Nor realized two things as she stared at the dress laid out neatly on her bed.
One, she was too big for the lovely lace gown. Two, she didn’t know her vows which meant she’d never be worthy of it.
She knew she had exactly fifty years, three months, and six days until the day she needed to know her vows. Which wasn’t a lot of time to prepare for such an extravagant event but realistically she’d have them memorized by then so there was no need to stress. But she’d been practicing for months and she still stuttered over the lines no matter how much she rehearsed. Would five decades really be enough time for the words to flow from her with all the emotion she imagined? She had spent many nights lying awake with a dream where the whole kingdom cried at her wedding, and she would be sorely disappointed if she couldn’t move the real audience to tears.
None of it mattered anyway if she couldn’t even fit in the damn dress. The dress had belonged to Lady Sif herself, a gift that was worn at her own wedding to Prince Thor. It was long and hand stitched with beautiful white wild flowers, and had sleeves that dropped to her waist at the cuffs. The material of the dress was a fine silk covered with more lace roses across the chest. The skirt puffed out like a white cloud, it was adorned with vines that crawled along the skirt in a winding pattern that made Nor lose sight of where they started and ended. Like Lady Sif it was tall and elegant, no match to her short and wide stature.
She had tried it on as soon as she was in the safety of her room. She shucked off her training clothes, a simple tunic and loose pants tucked into her boots. The dress was too alluring not to try on, but when she pulled it over her head and smoothed out the body she had wanted to cry. The chest was too loose and the waist too tight. The once puffed skirt that made Lady Sif seem as she was floating only puddled at the floor for her while the long cuffs reached her ankles. It looked awful. She practically tore it off as soon as she glanced herself in the mirror. The very image was too painful to remember. Putting her training clothes on felt like covering a broken piece of furniture with a blanket and hoping no one would notice.
Now, she stared longingly at the dress and sighed. Maybe if she looked long enough it would magically shape to fit her. Or her body would shift into something more beautiful and tall.
“You’d look much better in red.” A small voice hissed. Nor huffed a laugh and began folding the gown carefully. She didn’t blink an eye at the sudden intrusion, only one being in the whole kingdom would be foolish enough to sneak up on a princess.
“Red haired girls can’t wear red, dear brother. I’d simply die if I was caught in a red dress. I’d look like a blown up cherry.” She gave her older sibling a pointed glare. He chuckled, a soft breathy noise that made her shoulders drop in ease.
“Maybe gold? You actually like gold.” He offered, moving from his place at the open door to be beside her. She sat on her knees and slid the perfectly packaged dress back under her bed. As she watched it disappear under the bed frame into the safety of the darkness her bottom lip began to quiver. She would look rather lovely in a gold gown, possibly adorned with just a little blue detailing around the hem. The colors of the Odinson clan. Her heart leapt at the beautiful vision of her wearing the imaginary dress.
“It has to be this one,” she reassured them both to pull herself from her daydream, “It has to be her’s.”
Her brother sighed and nodded. He opened his mouth to comfort her, to say something profound and very wise-big-brother esque, but nothing came out. He had hundreds of stories tucked away about brides who ran from their husbands to find something more. Tales of children defying their parents plans to be something better but realized that would only offend her. Nor wanted the dress to work. She wanted to get married. She wanted all of this. The very thought of the whole ordeal of the two royal families finally coming together under one name made him want to vomit. It had made her jump with joy, and if it made her happy he couldn’t make her doubt that happiness.
He shook his head, and instead opted for a bright smile to raise her spirits. Nor smiled back at him and wrapped an arm around his slender body.
“I heard a rumor that Father and the others will be back soon, probably before lunch,” he said, hoping the topic would distract her. Nor couldn’t help the disgruntled look that crossed her face. He chuckled and pulled away from the hug.
“Hopefully Uncle Thor wasn’t satisfied with the hunt and extended it. Or the dragon ate him!” Nor offered. This time it was Nor’s turn to laugh as her brother glared at her. They’d never meet eye to eye when it came to appreciating their father. Her brother would sing his praises all over Asgard and the rest of the realms if he could. Nor would rather her father make a home for himself in a troll’s belly.
“You could try to be civil when you see him. He’s been gone for so long, just try it. For me?” He asked. He rested his head on her shoulder and she sighed. Normally she would feel some sort of excitement at the thought of her father returning home. Though normally it was a nuisance, his presence often brought her some small form of comfort. It always made her feel better when she could say she was going home to her father like the rest of the children instead of having to admit she would be returning to just her brother. She wanted his approval like any other child, but she had learned at an early age that his love wasn’t easily earned. With Jormungandr the two were as thick as thieves, you couldn’t see one without the other. It hurt her more than she would admit when anyone made remarks on their bond.
This time all she felt was a gnawing dread in the pit of her stomach, stuck there like a stone since his departure. Normally before he left on any mission or spontaneous vacation he gave them a treat and a small goodbye. It had been a tradition to line up at their door and wait for their father with his bag slung over his shoulders too address him. Sometimes it hurt Nor to see him go, but lately it was becoming a less solemn affair, until his last trip. Often her brother received books while she received sweets of some kind. The gifts got smaller as they got older but they always came. No matter what the feelings about his departure were there would always be a gift waiting for them.
He had called them too the door where he had given her brother a new book he had found on his last visit to Midgaard that was all about modern languages. It was new, with bright white pages and an unbroken spine. She hated reading but had awed at it with him, most books on languages were old with molded pages and seeing something so new was amazing. When he turned she saw something different flash in his eyes when he looked at her. They lost their light and became glazed over, in a blink it was gone and it was like he was looking as if some beggar woman had approached him on the street. I’m the end, he had simply nodded at her, he didn’t even address her, he had just bobbed his head like it was something they’d always done. Then he was out the door, shouldering his pack of supplies as he started the walk to the Travel Room across the city.
Her brother insisted that the gift had been for both of them. It was a sign that she needed extra language lessons since she was still so far behind. That was what he tried to convince her, but she knew it must have meant something worse. She had felt a wave of nausea wash over her every time someone brought up the return of the hunting party, and even now it was make her stomach churn. But her brother was staring at her with wide hopeful eyes and she couldn’t tell him no.
“I’ll try. If they even come back today,” Nor knew how unreliable rumors spread around the castle were. She only heard a million a day about her siblings and father. She just hoped these ones were just as true.
“We’re okay, Nor.” He assured her, trying to pull her from her sadness.
As if on cue a crack of thunder sounded far outside the castle, shaking the stone floor beneath them. Nor fell hard on her butt as she lost her footing and her brother barely had enough time to brace himself on the bed frame. The tremors slowed to a halt and she could already here the roar of a crowd growing outside the castle. The siblings rose from their spot on the ground and approached the large window next to the bed that overlooked the city. Nor could make out the massive beast that was being carried through the crowd almost a mile away. Now she could see why the hunt had taken so long. The bigger the game the longer the hunt.
As they drew closer they could see Thor walking with his arms raised high, the gigantic dragon’s head held above his own. The scales looked like black rock and the soft skin between glowed like flowing lava. She could see the large divot in its head, and wondered briefly if it was Modi’s mace or Thor’s hammer that had blungeound it. Baldur was on his left, holding up one of the arms. Nor could see her father, Loki, on Thor’s right side carrying the same weight as Baldur. She couldn’t see Magni nor Modi, but she knew they were in the back holding up the legs as they walked.
They’d deposit their hunt at Odin’s feet once they arrived through the golden arched door. The whole castle would prepare for a feast that would be open to all citizens, and Nor knew it would be an absolute riot at the dining hall that night. The roar of the crowd and the amount of drunks were enough to stave away most, and she suspected many of the royal court would find themselves in their rooms tonight. But the real warriors in the castle would be there for the hunting stories. She loved stories, not so much reading, but hearing someone recount a tale was possibly one of her most favorite things in the whole world.
Especially when it came from her brother or her Uncle Thor, they always told them with such passion that anyone would stop to listen. She’d even admit that she loved her father’s stories. Loki always accompanied his stories with magic displays, like visuals made of colorful lights. They’d blow out the candles in the hall then he’d stand on his chair and with a wave of his hand he could create an entire landscape out of colorful, swirling lights. As he went on with the story the lights would shape into humans and great beasts. It was her favorite part of dinner. It was the only part she liked about her father.
“We should go down to greet them,” her brother mused. Nor rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. All the families of the royal hunting party would be waiting on their husbands and fathers to finally come home after a month away in Muspelheim. Nor couldn’t stand waiting with the the other families. Each had dozens of family members and friends awaiting their return in the courtyard, but at the far edge of the garden Nor and her brother would be waiting by themselves. No mothers or siblings or friends to speak of. It was a humiliating ordeal to have all of the royal court actively talking about her family, or lack thereof, within earshot.
But her brother was right, it would be expected of her, and her absence would lead to talking around the castle. They had enough gossip surrounding their family already and she certainly didn’t want it to be herself that added to it.
“Alright, fine. Hitching a ride?” She pulled away from the window and extended her arm to her brother. He smiled a wide, pointy toothed grin and snake his way up her arm where he then looped himself once around her neck. His scales were dry and peeling, and she couldn’t help the slight giggle as the rough texture touched her neck. Once she was sure he was secured around her she darted from her room, through the living area below, before kicking open the door. She made sure to take the sharpest left at the end of the corridor. The clicking of her boots softened as the stone floor turned into a lavish red rug trimmed with gold leaves along the sides.
