The anonymous central character, aged ten when the tale begins, is the sole survivor of a raid made by twenty black-clad horsemen bearing the banner of the 'twin-headed Beast' against his village. All the men are slain, and the women and children carried off to the far North, whilst the central character survives by hiding in a tree. He spends fifteen years alone in the wilderness, where he grows strong and learns the ways of the forest, the memories of the atrocities he has witnessed galvanising him. Then, one day, he meets a one-eyed old man (most probably Odin, although the tale always refers to him merely as 'One-Eyed Old Man') who tells him that he has foreseen his coming for a thousand years, and that he has been chosen as a champion of the Gods to fight their battle in the shadows beyond his world. To this end he will be granted a number of mighty artifacts and abilities, and be trained for a hundred days and nights by the old man. The first of these artifacts is a mighty sword, forged in the dawn of the world, and the second given in a song is a mighty, eight-legged stallion ridden by 'his father's God' (Sleipnir, Odin's steed). He will also be guided by two ravens (Hugin and Munin) and he is granted with a number of supernatural powers: first, the woodwoman, a witch, takes his heart, for which price he can withstand any cut or slit. Then he travels to the bottomless lake in which all the knowledge of the worlds, old and new, is stored. The old man cast his left eye into the lake in order to give him his powers of wisdom and foresight (making the lake roughly analogous to Mimir's well), and the central character casts both his eyes into the lake, which not only means he gains all its powers of knowledge and vision, but also that he will not have to stare down the Beast during his final battle. He rides North, guided by the ravens and by the ancient Gods, to confront his destiny. He charges down the gates of Hel and defeats the Beast in combat, as well as freeing the souls of those that had been held captive here, riding with them to Valhalla.