The blast had sent tremors through the palace, and Sigyn had watched frozen in terror as it illuminated the horizon with a piercing screech. All that remained was the skeletal carcass on which she found herself precariously balanced. “You should not be here, lady Sigyn,” Heimdall said without turning towards her. Not that it bothered her, she was so used to being shunned that by now she almost expected it.
“This is where Loki fell. I wish,” she paused, grappling with the reality of what she was about to say. “I wish to pay my respects.” The Bifrost, broken and destroyed as it was, was the only grave her Loki would ever have, and even then it was temporary. As soon as the observatory was rebuilt, he would be as forgotten here as he was at the banquet.
“Why are you not at the feast?” He finally asked, without looking at her.
“Why aren’t you?”
“It’s not my place.”
A sneer tugged at the corners of her mouth. “And there’s your answer.” Asgard celebrated Loki’s death, and she would not join them. Bile rose in her throat at the thought. Only Thor, Frigga, and the All-Father even looked like they were mourning. Everyone was glad he was dead. Her family couldn’t understand why she would mourn a betrayer. Her ‘friends’ shunned her. Sif and the Warriors Three had stopped talking to her when she refused to speak with Loki on their behalf about bringing Thor home, as though she would’ve even been able to change his mind. Now all of Asgard insulted her grief by drinking to his death.
And she hated them for it.
What little resolve she had left cracked and splintered off with each sob. Sigyn could see everything now, standing where the All-Father once had, holding onto one soon while the other let go, taking with him everything that had truly made Asgard her home.
The Bifrost became a haven for her, a respite from the cold stares and harsh whispers that dogged her. Her name and Loki’s were on every Asgardian’s lips, wild and at times highly exaggerated accounts of her involvement in Loki’s last plan. Heimdall was at least mercifully silent.
Sigyn could usually time her return so that she could avoid people but today she was not so fortunate. On the way to the archives, she ran into a small gathering that was soon instantly recognizable as the Warriors Three, Sif, and several others she couldn’t name. Fandral had two women, a blonde and a red head, on each arm. All grew silent once they saw her.
“Lady Sigyn.” Fandral said. There was none of the usual charm in his voice, but no malice either. Blank, as though he hadn’t known her for years.
Sigyn wasn’t naïve enough to think that they all had been truly friends. She was Loki’s, and they all regarded him with a bit of wariness she didn’t always understand. But she had hoped that there would perhaps be a little bit of kindness or sympathy from them. Looking to each of them, it was clear that was a foolish wish. As soon as she stepped past them, Sif called out to her.
“Sigyn, why are you doing this?” If there was concern in her voice, it was impossible to hear. “Acting like this won’t bring him back.”
She gave a derisive snort; is that what she really thought this was all about? Her fists clenched, leaving bright red half-moons in her palms. If she had to act like a mad woman to make sure the man she had loved with all her heart was not forgotten then so be it.
“Loyalty. I should think that would be a concept the four of you could understand.”
Before they could answer, she called up shadows that curled around her like mist and she ran until she found a familiar alcove. There would be more talk, but she couldn’t find it in her to care anymore. She would not betray Loki and name him a monster, not even in death.
“My friends!” Thor’s voice boomed through the hallway like thunder, and Sigyn froze. She was certain there was no way Thor or the others could see her but she didn’t want to take that risk. “I hear you’ve spoken to Sigyn.”
“If you want to call it talking,” Fandral said.
“Yes but is she well?”
“One can never tell with her.”
“I said I wanted no more talk of Loki and Sigyn.” Of all the things she expected to hear, that wasn’t one of them.
“We’ve tried but Sigyn isn’t helping her own cause. The lengthy trips to the Bifrost, the erratic hours, wearing his cape around everywhere. Barely eating. She’s mad.” Only Volstagg would equate lack of appetite with madness.
“No, she’s giving everyone enough reason to suspect that it’s all true,” There was the concern in Sif’s voice, but Sigyn suspected it was for Thor’s benefit not hers.
