Chapter 6: Answers part 2
When Loki said he would ‘fetch’ me, he meant it. I thought maybe he was going to send for me, like Odin did, or at least give me some warning of when he expected me. But no, it couldn’t be that simple.
I was getting into my bath to wash my hair when I heard him come barging into the healing room. I washed my hair every day on earth, but the shampoos they had in Asgard did wonders for it, making it only necessary every other day. I took a sponge bath when I wasn’t have a regular bath.
“I would like to see her, healer.” I heard a muffled voice when I was lathering the lavender smelling stuff in my hair. I didn’t really take much notice, it could have been anyone requesting anyone. The healers were busy today, a group of guards came in with injuries. Someone mentioned a brawl breaking out on Vanaheim or Alpheim…
It was when I heard booted feet coming towards the bathing room that I started to rinse my hair in a hurry. He better not walk in here.
Just as I could see his boots in the spot on the bottom of the doorway where the tapestry didn’t cover, he stopped. “I didn’t realize you were…occupied. I will wait at our seat by the window.” He walked away.
I breathed a sigh of relief. That would have been weird.
I finally had some company during the day, something to look forward to, and it could have been ruined had he not had any sense. Most guys I know would have peeked inside or something. Then I would have to have met up with him, knowing he might have seen me naked…let’s not dwell on what didn’t happen though. I finished washing up, rinsed off and climbed out of the large tub. I had a soft towel on a peg to use, and I changed into a new gown. The healer’s kept bringing me some. I had six, all silken, all beautiful. The one I picked out was definitely my favourite; silvery blue, one shoulder, hugging my waist and flowing around me.
I put on a pair of gladiator sandals. They were also given to me. I guessed these gifts came from the All-father. I can’t see him letting me walk around in what I came in, which were bloodstained, dirty and a little ripped.
I walked out of the healing room, telling my healer where I was going. She nodded, and returned to crushing herbs.
I was able to walk quickly with this dress, which is one thing I loved about Asgardian dresses: they had short trains, and still made you feel like a princess.
I approached the bench. Loki looked lost in thought. He did that often, and I felt a little bad for disturbing him. His face was smooth, his dark hair slicked back, his arms resting behind his head. I couldn’t deny Loki was handsome. Probably the most attractive guy I’d ever seen, including his brother, Thor.
I sat down next to Loki, and cleared my throat, smiling at him. He snapped out of, looking over at me in a daze.
“Distracted?” I asked, watching his eyes focus on me.
“Just a tad.” He smirked. “Now, shall we continue?” I nodded and he opened the book.
I opened the book, resting a portion on my lap, I held the other portion with my hand, turning the pages gently to find out spot. She leaned in, her face inches from mine. She was definitely raised on Midgard. He thought. Very little sense of personal space. The only time an Asgardian woman got this close was when you courted her.
“I think we were here.” She said softly, putting her hand on the page, her slender finger pointing out the paragraph. He skimmed through it quickly, nodding. She was right. He started reading, getting lost in it. Every now and then he noted something in his head, something he didn’t know about Halflings. He would let her turn the pages, since he knew he was a fast reader.
It was when we reached the fifth section that I realized how close we were sitting. It was close enough to be considered mildly scandalous! Our shoulders and legs were pressed together, like yesterday, each of us holding a portion of the book. I breathed in, and could smell something sweet. Lavender?
I finished reading the page, and glanced towards her. It was her. She smelt of lavender. She had tucked her hair behind her ear and was focused on reading. Concentrate Loki.
She finished, turning the page, catching me staring at her. I didn’t break her gaze, but noted her eyes. How blue they truly were up close. He had never seen eyes so deep, so full of thought.
She smiled, lighting up her face and I smile back, returning to the book. We still had three more sections after this one.
“We’ve reached the last section.” I said, stretching my arms. They were stiff from being kept in the same position for so long.
“I know. I didn’t know there would be so much to learn.” She said, leaning back and closing her eyes.
“Are you pleased with the information I have found for you?” I asked her. I most definitely was. I went through all I had learned, processing it.
In many aspects, Halflings were in between humans and Asgardians, such as speed and strength. Things such as durability and immunity Halflings and Asgardians were equal. Then there were the grey areas, such as longevity and sorcery. It seemed that it depended on the Halfling for those qualities, and where they happened to be.
It seemed that whoever had written this book had observed Halflings on earth and on Asgard. The book mentioned that when on Asgard, the realm has an effect on them. Something awakens in their blood, willing them to grow to their full potential. That explained the grey areas. An Asgardian lives for five thousand years…she may live less than two hundred on earth…but on Asgard, it is uncertain how long. She could live hundreds, thousands of years. I could even teach her magic, according to the book.
He was fascinated.
“Well, at least I’m not clueless anymore. I know more about myself. And it seems to me that being on Asgard will improve me.”
