She should be happy.
For the first time in many summers, Asgard was is in high spirits as it welcomed the return of its long-missed warriors. Many a homestead had grown desperate to embrace the dearly missed presence of men long away from home. Women, children and men--whose skills led them to a profession outside of the martial field--gathered in the streets for an impromptu parade in honor of their returned sons, husbands, kin and friends.
Heads bowed, limbs tired, and arms lowered, the warriors trudged down the Rainbow Bridge, four and five abreast. Each flash of the Bifrost, as Heimdall opened and closed the way, peppered the returning warriors with intermittent flashes of light, casting a strange glow across the seemingly endless stream of Asgardian men and boys.
Yet, the more she watched, the darker her mood became.
She could not help but feel, despite their victory, a sense of overwhelming defeat. A defeat carried through all of Asgard by the smell of blood and sweat, both from the wounded warriors and the stains lefts on their weaponry by the enemy they had fought, until it permeated the streets, settling like a miasma into the homes of heroes.
And what should be a celebration of peace would now be nothing short of a futile attempt to avoid mourning such needless violence. The dirge of jangling mail and booted feet echoing through the golden streets of Asgard would be another reminder to her, and all of her sisters, of the constant responsibility carried by Aesir women.
To ensure that the way of Aesir men would never be given such free rein again.
Pulling her skirts close, she hurried towards the palace and to her duty. She had a hall to prepare and men to entertain, after all.
Her hall was the brightest in all of Asgard. Her board piled with so many delicacies that it groaned under the weight. Her benches full of warriors and maidens, feasting and drinking.
Their easy smiles glowing in the lavish light of the hall.
For a time she could almost forget why they were gathered so, and simply be happy that they were gathered.
Her husband smiled at her, and she at him. Her heart beating faster, like a hummingbird’s wings, to see his beloved face again: so hardy and hale. Until he turned, and what had changed was now brought into such stark relief, gaping and vivid in the light of so many candles and torches.
Her heart stuttered, and for a moment the hall seemed to dim, only to become bright again. But it was as if the light no longer came from the fires of life that she had directed to be placed so artfully throughout the hall.
In this light of darkness, she saw bloodied sleeves dragging through sauce and the stains of red wine spilled upon the floor.
Wine, thinning across the marble tiles like Aesir lifeblood.
The raucous yells of warriors and tantalizing giggles of maidens became the moans of the walking dead. And as she placed her cup at the board, it was as if she was seeing for the first time. The flushed skin of the living Aesir was nothing but a sack of flesh for the shambling skeletons that existed within, desperate to live through the momentary materiality of feasting.
Quickening fast, only to rot so soon.
And the wine stain was still spreading.
Spreading, until it edged towards the feet of her guests. So close, almost touching.
And there they sat, laughing, drinking, living.
Closing her eyes, she did her best to dispel such disturbing thoughts. For, despite the tools at her disposal, she could not reweave the world.
Not this way.
And her morbid mood could do nothing but make her unfit company for a hall of heroes.
She made her excuses, rising in such haste from the bench that a tankard of mead at her elbow was tipped upon its side. The liquid flowed across her board to pool upon the bench where it fouled the fine silk of her garments.
Pausing, she attempted to dab at the stain with a linen cloth, but it only spread, until her ministrations caused the honey-coloured liquid to saturate her garments like thick and sticky sap. And at this sight, her recent melancholic disposition brought to the fore of her mind a thought of the gaping wound so recently left by the branch cut from the yawning span of the Yggdrasil.
A branch that had once connected a beautiful, distant, and cold world with their own, much warmer one.
Horrified, she stared at the stain, her focus complete, until a warm hand covered her own, providing a much-needed distraction.
“My wife?” said her husband in a hushed, gentle tone.
“My husband,” she acknowledged, though she could not look at Odin, as was his due.
Not right now.
The revelry, food and wine made her sick, but to see her husband so mauled, his missing eye nowhere near the sum of what this war had done to damage him, made her heart too heavy.
“The night grows long and I tire,” she said. She bowed her head slightly to Odin. “Good evening, my husband. May you enjoy the remainder of the feast? I shall see you on the morrow.”