“Stop running!” Her brother begged, shielding his face in her neck. Nor laughed louder and leapt in the air. She landed and twirled despite his constant threats streaming in her ear.
“Nor! So help me I’ll tell father!”
“I’d like to see you try!” She could already smell the wild gold roses that climbed up the brick walls of the court yard. She did another twirl which made him gag as a wave of nausea washed over him.
Their living quarters were the closest to the west courtyard, right next to the throne room. Often she spotted her grandfather taking a walk among the golden roses with his assistants and guards. She didn’t understand his preference for the miniature garden. The actual Royal Garden was far behind the castle with rolling hills and so many flowers Nor lost track of how many different kinds their were. If she were King she’d prefer to take all her meetings and work there.
She jumped over the stairs landing with a hard thud. The yard before them was filled with over a hundred people, some turned to look at her abrupt entrance but most ignored her. Normally there’d only be a few dozen waiting on the return of the hunters but they’d been gone so long that everyone and their mother was trying to get a glimpse as to why. They lounged on benches, leaning against the cobblestone walls, and around the center fountain, gossiping and waiting. Nor would have stopped to join with the other girls lingering in groups at the back of the courtyard but they’d be upset to see her brother so she’d avoid them for now. She’d see her friends during dinner.
She could see Lady Sif in the center, surrounded by her group of maidens and servants. They all kept their eyes too the door, waiting as patiently as a dog would for its owner to come home. Nor couldn’t help but imagine the day that it would be her, waiting anxiously for her husband’s arrival. She’d imagine herself running to his arms and letting him sweep her off her feet and he’d hold her close. The image of herself in the white dress flashed in her mind. She couldn’t resist the wave of sickness that hit her. She could see so visibly how tight the waist of the dress had been, how it had squeezed so tightly.
“Nor?” Her brothers voice shook her from her thoughts. She hadn’t realized she had stopped moving and walked hurriedly to their reserved corner to the courtyard. It was the only vacant square in the crowded garden. There was a tree with gnarled branches that stretched over the entirety of their section. While everyone socialized in the sun with their family, Nor and her brother got to wait alone in the shadows for their father’s return.
“Think we’ll be out here till dinner?” Nor asked, but the word dinner left an odd taste in her mouth. Again the dress came to mind and her stomach didn’t feel up to the thought of eating.
“I don’t even think they’ve made it through the streets just yet. Did you see the size of that thing?” He asked incredulously. Nor had known the dragon had been plaguing the blacksmiths working in Muspelheim, but she had heard that from her Grandfather Odin. She knew he couldn’t tell the truth or there would be a panic but she knew father would tell the death toll to her brother who would tell her after their father went to bed.
And as always her brother was right. The sun was high in the sky by the time the doors opened. She had been picking at the roots absentmindedly as her brother explained the history of dragons too her. He was well into a story about a Niflheim dragon that glowed in the dark when the cheers drew their attention. People had rushed the arch doors and were screaming the names of the hunting party. Nor saw Thor, dirtied and bloodied from the fight, strolling to the front of the crowd, his arms wrapped around Loki and Baldur. He stopped and a large grin split his face. Nor held her breath as she followed his gaze and saw that he was staring at Lady Sif. All noise stopped as they ran to each other. Thor picked her up and kissed her as if it would be the last time he’d ever have the chance too. Nor couldn’t help that her smile that grew as she watched the two. It was so romantic.
She felt a tug on her neck as Jormungandr curled himself tighter. She looked in time to see her father approaching them. He had snuck through the crowd unnoticed despite his state. She bit her lip to contain the disgusted look she had been practicing to give him when he returned. His clothes were torn and singed in some places, the grey fur vest he normally wore had three giant slashes in the fabric that ran diagonal down his torso. His hair stuck up in every direction, colored completely black from soot and ashes. The grey smudges made his under eyes were darker than normal and completely hid his freckles. He looked frightening, and she didn’t realize that she had taken a step back.
“Father!” Her brother cried.
“Hello, Jormungandr.” He called back, he stretched out his hand and the snake unraveled himself from his sister’s neck and twisted his way up his father’s arm. Loki leaned in to touch his forehead to his son’s. They grinned at each other, as if sharing a secret just by simply being in the other’s presence.
Nor was always jealous of their teeth. Her brother had perfectly white fangs and her father’s teeth were in neat rows. Nor has a gap in between her front teeth that was always noticeable when she smiled. She always thought it a horrible twist of fate that she look so much like her father but failed to get any of his desirable traits.
She resisted the urge to make an exaggerated gagging noise and throw insults at her brother about being a father’s boy. Jormungandr must have caught the look in her eye and he gave her a pointed glare, a silent warning to keep her act together. Loki pulled away and followed his gaze until his cold blue eyes landed on her. She felt a chill creep up her spine as he looked at her.
“Nor.” He regarded her, nodding. His face had fell to a disinterested stare, his eyes distant. Nor frowned and tried to do her best to not show the hurt on her face, but she was share he could see the tears building in his eyes. She and her father never got along, and on particularly bad days she was glad he had such a distant attitude towards her. It made hating him all that much easier, but it didn’t mean it hurt any less when he talked to her like he didn’t even want to be near his own daughter. It made her heart drop to her stomach and a rage boil in her.
“You’re back so soon.” She hissed, voice breaking slightly, and shouldered his arm as she walked passed him. She wouldn’t even give him a proper greeting. Screw being civil, he didn’t deserve it. Her brother gasped and she could hear him already start to apologize. Despite herself she looked back, feeling another wave of disappointment when she saw that her father was still gazing at the empty space where she had been, his arms now crossed. She fled faster towards the center of the court yard.
“Nor!” Jormungandr called out to her, but she was already disappearing among the crowd of people surrounding the royal family. She pushed her way to the front of the gathering, feeling her heart ease with every person she put between herself and her father. He would never chase after her or cause an unnecessary scene, but if he wanted to cast a particularly nasty spell her way it would be harder to do with the more bodies she put between them.
Once she could finally see her relatives she stopped and tried to regain her breathing. She hadn’t even realized she was holding her breath as she ran. In front of her, Modi was bragging about his newest scars to Lady Sif’s group of maidens. They ooed and awed as the man flexed his arms to show them how it stretched across his muscles. Thor, with Lady Sif hanging onto this arm, gently cuffed his son on the head causing the girls to erupt into laughter. Modi did too, and slugged his father’s arm before greeting his step mother with a bow. The couple moved on, talking to guests and being as polite as possible with those who were trying to get the hunting story before the feast. Nor enjoyed watching them as they talked with friends and shook hands with family.
She felt someone brush against her, and for a moment she thought her father had actually followed her. She realized she was fine, a stranger had just mistepped, but it was enough to tear her attention away and force her to make her way back to the entrance. She would have time to talk later at dinner. Now she wanted to retreat to get as far from the courtyard as she could.
Though it took a fair amount of pushing and apologies, she made her way through the crowd and back to arched entrance. She had just taken her first step up the stone stairs when a large hand gripped her arm. She gasped and whipped around. She faced a giant, blonde haired man.
He was built like a brick wall, and a long blonde braid trailed over his shoulder just barely touching his waist. He stared down at her with deep blue eyes so dark they looked like an ocean graced by the moonlight. When he looked at her she felt as if she were a bug or a scuff on his boot. His hand was almost as large as her entire forearm and his grip was beginning to hurt. The whimper that escaped her made his grip loosen.
“Magni,” She managed in between sips of air. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, but she tried her best not to let it show.
“Sorry, dear. I guess I’ve grown used to roughing it with boys, didn’t mean to grab you so hard.” He gave her a wide grin and ruffled her unruly red curls. He let his hand drop to gently brush his large knuckles against her arm, and she gave him a smile to show him it was alright. She straightened her back, and let the anxious look melt from her face. Magni was a good friend of the family, especially since her marriage had been announced and he had always been nice to her. It was easy to relax around him.
“How are you, Uncle? Has the other realms treated you well?” She asked with a slight bow. Magni bowed his head back. As his head was lowered she saw blood matted into his long braid but most was of it was on his clothes. There was a red splotch creeping over the shoulder of his dark blue cloak turning the material violet. His horse shoe shaped necklace was splintered and chipped in some places.
“I am fine, dear girl, no need to worry. Muspelheim is unforgiving as always, but nothing we couldn’t handle.” He seemed to raise his head at his own praise and Nor almost rolled her eyes at him. Boys were always so full of themselves!
“But thank you for checking in on me.” He put a heavy hand on her shoulder and leaned in close, “Have you seen Amira and Amaan? I can’t seem to find them.” He cast his eyes across the heads of the crowd once more, lingering over the group surrounding his family. He still couldn’t see their tell tale dark hair among the sea of blonde asgardians swarming his parents and brother.
“It’s the third day of the month, Uncle. They’re at the Tree.” Nor said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Every third of the month and once a week after, the mother and son could be found at the farthest east corner of the palace, knelt down at group of dimly glowing branches. Magni had been married to Amira for over thirteen years and how he could forget Nor would never know.
“Of course! The days have blurred together, slipped from my mind.” He said with a shrug, a lazy grin on his face. He put a hand between her shoulder blades and nudged for her to move up the stairs.
“Is that where you’re heading?” He asked her as they walked together. She had wanted to go to her room, to hide from her father, but going to find her best friend sounded much more inviting. She nodded happily at him and they continued to walk into the castle and through the maze like halls together. He made small talk with her, telling her about some of the new scars he would likely have from battle. She shared with him stories of her training, and some of the knicks and bruises she had gotten from their practice fights.
