For Thee Who is Most Worthy
With his hands on his hips and his lips pressed into a frown, Thor gave an annoyed glare at his little brother, while the younger prince sat comfortably on an over-stuffed and ornately embroidered floor pillow, underneath the cool shade of a weeping willow tree, and made it an obvious point to ignore his older brother in favor of the book he was reading.
“Loki!” Thor fumed. “You are being willfully disobedient! Father said that you had to play with us.”
“No…” The younger child challenged back as he tilted his head and closed his eyes as if listening to a conversation only he could hear. “I distinctly remember Father telling me to join you outside—”
“And play!” Thor interrupted. “He told you to play!”
“I am playing!”
“No, you’re reading!” Thor confronted in a tone that one would use if they found someone kicking kittens. “ And that is as good as studying!”
With a sigh, the raven-haired royal placed a ribbon in the seam of his tome and closed it genteelly, then replied in the patient manner one would use when talking to the very dim, “I am reading for leisure, Thor, and to me that is playing.”
“No, you’re studying for fun!” Thor accused while pointing at the offending literature. “And I’m telling!” The golden-haired prince spun on his heal, and rushed out of the enchanted-looking enclosure of the ancient willow and ran toward the closest entrance of the palace.
Loki stood up in a flush because Thor’s accusations were spot on— he was studying— and gave chase. “Leave me be, Thor!” He commanded in a winded howl. “It is not like you really want me to play with you guys anyway! You’re just trying to get me in trouble!”
Which was a ridiculous accusation, seeing how Thor has kept a thousand of his pranks a secret from their parents. Nevertheless, apparently to Thor, studying seemed to cross-the-line and fall into the realm of the highly offensive actions' so Loki finished his retort with an earnest, “You traitor!”
Tattling forgotten, Thor stopped, straightened his back, as if it were replaced with a lightening rod, spun around and angrily marched toward his brother, making Loki skid to a stop in front of him. “Traitor?!” His eyes widened with disbelief and he pressed a hand against his chest. “Me?” He squeaked in a pubescent alto. “I have kept your confidence and took blame for an unaccountable number of your offenses and you dare call me traitor?”
“Yes!” Came Loki’s short breathy answer, for he was tired from the short run. “If I gain punishment because I do not want to war with you and your friends then yes! A million times yes!”
Said friends, four young royals, three boys and one girl, of varying royal rank and ages watched the two squabbling princes and wondered how long it would take before they were actually able to play, even though they knew this would happen the moment they saw the two godlings step into the royal garden designated for play.
At the time, Thor was reluctantly carrying Loki’s overstuffed floor pillow and the younger prince was even more reluctantly following his older brother, carrying a back-satchel and a tome as big as his torso wrapped protectively his arms. It was obvious to all, except Thor, that Loki had no intention of running around and playing a game of make-believe. Nevertheless, the little group knew that it was a bad idea to point this out to their blond friend, for Thor was blindly possessive of his little brother and Loki was just prickly. So they kept silent because they knew that even a comment pointing out Loki’s desire for solitude could be turned into an imagined slight against the younger prince, by both brothers.
So as they waited for either Thor to convince Loki to play, or Loki to convince Thor to let him be, the group could not help but, once again, notice the striking differences between the two.
Loki and Thor were complete opposites. Where Thor loved to seek adventure, fight with his fists and wooden swords, be surrounded by friends and adored and emulated his father, Loki loved to read and learn through the wisdom of other people’s experience, play with his toys indoors, engage in a battle of wits with his classmates and tutors, and follow his mother around like a little duckling.
Even in appearance, they were different, like the sun and the moon. Thor with his golden hair, bronze skin and bright personality and Loki with hair as dark as midnight, smooth alabaster skin, mysterious eyes and secret smiles. Nevertheless, both godlings were oh so loved and worshiped yet complementary different.
