We have said that there are many and strange shadows, memories surviving from dim pasts, in this FANTASTIC UNIVERSE of ours. Poul Anderson turns to a legend from the Northern countries, countries where even today the pagan past seems only like yesterday, and tells the story of Cappen Varra, who came to Norren a long, long time ago.
d knees till their clawed fingers brushed the ground. Her head was beast-like, almost split in half by the tusked mouth, the eyes wells of darkness, the nose an ell long; her hairless skin was green and cold, moving on her bones. A tattered shift covered some of her monstrousness, but she was still a nightmare.
"Ho-ho, ho-ho!" Her laughter roared out, hungry and hollow as the surf around the island. Slowly, she shuffled closer. "So my dinner comes walking in to greet me, ho, ho, ho! Welcome, sweet flesh, welcome, good marrow-filled bones, come in and be warmed."
"Why, thank you, good mother." Cappen shucked his cloak and grinning at her through the smoke. He felt his clothes steaming already. "I love you too."
Over her shoulder, he suddenly saw the girl. She was huddled in a corner, wrapped in fear, but the eyes that watched him were as blue as the skies over Caronne. The ragged dress did not hide the gentle curves of her body, nor did the tear-streaked grime spoil the lilt of her face. "
Set in ancient Viking times, a wandering minstrel from the South is traveling on a Viking ship when it is hit by a sleet storm that swamps the boat and douses their fire. Useless for anything else, the minstrel is sent off in a skiff to get fire from a nearby island, rumored to be inhabited by trolls. The rumors were true.
There is lots of good description, and an old-fashioned hero matching wits with a monster that reminded me a bit of Ulysses and the cyclops.