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Remember This First

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In the early afternoon, the king ate his lunch with his two sons, the eldest fair, the youngest dark. Asgard ever bright glowed with the muted oranges of the particular hour; an inquisitive yellow peeked over the horizon.

"Why didn't you talk to the jötunn?" asked Loki. The war was ever of interest. "Talking always works for me."

Thor ran over with laughter.

"No, it doesn't! What about last week, when I had to save you from Hallormr?"

Loki, dark of hair and thin of face, paled; he had a strange way of going white instead of red. Hallormr said it made him look a ghost, and Thor said it made Hallormr look a shut up before I break your teeth off.

"Mother says you should fight less!"

Thor frowned. "What, and I'm supposed to let him beat your face in?"

"I can take care of myself," Loki snapped. His face hurt with cold. Loki tore his bread in two and stuffed his mouth with it to stop his tongue.

"No, you can't," said Thor, with the ease of a truth well-known. "That's what you need me for."

"To answer the first question," said Odin, and both boys were quiet, "I did at one time reason with their king." He looked to Loki, who held himself straight like a sword thrust deep into the earth. Loki's eyes were wide and dark, and to Odin they were as shadows thrown by a white mountain. "But the jötunn were hungry for conquest and cruel, and it was not in their nature to seek reason."

Thor said, "And that's why you had to fight them."

"Yes," said Odin. "Sometimes talking alone is not enough. A wise king knows when it is time to fight."

"See?" Thor threw his arm about Loki's shoulders; he held him tightly. Loki resisted, then he let his head fall to his brother's warm shoulder. "That's why I protect you."

"No," said Loki, "that's why I protect you," and he stuck the rest of his bread in Thor's mouth. Thor sputtered and pushed Loki away, and Loki fell laughing against Odin.

"That was dirty," said Thor, "that was unfair." He picked up a thick leg of pheasant from the platter between them. "You're the skinny one. You should eat more!"

Thor advanced. Loki kicked his legs out at him, one-two aimed for his chest, but Thor simply pushed them aside.

"Enough," said Odin.

Thor settled for eating the pheasant himself. Loki smiled and went for the grapes.

Yellow superseded orange. Thor dropped the bone, cleaned, to the plate, and Loki looked out over the water, thinking of the jötunn as they marched through the realms, cold and cruel and terrible, and of his father shining brightly as he rode against them, Odin so noble, brilliant, true. He thought of himself riding at his father's side.

"And do you remember the things I tell you?" asked Odin.

"Of course!" said Thor.

Loki said, "I remember everything, Father."