Odin Borson was triumphant! Only moments before, his men had removed their enemy's greatest treasure from deep within Jotunheim's fortress. It didn't feel like enough though - not nearly enough for all the damage and hardship the Jotnar had caused. He wanted more and by the Norns, he would have it!
Angrily, he stalked past a dying Frost Giant, stopping only long enough to plunge his sword into its chest - not to ease its suffering but purely for the pleasure of finishing it off, but his steps faltered a moment later. Something made him look up to the building to the right - a temple. A temple... a sacred place; the one place guaranteed to be left untouched by your enemy... a rather convenient place to hide any treasure - perhaps he would find something suitable inside to bring home to Frigga and Freya.
Of course a few Frost Giants tried to block his way, but what possible hope did a handful of priests have against the mighty Odin? He cut them down quickly, smirking as their blood cascaded onto the floor.
When he saw the babe, his dreadful grin only widened for the child bore the markings of Laufey and Farbauti. THIS would be enough - taking and raising the child as his own; making it despise its own people... Odin nodded in satisfaction as he changed the child with his magic, making it look Aesir. Yes, that would do nicely indeed.
As he stepped over the dead bodies to get out of the building, he smirked as a suitably evil thought occurred to him. He turned and looked back to where he had found the baby and, with a quick gesture, a perfect replica of the child in his arms lay there - the difference was that that child had its throat slit from ear to ear. Now at last, these monsters would know suffering as he and his people had.
Frigga stared incredulously down at the babe in her husband's arms. "You would expect me to raise your get from some other harpy you met, whilst I stayed and tended to your people?"
Odin's eye narrowed at the show of anger but let it pass - given how it looked, he supposed Frigga was entitled to a little anger. "Hush now, woman - 'tis not my child - it is that of Laufey and Farbauti. It-he was left abandoned in the cold snow - left to die there, cast out because he was so small, no doubt." Odin watched Frigga soften at that news, knowing that this following so soon after the loss of their son Balder only a few days after he was born, would ensure that she would take the child to her heart. As he returned the child to its true form to prove the truth of his words to her, he had to work incredibly hard to hold back the smirk that wanted to blossom on his lips. "We must look after him. We will raise him as our own!"
Frigga frowned. "But how will we explain it to our people? They know that I was not pregnant."
Odin waved a hand dismissively. "We will tell them that, with me away at war, and after... Balder… you did not want the people to worry so it was kept quiet. Yet here you both are now, hale and hearty... if you prefer, you can always fake his birth - some blood from the kitchens and something to thicken it perhaps, some screaming... when the servants come running..."
His queen blinked. "You have given this quite a lot of thought."
"Indeed. Make it so!"
...and so it was.
Odin had insisted on everyone's presence that day, without giving any hints as to what was going on. When Frigga walked out, a young child in her arms, there was much to whisper about but overall, the people decided that it was only logical that the queen should have hidden her pregnancy, bearing in mind the pain she had suffered with Balder's loss - which they all had suffered along with her.
Odin smirked down at the people amassed before him and Frigga - and indeed Thor and the Jotun runt. Oh, he did so enjoy pulling the wool over their eyes - like the time that he told them he had a vision which meant that all Aesir women had to dance naked before him to appease the Norns. Beautiful.
There were no other kings like Odin Allfather for he was mighty - and his little Aesir puppets would dance to his tune as he saw fit!
After informing them all of Frigga's hidden pregnancy and waffling on for a little, Odin raised the child aloft. "Behold, people of Asgard - my second son." And if forgetting Balder in the heat of the moment caused Frigga pain, well, what could he possibly do about that? These things happened.
"We have decided to call him Lo-" Odin's words were lost as a cacophony of sound and light and smoke hit the great hall.
Though he didn’t know what was going on, Odin was intent on sorting it out quickly – no one could dare to take this shining moment away from him! With a thump of Gungnir on the floor, the people quieted - or they would have because that is what they always had done until this precise moment, due to this unacceptable and unscheduled interruption. He would be sure to punish the intruders, whoever they were for he was Odin Allfather and he was mighty!
Odin hardly faltered in his rage and indignation when the smoke cleared to reveal the NORNS standing there, looking furious. The room which had not quietened when Odin banged Gungnir on the floor was suddenly deathly still.
Odin frowned and looked indignantly at the three women. "What is the meaning of this?"
The one closest to him – Urd (Past) floated towards him. Her movement was the only thing serene thing about her. When she was face to face with him, she screamed in his face. Everyone present cringed and covered their ears - aside from the little babe who continued to slumber on, oblivious. "You DARE..?"
Odin let out a …there was no other word for it… squawk of outrage as the child was pulled from his arms and the woman floated away from him. The child - Loki - woke then and stared at the woman holding him but did not make a sound as the anger seemed to melt from her face, leaving her to coo softly at the babe. She gently traced a finger over his cheek and the magic that Odin had placed upon the babe drained away, revealing his true face. "Beautiful."
Somehow the sudden gentleness was more terrifying than the anger.