In her haste to escape, she did not wait for a response. She pulled her hand from his warm, calloused grasp and swept from the hall, her face schooled into one of distant thought.
The enclosed hallways of her palace, dark but for torches placed here and there, left her feeling claustrophobic and full of ill-energy. She needed the cleansing salt-wind of the Asgardian Sea and the comfort of a babe in her arms. Anything to dissipate the dark mood brought on by her husband’s so dearly bought victory. Paid for with the heart of a world, the lives of many gods, her husband’s eye, and the future of two child-princes.
Too high a price, she was certain.
In their private champers, she ordered the balcony doors which faced the churning sea and the monument of the now silent Bifrost opened. The sun was just beginning to rise, its light sparkling off of the leaded glass panes of the balcony doors as it filled her chambers. Its brilliance set fire to a pair of intricate scissors and a neatly stacked pile of newly polished sewing needles carefully arranged in their opened silver case, before continuing on to the crystalline artifacts that she and her husband had set throughout their rooms.
But today, she had no eye for such a splendid display. Instead, she gazed, intent, upon the babe, so carefully swaddled into a bundle of fine cotton-weave blankets, whom she now lifted to gently cradle in her arms.
There was a biting breeze coming off the water, so unusually chill for Asgard that a rare mist formed across the bay as the cold air met the warm water. It was as if a wave of wind from the realm of Jotun had traveled the Bifrost, a silent and unknown companion to the returning Aesir warriors.
At that dark thought, she shivered, her unusual melancholy returning, and horribly, for a moment, she imagined that the chill was, in fact a curse. One meant to convey the combined hopelessness of the Jotun people. Robbed of that which made them Jotun, were they crying out, voices breaking over the walls of Asgard from one end to the other? With no other choice but to forsake their pride and beg for the return of the heart of their realm and of the souls of their loved ones?
If they suffered, then so would all of Asgard under the onslaught of their hopelessness.
Shoring up her seawalls against the wave of despair, she clutched the quietly attentive bundle to her breasts and drew strength from his presence. She tried to banish from her mind such destructive thoughts.
Slowly the cold mist moved inland, dissipating the warm night air of the lush gardens below. Fat drops of dew formed on the delicate plants of her garden, and, in the weak dawning sunlight, they shone intermittently between the wisps of fog, heralding a chill dawn.
She brought the child to the balcony, angling his small body in her arms to present to him the glowing streets of Asgard. They shone brightly over the dark walls of the palace, lighted even at this early hour with the torches of victory. The cold mist slowly converged on the city and made mini stars of the bright lights. Their soft halos seemed to create links between one, unrelated, light and the next, like markers floating in the darkness of the less-trodden pathways between the branches of the great Yggdrasil.
Yet, despite this beauty, one could see the haphazard stragglers of determined celebrants meandering through the winding roads of Asgard. Drinking mead and occasionally stopping for frenzied couplings. Their need tainted the dawn with a sense of desperation so strong that it permeated the city, wafting with the cold mist even to her private balcony, despite the great distance. She frowned at the affirmation of that which she had so feared: the citizens of Asgard, so lost, were left with no other recourse than to find comfort by drowning the horrors of a long and bitter war in drink and the willing bodies of others.
Such empty pursuits and hopeless goals. A last attempt at forgetting.
An attempt that she was certain would fail.
There could be no doubt that the Aesir had won this war.
However, it was also just as certain that, in many ways, they had lost it as well.
With a sense of hopelessness, she realized that it would be a long time, if ever, before Asgard could once again be as it was in her youth. A realm that was...whole.
In a universe that was the same.
Remembering herself, and the impressionable young one in her embrace, she altered her focus away from the tainted streets of her once beautiful Asgard. Gently, curving her arms to cradle the babe against her full breast in an upright position, she lifted him to allow for a wider, more panoramic view of the sickened city that she still so loved.
In her excitement she paced from one end of the balcony to the other, her satin slippers susurrating against the polished marble floor as she moved. Creating just enough noise to cover her soft, intimate voice as she spoke in a whisper meant for only the two of them.