Unfortunately, and much to Loki consternation, Thor, who was the brightest star realized early on that the moon could still show its majestic presence— if only a shade of its true beauty— even when the sun shone its brightest and rose to its highest peak, and therefore always wanted his little brother with him.
Loki, on the other hand, wanted to escape his brother’s shadow and be left alone with is books and with his mother. For he was the ultimate inside-kid, and momma’s boy, and Queen Frigga was the embodiment of the over-protective parent.
It is even rumored that the Queen had forced oaths and/or the threats of absolute destruction on all manners of creatures and elements to ensure that they would do no harm to her children. Especially Loki who was whispered to be her favorite. For truly it is rumored that Queen Frigga had garnered so many protective oaths for her emerald-eyed child that he could fall off the Bifrost and still survive. Though that was only idle speculation.
“We are not playing “war” this time!” Thor snipped back while crossing his arms imperiously, bringing the group’s thoughts and attention back to the argument at hand. “We are playing, ‘save the princess’!” He then points to Sif, who frowned and crossed her own arms unhappily.
With one raised brow and pursed cherry lips, Loki asked, “From whom are you saving the princess?”
The not so distant group of four looked curiously from Loki to Thor. They wanted to know too. They really did not get the whole gist of this adventure before Thor ran off to include his recalcitrant brother.
“The bad guys.” Thor responded with an obvious ‘duh.’ A few years past, during The Great War with Jotunheim, the bad guys would have been Jotuns. But not now. Not when Granddam Bestla— who not only happened to be the Queen Mother but also a pure Jotun Royal—was always visiting unannounced and taking over the rule of the kingdom as if her son was not the most powerful King in all the Nine Realms.
Though no one would speak of this in the light of day, it is rumored that upon Odin’s victorious return from Jotunheim, his mother was in the palace and he got into soooo much trouble for fighting his kinsmen that he was tempted to run away again and travel through the Realms in disguise, as he did in his youth with is half-brother past.
“Then… to save the princess, you will be warring then?” Loki asked knowingly, in aid to cement his exit plan from this game.
“Yes, of course!” Thor nodded then quickly corrected when Loki rolled his eyes and shook his head reaffirming that he was not going to play war. “ I mean, of course not. We are not playing war; we are questing!” Raising his arms up into a ‘V,’ he boomed “This will be a grand adventure!”
“And where will this quest partake?” Raven brows furrowed as he sought another way to get out of this game of make-believe.
“On the obstacle field for the intermediate warriors! I have gotten permission from Father!” Thor admitted so brightly that he failed to see his little brother’s absolute horror. “They are well past finished their training today, so we will have free reign!”
A few feet away, three royal males cheered at the challenge, and the lone female sulked enviously.
Sif placed her hands on her hips and tapped her foot impatiently. It was bad enough that she was stuck with the role of ‘damsel in distress’ but at least she was able to go outside and run and laugh under the sun. Loki acted as if this momentary freedom from adult supervision was a punishment. She then looked around and at the dozen or so guards monitoring the princes’ play and amended that they were momentarily free from the adults who had the authority to boss them around.
“I refuse to be the bad guy!” Loki adamantly stated out of the blue.
Thor rolled his eyes at that absurd notion. Loki, a bad guy? He could barely pull off being mischievous. “I don’t need you to be a bad guy. I want you to be a brother-in-arms.” He then pointed towards the oldest in the group. “Volstagg’s going to be the bad guy ‘cause he’s the biggest and has the most battle training.” Thor thought himself clever for this idea. Not only can he play warrior, he can get in real arms training from challenging Volstagg.
Loki crossed his arms and pouted, for now it really did not sound like any game he wanted to play. More than that, it seemed that this game was actually a form of unwanted study in the art of war craft and Loki, who had yet to complete the beginner obstacle course knew that if he allowed Thor to convince him, he would have a terrible time.
