Mist over ice.
It's the end of everything, but also its beginning. Desolate. Silent like time itself. There is a chilly weight in the air here, the tranquil infinity of forever and never entwining.
And everything is white.
She pulls her fur hemmed cloak tighter around herself as she keeps on threading a path one needs more than eyes to find. Hides deeper into the shadows of her hood, even though there are no eyes around. At least not ones she could possibly hide from.
Her footsteps seem harshly loud in a place where not even a gush of wind disturbs the air.
The roots of Yggdrasil, the cradle of all life. The pillar of the universe that precedes time and will take time itself with it once the World Tree ceases to be. As she nears, the mist clears up somewhat, just enough to reveal the ground underfoot and the sizable opening framed by opalescent bark. Dark and perfectly opaque, the hole seems like a rip on the very fabric of the universe. She slows down, but steps in without a pause.
Despite the outside appearance, there is light inside, and she allows herself a moment to take in the sight before her. There is neither end nor ceiling to the hall as far as the eye can see. Bodiless light pours from above, soft and bright, in which float countless fairy sparks like so many drowsy fireflies.
"Long is the winding road between this hall and the seats of Asgard," a voice like deers threading the dead autumn leaves sings. "Far you have come from the hearth fire of your home Frigga, daughter of Fjörgynn."
She holds her breath, the slightest of pauses gone in a heartbeat. As if by magic (and magic is strong here, a dull pain in the back of her teeth, an acid-sweet taste in the back of her throat) she can see them. The arctic midnight skin of the Jotun, the red of their eyes, the pure white of their long hair that speaks of years beyond what Frigga knows and can understand. Around a well etched with silver runes the Norns sit, never pausing in their work. Ragged, ancient and powerful above mortals as well as gods.
Frigga pulls the hood back and bows her head. "If you know that, you must also be aware of the matter that ails me so, compelling me to seek your counsel."
"Never-brothers. Ever-brothers." Urd sings again, and Frigga takes a moment to steel herself. Knowing that the dangerous secret that she has guarded so cautiously all this time would be nothing such to the Weavers of Fate is one thing, but hearing it uttered in that dusty dead tone is still winding something tighter in her chest. But if it helps her understand, lets her make the right choices for her sons, then she would do more than just travel to the end of the world and withstand the onslaught of her own feelings.
So much more. And still, it is so hard to speak.
"My foresight of their future is increasingly..."
Thor in the pouring rain, the cry that of a lethally wounded animal on his lips as his hand releases its grip on the hammer that wouldn't obey him anymore.
Frigga swallows. "Foreboding."
Loki on Asgard's throne, all sleek, serpentine grace, levelling his dark, calculating gaze over the realms like a viper ready to strike.
"Know your children I did." Urd looks at her, but Frigga doubts that the giantess actually sees. The look in the blood red Jotun eyes is faraway and clouded. "Like the so many sparks of life you see floating around, I took them and spun their life thread. I sang to them of power, of glory. I gave them the destiny to rule, the fate of kings and that of gods, greatness of their lines and pride of their blood. But my eyes are for things past, and have no answers for the questions that trouble you, daughter of Fjörgynn."
The Casket of Ancient Winters flares with blue-white light like a star being born.
"I see the princes." Verdandi is taking over, her voice like the soft sound of grains falling in the hourglass. "Slender like sapling trees and reckless like wild horses. The son of Odin and the son of Laufey, day and night, the oak and the ivy."
"Those are my children alright. What is it you see in them, wise one?" Frigga asks. She is eager for answers she knows Verdandi doesn't hold any more than Urd does, but she is also eager for wisdom that might have slipped her by. She might be a goddess, but she is still a mother first.
Verdandi pulls on the thread that she is handling, and a thin string parts from the rest, barely there like the finest spider silk. But then it is growing more and more visible, gains dimension until Frigga can see it clearly. It is not one string, but two, so closely entwined it is hard to tell them apart, faintly shimmering gold-red and silver-green.
Frigga feels the desire to reach out and touch them, but she knows better.
Bodies in a lustful embrace, tangled like serpents, mouths gaping with rapid breaths, poisonous rapture. Hands sliding on naked skin and tearing into rich fur below.
"Two in the place of one, twice the blessing, twice the curse." Verdandi sings and Frigga holds herself a bit stiffer without meaning to. "Thunderer they call him, the son of Odin, fierce as thunder, gentle as rain. Silvertongue they call him, the son of Laufey, swift as wind, treacherous as thin ice. One holds life, the other death."
