Bound to the Stars
Soft petals fall and drift – like a child’s tale, a fairy tale, a legend of long ago. You stand on the edge of the world and sing of what surges within your breast, dare to share the dream.
This is the new world laid before you – go forth and partake of those grand adventures that await for you. Yet, at journey’s end, return to me.
We are waiting...
[...for this is the time to stretch your wings...]
The new Prince’s eyes couldn’t seem to focus as he blindly guided his horse alongside Frigga’s down the wide street. Above, the sun’s glare blinded him - until there was nothing but white. And memory... It rose before him then, the afternoon of the day before when High-Mage Agaeti, Mage Hrotha and Mage Flarathir alongside the rest of Odin’s Council had gathered with Frigga and Thor.
Never before had the sound of pen scritch-scritching across vellum sounded more alien. The small room - the All-Father’s study - seemed to be airless to the young warrior-mage. So small and so stifling, he thought, despite its size. The wood-panelled room was hushed with reverent silence as the All-Father sat and signed his signature, applied his seal (with a noiseless melting of wax which filled the room with a hint of honey) and offered his seat to his wife. With a long look at Kol’la, Frigga signed her name and several other witnesses followed after.
With Thor at his side, standing to the left of Odin’s wide oak desk (carefully cleared of everything but two candlesticks, a pot of quills and two pots of ink) and back to the beginning of a room-wide set of bookshelves, Kol’la felt more like a spectator than an actual participator in this, this ceremony which would, he knew, change his life forever. For a moment, he stood there, attempting to disappate the tension which built up within his shoulders, suppressing the urge to break the silence with an irreverent joke. Now was not the time for pranks or tricks - now was his time to grab a hold of Chance and make it work to his advantage.
There was nothing for him to sign - he was lower class, not quite a prisoner of war nor a thrall, but a servant nonetheless and with little agency - until it was given to him. Soon, he thought, so soon.
So he stood as High-Mage Agaeti and Lord General Tyr spoke several words of binding, bringing the adoption to its conclusion. Later on, Kol’la knew his official name would be given - whatever Odin had chosen for him - and the people would participate in another brief set of rites. For now, his eyes were drawn to the flickering flames as he found himself unable to meet Thor’s eyes. Unwilling to see there - what, he mused, what do I think will be there? Anger? Jealousy? The usual lack-witted happiness? Unable to meet Frigga or Odin’s eyes - or the eyes of the rest who were watching. The burden of their gazes threatened to weigh him down, but Kol’la stood firm, hands crossed and clasped in front of him, feet apart and shoulders stiff and straight.
He stared at the flame until his eyes ached and there was nothing but an overwhelming blur of red-orange-white.
The sound of feasting happily dimmed when Kol’la followed Frigga out of the room and down the side passageway to a small room where the King could take rest from the festivities if need be. Red and gold rugs muffled his footsteps and the brilliant tapestries gave the small chamber a warm feeling. Several soft chairs were scattered before the hearth of a small fireplace and a small set of bookshelves sat in the corner of the room. To one side there was another door to a conveniently placed privy. The one table in the room was currently piled with a variety of objects, some of which were born away in large-sized packaging.
“Here we go,” Frigga began to bustle about, her peach-pink, dusk blue and white-lined dress, comfortably cinched at the waist with a glimmering gold belt rustled as she moved toward the table and picked up a few pieces of Kol’la’s best light armour. “They have everything prepared – just as I hoped. Come. Let us get you into this. There is little time. The All – your Father – your Father will begin the speech soon.”
Without further ado, hands fumbling, fingers trembling, Kol’la took off his upper tunic, replaced it with a new green one and then placed on top of it the small, light-weight, black breastplate he preferred to use. His mother tugged at the interweaving of the green tunic and his under-coat, ensuring that it set off his waist properly, meeting as it should in the middle. His rather worn black coat went on top and then Frigga began to help him with the gauntlets, nudging his fumbling fingers out of the way to do the clasps for him.