Fighting was the easiest topic to talk about among any Asgardian. It was a universal constant in all their lives. Women, children, and men no matter their status, were subjected to the military training that was held in the center of their large city. For Nor and the other royal children, they took their training in the Royal Garden just a walk away from the stables. Whenever she or the other children brought up her training her uncles always jumped at a chance to brag about their accomplishments and demonstrate their skills. Normally on each other.
The walk went by fast as Magni tried to explain how to properly sight an opponent's weakness amidst a fight. He had been deep into a story about a troll that always lead with his left foot before throwing a punch and Nor had been hanging onto every word, deeply interested. They were so engrossed they were able to ignore the servants and kitchen staff rushing through the halls trying to prepare for the spontaneous feast. Stories of battle always got her distracted, and by the time they reached the blue doors they had barely noticed.
Magni paused his story, and motioned for her to be quiet before slowing pushing the heavy doors open. They were now on the east wing of the castle, the most recent addition compared to the rest of the ancient palace. Nor could see the prayer building from her room if she leaned out her window far enough, the bricks were lighter than the rest of the castle, it was like spotting Amaan in amidst a crowd of asgardians.
Nor crept behind him, and searched the dark room for her friend. The room was round, with a stained glass ceiling that let in bright blue light when the sun was at its peak. In the center surrounded by green mosaic tiles were a series of woven branches tangled into an almost perfect sphere. Through the gaps in the branches a dim blue light shimmered from within the center of the branches. The light illuminated the pews arranged in a circle around the room and the two people kneeling on the green tiles inches away from the wooden limbs.
The woman had long hair the color of a starless sky that was tied in a neat bun secured by red ribbon. Her skin was a glowing umber, outshining the the blue lights around her. The boy took after his mother but had his father’s height. Already he was beginning to tower over the woman as they sat side by side. As Nor and her uncle crept closer the mother and son opened their eyes and were quickly on their feet.
“Dad!” The boy cried, and Magni crouched low as the boy ran to him. He swept his son into a tight hug and spun him in a circle before releasing him. Once his feet was safely on the ground the boy swung a fist aimed at his father’s head. Magni caught it and yanked his son forward to ruffle his hair. The older man let go with a pat to the back, and then stepped away to look at his wife. He gave a low whistle as she stepped forward and he slowly walked around her.
Amaan smiled brightly at her as he came to stand by her side. He ruffled her curls and she pinched the underside of his arm in retaliation. The boy hissed and gave a light tug on a strand of her hair. He stuck his tongue out at her when she did. Nor giggled at scrunched up face and turned her attention back to the reuniting lovers.
“Are you sure this is my wife? I don’t remember her being this beautiful!”
“The dragon must have done a number on you for you to forget something like that.” Amira chuckled and embraced her husband. He dipped her suddenly and brought his lips to hers. Nor sighed happily at the scene, and couldn’t help but cast a look at Amaan. He raised an eyebrow at her as if it was absurd that she was seriously enjoying the display of affection. She grinned back at him and tried to contain the squeal of excitement when he rolled his eyes and laced his hand with hers.
“It’s good to be back.” Magni smiled at the two of them when he returned his wife to her feet with his arms still wrapped tight around her. The smile on his face faltered and Amira’s eyebrows furrowed on concern. Magni pressed a large hand against the side of her face to comfort her.
“You two should come back with me and get ready for the feast tonight. Everyone will be there. And we have so much to talk about,” He looked to Amaan who nodded eagerly at his father. Magni sounded unsure about the last sentence but if Amira noticed she didn’t seem to care. She clicked her tongue at her husband and pulled away from him.
“The sun hasn’t set yet. We have to be here from dawn to dusk, you know this.” Though she was scolding him, she still had a slight smile on her face.
“Ah, what's the harm in leaving early? The tree will forgive you.” He pulled her close again and ran his hands along her sides. She smiled slyly at him.
“You are a devil you know that? It is my duty to pray to the Yggdrasil, and it has been for many years.” She corrected him, her smile widening when he furrowed his brows at her. Nor couldn’t wrap her mind completely around her fiancé’s religion, but she had an understanding of the basics. The Yggdrasil had been the first living thing to ever exist, and three days after its birth it gave part of its life force to create the giants then the gods who helped create the rest of the creatures. The complete opposite of what Nor had been taught by her tutors, but still every third day of the month Amira and Amaan prayed to the tree to thank it for giving them a life and home.
Nor thought it was inconvenient, putting so much time into a tree that probably wasn’t even sentient. Odin was real, and he was much more powerful than some stick. She couldn’t understand why they’d put so much faith into the Yggdrasil when they could just pledge their loyalty to Odin like the rest of them. She knew her grandfather despised those who dedicated their lives to the Yggdrasil rather than him, her father had told her such when she tried to discuss it with him. He told her Odin was threatened by it, but Nor didn’t see a reason to be scared.
There were very few who participated in the religion, Amira and Amaan where the only two in the castle who even came to the prayer room. Magni had it built for Amira as a wedding gift and according to the servants who were there, Amira pretty much tackled him in a flurry of kisses and bites to the neck. Nor had wondered if she had to bite Amaan at their wedding.
“But if it matters so much to you, I think it will be okay if we leave early. Right, Amaan?” She looked to her son and he beamed back at her. Nor guessed that maybe kneeling and praying all day wasn’t as fun as he tried to make it seem when he explained it to her. Though most obligation weren’t as fun as much as they were important.
“Then we’re wasting time! Go on son, walk Nor back to her room and come straight home.” Magni took his wife’s hand like Amaan had done to Nor and they left. Amaan watched them go and turned to her once the doors shut with a loud click. He punched her arm gently to get her attention, and she dragged her eyes away from the door.
“How was your father? Did he say anything.” He asked hurriedly. Nor frowned at him, and crossed her arms.
“He didn’t say, well, anything.” She shrugged and began heading for the door. He should know not to bring up such a sensitive topic! Amaan scoffed, in a few strides he was close on her heels. Damn his long legs.
“Hey come on! You’re the one who’s been panicking this whole month I had to know! How was Grandfather, and Uncle Modi?” He nudged her with his elbow before making a big show of opening the door for her and bowing. She couldn’t help but giving him a small smile and an overzealous curtsy. He always knew how to put a smile on her face.
“Same as always, a little more beat up than usual but still the same Odinsons.” She noticed even more now that the servants and maids were running faster. They were muttering about table decor and what plates they needed to place. Nor and Amaan had to dance around them in fear of breaking their concentration.
“So,” Amaan narrowly avoided a kitchen made carrying stacks of cutting boards, “Did you see it?”
“See what?” Nor shouted back as she ducked under a bench two guards were carrying.
“The dragon!” He grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the way of another maid dressed in a bloody apron sharpening a butchers knife as she ran.
“You don’t see that everyday!”
“The dragon, Nor.”
“Right, right!” She launched into her description of the mighty beast and Amaan clung to every word. He wasn’t invited to the hunts yet, not until he was of age and finally considered a man. Nor could see the longing in his eye as she told him of her view from her bedroom window. Amaan wanted to go on the royal hunts since his father took him on a miniature one in the garden.
Magni had taken him out with a bow and let him shoot his own rabbits, and he allowed Nor to tag along which she enjoyed. When they brought the little animals home Amira had taken Nor into their kitchen to teach her to skin and cook her own meat. Amaan had been hooked ever since, insisting his father taken him farther out in the garden where they could track bigger game, and Nor still got to tag along when she promised to behave. She wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted his father to take him hunting that night.
By the time she was finished describing the beast and Thor’s grand entrance they had arrived at her door.
“What happened after Grandpa let go of Lady Sif?” Nor wasn’t sure what he was expecting for her to say. It was the same as the last time, and the time before that.
“I don’t know, my father came over by then.” She leaned on her shoulder on the cold stone walls. Amaan did the same with his shoulder on the creaking door, and crossed his arms. He mimicked her pout and her slumped posture. She couldn’t help but muster a small smile at his mocking.
“Did he,” he sighed before continuing, “Did he really say nothing to you?”
“He just kind of, nodded at me? I mean he said my name. But no ‘Hi, daughter.’ Or ‘Nice to see you again I completely ignored you when I left, do you want an apology?” She mocked with an exaggerated nasally voice. Amaan laughed.
“Maybe he’s waiting for you to say something. Sometimes my mom waits for my dad to say something about an issue before she makes a big deal about a problem.” He offered. He gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. Amaan was always so kind.
Amaan was always the gentler one between them. If Nor had a problem he’d do his best to soothe and aid his friend, to make her smile. He was the peace maker among their friend group, and often times was the one dishing out advice. He was so diplomatic at times Nor couldn’t help but tease him until she broke through his princely facade and the real Amaan showed. The kind, excitement seeking boy that she’d become best friends with. When they were younger and their nannies looked away long enough, they’d go tearing through the halls together laughing and pushing. But Amaan’s training started so much earlier than hers, and she could remember teasing him as he walked impossibly straight and stiffly. He slouched immediately and since then, he claimed that she and her other friends were the only ones who got to see him in such a manner.
“I can’t believe I’m gonna marry an idiot.” She muttered, but the grin was there so he knew she didn’t mean it. She rested her hand on top of his, her grin turning to a shy smile.
“Thanks for walking me. I know you didn’t have too.” She looked away, ducking her head and looking up at him from her lashes like she had seen Amira do to Magni.
“Well yeah I did have too, dad said so.” He rolled his eyes at her forgetful nature. He didn’t react when Nor gave him an exaggerated sigh.
