Elin looked up at her father, truly hoping that she had simply misunderstood him. „I am to do what?“, she asked and prayed to all the gods that this was just a very bad joke.
„Don't pretend that you did not hear me“, he replied in a strict tone. „You are to report to court where Odin awaits you. The Allfather has requested you as his servant.“
„Servant?“ Elin's thoughts wery spinning and she felt more than just a little bit dizzy. „How does Odin even know who I am. He has met neither you nor me...“ Her father rolled his eyes and looked at her. „Unless you have met him...“ Piece by piece, Elin tried to sort the chaotic thoughts in her head. „Father, what do you mean by servant? Why am I to report to court?“
Slowly, her father poured himself some wine and then sat down by the window. „It is not my place to ask the Allfather about his plans. But you are his now. Which means that he can do with as he pleases.“
It was as if all air had been pressed out of Elin's lungs. She couldn't believe any of this was happening. If Odin himself had requested her presence, it could only mean one thing... She felt sick just thinking about it. Of course she knew that the king would not remain alone forever after his wife's death. But his desire for a new union came sooner than she had expected. And naturally, she never would have imagined herself to be the other half of such union. „But father“, Elin turned to him. „Why would the Allfather choose me to become his next queen? Why...“
„His queen?“, her father interrupted her and then just burst out laughing. Elin stared at him until he had calmed himself. „Don't be stupid, girl! You are no queen and our king knows that very well. But a queen is not what he is searching for. His bed is empty and he requires a companion. Someone who will...attend to his needs in the middle of the night.“ A dirty smirk appeared on his face and Elin was disgusted that her father would even think about that. „In other words, you will spread your pretty little legs for him whenever he tells you to do so.“
Elin shuddered at the thought of it. „Father, how can you allow this? He's Odin, the king, the Allfather, I understand. But even he cannot simply command me to live out the rest of my days as his...slave.“
„You ungrateful child“, her father roared at her. „Do you know how many women would be honoured to spend their life at court with the great Odin? This is an honour, Elin, remember that. Out of all the women in Asgard he chose you to share his bed. And he paid a good price for you.“
All colour vanished from Elin's face. „H-he...he paid for me? You're selling me as if I am some kind of property you can just give away?“ She never had the most loving relationship with her father, but that he apparently hated her so much shocked her. She couldn't believe that she meant so little to him.
„You're my daughter, which means you will do as I tell you. Besides, you didn't leave me much of a choice.“ She looked at him with big eyes. „Don't look at me like that! You have rejected every proposal that was ever made to you by any man. Even the bravest soldiers were not good enough for you. And you didn't even have the decency to explain to me why they didn't seem suitable enough. You are of age now, which means that it's no longer appropriate for you to be unmarried. I cannot and will not take care of you for the rest of my life. And since marriage seems to out of the question for you, I had to find another purpose for you. It's not at all what I always had in mind for you. I never pictured you as anyone's whore. But being Odin's whore quite agrees with me now that the deal is struck.“
His words felt like knives in her chest. Elin still couldn't really breathe and all she wanted to do was cry like a child. But her father was right...she wasn't a child anymore. She was a woman now. And maybe this was to be her purpose in life. But even if it wasn't, she knew that she would not give her father the satisfaction to beg on her knees. So she took a deep breath and straightened her back. „When am I to leave?“
Before her father could answer, there was a knock on the door. She heard one of the servants attending to the visitor and just moments later, two soldiers from the palace entered the room. Her father turned to her with a cold smile. „Now. The Allfather requested your presence as soon as possible.“
„May I at least pack a few things before I go?“, she asked with a trembling voice.
„No“, her father simply replied. „You need to leave. Now.“
Elin swallowed back her tears and then turned to her father one last time. „Goodbye father.“ He didn't even look at her and simply poured himself another cup of wine. One of the soldiers reached for her arm, trying to pull ever away. Elin shook him off in one swift move. If she had to live through this humiliation, she wanted to do it with as much freedom as possible. So she turned around and walked out of the room with her head heald as high as she could.
