You are old. You do not age but the years still pass around you and you remember everything that's been and it stacks up and up. You remember the past and you remember the future, letting it wind together on your spindle until it's laid out in a tapestry before you. You are always and eternal as is time and as is space. Your husband leads the people with you by his side. You know the fates of every man you send into battle but you speak not of them.
You remember. You remember the future and remember the past and sometimes they are entwined together and your heart aches from knowing.
You remember giving birth for the first time, seeing Thor grow from a shadow of a thought, to a heartbeat alongside yours, to a red faced screaming child that you could hold against your chest. Half of him is you – your blood, your body – and the other half is your husband, your love who looked down at the bundle in your arms with pride.
You were beyond pride. You cupped your son's head to protect his weak neck and swore to all the heavens that you would protect him. You would keep him alive and safe.
As long as there is breath in your body, you will fight for him.
You remember countless eons past and future, countless lives on countless worlds and as you stare down into blue eyes you know there will never be a moment dearer or a feeling stronger. He is your son, your child, yours.
What mother wouldn't go to Hel and back to protect her son?
Your wrists are tied behind you, the room is dark. You are tired, you have not eaten in days and you feel old like a tiredness sunk through your skin into your bones. You were walking through the corridors of the citadel and drinking a goblet of wine passed to you by a serving girl and then you were stumbling. Hands reached for you from the shadows and they could close around your arms but you could not touch them back. They pulled you down and covered your face and you collapsed.
You woke up here. Here in this dark room with its secrets and its silence. You hear nothing and see nothing and there is nothing but remembering.
You had two children, in the end, and you remember them both though one was your blood and the other was stolen and gifted to you. They used to be small enough that you could fit one on each arm, dark and light both nestled the same, faces turning to your breasts to feed. Thor was always the heavier, the larger. He ate more and grew while Loki lay still and looked up at you, listening, while you spoke.
Loki was always smaller. Loki the giant's son who Odin brought to you still blooded from battle and thrust into your arms. "He's ours now," Odin said as you looked down at the cold bundle. "May he never know."
You looked down at the two of them – the tiny and the large, dark haired and light haired, golden skinned and pale with a fading sheen of blue. They're yours, you told yourself. Your beautiful baby and the shrunken defeated son of your husband's enemy. Yours.
You close your eyes a moment before the door slams open so the light does not blind you. Someone presses metal to your forehead and shouts questions to which you cannot speak the answers. When you tell them this, the metal slams into the side of your face and you taste blood on your tongue and in your mouth. "Speak to your leader," you advise them. "He knows I have not the information you seek." The metal slams into your stomach where once Thor grew and Loki did not. "Look to your family," you say, opening your eyes to look up at the man's face. "They need you now."
His fist catches you in the side of the head and then they're leaving and slamming you back into the dark.
You remember when they were children. Thor always running in the gardens, dragging Loki away from his books and his spells to play trolls in the caves or bilgesnipe hunting in the fields. You sat in the window of your bedroom watching them and tried to weave them each a picture of their own future.
The wool tangled. It tangled in your fingers and in the basket and every time you picked it carefully apart the strands would be twisted up again before you could reach the end.
You remember you gave up and wove one tapestry. You finished it, stared at it, then tore it apart and wove another.
You remember how they were all the same and you ran out to the garden to find them and pull them both close against your chest like you hadn't since they were very small. Loki was still while Thor struggled to get free and return to the game. You made them promise a thousand promises to love each other and stand together.
You were the first person to tell Loki to lie.
You watched them sleep that night, Thor grunting and rolling over as he slew demons in his dreams and Loki silent and still as a shadow beneath the dark window. You remember you wondered how you didn't see it before. They were always opposites, were they not?
You took the final tapestry back to your rooms and burnt it to ash in the cavernous fireplace like you might scorch even the memory of it from your mind.
The door doesn't open this time, but you lift your head anyway as he steps inside and stands before you. Your cheek is bruised and it hurts to move your face, hurts to smile at him but you do so anyway, your hands straining at the bindings like you might pull free and draw him close as if he was a child again.
"You were always so coy about seeing the future," Loki spits. "Never saw this coming, did you?"
"My son," you say, like he may believe it this time where he hasn't a thousand before. "I have always seen this coming." You strain forward because he's too far away – he's always too far away – and he spits on the ground between your feet.
"I'm not your son. I never was." There's a whisper in the air and he's gone, as you knew he would be.
You close your eyes and twist your wrists a little further.
You remember when they grew, Thor brash and proud, Loki sleek and dangerous. You remember watching Odin dote on Thor in public with parades and victories; watching him dote on Loki in private, filling the library with books for him to read and turning a blind eye to his investigations in the darker sides of magic.
