Loki’s hold on the throne of Jotunheim was finally strong and secure. The last days of Laufey King, with his stubborn refusal to pass on the horned crown, in spite of his sickness, had done great damage to the realm. It had taken Loki long, strenuous months to set it to rights. Once Loki had proven his worth, only then had the lords sworn the oath of loyalty. The foreign ambassadors had all come to court, to bring word that their masters saluted his coronation and his rule. The kingdom was at peace, and industry and commerce once again prospered. There was but one thing left to do: renew Jotunheim’s alliance with Asgard.
The Asgardians themselves had known some upheaval in recent times, after the death of old Odin King. His heir Thor had had to prove himself as well. First and foremost, that he wasn’t the hotheaded, harebrained, war-thirsty pup his enemies claimed he was, but wise and prudent, for air had no place in the head that bore the winged crown of the Aesir, and guaranteed the peace across the Nine Realms.
The land of Yggdrasil was one vast steppe, frozen to the north, warmer to the south, surrounded by the sea of Jormungand. Seven kingdoms stood on its coasts, Jotunheim on its own icy isle. And in the middle of them all, on the immense, empty plains, dwelled the ferocious nomadic nation called the Asgardians. They journeyed the trade routes that were the bloodlines of the coastal realms, keeping bandits, pirates, and rogue warlords at bay. Without them, trade and communication among the peoples of Yggdrasil would all but cease, and the lawless would fall upon their cities, pillaging and plundering to their heart’s content. The age of darkness and isolation would return.
The Asgardians were amiable overlords, which was why the other eight realms and smaller city-states did not usually resent their rule. Asgard did not abuse its superior military strength to take over what was not theirs. They expected tribute, of course, disguised as trade balanced grossly in their favour. If one realm refused their protection, the Asgardians didn’t raid and plunder their lands in retaliation; they would simply let it be known that they owed no allegiance to that city or that kingdom, and any bandit would know where to head for to ply his trade. Their terms were not extortionate, Loki guessed, for what they offered in return.
And so, now that his house was in order, it was time for Loki to visit the Asgardian King. Yes, in person. No ambassador or envoy, no matter how close to the throne, now matter how exalted his name, could take the king’s place. Asgardians were people of honour. For the really important business, they wanted to be able to look at a man or woman in the eye. In not-so-olden days, a handshake had been enough to seal any deal. They did not believe some scribbling on a paper would make any difference if one of the parties wished themselves out of an agreement, and they certainly didn’t believe any court of law would resolve the matter of a broken promise more efficiently and satisfactorily than a few hundred of their riders in arms. Thor King was a modern man, however, and he believed in keeping an efficient, organised operation, so a contract had been put in writing, renewing the friendship of Asgard and Jotunheim, establishing clear, detailed terms, and now it was before Loki to sign and seal. But it had to be Loki’s own hand to stamp his name, and Thor King still asked for Loki to look him in the eye and hold his wrist while he pronounced the words.
Well, it was done. There was much cheer and celebration in the yurt where the Asgardian court gathered, and three times, their names were called out loud by all present. Loki’s brother Helblindi and his sister Byleistr both joined in the general merriment.
The interpreter leaned closer to Loki.
“Thor King wishes to enjoy the company of your majesty at a private dinner tonight.”
“Very well,” said Loki. “I would be most honoured. But before we dine, I am very interested in Asgard. I have never seen anything like it before, and I have heard many wonderful things that I wish to see with mine own eyes. Would Thor King object if I wished to spend the rest of the day exploring the nomad city?”
The interpreter had conveyed Loki’s words as he spoke them, in an unobtrusive murmur. The Asgardian king gave his reply, and the interpreter conveyed that too.
“Thor King is happy to offer the services of his interpreter to guide your majesty through the city. When your majesty is satisfied, he would offer the use of his bath chamber, should your majesty wish to refresh before dinner.”
“Tell Thor King that is very kind of him. I accept.”
