“Well? What sort of curse has been cast upon me?”
After examining Thor’s neck for naught but a moment, Loki looked at his brother with sadness in his eyes. He tilted his head to one side, appearing unsure of what to say.
Thor frowned. “What is it?”
“This is no seidr, Thor. At least, not one cast by some sorcerer,” Loki said.
“Speak plainly, brother.”
“The marks are not a curse—the threads of this magic are rooted in Yggdrasil itself. They are the marks that tie your soul to your beloved’s.”
Thor stared at him.
“It is likely that they are just what they seem—they are but bruises, brother. I am sorry.” Loki gazed at him with pity in his eyes.
Thor brought a hand to his skin and felt a deep sorrow and anger surge within him, for the bruises that circled his neck like a noose were cruel, in the shape of fingers.
He attempted to contact his soulmate after that.
Thor had stormed the halls of the palace, sure that his beloved would be of nobility, but none had the matching bruises.
Perhaps they were of a different realm? The bruises were taking long to disappear, and not all the other races healed as quickly as the Aesir. He thought of visiting Vanaheim, entertaining the idea that his soulmate was Freyja, lithe and beautiful as she was. Or perhaps they were the strong and virile Freyr, who had shared his bed in the past.
Tracking spells did not work on soul bonds, that he knew. But there was a simpler way to find out who it was, and inwardly Thor cursed himself for not thinking of it sooner.
He sequestered himself in his study and gathered a quill and some ink. He put the quill to his forearm, writing the runes of his name.
He waited. And waited. He had to force himself to temper his impatience; it had only been a few hours––his soulmate probably hadn’t even seen it yet.
He decided to wait a few days longer, and took extra care not to wash off the ink. Every night for three days, he eagerly took off his vambraces and had to quash his disappointment each time.
At the end of the week, Thor scrubbed the black from his arms. In his gloom, he failed to notice the fresh bruises on his legs.
Thor was angry. He had been feeling more irritable lately and had taken it out on the Warriors Three earlier during training. Sif, after helping a bleeding Fandral to his feet, had punched him in the face and called him an inconsiderate boor.
Already his right eye was starting to swell. It didn’t hurt, of course; no, a black eye was an inconvenience at most. The people at court did not dare whisper as he stormed angrily past them; nobody bothered Thor when he was in a mood. Good, he thought; he wanted to be alone. Thor headed for his chambers.
He decided to bathe and take his mind off things. As he shed his clothes, something on his left leg caught his eye.
It was so small he almost missed it. There, near the juncture of his thigh and hip, were a set of letters, neatly written.
Are you okay?
He rushed into his room to grab something to write with. He had tried to communicate frequently over the past few years, but his soulmate never responded. He’d not thought of using anything but runes, and while ordinarily that would frustrate him—it had been so simple!—he was excited at this turn of events, foul mood gone in an instant.
By the time he had found a quill, the words had turned into a faint smudge. He panicked; he did not want his soulmate to feel that he had ignored them.
Quickly, he wrote down a sentence in a looping scrawl.
I am alright. This is nothing; it does not hurt.
There was a brief moment of nothing. Thor waited with bated breath. Letters appeared slowly, the writing almost hesitant.
It looks like it hurts to me.
Can you erase the writing?
Thor frowned, and immediately wrote back.
Why do you not wish for others to see?
He did not think it was for privacy. The first message had been wiped clean, even though it would be hidden by layers of clothing.
There was nothing for a while, and Thor had honestly thought he had scared his soulmate into silence. When the writing resumed again, he closed his eyes, feeling immensely grateful. The feeling didn’t last long. The words said,
My dad’ll get mad.
Thor clenched his fists.
Your father is the one who hits you? The reason why you have fresh bruises every day?
His soulmate erased their words again, and Thor got up to find a washcloth and do the same. He let out a breath, furious.
Trying to calm himself, something occurred to him. He wrote down the words, in such a rush that his script lacked its usual grace.
What is your name?
Nothing for a long time. He wrote again.
I am Thor, son of Odin.
He hoped to spark some recognition, anything. Maybe his beloved was a commoner; he would accept them nonetheless. Thor knew he was grasping at straws, for it was more likely they were from a different planet entirely; the realms he was familiar with such as Vanaheim or Alfheim rarely used this alphabet, and they did not write the way his soulmate did.
Thor was occupied enough that when new words appeared, their meaning did not reach him at first. When they did, his brow furrowed.
Why would you say something like that?
Thor wrote many things in return, questions and pleas to not stop writing, all to which his soulmate never replied.
Years passed and they never replied.
Thor had bruises on his neck again. This time, the mark was an ugly purple bruise that went all the way around from the hollow of his throat to his nape.
He was angry, and horrified, and so, so scared.
Are you there?
Please write back.
Please be alright
Bruce sat in the emergency room with his aunt. He read the words on his wrist and cried.