It was the middle of the night when they came. The Aesir soldiers. They were called “soldiers,” but they didn't act like it. The ones on the front lines, fighting in the war against the Vanir, could be considered soldiers. The ones who came in the night and dragged people out of their homes were not true soldiers, just goons.
After the Aesir broke down the front door, they told the people inside to pack one bag, then be ready to leave when they came back. The residents knew better than to bring a lot of money with them, because it would all be taken from them anyway. So they mostly packed a possession they absolutely couldn't leave behind, at least one pair of clothes for each family member, and they would hide bread in their shoes. Squished, smelly bread was better than no bread at all.
It was much harder for large households, like the watchmaker's family. He and his wife had four children. They only packed for three of them, because their oldest daughter was at the hospital after she started having contractions. She was expected to deliver a baby boy any day now. It had been difficult to get her to a hospital, because after the Jotuns were moved into the ghettos, there were no medical facilities nearby. She had to be smuggled inside a newspaper truck.
When all of the Jotuns were gathered in the courtyard, the false soldiers began forcing them into the train. Many, trying to escape, dropped their bags. Those who ran were shot. The shouts and commands of the soldiers were drowned out by screams of terror. The watchmaker and his family were unable to stay together. The mother, daughter and oldest son were on one train car, the father and younger son on another. They dropped their bag in the panic of the crowd.
The train was loud. The sobs and moans of the passengers were deafening. The silence of the courtyard, occupied only by lost and abandoned possessions, was haunting.
For hours upon hours, perhaps even days, the train traveled south to Asgard. The Jotuns knew what their fate was to be. It wasn't the luxuries of its native citizens. It was gunshots in the night, the stench of corpses, torture and abuse. Hell was waiting for them with open arms.
The watchmaker's wife died on the train, as well as several hundred others. She had been sick for months, so it was only a matter of time. She wouldn't have lasted long in the camp anyway. Brother and sister held onto each other. Just like all Jotuns, they had pale skin, black hair and dark eyes. These were traits that were not shared with their enemy.
When the train began to brake, the people inside were jostled and fell over. As soon as it was completely still, compartment doors slid open and the soldiers began dragging people out. The bodies of people who died on the way were thrown from the train cars and hit the ground with a crack as bones shattered. It must have been so the train would be empty for the next group; and the smell. Again, some tried to run, and gunshots were everywhere. It was foolish. Where were they planning on going?
It was pouring rain, and thick mud caked their shoes and ankles. In some places it was slippery from puddles, so people tumbled to the ground and got mud in their eyes and mouths. Those who didn't get up fast enough were shot.
As the Jotuns were led towards the front gate, people started screaming again. The false soldiers were separating the men from the women. Some were fighting back, spouses trying to stay together and parents trying to hold onto their children; all were immediately shot. Infants and toddlers were ripped from their mothers' arms. When the soldiers stepped away, the mothers would hold their babies, blood and battered brains covering the front of their clothing.
“Helblindi! Helblindi, don't leave me!” As soon as she grabbed onto his sleeve, her brother yanked his arm free.
“No, Loki! They'll shoot you!”
“It'll be alright, Loki!” He was buried in the crowd. “It'll be alright...!”
The gates slammed shut, and she couldn't see the men anymore. Her mother was dead, her sister wasn't here, her father and brothers were on the other side of the wall. She had nobody. She was thirteen years old and she was alone.
Loki had to force herself to remain standing, so they wouldn't shoot her, but all she wanted to do was curl into a ball and cry. She didn't care that she was trudging through mud that had now reached her shins. Suffocating in mud would be preferable to imprisonment in this place.
There was a soldier standing at the front, shouting at them. The women were looking at each other and murmuring. He was speaking in the Aesir language, so none of them understood what he was saying. Except Loki. She had studied other languages in her free time, and by that it meant most of her day. Loki, as well as a lot of other Jotun girls, didn't go to school because parents could only afford to pay for a male child's education. While her father was at his shop making or repairing watches and clocks, her mother was home with the two girls. Every year Loki would receive a foreign language book for her birthday, and up to this point, she was fluent in Aesir, Vanir, and somewhat fluent in the Dokkalfar dialect of Elvish. For a long time, she was worried that all of those nights reading and studying would be a waste of time. Now she was thankful that she persevered.
If she understood him correctly, the soldier was telling them that they would all be assigned to different jobs. Depending on the job and how well they performed would reflect in how they were fed. When he started talking about “Valhalla,” the storage building where all of their possessions were being held and sorted, Loki had to keep herself from laughing. The fact that this place was called “paradise” was ironic to her. Or maybe it was meant to be a joke on them.
While he was speaking, guards walked towards them, holding bundles of clothing. They appeared to be dresses, and not the kind one would wear to a dinner party.
“Now get undressed, all of you!” The women backed away, eying the guards warily. Finally having enough of their incompetence, he grabbed the closest girl and started ripping her clothes off her body. She looked to be the same age as Loki. After he had stripped her bare, he threw her shredded garments into the mud. She was shivering and trying to cover herself as much as possible. “Well? Do you want the same thing to happen to you?”
Loki turned around and put her hands on the shoulders of the women nearest to her.
“Take your clothes off. Just do as he says and you won't get hurt. Tell the others.”
There was a sea of whispers, and a moment later they slowly removed their garments. Loki observed the others, hoping nobody would try to fight. After they were all naked, the guards handed out the dresses. When it was Loki's turn, it was the soldier who had spoken, not a guard. He was scrutinizing her, still holding onto her dress. A few more seconds passed then he dropped it in the mud at her feet. Loki had a hard time putting the garment on because she was trembling so much. He knew that she was the one who translated the message. Whether or not this was a good thing, Loki couldn't say.