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Appearing in "The Raven Banner: A Tale of Asgard"

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  • Raven Banner (First appearance)
  • Snorth's sword (First appearance)
  • Troll-Vine (First appearance)
  • Thorn of Sleep (First appearance)

Synopsis for "The Raven Banner: A Tale of Asgard"

Long, long, and very long ago, when the gods of Asgard were many, the giants and their allies waged war against them on the plain of Ida. The gods were confident of victory: the Raven Banner had spread to the wind, and its magic was such that any side that bore it into battle was assured victory, though the bearer was certain to die. In this battle, that honor belonged to Grim Magnus, a god whose forefathers had born the banner for centuries. Just as the giant Snorth slew Grim Magnus, the battle turned decisively against his troops, and they were forced to retreat. Later, a trio a of tunneling trolls snatch the banner from the field before any of the gods noticed them, and concealed their escape with a small illusion. When a host of Valkyries led by Sygnet arrive to collect the honored dead, they assume that Greyval -- Grim Magnus' son and Sygnet's betrothed -- has already retrieved the banner.

Unfortunately, Greyval Grimson is at that moment converting with the trolls in their underground lair. The god and trolls drink mead, frolic with elves, and trade tails of past hunts. Askella, a troll sorceress, arrives with news of the battle's conclusion, and Asgard's victory. The Raven Banner is gone, probably collected by some other god. Greyval mourns the loss of his father, but is content to be rid of the banner. Let another godly family claim the banner, and with it the glory of certain death in battle for Asgard. He is offered the fruit of the Trollvine, which would make him a troll and allow him to remain and frolic in their lair forever. At this point he comes to his senses: he promised his father that he would marry Sygnet on the eve of his death, a final tribute to his glory (and continuing the family line). Behind the illusion, Askella consults the troll king: Greyval is completely taken in by their illusions of a grand banquet hall, believes that the gods have redeemed the banner, and that the trolls rejoice in the gods' victory. She suggests that he be allowed to leave, for she has had a vision of him returning, "to kneel as a vassal at our feet 'til the Bottomless Abyss of Shadows fills with blood."

Sygnet and Greyval join in a hand-fast marriage, and their is much rejoicing among the gods. Greyval has been telling stories of the battle, claiming to have slain five (or maybe ten, or even fifteen) giants. Greyval and Horskuld bet on a fight between their horses, which Horskuld's black stallion wins. The celebration is marred when Valkyries arrive with the news that the Raven Banner has not been found. Odin believes that the giants may have stolen it, and that Greyval has committed a grave oversight by leaving it behind. The crowd turns on Greyval, but Sygnet silences them, saying that Greyval will petition the All-Father for the right to seek out and retrieve the banner.

The next day, Greyval and Sygnet travel from their farm on the plain of Ida to the gleaming city of Asgard. Their they meet Horskuld, who has already received permission from Odin to quest for the banner. Sygnet is dismayed, but Grey is pleased: he may not have to die after all. Just then, Balder arrives, and agrees to help Greyval get an audience with Odin. Inside, Greyval confesses his doubts to Balder. When the battle was about to begin, a cadre of trolls snatched his sword and ran off laughing. After he was lured into their kingdom, he found himself singing and dancing without a care. They swore that some other god would reclaim the banner, and he would not have to die. Now he has doomed the kingdom and lost Sygnet forever, for why would Odin grant a cowards plea? Hearing all this, Balder tells Greyval that fear of death is not cowardly; fear must be conquered as one claims his destiny. The land of trolls, he claims, is a prison of deceits, but Greyval had the will to overcome it and leave. The two go to meet Odin, who agrees to allow Greyval to hunt for the banner, and for Balder to accompany him. Morduk, speaking for the sages, tells Greyval he must first go to Valhalla meet his father's shade, who will guide him from there. Greyval wonders if Horskuld won't find the banner first, but Morduk is doubtful that the arrogant, untrusting god will get anywhere unless he stumbles onto a clue by sheer luck. Balder contacts Agnar, King of the Eagles, who agrees to fly the pair to Valhalla.

Meanwhile, Odin has retreated to Hlidskjalf, the tallest mountain peak in the universe, where he seeks peace in solitude. His wife, Frigga, has managed to find him, however, and he confides his fears in her. The peace Asgard has had until now seems but the prelude to a terrible storm. If the Ogres have the Raven banner, woven by "Time's father's father", then the time of Ragnarok may be upon them. The Fates have decreed that only a god of Grim Magnus' line can retrieve the banner. That leaves only Horskuld, who is filled with the type of pride that usually precedes a fall, and Greyval, who is not cowardly, but riddled with self-doubt.

Asgardian Ogre from Marvel Graphic Novel Vol 1 15 0001.jpg

Born by Agnar, Greyval and Balder soon reach the Enchanted Chasm separating Valhalla from the rest of the golden realm. Agnar will fly no further; not even he will brave the chasm's enchanted mists. The pair begin a slow climb down a robe woven of thorny vines. Reaching the bottom, the pair hear a voice somewhere in the distance, bemoaning his fate. "Oh I am lost and none can help, for soon the monster eats me bone and blood." The pair soon encounter the beast the voice speaks of, a gigantic Ogre. The creature knocks Balder from the stone bridge they were crossing, leaving him hanging. Greyval takes advantage by slashing the Ogre's ankle, leaving it hobbled, and allowing the two gods manage to escape. It is then that the pair meet the Ogre's captive (and dinner), the loquacious Oddbrand Otter, an otter-god who accompanies them out of the chasm.

