After Loki and I parted ways for the night, I decided to take a walk around the gardens. I was feeling restless, and wanted some time alone. The gardens were private, secluded and lovely to look at. Perfect.
As I passed the gorgeous blooms growing in the moonlight, I let my mind go blank and just enjoy the sights I was taking in. I wanted to simply enjoy the flowers and the quiet before the storm. I had a feeling things were going to get interesting soon.
A cool breeze blew my hair around my face, making me shiver. I rubbed my arms to warm myself back up and smooth down the goose bumps forming on my arms. I looked up at the sky, suddenly realizing how late it was. The moon wasn’t showing tonight, making it darker than usual. I wasn’t afraid of the dark, but I was starting to get weird feeling in my stomach.
Turning on my heel, I retraced my steps. I was trusting my instincts here and even if I was wrong and was being silly, I would laugh at myself once I was inside the safety of the palace. I had to admit, Odin being dead did make it feel less safe, especially since he was murdered in his own room. But Thor still held respect and power in the nine realms. And respect does instill a healthy amount of fear, which made the palace the safest place in the realms for me.
I turned the last corner, knowing that the exit was right there. I felt a certain relief at the thought of being out in the open again, and in view of the palace.
That is, until I turned and didn’t see an exit. Instead, there was a wall of greenery. I did a double take, turning around quickly. Maybe I had made a wrong turn? But that couldn’t be right. The bench that sat at the entrance was here. All the benches were different, each had a different carving on it. And the carving of blooming roses was on this one, like the entrance bench.
What was going on?
I pinched myself and blinked a few times, trying to see if maybe I was seeing things. Maybe I was asleep? After about six pinches, one being particularly hard on the sensitive skin of my under arm, I realized I wasn’t dreaming. Plants had spontaneously grown in the entrance.
I started to panic. There was another exit on the other side of the garden, but I would have to walk at least half an hour to get there. And what if that entrance was blocked too? I turned on the spot, looking for signs of another way out.
I suddenly felt an eerie feeling wash over me. I turned again, looking for signs of something lurking in the dark. I saw nothing, but my feelings said otherwise.
Against my better judgement, I called out. “Is anyone there?” Nothing but silence. “Hello?” Nothing.
Moments like this, I wished Loki and I were still able to communicate telepathically. Or that Asgard had invested in cellphones.
I shivered again as wind blew by me. My hair blew in my face again, and I desperately pushed it out of my eyes to see again. As I moved my hair, I noticed a shift in the darkness and froze. Something had moved. I hadn’t heard anything, but I was sure of it. Something was moving.
My breath started to rise and fall as it moved again, this time closer. “Who are you? What do you want?”
No answer. No movement. Only silence. For a moment I wondered if I had scared whatever had been rooting around and caused it to flee. I took a deep breath, hoping that it was gone so I could focus on getting out of here.
Suddenly, a dark mass sprang out from the shadows. It was so quick, so sudden that I let out a blood curdling scream. I put my arms up to shield myself as I felt a huge weight fall on me. There was fur on this thing and it smelt disgusting. Like blood.
I screamed again as it bit down on my forearm. After a few minutes of agony from the bite I felt my body go limp, and the world turn blurry. Suddenly, a cloaked shape walked out from the shadows. At least, I think it was cloaked. It was hard to make out distinct details. The thing looked in my direction, snapped its fingers at the beast who promptly got off me and hurried away.
As the cloaked thing moved toward me, I felt a bitter taste enter my mouth. I must have moved my mouth because the thing laughed. “Ah, I see the poison is starting to work.” The voice was raspy and guttural.
Poison? I tried to move again, but no luck. My ears then started to ring, before everything went quiet. My hearing had gone.
I began to feel panic rise in my chest. I couldn’t die. I couldn’t. All would be lost. If I died, Loki died too.
The scene around me started to warp, and suddenly, I was losing consciousness. We were transporting dimensions.
I was being kidnapped.
I had gotten no sleep last night.
After parting ways with Noelle, I had tried and failed at getting a decent rest. I never slept well anymore anyways, but I had been sleeping better being back in Asgard, close to Noelle again.
But no matter how much I tried nor how tired I felt, I couldn’t rest. I had a bad feeling in my stomach. Like if I rested, something bad would happen.