I nodded. “Well, that was educational. Now, shall we explore?”
She looked confused. “Explore?”
“You said you have not seen the palace? Or the grounds?” She nodded, still unsure. “Come. We shall fix that. You will receive the grand tour.” I flourished with my arm. She stood up and followed me down the hall.
The palace was even bigger than I had thought. We had started with the inner chambers, such as the healing room, the kitchens, the servant’s quarters, Odin’s private library, the throne room, the royal chambers and the royal library. I had to admit the library was my favourite. It was smaller than a public library on earth, but still very organized and condensed at the same time. There was a desk in the middle of it, covered in a few books, pages open.
“I am the only frequent user of the library. I usually do my studies in here; no one disturbs me.” Loki explained. “I spend a good deal of time here.”
“Would you mind if I used the library?” I loved books. Not just reading, but books. I looked around at the shelves and shelves of lore, history, languages, and books in foreign tongues. I could spend days in here, and never get bored. There is so much to learn…How do I learn it all?
“There is a noble’s library in the outer chambers, but you may use this one. I rarely am with company here, but if you are quiet then use it to your heart’s desire.”
The outer chambers were more crowded. It was where the nobles who lived at court resided. The feasting hall was there, as well as their library and the training grounds and public baths. Everything was in full swing, people socialising, bustling about. “What do they all do?” I asked when we were entering the gardens. I was curious. Did these people work? They looked like they were rich, like they didn’t have to.
“Most do. Merchants, people of repute, the wealthy, they tend to stay in court for some time. In the spring there are many fathers who bring their daughters to find a husband.” Loki said, smirking, though he seemed to be making a reference to a past event. It must have been him thinking aloud.
“Did my father live here?” I wondered if my father had any family here, any land. Somewhere for me to stay. I was paranoid of having to try and make a living on Asgard due to being clueless to anything here.
“I suppose so. Has the All-father spoken to you of your father? Who he is, where he is?” Loki asked me, glancing over. I shook my head.
“He has not. I have not been summoned to the All-father since you searched my memories.” I wondered what Odin was doing about that. My dad was supposed to be here. He said we would reunite when I reached Asgard. I was beginning to wonder if he had gotten into trouble, or was a criminal, or worse, dead, and Odin was hiding it from me.
Loki just shrugged. “The All-father may have other business to attend to. I could remind him when I see him of the ongoing search for your father.”
I stopped walking. Loki was the most confusing person. Ever. “Why are you so eager to help me? You stole a book for me, you keep offering your assistance. Why?” I probably sounded very ungrateful, but I wanted to know. Garrick used to offer to help me all the time, and look how that turned out.
Loki stopped with me, turning to me. “I did not steal that book for you. I took it because I was also curious. I have never heard, much less met, a Halfling in my one thousand and forty-eight years. I had questions you, my lady, could not answer. As to why I offer to help you, maybe I am aiding a damsel in distress. Perhaps I am simply being kind.” He looked pissed.
I felt bad questioning him. I really did. He was helping me out and I was acting as if he was screwing me over. “I apologize,” I quickly caught on here you don’t say ‘I’m sorry’. “I do not mean to sound so rude. I am simply…nervous. I do not trust others much at the moment.”
“You are forgiven.” He said, rather formally. I had thought we weren’t being formal to each other. He must really be mad.
There is a time to be quiet and a time to lighten the mood, I thought. “At least the prince will finally admit to stealing the book, not ‘borrowing’ it.” I giggled a bit. He looked over.
“I put it back. I borrowed it.” He said defensively. “Would you like to sit down?” He offered to me. We had ended up walking into a circular area on the path surrounded by trees. There was a few marble benches for passerby’s to sit and chat.
I sat, moving over when he sat next to me. We sat quietly for a few moments, my hands resting at my sides, slightly behind me, so I could lean back and enjoy the sun on my face. It was warm and bright, and being inside for days made the air breezier and sweeter. Or maybe that was just Asgard.
“My lady, I think I know why I have been aiding you.” Loki said quietly. He had his ankles crossed and was sitting back like I was.
“That was a little late.” I said, smiling. Had he been thinking of that question this whole time? I had figured his mind had moved on to other things.
“I had to think a little and sift through some emotion. I believe I am helping you because you feel different. And I can relate to that. I’ve always felt different from my brother, from all Asgardians. Now” He looked over to me. “I am not the only one.”
I nodded and smiled. “I have known I was different since I could speak. My father had filled my head with Asgard, of his hopes of me coming here. I had few friends as a child. When I was a teenager.” He looked confused, so I decided to use a better word. “A young adult, I found a group of people who claimed to be like me. Even though I knew many were not, it was comforting to think I was not the only one. Still, I only found one of them recorded in the book. I am not surprised many of them are liars.” I said the last part bitterly.