* * *
Loki had heard many tales of the wandering city. With his keen intellect and eager, all-encompassing curiosity, he was relishing this rare chance of seeing the world. He left Hel and By behind, because adventure.
The city was immense, a vast spread of tents and yurts and wagons, and small shelters for one or two, enclosures for the cattle, and many other precarious constructions besides. It was hard to believe such an intricate complex could be set up and taken down in a matter of hours, and carted off and rebuilt and taken down again and again. Such a life was unimaginable for him, whose bed in Jotunheim stood in a building which had existed, in one form or another, for thousands of years.
Loki asked many questions and was awed again and again by the things he saw. He learned much that may be useful, even for his own city of long stone houses with thatched roofs.
* * *
The sun set early on the prairie, and the sounds of dinner and chatter came through the walls of fabric and hide. After their bath, the small Jotun party was lead to the complex of yurts and structures they called the King’s quarters, the heart of the city everywhere it went. Inside awaited the King, and his four closest friends, whose names, Volstagg, Hogunn, Fandral, and the Lady Sif, were familiar to Loki as those of great warriors of much renown and fame.
It quickly became apparent to Loki that he was overdressed for the occasion. He had put on his ceremonial best –woven black leather, the heavy embroidered cloak of kings, and several gold and bronze pieces of armour. Thor, for his part, wore a red cloak clasped at the chest with a gold chain, leather breeches dyed in a most unusual shade of blue, his boots, and not much else, besides the markings and intricate designs inked under the golden skin. Gulps. Not only was nudity rare among the Jotnar, but it would seem that the legends about Thor King’s golden beauty were just. ...Perhaps even a little short. Between one thing and the other, the Jotun king had no idea where to look.
The Asgardian King welcomed him in, as he eyed Loki from head to toe with a broad, toothsome grin. (Was that like a show of respect in Asgard, or…?)
While By and Hel were invited to their places to one side, facing the Asgardian notables, Loki was led to the place of honour, the pile of rugs, furs, and plush cushions at the end of the tent. For all they seemed unafraid of a hard life, the Asgardians surely liked their softness. Thor made a gesture.
“Thor King wishes your majesty to be comfortable.”
Loki expressed his gratitude and reclined on the pile of furs. Thor King took his place right beside him, rather close. The rest of the guests followed suit. Four servants walked in, carrying between them a large flat gold dish piled with a steaming mountain of meat, roasted in honey if that glaze didn’t lie, surrounded in a mixture of spiced pulses and vegetables. They placed it just in front of Loki. (Oh, of course, the guest of honour first. Bugger. Loki had counted on watching Thor for social clues.)
The Jotnar had the food placed on their own plates and they used knives and spoons to eat, and some even used forks (Loki, for sure, always with an eye to the latest technological developments), but the steppe people brought food to their mouths with a piece of flatbread. Loki had read about it. He was proud that he was not shocked or discombobulated by the exoticisms. After only one attempt, he managed to bring an appropriately sized morsel to his mouth. Thor King nodded in approval. The rest of the guests were invited to start as well.
More plates with delicacies sweet and savoury were to follow. Thor King wished Loki to see he wasn’t stuck in the ways of the past, and that his people knew dining as fine and sophisticated as any of the coastal cities. They would eat until they were satisfied, and the remainders would be for the riders.
There wasn’t much conversation during the meal itself, apart from the king presenting every dish to his foreign guests, and the guests showing their polite appreciation, all through the interpreter, whose mouth apparently never ran dry. To ensure there were no heavy silences, soft music was played at one end of the tent, not loud enough to disturb.
Once the diners had all expressed their satisfaction, the king gestured, and the still half-full plates were taken away for the riders outside. Water basins and towels were offered to each guest to wash their hands. The music was still playing, but now conversation could begin.
The king spoke, the interpreter translated.
“Thor King wishes to know if the food of his kitchens is pleasing to your taste.”
“Tell the king it is excellent, thank you.”
“Thor King wonders whether your curiosity and interest were sated with today’s tour of his city, and inquires about the suitability of your guide.”
