Chapter 23: Nilfheim
Almost a year later…
I was waiting outside of the council room, sitting on the steps that led to a balcony. Loki, Thor, Sif and the Warriors three had been in there for what seemed like hours. Training in the yard had finished an hour ago, and I didn’t feel like practicing creating illusions of myself anymore. A few Asgardians I recognized strolled by and nodded in my direction, a sign of respect. I smiled and lifted my hand in a wave. I had received respectful greetings like that since word got out that I was being courted by Loki. I smiled, thinking of the past year I had spent in Asgard.
I had gotten a lot better at fighting, for sure. I had earned my first rank. There were three warrior ranks in Asgard. Having the first meant you could officially fight for Asgard. The third meant you were part of the Allfather’s guard. I was proud that I had actually gotten somewhere with fighting. Sif and Thor seemed pretty happy too, saying I had earned my place along the warriors. My magic had improved as well, and I was now moving on from the basics to more advanced spells. Loki was quite proud.
And then there was Loki. It was hard to believe we got this far. He was truly scared at first, and we took it slow. There was a time when Loki would hesitate to let me in, to confide in me like partners did. It was in the last few months that he became bolder with our relationship, making it official to his parents and the court. I would never forget how proud Frigga looked, and how troubled Odin seemed. He was gracious to me when Loki insisted I have dinner with them, but I could tell he was worried. He was probably hoping this would work out better than Loki’s marriage.
I was still lost in remembrance when the doors to the council room opened and people filed out. My eyes found Loki’s immediately, and I met him halfway. He offered his arm to me and I took it. It literally was the closest we could be in public without seeming scandalous. I would have preferred hugging him, this felt way too impersonal to me. But the Allfather could see us, and I knew we had to keep this impersonal act until we were alone.
When Loki and I were alone, he was different. He held my hand, he kissed me, and he held me close. He said sweet things to me. We laughed, we danced for fun and he was charming. Loki never hesitated to make flowers appear for me, magically appearing and growing in his palm, or to charm me. He was a man in love to the true sense of the word, at least to Midgardian standards.
When we were in public, it was a little different. He still loved me, and I loved him. But he was more reserved, tough. Asgard needed him to be that way, because he was Odin’s son, brother to the futurex king. He was the Master of Magic and had responsibilities. He couldn’t be running around in love in front of them.
“This is a pleasant surprise.” He said, glancing at me. I smiled.
“I was curious to know what was keeping you and my friends.” I wasn’t invited to the council. “It’s late.”
“It was nothing, just a little unrest in Nilfheim.” Loki said, ending the conversation. I nodded. I knew he couldn’t say much to me while we were in public. He would fill me in later. We went to the feasting hall with the others. It was a normal night. We ate with our friends like usual.
I was laughing with Volstagg when Loki caught my eye. He tipped his head towards the balcony that led to the outside, the sun setting, casting an orange glow on everything in sight. I nodded, excusing myself. Our friends didn’t say anything, except for Fandral, smiling and winking, wondering where we went every night. Loki and I usually excused ourselves and went off to be alone, where we didn’t have to be so reserved.
As soon as we were out of sight, Loki dropped his arm and took my hand in his, lacing his fingers through mine. It was something I had taught him, something from my home. We walked, talking about what we did during the day, just enjoyed each other’s company. It was nice to get away and just talk.
“So what’s happening on Nilfheim?” I asked. We were sitting under a tree, enjoying the last rays of sunlight before the sun set. Loki had his back set against the tree, his legs apart, knees bent and I sat in front of him, in between his legs, my back to him. He liked to sit that way so he could play with my hair, like he was doing now.
“I told you. Unrest.” He wrapped his arms around me, kissing my cheek. “I doubt it will become more than that. A few riots, but they have been able to take care of them. They may not need us.”
“Is that all the council was about?”
He stiffened a bit. “No.”
I turned my head, curious to see what bothered him. I knew Loki, and I knew that tone of voice. “What happened?”