“Why would they lie?” Loki asked, interested in my story. That was new.
I sighed. “Many of them had fathers who abandoned them as children. I believe thinking they were a Halfling gave them hope that their father left for a reason, like mine did. Others didn’t believe they belonged on earth, or that their parents were not really their parents.” It was sad, really. Lana and I were the only ones who didn’t have problems. Which was funny, because I met Lana in a bookstore, both of us buying Norse history books. That’s how I got in the club.
“Was the one who betrayed you in that group?”
I tensed, before relaxing. “Yes. He was.”
“Hm. Well, I am sorry he betrayed you.” So they did say ‘I’m sorry’. I guess I hadn’t pegged the pattern like I had thought. “I am sure that is why you questioned my intentions.”
“It was. I do not trust many people because of that. The man, he had been upset with me. We had had an argument shortly before we…” I trailed off. I hadn’t talked to anyone about what happened to Garrick and I.
“Go on.” Loki urged, leaning in a bit. Nosy.
“Before he and I split up, he claimed to be a son of Odin. I teased him that he wasn’t, and he just got angry. He claimed my father had abandoned me, that I was lying to everyone. It escalated, I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore, and kicked him out of my mother’s house.” I finished. I hadn’t been cut up about breaking up with Garrick. I didn’t even get why I had liked him in the first place. He was kind of crazy.
Loki doubled over, laughing. “What? Why are you laughing?” What did he think was funny?
“He claimed to be a son of Odin? I doubt my father has gone to Midgard in the last half century! Who was this man? I would like to shake his hand, he has quite the sense of humour.”
“His name was Garrick.” I strained a smile. Yeah, Garrick was pretty crazy.
Loki finished laughing before becoming serious again. “He is a coward. He could not face you alone, he needed four other men to take down a woman. Either you frightened him or he was incredibly weak.”
I shook my head. “He was smart. He knew if he pretended he was being attacked by them, I would stop running away and help him. He played on my compassion. And then beat me for it.”
We were quiet again.
“You and he were….courting each other?” Loki asked tentively.
“It was only for a short time. I was lonely, he was interested.” I shrugged.
“He must have been insane to attack the woman he had just been courting. I would have thought he would have instructed his henchmen to avoid your face.”
“Why? I wasn’t following Loki’s babbling.
“Because he was courting you. You would think he would want to finish it, not make it terribly obvious who had done it and make it personal.”
“It wasn’t his ‘henchmen’ who hit my face. It was him. He said I had a pretty face. That no one deserved to have such a pretty face.” I cringed, remembering. “I have no idea why I am telling you this.” I just blurted out everything of my attack.
“Sometimes it is nice to confide in someone.” Loki said helpfully. “He was driven by madness. He must have been very upset with you. But it wasn’t enough to ruin your countenance.” He looked over at me, and I felt as if he was analysing me, taking me in. “You are still lovely. He did not take that from you.”
“Thank you…I think.” This was the oddest way someone has ever tried making me feel better. I wasn’t sure whether he was making fun of me or being serious. This guy was a mystery.
“I am sure he will live a miserable life while you live longer than him here.” Loki said, standing. “I should probably return you to the healing room. It is getting close to time.”
The walk back was more crowded with people, so we didn’t talk much. It was hard to hear over the noise of other people talking. When we reached the healing room, I slowed a bit. The day felt so short! Now I had to back to that room again! Maybe after my supper I could go to the library? It wasn’t too far away.
“Thank you for taking me out to see the palace. I am tired of being in the healing room.” I smiled at him.
He smiled back, his eyes catching mine. “Which reminds me. The All-father has requested your presence tomorrow. I am sure your healer knows. I am thinking he has finally found a place for you to stay.”
“Not a moment too soon.” I laughed. It had taken him long enough to find me a place. I was beginning to think he was going to send me back to earth.
“Enjoy your evening, my lady.” Loki took my hand and kissed my knuckles, making me blush. The only person to ever kiss my hand was my father.
“And you, Prince Loki.” I curtseyed for the hell of it. We hadn’t addressed each other in our proper names, and I didn’t want to be the first to do so. But I was getting annoyed with this ‘my lady’ stuff. I wanted to say to everyone ‘Just call me Noelle!’
The healing room was quieter now, but I still dreaded being here. It was boring. A bowl of broth was waiting for me, with a portion of bread and cheese. I ate alone, as usual, and wished I could go to the feasting hall to eat. Even if I didn’t know anyone, at least it wasn’t this quiet.
I’m sick of eating here alone and sitting around all evening. Tonight, I’m going to the library and picking out a good book. I vowed to myself.
The healers might not want me to, but I didn’t care. I was in perfect health, according to them. They were just waiting for the All-father’s call.
And maybe Loki would be there to keep me company. I knew one person in Asgard. Maybe we could be friends?