She stroked his cheek and drew his attention to the white caped waves of the Asgardian Sea as the wind whipped the water into fantastical shapes. Then they were on to the radiant line of the Rainbow Bridge, pulsing with contained energy and power as it connected the city of Asgard to the understated monument of the Bifrost.
Until finally, she had whispered to him of all the places and things which made the Aesir who they were and Asgard what it was.
As the cold breeze picked up, and the mist made its way into the palace grounds, it ruffled her dress and brushed the exposed skin of the infant’s face. The soft peach of his plump cheeks turned a delicate pink, the flesh taking on the subtle hue of new roses. A small smile graced his face as each zephyr blew her dress into disarray, until the onslaught of the cold increased so much that it whipped the drapes into a frenzy and filled the room with the bell-tinkling sound and movement of intricate crystalline parts.
Slowly, the light pink of a minor wind-chill on his cheeks and forehead blossomed into a fresh violet, infusing the infant’s entire body with vivid color. The verdant green of his eyes washed away to be replaced by a shade of red like that of the wild roses of her favourite garden.
Roses her gardener had never intended to be part of her gardens, but ones she appreciated, even more so, for that very temerity, strength and innate loveliness. Created with the help of Aesir, but free of the hand of Aesir artifice. They belonged in Asgard as much as anything else did.
As the child’s skin changed its hue, so did his body change its temperature. Until his small body had grown as cold as the blowing wind. Her warm arms maintaining hold of his fragile body throughout the process, for this part of him was as natural to her as his previously warm form had been.
She held him close, just as she had before.
He could not hurt her, not this one.
Not her beautiful wild rose.
Finally the sun rose, and as dawn passed, so did the mist, though the cold wind remained.
The early morning light, clearer than at any other point of the day, caught the strands of her fine tresses until they glowed like gold smelted in a forge. Each time the wind blew, the strands brushed against the pure white of the swaddling cottons and the dark blue of the babe’s freezing skin.
The child was bright and intelligent. His eyes easily followed the path of her wayward locks as they whipped about her face in the gusts of wind. His small fists, just managing to push past the swaddling cotton, reached for her blonde hair. His fingers uncurled, and when he finally managed to catch a few strands, so that his plump digits could inexpertly comb through the silk of her tresses, he stuffed them willy-nilly into his mouth, coating them with a liberal amount of drool. His burbling coos of delight over his newly won prize echoed throughout the chamber.
She smile, expressing a mother's pleasure at his childish antics.
He was so beautiful, her new 'son,' or so Odin had called him as he passed the precious bundle to her waiting arms upon his return from the Bifrost. Even the guilt, so deeply drawn in the lines of her husband’s face, could not mar the happiness of such a wonderful gift.
Poor Odin, who carried upon him such a burden that she almost felt pity for him.
But Odin did not know! She would never feel anger at the advent of this child. A child that was such a blessing to their small family.
He could not know!
His man’s pride had already proved to be a danger beyond her ken. A father’s pride would be so much worse. So, she must show a woman’s restraint. Restraint to make them all strong.
For this small creature, snuggled to her breast, was certainly her son.
Laufey may have borne him and Odin sired him, but Frigga had seen the fate that promised that the two kings’ threads were to entwine. And when that happened, with her scissors and needle she had caressed and sewn, instead of cut. Her hands (and heart), strong as she held the tools of her trade, had encouraged, soothed, sighed, and even loved, until the Norns made clear that they must part.
All three of them.
Sundered as the Yggdrasil was to be sundered.
Certainly, this must make her as much the babe’s parent as those whose bodies had joined to create him.
If it could be said that this babe was the child of Laufey’s body.
And the child of Odin’s spirit.
Then he was, beyond a doubt, the child of Frigga’s soul.
Sighing, she pulled him close again, cuddling him to her breast as she looked into his eyes. And, not without a sense of sorrow, she spoke to him without saying a word. She told him all of her secrets in the breadth of a single kiss upon his smooth forehead. As her flesh touched his, so did his flesh become like hers. The lovely violet fading to the pale peach so common amongst the Asgardian city dwellers.
And it would remain this way, until the time was right.
This quiet exchange, where she used a mother’s love to conceal the true nature of the babe in her arms, contained the only moment that Frigga would ever willingly hurt this child.