“What gave you the idea that something happened?” I scooted out from where I was sitting to turn and face Loki. He was looking down, his face upset and a little angry.
“Loki.” I brushed a hand over his cheek, and he grabbed my hand, keeping in placed on his cheek, leaning into my touch. “Don’t hide from me.”
He sighed, finally looking me in the eye. His eyes were filled with emotion. “Father announced the date of Thor’s coronation today. It will be in a few short months.”
“Already?” I was happy for Thor. I knew he had waited a long time to be king. But at the same time, I wasn’t sure if he was ready. It was a huge responsibility, being king of Asgard, and Protector of the nine realms. To me, that job was for someone who had done all they wanted to do in life, and was ready to take on that burden. Not someone who still wanted to fight raids and drink a lot, like Thor.
“Exactly my thoughts!” Loki said, throwing his hands up. “During the council we barely discussed the situation in Nilfheim! Father spent nearly the entire time listing Thor’s great achievements, his strengths. If he had simply wanted to boast about Thor, why call a council? He does it already in public.” Loki was visibly upset, running a hand through his hair. I shifted closer to him, so I could rest my head on his shoulder. He gently placed his head on mine. “All he does is chastise me, and remind me of all I’ve done wrong.”
“Loki, I’m sure your father is-”
“If you are going to say he’s proud of me, don’t. I know he isn’t. And do not pretend otherwise.” He said, stopping me from arguing. “All he does is remind me of my past marriage, and how it failed miserably. He is constantly watching us, have you not noticed? He only expects the worse from me, and the best from Thor. It enrages me.”
He let his arms wrap around me, keeping me close. “I wish for once, my father would approve of me. That he would acknowledge me as much as he does Thor.” He laughed bitterly. “I remember as children my father always told us we were both born to be kings. Yet I am treated as the misbegotten prince.”
I hugged him closer to me. “Loki, your father is blind if he can’t see how brilliant you are. But I see it, and so does your mother, and so does Thor.” I looked up at him. The sun was almost set, shadows starting to grace his features, making him even more beautiful. “I love you how you are, whether you are king or not. And much prefer it if you weren’t.”
“I do not want the throne.” Loki sighed. “I only want to be seen as equal to my brother.”
“You are and more in my eyes.” I leaned in. Loki followed suit, our lips meeting, moving in synch. Loki became rougher with the kiss, his one hand behind my neck, keeping me to him. I felt like Loki was putting all the hurt he felt, all the need, into this kiss. We fell into our own rhythm, and nothing mattered but us.
I felt as if Loki and I were closest when we were kissing. We became one entity, sharing one thought, one motion. It was the only time we were one.
Loki became more demanding with the kiss, and I matched him. After a few minutes he pulled away. I moved in again, only to have him stop me, his finger gently pressing against my lips. “Darling.” He chuckled. “Though I would love to continue, I fear we will go farther than we both intend at the moment.” I smiled, kissing his finger.
We decided to call it a night, Loki bringing me back to my room. We were nearly there when Loki stopped, a guard calling after him.
“Prince Loki!” The guard stopped in front of us. “The Allfather requests your presence in the council room. The political situation in Nilfheim has escalated. He is calling for all rank warriors-”
“I will see the Allfather directly.” He dismissed the guard, then turned to me. “I shall see you in the morning.” He put his hands on my hips, drawing me to him, kissing me.
“Loki, he said all rank warriors. I am supposed to report-”
“I do not want you going to Nilfheim.” Loki interrupted me. “It is too dangerous. It will be hard to tell enemy from ally, it is a civil war.”
“I can tell the difference between those who are trying to harm me and those trying to help me.” I argued. There was no way I was missing this. I learned arms training just for this, and if I was called for duty, I would go. If my friends were fighting, I wanted to go too.
“You obviously do not, since you are arguing with me. I do not want you in danger. What if I can’t get to you in time?”
“You won’t have to watch for me. I can defend myself.”