“Oh, my visit to your city was interesting in the extreme. For one such as myself, coming from a land of settlements the foundations of which were laid many centuries ago, it is most baffling, and utterly fascinating, the idea of an entire city being uprooted and carted around all the time! I found so many clever devices and ingenious novelties to facilitate the lives of your nomadic nation, that there was a surprise around every corner. Also, I must say I have never seen such an orderly settlement, organised along such rational lines. Our settlements grew in the course of many centuries without planning or direction, and to this day so many problems are caused by this lack of rationality. I learned much. My guide was very helpful, and I am quite assured that, with his aid, I missed none of the remarkable sights. His efforts to interpret not only what I was told, but what I was seeing, were invaluable. I’m very grateful.”
“Thor King is pleased.”
“As I am.”
“Thor King wonders whether perhaps your majesty will one day show him around your great kingdom.”
“It will be my pleasure.”
“He has heard fabulous tales about houses built out of snow. Are they true?”
“Yes, indeed. And entire palaces made of ice. Far north, in the lands of perennial frost.”
“Thor King expresses his amazement and his great desire to behold such marvels with his own eyes.”
“It will be my pride to show you personally.”
“Thor King is grateful. He wonders whether your majesty would share his bed tonight.”
Loki choked on his mead. He looked around, stunned, waiting for the translation of what had to be an obvious cultural misunderstanding. By and Hel just returned interested stares, the fuckers.
“Does ‘sharing the bed’ have a different meaning in Asgard?” asked Loki. His voice had come out in a higher pitch than his usual bronze notes.
“I have striven to find the Jotun expression closest in meaning and intention to that used by Thor King,” said the interpreter, with modesty. “Thor King’s literal words, although perfectly acceptable in our culture, may sound a bit too brash in your language, but I will relay them gladly if Loki King wishes it so.”
Loki looked around again, searching for clues, directions, something, anything. Hel and By were still no fucking help. They didn’t look particularly shocked either.
“I… don’t understand,” he admitted.
“It is the custom among our people, if the parties find each other agreeable, to seal a deal not only by words, but with an intimate embrace,” explained the interpreter. “Asgardians believe sharing the pleasure of their bodies deepens and cements reciprocate friendship and loyalty better than any piece of paper or spoken oath.”
Loki looked astonished from the interpreter to the king, to the guests, to his goddamn, very extremely fucking quiet brother and sister.
“Thor King is concerned he may have offended you somehow,” translated the interpreter.
The silence was lasting much too much. Was Loki going to cause a diplomatic incident and throw away the deal? Think fast, son of Laufey.
“I… uh… I’m… I wasn’t expecting this. It’s… not the custom among our people,” he stuttered.
“Thor King wonders if your majesty doesn’t find him agreeable.”
If Loki looked as he felt, he was probably a bit green right now.
“He… is most comely to look upon,” he tried.
“Is it his manner? Has Loki King heard unfavourable reports about his character?”
“N-not at all, they’re all most effusive in his favour, and h-his manner is, uh, easy and winning.”
“Does his body not appeal, then?”
(Was this for fucking real?)
“W-well, he… is, a, uh, male,” noted Loki.
Both king and interpreter seemed confused.
“Thor King is indeed a man,” confirmed the interpreter.
“S-so am I.”
Several pairs of blank eyes peered at him as if expecting the punchline.
“Yes, Thor King is counting on that,” translated the interpreter.
Oh dear. Asgardians are one of those peoples. Surely that should appear in his reports somewhere? Loki cleared his throat.
“Uh, men do not bed men among the Jotnar,” he informed.
(Was that a muffled snort from Helblindi? And that flicker Loki caught out of the corner of his eye, had that been Byleistr kicking Hel in the shin?)
A moment of conference between the king and the interpreter.
“Thor King wonders what is it that Jotnar do, then, when men become enamoured with one another.”
Loki frowned, concentrating really hard to follow that conversation.
“Uh, well, they… don’t?”