At 700 years old Loki had just started his basic arms training and he hated it with a passion. However, it wasn’t until after his first trip to the healing chambers to repair the torn skin on his once smooth and soft palms and after his mother readied him for rest and left him to go have a chat with his former swords master that he had decided that he was not going to be warrior but a scholar.
“Why can’t I just be the King that sends you out on this quest?” Loki whined with a pout of his lower lip. “Why do I have to participate in this ridiculous fantasy?!”
Thor looked away from his brother and toward his friends, lest his resolve break because of the look of Loki’s despair. “Why you ask? Because I’m the King, and it is my right as the elder brother to inherit this position!” Said the boy who was barely even 1000 years old. He was still the second youngest in the group but higher in rank above all but Loki who was his equal— since he was not yet the crown prince and heir to the throne. “Anyway this game was my idea, so I get to be King!”
Breaking rank, for she could no longer be taunted with a quest she would not be allowed to participate in, the blond-haired beauty stomped over toward the two princes and stood beside Thor. “At least you get to do something!” Sif growled at Loki as she placed her hands on her hips. “I just get to wait and wait and wait until they *remember* to rescue me.” She hated playing the princess but what could she do. She was girl and the boys did not allow her to do anything but be a girl. This was not the first time nor would it be the last. However, on these days Sif wished for more kids their age to choose from because then maybe she would get to break the caste of the woman’s role and fight like the warrior she knows she is.
Unfortunately, due to the war, there were very few royal children born in their age group so her choice of playmates were limited to this group of boys who ranged in age from 1500 to 700 or she could stay in the weaving halls with the other ladies and girls of the royal court. Of course, she chose the former because weaving sucked. Especially when you did not have seidr.
The youngest of the lot gave the girl a long suffering glare and admitted, “If that is the only role you have to play in this unwanted fallacy then I would gladly trade places with you.” Then after a beat, Loki practically glowed with all the power of a full moon, for now, he had a plan.
The five children stared at Loki in shock for they could not believe what they just heard. The youngest prince just volunteered to play the role of a girl.
Even the guards looked shocked and some wondered if they should intervene because they knew where this was going, and it was horrible. It was a horrible prospect, for not only could it start unwarranted rumors about the youngest and Odin’s most delicate child, it would also probably get them in trouble with the King for knowing better but allowing this role swap to happen anyway.
Unfortunately, not everyone thought that way and, moreover, they did not hold the rank or authority to override this suggestion.
“Actually, I think having Loki play the role of the princess is a good idea.”
Five sets of stunned eyes shifted their gaze from Loki to Hogun, mostly because the latter boy uncharacteristically spoke.
The other raven-haired child, though really more of an Asgardian pre-teen at the ripe old age of 1200 years, continued ,“Think about it. He doesn’t want to play.” Hogun stated while pointing at Loki, “but he has to, because the Allfather has commands it so. Sif wants a chance to do more than just sit around playing princess.” Hogun now gestured to the other Asgardian preteen of the same age. “So I say the best idea is to let them trade roles. That way Sif gets to fight and Loki gets to sit down and read.” The grim-faced child gave a nod of absolute and then..he was finished speaking…probably for the rest of the day.
Fandral who was quiet up until now clapped once and exclaimed. “That is a great idea, sir Hogun!” He smiled at both Thor, who had the beginnings of a storm brewing in his eyes and Loki who was trying to repress a triumphant smirk.
Volstagg, the oldest of the group at 1500, laughed aloud giving Hogun a hearty clap on the shoulder. “You’re right, if we trade their roles then Loki is still carrying out the Allfather’s order and everyone is happy!”
“No! Everyone is not happy!” The eldest prince pouted with a stomp of his foot.
“I’m happy!” Sif admitted with unexpected jubilation. She whispered a thank you to Loki then beamed a thousand watt smile at Hogun for his fantastic idea. She was finally going to get to play, for real!