Smoke. Crippled buildings. Thor falls to his knees and his blood soaked hand shakes as he closes his brother's lifeless eyes, tears spilling from his own.
"Will one of them die?" Frigga's nails bite into her palm with agitation.
"In the end all die." Verdandi shoots her a gaze that holds wisdom Frigga so desperately wishes for herself. Wisdom to ease the worries that keep plaguing her heart. "From life comes death and from death comes life. When you look deep enough, one becomes the other."
Loki's lips on Thor's ear, sky blue eyes so wide as blood spills past his fingers from the wound where the treacherous blade has slipped in silently like a kiss in the dark.
"You speak in riddles. Tell me about the fate of my sons."
"I tell you what I see, daughter of Fjörgynn. The future I have no knowledge about."
Frigga swallows, hands clenching a bit tighter as she turns to the third giantess. "Skuld, you who see the future and deal all souls their death, won't you tell me what destiny awaits my sons?"
Phosphorous green light as his magic floods his eyes, and Loki staggers, lifts his arms to the stormy sky, his laugh like the rattling of bones.
For the longest while, there is silence, and Frigga has to wonder if the Norn has even heard her. But then those red eyes slowly blink, and Skuld's voice fills the hall like the north wind caressing budding trees.
"The future is a delicate thing."
"I am aware," Frigga says quietly, suddenly finding it hard to keep her voice above a whisper.
"Are you really?" Skuld asks calmly, and Frigga wants to say yes, but she cannot bring herself to do it. It is as though those eyes can see everything, even the things Frigga carefully hides even from herself. Then eventually the giantess nods. "Listen then, and listen carefully."
Frigga takes a deep, slow breath and steels herself once again, her chin held high.
Thor yelling at a woman in black, and fires, fires everywhere. He grits his teeth to the point of shattering as he flattens his back against a wall and prevents it from coming down on helpless and injured people who get dragged to safety just as the burning building collapses on Thor.
"Their joy will be great and so will their sorrow. They bring glory with one hand and grief with the other. They will become legend, sung about around the fires until time ends."
"But at what cost?" Frigga finds herself whispering, and there is a flash in those red eyes that she thinks might be approval.
"The making of this world." The words are heavy in the silence that settles. Even the light of the Tree seems to dim for a moment. "Or the end of it."
Skuld's gaze on her feels like a weight on Frigga's shoulders, even though there is no accusation in them, no blame. Just silent knowledge. Frigga takes to gripping the skirt of her own dress before the skin of her palms would break with the press of her nails. "How?"
"That, I cannot say."
"Tell me Skuld, will they stand strong? Will they be good brothers to one another?" Or have I committed the gravest mistake of my life then, Frigga thinks, but she would never say it.
"Like a poisoned knife to the heart underneath the warm fur covers." Skuld sings and Frigga's breath catches in her throat.
"Will they hate each other then?"
"No hate shall trouble the sons of Odin, no wound from its bitter bite. Never-brothers with a love so great it will wound them all the deeper for it. A love that will turn the death dealing hand into a blessing and force open the gates of Hel. They will hate with love and bleed with it thus."
Bodies marked and claimed, a tangle of limbs and slow rising chests. Breath, blood and seed, shared between two. The strongest of magic, ancient and primal. Red-gold. Silver-green.
"What does that mean?" Frigga suppresses a shiver.
She is Queen. She is a mother.
"Look at this tree, daughter of Fjörgynn. It holds the world on its branches, but if not for this well, its roots would dry out and the mighty Yggdrasil would waste away. Without the tree, time would erode the Urdarbrunnr and the sands would drink up its water."
"It would be destroyed." Frigga echoes hollowly, not quite sure she understands. Not quite sure she even wants to.
Skuld studies her with her red eyes like bright fires against the blue of her skin. "Nothing can exist without a purpose."
"If life meets death, what is the purpose?" Frigga eventually forces herself to ask.
"I have said all there is to say, and I shall speak no more." Skuld closes her eyes.
Frigga sighs, long and shuddering. "There must be a way. Somehow."
"There are many pathways in the future." Skuld agrees, opening her eyes once more. "The question is, what do you do with the knowledge that we have given you." Skuld casts her a furtive glance, and Frigga knows.
She knows. Understands.
If there is still a choice, it has never been hers to make.