He sighed. “Just please listen to me and stay here. I will be back in the morning. I promise we can do whatever you please when I return.” He turned and began walking down the hall.
“So I’m just supposed to sit here?” I called to him. He stopped, gave me the thumbs up. I hated at the moment that I had taught him that. I stalked off towards the feasting hall. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing all my friends were going off to fight.
I got myself a glass of wine, sitting down at the table closest to the doors. I wanted to be the first to see them come home. I had just settled on the bench when I saw Sif and Volstagg hurrying past the door, stopping when they spotted me. I put my hand up in a half-hearted wave, wishing I was going too. “Why are you not ready?” Sif asked me.
“Loki forbade me from going to Nilfheim.” I sighed, taking another sip of wine.
“And you are simply going to listen to him?” Volstagg laughed. “Come with us, we’ll slip you in.”
“Loki will be angry.” I said, as a warning. “He’ll probably take it out on you two for bringing me along.”
Volstagg laughed. “What’s a little mischief?”
I grinned, getting up. Sometimes, I thought, it’s easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask permission. And besides, Loki wasn’t my boss. I would deal with him later. “Meet us at the Bifrost, we leave in an hour.”
I ran to my room, careful not to run into Loki. I wasn’t sure if he was still in the palace, so I was careful, watching every movement. When I reached my room, I wrenched the door open, undoing the buttons down the side of my dress. I put on my black leather leggings, slipping on my deep purple skirt. The skirt had chainmail sewn in underneath, protecting my waist. I slipped on the tight fitting chainmail halter top with purple leather sleeves, then strapped on my breast plate, which covered the tops of my chest to below my belly button as well as my shoulders and upper arms. I put on my black steel toe boots, pulled my hair into a tight braid, and grabbed my short swords and their sheaths, slipping one into the side of each boot. I slipped on my vambraces to protect my wrists and lower arms, and sped out the door. I was ready to go.
I decided to walk to the Bifrost like everyone else was doing. I could’ve just taken my horse, or asked Sif or one of the Warriors three to give me a ride, but Loki would’ve spotted me. It was better I blend in, at least until we get to Nilfheim. It was a long walk, but we all got there in time. Odin gave a short speech about the political situation in Nilfheim, where the one party was enslaving the other, which wasn’t right. He wished us off, and Thor stepped up.
“Today we fight for the freedom of others. Fight swiftly, and may your blades be blessed!” I smiled, raising my fist in a cry along with the other fighters beside me. Short and sweet, that was Thor. Then Heimdall opened the Bifrost. We filed in, Thor, Loki, Sif and the Warriors Three entering first, the rest of us following. There were many of us, and the Allfather was hoping to intimidate the enemy into negotiations. As I passed through the Bifrost, I caught Heimdall’s eye, and he smiled, shaking his head. He probably knew I wasn’t supposed to be here.
I felt the tug of the Bifrost, and entered. I was surrounded by the dark night sky, watching the stars and galaxies that sped by, the colors of the Bifrost still mesmerizing me. I glanced around to see my companions doing the same. If we weren’t going off to fight, I probably would’ve laughed. We landed, and I was glad to see I wasn’t the only one who lost their balance and almost fell. I hid in the masses, watching as Thor and Loki discussed with the leader of the enemy, the ones enslaving their own people, in a no man’s land between our two sides. Their faces were hard and grim. I had never seen Loki so serious and dark. The leader said something with a smirk, before Loki and Thor nodded, their faces set with determination. They were backing off, moving back to our side when the leader threw back his arm, as if to throw something. I saw it, and I cried out, when an object whizzed from his hand, going for Thor. He deflected it with his hammer, Mjolnir, which Odin had unofficially given him a month ago, so he could adjust to it when he became king. I saw Loki’s head whip around, and I ducked so he wouldn’t see me, though it didn’t matter. He couldn’t order me home.