So I stayed up, going in and out of sleep for an hour at a time, before getting up early and eating a solitary breakfast. I felt so exhausted, but at the same time I felt as if I was alert and ready to go for whatever may come.
As I wandered my way to the meeting room at a decent time, I wondered if Noelle had slept. I had no idea if we both still felt that sort of connection. We no longer could communicate telepathically, or feel each other’s presence, but maybe we still had something.
I pushed the door open to find Tyr and Thor discussing something. I wasn’t listening as I walked in, giving them a nod and sitting myself down on the nearest chair.
“You look terrible.” Fandral was in the corner, sharpening his sword.
“I feel terrible.” I put my head in my hands, rubbing my eyes.
Volstagg gave me a sympathetic look. “You look as if you’ve barely rested.” I didn’t say anything. Sif ignored me, as usual.
“Where is Noelle?” Tyr asked, looking around as if she would magically appear. “She knows we meet at this time.”
“Yes, it is unusual for her to be late for anything.” Thor remarked. All heads turned to me.
“I haven’t seen her since last night.”
“Since when last night?” Tyr asked.
I laid back in the chair, thinking. “We parted way after the sun set. I assume she went back to her rooms. I went back to mine.”
“Maybe she slept in?” Fandral suggested. We all shrugged. It was plausible. Noelle was probably tired, and crashed from stress. She deserved a nice lie-in.
“Let’s just start the meeting then. I’m sure she’ll wake up soon. She knows where to find us.” Sif suggested.
We all nodded, but a bit uncertainly. It was clear none of us wanted to start this meeting without Noelle. After all, she was vital to all this.
As Tyr began discussing some more finer points of the plan, I let my mind wander a bit. Every few minutes, I absentmindedly looked to the door, waiting for the one person I longed to see every day walk through.
I imagined her walking through the door, a little breathless and embarrassed for sleeping so late. She would apologize profusely and sit herself down, probably avoiding everyone’s eye and telling them to go on with the meeting.
After a while, I noticed other people doing it too. It wasn’t until I looked up at the clock and realized three hours had passed.
Where was Noelle?
After another thirty minutes, Volstagg brought it up. “Noelle hasn’t shown up yet. Should we go check on her?”
“Yes.” Thor answered before anyone could. We all stood, leaving the room and walking down the hall. “Loki, you come with me to check on her. The rest of you wait here. If she’s sleeping in I’m sure she doesn’t want a crowd outside her door.” They nodded.
We sped walked down the halls and up the stairs, both trying to seem calm. We practically sprinted down the last hall before arriving at her door.
I straightened up and knocked.
“Noelle? Are you alright? You didn’t show up to the meeting.” No response.
“Noelle, its Thor and Loki. Open the door.” Thor tried. I jiggled the door knob, but no use. It was locked. After knocking and calling a few more times, Thor decided enough was enough. “Move.” He gritted his teeth, dropped his shoulder and shoved the door.
It gave way after a few minutes, and I imagine Thor’s shoulder was quite bruised. The door popped open, revealing Noelle’s empty chambers.
“She’s not here.” I whispered. We both walked in quietly. Looking around, I saw that everything was in its usual place. Nothing was disturbed. “Her bed is still made. It doesn’t even look as if it’s been slept in.”
“Maybe she made it and went for a walk?” Thor suggested. I shook my head.
“She would have come to the meeting.” We checked the bathroom, which was empty. The water was still full in the tank, meaning she hadn’t showered this morning or last night. Her clothes were all in the closet, everything hanging. I noticed what she was wearing yesterday wasn’t in there. Neither were the shoes she wore. “Thor, I don’t think Noelle has been in this room since yesterday.” I said, panic in my voice.
“If she isn’t here, where would she be?” He asked, voicing his own panic.
“I don’t know.” Fear crept in me. “We have to look for her. The stables, the gardens. Ask the guards, she wouldn’t have left the palace without letting someone know. She knows she shouldn’t be taking risks.”
I hoped we would find her wandering the gardens, or riding her horse. I hoped she was simply eating in the hall or wandering the library. We would find her and she would laugh at our panic and tell us she simply lost track of time. That she had made her bed and chosen not to bathe yet. Something, anything.
As long as we found her.