As they pass out of the chasm, they come to Valhalla, where the honored dead are joined in joyous battle. One god is not battling, however. Grim Magnus, who is aware of everything that has transpired since his death, cannot bring himself to battle, knowing that his son is a coward. Greyval begs for forgiveness and counsel, swearing he will retrieve the banner and win fame's undying glory. Hopeful, Grim Magnus tells his son that he must first sojourn alone into Hel, realm of the un-honored dead, and then seek out the Norns in their forest. Only then will they tell him how to find the banner.

Hela (Earth-616) and Greyval Grimson (Earth-616) from Marvel Graphic Novel Vol 1 15 0001.jpg

Greyval journeys through Hel, ferrying across its stagnant river filled with corpses, past the guardian hel-hound Garm, through the catacombs of flame, and past the great Devouring Dragon, who swallows up the souls of the honorless dead. He also encounters Hela, who with a single tough shrivels his form into that of an old, feeble man, showing him what he will become if his courage fails. Horrified, Greyval swears this will not be his fate. He returns to Valhalla to retrieve Oddbrand and Balder, and the three depart for the Norn Forest.

Elsewhere, Horskuld circles the woods looking for a clue. A voice calls out to him, telling him the banner can be his if he only proves himself worthy. Horskuld proves his worth by slaying a doe and her fawn, just as the voice commands. The troll Otny springs from the blood, telling him he has indeed proven himself worthy.

By this point the trio of gods has reached the Sea of Marmora, which they must cross to reach the Norn's Forest. On the shore they meet a widow and her young son, who agree to ferry them to the far shore. When the gods think they've finally got a chance to rest, the widow and child are revealed as the trolls Askella and Svin in disguise. Svin lunges at Greyval, who runs the troll through. Askella summons a wind giant, who wrecks the small ship. Askella transforms into a mist, leaving the three to drown. Oddbrand saves the day when he pulls a bottle from his bag, sucking in the wind giant and imprisoning him. The bag, he explains, is a Bag of Wonders, which is enchanted to have just what you need when you need it (whenever you remember to wish for it, that is). The three wash up on the far shore, and continue their quest.

Elsewhere, Horskuld gazes into the troll's Pool of Mirrors, which shows him proud Sygnet being tricked and subdued by the trolls. Horskuld, desiring Sygnet for himself, he agrees to follow the trolls, who will provide him with the Raven Banner she so admires.

Having at last come to Yggdrasill, the World Tree. Balder is summoned back to Asgard by Odin's Ravens, who inform him that the giants are on the march again. Greyval and Oddbrand continue on, reaching the Norns at the hear of Yggdrasill. Their the three fates tell him of the three paths before him: the swift safe road home to his farm, to live in eternal health and shame; the rash, rueful road to the Raven Banner, where his new bravery will be tested; or the longest path, to save Sygnet, who is held in the land of rock trolls. Greyval chooses the longest, the hero's path to save Sygnet. The Norns are pleased by the choice, and inform him that Odin has sent his boar, Gullinbursti, to speed him on his way. Mounting the boar, Greyval and Oddbrand fly for the land of the rock trolls.

In the land of the rock trolls itself, Horskuld has fallen to the temptation Greyval had avoided, vowing to stay on as a prince of the trolls, with Sygnet as his queen.

Greyval comes to Sygnet's prison, a cave guarded by Snorth, the same giant who slew his father! Greyval decapitates the giant after a long battle, scattering his troll allies. Inside, Greyval finds and embraces Sygnet. When Oddbrand notices that she casts a menacing shadow, Greyval knows that Askella is trying to deceive him again. Freeing the real Sygnet, Greyval throws Askella into her cell, and tells Oddbrand to loose the key in his bag. He then goes to retrieve the Raven Banner, leaving Sygnet and Oddbrand behind to run for Asgard.

Not far a way, Horskuld dons his armor, and prepares to lead his new armies into battle. To proud to admit any other warrior is as fine as he, he will bear the Raven Banner, leading his troops to victory. The troll king smiles at how gullible the god is, looking forward to a lifetime of hedonistic bliss even as he throws his life away. Horskuld descends into the Bottomless Abyss of Shadows, unaware that his cousin has penetrated the chamber above. Gullinbursti's light shatters the troll illusion, revealing their grand banquet hall to be nothing but a nestle of thorns.

Descending, he finds a figure clad in purple armor. They duel, and eventually Greyval lands a paltry blow against the troll prince's helmet. It is only then that the troll prince reveals himself as Horskuld. The warrior in purple knocks Greyval to his knees, pinning his sword. As Horskuld comes close to gloat, Grey drives his dagger into the prince's throat. He stumbles into the black abyss, filling it with his blood, fulfilling the witch's prophecy. Greyval takes the Raven Banner, and fly for Asgard.

Back in Asgard, the battle is going poorly for the gods, who are assailed by every giant of the land. The giants boast that Fenris will swallow the moon, that Ragnarok has come at last. The gods fear it is not an idle boast, until Greyval Grimson arrives, unfurling the Raven Banner. The battle turns in the gods' favor, and the giants are routed.

After the battle, Balder and Oddbrand find Greyval full of arrows. Sygnet takes his body to Valhalla, and entrusts the banner to Balder until the son conceived on her wedding night comes of age to claim his birthright.


  • Vess is credited as artist and designer.
  • Logo design by Walzack.

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