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Warbride

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It could very easily be said that the events that lead to the meeting of two unlikely souls, were set in motion by fair Lady Jane herself. That it was her delicate hand, her dainty finger that upset the balance that kept two kingdoms on a thread of peace where both parties danced around each other, touching that thread but never truly breaking it.

Asgard was powerful, stronger than all realms combined and Jotunhiem was wild, feral to the point of being barbaric and though they would be rather easy to defeat without their casket, neither realm wanted to test that fact. Asgard was careful, Jotunhiem was wary.

And it rested solely on the mutual respect both kings had for each other.

Where Odin was an all knowing, powerful man, wiser than all, Laufey was clever and knew nothing good would come from fighting the Golden Realm herself. They met often, talked often and it was understood that they had a standing, though tense, friendship.

It was also known that while Frigga, All mother and Queen to Odin accepted this friendship and met Laufey with the respect he deserved every time they met, Laufey’s mate and consort offered no such hand of camaraderie.

For Farbauti was of the old thinking, coming from a Jotun land that still harbored a deep hatred of the Aesir and would do anything to annihilate them. He was tough, cruel, sadistic and feared in his realm and most others because of his ruthless attitude. He moved without mercy and killed with a sadist hand that left none alive.

All the nine realms knew him, all the nine realms feared him.

For they knew the only thing that was stopping him from destroying everything around was Laufey.

Farbauti may insult all realms and declare himself above the rules and destroy what he needed to without cause if he had something to gain, but since he came from his tribe, the one still bound to the old ways, he obeyed his king. He roared about it, he threatened and often hit Laufey, but he obeyed him when the order was given and no matter what went through him, what internal rage feasted on him and stoked his rage, he would move off, back off and stay where Laufey told him to.

Because in the end, he was still a consort, brought to the royal city because of his strength and unwavering loyalty to Jotunhiem.

But that was all about to change, because a mortal, one fair Lady Jane had already set in motion the ripples that would invoke a second war between the realms and change the destiny of every living being that resided above.

Especially the fate of two who never saw it coming…

***

Golden prince Thor was born in a palace of gold and amber, with a gold spoon in his mouth and the power of an entire realm behind him.

It was said it thundered and shone the skies, the might of this young babe, so small in the hands of his mother, Queen Frigga who had fallen into a slumber an hour after the birth, far too exhausted to keep track of who now held the bilgesnipe she had pushed into the world.  

For Thor wasn’t an easy birth.

And Odin, one who remained by his wife while she transformed from a gentle, soft woman to a screaming, cursing hellion, vowed to eternal celibacy if it meant never seeing this side of his wife again.

But he remained with her, stroking her hair as their child was born, as the thunder roared above and lightning clashed, falling to the ground with every painful contraction poor Frigga had to endure. He chanted to her soothing words every time she cursed him and he made her promises when she threatened him.

Gifts so lavish it shamed the elves were already piled in his room, ready for his wife’s acceptance. For Odin knew from experience that once the child was born, once her cursing was faded and once she went back to being a calm woman, Frigga would love everything he did for her.

And gifts were only the beginning.

Odin had yet to hold his new babe. He had seen him, of course and named him, but didn’t hold him. It was the simple fact that his wife needed him more at the moment that kept him away from Thor, who was now cuddled and bundled in the softest silks, lying in a crib in the healer’s room while his brother, four year old Balder, watched from his tip toes.

Balder was the said experience that taught Odin most of the tricks to please his wife and as Odin looked upon the brown haired, blue eyed First prince, he smiled.

Balder, wise even in this young age, was afraid of touching his new baby brother, though it was plain he wanted to. He would raise a hand and try to touch the golden locks his brother had taken from their mother but stopped every time.

Their nursemaid, one beautiful Idunn, brought here a millennia ago and a Queen in her land before her ousting, had insisted she become Balder’s nurse the moment Odin had called her to see the child. She fell in love with him and her eternal youth had the boy captured immediately.