Thor’s voice was lower, but she was still close enough to hear it. “I want to help her, but I can’t do that if everyone is hostile towards her. And I don’t like my brother’s memory being tarnished.”
The tension in the pause that followed was palpable even from her hiding place. So many things left unsaid until Hogun voiced what she was sure the others would not. “Sigyn is not Loki. Protecting her and his memory will not bring him back.”
So Thor had kept his word after all. Sigyn listened as Thor and the others continued to argue, as he defended her honor and Loki’s, and by the time they were done and had left that particular stretch of hallway new tears were streaming down her cheeks. Knowing she couldn’t make it back to her rooms, she slid to the floor, her kneels curled up to her chest and Loki’s cape wrapped around her tightly, and sobbed.
It was cowardly and probably a little cruel to let Thor keep defending them the way he was. Sigyn would take the fact that Loki had told her some of his plans to her grave. Not all the details, not enough to actually be involved, but she had an idea. Thor was not an idiot; even he must have figured this out, and if it comforted him to defend them she wouldn’t stop him. Perhaps Volstagg was right and she really was mad. Loki could have ripped a hole in Yggdrasil and still she would never leave him. No crime he was accused of would turn her from him.
One morning, Sigyn couldn’t open the doors to her room. They’d been barred from the outside as had her windows. A note was waiting for her with her breakfast; she was to remain in her chambers until she could stop bringing shame to the family. So she shamed them now? Sigyn crumpled the note and tossed it into the fire at the center of her room.
Suddenly her room was too bright, so she went around closing all curtains so that the only light was from her fire and what little sunlight came through. It helped, and Sigyn let out a calm sigh as she sank into her bed.
The silence amplified his absence, and that ever present dull ache in her chest twisted into something agonizing. Everything in her room reminded her of Loki; books and jewelry and trinkets he’d given to her over the years. Even her bed still had his scent from the night before he fell, when he had come to her both triumphant and broken. She held her pillow to her chest as she had held him that night, yet she knew that one day that would fade as well. All of it was a poor substitute for him.
Then there was the bowl, a powerful tool carved from one of the oldest trees in the Nine Realms. He’d given it to her so she could work on her divination, though neither of them understood it well. It was erratic, it’s answers cryptic and vague.
Not entirely sure what possessed her to do this save for perhaps a desperation to connect with Loki in any way possible, or to take her mind offer her confinement, Sigyn got up and brought the bowl back to her bed. Another sob caught in her throat as she ran her fingers over the knot work carved into the sides. She grabbed the pitcher of water from breakfast and filled the bowl halfway. But what could she even ask? What her future in Asgard held for her? If she even had a future?
Despite its cryptic nature, the bowl itself was easy to use. Sigyn closed her eyes and brought the bowl close to her face and hummed. The melody reminded her of ancient forests under a starlit sky, where Loki first taught her the spell. Her grip on the bowl lightened and it hovered just above her hands and spun, slowly at first then faster and faster. She lost the battle to keep any question at the forefront of her mind, and all she could think about was when Loki first taught her to use this bowl, his hands over hers, their foreheads touching as they hummed in unison, the sharp scent of pine around them and soft earth beneath them. More tears slid down her cheeks and the moment felt so real she was sure Loki would wipe them away.
When Sigyn opened her eyes again, she nearly dropped the bowl. Loki. He was in an unfamiliar place, and his face was scratched and bruised but it was him. Hope began to swell in her chest despite how hard she tried to crush it. No, Loki had fallen and died. This was nothing more than the bowl showing her a fantasy that couldn’t be real.
When dinner came, with another pitcher of water, Sigyn ate more, thinking perhaps her hunger had affected her vision as well. Her stomach ached from days with minimal food but she forced herself to clean her plate. The bowl was still on the table where she left it, untouched since that afternoon. Trying again would be foolish, she would only be torturing herself over and over again. Yet still she poured the water into the bowl until it was almost full.