“I can do it on my own,” Kol’la grumbled quietly. “I am no child.”
“That is true,” Frigga rose then to adjust her new son’s collar, “but you are my son...”
She paused and then caught his chin, turning his gaze to meet hers.
“Is this – do you –” Frigga sighed at the crinkle in his dark eyebrows. “Are we... is this... is this what you really want, Kol’la, dear? This is a big change – and thrust upon you so suddenly. For us, we looked toward this day for quite some time, but for you...”
“And Thor,” Kol’la said quickly. “For the both of us.”
“Yes, it will be – it will be quite hard, I should think... and I do not wish you to be forced into this if there are any doubts on your part-”
“There are no doubts.”
“You are not smiling, my son.”
“I – I – ah – Perhaps,” Kol’la admitted reluctantly, “I do not know what to think... and smiling is not my strong suite...”
“Now, that,” Frigga replied tartly, combing his rebellious hair back with her fingers, straightening it as best as she could, knowing how he hated its wavy nature. “Now that is a lie, dear. I know there is a smile in you... somewhere...”
Kol’la looked down and nodded and then glanced upward quickly and then away, trying to hide the tears which glimmered there.
“I – I am afraid,” he finally said.
Frigga said nothing. She did what she always did best – waited in patient silence, taking his hand in hers again and squeezing it encouragingly.
“I am afraid,” Kol’la finally whispered, “that this is but a dream...”
“Then it is a good dream,” Frigga replied, soothingly.
“Yes, yes, it is, and one I would not have end... and I fear that I will end it with some ill-managed thing-”
“Kol’la, Kol’la, dear heart,” she said serenely, drawing him in, trying to press her warmth and her love into his hard, stiff figure. Frigga eased back, still keeping him in her arms. “We are family now. This means that, well, disappointment will happen – but family hold onto each other through the good and the bad. It is a commitment that can never be broken. When it grows as it should, this love, this bond of family, is stronger than the roots of an oak tree – as strong as Yggdrasil itself. A kind of love not easily swayed by circumstance or appearance. Do you understand?”
“No,” was the whispered reply. A pause... and then, hesitantly, he asked, “Can you teach me then?”
“Of course,” Frigga replied, heart clenching at the sight of his still-wet eyes and unending uncertainty. “We shall learn – together.”
With that, she forced his attention to the details of the matter – how to hold the chalice of Ithunn’s apple mead while also clasping the symbolic leash of well-woven sheep and goat wool. In his right hand, were seven pieces of silver stamped with particular runes to be given to the All-Father. Adoption was rare in Asgard, a land blessed by peace, seeming eternal life and a strong sense of community, yet there existed some ancient rituals which marked the occasion. The meanings had been all but lost, yet they continued onward, unchanged.
Such is Asgard, Kol’la thought, standing there while the Queen – his mother – bustled out to get some more black polish for his worn boots. So full of tradition and yet, so alive...
“Hey, hey, Kol’la!”
It was Thor, sneaking in now, a task difficult for the brawny young man. Setting the wool leash, the chalice of mead and the pieces of silver aside, Kol’la eased back cautiously. He had yet to talk to Thor and part of him wondered what Thor really thought about this whole matter – and that part of him felt fear.
“Are you nervous?”
Kol’la stared at Thor in disbelief. The stupid – the idiotic – argghhh! The warrior-mage found himself speechless with – with – I am not angry, nor anxious, nor... Kol’la sighed, closing his eyes and then rubbing his forehead with resignation. Thor is...
“Well, are you well, Kol’la? Does your head pain you? Have you already taken your fill of mead?”
“Thor, Thor,” Kol’la suddenly had to force down a rising need to giggle. “Never – never mind. I am well.”
“You should say ‘I am well, brother’.”
“Because we are. I mean, we are brothers now,” Thor said, gripping Kol’la’s shoulders, forcing the green eyes to rise and meet his blue ones. “I am so happy. For you. And myself as well.”
