Chapter 11: New Life
Two weeks. I thought. It’s been two weeks.
Two weeks since my first days of actually being a citizen of Asgard. And so much has happened.
I finally finished my basic training, and had started my arms training with Sif, which was why I was up incredibly early. I was so excited, I had already bathed and dressed in my armor. I was learning the staff, like Sif used, but she was trying to find the best weapon for me by trial and error. Anyways, I sat on my lounge chair, just reflecting on my time here remembering everything.
Basic training had gone by easy enough. I passed, which was what mattered. I did make one friend, the girl who waved at me. Her name was Astryd, and she was nice. People still stared openly at me, but I was growing used to it.
I had lessons with Loki every afternoon, and once I got used to using magic, we would go out with Sif, Thor, and whoever else needed some entertainment in the group, to practice riding after supper. I needed to learn not only to get around, but because my father left me a horse in the stables. A few days after I first started magic, Loki took me to see her. Apparently, the stable boys had been keeping her for years, until I came to Asgard. She was beautiful, grey with white splotches on her. I didn’t know much about horses, but Loki said she was well-bred. She was pretty to look at, but riding her was a lot harder than they all made it look. I decided to call her Frost, since she was cold towards everyone at first, and eventually warmed up to us. I wasn’t that a great of a rider. Frost threw me twice, and luckily I landed without getting seriously hurt.
Loki and I also became close friends. At first, we just trained magic and practiced riding. Eventually, we started finding things in common with each other, like a love for books and languages. Loki even confided in me a few times, about his jealousy towards Thor, which shocked me, since I didn’t think someone like Loki could feel that way. He seemed so confident to me. I was glad Loki trusted me enough to tell me. I liked being around Loki. We talked about our pasts, stuff that’s happened to us. I know there are things he doesn’t want to tell me though; whenever we get to those topics, he changes the conversation.
But for the first time in my life, I had someone I wanted to confide in, other than my parents. On earth, I didn’t want to talk about my troubles or certain passions that I had because I didn’t trust people, or the problem somehow involved being a Halfling. Loki was becoming my go-to person. In two weeks, few things have actually happened to me, but the things that did happen, I talked about with Loki. It was nice having him around, and he seemed to enjoy my company too, which was nice to know. But the butterfly feelings I get when he smiles at me, or walks in the room hasn’t gone away. I’m beginning to think that they won’t. I felt this a few times with Garrick, but not nearly this much.
Other than Thor asking me out, which was called courting here, everything was good with me. I had to refuse Thor, because he was more like a brother to me, and luckily that didn’t make things weird between us. But I found myself liking Asgard more and more. I loved it here.
My arms training kept everything interesting. Like I said, I trained mainly with Sif. Lately, she has been having me train with more guys, but they are pretty reluctant. When Thor glares at them, they train with me, either going feather light or incredibly hard on me. When I thought about it, they were kind of mean. They didn’t talk to me, they didn’t help me out. It was kind of off putting. I was hoping they would warm to me eventually. I knew they had an ego, but it was starting to bother me a bit.
A few hours later…
“Pair up!” Thor ordered. Thor was training with us today. Sif told me he usually did other things, but he liked to come and spar with the trainees.
Sif and I had already been drilling together. I was getting better, but Sif was thinking of trying a different weapon for me. “You have more of an assassin’s movement than a warrior.” She remarked. I was quick and strategic. A warrior relied on strength and endurance to wield a heavier weapon.
“Drill with me a little longer. I would like to try something.” Sif said, mischief in her eyes. She took my staff from me, and went to the small weapon’s chamber in the yard. I waited for a few moments, before she came back with a canvas covered object. “It is very untraditional to use these, but I think they will suit you better.” She said, handing the object to me. I unwrapped the canvas, to see two glinting blades.
They were shorter than swords, longer than daggers. I picked one up, grasping the hilt. They were light and sharp, meant to deal a quick death. Dropping the canvas, I picked the other one up with my other hand. I flipped them a few times, blade side up, blade side down. “They have been sitting useless for ages. I think we have found you your weapon.” Sif smiled at her cleverness.
I smirked. “Let us test them.” She grasped her staff, the blades on each side popping out. I wasn’t bothered by it; Sif had control, and I had armor for a reason. We fought a few rounds, Sif winning near the end of them, but I liked the little swords she gave me. I could block a blow with one, and attack with the other. They weren’t too heavy, and they looked cool.
