Chapter 9: New Friends
The feasting hall was incredibly noisy. People were streaming in, chattering about their day or whatnot. The hall was huge, with rows of long tables and benches with food already in the middles for people to help themselves to. The room was open on one side leading out to balconies, with white pillars holding the ceiling up. The center of the room was completely cleared out for dancing and there was a corner of the room with instruments ready to be played. At the head of the hall, a slightly raised stage was set with a table and two ornately carved chairs. For Odin and Frigga, I assumed.
I was walking with the crowd until I got to the large double doors being held open. I stopped and stepped off to the side to peer in. I couldn’t see Loki or Thor. Which made me nervous.
I had never been known to be shy. But right now, I was. There were so many people here, who probably all knew each other. I mean, didn’t nobles associate with nobles? This was like a movie, where I was the new chick and needed to make friends.
Come on Noelle. Put on your big girl panties and get in there. I took a deep breath and walked into the room quickly, before I lost my courage. Which was what happened. I just stared around, looking for the only two people I knew, probably looking like a tourist. Luckily, nobody was paying any attention to me. They were all busy talking among themselves or eating.
Just when I was giving up hope and thinking of going back to my room, someone grabbed my arm. I looked over to see a young man with blonde hair like mine and a tuft of hair on his chin and a blonde mustache. He was giving me this weird smile.
“My dear lady, you seem lost.” He said. Oh, now I know that look. He was flirting with me.
“I am.” I admitted. Hey, I’d rather talk to this stranger than look like a desperately lost tourist. “I was searching for someone.”
“Who is it that you search? I would be happy to escort you to them, and should you not find them, I would be honoured to keep you company.”
I laughed. Even though flirting was not what I wanted to do with this guy, he was still funny. “I am searching for Loki. Or Thor. They are the only ones I am familiar with here.”
His eyes lit up. “You are the Lady Halfling?” I nodded slowly. “Both brothers speak highly of you! I am Fandral, one of Thor’s companions.”
I guessed he either wasn’t fond of Loki or just didn’t hang out with him. “I am Noelle, the Halfling.”
“Come with me, I know exactly where Thor and Loki are.” He offered his arm to me and I took it, not wanting to offend him. We walked through the hall to one of the tables sparsely occupied. I could see Loki and Thor, who had their backs to me, and a man with long red hair and a red beard toasting, with a mug in his hand. There was also a man with black hair, who, by earth’s standards, would be considered Asian. I didn’t know what realm he would be from here. The last person with them at the table was a woman with dark hair pulled back into a tight pony tail, wearing burgundy and gold armour.
It was the woman who noticed Fandral and I approaching first. “Fandral, you have another woman on your arm I see. What did you do with the other one?” She teased him. Thor, Loki, and the two other men were engaged in conversation. I felt nervous again. I felt a little pathetic too. What if Thor was just kidding when he said he would introduce me? I was being insecure and I was mad at myself for acting like I was fifteen.
“This, Sif, is not ordinary woman. This-” He gestured to me, taking his arm and putting it around me. “Is the Lady Halfling.” Thor and Loki stopped talking and turned around. I gave them a weak smile. Thor stood up.
“My friends, this is Noelle, the Lady Halfling.” Apparently I had a new nickname. “My lady, this is Volstag.” He gestured to the man with the red hair and beard. “Hogun.” He gestured to the man with the dark hair. “And this is the Lady Sif.” He gestured to Sif. “And I am sure you are familiar with Fandral.” He chuckled.
“It is very nice to meet you all.” I said softly.
“She is very quiet, this Halfling.” Volstag had a booming voice.
“Only when you do not know her.” Loki remarked, motioning me to sit down next to him. I sat, and Fandral sat next to me. I didn’t miss the glare Loki sent him.
“Loki, do not be jealous. I am merely sitting next to her.” Fandral winked at him. For a while, they all just talked and joked around while I helped myself to some stew. I was extremely excited for some real food. At first, no one really paid attention to me, and that was fine. As I began eating, Loki started asking me questions, and pretty soon everyone else joined in too.
“Do you have similar food on earth?” Was Volstag’s main question. I nodded while eating, and he laughed, liking my appetite. Loki mainly asked about education on earth. Sif wanted to know if earth had female fighters in our wars.
All in all, it was fun. I got to talk about earth and my life on earth, which no one ever cared to hear before. After some time, I ended up talking to Sif about her combat training. I had found out at some point in the conversation that she was the only female warrior right now.
“Are you interested in training arms?” She asked.
“I am. I need to complete my beginner’s training, but I would like to continue further.”
“Why?” She asked. “I am pleased there will be another woman training, but many do not find interest in weaponry.”
“My father taught me some basic combat.” I smiled. “I found myself interested in the art of war, and have trained under different teachers on earth. I did not have a chance to try weaponry, but knowing how much I like combat, weaponry looks worth the try.”
She nodded and smiled. “I would be pleased to have you join our training once you are ready.” I thanked her and we sat quietly, watching the boys clink glasses and down their mugs of ale. I had a smaller glass, and I sipped it. It was tasty, different from the beer on earth. “Who do you think shall win?” Sif asked me, laughing at the boys.
I thought for a minute. “Volstag.” I declared. He was bigger than them all, and seemed pretty determined to win. Sif laughed. “Who do you suppose will win?”
“Thor.” She said, a hint of fondness in her voice. I glanced over at her, to see her staring at him. So Sif likes Thor. Hm. I wondered if Thor knew.
“Ah ha!” Volstag shouted, throwing his empty glass on the ground in triumph, followed by Thor repeating the process. They shouted their victories, hugging. I couldn’t help but laugh along with Sif.