Thor let out a battle cry, and the fight began. We were all moving forward, walking in synch, before breaking into a jog, then a run. I was somewhere in the middle, and I watched as men clashed with our enemies, dressed in only leather. I watched as they slipped past the Asgardians already engaged in combat, running to catch their exposed sides. I ran forward pulling my swords from my boots and deflected the blow of the sword aimed at the Asgardian in front of me, taking on the opponent.
We fought with a ferocity I had never met before. I had never fought with anyone who was trying to actually kill me, and my adrenaline reached an ultimate high as I moved faster, using my speed and small size to outwit my opponent, before laying a deadly blow in his side, slicing my blade across his exposed skin, while blocking his blow to my face. He let out a cry, but I didn’t hear it. My ears were ringing, and my body moved on instinct. I pulled my blade from his side to pierce his chest, pulling it back when blood gushed from him. He began to fall over, but I didn’t have time to watch or think of him. I had already turned to face the next guy, and the next one after that.
We fought nearly all night, but it was day here in Nilfheim. There must have been a time difference. At some point I ran into Fandral, who was locked in fierce combat with three opponents. I was engaged with two, blocking with my swords before kicking one in the chest and plunging my blade in the other, not watching to see what happened, then quickly finishing off the second. Fandral was struggling, barely keeping up with the three, who attacked all at once. I darted forward, dodging an axe that came my way, before baseball sliding into one of the opponents, my one blade catching his exposed neck as he fell. I raised my hand to keep the blood from landing in my eyes, which would have been a disadvantage.
Fandral finished the two in a few quick strokes, as my distraction gave him a good advantage. He looked up and smiled flirtatiously at me before running off to help anyone else. I turned to do the same when I spotted Loki, on the far side of the battlefield, taking on many. He was using his illusions, and as each one disappeared he took out an unsuspecting enemy. I set off to help him, only to stop short, fear growing in my heart.
Behind Loki, a ways away, there was an archer. Loki was busy searching the ongoing battles for something. He didn’t see he as directly in the line of fire. I saw the archer notch an arrow and take aim. I didn’t want to call out to Loki, distract him, but I had to do something. I began to run before I even registered what I was doing, ducking under blades and fighting pairs to reach him.
I wasn’t fast enough. The archer had already loosed the arrow. I watched as Loki spotted it last minute, moving out of the way, the arrow hitting his shoulder. He cried out, cradling his arm. I saw the archer reach for another arrow in his sling, and instinct took over. I stopped running and threw one of my blades, aimed at the archer. He didn’t see it coming until it hit him. I saw another enemy running towards Loki and I threw my other blade, hitting him as well. Loki’s head whipped over to my direction, reassurance on his face. I ran towards him, reaching him.
“Are you okay?” I asked. He didn’t answer, but moved around me to send a few throwing knives.
“Don’t worry about me.” His breathing was labored, which scared me. I was about to ask him for a throwing knife, since I didn’t have a chance to get them without someone spotting me without a weapon, when I heard a cry. I looked towards to sound and saw Thor. The leader was at his feet, and seemed to be asking for mercy.
“Tell your men to lay down their arms in peace and we will hold negotiations.” Thor roared. The leader conceded, lifting his arms in defeat. I saw all the Nilfheim fighters throw down their arms and kneel.
It was hours after the battle. The negotiations were due in an hour, and I was busy holding Loki’s hand as Hogun removed the arrow shaft in his shoulder. He had refused to be tended to until he was done fussing over me. I wasn’t hurt, a few scratches and a bruise from baseball sliding and helping Fandral. At first Loki had thought I was though; my braid had fallen out while I was fighting and there was blood at the base of my scalp. I had to explain over and over that it wasn’t mine, but was from a taller opponent I had faced earlier, who had been taken down by another Asgardian leaping towards him and slicing his sword across his throat, and the blood landed on me.
Loki had looked me over himself before asking Hogun to take a look. At that point Hogun told him to sit down and let him removed the arrow. We argued for a bit, me siding with Hogun, who was convinced it wold become infected. It was only after Hogun looked me over and declared me to be fine that Loki sat down.