“This is definitely your weapon.” She smiled. “You fought better than you have since you started. I believe with having the right weapon to your advantage, you will best any of your opponents here.” She gestured to the guys who were practicing.
“Callum!” She called to a young man who was resting. He looked up. “Come train.” He grimaced, and shook his head. She glared at him, but he wouldn’t move. “I detest him. I simply would like him to cooperate and train with you.”
“Why is he so…?” I couldn’t find the right word.
“Pig-headed?” Sif said helpfully, still glaring at him. “Because he thinks himself superior. He is not noble, but a guard saw him fighting in the streets of the city and he was offered a place here to train. He will not work with me, because I am a maiden. He is ignorant and vain.”
“Why should I train with him?” I asked in disbelief. I wasn’t afraid of him, but I didn’t want to work with someone who was going to be an ass the whole time.
“Because you need practice, and he needs some sense beaten into him. Callum!” She called again, raising her voice. I caught Thor looking over to us, and then to Callum. On cue, as if Callum knew Thor was glaring at him, he got up slowly, and made his way over to us.
I already didn’t like him. He sauntered over, with this smirk on his face. His whole posture said “I’m better than you.” When he finally got to where we were, Sif told him to spar with me a few rounds.
“You wish for me to train with the Halfling?” He said incredulously.
“You will train with her. She is no different than you.” An undercurrent of anger was coming from Sif. She was getting just as fed up as I was of everyone here treating me like I was worthless.
“Spar with me.” I said. My tone was detached. “I guarantee a good fight.” I was going to make him work. I was sick of people treating me like this.
He let out a loud laugh. And I mean, loud. Loud enough for most people to stop fighting to see what was going on. “You, little half-human, are no match for any Asgardian strength.”
“Would you like to test that?” I challenged him.
“Look here! The Halfling thinks to challenge me!” Callum shouted to everyone. “You are pathetic to think you belong with us here. You cannot wield a proper weapon!” He was gesturing to my blades. “You think yourself like us, but you, little girl, are not. Why do you try to be accepted?”
“That is enough.” Sif said angrily. I didn’t know where Thor was, but he must have left. Everyone could hear Callum shouting.
He turned on Sif. “Why do you defend her? You yourself know it is true. She is not meant to be here. She does not belong is Asgard, and I am not the only one who whispers about her. The All-father has allowed a bastard into his kingdom. She belongs on Midgard. Have you no seen how people stare at you?” He turned to me now. “They are disgusted. You are an abomination meant to be with the Midgardians. No one will accept you here, which is why we refuse to train with you.”
As soon as those words left his mouth, I punched him in the mouth. I couldn’t help it. He was insulting me, and I lost control over my arm. I had my blades in hand as well, and the hilt really strengthened my punch. He was bleeding slightly, but not enough to be concerned.
“You insolent, useless, stupid-” Callum took a threatening step towards me, and tensed. I was ready to fight him, to make him pay for what he said, when Thor suddenly showed up, grabbing Callum by the arm and twisting it, so he had to hunch over.
“We do not disrespect others Callum. She is of Asgard, and your training partner. You will not speak such hate.” Thor threatened him.
“Then you should punish everyone here.” By now, most of the yard was watching. “They all spread hate of her. We do not want her here.” Callum stated, snarling in pain.
He let him go. “Then be warned. She is an Asgardian, like yourselves. She is your ally, your mentor and your apprentice. She is to be treated with respect.” A few guys muttered about me being a useless ally.
“She does not belong here!” Someone shouted. I couldn’t see who. I was too angry that Thor stepped in. I wanted to fight Callum.
“I will hear no more of this!” Thor shouted angrily. “Back to your training!” Callum went to leave.
“I believe you owe Noelle an apology.” Sif said, her voice like ice.
“I apologise.” He didn’t turn around, he just waved his hand as he said it. Sif actually growled a bit, getting ready to go after him.
“Sif, leave him.” I said. “I do not want his apology if he does not want to give it.”
“Are you alright?” Thor asked.
“Yes.” I lied. Truth be told, I was feeling anxious and getting more upset by the minute. I didn’t want to stay here another second. I had had enough for today. “I need to go to the library for my magic lessons.” They nodded, though I think Sif knew I was leaving earlier than usual.
I left the yard and walked towards the library, not bothering to go change out of my armor, which didn’t matter, since Sif wore hers all the time. Like usual, people stopped to look at me, or whisper. Before, I just thought they were nosy, or just didn’t know me. I didn’t know that some of them hated me, or didn’t want me here.
