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Darcy Lewis was not a superhero. She had never been experimented on by a mad scientist nor bitten by a radioactive whatever. She did not have a secret identity. She had no intention of saving the world, and she absolutely would never, ever wear a cape.

Darcy Lewis was also not human.

Or maybe she was. She wasn't quite sure.

She sure as hell wasn't normal.

Darcy was eight years old when strange things started happening to her. At first it was small things, things no one noticed but her. Like when she was playing outside and suddenly found herself surrounded by hundreds of butterflies all fluttering around her in increasing spirals. Or that any cat, no matter how mean, always purred at her and rubbed against her legs.

(Dogs, however, not so much.)

When Darcy was twelve years old, she started talking in her sleep. According to her three older brothers, it was incomprehensible gibberish, and there was much teasing. Her parents were concerned and consulted a sleep expert, who gave them recording equipment. Darcy watched the videos of herself sleeping over and over, trying to understand what she was saying, to no avail.

The dreams started when Darcy was thirteen, the night she got her first period. She dreamed of a golden chamber with cold floors and a giant in gold armor with a flaming sword. She dreamed she sat on the cold floor, unaffected by the temperature despite her thin pajamas, and talked to the giant for hours in the same strange gibberish she spoke in her sleep. But the trauma of waking up to bloodstained clothing and experiencing menstrual cramps for the first time drove the dream right out of her head the next morning.

And that's when the really weird things started happening.

Darcy always had an umbrella when it rained, even if the forecast said it was clear. She knew the date of every pop quiz at school, and what they were serving for lunch in the cafeteria before it was announced. She knew which cheerleader was secretly dating which football player, and who spraypainted the lockers in the boy's locker room.

And every night her period started, she dreamed of the golden chamber and the golden giant, and each time, the language they spoke became a little more clear.

XxxXxxX

"Darcy. Psst. Darcy."

"What?" Darcy asked, exasperated. She looked up from her laptop at her friend sitting across from her.

"Do him," Angela said, pointing at a morose-looking young man using one of the library's public computers.

Darcy sighed and pushed her glasses up her nose, squinting at the man in question. "Sagittarius. Vegan. Smokes pot. Listens to Slipknot. Allergic to dogs." She went back to glaring at the word document on her computer screen, which mocked her with its blank whiteness. She turned her scowl on the stack of textbooks on the table next to the computer.

"I freakin' hate psychology," she muttered. "Why did I take psychology? I'm in poli sci. Poli sci is not even a real science."

"The professor was hot and you needed the science credit," Angela replied, tapping her pen against her notebook. Her attention was not on her notes, as it should have been, but on a well-groomed student reading the school newspaper on the couches nearby. "What about him?"

"Ange, I am not going to find you a boyfriend," Darcy said, digging her own pile of notes out of her backpack.

"Well, what else is your weird mindreader radar skills good for?" Angie asked, leaning back in her chair. "Just do it, okay?"

Darcy pressed her lips together in an annoyed line and looked at the other student over the tops of her glasses. "He's gay," she said abruptly, and went back to her work.

"What's your deal?" Angela asked. "You're usually more fun."

"Maybe. When I don't have six finals to prep for."

"Please," Angela scoffed. "You have straight A's and extra credit in, like, all your classes. You could bomb all your finals and still pass."

Darcy looked up from her books. "Ange, I love you, but please remember that some of us don't have daddy paying for us to go to Culver. Some of us are here on merit scholarships that we will lose if we get below a C."

Angela looked affronted. "Hey, I get above a C," she protested. Darcy raised an eyebrow and went back to her books. Angela reached over and put her hand on Darcy's arm.

"Darce, will you at least let Cam and me take you out tonight? As a going away party? I mean, you are disappearing off the face of the earth for all of winter break."

"I'm only going to New Mexico," Darcy corrected. "Fine. But only because I don't have class tomorrow."

Angela grinned. "Great! I'll be at your dorm at seven to pick your outfit." She scooped up her backpack and pranced off.

"I don't need you to pick out my outfit," Darcy mumbled after her. She shook her head and turned back to her paper. "I got this," she whispered to herself. She twisted her hair up into a knot and secured it with a pen. "You're my bitch."

XxxXxxX

Darcy woke up in the golden chamber the way she usually did, curled up on her side on the cold floor. She blinked a couple of times and groaned. "Son of a bitch."

"Is the sight of me that unwelcome?" asked a smooth, deep voice off to the side.