“Hurry up and go home, I’ll see you later. And don’t be late!” She lightly punched his arm making him stuck his tongue out at her before walking away.
“I never am!” He called as he walked home. She snorted and slowly made her way inside.
Their part of the castle reminded her of the farm houses they often saw along the countryside when they went out on longer hunting trips. If they made their way across the vast forest they’d eventually be near the farm lands. Their home consisted of two floors and like how the houses were shrouded behind trees and crops they were tucked away inside the rest of the castle. Jormungandr told her it was much more like the homes in the city where multiple families lived in one building but she had never seen it in person so she kept her fantasies of country homes.
She opened the door to their living area, the fireplace was lit despite the warm air already filtering in through the open windows. There dining room was to the left, and she could feel another fire going on in there as well. She suspected her father had warmed the whole house for her brother. Jormungandr never complained of the cold, but Loki always managed the house to his comfort level. Her father had scolded her once when she doused out the fires, something about how her brother was cold blooded, but she blocked most of it out. She kept her complaints to herself and tolerated their horridly warm home.
Nor thought it slightly inconsiderate that he never considered how she might feel when their house was a sweltering, humid mess. Already she felt her skin become sticky with sweat and her face grow red from the heat. She moved to shut the door to the dining room but as she got closer she could hear voices. With no hesitation she turned back around and headed towards the staircase across the room. Her room was the best place to hide for the moment, just until it was time for dinner.
At the foot of the stairs she paused. The wood was old, turned soft by years of use but her boots would make it creak and signal her return. She really didn’t want her father to know where she was, so she unlaced the ropes wrapped around the leather of her shoes and pried them off. At least the fires had warmed the stone floor, she had to at least be thankful that she wouldn’t freeze her toes off. She began to tip toe up the stairs, wincing everytime the slightest noise was made. Her feet hit the first landing and she could already see her door, still wide open, just beyond the second set of stairs.
“You should wear shoes.” Nor jumped as she felt something cold coil around her leg. She had to cover her mouth to muffle the gasp that escaped her. Jormungandr blinked up at her with warm golden eyes.
“You’re the worst!” She growled as she swatted at her brother’s head. He laughed and dodged her hand and moved up her body until he looped himself around her neck.
“At least I don’t sneak around my own home. Father doesn’t know you’re here if it makes you feel any better.” Nor felt some relief at the words. Her brother didn’t seem upset about the incident from earlier, and that was more of a mercy than warm floors. She kissed the side of his head, just to make sure things were truly okay between them.
“How’d you know I was here?” She moved up the stairs with more vigor just Incase her father decided to join Jormungandr upstairs.
“I could smell you. You’re really sweaty you know that?” Jormungandr gave her an affectionate nuzzle against her cheek so she didn’t take the comment too hard. She finally reached her door, and stared curiously at her brother as he unwound himself from her neck and began to move towards his own room.
“I’m getting the book father left us. I want to talk over some of the words with him while he’s here.” He stopped moving and turned to look at her.
“He’ll want to see your progress soon. You know he’s gonna find out you’ve been missing your tutoring on purpose.” There was actual concern in his voice. With a chill running down her spine, she had a sneaking suspicion there was a conversation about her while she was gone.
“He won’t know as long as nobody tells him,” She casted him a sharp glare that made him scoff. She felt bad as soon as she did it, but she had to be sure he wouldn’t throw her to the wolves. He always told their father everything, and in a way, wasn’t it Jormungandr’s fault? He never reminded her of the lessons. He never demanded her presence, so what was she supposed to do! He was her teacher and he was doing a terrible job at it.
Jormungandr just shook his head at her and slithered back to his room. Nor slammed her door, shutting it with as much force as possible. She no longer cared about her father, if her brother wanted to betray her than so be it, than she just wouldn’t talk to him. Problem solved. At the very thought of ignoring her brother her heart ached, and a rage boiled in her. Her family were the worst, they were horribly inconsiderate!
She angrily tossed clothes from their drawers, and tore open the doors to her wardrobe adding to the growing pile on the floor. Her eyes watered as the frustration built but she shut them tight till the burn faded. Shoes and pieces of jewelry were added to the mess and she couldn’t bring herself to care about the clutter. The servants would clean it up later. Creating the mess made her feel a bit better, enough so that she was able to refocus on getting ready. She finally pulled out the dress she wanted tucked far back in the wardrobe, a simple navy gown that flared at the waist, and laid it out on the bed.
Turning back to the pile, she began digging through the middle. There was a light grey apron buried somewhere amongst the rest of her clothes that she would need to wear with the dress. Blue and light grey were the colors that represented her family like how how blue and gold represented the Odinsons. Holding the apron and dress in hand made the rest of her anger fade away. It was a great pride to wear these colors, even if she was ashamed.
She refused to dwell on the thoughts any longer. It was just going to get her mad all over again and she’d be stuck in an endless loop of destroying her room and getting upset about it. Being mindful on the rush the maids were under, Nor drew her own bath.
“Nor! We will leave without you!” Jormungandr called. Nor huffed a sigh and sped up the braiding process. Her hair was still slightly wet and the braid on her shoulder didn’t look neat enough.
“I said I’m coming!” She shouted back. She pushed objects haphazardly around her vanity, searching for her grey ribbon.
“Father’s losing his patience!” Jormungandr yelled.
“Father never had any to begin with!” Her throat was getting raw from the screaming. She settled with her blue ribbon, and tied it at the end of her braid as she fled down the stairs. Her brother was wrapped around her father’s neck and they were both giving her the same glare.
“I said I was coming!” She narrowed her eyes back at them, shoving her boots on as she got to the end of the stairs.
“We’re already late.” Her father said with malice in every word. What hurt the most about it was that he wasn’t even talking to her, he had directed all his impatience at her brother who flinched when his father spoke. Nor tried to bite back her words but she had been biting back her anger all day.
“If you’re mad at me than be mad at me. Don’t be mean to him!” She growled. Jormungandr shot her a panicked look and he shook his head.
“Don’t you dare-“
“Oh so now he speaks!”
“Father just sto-“
“You are a spoiled brat!”
“I’m the brat?! I don’t take my anger out on other people!”
“No, you just destroy everything and leave it for somebody else to clean up. If I go up to your room right now I bet- ”
“At least I don’t-“
“Quiet!” Nor mouth shut with a loud click. Her father’s jaw was clenched so tight she thought his teeth might shatter under the force. Her brother had enchanted them both.
“You two haven’t even been in the same room together for five minutes before you’re at each other’s throats. It’s been like this for months now. I’m not sure what happened between you guys but I’m tired of refereeing fights. Father, you’re hurting Nor’s feelings when you ignore her, try to respect the way she feels.” Her father tried to argue but no sound made it passed his lips.
“Nor you need to be more respectful to father. He has feelings just like you do.” She tried to defend that her father never showed any other emotion but anger but she couldn’t force it out. Jormungandr sighed.
“You two are just alike, I think that’s the real problem.” He said with a slight sigh, “We are going to go to dinner. We are going to have a great time and celebrate the fact that father’s home. We’re going to be okay.” He put extra emphasis on the last word. Nor nodded with her head bowed like the scolded child she was. Her father followed suit, stiffly moving his head. “Speak.”
Their mouths unclenches and immediately she rubbed at her sore jaw. Her eyes were filled to the brim with waiting tears, her father and brother turned into blurry shapes in front of her.
“I’m sorry, Nor.” Her brother said in such a caring tone that she thought she might burst into sobs at that moment. This day seemed to be a series of one bad thing after the other. Vaguely she could see his blurry shape unwind from her father’s neck and make his way to hers. She blinked and let the tears flow down her cheeks. Jormungandr pressed his head against her cheeks and caught the tears before they could fall to her chin.
“We’re okay.” He assured her. She nodded again and wiped at her cheeks. When she finally looked up her father had his eyes trained on the window as if it were the most interesting thing in the realm.
“Father. Nor. We all need to talk-“ Mid way through his sentence the door burst open. Nor jerked back, wincing as her brother involuntarily tightened his grip on her neck. Loki whipped around with his arms raised to shield his children from the sudden intruders, but relaxed immediately as he saw the man waiting in the entrance.
“Baldur.” Loki let his shoulders and his fists drop.
“I’ve been sent to retrieve you! Per our brother’s orders.” He strolled into the room, sounding rather unimpressed with the task he’d been given, and turned to face Nor and Jormungandr. “Hello kids.”
They gave him an uneasy look, the tension still lingering in the room. Baldur frowned at the three of them, sensing the distress is he had just interrupted.
“Nor. You’ve been crying.” He said quietly. He walked up to her and brushed the back of his hand down her cheek, catching another tear. She sniffled pitifully as he used his other hand to give Jormungandr an affectionate pat. He pinched Nor’s cheek tugging her lips up into a faux smile. She batted his hand away with a bad attempt at a grin.
“Come on, now. We need to go to the dining hall and we need to be happy before we get back. Right?” Baldur rested his hand on Loki’s shoulder, shaking him slightly. Loki gave a smile, but there was a far away look in his eyes. He left through the door, Baldur close behind him. He stopped with his hand on the door frame.
“Come on. We need to get going. Father wouldn’t be too happy if you all missed the dinner.” Nor hesitantly carried herself and her brother forward. Things still weren't right, the argument still hadn’t been settled. And now hearing that her grandfather was upset made her stomach twist in knots. She wondered if there was another reason they had been so late to the courtyard, if this wasn’t her father’s first argument of the day. Why would their grandfather be upset?
