Once. A very long time ago. I ruled a realm and was called queen. My very name was death.
That was, admittedly, a long time ago.
The world is different. I can taste the difference as I wake. It feels alien on my tongue and I lick my lips and taste iron and magic and blood and darkness and light.
So much death.
They are gone, and it clenches in my belly, this indisputable truth.
God and his sister are gone.
The world has not ended and I am awake, after a thousand years and ice and death. I shudder and reach for --
A hand clenches around mine, rough claws and velvet soft skin and I almost whimper because I know that grasp.
A hundred thousand years and more could pass and I could never forget the way his hand feels wrapped like silk and knives around mine.
He pulls me up and I get my first look at the world as I land in his arms.
Wild and untamed and small.
But the world fades away, narrows to the two arms and solid chest that braces me. He's shuddering. His voice hoarse and low, a throaty growl in my ear. “Sister,” he whispers and everything that feels wrong. All that feels alien and other fades away.
In his arms, it doesn't matter because his arms have always meant home and family and safe.
My earliest memories were sitting in the circle of my brother’s arms. Half asleep while I pet his shaggy hair and listened to father spin stories.
“I missed you,” I whisper into his neck and he whines, nipping at my shoulder. His shaking and shuddering around me. Barely clinging to his human shape and I loosen my grip on him. Force myself a step away. He glares at me, but it's more pout than ire and I smirk. “How long has it been?”
“I woke two weeks ago.”
I feel a sharp fission of rage and I turn an arch glare on him. His lips curl back and I resist the urge to smack him across the nose.
Fenrir always hated when I did that, would nip my fingers and I would snarl and stamp my feet and father would laugh, all sly amusement.
I shift away from him and tug my hair back, frowning because I realize what's wrong with this little homecoming.
Aside from the obvious--that I am awake and Fenrir is smirking with too sharp teeth and eyes so tired that I feel a sharp spike of worry and reach for my own power.
It's weak. Barely there. The dead. My kingdom lingers out of reach and untouchable.
And father is not here.
I look at him, my older brother, a god meant to bring on end Ragnarok. The son of the smartest trickster to ever walk Valhalla.
We were his favorites. Maybe because his stories were our favorites.
Gods need worship, after all, and we hung on his words, ever last honey dipped twisted tale. And he hung on us and every wretched perfect thing we ever did.
The first time I stole a soul and felt that delicious, addicting stab of power. They were at my side.
The first time Fens turned and whimpered in a corner under the bed, I was there to coax him out and cuddle him while our father let him lick honey mead from his fingers and teased his tail until Fens finally shifted back to the petulant little boy I knew so well.
For years beyond counting, I knew two things.
My power terrified even the gods.
And my brother and father would never leave me.
We were three outcasts in Odin’s court and we found a home together.
“Where is he, fens? Where is father?”
Rage and grief, so desolate it could destroy worlds and flashes across his face and I feel the empty alien world fall from under my feet as he whispers, “He's dead, Hel. Loki is dead.”