“Enough!” Thor roared glaring at all, save Loki, but also searching for Loki’s extra large pillow so he could throw it, preferably at Hogun for his stupid stupid idea. How did this happen, he wondered? How did his great idea get so far out of his control? Loki a princess, indeed. “I am King and I say no! Loki is a prince of Asgard! He will not debase himself playing a woman’s role!”
At Thor’s words, Sif looked ready to punch her friend in the neck, but she controlled herself because he was her prince and attacking him could get her, and her family, beheaded.
The other three remained silent and wondered why in the names of the Norns did they say anything when they already knew Thor would punish them for their opinions.
At times like this, Fandral, the second oldest of the group often wondered if he would have befriended the two high ranking royals if it was not forced upon him by his parents. It was true that he did have lot of good times with Thor and even Loki, when the youngest could be coaxed, but the two princes’ were also so spoiled. Their tantrums were legendary— Thor with his destruction of property and people and Loki with his pranks— sometimes it made the friendship uncomfortable.
As Loki observed his brother’s anger, he knew he won this battle of wills, for as long as one did not stroke the flames of Thor’s fury his brother was easy to bend and twist when he was upset.
So using their height difference to his advantage Loki tilted his head to the side showing off the vulnerability of his creamy elegant neck, looked up through his lashes, and pouted. “Thor” he started in a wavering breath. “Have you forgotten brother… My Jotun blood runs thick?”
Loki’s words stopped Thor’s tirade in its tracks, for the elder prince has gotten in trouble, more than once, for showing contempt towards the female gender. Mostly because it insulted not only his mother but Loki and his Father as well. He did not care about what Loki admitted in front of his friends, for everyone in the kingdom knew of their Royal Jotun heritage. Bestla made sure of it ,for two reasons. The first was to keep nationalistic racism against Jotuns out of Asgard. The second reason was to ensure that the family was never ashamed of themselves or the blood in their veins. Why should they be, just like King Laufey, Bestla was a direct descendant of Jotunheim’s first King Bergelmir, who was a grandchild of the Divine Ymir. They were proud of this fact and the First Family did not try to hide it.
Nonetheless, while Jotun divinity runs through Thor’s veins it runs thicker in both his Father’s and Loki’s. It is for this reason that the two were apt not only in the art of seidr but they also sport the dual sexes of their Jotun kinsmen. But even with this knowledge that is not what stopped Thor’s tantrum. It was his brother’s wrecked voice, which reminded him of a promise he made to the King, his father, that he would never let anyone make Loki feel less because of his dual gender.
The family knew that even though Loki was proclaimed to all to be Odin-son, and future sire, their father’s proclamation was only to ensure the legitimate authority of rank for his child, in this misogynistic culture. If it came to pass that Loki preferred the role of bearer and dam instead sire and father, the shame of argr would never haunt Loki, for all know of his Jotun blood and his royal rank and position of legitimate authority would still be secured, for it was decreed by Odin Allfather.
“Loki” The blond soothed, to stay his bother’s potential tears and also to ensure Loki does not tell their mother, again. “I…I did not mean that.”
The other child turned his gaze away and poked out a trembling bottom lip. He looked down, almost resting his chin against his chest and looked up with wet eyes through his lashes. “Then why did you say it?” He whispered.
When Thor rushed to his brother, grabbed his hands and kissed the tips of Loki’s fingers, a guard on the far end rolled his eyes but remained quiet, for he knew what the youngest was doing. He had seen it hundreds of times before.
However, before Thor could explain that he just wanted to go on an adventure with his bother and fight bad guys together, Loki interrupted.
“Is it because you do not want me to be your princess?”
Thor looked down at his brother’s earnest doe eyes and tried to admit that he did not want Loki to be his princess because he wanted him to be his brother and brother-in-arms on their adventure, but Loki interrupted again.
“Is it because you do not love me anymore?”
“Wh…what?” Thor choked out.
