There was something about being in the mountains that Loki enjoyed. The cool, crisp air when summer faded into fall and fall into winter, fresh apple harvests, the mountains rising in the distance . . . whether he was on Midgard, Asgård, or anywhere else in the Nine Realms, he found something different each time to bring him solace whenever something in his life seemed to run astray and he needed the space to clear his mind.
Colorado happened to be no different in that respect. The mountains stood tall in the distance, the darkening sky dotted with a few stars creating an almost perfect backdrop for anyone who wished to take a moment to enjoy the view. He perched himself on the top of a barn and inhaled a deep breath. A few inches of snow rested on the ground and next to him.
On the ground, several Midgardians roamed about on the property, laughing and generally conversing with each other as they went about their daily routines. Three small girls played in the small amount of snow while three older girls watched over them, pretending to be bored but failing. Though he’d woven an invisibility spell about him, from the way some of them glanced in his direction from time to time, Loki suspected they, the three older women at least, knew he was there, watching them and taking note. He closed his eyes.
It had been an accident, if anyone thought to ask him, his discovering these three women. With Alfablót behind Asgård and Midgard, the preparations for the upcoming Yule holiday had become quite overwhelming for the young trickster god and for the first time ever. Rumors were flying over something big happening in the golden city of the gods, many speculating the impending announcement of Thor being coronated as king, and the incessant chatter and private congratulations to his elder brother grated on Loki and left his head pounding. He desired escape from the festivities, and Midgard offered it to him. At least the mortals possessed no knowledge of Thor and his status on Asgård and thus were rightly quiet on the whole coronation. When no one was watching him, Loki veiled himself from their gazes, including Heimdall’s, and traversed the secret pathways to Midgard, ultimately landing in a bustling city called Colorado Springs and only to be more troubled by his discovery than the whisperings and bustling of his fellow Asgårdians.
“Something troubling you, my son?”
Loki’s eyes flew open, and he nearly fell from the barn’s roof upon hearing his father’s voice. Odin grabbed him by the arms to keep him from toppling over the edge.
“Father, how . . .” he managed to get out but then snapped his mouth shut. His cheeks burned. He knew why his father had come here. His gaze strayed to the three women conversing with the two men, some wooden chests on the ground at their feet. More laughter came from them as they pulled out strings and garlands of pine.
His sisters. The three women on the ground were somehow his sisters. He’d sensed as much when he stumbled across them in the bookstore mere hours ago, and he’d followed them here, to this quiet bit of land near the mountains, trying to figure out the hows and the why for such a thing being possible.
Odin offered him a smile and guided him back to where he was sitting. When Loki was situated comfortably once more, the Allfather joined him.
“Am I not allowed to visit my children from time to time?” he asked. He gestured to the three women then to the children. “Or my grandchildren?”
“You are,” Loki mumbled, his gaze on his hands. “But I don’t . . .”
“Don’t what?” Odin asked gently. “Understand?” To that, Loki nodded, and he continued. “It must seem rather confusing, for all I have said about the mortals. I know there are many in Asgård who view humans as less than us, thanks to my decree in keeping Midgard separated, and perhaps that is my own fault. There were other things at play at the time I made my decree. I only wished to keep our people safe. Though we are immune to their weapons, we are not immune to other forms of death and destruction. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Inquisition?”
“Yes,” Loki managed, finally finding his voice. “You think they would have tried to hurt our people?”
“Given how the humans’ fear was driving them in their quest to subjugate,” Odin replied, “I know they would have tried, and they might have succeeded. It was best to withdraw at the time.”
“That doesn’t explain them, though,” Loki murmured, his turn to gesture to the women. “They are your daughters, my sisters. Why . . .? How, even . . .?”
“They are as mortal as any human on this planet,” Odin supplied. “I want you to know that first and foremost. They have their own fathers, their own families whom they grew up with, all of whom are still living and breathing, for the most part. What you won’t see, what most won’t see, is how their families have actually abandoned them.”
“Abandoned?” Loki echoed. “How does one have a family, grow up amongst them, yet be abandoned?”
He hated to admit it, but a part of him resonated with what Odin was saying. He fought to keep from shifting in discomfort.