“Thor, you-” Kol’la whispered. “You have no... no reservations for some complete stranger to just come in and – and-” Here, he waved his hand incoherently. “Just be a part of it?”
“You are no stranger, Kol’la!” Thor said. “How long have we known each other? These many long years – and have grown together, played together, fought together... and that is enough for me.”
“Idiot,” Kol’la sniffled then, allowing himself to be drawn into a tight embrace from Thor which nearly drove the air out of his lungs. “This will not be so easy.”
“No,” Thor replied slowly. “But maybe it will not be so difficult either.” He shrugged, “Besides, now you will be my little brother. I always wanted one – one to push about and be that one upon whom I can play a prank or two...”
“You mean, annoy the living daylights out of,” Kol’la grumbled, finally managing to extricate himself from Thor’s grasp. “You should go.”
“I am going. I will see you,” Thor said with another quick smile, his blue eyes suddenly serious. “Soon... brother.”
With that, Thor left, bumping up against his mother – their mother – and protesting at her sharp scolding. Tuning out their hurried conversation, Kol’la considered Thor’s words.
...maybe it will not be so difficult either...
As usual, Kol’la sighed, Thor deals only with the superficial... or perhaps he is unable to be moved by the storms Fate brings him. He is, after all, a survivor – and his confidence within himself is as unmovable as a rock, which is another problem all to itself. Still... it will not be easy, Thor, Kol’la watched as Frigga let her wayward first son go and turned inside with a young maid trailing behind, holding a pot of boot black. While the maid industriously set to quickly shining the scuffed heels of his boots, Frigga carefully raised a vibrant green cloak out of a small chest and with his help attached it to his shoulders straps. The green wool felt so soft beneath his fingers, as Kol’la’s fingertips slowly drifted over the fabric. Smiling at Frigga and whispering a quiet thanks to her, Kol’la decided to consider the whole issue of Thor’s denial later. We will speak of this again, I warrant... It is not over...
“Today, we gather to celebrate the unity of the Realms... Unity, such as it is – fragile and new – must be guided as a young colt is trained, must be strengthened as a warrior’s page learns to hold his weapon... and, here I think of my gracious wife, tended... as a beautiful flower which will bear fruit in its season. This day, we met in glorious combat, our swords and spears clashed, our steel was tested and our fortitude borne out in the trials of battle. In these moments, in these days, let us then cherish in the making of a new kind of peace, a new kind of relationship between our Realms... and in doing so, secure a future for our children. This brings to mind how we are all connected, through the Norn’s work, through Fate – how we are all bound invisibly together. In a way, we can look at our neighbours and no matter what they may seem, they must be considered as family. And with that in mind, I wish to make an important announcement concerning this matter-”
Here, Thor, who had been away somewhere, slipped into his paid even more attention to his father’s speech than was usual, glanced upward at his father, a smile pasted on his face and his eyes suddenly serious. His gaze darted down the table. The seats where Frigga and Kol’la had been sitting were still vacant and soon they would be filled – but this time with something entirely new and yet, familiar. Odin’s younger brother, Frest, and several high-ranking courtiers as well as other members of the extended Royal Family sat up straighter as well. If possible, the hall got even more quiet as even the servants stilled and the music petered off.
“This day will mark for us an important celebration of unity,” Odin said solemnly. “My lady wife, Frigga, and I have held this desire for too long in secret and today, our dreams and hopes will be made reality – as we bring into our family one who should have been with us since the beginning. I wish to announce to Asgard and our neighbours and friends of the Nine Realms the adoption of our second son: Loki.”
For a moment, there was silence among the lower tables – or rather near silence as heads bent together, whispering, murmuring the unfamiliar name. Loki, they said, Loki? Who is that? Among the Aesir, interspersed in the crowd, Fire Giants, Elves (both Light and Dark), Vanir and Dwarves sat silently, looking on with interest and surprise. Some looked calculating. Loki, they wondered, that was an odd Aesir name... surely?