When I reached the inner part of the palace I almost ran to the library, because no one was there. I had to go somewhere to think. The library was empty, like I knew it would be. I didn’t want to be in my room right now to dwell on all the things Callum said to me.
I sat on the small cushioned bench looking out to the courtyard. I tried to think of other things. Anything but what happened this morning, but I couldn’t shake it. All of this, all of what was said, was because I was different. If I wasn’t a Halfling, I kept thinking, none of this would have happened. It’s because I’m different.
All my life I’ve liked being different. And now, I want nothing more than to fit in. I had never dreamed the day I would wake up and want to change who I was. I had always been proud to know I was different than anyone else. It was like an extremely good secret, an extra sense, something only me and my parents shared.
But now…I felt embarrassed to be considered different. I just wanted to belong here. All my life, I thought if I got to Asgard, I’d be where I belonged. I wouldn’t be treated differently. I always thought my life would work out, and everything would fall into place once I got here. But they hated me. And the way they said bastard… On earth, no one cared if your parents were married or not, but apparently it mattered here. They didn’t accept me. Or they refused to.
I wish daddy was here with me. He was supposed to be here, he said we would reunite in Asgard. But he wasn’t here, and no one knew where he was. Why had he even wanted me to come to Asgard anyway? Did he know this would happen to me? Did he think they would open their arms to me? Or did he know I would be rejected?
I heard footsteps. “You’re here early. I thought you’re classes didn’t finish until midday meal?” It was Loki. Of course. No one spent as much time here as me and Loki.
I smiled, and tried to be genuine. I needed to get over this. Because what Callum had said was true. I was different. But right now, I needed to do my lesson. Maybe Loki and I could take about it after. “I decided to leave early.”
Loki seemed pleased with my answer, but he still gave me a suspicious look. He knew how much I liked arms training. It was a great way to vent frustration, and it was a workout. And anybody who knew me knew I loved working out.
“Then let’s begin.” Loki sat down in an arm chair across from me. He studied me for a bit before speaking. He actually did that every time before giving me instructions.
“Why do you always look at me that way?” I asked him.
“I have been staring at old men’s faces in the archives all morning. It is refreshing to see a lovely face instead of an old one.” He said this all while staring.
“Do you go to the archives every day?” I asked. “Because every day the first thing you do is stare at me.”
“Maybe it is because you happen to be lovely?” Loki smiled, and my heart sped up a bit. And I didn’t get why.
“Thank you.” I looked down, a little embarrassed.
“Why someone says you are lovely, do not look away.” He was teasing me now. “Do not deny them your beauty.” I looked up at him again, and he kept staring at me. We sat like that for a few minutes, before he spoke again. “Since you have learned thought reading, I want you to practice on other people.” I nodded. Since I didn’t get tired anymore while doing magic, I wanted to practice and get better. Magic was fun, mysterious, exciting. It was like discovering a new world you never knew existed.
“I am going to teach you how to move objects.” He finally decided.
“What is fun?” I couldn’t help but use Midgardian slang, as Loki put it. It came naturally.
“Fun means…” I was tempted to sing the Fun song on SpongeBob Squarepants, but that would only confuse him more. Or make me look like a total nut. “It’s something that provides amusement.” I tried to sound as formal as I could.
“Hm. Fun.” He thought about it for a minute. “Well, shall we continue?”
“I think that will do for today.” Loki stated. I was successfully able to move a book…a few centimeters. “You will need to practice this one much more.”
I nodded, stretching my arms.
“You seem distracted today.” Loki remarked, getting comfortable in the armchair. I didn’t respond. I was distracted. It took a lot of effort to stop thinking about Callum. “Is something bothering you?”
Loki never came right out and asked me if something was bothering me. I usually brought something up, and he would listen. The fact that he asked me wonder if it was that obvious that something was bugging me. And I didn’t want to lie to Loki like I did to Thor.
“Something happened this morning, during training.” I started out. I always started my stories like that, so the listener had an idea what they were going to hear. It gave people a chance to stop listening if they wanted to. It was stupid of me think like that, but I’d had it happen before.
“Well, go on.” Loki motioned with his hands to continue.
I smiled to myself, looking down at my hands. “Sif wanted a man named Callum to pair up with me this morning. And he was very unhappy about it. He said I did not belong on Asgard. I was an abomination, meant for Midgard. He said people did not accept me, they hated me, and no one wanted to train with me. And he insulted my choice of weapon.”