Once more she went through the spell, keeping her mind as clear as she could, and once more it showed her Loki. He was different this time. Still wounded and lost and still somewhere she couldn’t make out. This time his voice was in her ear, and for the briefest, fleeting moment, it was as though he was looking directly at her. “Well I guess that’s worth a look.” Water splashed onto the floor as Sigyn caught the bowl before it could hit the ground and the image was gone.
That night she dreamed of Loki, as she often did. But this time was different. There was no reliving of memories. He was speaking to her, only she couldn’t hear him. But she felt him: his fingers running gently through her hair or ghosting along her cheek.
When her family finally did let her out again days later, Sigyn emerged from her chambers with a serene smile on her face. She even thanked her parents, much to their surprise. Let them assume what they will. But had they not locked her in her room all this time, she would never have learned the only truth that mattered to her now.
Loki was alive.
To her family’s disappointment, Sigyn continued her trips to the Bifrost. Construction on the new observatory would begin soon, and while this was no longer a grave it was her last connection point with Loki. Knowing Loki was alive had opened a new path, and for her it was the only logical path: she was going to find him.
His location was difficult to place but then Sigyn expected no less from Loki. But what was clear that she wouldn’t be able to continue her search for him in Asgard. Unrest rippled throughout the palace into the rest of the realm. Thor’s attempts to quiet the rumors were in vain, as they still thrived just only deep in the shadows she knew so well. The Einherjar were ever present, to the point where Sigyn was sure they were watching her. And there was talk that Thor would leave for Midgard to see his mortal.
That…could complicate her plans. Her family was too well known on Vanaheim, and it along with Alfheim were too loyal to Asgard should they come for her. All the other realms were dangerous for her to stay there long. Only Midgard was truly safe. She could hide easily in a place where they were only myth. Loki had told her about the secret paths between the words, and then later showed her when he was no longer trying to court her. Midgard had the easiest path, and she would just have to hope that the realm was big enough that they would never cross paths.
To escape the Einherjar, and the court as a whole, Sigyn took several books out of the Archives (at least the ones that they would let her) and took off for one of the remote palace gardens. It was privacy she needed, and this was one of the last places she could still find it.
Except that day Thor must have followed her. Not long after she set up her things underneath one of their trees, he approached and sat in front of her. Sigyn quickly placed the basket of food she’d brought with her on top of the books to hide what they were. Not that Thor would understand what many of them were.
“Afternoon, Thor. And to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”
“I haven’t seen you in a while and I wanted to make sure you were well.”
Sigyn had to fight to keep from smiling too much. “I’m doing better.”
“It’s good to hear that.”
Thor made it impossible to stay mad at him sometimes; it was like being mad at a puppy. Especially with everything he’d tried to do for her. “I…wanted to thank you. For defending me.”
He looked surprised at first, the just shook his head. “Of course you know about that. You and Loki were always hiding in the shadows.”
“We did cause our fair share of mischief that way.” Sigyn smiled as memory after memory flooded to the forefront of her mind. “Like that one time on Vanaheim when Loki used his doppelgangers to confuse that tavern owner and get us free mead?” It struck her how innocent their pranks had once been, when they were too young to care about anything else.
Thor laughed at that, and for an afternoon, Sigyn forgot about her books and her planning and they simply remembered Loki.
There was sadness in Thor’s eyes after he finished telling her how Loki had ended up saving all their lives on Nornheim. “I miss him,” he said finally, absently picking at the grass.
“So do I.” Guilt tugged at Sigyn’s heart. Part of her wanted to tell him so badly that the words were almost on the tip of her tongue before she could stop them, and she had to bite her tongue to keep from revealing everything. Thor could be her ally and together they could find Loki and return everything to the way it had been.
The old Thor might have gone along with her plan. But since their fight, his banishment and the influence of that mortal, Sigyn wasn’t entirely sure if she could trust him now. This new, honorable, selfless Thor was almost a stranger to her at times. His actions were not as predictable as they had once been, and she couldn’t risk it. Not with Loki. So she swallowed her confession without meeting Thor’s gaze.
