“It was against all scientific reason for two people who hardly knew each other, with no ties at all between them, with different characters, different upbringings, and even different genders, to suddenly find themselves committed to living together, to sleeping in the same bed, to sharing two destinies that perhaps were fated to go in opposite directions.”
― Gabriel García Márquez , Love in the Time of Cholera
Nora was mucking the pig pen when she found out she was going to be queen.
“Nor!” She heard her father yell from the entrance to the barn, and she gave a huge sigh, her eyes meeting Piddy, the largest and most patient sow they had. She was already getting a late start, having had to do extra time with the goats since her brother Liam had talked their Da around to his going into town for the day for… for nothing they would actually need or could afford Nora was certain.
“What?” She yelled back at him, and then noticed he wasn’t alone.
There were three people with him, all very well dressed, looking like they were from the capitol, or one of the other cities, and were not at all suited for an old barn in Shikaakwa. One of them, a rather old man with a heavy beard was speaking into one of those little metal-looking boxes that were supposed to let you talk to someone far away if they had one, too.
Periodically he looked down at his now ruined suede boots with disgust.
The woman was a rare beauty, wrapped in heavy white furs and smiling in an amused way at her surroundings. She was probably from Sudan, either Dinka or Nuer, like all of the great lookers were, with the typical deeply black skin, great height, and those gorgeous scars marking her forehead. In fact, she was so utterly perfect Nora wondered if she might be the mate of the Jotunn who was the third member of their party. Or at least his mistress.
There were a few young Jotunn males in Shikaakwa, of course. They handled what passed for a local government and made certain the quarterly tithes to Jotunheim were shipped out with no fuss, but mostly they kept to themselves in their little enclave, all clearly just dreaming of the day that their period of service in the hinterlands was up and they could either return to the capitol or, in a few cases, the homeworld.
Periodically one of them would take offense at something Midgardian and would kill a young man or two for their amusement (the king fined them for killing females, since they were more valuable both for producing young and because they were generally less trouble), but mostly they counted time, fought each other for pleasure, and stole anything they wanted.
But this was grown, warrior Jotnar who towered at least five feet over her father. With high caste marks on his face and curved, spiralling horns, he was in some way related to the royal family. He was dressed in the traditional garb of a loin cloth, and metal arm and shin guard, which was pretty rare on Midgard. He was damned handsome and looked utterly disgusted by everything.
Nora looked down at his enormous, heavy feet and couldn’t help herself from snorting. Even a haughty, capitol city Frost Giant probably wanted for a pair of boots in a pig barn.
Her father gave her a quick scowl, and she made her obeisance, like a good subject. If she was insolent it would get taken out on one of her brothers, and while she wouldn’t cry too many tears for spoiled Liam getting a beating, Sam was the only one at home right now.
The beautiful woman gave her an even bigger smile, “ Froa Walsh?”
Nora couldn’t help it, she snorted again, “Nothing so fine as like that, my lady. Just plain Nora.” She climbed out of the stall, wiping her hands on the cloth that hung from the belt of her work-skirt. She heard the Jotun mutter something, and she remembered just enough of her Sunday classes in Jotnar to recognise the world, “Savage…”
To Nora’s everlasting shock, the beauty elbowed him in the thigh - she didn’t reach his gut - and said, “My apologies for Lord Kyrhyn’s rudeness.”
“Um, sure,” Nora said, wary. This was a strange turn of events.
The older man took the little box away from his ear and put it in his pocket, “Alright Samiah, everything is set. The ship is ready to take us back to the capitol as soon as she gathers her, um… belongings,” he said looking at Nora doubtfully.
“What?” Nora and her father said at the same time. Mickey had been unusually quiet, but even his gab would be curtailed by these visitors.
The beauty, Samiah, shook her head with a pained look, “I hadn’t told her yet.”
Nora looked at the three of them. She hadn’t had a chance to wonder what they wanted here and with her yet, and now she had a sinking feeling….
Except that possibility was impossible.
