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The Tale of Loki and Sigyn

Chapter Text

The Queens Suite, The Palace of the Áesir, Asgard
The 2663 Year of Odin’s Rule
(965 A.D)

 


Frigga Allmother, the Queen of Asgard, wept openly on the golden bed. The gentle, familiar hands of her brother rubbed at her shoulders as he held her. Her tears were quiet, for she dared not wake the small boy sleeping peacefully in the next room. She would have to explain to Thor that the younger brother he’d desperately hoped for would not be, but she could not bear to yet. Tomorrow, or perhaps the next day.

It was a relief at least that the head healer, the Lady Eir, had sent a message to Heimdall to pass on the news to the King some hours before. Frigga was grateful, for once, that the war with Jotunheim had continued on so long. The shame of telling to the Allfather herself that she had failed to birth a living son for him would have destroyed her. She hoped that the Norns would keep Odin away a little longer, so that she would not have to face his disappointment so soon.

“Sister?” Freyr asked gently, pulling back slightly so as to see her face. She looked up at her brother, her only family left in Asgard but for her young son, Thor. The youthful face was marred with worry for her, in his eyes she could see that he too mourned the child that seemed to have withered in her womb. “How can I help you?” he asked, sounding desperate.

Frigga gave him a watery smile, “You already are,” she replied. “I’d be lost without you here, Freyr. Thank you for staying, when all others went to war.” She saw his face darken a fraction, for she was not the only reason he had stayed in Asgard. The sun god could not bear to go to war with the people of his beloved, Gerdr. “They will mock me at court now. The Vanir who could not birth a live child.”

“They would not dare,” Freyr growled, “Some babes are too weak to make it through to birth, it is no fault of the mother.” He was wrong, of course. Frigga knew how the ladies of court could be. The Vanir were renowned for their fertility, and in over 2000 years she had born only one child, and now a stillbirth.

“I do not know what to do now.” She stated. Grief wracked through her, but she pushed it aside. Thor would have to wait a little longer for a sibling, and Odin would have to make do with only one son for now. In time, Frigga would be ready to try again.

“We could leave.” Freyr said simply, as though he were not speaking so casually of treason. “Freyja could hide us, now that she is queen. We would be safe in Vanaheim. We could go home.”

Frigga frowned in confusion. “Why would we leave?” she asked, genuinely surprised at his words.

Freyr stared at her in incredulity. “Why? Because this is not our home, we have no place here! To save you from the scorn of petty Lords and Ladies who are not our people. To escape the realm of our parents’ murderer, who to this day holds tyranny over our realm?” He exclaimed.

The queen stared at her golden–haired brother in shock. “Where is this coming from? Odin is your dearest friend! He gave you a place on his council and made Freyja a queen, he loves me more dearly than anything. All he did to Vanaheim was liberate it, to bring peace to the Nine Realms.”

Freyr looked as though he were talking to a child as he said, “Sweet Sister, you cannot be so naïve. That man and his father murdered our parents to take over our home. He made Freyja a queen so that you would agree to marry him, and he sold her off to an Asgardian lord thousands of years her senior. I am only his friend so that I can do my upmost to protect Vanaheim and all the Nine Realms from his bloodlust.”

Frigga looked at her brother, wordless. She shifted away from him on the bed, confused and hurt. “How can you say such things? There is a purpose to everything Odin does, it is all for the good of the people of Yggdrasil. Even now he is protecting the mortals from the Jotnar who invaded their world for no cause. He must love me, he must.” She said the last word as though trying to convince herself.

Freyr stared at her. There was sadness marring the beauty of his face. “Oh Sister.” He said. The sun god sighed, before relaxing. His voice turned soft, reassuring. “You are, of course, correct. Put your words from your mind.”                                                                                          

Frigga nodded. His odd, almost treasonous attitude was unlike him. Freyr was one of Odin’s closest confidantes. They were similar ages, with Frigga about 5 centuries their junior. His strange behaviour would have concerned her on any other day, but with the loss of her child it was inconsequential. The sound of a door opening a few rooms away startled her. Very few were allowed to enter the Queens suite, perhaps Lady Eir had returned to check on her?

The heavy, familiar footfalls spoke of the Allfather himself, returned at last from his lengthy campaign against the Jotun. Freyr stood immediately, putting space between himself and the bed – it was not strictly speaking, proper for him to be in her bedchamber at all, but the circumstances could forgive it if he was standing.

Odin came in through the open door, and Frigga’s breath was taken away the moment she saw what he carried. A golden cloak, probably borrowed from one of the Einherjar was wrapped around the tiny, squirming babe. The queen asked no questions, did not even wonder what the circumstances were. From the moment she laid eyes upon the boy, she knew he was her son. She reached out for him, and the King crossed the remaining distance to place the child into her waiting arms.

“He is a child of Laufey.” Odin told them. “None shall know of this, he will be seen only as a Prince of Asgard. The war with Jotunheim is over. We will raise him to be a King and when Jotunheim next attempts to seize power, I will install him upon their throne.” The King of Asgard looked satisfied with his plan. He turned to Freyr, asking, “Do I have your silence?”

Freyr stepped closer, looking at the boy. “Aye, Allfather. I am ever yours.” He said, with a nod and a quick smile. “Shall we leave them? There is much for me to fill you in on in regards to the court.” he continued. Frigga took little notice of their words as they left, staring down at the bundle in her arms. The boy was small, barely of a size of an Áesir child. Thor had been larger - but then Thor was the largest child any had ever seen. Even the Lady Eir, who had delivered more children than any other in Asgard.

The eyes were a bright blue, but Frigga could see an almost green tint to them. The barely there fuzz upon his head looked to be dark. There would be rumours about the child perhaps, if he seemed to look so unlike either of them. She would do her best to squash them, to love this child with all of herself so that he never felt different.

Thor was already in his mid-sixties, boisterous and playful, and about to start his formal weapons training with the General Tyr. Her dear son was beloved of all the realm, he idolised his father and all spoke of what a fine King he would make. Frigga loved Thor, but he cared little for the books and sorcery that she herself was passionate about. Thor had the love of all the realm, whereas this boy had been abandoned to die.