“There’s something I should tell you. About Loki.“
“If it’s about him being a frost giant…I know.” Thor was silent, and Sigyn could see in his eyes the question he was too afraid to ask. Did you hear it from him or the others? “Your mother told me shortly before you returned.” That much was true. Loki was distant after he returned from Jotunheim, and the queen had told her everything when it became apparent that Loki wouldn’t. Word still spread, and she heard every vile thing said about Loki. And about her. “I love him all the same.” Loved. She should have said loved.
Thor, however, didn’t notice her mistake. “You have a good heart, Sigyn, and you loved my brother well. That meant more to us than you know.”
Kindness was not something she was accustomed to now, and even something as small as this ripped her heart anew. Forcing her lip not to tremble as she said, “That is… perhaps the kindest thing anyone has said to me since…”
“I know, and I wish it were not the case. Know that I will continue to defend you and my brother. Regardless of what anyone says.” There was an awkward silence between the two of them as Thor pulled up yet more grass. “I should let you get back to your studies.”
Realizing this could be the last time she saw him for a while, and not knowing under what kind of circumstances they would meet again, Sigyn threw her arms around his shoulders and hugged him lightly. “Thank you, Thor. For everything.”
He patted her back gently and said, “We’ve both lost someone dear to us. I just want you to find some happiness after everything you’ve been through.” Fresh tears stung her eyes, but all she could do was blink them away as she pulled back and nodded. A small smile tugged at her lips. Thor patted her shoulder again and stood. “I’m glad to see a smile on your face again, even if it wasn’t my brother who put it there. Farewell, sister.” With another smile and a quick bow, he turned and left her to her books.
Sigyn waited until he was far enough away before whispering, “Goodbye, brother.”
Anxious to be out of Asgard and to find Loki, Sigyn spent less and less time on the Bifrost and more time copying any and all spells she would need into a journal to save space. Her bag had been packed long ago, concealed under her bed with a warding spell.
When the queen summoned her one afternoon, Sigyn’s stomach was in knots. Convinced that Frigga had discovered her plan somehow, she paced outside her chambers trying to come up with a reasonable excuse for her actions.
The queen was alone, standing next to a window that overlooked the city. Immediately, Sigyn went to bow but Frigga held up her hand , and motioned for her to come closer “Lady Sigyn, there’s no need for formalities here.”
Sigyn did as she was told, unable to meet the queen’s eyes for fear they would give her whole plan away.
“You meant a great deal to my son,” Frigga finally said. “And indeed I have come to care for you as my own daughter.”
First Thor and now the queen. It was if the Fates were testing her resolve. “Thank you, my queen,” she said, her voice thick with fear and sadness.
“Loki’s death has been painful for all of us. Though Thor tells me you seem better, I can see that you’re still suffering. Mother’s intuition. And it is as a mother that I say this. Perhaps…the palace isn’t the best place for you right now.” She looked up sharply, trying to appear calm as a wave of panic rolled through her. “Not all of Asgard shares our grief. And I wouldn’t blame you if you needed time away from everything.”
“You’re suggesting I go into exile?”
“No. Of course not.” She placed a comforting arm around Sigyn’s shoulders and her voice dropped ever so slightly. “Merely that you, discreetly, take a little time away from the palace and the city. For your own peace of mind.”Sigyn’s mind reeled as she tried to process everything the queen had said, everything she could be implying. It was perfect timing for her plan, but there were equally good chances that this was either a warning or a trap. She opened her mouth, but her voice deserted her. “Just think on it, dear. No need to answer now.”
Frigga smiled and walked over to pick something up off the desk before returning. “I have something for you.” She pressed a velvet lined box into her hand. “Loki asked me to hold onto this until he was ready to give it to you.”
Sigyn opened the box and a small gasp escaped her lips. A small gold medallion with knot work done in black enamel hung from a leather cord. In the center was a small, dark green stone. It was exquisite, and she knew what it was before Frigga had to tell her.
