors and the winter-weary retainers crowding our hall. “Learn dignity.” He constricted my brow with circlets, wound spirals of soft red gold round my arms.

“It was a mistake to name you Battle-Adornment, my daughter. Stay at home.”

I snorted.

“Choose a mate from among my men.”

I broke some gold off my armrings and threw it like dripping red meat to the giants that crowded around us. They bent for it blustering, bickering like bitches. “None here are my size.”

“You are unruly,” my father declared, “but I will set you a task well worth your sitting and staring.”

At his sign the servants rolled in three stout barrels belted with bronze. They were warded with whispers that the wise of our women had dug out from under the fens. The vats buzzed, and I ran my fingers over the smooth agate of my arms.

“Are there bees in those barrels?” I asked.

The giant-king said, “Not honey-makers. Mead itself.” He frowned. “Kvasir, they called him. Our short-sighted enemies, the Aesir, fought fiercely with some foreign folk, and in the end
they made peace by spitting, and when the spit soured they shaped Kvasir. He was too smart to sit still and too wise for his own renown. He traveled around and bragged. The dwarfs slew him, mixed his blood with honey, and poured him into these vats. I slew the dwarfs.”

The killing talk made me thirsty. My father’s breath hovered between us, sweet with beer, bitter with rot. “And what is the destiny of such a dangerous drink?” I wanted to spill it down my
throat, send it to slosh in my stomach.


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"Imperfect Verse" is roughly 3160 words.

Rose Lemberg was born on the outskirts of the former Habsburg Empire. She spent many happy years in Berkeley, CA, where she also received her doctorate. Rose is a new professor at a large Midwestern university. She lives in a beautiful modernist house with her family and a small army of books. Her fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine and the Warrior Wisewoman anthology and her poetry in Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, Abyss & Apex, GUD, and other venues.