The queen swore then that she would love him fiercely, that she would teach him all she could. With that thought, she decided not to call a wet nurse for the boy. No, she would feed him herself. He had not grown in her womb but she would give him her own Eidr. For all that he was Jotnar the boy seemed to radiate heat in this form. Not as though he were with fever, but as though something crackling and warm lived under his skin. She would nurture such strong Eidr in the way only a mother could.

My son. She thought. My little flame.

It would be a week until his nameday, but Frigga knew with the certainty that spoke of her gift for foresight, what his name would be.

Loki.

 

Chapter Text

 

The Library, The Palace of the Áesir, Asgard

The 2710 Year of Odin’s Rule

47 Years Later

 

 

Loki loved history lessons. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. He didn’t hate them, like his older brother, Thor. Thor seemed to view a history lesson as an excellent time to practice the art of slumbering with one’s eyes open. The elder prince had indeed perfected this practice to an art form. If the populace dared to speak ill of Thor, they might say he was disrespectful - for he had taken in so little in the first few rounds of lessons that he had had to repeat almost all his classes that were not related directly to battle. Instead, his single-minded love of weapons training was talked of only in fond amusement.

 

Though Loki paid rapt attention to all of his lessons – and especially history – it wasn’t the lessons themselves that he loved. Their teacher, Frode was not particularly interested in imparting knowledge to bothersome students, and so read from the relevant scrolls in a low drawling voice without answering a single question put to him. This would have frustrated Loki, were it not for his after-class activities. 

 

In the meantime, he carefully absorbed every word of the scroll, listening carefully for the details that were brushed over. Today’s lesson was concerning the Ljósálfar-Áesir war of Bor’s 2372-2501 Years of Rule. 

 

“Bor saw that the Light Elves were a threat to the realms, their great works of magic were a danger to all the peaceful realms in the early alliance, and following the Svártálfar – Áesir war it was clear that many of the Elves were of a traitorous dispersion. The Vanir did not honour their oaths of alliance to Asgard in the conflict, and the war lasted over a century as a result.” Frode read. The scholar went on to describe in great detail the feasts that had been thrown after Asgard’s victory and a few individual tales that the scroll covered. One such tale spoke of Odin’s first battle in the last decade of the war, where he slew an Elvish sorcerer if great renown in single combat.

 

It was midday when the lesson finally came to an end, Frode rolling up his scroll when he reached the end and disappeared into the dark and dusky stacks of the library without further comment. Thor gave a sigh and ruffled Loki’s hair fondly before seeming to phase out of existence in his haste to reach weapons training with General Tyr. Loki had a break for personal study and so wandered down the corridor to the private work chambers of the Kings Councillors.

 

He knocked once on the door of his destination, nodding once at the golden cloaked Einherjar standing against the other wall, before pushing the door open. Inside was a wide desk with chairs on either side which he ignored in favour of taking a seat at the small lounge to the left. A moment later, the room’s occupant joined him.

 

“Greetings, young Prince.” Said Freyr, god of truth. The Vanir man settled himself in the chair across from Loki, reaching over to the side table for a crystal decanter and glasses. At nearly 50, Loki was allowed a glass of wine when in conversation with an adult, and Uncle Freyr always poured him one when he came to see him. He had mixed feelings about wine, finding the taste reasonably pleasant but not as enjoyable as others seemed to find it. He was aware that adults paid far more heed to the words of youths that could hold a glass or two without incident however, so he always took Freyr’s offering.

 

The sun god smirked over his own glass, as though he could tell exactly what Loki was musing. He seemed to approve. Freyr was much more accepting of Loki’s choices than any other at court in Asgard. 

 

“And how was Master Frode today, my prince?” the Vanir asked. He always asked this. 

 

“Soporific.” Loki replied. “I think Thor almost managed a full sleep revolution.”

 

Freyr smiled. “Yes, my dear nephew is not without his talents. You on the other hand did not miss a word, I hope.”

 

“Yes, Uncle. There were several points I was wondering if you could clarify for me,” he replied, sitting forward and putting down his glass rather harder than he intended in excitement. Freyr raised a single eyebrow in rebuke, and Loki lowered his head for a moment. Freyr always said that such boorish behaviour was unnecessary and uncouth. Loki took a breath before continuing in a much calmer manner. “The scroll that Frode chose didn’t seem to give much detail on the reasons for the war. It only seemed to imply why the Vanir took no part, only dismissing them as cowards. And why did the Áesir sack Ljósávell?”

 

Freyr’s grin was distinctly toothy now, he looked like a great-wolf. Loki decided to hide in his wineglass. “All very perceptive questions. I will do my best to answer them.” He shifted back in his seat, getting comfortable. “In the years following the war with the Dark Elves, the realms in the early alliance were wary. The decimation of Svartálfheim was horrifying to behold. The dwarves luckily do not take interest in the surface of the planet, and so few had been lost in the great battle, nor were there many repercussions to their way of life. Nonetheless the other realms in the alliance were wary of such an act happening on their own soil.

 

“This state of nervous tension stretched out over the next three centuries until the Ljósálfar started to lessen trade between themselves and all other realms but Vanaheim. Bor took this as a declaration of their intent to make war, and invaded them. The Light Elves are descendants of Vanir who bred with Dark Elves a great many millennia before the convergence. Although they banished their Dark cousins some time before the war, Bor still judged them to be guilty of warmongering.”

 

Loki frowned in confusion. “I read that the Ljósálfar take an oath when they come of age to avoid violent actions unless in protection of their young? All my studies say that they are peaceful creatures, sharing an innate bond with the magics of Yggdrasil like the Vanir.” He said. He never had to outright ask a question with his uncle, Freyr almost always grasped his intent without explicitly asking.

 

“Very good. That is true yes. It is also true that Bor needed a scapegoat to ease the tension that followed the Svártálfar war. And it is true that the Elves are all traitorous beings who desire only the deaths of all others.” He spoke all of these statements in the same bland tone, even though they seemed to directly conflict with each other.

 

“How can they all be true?” Loki asked, feeling confused. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

 

Freyr smiled. “Why can’t they all be true?” he said simply.