And what a pair they made, running about like brother and sister more often than mot and planting seeds of trees Idunn was fond of growing. They danced and pranced and Balder played his instruments while Idunn spun around to the tunes. They were inseparable and Odin had come upon the idea to shift Idunn’s chambers closer to the Royals because her immortal youth and his eternal wisdom was a match perfect within his mind.

Now, he watched them both as they looked upon Thor, the sleeping babe that had chosen that very moment to open his eyes.

Balder’s eyes widened as did Odin’s smile when Thor locked bright blue eyes in his elder brother and gave him the cockiest of toothless grins he could muster. He gleeful shriek rose from the crib and Idunn giggled before she reached in and grabbed the new born babe.

She didn’t ask permission, something both Frigga and Odin had given up on decades ago, but she obeyed every unspoken command given to her and even now cradled the babe close to her as she showed him to Balder.

Balder gasped, jumping upon the bench Idunn occupied and sat beside her to lean over and see his brother.

Idunn snapped her fingers before Thor’s eyes, then his ears as if checking for faults within him. But Thor both followed her fingers and turned his head to the sound, his tiny mouth open in infant awe.

“Look upon him, young Balder” she said, finally showing the new big brother his charge “the new bane of your existence”

Odin chuckled and shok his head, watching carefully.

“Bane?” young Balder asked, his eyes wide and curious as he once more raised a hand to Thor.

“Problem” Idunn defined

He gasped and froze when Thor grabbed his finger in his tiny fist and kicked in happiness, giggling before shoving it in his mouth.

Balder made a noise of disgust as tried to pull his hand back.

He was stopped when Idunn grabbed his hand gently and looked him in the eye.

“Not so harshly, young one” she said “ babes this small need an anchor in their young lives. It seems young Thor had chosen you”

Awed beyond his explanation, Balder watched, making a mental vow to do anything and everything he could to keep his little brother safe from any and all harm.

“Thor” Balder said the name for the first time “my baby brother”

Odin, who watched the exchange from a far, turned to his sleeping wife before giving her a peck on the cheek and letting go the hand he held so tightly within his own. He stood, a magnificent king of silver and might, and walked over to where Idunn held his new babe.

Balder looked at his father and grinned while Idunn totally ignored him in favor of prying open Thor’s tiny mouth and gazing within.

“I shall prepare apple juices for this young one” she spoke to no one in particular “for his teeth will be crooked and I cannot have that”

Odin, who had long since gotten used to Idunn’s prattling, simply shook his head before reaching down and laying a large hand over Thor’s head.

The infant jerked a little, prompting Idunn to glare at Odin in reprimand, before he sat beside the young girl and asked for his babe.

“Will you startle him again?” Idunn asked “I hope you do, then he will soil your clothes and I shall laugh”

Odin chuckled “Than I shall endeavor to scare the very soils from within him, just to hear your laughter”
Idunn scoffed in good humor “If it is my laughter you so crave, why not wake your wife and hide from her wrath? That gave me a good bout of mirth and is bound to do so again”

“Don’t you have apples to peel?”

“Don’t you have a kingdom to run o the ground?” she countered.

Odin shook his head and looked upon Balder and Thor.

“Nay” he said “now I have two heirs to do that for me”

Idunn rolled her eyes to Valhalla “Norns above! So deluded are you to think a toddler and a new born babe can run a kingdom?”

Odin raised a brow to her as he rocked Thor “Deluded? Nay, never with these two. They were born to be kings”

“And you were born with two eyes” Idunn said “see how fast that changes?”