Odin didn't get time to say a word as the second Norn – Verdani (Present) took her place. She did not lower her tone either. "TOO LONG HAVE WE ENDURED YOU, ODIN BORSON! TOO LONG HAVE WE STAYED SILENT AS YOU TORE OUR TRUTH APART! YOU TAKE THOSE THINGS THAT DO NOT BELONG TO YOU, YOU DESTROY LIVES AND HOPE AND WEAVE YOUR LIES AROUND EVERYONE! WE WILL STAND FOR IT NO LONGER! WAT YOU HAVE DONE TO THIS CHILD AND HIS PARENTS IS A STEP TOO FAR!"
Frigga could not tear her gaze from the strange scene playing out in front of her. Surely the Norns could not be so cruel as to wish for a babe to die, abandoned in the snow! She opened her mouth to perhaps voice the question but shrunk back as Verdani’s gaze was turned on her. A strangled sound escaped her as she stared into her strange and terrifying eyes. "You do not understand, Lady Frigga - he has fooled you just as surely as he has fooled everyone else around him!"
Odin growled. "You DARE to impugn my honour?" He shouted loud enough to make even the Aesir present cringe – and they were long used to Odin Borson’s outbursts. If not for the current situation, they would undoubtedly be thanking the Norns for the fact that they were not on the receiving end of his anger.
His words registered however and, as one, the Aesir let out a whimper as Verdani made a sound that from anyone else might be called a cynical laugh. Coming from the strange creature before them, it was a sound that grated on their very souls. "We have no need, Borson - you did that a long time ago yourself. You disgust us and we will take no more. You have tried to shape the realms to your liking - stealing treasures from any realm that dares not to fall into line. Well, NO LONGER!"
The third Norn – Skuld (Present) - held out her hand then and suddenly, Gungnir was right there in it. She did not say a word however, as Verdani commenced speaking once more. "We take from you your treasure - we leave you as vulnerable as you have made every realm..."
With a click of Skuld’s fingers, what looked to be the entire contents of Odin's vault were lying at her feet.
"We take back what is stolen. We take back all of it and return it to its rightful place." Another click of the fingers from Skuld, and both Frigga and Freya were standing beside the Norn.
Odin looked at his wife with something akin to horror. Frigga just looked shaken and bewildered - as did Freya. "You have no RIGHT-"
"Oh? No right? Did you have any right to take from any of the realms what we gave them? Did you stop and think of the fact that your theft would destroy those realms?" She turned and gestured to Frigga. "You took Lady Frigga from her rightful home because you deemed that it was your right... then you made her raise your child by another goddess as her own because that was your right... and then left her alone to grieve the loss of her child Balder. You split Freya from the one she held most dear because it better suited your purpose to keep them apart. You have taken far more than you have ever given… The list is endless. It shames us to have allowed you to continue for so long."
Finally the Aesir seemed to be snapped out of their stupor - no one there had even an inkling that Thor was not Frigga's son. Odin had been very careful indeed, with that bit of information.
"You take this child from his parents in Jotunheim because it was not enough for you that their world will fall without the heart of the realm - the Winter Casket. All because a spoiled little brat lost an eye in a fight that he and his father instigated!"
"I DID NOT CAUSE THE WAR - THEY DID WHEN THEY DARED TO INVADE MIDGARD! A WORLD THAT COULD NOT HOPE TO PROTECT ITSELF!"
Verdani’s voice dropped then, became rather sweet and innocent. Really, Odin should have realised that it was not a good sign. "Invade, Allfather? Is that what it is called when a group of loyal subjects come to a world to search for a cure for their queen and her unborn child? To ensure that neither of them die? Invasion? Really? When what they were coming for could only be found in that one world? And they went there with strict instructions not to harm anyone or anything?"
"THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED!" There was a collective gasp of shock at that. Shouting at the Norns was bad enough but, Odin dared to contradict the Norns! Was their King mad? Surely they would smite him for such impudence!
Verdani merely smiled again, in that disturbing fashion she had. "Oh, but it is, Odin Borson - they searched for a plant that grows in only one realm - even there, it is rare. The mortals now call it Attenborough's pitcher plant - or Nepenthes Attenboroughii to give it its original name. It's a carnivorous plant that traps animals in liquid-filled bowls called pitchers. The sap though, has great healing properties for the Jotnar. They hoped that if they retrieved it, it would save the life of their queen and her already much-loved child. It can only be found at the Summit of Mount Victoria in Palawan in the Phillippines - as the mortals name them anyway… it would have saved their queen too.”
Verdani’s widened to almost-comical proportions. "Oh?" She turned and looked to Urd. "Sister?"
With a click of Urd’s fingers, the scene was suddenly alive in the minds of everyone present - the dying queen and child; searches through old texts until the discovery of hope found only in Midgard; instructions given to harm none; arriving there only to be attacked by the Aesir without explanation and before they could find the plant; retreating to their home in hopes of trying again - perhaps just one Jotun the next time, only for their own world to be invaded and destroyed, Jotnar falling to the swords of the Aesir, regardless of age or sex; the child being born to Farbauti who died even before the sickly babe was placed in her arms; war raging on, countless Jotnar and Aesir falling to the ground, dead. It was all so horrifying and heart-breaking.