Loki continued earnestly looking for all-the-realm like he was about to cry. “Is it not so that when Kings quest to rescue a princess, they seek to marry them? And Kings are allowed to marry for love, like Father. So… does that mean if you do not want me to be your princess then…is it because you do not love me?”
At those heart-breaking words, Thor gathered his brother in his arms and kissed him right below the younger child’s ear. “Of course I love you!” He hugged the younger boy tighter, knocking the wind out of him and making him cough. “I love you like none other!”
Loki timidly nodded, fighting a victorious smirk, but quickly bit his bottom lip when his brother pulled him back, held him by the shoulders and stared solemnly into his eyes.
“You believe me, don’t you, Loki?”
Loki made a face as if he was forcing himself to believe this brother’s truth and sniffed pitifully. “You think me of worth?”
“Always!” Thor practically cried out. “For there is none more worthy for me than you!” Thor hugged his bother again and kissed both cheeks. “I would go on a thousand quests for you, today and forever after, if you would only have me at my return!”
When Loki finally hugged back, coyly thanking his brother and proclaiming his love as well, Volstagg face-palmed himself and looked at his other observing friends to see if anyone else realized what he just realized. For a moment there, he was as confused as Thor and not understanding why Loki doubted his bother’s almost obsessive affections. Now he understood that the little silver-tongue manipulated the situation to his advantage, again.
It was a known truth that the elder prince’s relationship with his younger sibling was confusing and dichotomous to all who observed it, for Thor consistently went back and forth from treating Loki like a little brother to coddling him like a precious little sister. Unfortunately, it was usually only after-the-fact that one realized that Thor’s actions were usually dependant on what the youngest was trying to gain as an advantage.
The red-haired Asgardian teen noticed that Fandral, who was only 100 years younger, was the only one of their group to realize what Loki did. Hogun didn’t seem to care and Sif looked like she was sucking on lemons. Volstagg wasn’t sure what her problem was since only a moment before she was happy about her new role, but it probably had something to do with Loki, for it always did.
The oldest playmate was not embarrassed to admit that Loki was enviously smart in both wit and learning. Volstagg would even admit that Loki’s ideas often time got them out of more trouble than it got them in, but Volstagg hated how Loki could twist them, especially Thor, around his little finger and then blame them for twisting his words into actions he did no suggest. He idly wondered if, even today, Loki did this to them again.
When Thor was carefully leading his brother back toward the ancient willow so that he could sit upon his pillow and read his book while he waited for rescue, Hogun once again unexpectedly, and uncharacteristically, spoke.
“This is not going to work.”
All turned to look at the boy again. Though Loki looked like he could murder him and Thor looked like he finally found a true ally in a sea of traitors.
Hogun pointed at Sif, but mostly at what she was wearing. “She will not be able to get through the obstacle course in that.”
“Of course she cannot!” Thor heartily supported giving her an ‘oh-well, sucks to be you’ shrug.
Sif was unsure how she felt about being forced to change roles again. On one side she wanted desperately to play war, but now, after Thor’s declaration of love to his brother she now wanted Thor to quest for her and fight his way through hardships for her honor and worth. Unfortunately, she was never allowed to come to her own conclusion because Loki started unbuckling his belt and then untying the laces of his pants.
“What are you doing, brother!”
“The solution to this quandary is simple.” Loki informed innocently, too innocently actually, as he pushed his pants down. Unfortunately, they got caught on his boots. More unfortunately, he did not know how to unbuckle them. As a prince of Asgard he had never actually dressed or undressed himself.
Sif squeaked, covered her eyes, and quickly turned around, making her golden hair fan beautifully across her back.
“And this solution… it involves taking off your clothes?” Thor growled as he tried to pull Loki’s pants back up.
“Yes, of course.” The raven-haired child replied looking up at his brother with bright green eyes. “How else will we trade clothes?” He then pointed at Fandral then pointed at his boots in an unspoken command.
The blond Asgardian teen knew what was expected of him and with only a tiny sigh of irritation he walked over, dropped to his knees and worked on unbuckling the intricate harnesses of the second prince’s foot attire.