Baldur sighed from his place at the door and jerked his head towards the direction of the hallway. She nodded slowly, sharing a glance with her brother.
She could see her father waiting for them down the hall, already the cheers and screams from the dining hall reached their home and it made her quicken her pace. She was eager to finally get away from the tension filled room. Her uncle stayed a few paces behind, her father keeping the lead. She thought that that was odd. Her father and her uncle were always such great friends, she would think they’d at least walk side by side.
“Jormun, is something wrong?” She whispered, meeting eyes with him. He carried the same worried expression, but he gave her a smile nonetheless.
“I’m not sure, don’t dwell on it. After the party everything will be okay. We’re okay.” He told her as confidently as possible, but his tone still held so much uncertainty. She risked a glance at the man behind her. He was staring at the back of her father’s head but quickly met her gaze and raised a brow at her staring. She looked back ahead and tried to ignore the eyes that were now focused on her.
When they arrived at the hall doors guests were still filtering in, trying to fit into the pact room. Upon seeing the royal family they quickly made a path for them. There were hundreds of tables spread out across the room. It was packed wall to wall with bodies and the noise of chatter alone made everyone’s ears ring. At the very back of the room where large looming windows let in moonlight there was a table raised on the platform.
Her uncles and cousins were sat at the table talking amongst themselves. Odin sat in the middle with Lady Sif and Amira at the other side of him. They were huddled close together, talking as if whispering secrets. Both their faces were solemn, and they seemed to talk even faster as Nor and her family made their way through the room. Amira’s eyes were rimmed red as she clasped Lady Sid’s hands tight in her own. Nor tried to inquire why she was upset using her eyes but Amira looked away.
Loki was first to approach the table and bowed deeply.
“Good evening, my son.” Odin smiled kindly down at the crouched man, but Nor couldn’t see any of the kindness reach his eyes.
“Good evening, Allfather.” Loki rose to his feet, brushing off dirt from his pants. He took his place alongside his oath brothers. Nor stepped forward after her father and curtsied with her head hanging low.
“Good evening, my daughter.” He said, his tone slightly softer than when he addressed her father. She gave him her brightest smile.
“Good evening, Allfather.”
Jormungandr unraveled himself from her neck and bowed his head toward the man. After they made their greetings Jormungandr made his way of the platform to coil himself around his father. He knew Nor’s friends wouldn’t appreciate his presence. She waved a small good bye at him as she disappeared through the crowd. Yet, a strange pull in her chest made her stop and look back. Her father leaned in close to his son and muttered something into his ear. Immediately Jormungandr’s face fell into a look of panic and he whipped his head around to face his father. Nor rushed forward to see what could possibly make her brother so terrified but immediately she was pulled back into the crowd by an iron tight grip on her arm.
“Nor! We’ve been waiting forever!” Immediately she recognized the stranger to be her friend Eira. She had lovely golden curls that were like springs where Nor’s looked more similar to a birds nest. Her voice was light like a bell, it was always gift to listen to her talk. Eira had gotten a lot of her elf like features, her slightly pointed ears, button nose, and height from a relative on her mother’s side. She was like a pixie Jormungandr had shown her in one of his story books.
“Jormungandr-“ Nor started, already tugging away to see if her distressed brother was alright. Eira clicked her tongue disapprovingly but used her height to look over the head of the swarming asgardians.
“He’s fine, he’s eating with your father. We got you a plate waiting, come on! We missed you today.” She tugged harder and Nor let herself disappear completely in the sea of bodies. She hadn’t seen a party this big since Modi celebrated his three thousandth birthday. It had lasted well into the next day and so many people were packed into the palace that the party carried on throughout the hallways and gardens.
They had claimed a table in the center of the room. Nor couldn’t help but wonder if her friends had been waiting all evening at this table so no one could take it. The table was piled with food, mostly sweets. Sitting with a seat between them were two other children.
Silvi, a small girl with green eyes and and bronze skin, was filling a plate with cookies and cakes. Often Nor saw her during her dancing lessons, she was spry and quick on her feet. She made a great sparring and dancing partner, and was good at coming up with plans. Whenever there was mischief happening Silvi was never far behind, normally being the mastermind behind it all.
Dag, Silvi’s brother, who was just slightly older than sister leaned over to say what Nor could only assume was a terrible joke because she gave him a sharp smack on the arm. Nor had befriended him during their shared music classes. He was talented when it came to string instruments but they truly bonded together over their love for animals. Often they went frog hunting together in the gardens and marveled at the creatures they found. His sister had a dislike for anything with scales so she normally watched them from afar when they ventured out.
“Kari and Ivar are missing. I doubt they can even get in, they were at the city’s training grounds this afternoon.” Eira finally let Nor’s arm go as they approached the table. Eira squeezed her way between Dag and Silvi. Nor sat across from them eyeing the food wearily.
“Why did they go all the way out there?” Nor nudged her plate to the side and sat her elbows on the table.
“The gate to the grounds were closed after they arrived.” Silvi pointed in the direction of the raised stage. “You know how bad she is and Ivar follows her wherever she goes.”
“The poor guy.” Dag lamented, earning another smack from his sister. They all knew what he meant. Kari was another close friend of Nor’s. She was a beautiful and dedicated fighter, definitely with the makings of a future general. Ivar liked the fierceness she carried and constantly followed her around to make sure she knew that he liked her. Yet, she had no interest in boys unless they were trying to fight her so she spent most of their time together ignoring his attempts at flirting.
Ivar followed her anyways, as he had been for the past six months since his crush developed. Ivar and Nor shared their writing and reading tutors with the rest of the Royal children. Ivar was a good reader, and always had great passion in his voice. He wrote a lot of his own stories, and one day Nor urged him to read to her after class. She liked it when Jormungandr read to her, but he didn’t have the same passion as Ivar did. He often told stories aloud as the group adventured into the gardens. It was good background noise as they hunted for frogs and other creatures, even if it scared them away.
“Be nice!” Silvi scolded, but then turned her gaze to Nor. “But on the subject of local love birds, where is Amaan?”
Nor felt her face get hot at her friend’s teasing tone, but now that she thought about it. Amaan hadn’t been with his parents, and he hadn’t even made an appearance yet. She looked around searching for the mop of dark hair but she couldn’t seem to find him.
“Well, maybe he’ll be here later. Or he found the other two and is walking with them right now.” She said hopefully turning back to face her friends. They nodded, mostly to reassure their friend. Amaan was always as time, as the future king he took timeliness very seriously. Something had to be wrong for him to be so late. Nor watched her friends eat and tried to ignore the dread pooling in her gut. Why would her grandfather seem upset with her father? Why was everyone acting so weird?
“They’re you guys are! We were looking everywhere for you.” The four looked up in time to see their missing friends take a seat. Kari was still in her training clothes that were stuck to her dark skin with sweat. Ivar looked just as soaked, his lanky frame was shining in the candle light, and was still panting slightly as he collapsed into his chair. The arrows in his quiver clattered together as he leaned forward to rest his head on his folded arms. His long reddish blonde hair was falling out of the braids they were tied in.
“Do we normally smell this bad after training?” Silvi asked, squeezing her nose. Kari chuckled and grabbed a pastry from the platter in the center of the table.
“You all missed out on a perfectly good session. The city kids have a very different style of fighting than we do. You should have seen this one kid, he swept Ivar right off his feet and disarmed his bow all in one move.” Kari tried to convince the exhausted boy to let her try it on him herself, but he just gave her a shaky smile.
“I have to take a minute to breathe. We had to fight just to get to the palace. We couldn’t even get to our homes to change! It’s insane in here.” Kari gave him a sympathetic pat on the back. Nor would have asked more about the city’s training grounds. She, like most of the children from the royal court, were forbidden to leave without an escort. Nor’s title of princess meant she was confined to the castle and it’s gardens, the same for Silvi, Dag, and Eira whose parents were ambassadors.
Kari and Ivar’s parents were royal messengers, they had traveled all across the realms to deliver messages for the crown. Kari, ever the proud one, often remarked how rude it was that they were treated like less of an importance than the other children. However, she never complained when she had the freedom to leave palace grounds whenever she pleased. But this time Nor couldn’t help but feel more worried when she didn’t see her dear Amaan among the two and couldn’t bring herself to talk about anything else.
“Did you see Aman on your way in?” Kari and Ivar shared a glance with the rest of the table before shaking their heads. Now, she was worried. Was something wrong with Amaan? Was he in trouble? Maybe that was why everyone seemed so upset, but that wouldn’t explain why the Allfather would be mad at her father. Could it possibly be because of something her father had don-
“Look! Modi’s getting up.” Dag remarked, and her thoughts were swept away. The whole table turned around. Everyone quickly seated themselves, giving Nor and her friends a perfect view of the stage. A hush fell over the room, and Nor felt her voice die a long with it.
Modi was wearing heavy armor that clinked together with every step, his foot falls echoed through the room. He raised his glass high in the air.
“Hello everyone! It’s good to be back!” In an instant the crowd was roaring, people were shouting greetings at the top of their lungs as if Modi had just performed the best magic trick. He began talking up the crowd, telling them the basics of the mission. How long it took, how big the beast was, how they tracked it. Magni and Baldur followed up behind him, giving their voice to tell some of the more comedic stories. Something about her father almost falling into lava, and her Uncle Thor setting his tunic on fire. Baldur teases them mercilessly and more than once Thor shook his hammer at his younger brother, making the crowd erupt into laughter.