The interpreter interpreted. Thor laughed. He addressed his friends, and they laughed too. Helblindi and Byleistr had their mouth pursed to hold back a grin. Loki contemplated being offended by it all, but he was much too baffled and thrown off.
The king spoke once more to the interpreter, but stared at Loki, his gaze piercing and sultry and very fucking direct. It made Loki want to cover himself. And he was covered, from the tip of his toes up to his neck.
“Not even when they look upon one as beautiful as your majesty?” translated the interpreter.
Loki blushed. Thor grinned. (Another snort. By kicked Hel’s shin again.)
“Thor King enquires if intercourse between men is considered a crime in Jotunheim, as it is among some of the Midgardian nations.”
“Uh, not really,” said Loki. “That I know of.” And he would know, right? He had studied those bloody law books hard enough. Something like that would have stood out.
“Is it considered shameful, then?” asked the king through his interpreter.
“Uh, it’s just… not done.”
Thor grinned with fondness, as if Loki was a silly little boy, the patronising fucker. (Oh, Loki had heard that! Helblindi had fucking sniggered!)
“But there are no laws or customs, either of the land or the gods, that prohibit such an act between the Jotnar?” insisted the king, through his interpreter.
Loki contemplated lying, but it would be easy enough for the king of Asgard to find out the truth. If he didn’t know it already — Loki had the distinct impression that he was being led on.
“N-no,” he admitted.
“Is your majesty devoted to a lover already? It is not the Asgardian way, but Thor King knows some cultures place enormous importance on fidelity to one single partner, to the exclusion of all others.”
Another chance to lie, but a very poor one, since it was the talk of the Jotun court that Loki did not fuck. (He didn’t have time, alright? He had an entire country to rebuild from the ruins of what his father had left! It was hard enough to handle the Lords, and he would rather not throw sex politics into the mix! It wasn’t even that much fun anyway, for all he knew.) ...Not to mention that whatever lie he came up with, Helblindi was going to fucking give it away with his goddamn sniggers.
“Not really,” recognised Loki. “I-I mean, uh.”
Thor was grinning like a wolf, his stare heavy and heated, making Loki feel very small and very, um, edible.
“Thor King understands, then, that this would be your majesty’s first night with a man.”
“Well, of-of course!” replied Loki, indignant, blushing bright pink.
Thor put one hand to his heart, and bowed his head. He gestured, threw orders around, then he addressed Loki again through the interpreter.
“A first night is a great occasion among Asgardians, a great honour, and a responsibility not to be taken lightly. A King’s first night would be an honour beyond words, and a tremendous privilege. Thor King wishes your majesty to know he would strive to become worthy of his majesty’s first night with a man. He is willing to bring forth seven elders who will speak for his character, his intentions, and his lineage, and seven lovers who will speak for his attentiveness and his skill. Of course, he offers the full ceremony and many gifts.”
The Asgardian king stood up and offered his hand. Loki blinked quickly.
“Thor King respectfully asks your majesty to follow him.”
Where the hell had Loki got himself into? And why oh why didn’t his father consider a good idea to enlighten him about this particular Asgardian custom when he was still willing to train Loki for the succession, before he went completely mad? And would Helblindi stop fucking sniggering already, or was Loki going to have to fucking stab him on the foot to get him to think of serious things, for example bleeding to death?
Loki accepted Thor’s hand (what else could he do) -he found it hot and dry, and very fucking strong, by the frozen rocks of Nilfheim!- and followed the king to the entrance of the tent. A long queue of servants was piling valuable goods from around the realms, laying them in a crescent —sumptuous rolls of material, magnificent weapons, caskets full of bottles of perfume cut in rock glass and rimmed in gold, precious gems and jewelry, rare pigments and spices, bales of exotic hides and furs… The king spoke, and two stable hands came forth, leading one monster horse each, as big as a damn bilgesnipe, black the one, grey the other, with a lustrous white mane. A muted, awed “oh!” rose from everyone gathered there.