Samiah put her hands up in a reverent fashion, bowing her head, “Your name came up, Nora ,” she said the name carefully, as if she thought it could harm her or she could harm it, “you are to be the new Midgard Queen.”
“Well fuck me sideways on a bed of cabbage,” her father said, putting his hand gently on her shoulder.
For once, Nora thought, Mickey was entirely right.
Loki looked at his wedding costume where it waited for him to dress and sighed.
He had worn it five times since he had come to Midgard to rule on Laufey’s behalf and it was starting to look a bit tatty to him. Not that it was not in perfect condition. His servants knew his standards. But it was so … 16th century. Which had not been a high point in Jotun-ruled Midgardian fashion.
Actually, there had been no high points until he had started creating them some time in the 17th century when he realised that if he was going to be stuck on this backwater pit for the rest of his life he was going to have to make some changes. Which was why Midgard was no longer just a huge breadbasket for Jotunheim but was one of the brightest jewels in his father’s empire.
“Majesty?” His valet said softly.
“No. Take it away and bring me the black I just had made. If I am going to be married to some ignorant farm girl with bugs in her teeth and straw in her hair I am at least not going to feel like a museum piece while I do it.”
The demonic entity that looked after his person nodded once and whisked the offending garment away.
Loki poured himself a glass of dark wine and sighed. Whose brilliant idea had it been to placate the Midgardians by having one of their females serve as his consort?
It was his idea, of course, but he rather wished there was someone else he could blame this on. It had just never occured to him that when he had first picked - randomly for fairness - Jung Soon-ja as his queen that after she died the Midgardians had assumed he would pick another.
Soon-ja had been a lovely queen. Quiet, dignified, from a noble family in Kaesong. Rather tiny, even by human standards of course, and very pale, but pretty enough. She had accepted the arrangement as he had put it to her, having been raised to do her duty.
(Alright, maybe her choice had not been ENTIRELY random.)
Aalyaih had proven that there were at least one group, the Nilotic peoples, who were considered attractive by Jotun standards.
Gertuda was from the lands of the former Asgard worshippers, and choosing her (by this time he really was picking them at random from the mandatory human registry he had instituted when he had first arrived) had caused a scandal back home.
Ona had hated him. Which was fine. It was not as if they lived together.
Eleanor … Eleanor had loved being queen. Reveled in it. She lived the high-life in the capitol when she was young, and when she was old she created her own mini-court in the house she retired to in the country. It was a shame she had been so ugly. All of that pale skin and blonde hair…
He wondered if the peasant girl would be so in awe of him she would be unable to speak. That would be ideal. Loki could not imagine what one might speak to a rustic about. Corn, perhaps?
It didn’t matter. After the marriage ceremony, and the wedding night, he would not be seeing her again, barring the odd unavoidable state occasion. He would send her back to wherever it was she was from - somewhere to the left - where they would build her a little castle and she could move her other peasant relations in with her, and their pigs and dogs and whatever else they had. Goats, perhaps?
When his attendant Ceorl returned with his new raiment, Loki could delay no longer. With a final, self-indulgent sigh, he called the rest of his servants to prepare him for the wedding.
Nora knew she looked like a yokel, staring open mouthed at everything, but she couldn’t stop.
The flight from Shikaakwa to the palace in Mærrsvellby had gone more quickly than she would have thought possible. The only other time Nora had flown was when as a very small child a pilot from the Midgard Defense Force had come to their skole . Groups of children were taken up one at a time, to see the vast farmlands and the massive inner sea where they lived and worked and died for the greater glory of the Jotun Empire.
And in the hopes that some of them would join the defense force when they grew up, since the great Jotun Empire couldn’t waste of the glorious lives of Frost Giants to defend the lives of mere mortals.
That brief flight had taught Nora two valuable lessons: there was nothing more boring looking than corn, and flying was terrifying.
But in her dazed state she had gone up in the sleek, blue’d steel airship and taken the over 5,000 mile trip to the capitol without a whimper. She just sat in the luxurious leather seat, her small canvas bag of personal effects clutched in her hands, staring at nothing. She hadn’t even noticed when Samiah had draped a purple velvet coat over her shoulders, “It’s going to get very cold.”