Darcy pushed herself into a sitting position. "No. I just realized that I'm going to have period cramps and a hangover when I wake up tomorrow."

The gold-armoured giant raised his eyebrows at her from where he sat on the edge of the dais, his helmet beside him. "Then perhaps you should have not imbibed so deeply. What cause had you to celebrate?"

Darcy was still wearing the clothes she had worn to the bar. With a sigh, she undid the straps of the sky-high platform shoes Angela had convinced her to wear. "My internship that starts next week. Angela and Cameron decided I needed to be sent away 'in style.' Which involved tequila." She made a face. "And strippers. Oh my god. Why was there a stripper?"

The giant gazed at her with eyes the same color as his armor. "I do not think you desire to waste your time here with such facetious questions."

Darcy shook her head violently, feeling her hair come loose from its pins. "No," she agreed. "I have so many more important questions."

"Then let us get the first few out of the way," the giant answered. "My name is Heimdall. No, you will not remember this in the morning, and no, I cannot tell you why."

Darcy blinked a couple of times, feeling put out. "I ask those questions a lot, huh?"

"Every time," the giant confirmed.

Darcy sat cross-legged and propped her elbows on her knees. "Fine. Then can you tell me why on earth I signed up for an astrophysics internship in the middle of New Mexico when I could have taken the internship with Stark Industries PR group?"

"Because you are needed in New Mexico," Heimdall said as if it were obvious.

Darcy growled in frustration. "Why are you always so mysterious? Like, can I get a straight answer for once? I still don't even know what language we are speaking."

"You will know when it is time for you to know," Heimdall told her, and she had the feeling he had told her many times before.

Darcy sighed and rubbed the back of her neck. "Fine. Uh, I had another question. I went home on Thanksgiving break to visit my aunt, 'cause she'd just had a baby, and when I saw the kid for the first time, for a second I just, like, knew everything about him. Like, what he was going to do when he grew up and who he was going to marry and even the names of his kids, but then the next second it was all gone. Just poof." Darcy made an exploding gesture with one hand. "Like, I remember that I knew it, but I can't actually remember it. What's up with that?"

Heimdall nodded wisely. "You are growing stronger. You will recover more of your abilities as you age. Perhaps not in this lifetime, but each death moves you closer to your next birth."

Darcy stared at him. "Wow. Did that actually make sense in your head? Because when you said it out loud it kinda lost its meaning."

"You are different than other humans, Darcy Lewis," Heimdall told her gravely. "You live, you die, you live again. Your body does not remember, but your soul does. And in time, so will you."

"You are so useless," Darcy groaned. "What even is the point of you bringing me here? You don't answer my questions and I don't even remember any of it."

"I don't bring you here," Heimdall said.

"Then who the hell does?" Darcy burst out. "Why am I like this? Out of everyone on Earth, why do I get hit with all the weirdness?"

"No one brings you here," Heimdall repeated. "You only have yourself to blame, Darcy Lewis."

She stared at him. "Wait. Are you--are you saying I choose to come here?" She pointed at the floor. "Here, specifically. To this specific place?"

Heimdall spread his hands. "I have always been flattered you chose to put your trust in me," he said with a faint smile.

Darcy's eyes got wide. "So...does this mean I could choose to go somewhere else? I mean, other than this room? What other places are there? And where is here?"

Heimdall's smile grew. "As for that, I can show you." He rose to his feet and walked to the center of the dais, where is sword rested in its stand. Taking hold of the hilt, he pushed it downwards, and the walls of the chamber started to spin.

Darcy lunged to her feet, deciding that this was definitely not going to help her hangover, but before she felt like she was going to throw up, the chamber stopped rotating. Heimdall nodded over her shoulder. "Look," he ordered.

She turned around slowly. The wall had disappeared behind her, exposing a vast expanse of stars. There were millions of them, far denser than anything she had seen before, shining bright as diamonds against an expanse of purple and black and green and blue.

"Holy shit," she whispered, unable to catch her breath. She took a step forward, then another. "It's beautiful. Am I--are we in space? Am I on a spaceship?"

"No," Heimdall said with a chuckle. He stepped off the dais to stand beside her, towering over her much smaller frame. "We are at the edge of my world, and this is the bridge to the other Realms."

"Bridge," Darcy repeated, still staring out at the stars.

"Bifrost," Heimdall clarified. "You may read of it on your world. You have legends of it from many ages ago."

"How come you never showed me this before?" Darcy asked.

Heimdall shrugged with the sound of scraping metal. "You never asked."