“Because they were different,” the old man answered. He clasped Loki by the shoulder. “They held onto their truths. Though loved by their families, they have been emotionally cast out. I knew such a thing would happen upon their births. Their souls always have been, and always will be, those of my own choosing.”
Loki said nothing, just stared at the women.
“They’re from Valhalla,” he eventually said.
“Yes. They’re from Valhalla,” Odin confirmed. A slight smile tugged upon his lips. “Much like you were.”
“What?” Loki tilted his head, his eyes narrowing.
“I’ll explain in a moment,” the old man said. “There is more I want you to know about your sisters first. Do you see the dark-haired one?”
“Yes,” Loki nodded. “She stands out from the other two.”
“Her name is Lorelei Schmidt,” Odin continued. “She is the oldest by a few days, and she bears a close resemblance to another sister you have. In all of her previous lives, she has been some form of a shield-maiden, including being a Valkyrie once. She’s one I’ve had a hard time always finding a place for as time has continued on for the mortals, unless it has been as a man, which isn’t always a good thing. When I haven’t been able to place her on Midgard, I’ve found other worlds for her. She’s too fierce to be anything but a warrior, though this time . . .” and he smiled fondly, “This time sees her taking up some of healing arts. For that, I am grateful. It gives me some hope for what it is to come.”
“What is to come?” Loki blinked.
“Yes. Patience, my boy. You are hearing something only your mother, the Norns, and Freya of Vanaheim even know about. Now.” He gestured to the taller of the two blonde haired women. “Second born amongst your sisters here, for they truly are only a few days apart in age, is Bethany Schmidt. Like Lorelei, she, too, has been a shield-maiden and a Valkyrie. They have all been Valkyries, actually. Bethany has also had a fondness for singing. Placing her has been the easiest, though, sadly in some cases. She’s been all too willing at times to bend herself into being something she isn’t supposed to be, a lesson I hope she’s outgrown this time around.”
Loki listened, absorbing this information. All the while, he watched the women, the two men, and the children as they hung the strings and garlands on the outer portions of the house. The entire time, dogs pranced about and barked. A large black cat sat on the porch guard, one eye missing. A slight charge tingled against Loki’s skin, and he sat up a little straighter for it.
“Finally, there’s Victorea Schmidt,” Odin said. “No doubt she’s the one who captured your attention the most.”
“She is,” Loki agreed. “She’s . . . I don’t even know how to begin to describe her.”
“You sound like Frey on that one,” Odin chuckled. “Yes, she’s certainly a force to be reckoned with. Valkyrie, priestess, she has been whatever I have asked her spirit to be in every life, in every world. One of the last time their spirits had been together in the same life, they nearly destroyed each other. They almost did so in this life, too, but they’ve managed to come around.”
“Is that why you favor them, Father?” Loki asked. “Because their souls have come from Valhalla?”
“Partly,” Odin conceded. “And partly because they have purposely made themselves different from the rest of the mortals. They found ways to travel to the worlds they used to reside in with only the use of magic, and, yes, Midgardians can utilize magic. These three happen to be more prominent than most, thanks to who has taught them and their own latent abilities. They are also women reclaiming their power in changing, turbulent times, and they are still not done. Not yet. There is more to come, and they are the wardens and teachers for those events. We would call it Ragnarök.”
Loki couldn’t fight the chill that descended upon him at his father’s words. Ragnarök was a hushed subject on Asgård, the end of the Nine as all knew it.
“They are to prevent it?” he asked. Odin shook his head.
“Nay. There is no stopping change,” the Allfather said. “You know this. You despise change and complacency. You always have, and that’s why you’ve caused as much disturbances as you have.” A glint of mischief reflected in Odin’s good eye. “Rather, these women will aid those who will see the end of current Midgardian times and be ushering in a different, more . . . enlightening era for mortals.”
“How?” Loki asked. “From what I’ve observed of Midgardians this time around, they’re more destructive and careless than they have been in centuries past, Father. They are destroying themselves at a faster rate than ever noted before.”
“Because of the young ones they are currently raising and teaching,” Odin supplied. “My granddaughters, your nieces. Because they have realized they are meant to shine as you have seen them do. Watch, Loki, and learn. Something is about to shift here, and I want you to watch it with me.” He pointed in the direction of a copse of trees a little to the north of the property.