 

“They’re all in conflict. Only one of them could be the truth.” Loki replied, frustrated. This was obvious. Freyr smirked at the prince, and then leant forward as though imparting a great secret.

 

“They’re all true, depending on who you ask.” He said lowly. “The truth is the honest belief of any one being, or the consensus of many. When you say only one can be ‘true’ you are thinking of fact. 

 

Fact is a definitive, logical conclusion based on evidence. It is an absolute. For example, horses are herbivores. Hounds are carnivores. I am the god of Truth, not Fact.

 

“If a man lives his whole life on a farm, and on that farm he keeps several horses, and he feeds them a chicken breast mixed into their evening feed every day, and you ask that man whether horses are herbivores, what will he say?”

 

Loki thought hard for a moment. He wanted to get this right. “He’ll say… that they aren’t?”

 

Freyr smiled, quicksilver and sharp. “Aye. Is he correct? No. But he is telling the truth. That man is not lying. He believes in his own mind that that is what horses eat, he is not being deceitful. And so the truth of that man, on that farm is that horses eat meat. But the truth in Asgard as a whole is that they are herbivores. If you ask any man or woman on the street that is the answer you will get, and they won’t be lying. And so the truth is that horses are both are and are not herbivore, depending on you ask. 

 

“So…” Loki paused, thinking. “So, in Asgard it is the truth that Elves are traitorous, but in Vanaheim Elves are peaceful?”

 

Freyr looked pleased. “Well done.” He said. 

 

“What do you believe?” Loki asked. Freyr’s opinion always made the most sense, and he was alive when the Ljósálfar–Áesir war happened. 

 

“I believe that Bor needed a scapegoat, and wanted to take his anger out on the last beings with Dark Elf blood. Asgard’s people love kings who make war on the lower realms, rather than those who only defend against others. Bor had had a great, peaceful reign to this point, and many of the populace thought it was his complacency that allowed the Svártálfar to gain so much ground so quickly. In the latter years of his rule he was much more pro-active about threats.”

 

Loki nodded, taking this in. He remembered what Father had said when he took them down to the weapons vault. It didn’t seem to line up fully, but then what the people of Asgard wanted wasn’t always that was best for the realm. His uncle had explained this in a previous lesson. “Is that why the Vanir didn’t join in? They believe the elves are peaceful?”

 

“True. Although in Asgard the truth is that they are cowards.” He winked, and Loki smiled, feeling as though he were in on a joke. “My mother, Queen Skadi did not agree with Bor’s cause. She made it clear that they would have no part in the war, but did not actively oppose Asgard until the Sacking of Ljósávell.”

 

Loki remembered what Frode had said about the sacking of Alfheim’s capital. The scroll had spoken of the glory of the Áesir warriors as they rode through the town, burning the houses and looting the stores. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war. Freyr nodded solemnly.

 

“Over a thousand innocents died in that battle. It wasn’t much of a fight, for all the soldiers were on the front lines. Asgard utilised the Bifrost to arrive without warning and tore the city apart. It was the end of the war, for the Ljósálfar surrendered when they reached the palace.”

 

“Why did Bor destroy the city though?” Loki asked. “Surely the threat that he could do it would be enough. He would only have to arrive and the elves would see it was a lost cause.”

 

Freyr gestured to his wine. “Elvish wine. Textiles. Dyes. Stocks were running low with the Ljósálfar having refused trade with Asgard in recent years. All the lords and ladies of the Áesir court were without their fineries. Bor took everything when he sacked the city. To this day, the price for peace is an extortionate tithe of such items, so high that he Ljósálfar are slowly starving. Their numbers have decreased to a third of what they were at the end of the war, without taking into account the numbers they lost in the war itself. 

 

“There are so few of them now that they haven’t made the full tithe in several years. Odin has yet to exact retribution, but sooner or later we will once again be without delicious wine and pretty clothes.” He sounded scornful. Loki looked into his own glass. He had sat in on court again yesterday – one of the few actions he took that Father seemed proud of – and remembered Lady Fulla complaining that the golden snood she had commissioned had yet to be finished. She had blamed the lack of materials.

 

“If they starve, there will be no wine at all.” Loki said absentmindedly. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about the thought of an entire race dying out, but he could hardly do anything about it if Father hadn’t already. “If we started paying them for some of the materials again, then they’d be able to supply enough for us without starving. Everything will soon become that expensive anyway.”

 

“The thought has almost certainly crossed your father’s mind, my prince. Nonetheless it is a little more complicated than that. It has been three and a half thousand years since the war with Álfheim, and it is now firmly set in every Áesir’s mind that the Elves are traitorous. If we allowed them more freedom then surely they would once again start a campaign of terror throughout Yggdrasil.” Freyr explained, sounding scornful. It was clear to Loki that his Uncle thought the while line of thinking was foolish, and the young prince trusted Freyr’s judgement.

 

His meetings with Freyr meant a great deal to him. His Uncle always made time for Loki, answered his questions without frustration and was pleased with his problem-solving. The Vanir always explained fully why something was the way it was. When the youth asked if he was bothering his uncle, Freyr always replied that nurturing Loki’s inquisitiveness was no hardship. He said that the prince had the makings of a great wordsmith, and it always made Loki feel warm inside when he heard this.

 

Father was busy and seemed to only make time to watch Thor every afternoon on the training field. Loki was not yet old enough to train with Tyr and so he only really spoke with Father when Mother insisted on a family dinner. Meals with the court had Loki and Thor on the lower table with the other children. 

 

Loki thought back to Freyr’s words on truth. It was confusing, but he understood what his uncle had explained. As the god of Truth, many people trusted the Vanir’s words implicitly. Truth was one of the Runes branded into his soul. Freyr was Truth, just like Loki was Deceit and Chaos. But Loki didn’t have to always speak in lies, so his uncle didn’t always have to speak the truth. He just knew when others were Truthful to him.  

 

“Is that why they call you a Slippery Fish? For you are the god of Truth, not Fact?” Loki asked. Freyr let out a bark of laughter. 

 

“Where did you hear that?” he questioned.