That brought Darcy out of her shock. She glared up at him. "You are such an asshole."

He nodded in agreement. "You have told me this many times."

Darcy turned to look back at the stars. "Can we do this again? Next time?" she asked hopefully.

"Yes," he said. "As many times as you desire, Darcy Lewis."

Darcy smiled. "Awesome."

XxxXxxX

The airport was a mad scramble as airports were wont to be this close to the holidays. Darcy clutched her bags close as she jostled for room during the rush to get out of the terminal. When she finally did get outside, she realized that her heavy winter coat was entirely too much for the mild desert winter. There was three feet of snow on the ground back home in Pennsylvania, where she had started from that morning.

Standing on the curb, Darcy looked up and down the pick up area. She wasn't sure who was picking her up. She'd emailed her itinerary to the head of the internship but had only received a vague reply from Dr. Foster. She had no idea why she chose this internship over the Stark Industries one. Just another clue that Darcy Lewis had a one-way ticket on the crazy train.

As Darcy did a second scan of the cars lined up at the curb, she noticed an extremely petite woman with brown hair bobbing up and down amongst the crowd as if she was hopping in place trying to see over everyone's heads. Darcy focused on the woman for a moment, amused, and then shocked when she recognized her from the photo on the school website. Darcy forced her way through the crowd with her usual abrupt manner.

"Dr. Foster?" Darcy asked when she got closer to the woman. The woman's expression turned from confused concern to relief.

"Hi!" she exclaimed, breathless. "You must be Darcy. I'm Jane. Hi." She thrust her hand out towards Darcy.

"Hi," Darcy replied, shock turning back to amusement. "I must be Darcy. Good to meet you, Dr. Foster."

"Call me Jane," the other woman said. "When people call me 'doctor' I expect them to be old men wondering why I need funding. Come on. I had to park the van around the corner."

Jane turned out to be pretty speedy despite her height, and Darcy had to struggle to keep up with her while carrying enough luggage to last her four months. She didn't feel bitter about Jane not helping her, the poor woman looked barely able to carry a purse, much less one of Darcy's overstuffed duffel bags. She wondered when the last time Jane had had something to eat.

"The van" turned out to be a tank-like monstrosity that barely fit in the parking lane and, when Jane opened the side door so Darcy could throw her bags in, was nearly packed full of monitoring equipment. "Wow," Darcy said as she carefully slid her bags into the meager empty space. "I had no idea astrophysics needed so much stuff."

"Most of it I made myself," Jane told her brightly. "It's pretty user-friendly. You'll pick it up in no time."

"Yeah...I don't think that's a good idea," Darcy said, deflating, but Jane had already circled around to the driver's side and didn't hear her. Darcy had to pull herself up into the passenger seat. Perhaps Jane had a stepladder on the driver's side. Seriously, this lady was tiny.

"So we're mainly working out of Puente Antiguo but I've had to drive two or three hours into the desert a few nights, so we have to be pretty mobile," Jane explained as she pulled her beast of a vehicle away from the curb. "We do have a fully functional lab with remote access to Culver databases and computing engines, so that's cool!"

"Uh-huh," Darcy said non-committedly, wondering when would be the right time to admit she was just in poli sci.

"I don't know how much they told you, but what I really need right now is data entry and graphing, logistics, site mapping, pretty basic stuff."

Darcy relaxed a little. "Oh, okay. That's cool. I can do that."

"I gotta ask you, though. I saw your major was political science. Why did you apply for this internship?"

Darcy smiled weakly. "Change of scenery?" she suggested. Because I'm needed here, she didn't add, because that was way too far out and besides, who says that sort of crap?

Jane gave her a sidelong look. "Yeah, I can imagine you'd wanna get out of Virginia during the winter but I should warn you, it gets cold in the desert at night. You'll want that big jacket you're wearing."

"Fantastic," Darcy said, because she loved the cold. The colder the better. She loved breath-cloud, red-nose, numb-cheek cold in a way poor Bube Rosa, who lost three toes to frostbite during the war, said was disgraceful.

"It's about three hours to Puente Antiguo from here, so we should probably stop somewhere and get you something to eat," Jane said. "I know this really good barbecue place. They make a mean pulled pork."

"Nah, I'm good," Darcy said, even though her stomach was growling.

"Are you sure?" Jane asked, looking at her with a frown. "It's a long flight from Pennsylvania. I'm sure you're starving."

"Yeah, it's just...I'm Jewish," Darcy replied lamely.

