Recently Peter has been curious about Norse mythology. How much of it is true? Well, I say, truth is about perspective. Truth is that what you believe to be true, the facts that you have. Fact, I tell him, is not going to fit everyone's truth. I take pity on him though, as always, and decide to tell him a story before he goes to bed.
One day in midwinter, a very long time ago, my brother asked me who I knew out of the other pantheons. "Nobody," I responded, "except Bor who died long ago." Humming in agreement, my brother swallowed the last pomegranate seeds and announced, "I had a guest last week." I was, frankly, stunned. Who comes to the underworld? More to the point, who gets to leave again? This could be very interesting to hear. "Oh? I'm shocked, brother. Well? Who was it? Were they here for a quest? Under orders?What-"
"Hush, sister, be calm. It was the young Norse trickster god. Loki Odinson, whose birth I believe you informed me of. His mother used to be a friend of yours, did she not? She sends her love." Speechless, I stare at my mirthful sibling in awe. I hadn't realised she still lived...
"Loki is Micheif, Lies,Trickery, so on and so forth, and he told me that he discovered one of our entrances quite by accident. He transformed into a blackbird and flew down here, tricking his way past Cerberus and Charon to land on the sill of the judging hall. He told me that he watched for quite some time, and had come to see that for all I am a fair and just ruler, I was lonely. So what does our intrepid young acquaintance do? He flew down, turned back to his Aesir form, and introduced himself." Hades- or Aidoneus, as he was still occasionally known by his birth name- leant back in his throne-like seat at the head of the long table. His pale angular face was softened by the uncommonly good humour he was in. Seeing this, I decided I would welcome this godling to our court even if I disliked him. Anyone who could make by brother forget the weight he carried as Lord of the Underworld and God of the Dead was a welcome addition to our tiny circle of friends. His shockingly blue eyes, bluer than any other Olympian's, glittered in the dull light. I smiled.
"Then he is welcome here, love, for he makes you happy. When will he return?"
My brother looks thoughtful. Perhaps he hadn't truly believed I'd react positively-our youth left us wary of those we don't know. "I think, love, we will invite him for Persephone's returning feast. That will give us time to ensure we can host properly, and allow the two of us time to hear my wife's tales." Nodding sharply, he tells me that that is what we'll do, and rises to return to the judging hall when a bell tolls hauntingly throughout the marble halls. Seph said that we really go in for the 'welcome to the land of the dead' aesthetic down here, and that "Couldn't you have gone against all of the traditional stereotypes about death? Seriously, stop laughing. I'm not joking. Why are you laughing so hard? Pull yourself together!" She rolled her eyes when I managed to calm down enough to tell her that the stereotypes come from us, we outdate them, and we really don't want to redecorate.
So the last few lonely winter week pass quicker this year, because we're planning a guest and it makes the loneliness of the cool dark underworld retreat for my brother just a little. So Loki comes for the feast, and I am beyond surprised when I see him. He's barely more than a child, just a pale teenager with hair the same impossibly dark hair as Nyx and emerald eyes and seidr, magic, whirling all over him.
He doesn't look like Frigga, until he moves and weaves a purple flower out of shimmering green seidr and present it to Seph.
He stays for a month and returns every year without fail- for a month, a day, sometimes only for the feast. Loki becomes as much my brother as Aidon, and we promised him he would always have a place with us when he needed a change of scenery or to be away from his family.
"I think that's it for tonight. Pete's yawning." Tony stops Peter's growing protests with a look. He pretends he doesn't go all Dad-mode on Peter as much as he pretends Steve doesn't go Dad-mode on him. I smile, and say goodnight to Peter as he gets up to follow Tony out. There'll be another story for him tomorrow if he wants it.