 

Loki smiled. “Lord Bragi was complaining about you cheating, and General Tyr called you that. He said you were untrustworthy.”

 

“The Vanir are known for their fishing and their cowardly ways. They call me a slippery fish to remind each other that I am not one of them. My unorthodox counsel benefits the king, but the court hate me for it. We’re too clever for them, my young prince.” He replied, flashing his wolf grin again. Loki grinned back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Wing, The Palace of the Áesir, Asgard

The 2710 Year of Odin’s Rule

Some hours later

 

 

Loki spent the evening with thoughts of elves and starvation spinning round his head. Loki sometimes had nightmares about terrible cold and hunger. Mother said they were just dreams. That night, it happened again. Loki woke shaking in terror, shivering and with the memory of the wracking twisting pain of great hunger. He stumbled out of bed and crept to the door. He stepped out and crossed the hall in silence. Only the most trusted guards were allowed in the Royal Wing at night. He seemed to have missed the latest patrol, but made his way down the hall in haste.

 

He entered the room he came to without knocking and near ran to the bedroom. Letting go of all pretence of calm he crawled into the bed and curled up in a shaking ball next to the sleeping occupant.

 

“Hum?” mumbled Thor, half asleep. “Loki?” The older boy rolled over, wrapping himself around Loki without hesitation. “’S up?” he asked groggily.

 

“Cold.” Loki said. He didn’t want to tell his older, stronger, braver and all around better brother that he’d been spooked by a nightmare again. In the warmth of the bed, with Thor wrapped around him the dream seemed distant. It wasn’t scary now. Nothing had happened. But there had been the same intense loneliness that came with the dream every time. The sure knowledge that he was alone, and nobody was coming to find him. That he would be hungry and cold until he succumbed to one of them.

 

“’S Alright,” Thor muttered. “Go to sleep.” The comfort might seem half-hearted but Loki didn’t care. Everything would be alright as long as his brother was with him. He drifted off within minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Wing, The Palace of the Áesir, Asgard

The 2710 Year of Odin’s Rule

The Next Day

 

 

 

Loki took a deep breath, staring at the great golden doors in front of him. Raising a hand, he knocked. He did not enter.

 

“Come in!” a loud voice commanded, and the guards flanking the doors opened them, allowing Loki to enter. He walked into the room with as much dignity as a boy of 47 could manage, head held high and footsteps sure and confident. He came to stand before the gold desk, and waited to be acknowledged. A few minutes passed before Odin Allfather put the paper he had been reading to the side and gestured for Loki to sit. 

 

“Loki.”

 

“Allfather.” He started, informing the king that he came to speak with the king, and not to waste the time of the father. Odin tilted his head up, paying more attention now. “I come before my king with counsel in regards to Álfheim, if he wishes to hear it.” The words were important. As a young boy, he should have no allowance to counsel the king, but as a prince he was given certain allowance to put ideas forward if his king wished it. He would be given more sway once he started weapons training in a decade and a half. Until then, even his brother who had sat in at court a total of three times in as many decades would have greater sway for his king’s ear. 

 

Odin seemed to assess him for several agonising heartbeats. Finally, he relaxed and lowered his head in a nod. “Very well, I will hear your counsel Prince Loki.”

 

“I believe that installing a vassal-king on the throne of Álfheim will instil the people of Asgard with trust, allowing for the tithe with the Ljósálfar to be lowered and a separate paid trade to be established. This will ensure the continued supply of many wares that Asgard requires. In time, the tithe could be raised once more to ensure the Áesir people are not hindered by the higher price of such essentials.”

 

Odin’s steely gaze focused on Loki even more intently, reading him. The young prince felt like he were being judged. His father was called the ‘gallows-god’ by mortals for a reason. They often hanged lines of prisoners upon the gallows on Odinsday for him to judge. If the god-king let them live then they were innocent, if they died then they were sacrifices to his majesty. 

 

“There is no King or Queen that I would trust to rule Álfheim that the Ljósálfar would accept as ruler. There is yet stirrings of war in Vanaheim, it would not be wise to take actions that might lead to open rebellion.” Odin said calmly.

 

Loki swallowed. He mustn’t falter. Uncle Freyr often explained that Odin expected his counsellors to do the hard work for him, poorly thought-out plans were not accepted. “The Light Elves are desperate. They will not rebel as long as they benefit from the rule.”

 

“And when the tithe must be raised? For Asgard will not accept such high prices for long. We have circled back to my earlier point.”

 

“The Ljósálfar want to convince the other realms that their intentions are peaceful. They want to remind all in the Nine Realms that they are half-Vanir. A Vanir would be readily accepted as their ruler.” Loki explained. Odin glanced away, thinking. Loki tried not to get too hopeful. In a moment the sharp gaze was back on him again.

 

“With Vanaheim so restless, there are not many Vanir I would trust. Only family would be an acceptable solution. Freyja’s daughter is younger even than yourself, it would be millennium before she could take a throne, and even then she would have to be married.”

 

“There is one Vanir that Asgard trusts. He has served her well for centuries as a loyal counsellor, and his tongue is swift enough that even the elves would not outsmart him.” Loki replied, smiling slyly.

 

Odin looked pensive. “Freyr’s loss would be great, he is one of my finest counsellors.”

 

“Counsellors can be replaced. Would one counsellor be such a high price for lasting peace between our realms? In time, once the tithe is raised, Asgard too will prosper for the higher quality of the Elven wares gifted to it. Any excess can be sold on to other realms, controlling the market for such high demand items.”

 

A smile pulled at the corners of his father’s lips, and Loki felt triumph surge through him. There was a look in Odin’s eye that was almost pride. The king nodded. “You are correct. Counsellors can be replaced. I will take your counsel into consideration, Prince Loki.”

 

Loki nodded, standing. “I thank you for your time, Allfather.” He left swiftly, feeling elated. The last words had been official, but he was sure Odin had already agreed with his suggestion. It would hurt to lose his uncle. Freyr would be able to visit often- would have to, even, as a vassal to Odin – but it would still hurt to not be able to stroll into his study whenever the urge took him. But Loki remembered the terror of his dream, and couldn’t bear the thought of a whole world feeling like that. 