He told you there could be no harm in it – Odin himself was well versed in all the different magic types so as to better understand and avoid them. Loki was his son in all ways but one and he could not imagine his own child straying from the true path.
You remember seeing Thor grow arrogant and Loki grow bitter until they both turned away from your embraces. You remember seeing them drift away from you as the throne came within both their reach and Odin saw not a thing.
You watched the pillars fall one by one from a distance – the first time they fought, the day Thor was announced as heir, the day Loki found out who he was.
When the soldiers came, you knelt at your son's feet and called him king.
It's no longer silent. You can hear cries in the distance and the roar of the great green hulk somewhere outside. Thor is shouting some brave but ultimately foolish challenge as the stories he heard in his youth – from you, at first, but later from Loki as he would no longer sit still for anyone else – impressed upon him that it was important to do.
There is a slight shift in the air and you do not hesitate. The ropes drop from your raw hands and you rise from the chair, wrapping your arms around your son's shoulders and holding him tight as you haven't in so long.
Loki is perfectly still. "It appears you have been rescued," he says after a moment, not moving to hold you back or to get away. "I suppose you will stay to see me defeated once more," he says it careless, like he believes you might not know every cadence of his voice and you might miss the tremor of it.
You release him a little, lifting your hand to his face like you might read a different expression from his skin than the one you have seen in a thousand dreams. "I never had the information you seek," you say. "Not such that I could divulge."
He knows this, has always known, took you anyway to prove a point to Thor or Odin or to you yourself, whoever it is he feels particularly embittered towards at this moment. There should be words you could say or promises you make or a way you could hold him such that he would hold you back like a small child seeking comfort.
But if there were, you would remember them. You have lived this scene so many times.
You hold him again, bringing his head down to your shoulder and whisper words against his ear of hidden and safe and away. He realises what you are doing in an instant and tries to pull away, but the spell catches with a whisper of the air and he's gone.
A breath later and the door breaks down, Thor rushing in with Mjolnir held high in one hand.
You remember watching the sparring grounds from the balcony. Thor dragged Loki from his studies and convinced one of the warriors to give him a sword he can hardly lift. Loki ignored the practice blade laid out for him in favour of juggling a handful of daggers around in a circle through the air. Opposing them on the field, three of Thor's greatest friends swung their own perfectly weighted practice weapons and cried challenges across the space.
"Come, brother," Thor shouted, heaving his sword up with both hands and almost falling forward under the weight. "They cannot possibly defeat us both."
Loki grinned a reply, spinning a dagger around one hand as he stepped up beside Thor, staring down their competition like they might be defeated with nought but a look.
A hand touched the small of your back and you did not need to turn your head to know it was Odin. "You see the path the future takes," Odin says. "What do you see for them?"
You know his future as well as any other's, but speak not of it. You know all his secrets and his desires and the mistakes he will make and you love him less for them, but you stay.
"They will always love each other," you said, looking down at your mismatched sons.
"And when they fight?" Odin said, and oh it is so clear how they will fall apart with this father who loves them in all the wrong ways. "Tell me how they will fight."
You remember you looked down in time to see Thor swing the sword once – taking out the weapons of all three enemies – and then Loki's daggers flying straight through the now open guards before stopping dead in mid air over each warrior's heart. The blades hung still until all three yielded, and then dropped to the ground that Thor could run across and pull his friends into an embrace.
"They will fight together," you said, watching the knives fly one by one back to Loki's hands. "And when they do, not a soul will dare get in their way."
You remember how Odin beamed and you didn't know whether to laugh or cry. You remember you wanted to tell him how wrong he was – how very, very wrong – but you simply leaned into his side, said nothing and did not weep.
You sit back on Asgard. Your wrists are burned red and they say it will scar. They have not found Loki and you don't tell them where you sent him. Loki is worlds away now and your spell of protection will keep him there, safe, until he learns the skills to throw it off.
He will get the information he seeks and he will try again. You remember ashes of a weaving and you know he will push and push until the worlds burn and the seas are so full of corpses there is no water left to drown in.
You know his skills and his weaknesses, you watched him grow and learn and you know spells that would chain him up in a dark distant place to pay for the crimes he has and will commit. You had your hands on him long enough that you could have torn him down where he stood but you did not.
What mother wouldn't go to Hel and back to protect her sons?
You pick up your spindle and start to weave twisted wool into a long-familiar pattern.
You remember how they looked when they were small and how they will look in the end and how you will keep both of them alive though the world shudders and burns to ash in their wake.
They are your children, your sons, and as long as you have breath left, you will fight for them.
You remember that.