Loki was angry at me for going to Nilfheim when he told me to stay home. But, it didn’t matter. Had I not been there, Loki would’ve been shot down by that other arrow. I saved his life, and Fandral thanked me for helping him. And I wouldn’t have been here to have my hand crushed by Loki. He had my hand in a death grip, and I winced a bit. Hogun had gripped the arrow, and the slightest movement caused pain. “Just pull it out Hogun.” Loki spoke through clenched teeth.
“I must check for barbs.” Barbs were little hooks at the ends of arrow heads that sunk into your skin. If an arrow had barbs, you couldn’t simply pull it out, because it would rip out anything attached to the barbs with it. The only clean way to get them out was cutting a circle around the arrow shaft, and pull the whole chunk out. Even then, they were difficult to get out entirely. There must not have been any, because without warning, Hogun braced a hand on Loki’s chest and pulled the arrow out.
Loki crushed my hand in his once more, before loosening a bit. He was sweating heavily, taking deep breaths. The wound was cleaned and a salve was applied, then wrapped in cloth. Loki stood up as Hogun told him to let him know if it became infected. Loki nodded put his shirt and vest back on. I admired his muscled body without realizing it. I had forgotten how cut Loki was. “Do no seek to flatter me by staring.” He said. “I am still not happy with you.”
I stood in front of him, staring into his green eyes, clouded with worry. “You’ll get over it. You know you can’t stay angry with me.” I kissed his jaw. He grabbed my hand with his good arm and began walking.
“Why didn’t you listen?”
“Because you aren’t responsible for me. You can’t order me around Loki.”
“I was trying to protect you.” Loki stopped walking.
“I understand, but you can’t keep me in Asgard.” I wasn’t backing down on this.
“You could’ve been killed! Do you realize that?” I didn’t say anything, and let Loki get it out of his system. "Do you know what I fear?” I waited for his answer, but it didn’t come. Someone had interrupted him.
“Ah, a young lover’s quarrel.” A short woman with grey hair had been observing Loki and I. She smiled a toothy smile and approached us. “That takes me back. You should not argue so, celebrate your love!” She must have seen the look on Loki’s face, because she continued. “You do not agree with me. Very well young man, but hear me: you will one day realize this woman will save you in many ways. It would be wise to not let this” she waved her hand to me. “Pass you by.”
Loki grabbed my hand, pulling me along. I knew he didn’t like people meddling in our relationship, and I didn’t appreciate it either. Suddenly, I felt a sensation wash over me, I felt a burning in my chest, building, before dying down again. I gasped for breath, looking up a Loki. He looked just as confused and shocked as I was. “Did you feel that?”
He nodded. “I did.” He turned, but the old woman was gone. “I suspect she attempted to curse us. Nilfheim is a magical realm. It must not have worked.” I nodded, and we continued our walk until we reached the Bifrost site. Most of the first ranks were being sent home, as negotiations were expected to go well. Loki and I parted, since he had to be there. “Now stay out of mischief until I get back.” He whispered to me, his forehead against mine. I nodded.
As I called for Heimdall, I kept thinking back to the strange sensation I felt when we were cursed. I wanted to believe Loki was right. But part of me kept telling me he was wrong.
Groa paced in her home, wondering what she was going to tell Tyr. “I met your daughter Tyr.” She spoke to herself aloud. “And the boy as well. And because of my knee jerk reaction, they are now bound.” She cursed herself. She had witnessed them having an argument, and out of fear of protecting the prophecy, she bound them. “Tyr will not like this Groa. Not one bit.” She whispered to herself, and sat down at the table. She had to reach Tyr.
“The prophecy has shifted.” The servant reported to his master. Thanos smiled. His servant seemed pleased with what he was about to say. He need not panic.
“The boy and the daughter. They have been bound.” The servant smiled, showing his ugly, black teeth. Thanos smiled wider. This was excellent.
“Ensure you have complete control of the boy before reaching for the girl.”