Embla’s Ages in Love, Observed—Hanne Larsson


I’d never seen you cry before; I didn’t think fathers cried like that, but you did when she left. Even then I knew she was the love of your life but she’d made you choose between your two girls. It was me: the fire-scarred one, the human one. I tried to wipe away your tears from your granite cheek, but they turned to diamonds, so I hid them under my pillow. I already know what power troll tears possess; you’ll need them returned. 


They bully her. They bully her for being fearless of the sun and she stands there bathed in the warmth because she knows they can’t touch her there. She wishes her best friend could stand beside her, and she looks over to see how he has made a coat of pine branches and mud that casts a shadow for him so that he can stand beside her. He reaches for her hand, stretching out from the shade, his warm grey fingers blistering almost as soon as the sunlight finds them. She beams at him, for the love he’s shown.


I dream of you although your face is fuzzy and your voice mute. I’ve never seen a human boy before, but I wish for pinkish skin and brown hair like the bark of my favourite tree. You would be as warm as the river stones I dry my clothes on. Your skin covered in hairs will sweat when I touch it. My mind goes damp when I try to feel you kiss me. I do not know what to expect, I’m surrounded by greys and granite shapes that love me but can never be my same softness. We shall be so happy together.


Da holds it out to me – this proof he’s finally found, the answer he knows his only daughter has been searching for, been so angry for – the proof I’ve needed above all else, and I just want to envelop him and apologise. I thought nature would answer all my questions, but instead it’s in nurture I should have looked.


You came into my life mewling and crying, and I thought I had known what love was until this moment. Caked in me and already disappointed with the winter darkness I named you Aska and squeezed you until I feared you would break. Your father will not acknowledge either of us, but I will love you doubly, and your grandfather will love you with the strength of mountains behind him. You will not want for love, my daughter. 


I still think of revenge for the way in which they treated you: a returning hero faced with the death squad or Old Sten’s way. The troll law was savage in its ruling. I have gathered an army even though I can hear your voice begging me not to come, but it’s too late, Da, they cannot be alive for this. You would always excuse them, transcending above their pettiness but I cannot let them sully who you are and the love you bore me, for this.


The blood spills from my gut in waves and each breath is full of retch and bile, and I turn my face to the sun hoping that Old Sten will turn me to stone like he did you. I don’t care whether we lost or won. Softly I begin to whisper the words creeping onto my tongue – the trollsong rising from mumble into rumbling – as your diamond tears cut blood into my hands, as I stare up into your gnarled face. Come back unchanged; tell me you’ve forgiven me. You gave up everything for me once, now I return the favour. Old Sten will understand my love for you, even if his priests say a human could never understand his stony ineffableness.

Hanne is a Swedish-British national who longs for the 95% humidity and hawker centre food of her childhood and is still wondering where home is. Her stories are fed by environmental science topics, moss-covered rocks masquerading as trolls and what-if scenarios. Her words can be found in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Common Breath, Lunate Fiction, The Drabble and STORGY, and in anthologies by Green Stories and Hammond House. She is a member of Dahlia Books’ ‘A Brief Pause’ cohort for 2021 and lurks on Twitter: @hannelarsson

photo by Jaanus Jagomägi and Hao Zhang (via unsplash)