Verdani cast her gaze upon Odin once more. "You once declaimed your father as nothing but a seeker of war, and yet now you do the same - everything done to further your power and fame. So much blood on your hands, Borson! You are unworthy to be called Allfather. From this day forward, you shall be called the Destroyer. Even your own people will suffer now, for your sins. Those that remain here in Asgard will know the suffering that befell the other realms as their every treasure and asset was raped from their grasp, regardless of the consequences. Those that leave will be forced to deny their heritage for fear of reprisals - and those fears will be well-grounded."
Frigga stepped forward then, into her line of sight and Odin sagged in relief, pleased to know that at least his wife was willing to stand in his defence. "But... he told me the child was abandoned..." She turned briefly to gesture at the people of the world she had been queen of for but a brief time. People who had welcomed her with open hearts, for the most part. "We were told that the Jotuns wished to wipe out those who lived on Midgard..."
Almost-kind eyes turned upon her then. "Odin Borson lies, Lady Frigga. That appears to be all he knows. The child - Loki - was placed in the temple for safe-keeping." Another click of Urd’s fingers and the truth of that was revealed to his wife and the assembled people. Frigga stumbled and grabbed at her stomach, suddenly afraid that she would vomit over the Norn. "Forgive me, I did not know...I have been so blind."
"Of course you did not - you have a good heart, Lady Frigga. How could you possibly understand the heart of one so dark and twisted? Which is why you will be spared his fate and will be allowed to return to your home, if you wish. You may, of course, take the child that you have been made to raise, if indeed you want to. If not, we will find a better place for Thor." She shook her head slowly. "His one piece of truth - Jord, his blood mother - has no interest in her son."
Frigga's eyes widened in alarm. "No, Thor is my son now - I would not abandon him!"
That at least seemed to please the Norns as a moment later, Frigga was holding Thor in her arms.
Urd - the Norn closest to Odin - leaned in and whispered so that only Odin could hear. "Know this, son of Bor - your actions today should see you dead but, we wish you to suffer. You will find no relief and none will forget what you have done. You will find no quarter, no rest and no allies for the rest of your days - there will be no Valhalla for you - no Hel either. Just endless roaming and hatred. Meanwhile, ah, I do believe you should know... the child you intended to raise as your own, to hate your enemies, shall grow up well-loved and in time, they will become the most-loved of your only remaining son - the son who will renounce your name, spitting every time he hears even a suggestion of it." The Norn showed only Odin the next vision - of a powerful looking blonde grinning and hugging what could only be a grown-up Loki tightly as the young, blue man laughed and hugged back just as tight. "Thor, it is good to see you, my friend. It has been far too long!"
The Urd turned her attention to the crowd once more and another vision came to life for them all - this one showed Laufey, mourning at the bedside of his lost love. His words this time too, could be heard. "My love, I am sorry - so sorry I failed you - you and our son. Please forgive me." He said no more as he dissolved into tears again. "O-our son... how could he kill our beautiful, little boy?" The image switched to something new - a decimated Jotunheim, ground strewn with the dead of Jotnar and Aesir alike. The Jotnar moving through them preparing them for burial did not differentiate between the two races, treating each with the same respect - soldiers could not be held accountable for the actions of a mad king, after all.
All eyes in the room turned then to their former king and none looked upon him kindly.
As one, the Norns smirked at him as the vision cleared - a smirk that so eerily matched his own. Their voices too were in perfect unison, adding to the eeriness of it. "We believe that is the sound of people calling for your blood, Borson. Perhaps you should run now."
Odin glared at the Norn beside him and stayed resolute. He would take what was coming, regardless of the pain involved...
He ran as the first dagger glanced across his arm. A dagger that bore the marks of the Queen of Asgard herself…
Still very much in shock, Frigga stood forward once more to address the Norns, bowing low. "My ladies, please do not hold the Aesir responsible for the Destroyer's actions. They did only what they were bade - to do otherwise would have been to bring down his wrath upon them and their family."
The Norns considered her for long moments before turning to look at each other. When the one holding Loki once more finally spoke, it seemed they had come to a decision. "We have seen your kind deeds and compassion; we have seen your suffering at the hands of the one who should have held you dear. You are owed a great debt. If you will it, Asgard will be free of the Destroyer's burden."
Frigga didn't have to think about it. "I do."
"Good." Gungnir was pushed into her hands. "Rule them wisely. Make them a better people than they could have ever dreamt of being under its rule." That said, the Norns disappeared in a much quieter fashion than in how they had arrived.
Later, when the dust had settled a little, Frigga went to stand on the Bifrost, Thor held securely in her arms. "Good Heimdall, please tell me that the return of his child has helped to ease at least some of Laufey's suffering."
Heimdall turned his eerie gaze towards his queen and, for the first time since taking up his post many years ago, he smiled. "It has. The Casket too, has been replaced…as well as the treasure from each of the realms." Asgard would be both the lesser and the greater for its loss. He looked forward to seeing this bright, new future.
His eyes widened then as he saw Verdani place a hand upon the dead queen's cheek... and Farbauti opened her eyes and smiled.