"Oh!" Jane's face lit up. "I know this place with amazing knishes. It's on the way!"

Darcy decided then and there she was going to like Jane Foster.

XxxXxxX

Darcy sat with her legs hanging off the edge of the golden room, watching the stars wheel by between the toes of her fuzzy socks. "This is such bull," she said out loud. "I've been there for a month, and nobody needs me yet."

"Patience, child," Heimdall said. He sat next to her, starlight glinting from his armor. "The stars turn as they will. You cannot rush them."

Darcy let her head fall back. "You are such a pain in my ass. I don't even know why I come here anymore."

"It is because you are still searching," Heimdall told her. "When you have found yourself, you will know your way."

Darcy turned to look at him, exasperated. "You totally stole that from a fortune cookie."

He raised an eyebrow. "How do you know they did not steal this from me?"

"Whatever," Darcy said, waving a hand at him. "I mean, Jane's great. All I gotta do is feed her, water her, and point her in the right direction and she just takes care of herself. I like driving the monster. She lets me drive the monster."

"I assume you refer to the motor conveyance?"

"Car. It's called a car. Dude. What century are you from?"

"I was born before your people even invented the wheel, Darcy Lewis," Heimdall admonished her gently.

"My people?" Darcy echoed. She stared hard at Heimdall. "So...you're not human?"

"Neither are you," Heimdall pointed you. "But they are your people, nonetheless."

Darcy sighed hard. "You are cryptic as fuck, bro."

Heimdall nodded sagely in agreement.

XxxXxxX

The first thing Darcy thought when she laid eyes on Dr. Selvig was, alright now shit's gonna start happening. Which was crazy because Dr. Selvig was everything Darcy ever wanted in a kindly uncle figure and was the exact opposite of the definition of "happening." But Darcy knew better than to doubt her gut feeling because they were always, always, right.

But for the first few hours after Dr. Selvig's arrival, he and Jane just talked science to each other and calibrated their equipment while Darcy downloaded songs onto her iPod. Hey, it was a long drive into the desert and she wasn't distracted by blinky lights in the sky.

When they were finally ready to head out into the desert to observe Jane's "celestial event," Darcy agreed to drive with the one caveat that they eat before they left. Jane knew every good restaurant in a thirty-mile radius but she would forget to eat for three days if Darcy let her.

One of Darcy's many duties that was not in the job description was make sure that Jane got regular meals. And, since this was America, very few of the places that delivered were Kosher, so Darcy, as usual, was forced to do most of their cooking. Which meant all those years forced to hang on to Bube Rosa's apron strings were finally paying off.

She'd made salmon with lemon dill sauce because Dr. Selvig was from Sweden, and didn't they eat a lot of salmon in Sweden? Darcy had heard of rumors of fermented fish but she couldn't remember which Scandinavian country it came from. Of course, neither Jane nor Dr. Selvig even tasted their food as they were too busy sciencing as they wolfed it down.

"Philistines," Darcy muttered to herself.

Darcy played her new songs over the monster's radio during the drive out to the desert and sang quietly along while Jane and Dr. Selvig prepared the equipment in the back. After a little while Dr. Selvig stopped to listen and Darcy trailed off, embarrassed.

"No, no, I am sorry," Dr. Selvig said, looking equally embarrassed. "I simply had no idea you spoke such good Norwegian."

Darcy stared at him. "I...don't," she said slowly, eyes wide.

"Oh." Dr. Selvig's embarrassment grew. "I'm sorry. I thought I heard...ah, never mind. I'm certain sometimes I'm going deaf. It's nothing."

Darcy nodded uneasily and turned her attention back to the desert. Holy crap, she thought to herself. Was I speaking Norwegian? Since when do I know Norwegian? She made a face. And why the hell Norwegian?

They waited at the site for over two hours. Darcy had seen Jane's event already, like, four times, and wasn't really interested in seeing it again. Instead she googled Norwegian language on her phone (who knew you could still get 4g in the middle of the desert) and found, to her surprise, that yes, she did know Norwegian.

What the actual fuck.

"Can I turn on the radio?" she asked Jane as she put her phone down, hands shaking. The music would help her get over the shock.

"No," Jane replied shortly.

Darcy took a few deep breaths and stared out the windshield, trying to calm herself down again. It was okay. She could handle weird. She'd been handling weird her whole life.

Speaking of weird... "Jane," Darcy called uneasily. "You really need to see this!"