Odin raised his single gaze to her and chuckled “I see your apples have improved your wit, young Idunn”

“It never needed improving” she smiled and tickled Thor’s chin to try and make him soil himself over Odin “I was always perfect”

“That you were, my lady”

Idunn blushed “As you are the perfect king to this and all realms, your highness”

“That sounded like a compliment”

“I know not what you mean” she said, pulling back “Come along, Balder, we shall go apple picking. You shall have the whole of your life to take care of this little monster”

Balder, ever obedient, jumped off the bench before looking at Thor once more. This time, as his father watched, he raised a hand and rested it, feather light, upon his brother’s locks.

Immediately, Thor startled and looked around, eyes unfocused.

Odin smiled when he felt a warmth spread over his arms and clothes.

From her face, Idunn noticed but other than a twinkle in her eye, she gave no response. Instead, she took Balder’s hand and guided him out, a skip in her step that made her flaxen hair bounce and prance.

Once the door closed behind them, Odin looked back at Thor.

The child giggled, reached out and tugged his beard before kicking him.

Odin laughed “So in addition to being a portable latrine, my child, you shall prove to be a fine warrior?”

Thor listened to the deep treble of his father’s voice before once more, grinning.

“Charming little one aren’t you?”

Once more, Thor tugged at his beard and laughing, Odin reached down and kissed his forehead.

“My child” he said “my Thor”

From behind, where even his sight couldn’t see, Frigga smiled at her husband before closing her eyes once more and falling into another well earned slumber.

***

When Asgard celebrated the tenth birthday of young Thor, every one heard. It was a massive feast that called all royalty from realms afar and they all attended.

Except for Laufey.

It wasn’t that he didn’t wish to go, he truly did, but at that moment, the very same day, his third child was being born.

No one knew, not even his mate Farbauti, because it was his secret. His blood and his betrayal.

The Elvin woman, one he had met and bedded almost a year ago, was in her rooms, screaming as she brought life forth.

He had met her long ago and had been enchanted by her beauty and wit. Her charm and magic tricks reeled her in and soon, she lured him into her bed, excited about the prospect of bedding Laufey, King of Jotunhiem.

With her magic, she had made it possible for him to shrink in stature, still taller than any she had seen but incapable of hurting her.

Not that he would; she meant a lot to him.

In fact, she meant so much to him that he had kept her a secret from his kingdom. He had bought her a house and gave her enough gold to keep herself in a good life and she in turn, stayed by him, promising to bear more than his child when the time came.

And now, as he heard her screams, he paced, his Elvin disguise firmly in place by his own magic and his face tormented.

His thoughts held him captive and the trouble both he and the child would be in should Farbauti discover this secret. A love child was something that would destroy his marriage and turn his elder sons against him.

He frowned, well, Byleistr would turn against him. Helbindi already chose Farbauti over him and it was no secret, but Byleistr was someone whose support he couldn’t risk losing.

Another shriek tore through his thoughts and he wished he could do something to help.

But the midwives kept him at bay and helped his woman as much as they could.

He paced, hands behind his back as he thought about what the child would be like.

A girl, mayhap, just like her mother. With a little less warrior’s attitude than his beloved had, maybe, because he couldn’t face the thought of his darling going off into battle.

Laufey cherished the thought of a baby girl because it would be a treasure he would guard with his life.

It didn’t mean he didn’t care for his boys, but with a single gender race like the Jotuns, there were no chances for miracles like these.

A princess; the first princess in Jotun history…

His feet stopped when he realized that it wasn’t possible. The child would illegitimate and therefore unable to take the throne.

It would be royal, if Laufey chose to take it to Jotunhiem, an encounter he didn’t truly cherish, and tell the world it was his but it couldn’t take the throne.

He sighed and began to pace again.

He was thinking too much into the future. His beloved would never allow him to take the child; she knew the perils as well as he.

The child would be here, kept in a wonderful life and kept a secret, because  no matter what, its life would be in peril more often than not.

So lost was he in his thoughts that he never heard the screaming stop and the shrill crying start.

It was only when a midwife touched his arm that Laufey spun around, eyes wide.

“A boy” she said, holding a small, cooing bundle in her arms.