 

Decades later, once Freyr had been the King of Álfheim for almost as long, and the elves were recovering steadily, Odin made an announcement at court. He spoke of how through the clever counsel of his youngest son, Asgard would never have to worry about supply of elvish wares, and that as a reward for the young prince who had since started his formal weapons training, Loki would take the empty seat on the Kings Counsellors. 

 

It was a high honour, one that Loki desperately hoped to live up to. He felt pride well up inside him that he had finally impressed his father with something.

 

Alas, it would not last long.

Chapter Text

 

 

Queen Frigga’s Suite, The Palace of the Áesir, Asgard

The 2671 Year of Odin’s Rule

51 Years Later

 

 

Prince Loki walked through the open door into his mother’s suite, greeting her with a kiss on the cheek before taking a seat across from her. The clear sun of a new year shone through the open wall that lead onto the balcony, lighting the room up a brilliant gold. After a long morning training with General Tyr, Loki was physically exhausted. He’d had to rush through his bathing to arrive on time, as the General had held him back for far longer than any of the others in the prince’s training group.

 

It was now early afternoon and as he did every second day, Loki would spend an afternoon being schooled in magic by his mother. Queen Frigga had been teaching him the theory of Seidrcraft since he was in his thirties, but he had only been learning how to form his own spells for the past half a century. The queen often told her son that he was a natural, and that he would soon surpass her level. 

 

“My son,” his mother greeted him, smiling. “Did the General hold you back once again?” she looked concerned. Loki tried to look neutral so as not to betray his annoyance. 

 

“Yes, he had several comments about my form.” This was partially true. Tyr had had more than a few comments on Loki’s form, going as far as to say that he’d seen tavern wenches with more skill. Criticizing the younger Odinson was one of the general’s favourite pastimes. 

 

Frigga smiled encouragingly. “I’m sure the general will have you trained up in no time. Now onto other matters,” the Vanir woman placed her teacup on the table and reached over to pass her son a thick tome. “I’ve got something a little different that I require some help with for you today. The Allfather has asked for me to help with the designs for the new wall.”

 

He knew all about ‘the wall’. Any being who was within a thousand miles of the palace had heard about the wall. As a counsellor to the king, Loki was very much tired of hearing about the damn wall. With the death of King Honir, an Áesir diplomat who had married Lady Freyja, Queen of Vanaheim, there was talk of a war on the horizon. The Vanir were almost as technologically advanced as the Áesir, and would prove to be a real threat to the Realm Eternal.

 

This resulted in Odin Allfather commissioning a new wall to be built around the palace and inner city that would have the strongest defensive magic woven into its foundations, allowing for a shield to expand up and over the palace if Asgard were ever under attack. The problem was that they had yet to find someone to build the wall who was capable of the feat and fast enough for the defences to be in place in Vanaheim attacked in the near future. 

 

Every council meeting for the last week had been several hours devoted solely to some ten Áesir shouting at each other about the Nornsforsaken wall. Loki would live happily if he never heard mention of it again.

 

He sighed. “Must we? Is there any point in designing the wall when we’ve yet to find an adequate builder?” His mother looked stern for a moment before smirking slyly.

 

“I’d have thought you’d enjoyed helping to design the defences of the palace itself. The new wall will be a great feat of magic and strength combined. The best of Asgard’s sorcerers will carve each of the spells we create and adapt today into the runestones, which will be built into the walls foundations and activated once it is complete. It will be a real challenge to weave each of the spells together and plan how we’re going to ensure the shield protects evenly throughout each area.”

 

Loki tried valiantly not to let his excitement show. Even with his current feelings of animosity about ‘the wall’, he couldn’t let an opportunity to put his skills to the test in such a complex task pass him by. His mother knew this. She was far craftier than she let on.

 

“Very well then, I believe I will be able to give you some help. As a favour to my dear mother.” He replied, trying for nonchalance. Frigga’s raised eyebrow told him she believed none of it, but she nodded as though accepting this was a great hardship for him.

 

They worked all through the afternoon and into the evening. The task was complex, taking each of the individual spells for protection against specific things and weaving them together, tying them in where repeating runes appeared, and threading them through each other to tighten the weave. Each spell had to be adapted first and then added to the weave in the correct place to pull the spell together.

 

Loki had crafted a runic spell like to place on each of his throwing knives to make sure they returned to him, never dulled or stained, and could never be used against him. It had taken him a week to fashion the weave and another two to etch it onto each of his knives and activate it. The spell weave for the shield was a thousand times more complex. The dark haired prince had never had so much fun.

 

“We may have to add a further two rune stones on either side of the gates to ensure the spell holds tight across the gateways.” Frigga mused. The area at each gate would have no rune stones and so the spell could grow weak over time without anything to hold the Seidr. 

 

“Perhaps,” Loki wondered, thinking.

 

“Yes?” 

 

“Perhaps if we had archways over each of the gates? Then we could have a rune stone at the centre of each gateway, and we can tie in the spell twice as strong at those points?” he suggested.

 

Frigga laughed. “I sometimes forget how clever you are, my bright boy!” she said.

 

Loki looked away bashfully. He didn’t often get praised by anyone. Usually it was his mother, though occasionally his uncle Freyr, or Thor. But father never found any of Loki’s actions praiseworthy, apart from a few ideas he had had as a counsellor.

 

After another hour of so they put their work aside and separated to prepare for the evening meal. The runic work for the wall would take several months, and then the runestones themselves would have to be carved. Loki wondered if he would be allowed to help with that. He hoped so. The chance to actually put his work into practice would be a real gift.

 

 

 

 

The Throne Room, The Palace of the Áesir, Asgard

The 2672 Year of Odin’s Rule

One Year Later

 

 

Most of the morning session of the Odinsday Court had passed by without issue, when the man stepped forward. He was huge. Taller than even Lord Mani, and thicker muscled than General Tyr. He had the weathered face and calloused palms of someone who had laboured hard in the sun for a great many years. Clever dark eyes peered around the throne room from beneath a heavy brow.