The king spoke again, eyes keen and intent on Loki, and the interpreter translated.
“There is of course no treasure equal in value to the first night of the king of the Jotnar, with his astonishing beauty and his delightful manner, for nothing on sea nor sky nor land could be as precious and perfect as your majesty, but he hopes Loki King won’t be offended by these gifts. Let your majesty know that, though they may seem humble in comparison to your majesty’s virginity, these represent the best Asgard has to offer, and it is with the best intentions at heart that Thor King places them before your majesty now.”
Loki turned to the Asgardian king, who was definitely taking the piss out of him this time. Humble presents? Get out of here. Of course Thor must know that Loki, in his frozen rock of an isle, or any other Jotun for that matter, hunter or king, had never seen such luxury in his life. Loki did find a playful smirk on that golden face, as he had expected. Meanwhile, the square before the tent had been steadily filling with nosy Asgardians.
“Thor King invites your majesty to assess the worth and quality of the offerings himself.”
Loki was pretty sure he wasn’t sophisticated enough to really appreciate the quality of a rather embarrassing number of the offerings, or even their fucking nature (what the hell were those red things there? And were those long golden tubes a weapon or a musical instrument?) and Thor probably knew it as well. Loki was not going to make a fool out of himself in front of all of Asgard trying to obtain a tune from a fucking spear, or taking aim with a bloody trumpet.
“Th-that won’t be necessary,” he said. “I fully trust Thor King’s discernment.”
“Thor King wishes to know if your majesty deems them sufficient.”
Loki was getting a headache. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. There must be hundreds of Asgardians gathered around the king’s quarters now, waiting for the answer of the king of the Jotnar.
“Perhaps we can continue our talks inside,” he suggested.
“With pleasure,” said the king through his interpreter. And while the interpreter’s voice was perfectly collected and devoid of emphasis and expression, Thor’s face was very much not. He looked… rather naughty. Loki’s throat was as dry as the western plains by now.
Once inside, he meditated (agonised more like) on whether to dare or not ask this question. Since Thor King seemed to value directness, Loki said fuck it, and went for it.
“Is-is the trade agreement dependent on whether I accept Thor King’s proposition?” he asked, only after his throat was refreshed with a drink.
“Of course not!” said the interpreter, for once with a voice that wasn’t entirely flat, and communicated some of the king’s agitated protestation. “In the olden days, perhaps, but that is not done anymore. Thor King is a modern, enlightened monarch. A treaty has been signed, and Asgard will honour it. But Thor King also believes, as his ancestors did, that friendship among nations, as among men, is much strengthened when it is not founded on paper alone, not just with the words of the mouth, but with pleasant embraces and shared intimacy, which is able to forge a much deeper bond. For when words may waver, the sweet memory of a night of passion comes to freshen their meaning when they were originally sworn. And if words may be ambiguous, tender lovemaking is not.”
“Thor King is most eloquent.”
Thor bowed with a hand on his chest. His naked, broad, muscular, undoubtedly masculine chest.
“Thor King expresses his desire to know the touch of your majesty’s lips and the warmth of your majesty’s body close to his.”
“Oh, for all the snow in Gurla,” mumbled Loki. “Don’t translate that!”
“Thor King will have your majesty know he takes pride in being a generous and considerate lover. He will see to your majesty’s pleasure with as much dedication as his own, and even more.”
(This can’t be happening.)
“Thor King yearns to savour the secret moistness of your majesty’s-...”
“Does Thor King bed his every partner in trade?” interrupted Loki, with some bite in his words.
“Oh no, your majesty,” protested the interpreter on behalf of his master. “Thor King has had a friendly agreement with the queen of the Vanir for many a year, and he sometimes visits Lord Rogers of Midgard, but when he took the crown, he let the realms know that the ways of his father would not be his own.”
(So, Odin used to…? You mean, Odin and Loki’s father…? Oh. My. Holy. Fjords.)
While Loki was mentally stuttering, the king of Asgard went on another tirade.