When she stepped out on the street, she was greeted by six more soldiers who were apparently her own personal guard for the way to the palace. The soldiers moved beside her and then they began their little procession through town. Elin felt the stares of their neighbours and everyone else on the street. Her father was one of the richest men in the realm and everyone knew him, so of course they knew her as well. She could hear the whispers and tried not to think about the rumours that would spread through the streets in a few hours. All she wanted to do was run but she knew that her entourage would never let her get away.
With every step closer to the palace, Elin's spirit sank and her heart felt heavier in her chest. She thought about all the men she had turned down in the past and wondered how her life would be if she had picked any one of them. She knew that she probably wouldn't be happy, since she didn't love any of her past suitors. But anything would be better than this. Anything would be better than having to become Odin's whore. She had always protected her virtue, never allowed a man to touch her. And now she knew that she had to throw it all away.
Once inside the walls of Odin's palace, only two of the soldiers remained by her side and led her through long hallways. Under different circumstances Elin would have marveled at the beauty of it all. Now all she could do was worry about the things that were awaiting her. Eventually, they stopped outside one of the big wooden doors. After a moment, two women, apparently maids, opened the door. They smiled at Elin, thanked the soldiers and then led her inside.
Elin looked around and saw a large, steaming bathtub in the middle of the room. Without saying a word, the maids began to undress her and then led her to the tub. Giving into her fate, Elin sat down in the hot water. Using different soaps and essences, the two women began to wash and cleanse her entire body, obviously following orders. Suddenly Elin felt sick to her stomach. She realised that they were preparing her for her duties, for her first night with the Allfather. After bathing her, the maids dried her body and clothed her in a white silk gown that didn't do much to cover her body. They braided her long, brown hair into a thick braid and then nodded contently as they looked at her. Elin glanced at herself in the mirror and was surprised by how beautiful she looked. But it wasn't until she saw her own reflection, that she realised she was trembling like a leaf. She wondered if the two women knew what they were preparing her for, but their expressions didn't give anything away. After adding a final touch of perfume, Elin was lead back into the hallway where the two soldiers were still waiting. Nobody said a word but she knew that she was to follow them.
After what seemed like an endless walk through the palace, the soldiers guided Elin through another large door and closed it behind her. All she could hear was her own heartbeat in her chest. She looked around the room and shuddered as her glance fell on the large bed. She crossed her arms before her chest, trying to cover herself a little bit more. The room was huge with a high ceiling. The large windowfront led to a balcony that apparently overlooked the beautiful palace garden. Elin was curious but didn't dare to take a closer look. She turned around, examining the rest of the room. There was a large fireplace, a dining table that was much bigger than it needed to be for private chambers. And there were bookshelves, endless bookshelves that covered the entire wall. Forgetting her fate for a second, Elin's heart jumped at the sight of so many books. Her father had never allowed her to read to she taught herself during night time. Even though they had quite an extensive private library in their home, she had never seen that many books in once place. Elin was tempted to take a closer look, but before she could, she noticed the large figure emerging from the shadow.
„I am pleased to see that your father upheld his part of the agreement“, Odin said as he stepped closer.
„Allfather.“ Elin lowered her eyes and sank to her knees to pay her respect to the king.
Odin reached for her hand and pulled her back on her feet. „What is your name?“
„Elin, my lord“, she answered and tried to hide the fact that her voice was shaking.
„Elin...“, he repeated her name and examined her from head to toe with his eyes. „How old are you?“
„I am 18, my lord.“
A throaty growl escaped his mouth and Elin couldn't help but shudder in disgust. „Tell me, Elin, have you ever lain with a man?“ She shook her head. Odin stepped even closer and unhooked her arms that were still crossed in front of her chest. His eyes narrowed a bit and then he cupped her breasts with his hands. The thin fabric of her dress did nothing to shield her body from his touch. He let his thumbs glide over her nipples and much to her dismay, her treacherous body responded with her nipples hardening under his touch. Odin grinned at her. „You wouldn't lie to your king, would you?“ With that, he let one hand slide between her legs.
