I started out slow. Getting back into society was somewhat undesirable to me at the moment, but I needed to do it. Loki wouldn’t want me to spend the rest of my life in my pyjamas and lying in bed. I started out by wearing jeans and clothes. Doing chores around the house, going grocery shopping. And that was exactly what I was doing when things started to get interesting again. Something I noticed about life by now was that once things cooled down, they rarely stayed that way. At least in my life.
I had been in the cereal aisle at the nearby store doing groceries for my mother, trying to decide between apple cinnamon cheerios and regular cheerios, when I felt someone looking at me. I looked up of course, feeling annoyed, but I didn’t see anyone. I’m getting paranoid.
When I was at the checkout, I felt it again. An intense, scrutinizing stare. I looked around, and figured people must be staring at me in general, and looking away before I could catch them. I wouldn’t blame them for staring. I was currently wearing a pair of sweat pants, a band shirt I didn’t even know I owned until finding it today. I was laundry day, and I definitely looked like I needed to do my laundry. I paid the girl at the cash, who took my money and handed me the change. While she was doing so, her eyes grew wide, and she was staring at something behind me.
I just wanted to go home. I was ready to leave the store and all the weird looks I got behind and be in the safety of my living room, watching garbage tv. I picked up my bags and began to make the trek home. I was about halfway there when I realized there had been someone staring at me, scrutinizing me in the store. I knew it because I felt it for a third time, and when I turned my head around, there was a familiar face staring back at me.
It was Thor.
I blinked a couple of times, trying to make sure I hadn’t finally cracked. But he was still there each time I opened my eyes. “Thor? What are you doing here?” I shouted to him. In a few large steps he made his way to me. He was wearing jeans and a grey V-neck, and it was odd to see him looking so…normal.
“Noelle.” Thor hugged me, nearly crushing me. I dropped my groceries, thankful I hadn’t bought eggs. “It’s so good to see you Noelle. I wasn’t sure if it was you I saw or not. You blend in so well.” I was still unsure if I was really seeing Thor, and I wrapped my arms around him to make sure once again that he was real.
“What are you doing here?” I asked again. He was still hugging on to me.
“I’ve been looking for you.” He let go, and I looked up into his blue eyes. What I found there bothered me. His eyes weren’t happy. There was relief in them, but worry and sadness clouded them. “I need to speak to you. Is there a place we can talk?”
“Yeah. Of course.” I picked up my groceries and tilted my head so he could follow me home. We walked in silence. Thor seemed to be in his own world, and I was in mine. Why was he here? I knew Thor was with Jane. I never thought he would ever run into me, since there were billions of people on Earth. I didn’t think he would go looking for me either, unless it was serious. I had made it clear that I needed to be away from Asgard. I hadn’t contacted anyone since I had left.
We arrived at my mom’s apartment, and I led him up the stairs. I unlocked the door and cracked it, checking to see if anyone was home. My mom wouldn’t be the problem. James would be. He had seen the whole New York catastrophe on tv, but he didn’t believe it was real. Nor did he know my mother had had a half Asgardian child. And I thought it would save my mother grief if we kept it that way. Explaining Thor would be too weird.
The coast was clear, so I opened the door, locking it behind me. That way we would hear if anyone was coming home. I led him to the kitchen and began putting the cold groceries in the fridge. “Do you want something to drink or eat?” I should be hospitable.
“No. I fear I have no appetite.” I turned and gave him a look. Thor was always hungry. This was serious.
“Why have you been looking for me? Is it Jane?” I figured that was the only reason Thor would look for me. I accepted Jane and liked her, unlike everyone else he knew.
“No, Jane is fine. Carrying the Aether in her body has made her a little more tired than usual, but she is fine.” He pushed some hair out of his face. “Noelle, I want you to come back to Asgard with me.”
I was speechless. He wanted me to come back to Asgard? Why? Asgard was probably fine without me. “I don’t know if I’m ready-”
“I need your help. Something terrible has happened.” Thor said urgently, and I could see he had fear in his eyes. “The king…My father is dead.” I clapped a hand to my mouth.
“What? When?!” I didn’t agree with Odin’s decisions. I didn’t agree with the way he dealt with Loki. But I didn’t wish death on him.
“He was murdered three nights ago. I received word only yesterday.” Thor put his face in his hands, wiping them along his face.