Loki’s attention went where the Allfather had directed it. In the distance, a faint orb of light appeared and twisted, and something fell from within the epicenter.
‘Nay, not a something,’ Loki told himself, his eyes picking up on blond hair. ‘A someone. Another human. How is that even possible? The nearest road to the north is outside the fences, and those trees are inside the fences. Where did he come from? How did he even get there?’
“And one more player is added to the field,” Odin murmured. “Yet only one. I was expecting two.”
“Two?” Loki tilted his head.
“An agreement with another,” his father supplied, “someone who is able to move whoever he wishes to wherever he wishes. He’s capable of even placing others on different planets, if the whim takes him. He knows better than to utilize it carelessly, or he’ll have to face me, but, if I need a soul from one place, he’s often willing to aid me. Currently, I need two, but, in this timeline, they are . . . not human. I need their human aspects. Luther has willingly agreed to bring them here instead of me trying to get my girls to go to them. They have much to do here, and the two I require can be put back to where they were far easier than what my daughters can do right now. I simply hope Luther’s powers don’t go too far to his head, or he may end up facing some rather dire consequences.”
“Is it something he can teach me?” Loki asked eagerly. Excitement coursed through him. To be able to take someone from one time, one place and place them in another sounded truly powerful indeed.
“Perhaps,” Odin said. “In due time, anyway. You’re still a bit too young and impetuous for such a thing.”
Loki tried to pout, but he understood his father’s point. Given he also had no idea on how to even contact this Luther to learn such a thing, Loki decided to follow his father’s wisdom. Instead, he chose to be silent and to observe.
The human in the distance stumbled a little bit. He appeared to be trying to fight something or someone, if his actions were any indication. His form was sloppy, in Loki’s opinion, and an indication of someone poorly trained as a warrior. When whatever it, or who it, was didn’t appear, the human paused and looked around.
In the yard, the children laughed and played. Loki noted Victorea had gone inside at some point for she opened the door and started to call out names.
“Freya, Ember, Idunna, Harmony, Skye, it’s time to come inside,” she called out. The three younger girls stopped what they were doing and ran towards her along with two of the older girls.
“Terryn, that means you, too,” Bethany said.
The two older women surrounded the children along with the two men. The gaiety never seemed to end around them, and Loki’s heart warmed at the sight. He wanted to sneak into the home, to be in the kitchen where undoubtedly a lot of Victorea’s magic took place. He adored hearth fires, hearth stories, and he believed Victorea did, too. Odin chuckled and patted him on the shoulder.
“You’ll get your chance to speak with her soon enough, my boy,” he murmured. “Keep watching. You’re about to see a future unfold.”
Another portal of light appeared next to the first human who had appeared seemingly out of nowhere and deposited yet another human, this one with red hair. Loki squinted his eyes a little bit and noticed both were woefully underdressed for the current weather. Daylight hours were warmer than usual, but the nighttime saw cooler drops. If either of the newcomers thought of hiding in the copse of trees, they were both foolish.
“Should I go aid them, Father?” he asked.
“What are they doing?” Odin asked.
“They’re . . .” Loki leaned forward and squinted, “well, I thought they might try to hide in the trees for the evening, but it appears that they’re heading for the house.”
“Good. They’re not prepared for this kind of weather,” Odin said. “Luther’s doing, no doubt.”
“I can’t give away the fact they’re from the future, now can I?” a new voice added. Loki glanced over his shoulder to see a blond-haired man with dark, icy blue eyes standing right behind them. He wore armor of white, gold, and black leather. White gloves covered his hands. “Though I somehow doubt such an attempt will be futile with these ones, won’t it?”
“Possibly,” Odin said. He rose to his feet and faced the newcomer. “Luther, this is my youngest son, Loki. Loki, this is Luther Lansfeld. He’s the director and owner of a company called Sphere 211 in a realm known as the fourth dimension. Everyone there believes he’s created this universe.”