Nora nodded, not really hearing.
She had been gone from the farm in less than fifteen minutes. The only reason she had been able to say goodbye to Sam and her mother is they had both come in from the bean field when they saw the airship land near the house.
When her father had said something about her family attending the wedding Lord Kyrhyn had given him a quelling look.
Nora had read that term in a book once, back when she was younger and still had time to sneak away to the always empty town library and read. She didn’t know what quelling meant then, and she had never gotten around to looking it up, but now she knew.
Her father had been quelled.
It was the only good thing that had happened all day.
How on Midgard had she been picked to be Queen? It had to be a mistake, because everyone knew the pick was always rigged so the King got a woman from one of the nice families, one of the favored.
She was going to meet the King.
At that point she had run to the necessary room that had been pointed out to her at the end of the elegant cabin and been violently ill, tossing up oatmeal and dandelion coffee, finishing just before they landed.
Afterwards she was whisked through a frozen airdock by a mass of functionaries and servants, each one clucking over her appearance, how little time they had, how the King wanted the ceremony done quickly.
The palace was a blur of light and color and cold. It was so cold. Even colder than the airdock had been, since this cold seemed like it was deeply trapped in the stone of the mountain it had been carved from. When they reached the Queen’s chambers the shock of the warmth of the air, and the moisture, made her slightly light-headed.
A very old Jotunn noblewoman, wearing a Midgardian dress and Jotunn arm and shin guards, all of them deceptively simple, was waiting in the chambers impatiently. She looked Nora up and down, frowning, “She stinks. And there is something on her face.”
Nora wiped at her mouth and frowned. Before Samiah could respond, she said, “And she can hear, and speak, and even count to twenty. Only ten, if she’s wearing shoes.”
The Jotunn stared at her for a minute, and Nora briefly wondered if it would be considered an assassination if she was killed before being crowned, or if it would just be a murder. Then the woman broke a smile, like a hard piece of ice cracking and falling into the water, and burst out laughing.
“Good, good,” she said, patting Nora on the head lightly, “you might just survive. Now,” she clapped her hands and looked sternly at the assembled servers, “a bath, and then get the dress out and see if we can make it fit. She, I mean our new queen, is quite tiny, and the King wants the ceremony done within the afternoon.”
Nora nodded sadly. She had always been unattractively short. Her mother had said it was because there had been too many poor harvests when she had been a little girl, but that hadn’t helped with how ugly it had always made her feel. Especially when paired with her pallid skin.
At least she had dark hair, not black, but dark, so that was something.
As she was hustled to the huge bathing chamber, Nora asked the woman - Geror who was to be her majordomo - “Will it be a Jotunn-style wedding?”
Geror gave a startled laugh, “Luckily for you, no.”
Now, cleaned more thoroughly than ever in her life which she might have enjoyed if she hadn’t been to rushed and embarrassingly aided in the process, scented, her hair braided in elaborate coils with iron and lapis beads, Nora stood very still as several nervous servants cut and sewed the too-large green silk underdress she was wearing.
“At least the overdress laces, meaning we can adjust it, if we can finish hemming it up on time,” Samiah said. She had already changed into a gold brocade gown that was shockingly short, showing off most of her legs. Nora wondered how she would keep from freezing in it.
“I wish the king had leant us a little of his seidr, the dress could be ready by now. And I wouldn’t be certain it was going to fall to pieces,” Geror said, sounding disgusted.
“His Majesty has better uses for his power than for a mere-” Samiah started to say tartly and then stopped herself with a smile. “Apologies, highness.”
Nora wondered if she might be the King’s mistress rather than Kyrhyn’s. Then she was engulfed in dark blue velvet that smelled like old spices and the dress quickly tightened to within an inch of her life. When she started to wheeze Geror seemed satisfied.
Now, as they walked to the throne room, Nora had a chance to gawp at everything and she did.