“Murdered? By who?” Who had the skill-and guts- to kill Odin?
“I think you should sit down, Noelle. You’ve gone quite pale.” I nodded, easing myself into a kitchen chair. This was a lot of news to have dumped on you. What in the world had happened in Asgard since I’d left? I hadn’t even been gone a year! I shook my head, trying to process it all, make sense of it. “We don’t know who did it. Which is why I need your help.”
“How can I help? Thor, I don’t know all your father’s enemies. I couldn’t tell you who did it.” I wasn’t a detective. “All I can say is whoever did it was probably powerful.”
Thor nodded gravely. “The murderer killed him during the night. There was no struggle. The murderer was quick and quiet. The guards heard nothing. They found my father when a maid went to clean his chambers. There was nothing left behind that we could use.”
I shook my head, impressed. This murderer was more than a professional. “I still don’t know why you want me to come back. I don’t understand what I can do to help.”
“I’ve asked you to come back because there could be magical residue from the murder scene. You were taught by the master of magic himself. If anyone can detect remaining magic, you can.”
“There are other practicers who could answer these questions. I’m not the only one accomplished in magic in Asgard, Thor.” I curled my knees to my chest.
“None of them can detect it. They say the room has been wiped of magic. But you can never remove all of it. Jane once told me nothing it one hundred percent. There must be something left to salvage.” Thor stood directly in front of me now. “Please, Noelle. Come back with me. Help me catch the murderer and set things right. You can leave Asgard the minute this is solved.”
“I need to think about it.” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to help Thor. I just wasn’t sure if I could.
“Please do not make me order you to come back with me.” I looked up at him, incredulous. “I am the king of Asgard. And you are still a subject, whether you live there or not. Please, come with me willingly.” He had determination on his face. He would do it. He would order me back to Asgard and make me stay until I helped him. I didn’t want that.
I sighed, standing. As much as it made me sick to my stomach thinking about returning to Asgard, I didn’t want to be dragged there like a prisoner. “Give me twenty minutes.”
I wrote a note to my mother, thanking her for looking after me, promising to visit more often, and telling her not to worry. I made sure the note was visible, in a spot she would easily find it. Then I left to go change.
I had come here wearing an Asgardian dress, and I had the very same dress in my closet. I shook it out, since it had wrinkled. Changing into it, I realized how much I missed the soft fabrics of my Asgardian clothes. I glanced at myself in the mirror, feeling strange seeing myself so dressed up. I brushed my hair out, since it was frizzy from being outside, and braided it. I slipped on some flats, and I was ready to go.
It would be more fitting for me to visit a murder scene in pants, and maybe my armour. But I had left it all in my chambers in Asgard, and I wasn’t going to conjure them here. It wasn’t worth the energy. I walked out of the room to see Thor in his regular clothes, cape and all. “How can you do that?” He shrugged. Thor must know some magic after all.
“Are you ready?” He asked, extending an arm towards me.
I nodded. “As soon as this is solved, I can leave if I choose to, right?” I double checked, making sure I knew my terms of freedom.
“I would like you to stay in Asgard, since it is where you belong. But you may choose to leave if that is your wish.”
“Let’s get going then.” And we were off.
Riding the Bifrost again was fun. I had forgotten how pretty it was and how exhilarating it could be. I watched as stars, planets and galaxies flew by, recognising Frigga’s constellation as we approached Asgard. And then we were landing. I forgot to bend my knees a bit, and Thor had to hold me up so I didn’t trip. It gave me a sense of déjà vu.
“Welcome back to Asgard, Lady Noelle.” Heimdall nodded to me, a smile on his face.
“Heimdall, it is good to see you.” I nodded to the golden armoured man, actually glad to see him. At least I would be glad to see someone here. I had no idea how Sif, Volstag or Fandral would react to seeing me again. I had no idea how I would react to seeing them. A lot changed after Loki’s death, for all of us.
The golden dome stopped spinning, and I watched as the beautiful golden city came into view, twinkling in the light of the sun. Asgard was so charming to look at, but underneath all the gold and diamond, there was a shadow there. Asgard may seem perfect, but nothing is as it seems. I took a deep breath and braced myself for what was to come. Good or bad, I had a job to do. “Let’s get this over with.”