“I thought I had, too,” Luther scowled. “You were rather quick to point out the error in that thinking and fast, too.” His visage brightened a little. “At least now I know I’m not crazy for believing them to be real. The rest of my people still think me crazy for it, but it’s a relief to know that I am not. Besides,” and he grinned in a way Loki recognized all too well, “if we don’t see our, er, creations as real, how do we expect anyone else to see them as real, right? That’s what I’ve taken to telling my employees. Sadly, they’re going to be in for a world of hurt once Leingod is unleashed amongst them. It can’t be helped, though the destruction he will cause will aid me in getting rid of those who would betray me and try to destroy this world.”
“This realm is under threat?” Loki raised an eyebrow at that but found his attention riveted to the two men trudging towards the house. The blond fell, somehow weakened, and the dogs took notice. Three of them let out loud bays and howls then took off in their direction. Victorea and the two men chased after them while Lorelei and Bethany herded the children into the home faster.
“It’s always under threat,” Luther replied grimly. “Not always from my own people, either. That’s where these three women come in, or has your father not told you that about them yet?”
“I have not,” Odin said.
“What do they do? Have they resumed their Valkyrie roles somehow?” Loki asked.
“They never really stopped being Valkyries,” Odin noted gently. “The only difference is that now they are sorceresses of a higher caliber than what is taught in Tibet under the Ancient One. Self-taught and protected, too. They are this realm’s protectors from inter-dimensional threats. Being who they were in a previous lifetime, those threats have no problems focusing their attention on my daughters. If they eliminate the women and their consorts, permanently, then such powers will have free reign.”
“And how do you propose to keep that from happening?” Loki finally tore his attention from the scene playing out before him.
“That’s where you and your older sister, Hela, come in,” Odin said.
“What?” Loki blinked. “Older sister? What do you mean, older sister? Where is she? Why hasn’t anyone ever mentioned her?”
“Because I had to banish her shortly after Thor was born,” Odin murmured. “It is not a moment I am proud of, but I believed her to be beyond redemption at the time. However, a recent conversation has given me reason to reflect upon my decision and to change my mind. I will explain more upon us returning to Asgård. But before we do that,” and Odin’s gaze on Luther turned steely, “What of Fayt Leingod?”
“Safe,” Luther promised. “I, uh, had to make a threat of annihilation in order for his powers to be secured and enhanced, but he’s safe and secure for the moment. I have him in a state of stasis for the time being.”
“See that he remains that way,” Odin said.
“I shall,” Luther promised. “To kill him would be to kill myself, and I have much I wish to do before my life truly ends, Allfather. We are truly opposites in power.”
“I know,” Odin smirked. He wrapped an arm around Loki’s shoulders. “With that taken care of, make sure Edge and Crowe end up back to where they need to be. We can’t have the future remaining ignorant. Those two are our best bets. Enjoy your holidays, Luther.”
“You as well, Allfather.” Luther tipped his head in a bow. “I look forward to working with you and your sister soon, Loki. Until we meet again.” He simply disappeared. No flash of light. No grand gestures. He was simply gone. Loki raised an eyebrow, a little impressed.
“He’s . . . interesting,” Loki murmured.
“He is. What is your actual impression of him, however?”
“He’s arrogant,” Loki said. “But he’s also honest. Kind of like Thor in that respect. He won’t betray you or anyone else. He truly has this realm’s best interests in his heart. Whoever this Fayt Leingod is, Luther will see him safe.”
“Father . . .”
“Why do you truly favor these Midgardians?” Loki asked. “I know what you said, but I feel that there is more to this than what you’ve stated.”
“I favor them because they remind me what it means to be a father, to love and to be loved, unconditionally,” he replied in a soft tone. “And they have reminded me that I have duties to you, to Thor, and to your sister, and that the main duty is to love. For too long, I’ve been silent on what it is you have accomplished. Tonight, in Asgård, we start to celebrate the things that make us different. The good things. This Yule, we remember what it means to be a family.”
“And does that mean finally telling me what you meant by me being from Valhalla?” Loki asked.
“Yes,” Odin chuckled. “Yes, it does. Come. Let us return home and to our own hearth fire for that conversation. Shall we?”
Loki nodded. They leapt nimbly from the barn’s roof and strode to the east, the sky darkening with each passing moment. Loki spared one final glance to Victorea, to the home with the children and the unusual family it contained then he and the Allfather were gone.