Each carved room was massive, with ceilings that mimicked the skies, some painted to look like calm, clear nights, others to be storms filled with snow and lightning. The spaces were sparsely decorated, with few pieces of uncomfortable looking furnishings.
And it was even colder now that she had washed. When her shivering became audible Geror snapped her fingers and an enormous black cape lined with white fur was gently placed on Nora’s shoulders, a hood pulled over her hair.
She was glad she was strong from years of pushing around pigs and carrying sheaves of corn or the weight of all of the fabric could have dropped her to the black marble floor.
The throne room was, almost hilariously, larger than even the other rooms, and Nora was surprised that there was no one in the echoing chamber, except for a few Frost Giant figures standing at the far end near the dais leading to the massive throne. Wasn’t a royal wedding a state occasion? She remembered seeing images of the making of the last queen, Ona of Hatfield. There had been throngs of cheering humans and stoic Jotunns.
As she recalled from her history class, the wedding fete lasted for thirteen days, with feasts and balls, and any number of other fancy doings. But Ona had been very queenly - tall, with ebony skin, and her wealthy parents had paid for the procedure to be done at birth so her eyes had red flecks.
The throne room seemed to shrink and Nora started to walk more slowly. She was about to get married ! To the fucking King! And even if she could have run she had nowhere to go.
She knew which one he was even from a distance. He was notoriously small for a Jotunn, but his gracefully spiraling horns, one of the signs of royal blood, added nearly a foot to his height, and his posture was so straight and perfect he seemed taller. The elaborate braid of his long, ink-flow of hair hung to just below his waist.
He was not in traditional Jotunn garb, Nora was relieved to see. She wasn’t sure she wanted to see that much of her husband before he was her husband. Instead he wore a long, black silk kaftan with silver and gold clasps, black leather trews, and high, heavy boots embossed with yet more gold.
Studying his clothes was the only way to keep herself from looking at his face.
When they finally reached the dais, he took a quick step towards her, “Mistress Nora?”
His voice was a deep hush and she tried not to sigh. Instead she steeled herself to look him in the face.
With a gulp.
The king was even more utterly beautiful than the images of him in the papers and on the screens. Much more so than in the pictures she had carefully preserved and hidden from her brothers, knowing they would laugh at her having such a ridiculous crush.
“Your Majesty-” she started to choke out.
He leaned down, leaned close, so he was also covered by the deep hood she wore, and whispered in her ear, the cold of his breath making her shiver, “You, my dainty queen, may call me Loki.”
At the end of the ceremony, (which was an amalgam of various human rituals, including a silken rope binding the bride and grooms hands together, matching flower crowns - Loki’s was made of fake flowers as real ones would freeze black on touching his skin - lighting candles, and all sorts of other heavy-handed symbolic acts) the king and queen drank from a large chalice of black-fruited ice wine from Jotunheim.
“Only a small sip, yes?” He said to the girl. To Nora. “It is very strong, and I am guessing they forgot to feed you.”
She nodded, giving him a ghost of a smile.
For some reason, he wanted to see a full smile on her face.
By any normal standard of beauty she was a plain little thing, pasty-skinned and smooth featured. The top of her head barely came up to his chest. Her hands were chapped and rough with work, her mouth large, and her hair … actually, her hair was decent enough. But the rest of her…
So why could he not stop staring at her? Why was he suddenly dying to see the rest of that fair skin, to watch it flush? To see that mouth open and panting? To move that small body from position to position, moving and pleasuring her at his will?
If he was having a proper Jotunn wedding he would already be in her, and her sweet cunt would be dripping and pulling him in further as he brought her to the first of what would be days of climaxes.
Good gods! Where had that idea come from? These little sham marriages were fine for Midgard, but would never lower himself to take a mortal for his actual mate.
It had been three days since he had last taken anyone to his bed. That calamity had to be the reason for his unseemly desire for this little provincial.
That and her very lickable neck.
And her bitable breasts.
And her -
Loki made a mental note to tell Ceorl cancel the small feast that was planned for after the ceremony.
The new Queen would be eating in his private chambers tonight.
His feast would come afterwards.