“Wh..what?” Thor couldn’t believe what he was hearing or seeing. “Why are you doing this?” He was talking to both Loki and Fandral.
“So you can save me, Thor.” Loki said while giving his brother his best doe-eyes. The one’s that even worked on Father.
Thor looked down at his brother’s beatific face, took a deep breath, and nodded. He then grabbed the younger child’s hand and promised. “And, I will save you, brother!” in his best King voice.
Loki eyes twinkled mischievously as he gave his secret crooked smile and fell into the role of the princess. “I know, brother, because you are the most courageous King of all, and… when you fetch me from my prison” He pointed at the willow. “I shall reward you with a kiss upon your palm on your return.” It was something he had seen his mother do to their Father and the elder King seemed to like it, so Loki figured Thor would like it as well.
Thor’s eyes glowed with anticipation of his reward and his chest and ego puffed up because of his brother’s flattery. When he looked around to make sure everyone else heard and agreed with the praise, he realized that Fandral was finished with his task of being Loki’s servant and was looking uncomfortably toward the sky, as was Volstagg, Hogun and most of the guards. He then looked towards Sif and realized what was wrong. The young girl was quickly removing her clothes in the presence of all.
“Have you no shame!” He squeaked and turned way. Thor ignored Sif’s response that she was only taking off her outer-dress and she still had on her under-dress and he turned his attention back toward his brother only to notice that Loki’s long (for his age), effeminately shaped, milky-white legs were bare.
Thor did not know why, at this moment, this sight effected him even more than Sif undressing, for even still they bathed together, but it did. Maybe because Thor had already started using his imagination and right now, Loki was not his little brother but his princess and future queen. Or maybe Thor felt that no one, save him, and their private chamber servants—who did not count—had the right to look at Loki. Ever. Either way, he stopped his brother from continuing to undress.
“Perhaps…” Volstagg coughed out in utter embarrassment. “You two…” He was talking to both Sif and Loki. “should exchange clothing behind the privacy of younder willow.”
“Good idea!” Frandral breathed out.
Hogun nodded silently and the guards breathed out in relief.
Both Loki and Sif looked at the willow, then each other, then with an unspoken agreement walked over, into and behind the curtain of leaves to change. It took longer than it should have to exchange clothing, for both royals had servants to dress and undress them, but Sif eventually came out of the willow looking very much like a very pretty boy, suited in pants (which was unheard of on all women except Valkyries), a shirt and jerkin, and Loki stood beside her, in both the under-dress and outer-dress, bejeweled in precious stoned broaches, and looking unexpectedly fey and heart-clenchingly beautiful.
Thor’s breath caught in his throat and for a moment, he was absolutely smitten by the beauty that was his brother. It is for this reason that he did not approach Loki and kiss the back of his hand like he wanted, lest he would not leave the younger boy’s side, and he sooo desperately wanted to play on the intermediate obstacle course now that he had finally gotten permission. Therefore, he gave a kingly bow, instead and a chivalrous promise to return before he called on is men, plus one lady, and pretended to ride on horseback toward the obstacle course.
Loki gave an elegant, yet eager wave of goodbye as he watched Thor depart, taking with him, his friends and half of the guards. Once they were out of sight the raven-haired ‘princess’ let out little whoop of joy because his brother finally let him be. It was not that he did not love his brother, for he did. More than the whole of Asgard, the Nine Realms even. It was just that they had different… interests… and their mother said that was okay.
As Loki walked back into the privacy of his favorite willow tree, made himself comfortable on his pillow and returned to his book he could not help but think that this was going to be the best time he ever had playing outside with Thor’s friends. And as the hours passed and he enjoyed himself more, Loki wondered how he could make sure Sif never got tired of playing the role of the warrior so he could always be left to the counsel of his own interests.
But for now… that was a quandary for another day.