“We are victorious! We dominate the ale drinkers of the nine realms!” Thor was shouting, trying to pull Loki into the hug as well. Loki slipped away and sat by me while Sif left to go help Hogun and Fandral calm their two friends down.
“You did not win?” I teased Loki.
“I did not. I did beat Fandral and Hogun.” He smirked, reaching for a grape. Fruit had been set on the tables not too long ago. Music had also begun and people were dancing on the floor to a waltz. I reached for some grapes as well, for something to do. “Are you enjoying yourself?”
“I am. Everyone is very…welcoming.” I was having a great time. I could see myself getting on with some of them. Fandral was charming and loved to talk about silly things. I liked Sif as well. It was nice having a girl to talk to, who also had some similar interests. Volstag loved to eat, and he and the others soon found out I did too. Hogun was quiet, but seemed to know a lot about politics and what each of the realms were up to. He was from Vanaheim, so it reassured me knowing Asgard was diverse in race, like earth.
“I am glad. This must all be new to you.” He was watching Thor and Volstag now, trying to best each other.
“It is. But I am glad to be here. Even if it is a little-”
“Lonely.” He finished for me, looking at me. Our eyes met and I could swear he was hypnotising me. His eyes just intrigued me. Everything about him intrigued me.
“Yes.” I said softly, not breaking eye contact. “But I have had good company the past few days.”
“I have as well.” Butterflies invaded my stomach. Loki just did that to me. He made me feel excited and nervous all at once. He smiled. “I enjoy being in your company, my Lady Noelle.”
“Please, just call me Noelle.” I said to him, exasperated. “It bothers me that I see you the most and you still do not call me by my name.”
He chuckled. “I didn’t think it bothered you. Noelle, then. Did I say it properly?” He asked, seriously concerned. I nodded. He said it perfectly. “If I am to call you by your first name, you may call me Loki.”
I smiled. “Loki.”
“Would you like to dance, Noelle?” He asked softly.
I felt my heart flutter when she said my name. Control yourself Loki. You have been fooled by a woman before. Take caution with this one.
And suddenly, before could think about it, the question flew from my mouth: “Would you like to dance, Noelle?”
She thought for a moment, and yawned. I looked around and realised it was getting very late. “I would love to.” She said, smiling. “But I do not know how to dance.” I raised my eyebrows. I was surprised. Her father seemed to have taught her much. I would have assumed dancing would be one of them.
“Do you not dance on earth?”
“We do. But it is…quite different than the dancing on Asgard.” She giggled. Wanting to be part of the joke, I peeked into her thoughts. There I saw what earth’s dancing was like: close, intimate, and occasionally inappropriate. I laughed with her, now understanding what she meant. It was very different. “Did you read my thoughts again?” She said annoyed.
“If it bothers you so much why not ask me to teach you?” I wanted to see how Halflings reacted to magic. Would she possess power?
“Fine.” Her voice was determined. “Tomorrow afternoon we start. I have training in the morning.”
“Then it would be wise for us both to rest for tomorrow. You will need it.” I assured her. She would have a trying day. “I shall escort you to your chambers.” I got up swiftly, taking her hand to pull her up. Her skin was soft. I offered her my arm and she took it. As we walked side by side, waiving to our friends goodnight, I realised how small she was.
I was much taller than her, tall enough to rest my head on hers. Many Asgardian women were tall, slim and graceful. She was shorter, but still slim and light on her feet. I was much stronger than her, even though I haven’t finished growing. And noticing all this made me feel odd things. I wanted to protect her, she seemed so fragile.
My emotions towards this woman were confused. I wished to know more of her. Yet my aversion to women kept me from doing so. It was something I needed to decide upon.
As we walked to her chambers, she asked me questions about magic, what she could learn. She was a curious little thing. And I liked it.
“I believe I will enjoy teaching you, Noelle. I have only ever had one pupil.” I shuddered at the thought. Now that was a horrible experience.
“Who?” She looked up at me, those blue orbs keeping me in place. How was she able to do that to me?
“I taught Thor.” I laughed, remembering. Thor had been difficult to teach. “Father wanted Thor to have a well-rounded education. Seeing as I mastered magic early on, mother encouraged me to teach him, to spend brotherly time together.”
“Was he able to learn?” Her mouth was turned up into a smile. She had a nice smile.
“He could learn simple spells. Nothing too complicated.” We arrived at her chambers. “Do you like how your father arranged your chambers?” They were quite different. It seems her father embraced her human heritage as much as he urged her to embrace his.
“I do. I wish my father was here though.” Her mood was less light now. He knew she hated it, but he invaded her thoughts again. Thoughts held not only memory, but emotion. She felt lonely, and unsure of her future here.
I felt pity for her. She should not have to feel so alone. “If you ever are in need of someone…to talk to, or perhaps aid you with adjusting to Asgard…” I did not know why I hesitated lending my aid to her. I had done it before. But this was more personal.
She smiled, not needing me to finish. “Thank you Loki. You are so kind to me. I hope we can be great friends.” She bid me goodnight, unlocking the door and disappearing into her rooms.
I walked to my chambers, feeling my heart lift. She wanted to be friends. And strangely enough I wanted to be hers. I had never longed for company. I had always accepted being on my own.
But I wanted to know her. I was curious about her, and my curiosity needed to be sated. Most of all, I enjoyed her presence. I wanted to be around her. Loki, if you do not control yourself, you could fall into the same predicament as last time.
I had to be careful. Whatever I felt towards this Halfling, it needed to wait until I decided what I wanted for myself.