Laufey felt a twinge of regret at it not being a girl but took the bundle, his little miracle without knowing.

Green eyes.

That was the first thing he saw. Large as diamonds and twice as bright, green eyes looked up at him, unfocused and blinking as they gazed upon his father. Skin as white as Jotun snow and hair darker than a raven’s feathers, his son looked up at him, kicking the limbs he had no control over.

The midwife muttered something and it took Laufey a whole minute to register.

“What?” he asked, his breath stopping in his throat as he looked upon the woman before him.

“We did everything we could think of” she said, tears in her eyes “it was too much for her”

Laufey didn’t hear the rest, his eyes went to the door, which a midwife was slowly closing and fixed on the figure that lay, still as stone with her blood still on the sheets as they covered her.

His beloved, the beautiful elf he’d been taken by, had her eyes closed in death as a white sheet covered her beautiful face from his gaze.

Laufey didn’t know he had fallen to his knees until the woman moved and took his child from his limp arms lest he dropped him.

And it was then that his world came crashing down on him.

***

“You shall never catch me!”

Balder, sixteen years old and already a promising young man, ran ahead of his brother, passing and startling young maids, scaring servants as he ran, wooden sword held aloft and battle cries rising to the ceiling while his game commenced.

Behind him, only a few feet behind, Thor chased him, a thick burlap sack he pretended was a cape was around his shoulders as he too held a wooden sword and tried to catch his prey.

“Alas, filthy Jotun!” he yelled “not even ankles as pudgy as yours can carry you forever!”

Balder cackled in laughter and saw a staircase leading to the verandas he leapt on the railing, sliding down with ease and skidding to a perfect stop on the marble.

He looked behind him and saw Thor do exactly the same before continuing his chase.

The sun was high in the sky that day and the marble shone under its kisses. Servants sprayed it with water to cool down for the evening when most of the nobles and respected councilmen came to relax for the evenings.

The moment Balder saw the water, he stopped, raising a hand for Thor to do the same.

Thor padded to a stop, looking at Balder with a raised eyebrow.

Balder gestured to the water and grinned. A moment later, Thor got his meaning and both of them dropped their swords.

The poor servants had time only to realize what was happening before both princes leapt on the marble and slid across to see who would reach the farthest.

The shallow water dampened their silk robes but they cared naught, only focusing on getting as far as they could before they stopped.

Thor jumped to his feet the moment he won, throwing his hands in the air and laughing at Balder.

“Jotun!” he pointed to his brother “you shall never win for the might of Thor is far greater than…”

Thor broke off, shrieking like a girl he was suddenly doused with cold water, wetting him from top to toe.

Balder, already on the ground, fell back, pointing at Thor and laughing at the sad sight he made.

“And the mighty Thor will never win against a bucket of water!” he wheezed.

Thor spun around and stared at the servants behind him.

They grinned before both of them lifted another bucket and, before he could react, doused him again.

Thor yelled before wiping his face and grinning

“I see how it is!” he yelled at the servants “allies to the Jotun right behind me! Go ahead, do your worse!”

Chuckling and shaking their heads, the servants filled the buckets up again and threw the water over Thor.

He was drenched by now, his thick hair plastered to his face when Balder stood.

“Halt!” he raised a hand, stopping another attack “for my allies are noble and cannot fight and unarmed enemy!”

The servants, a man and woman a little older than him, exchanged a few gazes.

“Give him a bucket to fight fair” Balder grinned.

“Aye, your Majesty” the woman grabbed an empty bucket and brought it to Thor before telling him where the water supply was.