Nor was only half paying attention, she was just as interested as the others, this was what she’d been waiting for, but there were too many things wrong for her to wrap her head around the words.
She glanced at her father, still seated next to the Allfather with his hands shaking slightly. She saw the expression of pure rage on his face and Jormungandr has wrapped himself tightly around their father and hiding his face against Loki’s neck. Magni had been mid way through a story when his tone began to shift and her father’s face snapped up.
“I hadn’t even felt the eyes on me till I laced my trousers up,” his expression darkened, his voice dropping low, “I saw the nostrils first. Wide and flaring, smoke was coming out of them so thick I could barely see. The next was the eyes, bigger than my whole body, glowing like a lantern in the dark. If Loki hadn’t shown when he did, I don’t think I’d be alive.”
The anger instantly left her father’s face as he stood up, a calmed neutral expression took its place and Jormungandr came out from his hiding. Kitchen maids and servants rushed around the room, blowing out lights and lanterns until the only flames left were the candles on the stage itself. With a quit wave of his hand and his mouth silently moving, rays of colors began to drift around the room. They weaved and moved with each other, sea foams and magentas swirled around until the scene magically appeared in front of them. A mountain peak with jagged edges and flat valley beneath.
The floor itself had turned into a red glowing lava pit. Some pulled their legs up in surprise resulting in laughter from their friends. At the base of the stage the lights gathered together in the vague shape of people. The Odinsons were varying levels of gold and yellow based on their age, Thor being the most bold of colors and Modi being a dull burnt orange. Nor could make out her father’s figure in the scene as the navy blue character with its bow string drawn back with an arrow waiting to be released. Thor got up from his side of the table and joined his brother, placing a hand on Loki’s shoulder as he began to take over the story. Loki was too busy concentrating on weaving the spells to talk.
“We came to realize the mighty beast had been hunting us, not the other way around.” Her brother began to flick his tail, his lips silently as he weaved the spell into existence. A violet dragon, taller and wider than Thor himself towered over the miniature gods and roared. The huge claws dig into the magenta mountains and its mouth grew onto a sinister grin. The dragon spread its giant wings and leapt from the stage to do a lap around the room. Jormungandr made it sweep low as it passed over Nor and her friends, making them squeal in excitement. It breathed dark green fire over the crowd as the audience gasped when imaginary flames passed through their skin. The dragon finally settled itself back in front of the light figures. The battle between gods and beast began.
The yellow figure that resembled Baldur leapt at the dragon as the others moved to surround the beast. Arrows flew from the blue man’s bow, one pierced it in the side and it swatted at the tiny men. They went flying over the crowd but quickly got back on their feet and charged the beast. Nor was finally engrossed and was watching so intently she barely noticed the hand on her thigh. She jumped at the sudden contact but a finger was pressed to her lips to keep her from shouting.
“Hush!” Amaan hissed. He look disheveled, his hair sticking out in every direction and his eyes held a sadness in them. She seized his hands and brought them to her chest.
“Are you alright?” She whispered frantically. He nodded at her, squeezing her fingers so hard it almost hurt. He motioned for her to stay quiet. With a quick glance to their friends who were still focused on the display of lights, he tugged her off the chair into a crouch. She hated to leave just as it was getting good, but the state he was in caused her more concern. Amaan began to move towards the door and Nor followed close on his heels.
They crept through the open doors where those who couldn’t get in had gathered. After an outrageous amount of fighting and pushing, they had made it into an empty hallway. Nor looked as bad as he did.
“Amaan, what's going on? Why’s everyone acting weird? Are you in trouble? Did my father do something? Are w-“
“Breathe!” He chuckled with slight exasperation. He dusted off his golden cloak and the dark clothes now covered in dirt from his time near the floor. When he looked up at her, the sadness was back.
“I felt like I should tell you first. It only seems right. Then we’ll tell the others together, okay?” Amaan stood up straighter and looked to her as if she should know exactly what he was talking about.
“Amaan, please. Tell me what’s going on!”
“Nor- I, Grandfather has…” He took a deep breath, “For two years time I will be going to Niflheim to spend time furthering my education on diplomacy to strengthen the alliance between our two realms.” He said it as if he was reading it straight out of a book. Nor’s face immediately fell.
“You’re leaving?” She said breathlessly. Going to the land of the elves to study? Who would agree to such a thing? He was the future King of Asgard! He would become the Allfather, he had no business traveling to other realms. It was too dangerous!
“Nor, it’s to show that we trust them. After the last trade deal fell through they’re getting worried that we are going back on our word. Think of me as a peace offering of sorts! It’s only two years!” He comforted, he reached out to touch her but she pulled away. She was shaking, there was an ache in her fingers to break something. Why was he not freaking out like she was?
“I need you here, Amaan. You’re my best friend. You don’t even wanna go! Look at yourself!” And he did. He sighed and tried to dust more of the dirt out of his clothes.
“Okay, I’m not exactly excited to be leaving especially so suddenly. I just needed a minute to compose myself is all! I mean it’s a whole new realm and I won’t even know how to speak the language, but it’s fine! I’m going to be okay.”
“I’m gonna miss you.” She said quietly. She began to fiddle with her braid laying across her shoulder.
“You have dancing with Eira and Silvi. And training with Ivar and Dag, and Kari! You’ll be so busy with them you won’t even know I’m gone.” Oh how badly she wanted to punch him. His words didn’t comfort him at all.
“Yeah but they’re not you. They’re not gonna take me hunting with them. They won’t read to me, or- or make sure their mom makes me really great cookies when they know I’m coming over. They won’t walk with me when I need it or help me calm down. They won’t be you!” She huffed with a stomp of her foot. His face flushed at her words.
“You really think that highly of me? How sweet.” His tone held a slight teasing tone, but he still sounded so tired.
“What kind of question is that!” He laughed as she groaned at his incompetence. Amaan caught her hand as she went to slap his arm and tugged her along. He let it drop after a few steps, much to her disappointment.
“50 years.” He said simply, smirking proudly at her. He nudged her elbow in faux excitement, drawing a slight smile from her.
She scoffed but turned her head to hide her red cheeks, “You're just saying that to soften me up. I’m still upset your leaving.” He laughed softly but his face turned solemn.
“Mom is upset too but dad said we are going to be alright.” He stopped and looked at her with his eyebrows upturned.
“Nor, you really didn’t know I was leaving?” He asked softly. She shook her head more confused than ever. Was she supposed to know? Was her father supposed to tell her?
“Do you-“ he paused, internally debating with whether or not he should continue. “You do know I’m not going alone right?”
They were at the entrance to the courtyard. She stopped, “Who’s going with you?”
He scratched at the back of his neck and walked further into the yard. Even though she called his name but he kept walking. She ran after him.
“Maybe it’s not my place to say.”
“Amaan!” She yelled, grabbing his shoulders.
“Jormungandr is leaving.” He said quickly, taking a step out of her reach. “As a translator but, he’s gonna stay longer. He’s supposed to learn magic from the elves. That’s what dad said at least.” He sat down at the edge of the fountain. He reached out and took her hand, seeing the panic crossing her face.
“Nor I-, how do you not know? Grandfather told them when everyone got home. That was hours ago.” She didn’t hear the question. She didn’t hear anything except her inner voice repeating the mantra ‘Jormungandr is leaving.’
Her heeled boots clicked on the stone floor as she raced back to her home. She shoved hose who crossed her path and didn’t stop to apologize. Home. She had to get home.
Jormungandr was leaving.
Snot smeared on her cheek when she tried to wipe away the tears. She couldn’t bring herself to worry about it. The corridor leading to her home seemed miles long. Her body convulsed with violent sobs as she practically broke the wooden door open. She slammed it behind her finding no comfort in the loud noise it made.
They weren’t home yet. A maid carrying a wooden basket full of the laundry that Nor remembered throwing on the floor descended the steps. She was older, wrinkles etched into her smiling face. Nor recognized her as one of the head maids and midwives but couldn’t remember her name. She had been Amaan’s nanny at one time, a kind woman who probably watched Nor herself at one point.
“Princess! Darling what’s wrong? Why aren’t you at the party.” She asked, setting the basket down. Nor was heaving with every breath.
“Get out!” She cried. The maid stepped closer, shifting the basket to her hip to reach out to the red haired girl.
“Darling it’s alright. There’s no need to be upset.”
Jormungandr was leaving.
“I said get out!” Nor screamed. Her brother would have punished her for treating the staff with such disrespect. But she couldn’t care less about what he would have done because he was leaving her all alone.
Nor grabbed the woman by her wrist and opened the door with her other hand. She tugged on the frail arm as hard as she could. Jormungandr was leaving and nobody even thought to tell her.
The old woman cried as she landed hard outside of the door. The clothes in the basket spilled onto the floor and the door slamming still didn’t make her feel any better.
In the living area Nor kicked over the end tables on either sides of the sofa. She swept the vases off the top of the fireplace. She ripped the painting from the walls, pulled the curtain from their rods, took books from their respective shelves and ripped out the pages. She was vaguely aware she was screaming, but only because her throat began to ache.
The room was destroyed in minutes and she still couldn’t breathe. How could he leave her? How could he leave her all alone? She laid down among the papers and glass and cried until exhaustion took over.
“He told her.”
“What was he supposed to do, he’s her friend.”
“It wasn’t his business. Look at this room, I told you too keep an eye on her.”
“Father, what was I supposed to do? Interrupt the performance so you can chase after her.”