I looked up to see Loki looking at me, fists clenched. I’d never seen him angry before. “Callum, the poor boy turned knight?” He asked me in a mocking tone.
I nodded slowly. Did Loki know him? “He is an ignorant pig. Callum thinks himself superior to others, when he was nothing but a beggar before he was seen fighting in the city.” Loki shook his head. “Do not listen to what he said. You belong on Asgard more than he does.”
“Do the Asgardians really hate me, Loki?” This was what preoccupied me most. “When they stare at me, or whisper about me, is it hateful things they think and say?”
“No. They simply are curious because you are different. They do not understand you yet.” Loki’s voice was very tender, making me look up at him. He was looking at me with those eyes again.
I let out a sigh. “How will they ever understand me if they refuse to give me a chance?” I didn’t understand how these people were thinking.
“You will have to prove yourself to them. When I was a child, I had to prove myself to the Asgardian court I was just as good as Thor. It is difficult to do that when no one wants to listen.”
“That’s different. Thor is no better than you.” I pointed out. “You are both sons of Odin. What could people possibly say?”
Now it was Loki’s turn to look down and confess. “Thor has always been more of a warrior than I. But my lack of wanting to go to war was seen as...unnatural. I had to go to battle with Thor to Vanaheim, which is always in tumult, multiple times to prove myself a fighter.”
“And did it work?”
“It did. The people of Asgard simply accepted that I was not a warrior like Thor, but an assassin, and a master of magic.” He shrugged.
“That was how Sif described me this morning.” I smiled at the only good thing that happened this morning.
Loki smiled at me. I realised how warming his smile was. “It seems we have a common fighting style.”
“What is your weapon?” I was curious now. I had never seen Loki fight, and he never came down to the training grounds.
“Throwing knives and my dagger. I also use magic to my advantage now. What is your choice of weapon?”
“Long knives.” Sif told me their name.
“It is a good weapon. You are small and quick. It will be to your advantage.” I was happy at least a few people liked my weapon.
We sat quietly again. I was looking out the window again, feeling the warm sun on my face. I had my hair pulled into a braid, and was playing with the end. “I hope I will be able to prove myself to be Asgardian.” I was talking to myself more than Loki now.
He stood up. “If it is any consolation, I think you belong on Asgard more than most Asgardians.” He offered his hand to me, and I took it so he could pull me up.
“Thank you Loki.” I smiled. He didn’t let go of my hand, but gently squeezed it.
“I am ready for supper. I avoided breakfast this morning, some of those archive depictions were disgusting. I had no appetite.” Loki declared, pulling me along to walk with him.
“Let’s go eat then.” I let him pull me by my hand all the way to the feasting hall. I didn’t want him to let go of my hand. Loki was never this physical towards me, always keeping an appropriate distance. When we got to the feasting hall, he seemed to realise people were staring at our intertwined fingers. And let go. Being physically close to someone or touching them meant a lot more on Asgard than it did on earth.
And knowing Loki knew that made butterflies explode in my stomach. When we sat down with our friends, I tried to calm them down, all the while thinking about how this kept happening to me. It finally hit me when a tall, willowy brunette came to our table to flirt with Fandral.
Did I have a crush on Loki? My mind started to race, trying to remember everything I have felt when I was with Loki. I couldn’t have a crush on him…could I?
Before I could answer myself though, something else caught my attention.
Callum had walked in with a group of men from the training yard. And he was shouting to anyone within earshot about what happened this morning.
“The little Halfling apparently only has half her wits.” He joked with others, spreading the word. Nobles who heard him stopped what they were doing to listen, and whispered. And the whispering spread.
Before I knew it, I was up and marching towards Callum. I heard Loki and Sif ask where I was going, but I was too angry to register it. I was seeing red. This would end, here and now. He was a bully, and he wasn’t going to humiliate me in front of the whole court.
Not this time. “Callum!” I shouted. He must have recognised my voice, he turned so quickly.
“What does the little Halfling require now? Another bed to warm? The prince must be enjoying your loose Midgardian morals.” He towered over me, like a hunter looking at prey.
I was sick of him and his stupidity. And he was going to take back what he said. I wasn’t a whore. For goodness sake, we were just holding hands! I couldn’t express how mad I was. How much I hated him.
“I challenge you to fight me.”
He laughed in my face. “Again? You cannot be serious.”
I pulled out my blades. I had slipped them into my belt attached to my skirt while going to the library earlier today. “I am completely serious.”
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