“Thor King was struck by your majesty’s beauty from the first moment his eyes beheld your majesty’s face and enticing figure. He was then besotted further by your majesty’s manner and grace, and he enjoys your majesty’s conversation and company immensely. The sound of your majesty’s laughter is unspeakably pleasing to the king’s ears. He is consumed with desire to know the sounds of your majesty’s pleasure. With his considerable experience and extensive schooling in the arts of lovemaking, and his enormous passion, he is confident he would extract many sounds of delight from your majesty’s utterly bewitching mouth. Your majesty will know in Thor King’s bed satisfaction of his every need and desire more perfect than he has ever known, and call the king's name in ecstasy three times three before dawn.”
Loki gaped like an idiot, heat creeping up his neck, soon coloring his goddamn cheeks, and spreading to the very tips of his ears. The even, unaffected tone of the interpreter made it all so much more unreal. Not that Loki wasn’t grateful for it. He wasn’t sure what he would do if the interpreter was to try and match the rumbling, husky, intense speech of the king. In any case, whatever was lacking in the interpreter’s delivery, the king’s penetrant stare, fixed on Loki, fucking undressing him right there with his deep, hungry blue eyes, more than made up for it.
“Thor King wishes to know which aspect of his offer troubles your majesty.”
Where do I even begin.
“Oh, I’m just, uh, overwhelmed by such an impetuous courtship. We Jotnar are modest, shy people, you see. If I could, uh, have a moment, to, uh, to collect my thoughts and (harrumph) compose myself.”
“Thor King accedes.”
Loki turned to his siblings, still standing there trying (and failing miserably) to keep a straight face.
“Hel, By, with me,” he hissed.
They were lead to an adjoining tent, in thoughtful silence.
What was he going to do? Loki had been thoroughly schooled in diplomacy since childhood, but he was pretty sure none of his books contained any lessons about how to handle an indecent proposition from the overlord of the Nine Realms. He didn’t recall his tutors mentioning that eventuality either. He could almost imagine his father, rolling in his frozen tomb, laughing at him. The bugger kept this little diplomatic detail a secret on purpose, Loki would bet his life on it.
He guessed there was always the excuse of Sigyn. Their marriage had been arranged by their families since birth, as it was the Jotun custom, especially among the propertied classes. Loki could argue that he couldn’t possibly cheat on his betrothed. But wouldn’t Thor know that, precisely because of the political foundations of their marriages, monogamy was really not a big concern among the Jotnar? With the perennial dearth of little Jotun babies, adultery was a hugely respected institution in the northern kingdom. Nah, he could not use that.
“What the hell am I going to tell him?” he groaned to his brother and sister, once they were alone and away.
“You’re saying yes, aren’t you?” said By.
“He’s dreamy,” added Hel.
“...What the hell are you talking about? What would our people say?”
“They’ll say you’re a lucky bitch,” said Hel, elbowing him in the side.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Everybody was sort of expecting it,” said By. “What did you think were all those winks and sniggers about, when you announced you were coming to meet the King of Asgard?”
Loki was lost for words.
“Has the entire world gone mad?”
“What are you so upset about?”
“You talk about it as if it was normal!”
“Well, it’s very common,” said Hel.
“… Is it?” gasped Loki, utterly baffled.
“Oh yes, it happens all the time," said his brother. "I mean, so I’ve heard."
“Common? Really? You mean in Asgard,” ventured Loki.
“And in Jotunheim too,” said Byleistr.
“What, among the commoners?”
“Among… anyone who feels like it, as far as I know. Had you never wondered why Lord Thrym and Lord Skjord are always together?”
Loki covered his mouth.
“No…?!” he gasped. “You mean…?”
“Oh yes. It’s well known.”
“What do Lady Vor and Lady Snotra think about that?”
“Oh, sweetie…” sighed By, palm on her face.
“Loki, Lady Vor and Lady Snotra, they’re also…” said Hel.
Loki’s jaw was going to hit the floor.