Thor grinned and followed her and Balder looked at the man

“Your name, good man”

“Sven, my lord” the man replied “and that is my wife, Thea. We have worked here for three years, your majesty”

“Well” Balder said, bowing to him “Today you are Laufey and Farbauti, my allies against Thor The Vile. Tell me, dear Laufey, King of the Jotuns, do you accept my offer to wage war against him? “

Sven chuckled “As you desire, noble warrior”

“Nay” Balder held up a hand, not coming out of his bow “I am Nal, feared Jotun King, thrown aside for favor to you, my brother, but forced to join his war against Thor”

Sven laughed and bowed back “As you desire, Nal”

By this time, Thor and Thea came back, buckets filled and ready for action.

Balder gave an exaggerated yell and pointed behind Sven “Quick! Brother! I see Thor The Vile! Douse him in acid before he captures fair Farbauti”

Thor gave an evil chuckle and gently placed an arm around Thea’s throat, an evil expression on his face

“Aha! Lay your arms down lest you want this one to perish!”

“No!” Sven gave a howl of agony and fell to his knees “Please! Leave my mate be! For who will beat me with sticks and stones and break my bones?”

Thea and Thor gave snorts undignified laughter, doubling over with their hands around them as they laughed at Laufey’s impression.

Balder, who was on his rear, gave a howl of mirth “Excellent! Excellent, Sven”

Still on his knees, Sven bowed “Thank you”

Their peals of laughter made the few people about turn and look, shaking their heads at their princes, smiles on their faces.

When their mirth subsided, their game began in earnest and soon, they hurled water like ammunition against each other.

As time passed, more and more servants joined in and soon a full bodied battle took place, drenching everyone as they fought as Aesir and Jotun. Bodies fell, laughter rose, exaggerated screams filled the skies and up above, from the castle, Odin watched.

He glowed with pride as he saw his boys play and battle with the servants, using them as shields or shielding them, then collapsing in the laughter that seemed never ending.

Beside him, Frigga watched as well, her face beaming in pride at her sons.

“They know not the difference among servant or prince at the moment”

“Aye” Odin smiled “and they never will, because they have hearts of gold, my lovely.”

Frigga chuckled “And sometimes skulls thicker than that. I have not forgotten Thor’s recent attempt at tricking you into letting him go to Vanahiem”

Odin chuckled at the memory “Aye. Perhaps I should have let him go, he would have returned traumatized and never asked such again”

Frigga snickered “Or maybe he would like their liberated society far too much and chosen to life out his remaining days there”

“That’s a thought”

Odin turned and walked over to where his beautiful wife sat, a script in her hand

“What is it that you read, my fig?”

Frigga smiled “Fig? Is that a pleasant way of telling me I am wrinkling up?”

“Never” he came over and sat at her feet, lifting a hand to kiss “That would be a prune, not fig, my darling. You will know the difference when you hear it”

Frigga extracted her hand and raised a brow “When I hear it?”

If I said if my love” he remedied instantly “and you never answered my question”

“Clever retreat, you old bag” she said before showing it to him “Balder wrote me a verse. Read it to me and I might forgive you for calling me old”

“I never called …” Odin broke off, sighing “As you wish. Let me see”

He lifted the paper and looked at it.
“Hair like spun gold,
Eyes like diamonds stolen,
My mother grows neither weary nor old,
Her love grows only stronger, more bold,
And with a patience never ending,
She cares for both us
And an ego far too swollen”

Odin frowned at the last before lifting his eyes to Frigga.

She was snickering behind her hand and he inclined his jaw.

“An ego far too swollen?” he asked “Pray, this is not me, my beloved”

“Balder always had a good sense of humor”

Odin slit his gaze “Says I that you find this far too entertaining. Are you sure you didn’t aid him in writing this?”

She shrugged “I may have given him a few ideas”

Odin nodded and moved dangerously “Aye, I’m sure you did…!”

Frigga laughed loudly when Odin lifted her out of her divan and carried her to the bedroom, making half hearted protests the whole time he carried her over his shoulder.

***

“Will I ever see him, Father?” his child asked “the mighty Thor?”

Laufey, seated in his chambers before the window and reading one of the few tomes his personal library held, looked upon his youngest and smiled.