“It was to be his betrothal gift to you.” She could hear the sadness in Frigga’s voice and more tears came to her eyes as Sigyn felt the same guilt induced urge to tell her everything. But this was more dangerous than telling Thor so she said nothing and wiped the tears from her eyes. “I thought you might want to have it.”
“I would have said yes,” Sigyn said when she finally got her voice back. “No matter what he brought me. Or who he was.”
“And that, dear Sigyn, is why I want to make sure you are safe and well.”
Once she was back in her own rooms, Sigyn took the necklace out of the box and studied it in the palm of her hand. A betrothal gift. Just a few days ago she would have burst into tears at the sight of it. Now she couldn’t stop grinning as she slipped the leather cord around her neck. Whatever doubts, fears, regrets, anything that could even tempt her to stay in Asgard and wait vanished. “Yes, Loki,” she whispered, certain that Heimdall wouldn’t be able to hear her should he be watching. “I will marry you.”
The queen’s words had indeed turned out to be a warning. As she went to get her final look at the Bifrost, a guard stopped her and told her she was not permitted to leave the palace by orders of the All-Father. She made a show of being offended but in the end it really didn’t matter. It wasn’t as though she’d snuck out of the palace a thousand times before.
Once out of the palace—which was only slightly more difficult than she expected but not by much—and safely in the forests just north of the city, Sigyn got her last look at the palace just as dark was settling. It saddened her not saying goodbye to Thor and Frigga. Both of them had been kind to her, kinder than her own family, but goodbyes would leave them with questions she couldn’t answer, not to mention putting her whole plan in jeopardy. Loki’s necklace thrummed lightly against her chest, like a reminder of her goal. It had been the only thing she was taking with her that was strong enough to hold the enchantment that would shield her from Heimdall’s gaze. With a tiny smile, she secured her pack over her shoulder and turned her back on Asgard.
The cave wasn’t very far, only an hour or so into the woods, though it felt like it had taken her hours to get there. Sigyn had constantly looked over her shoulder, terrified someone had noticed her absence already and sent the guards out after her. She followed the familiar path through the cave to the far wall, which was smooth and worn, like a pebble.
Sigyn memorized the spell required before leaving so she could get this done as quickly as possible. A blood sacrifice was required. She took out her knife and pressed it into her palm until blood came up in large red beads. She hesitated, not out of fear for leaving Asgard to find Loki but fear that she wouldn’t be able to complete the spell properly and she’d find herself in a dangerous realm with no way of getting back. Or with no way of finding Loki. She pushed such thoughts aside and pressed her palm to the wall, which was smooth like the surface of a pebble.
Unlike the Bifrost, which was always the same no matter where one went, using a secret passage was unpredictable. The first time the stone turned to liquid around her hand and pulled her through it, another time it had pulled her and Loki through the ground. This time, the wall split in two and opened, revealing a portal very much like the Bifrost itself. She put her knife away and looked over her shoulder one more time, both to see if she’d been followed and as a last goodbye. As she stepped closer it was as though someone had grabbed her by the front of her shirt and yanked her through the portal and then she was hurtling through space again, falling, falling, falling…
When Sigyn finally landed it was with a painful, bruising thud against hard ground. The air had been knocked from her lungs and she lay on her back gasping as pain bloomed from the back of her skull to her entire body and down her spine. Another bright red flash of pain sliced along her cheek. When she finally opened her eyes, she waited for the pain to subside and the stars to stop spinning above her before glancing to either side. Her pack was safe. It had stayed closed during the fall and lay discarded off to her left. Trees surrounded her, their sharp pine scent was overwhelming, and in the distance she could hear a small river or creek. This could be any realm, but the stars that told her this was Midgard.
She’d done it. She was one step closer to finding Loki.
Unable to stop herself despite the pain, laughter bubbled up from Sigyn’s throat. It broke the stillness of the forest and carried up to the sky.