Jane and Selvig both dropped back into the van and leaned over the driver seat. "I thought you said it was a subtle aurora," Selvig said.

"Drive!" Jane commanded.

Drive. Yeah. Drive right into the rainbow tornado of doom. Darcy hated her life sometimes. Especially when bossy scientists tried to grab the wheel away from her and then hit someone with the bloody monster.

"Technically that was your fault!" Darcy yelled at Jane as she stumbled out of the van.

"Get the first aid kit!" Jane yelled back.

Darcy turned to obey when she caught sight of the man they'd hit. "Whoa. Does he need CPR?" she asked. "Because I totally know CPR." He was hot. Like, lumberjack-live-off-the-land hot. Before they could assess any injuries, the man climbed to his feet and started yelling at the sky. Darcy only caught a few words, but she distinctly heard him say "Heimdall" and "Bifrost."

She knew those words. She knew those words. She recognized them on a level so deep she could feel her whole body vibrate with the knowledge, and it freaked her out. She panicked, and did the only thing she could think of.

She tased the guy.

XxxXxxX

When Darcy woke up to a starry sky and the sound of waves, with the gold-armored giant standing over her, she instantly jumped to her feet.

"This is Asgard!" she yelled excitedly. "Holy shit, I'm in Asgard. You're Heimdall. I remember! This is incredible! I am not, actually, crazy! This is a real place. You're a real person. Oh, my God, wait until Jane hears about this! Where is Thor? I need to talk to him, like, right now." She looked around and realized that she was not, in fact, inside the golden room. "Where are we?"

Heimdall nodded over her shoulder. She whirled around. They were outside, standing on a wide bridge of some kind of rainbow-colored crystal. A few meters behind Darcy, the bridge ended in a shattered, jagged edge, beyond which was only empty space and stars.

"The Bifrost has been destroyed," Heimdall told her.

"Bifrost," Darcy repeated. "That's how Thor came to earth, right?"

"Yes," Heimdall confirmed.

"So...Thor can't come back, can he?" Darcy asked, her mood falling.

"No," Heimdall replied.

"Oh," Darcy said in a small voice. "Jane is not going to be happy." She heaved a deep sigh. "What happened?"

"Loki tried to use the Bifrost to destroy Jotunheim," Heimdall explained. "Thor was forced to destroy it to stop him."

"What happened to Loki?" Darcy asked, scowling. "Because he totally tried to kill us back on earth."

"Loki was lost," Heimdall said gravely. "The royal family is in mourning."

"Why?" Darcy demanded. "He sounds like a dick."

"He was still the king's son," Heimdall said firmly. "And he was Thor's brother. Whatever happened between them, that did not change."

"I guess," Darcy said, shuffling her feet. She sighed again. "Great. So now I have to tell Jane that Thor isn't coming back anytime soon. She's gonna be devastated."

"Telling her this would reveal your gift to her," Heimdall pointed out. "Are you ready for such exposure?"

Darcy thought about this for a long time. "No," she finally decided. "I don't even know what's going on with me. I can't try to explain this to someone else." She looked up at Heimdall. "I still want to talk to Thor."

"The royal family is in seclusion," Heimdall told her. "Soon there will be no time for mourning, so they must take what little time they have."

"Okay," Darcy said unhappily. "But now that I know who you are and where this is, are you going to give me some straight answers now?"

"The language we speak is what your people call ancient Norse," Heimdall said. "We call it the First Tongue, which we spoke before Allspeak."

"Fantastic," Darcy said sarcastically. "Somehow I learned ancient Norse in my dreams. Great. Why?"

"I see only the present, Darcy Lewis," Heimdall told her. "Your future is shrouded from me. But know this, whatever the future holds for you, it will decide the fates of both earth and Asgard."

"So no pressure, then," Darcy said, crossing her arms and hugging herself.

XxxXxxX

Over the next three months, Jane was obsessed with searching for some kind of connection with Asgard. Darcy didn't have the heart to tell her that it was hopeless, or that her internship was rapidly coming to an end. In fact, a week before the internship was over, Jane still hadn't mentioned the fact that Darcy was leaving. Jane was making plans months out and made it clear Darcy was part of them.

So Darcy called her parents and told them she wasn't coming home for a while, and then called her counselor at Culver and switched to online classes.

In her copious free time (read: not much), Darcy went into her own research mode. She read everything she could find on Asgardian culture, lore, and myth. When she dream-traveled to Asgard the next time, she asked Heimdall to take her into the city, to the nearest library. It was huge. Like, the entire Culver campus could fit inside the building. And, of course, she could only visit it once every twenty-eight days.

