The storm season had been far harsher than in times before. The lack of the Anchor helped damage the climate and ecosystem, but this problem had gone on for close to a millennium and three centuries that people did not really pay attention to it anymore, resigned to the slow death of their realm. What had really done the damage, in the physical aspect as well as other – worse – aspects, was the unmanned, unprecedented Bifrost attack that had damaged parts of the tended fields in Agglasý, a quarter down the globe from the Capital.
After the season had passed, as always, groups of civilian analysts went out to the surrounding areas of their homes and settlements, to assess the new damages. With them went the rescuers, to rescue whatever unfortunate life forms that had been trapped in the outside during the blizzards – for a proper burial or treatment, oftentimes, instead of for healing. However, this season, the paltry handful of guards that watched the backs of these civilians and shooed or shot down starving wildlife away had been increased two-fold, by the decree of the Monarch. It was because everyone – sentients and animals alike, and even the more sensitive plantlife – had been disturbed by the violent addition of this foreign energy, not seen since the violent misunderstanding turned into war that had robbed Ýmirheim off its Anchor all those centuries ago; and disturbed, starving animals, here, often meant death for the hapless persons being their victims.
Quite a raucous – not to mention, frantic – furore was raised when, close to the palace in the Capital, the still-living body of a child was discovered, piled under an ice scree topped by a snowdrift that would have been far taller than she was, if she were able to stand. As it was, she was an unconscious, weakly shivering mess when the rescuers found her, having been tipped off by the smattering of – oddly Asgardian – clothing found as a trail leading to this instant hillock. She was perhaps naturally thin and naturally small, because the decree about feeding the few children and nursing adults left after the war before everyone else should have reasonably spared her from starvation, but she still looked quite a sight. The vague feeling of familiarity that some of the palace’s staff who participated in the rescue team held towards the rescuee only stirred everyone that were involved in this hullabaloo further.
So far, in fact, that the Monarch got involved, after the rescuee had been run to the closest healer available, who happened to be the resident healer in the palace. One of the rescuers, who happened to be the Monarch’s secretary, had run to the Monarch with her observations, and Konnar Laufey had reacted.
The Monarch, having lost her womb-children at the end of the disastrous war and – pretty recently – her mate-children also, had understandably changed from the before. She was distant and withdrawn, conducting her duties with mechanical meticulousness, while she had been adventurous and friendly as a youth, if more silent and thoughtful than her late elder womb-sibling had been, which had transformed into caring attention and nurture when she had ascended the throne. The most emotion that people had witnessed in this new Laufey was when she had been highly insulted and psychologically wounded by the eldest Odinson in the latter’s escapade to Ýmirheim, right on the commemoration day of the respective loss and death of her newborn twins, which had unfortunately preceded the deaths of her mate-children, which had in turn shut her off worse than before…
…Until now, that was.
The resident healer, who had been the Royal Family’s physician and mage since the days of Bergelmir, Laufey’s mother, had discovered layers of concealment, form locking, distraction and various other wards and enchantments, keyed to recognition and identification, embedded deep in the child’s mind and body. These layers had not been the child’s doing, and that only left a successful attempt of kidnapping as the reason.
Laufey exploded, almost literally so, with a whole chunk of wasteland as the victim of her ice attacks and weather manipulations, after she had done what she could for the child and promptly retreated to the said wasteland.
She exploded again, this time more in grief than fury, when the healer certified that the child was really hers; her lost newborn, having grown up stunted and thin as a rail, suggesting a hot-climate, cuddleless, milkless upbringing.
The findings suggested that the child – Loptr, dear Loptr, beloved Loptr, poor little, lost Loptr – had been kidnapped not by anybody from Ýmirheim.
At least, no more of Ýmir’s own Children had been found guilty of royal line endangerment; no more than those who had been involved in the death of Loki, the younger twin of Loptr.
It was the sort of comfort that tore open a deep, wide gash on the chest with a serrated blade and packed salt in it.
Laufey was nearly unbearable to live with, let alone to work with, for the next while. If she was not with her child, nursing and cuddling and talking to the latter, in spite of the child’s state of unconsciousness, she was overseeing the changes necessary – and not so necessary, too – to welcome Loptr back in her life and her realm.
And then, the child regained consciousness, laid wrapped in furs in the anxious monarch’s arms, and the first thing that she did was to squeak in fright upon beholding the face of her own mother.
The second thing that she did was to try to attack her very startled, very furious, very aggrieved mother; and with that, Laufey got a taste of the very, very familiar magic that she possessed.
It was the magic of the glamoured Asgardian who had offered to bring “a few of your people, King Laufey” to take back the Anchor from Asgard.
It was the magic of the same glamoured Asgardian who had offered for “King Laufey” to murder “King Odin” while the latter had been unconscious and vulnerable, after the failure of the first offer.
The first escapade had cost Ýmirheim the lives of two soldiers and – during the altercation with the band of invading Asgardians afterwards – Býleistr, Laufey’s younger mate-child. The second one had cost them – again – the lives of two soldiers and now Helblindi, her elder mate-child.
All, incited by this frail being in her arms who feared and hated her in equal measure, who had apparently been the second prince of Asgard’s line, who had been a traitor to two opposing realms, who was the fruit of her own womb and her sole remaining child.
And for what? Her death? The subjugation of Ýmirheim? The destruction of both Ýmirheim and Asgard?
“Why?” was the only thing that she managed to croak out past all the grief, all the hurt, all the anger, all the confusion.
And Loptr flinched in her arms, as if expecting a physical or verbal thrashing.
The image of the Anchor, longed for and needed and coveted, flashed in her mind. But Loptr’s – all too light – weight in her arms – at last, at long, long last, here, with her – was real.
In the end, Laufey, Monarch of Ýmirheim and mother, for once forsook her duties to her people and the indifferent justice owed towards both Ýmirheim and Asgard.
Justice had never been done to her, anyway. She served herself, now, for once in her whole life.
“If you wished to trap me in Asgard, you should have baited the trap with yourself, child,” she told the shivering bundle in her cuddling embrace as she nursed the latter, and she meant it. “I would have come right away, for you.”