 

King Odin had just asked if there were any more petitioners to the court this day, a question that was almost always followed by compete silence, for petitioners were expected to be announced by the lord of their district earlier on. This man, however, must be one of the few that were neither noble, nor a citizen of Asgard. Odin stared down at the man, before gesturing with his hand for the man to speak.

 

“I have come to offer my services, and those of my horse, to build the new palace wall.” He spoke in a slow, even tone that suggested extreme patience or perhaps a very low intelligence. Odin leant forward fractionally on the seat of Hlidskjálf. Tensions with Vanaheim were growing by the day and with no real options in Asgard to build the wall, the king of all was becoming desperate.

 

“Speak your terms, builder.” The King said.

 

“I will complete the wall in one year, and it will be stronger than any other built before it. For payment, I ask only for the Moon and Sun shields kept in the vaults of Asgard, and the hand of the beautiful, now widowed Lady Freyja, Queen of Vanaheim.” The labourer responded.

 

Somewhere in the great room there was a gasp of shock. It was not without reason. If word reached Queen Freyja that Odin was once again negotiating a marriage for her there would be war all the sooner. Odin scowled at the builder.

 

“Your terms are unacceptable. What else can Asgard offer you in payment for your service?” he said.

 

The builder looked stony faced. “There is nothing Asgard can offer me but the hand of the most beautiful of all the goddesses. I will return in two seasons to offer my services again if you have need of them.”

 

Odin looked furious. “Very well.” He said, though he looked as though he might rather take the man captive.

 

With a nod, the builder walked calmly out of the throne room. 

 

 

 

 

The Kings Counsel-room, The Palace of the Áesir, Asgard

The 2672 Year of Odin’s Rule

6 months later

 

 

Loki sighed - continuing his work on designing a runic spell to keep the treads of his favourite leather boots from wearing down - while he pretended to pay attention to the argument. He let the words of the other counsellors pass over him. This very argument had repeated at every meeting for the past six months. If the matter with ‘the wall’ did not resolve itself soon, Loki would start work building the damn thing himself.

 

“Perhaps we should consider accepting the builder’s terms?” That was surely Lord Bragi, the idiot.

 

“We cannot accept! The Sun and Moon shields are dangerous in any hands but our own, and Queen Freyja will go to war all the sooner if she hears a whisper of her being sold like livestock!” Lord Forseti had said slave last time, but otherwise the comment was no different.

 

And here was Lady Fulla, stating the obvious as always. “But we need a wall. Whatever shall we do?”

 

“Mayhaps we set out own to work on the wall? Surely there are many young men in the barracks that require being humbled sufficiently?” Lord Aegir once again proved he did not value his life.

 

General Tyr jumped up from his seat in outrage. “How many times must I tell you, fool, there is not a man in our forces who has a minute free from training? We have a war near upon us, and you want to waste the time of our recruits on a wall!”

 

“If we don’t have a wall around the palace it won’t matter how well your soldiers are trained, the Vanir will be able to walk into the palace and sit Freyja on the throne if they wish!” Lady Rán sneered back, uncaring on the issue personally but always ready to defend her husband’s point of view with a snide comment.

 

“Is there no other candidate to build the wall?” asked Lord Mani. Loki wondered how many times he’d ask that before he remembered the answer himself. Not that it mattered, Lady Sóla was always there to remind the moon god.

 

“In a year we have had no other come forward.” She replied.

 

Lady Idunn finished with; “Perhaps of we wait there will be another builder with more agreeable terms.” She wondered.

 

Odin Allfather slammed Gungnir into the ground, a shockwave reverberating around the room to silence them. “I need not remind you all that the labourer will return in two days’ time. Is there but one of you with an idea that has not been suggested more times than can be counted?” he sounded angry. There was no reply. “Out! All of you.” He demanded, and the counsellors leapt into action.

 

“Not you,” he said, as Loki rose much more calmly from his own chair. The prince looked over at his father, before settling back down, pushing his papers to the side. His father looked weary, the lines his face much deeper set than usual, though he had only a few years ago awoken from his latest Odinsleep he looked no more refreshed for it. 

 

“What have you been working on, my son?” Odin asked. 

 

Loki blinked. He’d hoped he was more subtle than that. “I was practicing spell weaving. Mother allowed me to help with the crafting of the wall’s runestones and I’ve been incorporating all I’ve learned into my private studies.” The god of mischief tried to keep the explanation brief. Mother said he often spoke too much on subjects he was passionate about.

 

“I should have you flogged for such impudence.” Odin told him, looking sternly at his son. “A place on this council is a privilege, not something you should ignore to practice a few magic tricks.” His face softened slightly, “Though I daresay you could quote the discussion word for word either way?”

 

Loki smirked, “It has been a little repetitive recently.”

 

Odin snorted. “Useless, all of them. Even Tyr, though I cannot fault his distraction. It has been centuries since the last war and that was against the Jotun – no real threat. War with Vanaheim will be far worse.” He looked grim, but there was a layer of fury beneath. Odin Allfather did not like the other realms daring to rebel. “I wonder, my son. You have been silent throughout many arguments between my counsellors, I wonder if you have an idea of your own?”

 

Loki paused, considering. “It would not be honourable. The Áesir would frown upon such trickery.” He hedged.

 

Odin focused on him, a spark of something in his eye. “I did not give you a seat on my council because I needed you to be honourable. I was not unaware that Freyr was schooling you. It is often necessary in ruling to be underhanded.”

 

Loki was not surprised. For all that his father rarely seemed proud of him, and did not seem to take the time to encourage his passions as he did with Thor, the god of deceit felt that Odin watched him a great deal. The King seemed very interested in everything Loki did, though he never seemed to make comment.

 

“I thought perhaps we accept the builder’s offer, but demand he complete his work in half the time. A year would be a stretch for how rapidly one man and his horse could build the greatest fortifications Yggdrasil has ever seen, and half that would be an impossibility. After two seasons, we will have most of the wall built and will be no worse off. I’m sure Tyr can spare a few recruits to finish the wall, most of the difficult work will have been completed first.”

