Marvin Cherisson had been raised by his grandfather, Torpin, after his parents were killed in a fire when he was barely toddling. The old man had taken him in without a word of complaint, however, and had loved and raised the boy with great kindness. He had taught Marvin as much as he could about taking care of oneself and how to live a good and productive life.
It was a good thing that Marvin had paid attention, because he had not yet reached manhood when his grandfather had suffered a stroke and become wholly dependent upon the youth for all his care. Marvin fed him, washed him, and, on occasion, helped to man with some of his less savoury activities, such as helping him evacuate his bowels when things did not move as they should.
At least Torpin’s mind hadn’t gone, and Marvin had many happy memories of sitting by the fire in the evenings, listening to Torpin’s, somewhat slurred, recollections of battles fought and enemies vanquished. It had never mattered to the old man that his only grandchild was not a warrior. Marvin had a caring nature, Torpin had told him on more than one occasion, and it was his duty in life to find someone to care for.
After his grandfather’s death, Marvin had gone out to seek work. He was not quite an adult, but at the same time too old to be placed with a family. The government workers, whose job it was to care for the less fortunate, were relieved when he suggested they find him a place as a servant. It was in this way that he found himself in the royal palace, scrubbing the floors and running errands, with his family home occupied by renters to give him further income.
That had been some time ago now; Marvin was an adult, although still young enough to be called a youth by those far older than him, and he had worked his way up through the palace ranks to be, well, a delivery boy for the laundry.
Granted that wasn’t his official title, but his job mainly consisted of going around to the nobles’ suites and gathering up their dirty laundry, as well as dropping off their clean clothes at the end of the day. Of course he helped the suite servants in other ways, often with some extra scrubbing or dusting when required (and what *did* the King do to cause such greasy marks on his bedroom floor?).
All in all, Marvin was content. He had a place in the world, friends he’d made at the palace, and a lifetime ahead of him full of possibility.
There were, of course, some difficulties. There always were in every job. Sometimes the nobles spent their day indoors, and locked their doors behind them, making it impossible for Marvin, or anyone else for that matter, to do their jobs.
Prince Loki was notorious for this. He would lock up his suite securely for days at a time, resulting in an enormous pile of dirty laundry that had to be done at a furious pace and returned before he ran out of clothes, or worse, complained.
Prince Thor, by contrast, left his door unlocked all the time, even when he was in his suite. He was good natured about accidental interruptions though, mostly, the lady had been less understanding, but it really wasn’t Marvin’s fault.
Of the two of them, Marvin greatly preferred the bright, happy, easy-going Prince Thor to the dark, brooding, difficult Prince Loki. Practically everyone did, although they took great pains not to broadcast this to anyone.
‘If Prince Loki left his laundry outside of his door on days when he planned to be in, he would have a lot more friends among the servant class,’ Marvin mused as he approached the Prince’s door.
It was unlocked, thank goodness.
Marvin pushed the door open and walked in, looking around for Loki’s suite servant, who would be frantically cleaning as much as he could during this rare opportunity.
“Calib, how do you fare?” Marvin asked cheerfully as Calib came out of Loki’s bathroom with his arms full of clothes.
“Here you go, I am well, but have no time for talking right now, come back if you have time and help me with the bathroom,” Calib said, dumping the clothes into Marvin’s arms.
Marvin nodded in acknowledgement and hauled the pile of clothes away. Prince Loki had spent the last week in his chambers, only leaving for the shortest of periods and never telling the servants when that was.
He dropped the clothes off down in the laundry and grabbed some extra cleaning supplies.
“The hermit out of his cave, is he?” asked the chief laundress, Marla.
Marvin grinned. “For now,” he said and headed back up the stairs.
He was deep into cleaning the bathtub when Prince Loki returned to his suite.
The sound of the door banging shut got Marvin and Calib’s attention. They froze for a second, just looking at each other, before Calib rose and headed to the door. He waved for Marvin to stay where he was. If this was a short visit, to fetch an item or check a quick fact in a book, then there was no point in them packing away their things.
Marvin stayed where he was and watched as Calib reached the door and opened it enough to peer around. For a second the other man froze in the doorway, then he suddenly pushed the door open and took off running. Marvin rose in alarm and headed after him, wondering what could have possibly happened.
The sight that greeted him was not one he expected. Prince Loki was lying on his bed, face creased in pain, sweat on his brow, and arms clutched around his abdomen.
“Are you alright?” Marvin asked, forgetting himself at the sight of Prince Loki’s distress. “Shall I fetch a healer?”
The word was practically screamed, and Marvin jumped backwards in horror. The look on Prince Loki’s face had been one of… fear?
No, not fear… terror.
Marvin backed away awkwardly. Calib had vanished, and he didn’t know what to do. In the absence of instruction he started hastily gathering up the cleaning things, glancing over his shoulder in concern at the doorway, beyond which lay the suffering prince.
He had grabbed all the cleaning things and was approaching the door again when he heard the outer one open. Marvin peeked around the doorframe in time to see the head healer, Groa, with a tray covered in cloth, accompanied by two strong warriors and Calib, who was edging his way around to the bathroom.
“No,” Loki moaned. “Don’t.”