Until the day she dream-traveled twice in a row. It was five months after Thor had left and Jane was starting to lose momentum. Darcy had more time for her own projects but was similarly getting nowhere. Her eight hour trip to the Asgardian library had once again ended in failure. But when she went to sleep the next night, she woke up curled in one of the ridiculously comfortable chairs in the library.

"Holy crap," Darcy whispered, looking around. Heimdall was nowhere to be seen. He met her here, in the same place every month, with an Asgardian robe to cover her earth clothing. Darcy sat perfectly still, unsure of what to do next. She slowly got up and looked around again. There was nobody in this section of the library, which was a mercy, because she was wearing sweat pants and a My Neighbor Totoro t-shirt. As usual, it was chilly in the cavernous building but, also as usual, Darcy wasn't bothered.

Darcy set off on bare feet toward the tiny corner of the library dedicated towards Midgard and all things earth. It might take up only a fraction of the library, but there were still thousands of books she had yet to even touch.

Most of the books were written in Allspeak, which was a little disorienting at first, but a few were written in ancient Norse. Those were the books Darcy gravitated to first. She felt a connection with the language for a reason she couldn't explain. She chose a book that looked fairly promising and sat on the floor to read.

"Hello, child," said a female voice.

Darcy gave a little scream and dropped the book, scrambling backwards until her back hit the shelf. A woman stood over her, tall and regal with elaborately coiffed blonde hair and wearing a blue gown. She was not young, but still beautiful, the weight of wisdom in her smooth face.

At Darcy’s startled reaction, the woman held up her hands in a peaceful gesture. “My apologies. I did not realize how enraptured you were in your book.”

Darcy shoved to her feet, back still against the bookshelf. “I’m allowed to be here,” she blurted. “Heimdall said it was okay.”

“I do not doubt that,” the woman assured Darcy. “I did not intend to challenge you. I simply have not seen you here before, and this is one of my domains.”

“Oh,” Darcy said. She wrung her hands together, desperately wishing she was wearing something other than her pajamas. “I’m Darcy Lewis.”

“You are human?” the woman asked, tilting her head curiously.

“Yeah,” Darcy replied, wondering how much she should tell this person.

“Interesting,” the woman murmured. She extended her hand cordially. “I am Lady Frigga. It is a pleasure to meet you, Darcy Lewis.”

Darcy took the proffered hand. “Same,” she said.

“How did you come to be here, Darcy Lewis?” Frigga asked, releasing her hold on Darcy. “Our realm is closed to travellers at this time.”

“Because Thor destroyed the Bifrost, yeah, I heard,” Darcy said. She bobbed her head and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “It’s...kind of a long story.”

Frigga smiled encouragingly. “I have time to hear it, if you are willing.”

Darcy hesitated again. This woman was a total stranger, but something about her felt right. Darcy’s gut instinct was to trust Frigga, and Darcy’s gut was usually right. So she shrugged and went with it.

“I come here in my sleep,” Darcy told her. “Uh, like astral projection? Sort of dream traveling, I don’t know. I’ve done it since I was a kid.”

Frigga nodded knowingly. “You are a dream-walker. Yes, I know of this. And you speak the First Tongue. Tell me, Darcy Lewis, are you certain you are human?”

Darcy shrugged again with a humorless laugh. “To be honest, I don’t even know anymore. With all the weird crap I can do, it makes me seriously wonder.”

Frigga studied Darcy for a long moment, and then gestured toward the girl. “Follow me,” she ordered. Darcy blinked a couple of times, but then fell into step behind the taller woman as she led her through the stacks.

It took them a while to get to the other side of the library, and Frigga gave no hint of where she was leading Darcy. But again, Darcy’s instincts were telling her she was in no danger. Frigga entered the stacks again and paced slowly along the shelves, running her fingers along the spines of the books.

“Here,” she said at length. “Perhaps this one will have what you seek.” She pulled a book from the shelf and handed it to Darcy. It was heavy, the cover embossed in gold and scarlet, runes carved in circles on the front.

“Thanks?” Darcy said uncertainly.

“The library is at your service for as long as you should need,” Frigga told her. “May your search be fruitful.” With that, she swept off with a grace that Darcy could only envy, and never imitate. With a sigh, Darcy sat cross-legged on the floor and opened the book. She read for a few minutes before looking up in confusion.

“What the hell is a norn?”