 

The moment Loki mentioned that they would have nothing to pay, there was a flicker of definite greed in the Kings eyes. The prince registered at the back of his mind that this was not the first time he’d seen such a look in Odin’s eyes. Loki’s plan with the Light Elves had resulted in Asgard being even better off, now that they controlled the market for elvish wares, and Loki was perceptive enough to know that Odin’s pleasure at his son solving that problem had been for the profit it brought to his realm. 

 

“Very well, Prince Loki. I will take your counsel into consideration.” Odin said, before bidding his son leave. 

 

Three days later, on the Midgardians celebration of Samhain, the builder and his great steed started work.

 

 

 

 

Norway, Midgard

The 2672 Year of Odin’s Rule

Yule

 

 

The great hunt was well under way. It was the first year that Loki had been allowed to ride at the head, a spot reserved for the royals and the nobles and the greatest of Asgard’s warriors, for he had slain a great-wolf on a hunt last season. Thor rode beside him, astride a white mare. Loki’s own mount was a sure-footed gelding. The yule hunt was a difficult ride for even the most experienced and so even though Loki was an adept rider, he had chosen a steed that could look after itself. 

 

Every year, on the longest day in the mortal’s year, the Áesir gods would come down to Midgard and hunt long through the dark night. The humans were terrified by the spectacle, they urged their children to stay indoors and out of sight as the god-king and his subjects rode through the skies. 

 

This was a slight exaggeration. A beast from another realm would be released onto Midgard several days before the hunt, and the god who slayed the beast would take its head as a trophy, be given a boon by the Allfather and would ride at Odin’s side the next year. This year, a golden stag from Álfheim had been gifted to the Allfather by King Freyr, in apology for missing the hunt himself.

 

“This way!” Thor shouted, over the sounds of a hundred-thousand pounding hooves. Loki saw his brother turning his steed and riding through the press of horses out into the woods on their left. He followed, his own mount being buffeted this way and that by the scores of riders whose paths they crossed. Thor had set off at a gallop after a single hound who had changed course. A flash of understanding ran through Loki and he spurred his own mount into a gallop after his brother.

 

They had spent all of the last week taking the moulted golden hairs from the floor of the corral the stag had been kept in and attempting to train one of the hounds to recognise them. It was almost certainly futile, the chances of one dog having a better chance than the others very slim, but the idea of coming across the stag before their father was enthralling. 

 

The two brothers raced each other through the woods, trying to push the other from his mount when they came within reach and laughing uproariously. They burst out into a clearing sometime later, both they and their horses dripping in sweat and mist rising around them from their heat in the cold winters night. Pulling up beside Thor, panting, Loki asked. “Where is the hound?” 

 

Thor looked around in confusion, noticing for the first time that the dog had wandered off. “The tracks lead north.” He said, looking thoughtful.

 

“Well done, Thor. You are indeed a mighty hunter.”

 

“Shut up, Loki.”

 

The younger prince sighed. “Shall we head back and find the rest?” 

 

“But the tracks…”

 

“Brother, I’m fairly certain the hound we followed wasn’t even the one we trained. Ours had black on its muzzle. We just raced off after a lazy hound who’d gotten bored of the hunt.”

 

“It was our hound!” Thor declared, certain. “It had the white guard hairs on its flanks!” Loki froze, listening hard. It couldn’t be… “Do you think me a fool…”

 

There was a deep rumbling sound coming from their right. It sounded like the ground were shaking.

 

“Thor.”

 

“…that I would chase the wrong hound?”

 

The rumbling grew louder. Distantly, Loki heard the baying of dogs.

 

“Thor!”

 

“The stag must be around here somewhere…”

 

The noise of the dogs rose.

 

“THOR!” Loki shouted, wheeling his gelding around and dragging Thor’s mare to face the same way. 

 

There was a burst of bright gold that shot past them faster than an arrow. The stag leapt over the ditch at the far side of the clearing and disappeared into the trees. Thor gave a mighty laugh and urged his horse on, just as the hunt came crashing into the clearing, slamming into the princes horses and launching them forwards.

 

Stumbling into a gallop, Loki’s horse threw itself messily over the ditch. He lost a stride when he stumbled on landing but as the swifter of the two he was soon neck and neck with Thor’s mare again. The boys managed one grin of elation at each other for taking the very front of the hunt before the far larger horses of the adults overtook their own and they were split up as warriors and lords surged between them. 

 

Ahead of them, it was Lord Tytos, the father of General Tyr who loosed the arrow that took the stag behind the foreleg and brought it down. There were great cheers of victory as the hunt circled around in chaos as several thousand horses and riders slowed to a stop. Some of the young warriors continued on, the hounds soon finding something else to chase. 

 

Loki found his brother after a moment, laughing wildly and telling the story of their adventure to a red-haired warrior in his own training group. Thor was several levels ahead his peers, training with a group of men a century his senior. Thor introduced Loki to Volstagg and the younger prince began telling the warrior how Thor had been looking in the wrong direction when the stag ran past them. Volstagg was laughing uproariously, drawing several others into the tale.

 

It was nearly daybreak by the time the boys found their father. A stray arrow from a young green boy who had no aim had taken down his great steed Balius, and he had had to wait with a few others who’s horses had stumbled until the younger group had ridden up. Loki dropped to the ground, giving his own mount to his father and being dragged up behind Thor for the ride back to the Bifrost site.

 

On the ride back to the palace, they passed the half completed wall. The builder had surprised them all at his speed, and had most of the foundations and the lower half of the wall completed already. There was tension building as the Áesir noted how far along the labourer was in one season. There was nothing to fear, of course. The stacking of the higher sections would take far longer, surely.

 

Even now the man was working, his horse dragging a huge pallet of bricks around to the western gate. The pallet was stacked thrice as high as a team of two would drag, and seemed to have no trouble moving it. The stallion was so massive he made the builder seem small. Pure white and at least 18 hands, the steed was nothing but rippling muscle and strength.

 

Loki saw Odin staring at the horse in greed. Balius had been a great horse, the pride of the royal stables but Svadilfari was in a different class. This was surely the god of horses. Loki wondered whether his father would try to buy the horse, now that his own mount was dead.