Without thinking, Elin pulled back from him and slapped him right across the face. She gasped once realised what she had done. She stood there, once again trembling and didn't dare to look at the Allfather. She wasn't sure how he would react, but striking the king would not go unpunished, that she knew. Many moments passed and Odin still didn't say anything. So Elin gathered all her courage to look at him and was almost shocked when she saw a wide grin on his face.
„My my“, he eventually said. „I had no idea my new plaything was such a little fighter.“ Elin wanted to respond to the in her eyes disrespectful way of referring to her, but she didn't dare to. „Elin, did your father tell you why I summoned you here?“
„You didn't summon me, you bought me.“ She waited a second to await his reply but the king remained silent. „My king, I know why I'm here. I am to be your servant, your slave, your...plaything. But believe me when I tell you that I am not here at my free will. You may have an arrangement with my father, but not with me.“ Odin raised an eyebrow. „He sold you something that was not his to sell. My body is my own and not yours to play with whenever you wish.“
„I am the king“, he replied in a harsh tone.
„You are, my lord. But you cannot command me to give myself to you. Because I never will. If you want my virtue, you will have to claim it forcefully. But know that I will not give up such a precious thing without a fight.“ Elin took a deep breath and applauded herself for her courage. She was sure that the king would not be impressed by her, but she wanted him to know who he was dealing with.
„I dare say your father sold you under value my dear“, Odin replied, still smiling. „It is admirable that your honour means so much to you. I am just afraid it has no value for me. But...“ He began to nestle with his armour, taking off one piece at a time. „...I am going to enjoy you trembling with fear every time you look at me. Because you must know that I will claim you. Not tonight, but eventually. And when I do, you will give yourself to me. Even more so, you will beg before I am done with you.“ Elin was disgusted by his words. Never in all eternity would she do any of this. After having rid himself of his armour, Odin moved on to disrobing himself. Elin shyly looked away. „You are mine now, Elin. You are a servant to my throne and you will serve me, I assure you.“ She quickly glanced over and saw the Allfather, now entirely naked, settling down on the bed. She looked out the window and only now realised that it was already dark outside. „You should rest now. And don't even try to escape this room. There really is no point in it.“
Elin stood still and waited for further instructions from the king. But he simply rolled to his side, obviously ready to sleep. She watched him for quite some time, watched his breath become deeper and more even. Not really knowing what to do with herself, Elin set down on the soft carpet in front of the fireplace. She wasn't sure if he expected her to share his bed, but unless he ordered her, she would not do so voluntarily. So she grabbed one of the large pillows and settled down herself. Her head was still spinning and once she closed her eyes, the surreal scenes from earlier in the day flashed through her mind. Just a few hours ago, she was a free woman. Now she didn't know if she would ever leave this room again. She tried to calm herself and hoped for sleep to wash over her, but her thoughts would not let her. Elin sat up again and looked around the room. The silent snoring from the bed told her that Odin was asleep. Without his warning, she would have tried to run away, but now she was too scared.
Every single word the king had said to her resonated inside her. She'd heard him speak to his people on several occasions and nothing he ever said publically prepared her for the kind of language he used towards her. All her life, she had considered him a wise and kind man. But the man she met today was none of that. He was a predator and she was his prey. And sooner or later he would consume her, that she knew.
She knew that she would not get any sleep, so Elin slowly got up. She glanced over to the bed to assure that Odin was still asleep. But the sight before her almost caused her to scream. She pressed her hands against her mouth and then slowly approached the bed. With each step, her eyes widened even more. The man stretched out on the bed was not Odin. Instead of his massive body, she now looked at long legs, strong arms and a muscly chest. Instead of the grey hair and beard, there were now long, black strands of hair draped across the bed. Elin closed her eyes for a moment and opened them again. The sight before her was still the same. Trying not to make a sound, she moved even closer to the bed. Nothing about this made sense to her and Elin didn't understand how it was possible. She froze when the man on the bed turned in his sleep. When she saw his face, she could no longer surpress a gasp. She knew who he was. She didn't know how he could be in the Allfather's bed, when all of Asgard had moaned his death. But she was certain that the man before her was Loki, Odin's son and the god of mischief.