Loki, he had called him. Because this child was born from magic and needed a name so beautiful.

Even as six years of age, as he stared at the stars above and looked upon the one he called Asgard, his green were bright with curiosity and a desire to learn.

Loki was everything his other sons were not.

He was intelligent, well mannered and shy. He had a charm that would bring about a hundred to him like moths do to flames, had the boy been given a chance.

But no, to him fates were not kind.

The moment he had been brought to Jotunhiem, bundled within clothing Laufey had gathered from his dead lover’s home, Loki had been shunned.

The people called him a runt, a half thing that Jotunhiem had no use of and something that shamed the name of Laufey. Even his children, both Helbindi and Byleistr disliked him, calling him weak and pathetic and set bets as to when this half thing would die.

It was the first time Laufey had hit his own ward.

As for Farbauti, his reaction was just as Laufey feared.

He wanted the child dead, demanded he be thrown aside and buried within the ice because he wouldn’t stand it. He tried to kill him and Laufey wasn’t going to let that happen.

It was the first time they had fought – actually fought against each other with blows that broke bones and shattered their hearts.

And then, in a fit of rage irrepressible, Laufey had banished Faubauti.

It had stunned the entire kingdom and turned Farbauti into a monster. He had taken Helbindi with him and threatened Laufey before he left.

He would return, Farbauti said, and he would harm Loki in ways Laufey couldn’t fathom. Then when he would be nothing but a broken shell, he would kill him and use his skin to make himself a sheath.

Laufey didn’t lie and say he wasn’t terrified.

Then Farbauti had left and a mixture of awe and fear settled over Jotunhiem’s kingdom.

For the Jotun would return and nothing would stop him from wreaking revenge upon those that remained silent while he had been shunned and thrown aside.

Because of Loki.

It was there the resentment started, and as the years passed, it turned to hate and a desire to hurt.

And now Loki had to remain either with Laufey or Byleistr.

His elder hadn’t accepted Loki as Laufey hoped he did, but because he cared for Laufey, he listened when his father told him to take care of his brother.

He did so reluctantly, but he did obey and that was better than nothing at all.

So now, Loki had no one but him and Laufey spent all time he could on the boy.

“Do you wish to?” he asked Loki now “meet Thor?”

Loki turned back, his childish face full of anticipation and excitement, his green eyes shining brightly.

“Aye”

He jumped off the window sill he had been leaning on and ran to his father.

He was so small, Laufey smiled, that Laufey could fit him in both his hands. He lowered himself enough to let Loki climb into his palms, like a Midgardian would lift a  cat, so he could bring him closer to his face and look into his eyes.

“They say he shines like the sun” Loki told him “and his hair is spun gold”

Laufey chuckled “And who told you that?”

Loki pretended to think. His tiny face scrunched up and Laufey chuckled before nudging him gently.

“What have I told you about lying?”

Loki bit his lip and looked guilty.

Laufey chuckled because there was a huge difference between Loki looking guilty and Loki feeling guilty.

“I wasn’t lying” the boy said

Laufey slit his gaze then, without warning, held Loki upside down, making him shriek in laughter.

“Father, stop!” Loki giggled, kicking and screaming when Laufey began to tickle him.

“The truth, my young one”

Loki screeched in laughter before he gave up “Aye aye, I was being dishonest!”

Chuckling, Laufey set Loki down on his knee and waited for his laughter to subside.

Loki lay there, giggling a while before he sobered and looked up at his large father.

“Forgive me, Father” Loki said “I truly thought that is what he looked like”

“Did you, now?”

Loki nodded

“Well” Laufey leaned back and Loki sat astride his knee “Perhaps I can take you there the next time I go”

Loki’s eyes went wide “Truly, Father?”

“Aye”

“You promise?”

Laufey grinned at his boy “I promise”

Had he known it then, that the promise he just made would be broken in the harshest of ways, Laufey would never have given Loki such hope.