 

 

 

The Library, The Palace of the Áesir, Asgard

The 2673 Year of Odin’s Rule

Beltane

 

 

Loki could admit he was nervous. The deadline for the wall was in three days and unless something drastic changed, it would be complete tomorrow. There had been another council meeting that morning. As usual when there was a real problem, the other counsellors had argued amongst themselves, none coming up with a solution. As before, Odin had demanded they all leave, but he had not asked Loki to stay back. 

 

The King had stared hard at his youngest son for a moment, and then turned away. Loki was no fool, he knew what his father expected. It was Loki’s plan that had made him agree to the builders’ terms, terms that they could not possibly keep, and so Loki must be the one to solve the problem.

 

He’d spent hours in the library, combing it for any spell or working of magic that could help him. Short of knocking down half of the work already completed, the prince could find no way to ensure the labourer could not finish the work that would not clearly be an attack. There were footsteps approaching the dark corner Loki had been hidden in. He looked up.

 

His father stood in front of him, between the great bookcases on either side of the desk Loki had chosen. Odin was taller than his young son by some margin, and with Gungnir gripped in a hand and his golden armour glinting in the candlelight, there was no doubt he was intimidating. Loki stood up, bowing at the waist in greeting. “My King,” he said, reverting to a formal address as a frisson of fear ran down his spine.

 

“Loki.” Odin said, stepping closer. Loki unconsciously stepped back, feeling the hard desk and heavy stack of books behind him. “You have disappointed me, my son. I expected you to have fixed the problem you have caused. Asgard faces a war that we are not yet ready for-“

 

“I’ll find an answer! I swear, I’m nearly there, I just need-“

 

Odin let out a growling roar of anger and lashed out with a hand. Loki flinched back, knocking over the books behind him and landing sprawled over the desk behind him with his father gripping the cloth of his tunic at his throat. “DO NOT interrupt me, boy!” he said, rage flashing in his eyes. “You will fix this, today, of your will be sorry.” 

 

With that the gallows-god released him and strode away, without looking back. Loki stayed where he was for a moment, shaking in shock and fear. Then he stood up, straightening his tunic and turned back to his work. He would find the answer. He would.

 

 

 

 

The Golden Gates, Asgard

The 2673 Year of Odin’s Rule

Some hours later

 

 

Thor stood with Volstagg and Gerion, watching as the builder worked away. The people of Asgard had begun gathering at the gates once it became clear that the builder was nearly finished, taking bets on how long was left. Thor had finished training earlier that day and after spending an hour futiley looking for his brother, had decided to join his friends in watching. Loki had been quiet at breakfast that morning, looking positively shaken when Thor invited him to come and watch the wall building. 

 

The thunder god had found Loki to be a boring companion of late, he never seemed to want to go hunting or ride out to the hot springs, instead spending all of his time in the library. Thor shuddered. After sitting through five rounds of history lessons with Frode in the Nornsforsaken place he never wanted to step foot in there again. 

 

There was a murmuring growing louder on the far right of the crowd, as though something were happening. The sound grew louder, punctuated by some screams and the civilians tried to dive out of the way. Through the gap burst a black horse, without rider or rope, it galloped past the lines of people. Thor pushed Gerion to the side, intending to throw an arm around its nose and pull it around before it trampled someone, when there was a great piercing cry from the builders’ horse. 

 

Thor leapt back as the stallion thrashed wildly, snapping the ropes that bound it to the pallet and crashing its hooves down its masters arm as he tried to pull it down. The builder swore loudly, and Svadilfari spun around, snorting great clouds of hot breath as it made for the other horse. The mare, for it had to be a mare, squealed as it came near, striking out with a foreleg and whirling around to race off into the distance, the stallion following closely. Within a minute, both were out of sight.

 

The builder roared in anger, punching the pallet stacked high with bricks and sending the heavy stone crashing away, further than any man could hope to launch it. “Treachery!” he cried. “Cheats, liars and thieves!” The crowd started to back away, terrified of this raging man where the quiet, patient, calm builder had once stood. 

 

Thor stepped forward, putting his hands out placating. “I’m sure it was an accident, I did not even recognise the mare, she was far too small and swift to be an Asgardian steed.”

 

“Lies!” the builder roared. “The Áesir are cheats!” he cried. With a rush of Seidr the man transformed, growing taller still until he towered over them all, his skin turning cobalt blue and his eyes a vicious bloody red. The Jotun made for a young woman at the edge of the crowd and Thor gave a roar of his own, reaching for a heavy mallet resting against the half-finished wall. 

 

With a great swing, the thunder god smashed the mallet into the giant’s chest, sending his flying backwards into a pile of half cut stone. The Jotun struggled to stand and it was all the advantage the Áesir prince needed to smash the mallet down on the beast chest, breaking his sternum and crushing his heart.

 

There was a moment of silence before Volstagg started the chant “First Blood! First Blood! First Blood! First Blood…” Thor looked around at the crowd surrounding him now, half in shock. The Jotun had been alive a minute ago, and now he was not. He did that. The thunder god had spoken with the man, drank with him once in the local tavern, and now he had slain him. 

 

But it was not a man. Frode had taught him one thing, at least, that the Frost Giants were beasts, which had dared to threaten an innocent realm. Thor reached down with his free hand, painting his fingertips in the giant’s black tar-like blood. He daubed four lines of blood down his face, as was tradition, and turned to the crowd. 

 

His father and mother were pushing through the gathered people, looking proud. Father stepped forward, touching the floor with Gungnir for silence. “Prince Thor stands before you now, as a man of Asgard. He slew a Jotun that dared to trick Asgard in the guise of a god. A great feast will be held tonight in his honour. Never has there been a prouder father than I!” he declared.

 

 

Later, after a great many toasts to his name, Thor asked his father from where he sat beside him at the head table, in the seat of honour, “Where is Loki?”

 

Odin frowned. “Loki fled the city when it became clear you had completed the task I had set for him. I believe he is sulking in his failure. Heimdall will inform me if he is any danger.”

 

Thor frowned, wondering why Loki would not be here for his brother’s celebration. Loki was always near, it was a constant in Thor’s life.

 

 

It would be a year before Thor saw his brother again.