“When was anybody going to tell me any of that?!” he cried.
“You never asked,” said By.
“And to be fair, we all thought you, well, that you already, uh... knew,” added Hel, with a puzzling inflection in his words.
“What the hell do you mean, I knew?”
“You just… give off that vibe,” said Hel, explaining himself very little and very poorly.
“Vibe? What fucking vibe?”
“Oh Loki, please,” sighed By, who always seemed short of patience with her kingly brother, for some reason. “You’ve only ever been with, what, three girls?”
“Four!” claimed Loki.
“Darling, the first one doesn’t count,” said his sister.
“What do you mean it doesn’t count?”
“If we’re counting pitiful failed attempts, Helblindi is the best laid man in Jotunheim,” said By.
“Oi!” protested Helblindi.
“Is everybody in Jotunheim counting how many fucking people I take to my bed?!”
“Well, of course, sweetie, you were heir to the throne, and now you’re king…”
“So people thought I was… doing that? With… men? I can’t bloody believe this...”
“Called it,” said By.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I guess you win,” grumbled Hel.
“What the hell are you on about now?”
“We had a bet.”
“Hel said you were being incredibly discreet. I said you were a shy, awkward, lonely baby penguin.”
Loki gasped out loud, in outrage. Then he narrowed his eyes to a murderous squint.
“Alright, I’ve heard enough from both of you,” he hissed. “Get the hell out of my sight. Now.”
His siblings scuttled.
Alone in the tent now, Loki tried to take stock of the situation. He was feeling as if a rug had been pulled from under his feet, and he was teetering, about to fall on his arse. Life as he knew it had ended. Life as he knew it had never been what he’d been told. Or not fucking told. And what else was going on in his own fricking kingdom just under his bloody nose? ...He couldn’t think about that now, he had to focus.
For all the Asgardian king might regard himself as a modern and enlightened monarch, he had admitted that he held this particular Asgardian tradition of fucking your trade partners in high regard. Just as he felt that a night of intimate embraces (oh dear tidal gods) cemented an alliance, wouldn’t that imply that being denied would have the opposite effect on such alliance? Sure, Asgard would honour the treaty they had signed, but who’s to say that, should the Vanir queen and the Jotun king need his aid at the same time, Thor King wouldn’t feel more inclined to honour his agreement with Vanaheim first!
And how many things had Loki done already to secure his rule that would have shocked his younger, more innocent, princeling self? How many precious possessions had he gifted to show he favoured men he wouldn’t waste spit on, was he not a king in need of ensuring his hold on the crown? How many concessions to pushy, entitled lords of the land, who rather deserved a kick in the butt instead? How many neverending banquets and feasts he had endured, with a fake smile plastered on his face, to flatter and appease and curry the favour of people he despised? How many arses had he thoroughly kissed to get where he was now? Was spending the night in the bed of the king of Asgard such a huge departure from all those sacrifices? Loki son of Laufey, King of the Jotnar of the great realm of Jotunheim, you consider yourself a clever, keen politician, devoted to your kingdom, always putting the good of the country first, without a second thought. You know what you have to do.
Loki had himself for a man hard to unsettle, who had seen much and learned much. He had seen cruelty and senseless violence, back in the days when his father’s hold upon the realm started to unravel, and every lord fashioned themselves a king or queen in their land. He had listened to wise ones and travelled ones telling their learnings and their tales of the great beyond. He had read vastly about the world and its ways. He had felt reasonably confident that he was duly informed and up to date. He had thought he was ready for, well, any unforeseen situations.