“Now Loki, you know we have to. I’ll be as quick as I can,” Groa said in a tone that brooked no nonsense.
Calib reached Marvin’s side and tugged at his arm. They needed to leave; this was not meant for them to see. Marvin handed over half the things and began to follow Calib back around the room as quietly as possible.
He didn’t mean to glance back at the bed, but the sounds of distress were hard to ignore. He was almost at the door when he turned his head at a particularly harsh sound.
The sight in front of him was horrifying.
The two warriors were holding Prince Loki face down, not allowing him to struggle at all. His trousers had been pulled down and were left stuck around his ankles, and Groa… Groa had oiled up a pair of long forceps and was inserting them into the poor prince’s anus.
“Relax yourself, Loki, you know how hard this is already, don’t make it worse,” Groa said, manipulating the forceps back and forth. “I’ve almost got it… almost… that’s it… I have it.”
Marvin could tell. The cry of distress from Prince Loki told him as much. A second later, Groa, pulling far too hard in Marvin’s opinion, managed to extract a hard lump of waste from Prince Loki’s body.
Loki’s cry of pain became soft whimpers, partly relief, but partly not.
“That’s a particularly big one,” Groa said, dropping it on the tray.
Loki tried to rise but the warriors held him still.
“You do this every time,” Groa said. “You know we aren’t done yet, I need to make sure there isn’t any more.”
And she pushed the forceps back inside the prince.
Marvin felt a hard tug on his arm. Calib almost yanked him out of the room.
“What-?” Marvin started to ask but Calib interrupted him.
“Do *not* tell anyone what you saw,” he said firmly.
Marvin nodded. “I promise, I’d be a poor servant if I told the nobles’ secrets, you know that,” he said.
Calib shook his head. “This is more than that, don’t even tell the other servants,” he insisted.
Marvin nodded. “I promise,” he said. “But what in Hela’s name was going on in there?”
Calib glanced around to make sure no one was close by. “It’s a closely guarded secret,” he said, “but young Prince Loki is not as healthy as his brother, he suffers terribly from distress in his bowels.”
“That’s not that bad,” Marvin said, albeit weakly. Asgard warriors prided themselves on perfect health, and bowels were, well, funny, to the right people, as funny as farting, certainly. It would be very embarrassing for a Prince of the realm to be known for being plugged up harder than a barrel full of ale. There would be all kinds of snide remarks.
Calib let the comment slide, but they both knew what else it meant. Aesir simply didn’t have health problems. Battle wounds, yes, plenty of them, but general health? Not unless they were old or weak. It wasn’t shameful if you were old, but Prince Loki was Marvin’s age, and a sign of weakness in the royal family was not good.
“How often does it happen?” Marvin asked.
“A few times a month,” Calib said. “He always has trouble, though, trust me, as someone who’s had to clean his toilet, the poor thing would have better luck trying to pass a solid stone. Sometimes he can’t get them to flush straight away and has to leave them there to soften in the bowl. And he strains for ages, sometimes hours. The servant before me told me once that the servant before *him* said that in Prince Loki’s younger days he’d hide his waste in the gardens because he couldn’t get them to go down the drains.”
Marvin glanced back at the closed door. “Is there anything that can help?” he asked.
Calib shook his head. “It seems better if he eats fish, and much worse when he has boar, but you know what these warriors are like, they have to feast or they aren’t *manly*. Besides, if Prince Loki were to have a special diet…”
“He’d be seen as weak,” Marvin finished. “I promise I won’t tell anyone, anyone at all. But has anyone thought about a warm flushing?”
“A what?” Calib asked, confusion clear on his face.
Marvin shrugged. “A warm flushing of the bowels, I used to have to do it for my grandfather when he was sick and weak; it softened everything up and stopped him from being blocked. I never had to use forceps, I know that.”
Calib shook his head. “That’s practically ergi,” he said, “letting someone fill you up, not if you are old and sick though,” he added hurriedly, seeing Marvin’s expression.
“My grandfather was a great warrior in his younger days,” Marvin said.
“I didn’t mean to imply he wasn’t, I apologise,” Calib said.
“Besides,” Marvin continued, “there is nothing wrong with being ergi, you know that, the laws changed centuries ago.”
“And yet even now a member of the royal family has not, uh, presented with such a preference,” Calib pointed out, “despite some speculation regarding King Odin’s brother.”
Marvin nodded. He himself had a preference for men over women, which he had never had used against him, but the warrior class, and the royal family, were more likely to cling to old ideals.
“I will keep my silence,” Marvin promised again. “Prince Loki shall have his secret.”
And so, for a while, that was the end of it. Marvin continued his duties, Calib continued his, and Prince Loki was rarely seen by either of them, although Marvin found a little more room in his heart to sympathise with the suffering Prince.
It was a few years later when Calib was promoted to another position, freeing up the role of Prince Loki’s suite servant. Marvin didn’t ask for the job, but Calib recommended him anyway.
“You know… how to do it,” he said when Marvin was assigned.
“Anything more I need to… know?” Marvin asked carefully.
“Always get the healer, even if he says not to, he needs it,” Calib said. “And never tell anyone, until you leave this position and someone else needs to be let in on the secret, you don’t breathe a word of it to anyone.”
Marvin nodded. “Right.”