Nor opened her eyes. Loki stood with his arms crossed above her, his features weren’t soft but they weren’t as angry as she expected them to be. Jormungandr wound himself around his leg, and was inches away from her face.
“You’re leaving.” She said immediately, her voice hoarse. He looked at her guiltily.
“Let’s go sit and talk.” She pushed herself up wordlessly at the command and wandered to the dining room. Behind her she could hear her father muttering a spell under his breath and the shards she was walking on lifted from the ground and into the air. She entered the room and threw herself into a chair. The moon was high in the sky, the light filtered in through the large windows on her left.
Her father lit the candles with a wave of his hand as he entered and Jormungandr coiled himself on the table in front of her. Loki sat across from her, his expression unreadable. Nor was already crying again, her family’s presence failing to comfort her.
“You’re leaving! For how long? When are you coming back?”
“Nor, listen. I have to. I’m going to there to translate for Amaan-“
“That’s bullshit! We have hundreds of translators!”
“Watch your tongue!” Loki warned. Nor cried a little harder at the scolding. Jormungandr glared at him, eyes narrowed and mouth forming into a snarl, but the look fell when he turned back to her.
“Alright,” he paused. “You deserve to know the truth, I don’t want to lie to you.” He said quietly. Loki shook his head at his son, as if he were doing something foolish. Nor wanted to rip his head off.
“Nor, you know how people feel about me. The prophecies say-“
“You’re not the world serpent! They don’t know what they’re talking about!”
“Let me finish!” He snapped, he seemed exasperated. It made Nor jolt in her chair at his loud tone. He waited for her sobs to die down before continuing.
“Nor I’ve grown two feet in the last year. Odin’s, well, he’s concerned for the safety of the people. He thinks it’s more appropriate if I spend my time in Niflheim until we are sure this growth spurt doesn’t continue. The elves are worried that Odin is trying to stick the beast of the prophecies on them. So, if Amaan goes with me they can’t think we are trying to trick them.” Jormungandr explained calmly and slowly, like he was explaining it to a child. Nor fought to understand the words as they were spoken to her but everything was so hard to process.
“We weren’t sure if the plan was official or not, Father and the rest had to leave for the hunt when Odin announced it. He confirmed it when they got home. Father, he, well he tried to argue. But Odin confirmed it again at the party.”
“But when are you coming back? Amaan is going away for two years! I’m going to be alone without you!” She slammed her palms on the table, pleading desperately.
“Nor- I…” Her heart dropped into her stomach, “I’m going to stay for a few hundred years. Three hundred or four at most. That’s not long at all.”
“No!” She wailed. It felt like the weight of the world was crashing on her shoulders. She was sure she was going to faint.
“Now, now. It’s not all bad! You and father can come visit me at any time and I’ll show you the grand light they have there and- Oh please don’t cry.”
“Nor.” It was her father. They both looked at him in surprise. He had been quiet during the whole explanation and Nor wasn’t sure if he’d talk at all. His face was stern, but now his eyes were gentle, pleading almost.
“He has to go. It’s his duty. You aren’t making this easy on him, you need to consider how he feels.” His voice was wavering, as if he was restraining himself.
“It’s not fair!”
“Life isn’t fair. Especially not for us.” He said sharply. He paused and his stern tone softened the slightest bit. “We have more to discuss with you.”
Jormungandr let out a heavy sigh, staring at his father for a long moment before speaking out once more, “We are leaving for a trip before I go.”
“Where are we going?” Nor asked, blowing her nose into her apron. Her tone grew slightly more hopeful at the thought of traveling with her brother.
“You- uh, You’re not going, Nor. Father has this trip planned in Midgard, and I must go. I know it’s hard to understand but listen, it’s only three months and I’ll be home the day before I have to leave and we can spend time together then. You’re older, and you can handle things at home while we’re gone. I already told father you won’t need a nanny. Amira and Lady Sif already said that they’d come and check on you. So no nanny!” He said as if that should make everything easier.
Nor couldn’t cry hard enough.
Three months was a long time. But Nor was kept busy. Her days consisted of training at the grounds. She fought with a new vigor, a new rage. The training masters liked it and complimented her change in fighting styles. She attacked hard and mercilessly. Whether it was Kari or Silvi on the other end of their wooden practice swords, she didn’t care, they would be flat on their backs by the end of the match. When she did lose, she demanded rematches until she was blue in the face. She’d stomp and pout if she lost again, but it only made her fight harder the next time.
Her dancing lessons with Amira went smoother. Nor appreciated the strictness of dancing. She was told where to put her feet and how to move her hips. The other girls new their cues and when to turn. It was organized and it wasn’t a problem if they misstepped or tripped on their own feet. Accidents were forgiven and Amira was always so kind when giving instructions. She felt comforted to be in a room where she could do what she loved without judgement.
Lady Sif lead her singing lessons. Nor took great pride in her voice, and when she could reach notes the other girls couldn’t dream of, she felt a smug satisfaction rise. Her skills at instruments were terrible but much like her dancing lessons, if she missed a note the others didn’t mind. They just smiled kindly at her and complained together how hard the music piece was. She and the other flute players would even stay after to practice together until they were sure she could pass or at least fake it.
She labored through the rest of her lessons. Writing and reading were torture. Her eyes hurt from the small words written on the pages. Her tutors droned on and on but she couldn’t bring herself to pay attention to their words. The books were boring, nothing like the ones about gods and battles Jormungandr read to her. She couldn’t care less about treaties made hundreds of years ago, or boring speeches her grandfather gave. The grammar lessons fell upon deaf ears, she could barely stay awake as she was forced to practice sentence structures. If she did slip into a brief sleep her teachers had no problem making her stand in front of her fellow peers and scold her as loudly as they could. But Silvi, Dag, Kari, Ivar and Eira always waited for her after the lessons when the tutors would attempt a more personal approach, and their comfort made that part of the day so much more bearable.
But when she wasn’t learning her time was consumed by Amaan. They fled to the back garden together everyday after their lessons were over. Amaan would tell her all the princely things he was learning under his grandfather Thor and the things he was learning about Niflheim with his tutors. Nor would sing for him when they rested, and taught him all the dances she was learning. When they fought together she went easy on the inexperienced boy, and kissed his wounds better much too his faux disgust. She would chase him through the trees and collapse next him when they finally got tired of running.
Nor told him all the stories she could think of. Everyone of them had come from Jormungandr and Amaan clang to every word. They’d find a patch of soft grass and watch the clouds over head slowly drift away as she talked. Sometimes they napped together right there on the ground from how content they were. And as the sun began its descent and Magni dragged them back inside, he would let Nor come home with them and eat the food Amira prepared.
There were always cookies waiting for them to snack on while they waited for dinner to arrive but Nor still couldn’t keep her wedding dress out of her mind. So she’s refuse and they’d sit cross legged on the floor in the sitting area and play card games that would be continued after dinner was over. Amira always offered her a place to sleep, telling her that she didn’t have to be alone. Sometimes Nor declined, but more often than not she found herself in the guest room nestled under hand knit blankets. Those were the nights she cherished most because when Amira and Magni were fast asleep on the other side of the floor, Amaan would creep into the guest room and take his place beside her. They told each other more stories, sometimes Amaan repeated the ones she told him but she didn’t mind. Nor would never forget the night when Amaan had been bold enough to interrupt her story with a kiss.
It had been a quick peck that made her lips hurt with the force, but she blushed so hard she was sure she was glowing in the dark room.
“Amaan!” She had hissed and he laughed softly at her reaction.
“It’s what husbands do to their wives. They kiss. Father kisses mother in bed.” He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. Nor quieted down but gnawed on her lip.
“I’m glad we’re gonna get married.” He said after a few minutes of silence. She had been staring out the window behind him, wondering if she could really let him go in a month. She raised an eyebrow at him.
“Yeah. I think about it sometimes. Like how Grandpa and Grandma got together. They didn’t get a choice, but, like, I get to marry my best friend. Which makes me happy. At least I don’t have to worry about marrying someone I don’t like.”
“You can kiss me again if you’d like.” She replied in a tiny squeak that vaguely resembled her voice.
The next time they had both leaned in and it was firm and his lips were dry but it still left her breathless. Shortly after he fell asleep in the middle of her story about a king and his round table.
After that they stole kisses when they thought no one was looking. They giggled at the very thought of their a secretive act. More often than not they confused the others around them when Nor puckered her lips like a fish and Amaan would began to snort and try to hide his laughter. She had done when Magni had taken them hunting for rabbits, and he had raised an eyebrow at his son. Amaan had froze mid laugh as his father caught them, and turned as red as a rose. Nor had simply laughed so hard she had tears streaming down her face when Magni gave her the same look.
When there were days where she did retreat home she curled up in her brother’s bed and slept in bursts. She hated those nights, but she often had a yearning to be home. To be in a place that was solely hers and she could relax. Somewhere where she wasn’t performing. Those nights the only company was her brother’s books. She didn’t read them, her head would hurt after a page. Instead she pressed it close to her chest and tried to count down the days until her brother would be back in her arms.
As the number of days dwindled the harder she fought, the faster she danced, the higher she sung, the less she ate, and the longer she kissed Amaan.
She was surrounded by a troop of guards. All standing in a half circle behind her. After requesting an audience with her grandfather he readily agreed to send the force with her so she could retrieve her father and brother herself. Nor had been counting the days her brother would return and she could hardly wait.