Well, Loki, your young green majesty, think again. And how he wished he had done a bit less of listening and reading, and tried to gain some more first hand experience instead! By the Midnight Sun, how his father liked to mock his bookishness, blast him, but oh how Loki wished he had listened to the old conk a bit more whenever he told him to get his nose out of his books and up a few more skirts! But Loki had just been very bloody busy learning the business of ruling, and, and, and, and, well, he just wasn’t that interested, alright? Even after he had done it, all he thought was, is that it? Is that all? He honestly did not get why people were so crazy about it. He surely would not waste his time on pursuing it. (Busy. Kingdom to rule.) But god, yes, alright father, I guess you have a point. Because it felt to Loki right now that his efforts in the bed department were painfully insufficient, and entirely inadequate, to face a man with fifty wives (and husbands, Loki surmised in the light of this new information about Asgardian custom), whose sexual appetite and prowess were sung with either mirth or scandal across the Nine Realms. Oh goodness gracious me, what have I got myself into this time?
And so, the head of the politician in Loki was cool, and knew the way to go. Loki the man, however -or the boy, as he still saw himself sometimes, under the appropriate kingly demeanour he displayed, hoping to grow into the part- was presently a teeny tiny teensy bit nervous, and perhaps hesitating to acknowledge the decision King Loki had already made.
Deep breaths, Loki, deep breaths.
Alright, fine. Nervous or not, it was not the time to chicken out on this kingship thing. He would do what he must for the good of Jotunheim, as he always had.
He called a page, who led him back to the tent where dinner had been served. Thor King rose to greet him and bowed, showing deference, but always managing to appear dignified and proud.
“Thor King,” began Loki, putting in his tone an aplomb he did not feel, “you have succeeded in flattering a king to a fluster.”
“Do the gifts satisfy your majesty?” asked the king through his interpreter.
“They are magnificent and worthy of a king, yes.”
“Thor King is glad. Thor King respectfully asks to hear your majesty’s answer to his offer. Will your majesty share Thor King’s bed tonight, that you may know each other’s bodies as is only possible between lovers, and by the babes in their mothers’ wombs?”
Loki contemplated Thor’s perfectly earnest expression with the firm suspicion that he was being mocked again. He had to reply.
“I, uh, yes. Yes, it will be a great honour. And a pleasure, I’m sure.”
The king’s face illuminated with a broad, dazzling smile. That twinkle in his eye, though… Loki felt a shiver. Thor voiced some orders, and a page brought a pitcher and two cups, all made of gold. Fragrant mead was poured, and they raised their cups.
“That the union of our bodies brings forth a new age of eternal friendship between our kingdoms,” toasted Thor.
“Hear, hear,” said Loki.
Then the king illustrated how to entwine their arms, his blue eyes firmly locked on Loki as his lips parted to drink. Another shiver.
“If your majesty pleases, Thor King wishes to share his happiness with the people.”
(Oh, fjords. Yes, sure, proclaim it far and wide, why don’t you.)
“Yes, of course.”
They went outside the tent, where a crowd had gathered. The king’s voice rose easily above the noise. He made a little speech. The interpreter whispered its meaning to Loki.
“Thor King is the most fortunate among the men of Yggdrasil tonight, for Loki King will share his bed on his first night with a man. He has ordered honey cakes and mead for one and all.”
“Most thoughtful,” mumbled Loki.
“Thor King will strive to do honour equally to the precious gift of your majesty’s virginity, your majesty’s exalted lineage, your majesty’s crown, and your majesty’s arresting beauty. He vows to endeavour to give you great pleasure and full satisfaction, proof of which will be provided in the morn.”
“Par-pardon me? H-how...?”
“It is tradition to lay a clean white sheet on the bed of your union, which should be blessed with the yields of—”
“Alright, yes, I understand.” Loki hoped the twilight was dark enough that his deep fluster wouldn’t be overly noticeable by the populace.
“Thor King is impatient to retire with your majesty to his bedchamber,” conveyed the interpreter.
“W-what, wait. I thought there was a ceremony?”
“That was it.”
“Weren’t seven elders and seven lovers going to speak for his character?”
“Your majesty already took Thor King's word for it.”
“And-and… isn’t there some dancing and merriment or something first?”
“Thor King would much rather get on with the private festivities. He is most impatient.”
“Yes, I can see that.” Loki sighed. His heart was pounding. “Alright. Could I, perhaps, have another glass of wine…?”