Eir is tending Tyr’s hand while he looks past her, eyes locked on the struggling wolf. Thor has his hands looped into Gleipnir, dragging the mound of bristling fury that Fenrir has become along with him, one careful step at a time. Fenrir’s fangs tear at his own shoulders as he tries to reach Thor, rivulets of blood staining his dark fur.
Loki makes a strangled sound and Sigyn looks at him as he stands beside her shaking with something that might be fear or anger or simply pain. He’s unaware of her, eyes on Fenrir as Thor lets go and fetches Dromi. Fenrir tries to stand and only succeeds in writhing, Gleipnir cutting into him as his legs push against it. Thor slides Dromi through it’s slender bands, and loops them back on themselves to be buried. A sigh goes up from the assembled gods, a quiet breath of relief made loud by numbers.
Fenrir, until now mingling growls and curses, throws back his head and howls. It is a sound that eclipses all others, filled with fury and grief. Sigyn can see the stars trembling as it shakes the sky. She has her hands over her ears, the desire to block it instinctive, but it is vibrating in her bones. Tyr steps forward, sword held clumsily in his left hand, and shoves the blade into Fenrir’s open mouth. Blood falls from Fenrir’s maw and the abrupt silence feels as violent as the howl.
Sigyn sees Loki swaying only just in time to catch him as he falls. Holding him awkwardly upright, she looks around uncertainly, wanting help but afraid to draw attention to the wolf’s father. Fortunately she has barely had time to see that no one is looking at them when Loki stirs. He blinks muzzily, head turning as he pushes himself upright. Sigyn stops him with a hand on the back of his head. Fenrir is gagging on the sword, foam and blood gushing from his mouth.
‘Don’t look,’ says Sigyn.
Behind them someone laughs, joy and relief far more evident than humour, and Loki flinches against her. His lips peel back from teeth far sharper than they were earlier and his eyes are filled with the blank wariness of a hunted thing.
No one notice us, thinks Sigyn, not realising she’s spell casting until she feels the power flow through her like cool water. No one remember us.
‘Let’s go home,’ she says aloud.
Loki’s own laugh is hard and mirthless, a choking sound. ‘Not to Bilskirnir,’ he says. His tongue darts out and licks at the scars on his lips.
Sleipnir welcomes them to his stable with a soft nicker. Loki laughs, hard and sharp like a bark, and Sleipnir startles at it, backing away and pawing the ground. Loki is radiating hostility and Sigyn wishes abruptly that she hadn’t brought him here. Her instincts have failed her this time.
‘They are torturing your brother,’ said Loki, each word clearly enunciated. ‘They have bound him and shoved a sword in his mouth and he will escape only when he dies.’
Sleipnir drops his head, looking unhappy, and Sigyn wonders whether he understands the words or only the tone.
‘You never liked him,’ says Loki, words coming faster. ‘He tried to play with you, but he was too big and too rough. You kicked him and he bit you. Odin was furious. You’re probably glad he’s gone, he won’t be biting anyone again. Not until the end and then he’ll probably eat you.’ Loki steps forward, crowding Sleipnir back against the wall.
‘Stop it, you’re scaring him,’ says Sigyn, fighting to stay calm. She remembers Fenrir biting Sleipnir. Fenrir had been nearly Sleipnir’s size then. Just a puppy with feet like dinner plates and a tendency to tear up furniture. That had been the first time the wolf had found trouble with Odin, the first time he’d hurt someone. Later he’d bitten more often, games deliberately rough as he tested everyone around him. Tyr had stood up to his pushing, Loki had not and Odin had been no more happy with the bitemarks on his brother than on his horse. ‘What happened to Fenrir isn’t his fault. Or yours.’
Loki stills, turning to her. She braces herself for venom, barbed words formed from pain and thrown at any target available. But Sleipnir, whether he understands or not, chooses that moment to give Loki’s shoulder a forgiving nuzzle. Loki sways, although Sigyn knows Sleipnir was gentle, and whatever he’d been about to say comes out as a sob. He sinks down to kneel on the straw at Sleipnir’s feet, doubled over with his hands on the floor and gasping with the force of each wrenching sob. Sigyn kneels beside him, hands on his shoulders as she tries to soothe him.
They are sitting side by side against Sleipnir’s flank, the horse lying curled around them with Loki absently stroking his mane, when they hear the knock on the stable door. The eager pricking of Sleipnir’s ears tells Sigyn who to expect. Her father looks old as he enters, in a way he never has before despite his grey hair.
‘I am sorry, Loki,’ says Odin.
Sleipnir stands up, careful of the two sitting against him as he dislodges them, and moves over to greet Odin.
‘I told him you bound his brother,’ says Loki, bitterly. ‘He still prefers you.’
‘As one of my own children will always feel most loyalty to you,’ says Odin. His one piercing eye meets Sigyn’s and she reads humour there, resignation, and, startlingly, gratitude.
‘That’s hardly the same,’ says Loki, but he sounds amused despite himself.
Odin turns his gaze on Loki who meets it, trading intensity for intensity until the air between them crackles with power. ‘Do you regret coming here?’ asks Odin. He lifts one hand to adjust his hat, but it’s no accident that the light catches a thin white scar on his wrist.
Loki shrugs. ‘At times. Do you regret bringing me here?’
Loki breaks the gaze abruptly, ducking his head. He looks pleased and bewildered and Sigyn thinks that if he was less wrung out by the day he’d never let it show.
Odin gives Sleipnir one more pat and moves away. ‘If you’re planning to stay here for the night I’ll send someone with food and blankets,’ he says, as if having people spend the night in his stables is quite normal.
‘Thank you,’ says Sigyn. Going back to Bilskirnir would mean facing Thor and Sif and she can’t handle any more people today.
Odin smiles at her and is gone, passing from the stable door like a shadow.