She wore the newest dress Amira had made and given to her that morning. It was a dark navy blue that reminded Nor of Magni’s eyes and around the hem of the skirt was a silver vine that sprouted tiny flowers that caught the sun as she walked. The light grey apron had the same detailing but in dark blue. Nor had practically tackled her in a hug at the gift. Amaan told her she look absolutely stunning. But Nor was sure he had only said that because his father had told Amira the exact same thing that morning at breakfast.
Nor had been waiting an hour, fiddling with her apron, braiding and untangling her hair. Then she heard it from inside the travel room. It was circular building made of gold with millions of tiny lines of runes carved into it. For protection, her brother had told her. Finally she heard the large beam of light surge forward onto their plane of existence and the gate to the realm being locked into place. She was bouncing on her toes with excitement.
The movement made the ground spin slightly and she was forced to remember that she hadn’t eaten since she had dinner at Amaan’s almost two days ago. The restricting had been worth it in Nor’s eyes. Amira had to change her measurements for the dress twice and Lady Sif had even congratulated her for losing her baby fat before any of the other girls her age. She took it as the highest of compliments. Though sparring had gotten harder from her weak spells and she was paler than ever.
The grand doors opened and slowly her father made his way through the entrance. He looked the same as always. Auburn hair laying everywhere and the sides were recently shaved she noted. His skin held more of a tan to it but the only thing Nor cared about was the pale silver serpent that was draped across her father’s shoulders. Nor rushed forward before the guards could grab her and held her arms out. Jormungandr laughed, breathy and soft, and launched himself from his father’s shoulders. He caught Nor around the neck and it threw her off balance enough that she fell hard on her butt.
“Jormungandr!” Nor cried. She couldn’t believe she still had any tears left after so many days of crying but there she was again, sobbing so hard she could scarcely breathe.
“Nor! I- Nor, you look sickly, are you well?” Jormungandr asked, wrapping himself twice around her neck and pulling back to look her in the eyes. Her father walked over to the two, a concerned look mirrored on his face. Nor finally got to get a good look at her brother. She knew he had been gone only a few months but he looked changed. His eyes gleamed differently and, he looked, sad. He looked so sad and it made her want to cry more. Something about him had just changed so much.
“You’ve lost weight.” Her father commented, pressing the back of his hand against her forehead. She immediately stiffened. Loki didn’t often give out such gentle touches, he must’ve really been worried. It gave Nor some sort of pride to see her father so concerned for her wellbeing.
“I’m fine! I can’t believe your home! You’re really home!” She squeezed her brother tightly, making him grunt.
“Let’s go home, Nor. I got you presents!” That got the girl on her feet and made her so excited that she easily forgot that her brother was troubled.
“There are so many cities Nor, but the forests are beautiful. There’s snow everywhere! On the trees, the ground, the houses. I was lucky father knew spells to keep us warm or I would have froze to death!” Jormungandr laughed, but it sounded forced. His tone had a false cheerfulness that had Nor wincing when he looked away from her. It left a sick feeling in her stomach to see her brother in such a state.
They had decided against a party. Thor said he didn’t want everyone and their mother to know that the future king would be in a foreign realm without his family. He said it would only lead to trouble and Jormungandr agreed mostly because he didn’t like parties. So Loki ordered an extravagant feast to their kitchen, and they all gathered around and tried to hide their melancholy expressions.
“The winters are dangerously cold without the right protection.” Loki interjected. Jormungandr nodded absentmindedly and busied himself with eating. Nor pushed the food around on her plate but didn’t take a bite. She had already eaten the roasted vegetables and she was too scared to touch anything else.
“Nor, how are your lessons? How are your friends?” Jormungandr asked after long stretch of silence. Again his heart wasn’t in his tone and Nor felt offended about how unconcerned he sounded. He could at least try to seem happy in his last hours with her.
“They’re fine. Dancing and music are great. Sometimes Amaan joins and we finally have a guy in the room! The training masters are impressed with my skills during my matches. My friends are fine, we meet everyday and we have fun so that’s good.” Nor said with a shrug. Jormungandr mustered a small smile at that. He didn’t seem just upset at leaving, he seemed, troubled. Like when she had an impossible to reach itch and there was no one around to scratch it. He shifted uncomfortably in the seat and resumed eating.
Even father noticed. He glanced up mid bite at his son and Nor would never say her father was scared because she knew he wasn’t afraid of anything, but his face screamed fear. He blinked and turned his gaze to her and she visibly bristled under his watchful eyes.
“Nor, eat.” He said simply.
“I have, Father.” She said, pointing her fork to the half empty side of her plate.
“Don’t argue with me. Eat your food.”
“I already ate!”
“Don’t!” Jormungandr shouted. It made them both jump.
“Don’t argue. Not tonight please. I just, just, please.” He said it like he was pleading. Nor looked down guiltily and nodded.
“Maybe, we’re done with dinner. It’s late out don’t you think? We should,” he paused looking at the table then out the window. “We should go to bed. Nor, I’ll tell you a story after you get settled.”
He encouraged her with a nod and she pushed herself from the table. She practically fled from the room to get ready. She shut her door quietly and went searching for her night gown. She tried her hardest not to make messes with her clothes anymore, she knew it hurt the maid’s back and Nor had already sprained her wrist. It was the least she could do.
The gown had slipped under her bed when she had gotten dressed that morning. The soft pink material just barely brushed against her ankles and the long sleeves puffed at the arms. Lady Sif had gotten it for her shortly after she noticed the weight loss. It was almost as nice as Amira’s gift, but anything Lady Sif gave her would ever amount to the love and time Amira put into her gifts. Nor quickly undressed and pulled it over her head, barely noticing it when her brother slipped in quietly as she buried herself under the covers.
He coiled up and smiled down at her. She still couldn’t get over how sad he looked.
“I missed you a lot. I missed your stories too.” She said, resting her head against the pillow.
“I’m sorry I had to go. I’m sorry that I have to go.” He went quiet and he stared at her hard. She coughed uncomfortably and he shook himself out of his stupor. His face grew darker.
“I want to talk with you.” He said quietly. Nor furrowed her brow at him. She had a feeling no stories would be told tonight.
“Nor, I-,” he looked around the room searching for words, “Nor will you be upset if I leave?”
“Duh. But,” it was her turn to look away as she shifted onto her side, “I know you have too. I won’t be mad if you leave, but I’ll be mad that you have to leave. But it won’t matter because you’ll still write to me won’t you? And father and I can visit?” Just mentioning the thought that she’d be stuck with her father all alone made her feel nauseous. Jormungandr nodded slowly. She knew he couldn’t cry but he might of well have been.
He looked destroyed and crumbling.
“Nor I have to go.” He said, with a slight determination in his voice.
“ And I’m not sure if I’ll ever see you again. But father will take care of you.” His voice was cracking. He moved forward and nestled against her cheek.
“You’ll be safe with father, and- and you’ll be okay. You’ll be okay, Nor.” He used his head to catch a tear trailing down her cheek. She hadn’t realized she was crying.
“But we’ll come visit you. Don’t worry! I love you, Jormy.” She hadn’t used his nickname in a long time. When she was younger and struggled through pronouncing his name, she could only come up with Jormy. She got older and her friends had teased her about the name and she stopped using it. He grinned so wide it took up most of his face.
“I love you too, Nor. I have to go now, but, just know father will take care of you. And I love you. And things will get better and you’ll be okay.”
“We’ll be okay.” She corrected him with her own wide smile. The sad look returned to his face.
“We’re okay.” He leaned forward and pressed his mouth to her forehead. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see him leave her room for the last time. She didn’t know how she was going to compose herself when she watched him go through the travel room doors the next day. It would be impossible.
The only sign that told her he left was the soft click of the door. She was wide awake but still refused to open her eyes. Eventually she drifted off to sleep, her heart weighing her down on the bed like a rock sinking into water.
She fell from the bed. The ground beneath her was rumbling so hard it was violently shaking all the furniture in her room. Nor tried to get her bearings but couldn’t make it to her feet. She forced herself onto her hands and knees and crawled. The room was dark but suddenly it was illuminated by a flash of lightning. Thunder cracked so hard it shattered her window.
She crawled across the broken shards of glass to catch a glimpse of the outside. Her palms were bleeding. Was the whole castle falling apart?
There was another flash of lightning and this time a strong force almost threw her from the window. Shakily she pulled herself up using the sill and the end of her bed frame. Outside the sky was glowing red above the dark grey storm clouds. There was no rain but lightning strikes were occurring so fast she knew this was no natural storm.
She could make out a figure amidst the chaos, floating high above the city, lightning cracklings from the tool in its hand. It was her Uncle Thor. He looked as small as the light figure her father made of him when he crafted his stories.
She squinted hard, shielding her eyes from the blinding flashes comes from the sky. Another lightning strike illuminated the clouds and Nor could just barely make out another object. It was long and the light glinted off its silver scales.
“Jormungandr!” She cried. She couldn’t even hear herself over the storm or the rumbling.
In another flash of lightning she saw her brother lunge forward and latch onto her uncles throat. She screamed so hard her voice gave out, but she still couldn’t hear herself. The furniture in her room began tipping over, her vanity crashed with a loud bang and the mirror shattered all over the floor. Nor clung to the window sill like her life depended on it.
From the right side of the castle she could see a glowing blue light. There was a deafening silence amid the chaos before a loud explosion rocked the castle and she was tossed onto her back. Her vision was consumed by the bright blue light then everything stopped at once. The shaking, the storm, the wind. It all stopped.
When Nor got herself back to window, all she could see was her Uncle floating above the while the clouds began to disappear revealing a beautiful dark blue sky littered with stars.
Jormungandr was gone.