Listening to the All-Father’s speech, Kol’la’s heart felt like it would leap out of his throat. Frigga at his side, took his hand and clasped it in silent encouragement, squishing the seven silver coins a little harder into the soft skin of his palm. As the murmurs and whispering in the feast-hall right outside the passage swelled a little, Kol’la quivered. His mind was a mess of thoughts.
There are so many in attendance tonight – what will they think? Some will probably be very upset – Loki – Loki – that is my name. My name. The name given to me by my father – not my real father, he reminded himself. Does blood matter? My real father did nothing for me, gave me nothing but death... this one, no matter his motivations, has offered only life... Loki.
“Loki,” he whispered, looked down at Frigga who smiled back at him encouragingly. “Loki?”
“My idea,” she replied, noting the look of puzzlement on his face. “It suits you, I think. The name I would have given you if you had come to us as a babe. My Loki... My gentle-hearted Loki. I am so glad you are finally here, my son.”
Before Loki could enquire as to what she meant, Odin was speaking again.
“Let us now conclude what has been started...”
Odin – his father – my father, the newly named Loki thought incoherently – looked to his right.
“My first son, Prince Thor. It is your time. Rise, now and let us welcome your younger brother.”
With that, Thor rose to his feet a little clumsily, no doubt feeling within a bit more awkward than usual, and made his way with his father to the front of the dais where High-Mage Agaeti was also standing, already prepared with the short oaths they would all speak. All three men turned a little and at that small signal, Frigga started forward, drawing Kol’la, now Loki, after her. Finding their way over to the front of the dais, Frigga took her place at her husband’s side while, Kol’la – Loki – knelt on one knee facing them.
So placed, his left side bearing the chalice and wool collar to the crowd, the new Prince waited as Agaeti opened the small volume and began to intone a variety of oaths which Thor, Frigga and then Odin swore to. At first, his nerves threatened to completely overwhelm him and the mead cup he offered to Thor, then Frigga and then Odin shook a little. Yet, as the oaths continued, as he spoke his own short promises, Loki gained peace knowing that he had full support from those in front of him – Thor, Lady Frigga, the All-Father – and the other members of the High Council of the Royal Court seated about the High Table and the other tables in the larger area of the feast hall floor.
Shifting only slightly, Kol’la – Loki, he thought, my name is Loki now – met Thor’s triumphant, blue gaze (with a hint of mischief as though they had pulled off a magnificent trick). Odin, pocketing the seven silver coins, turned to the side and motioned two servants to bring over a largish box set on a rolling table. The grey-haired king turned to Loki, still kneeling on the dais, and smiled gently.
“Now, my son, it is customary on one’s second millenial birthday to receive a prize of great worth – but seeing as that time is fast approaching and this moment is a matter of great... importance to our hearts, your mother and I,” here, Odin’s voice set no small emphasis on the name, “we decided to present you ahead of time a token of our hope for you, Loki, and for our family and for our Realm.”
With that, his father opened the box revealing a helmet like Loki had never seen before. Similar to the guards of the palace, it proudly curved upward in two great horns – but this helmet was a gleaming gold and crafted, he could tell, by the best smithy to be had in Asgard. With nothing short of reverence, Loki looked upward, green eyes shining and glittering in turn, as Odin approached and fit the helmet onto his younger son’s dark head.
Loki, allowing the helmet to be placed, accepted the weight and raised his chin to meet Odin’s gaze, finding a small wave of pride and happiness unfurl within him, such as he had not felt in quite some time. My horns, he thought, how odd – that I should find them here...my horns, my pride, my home... Loki glanced at Odin, Frigga and then Thor in turn. My family.
Extending a hand downward, Odin raised Loki to his feet and said authoritatively as he turned to the crowd, “We now present Prince Loki Odinsson. A toast to the long-life and health and happiness of my son!” A pause and with a smile at Loki’s encouraging nod. “To both my sons! Prince Thor and Prince Loki!”
There was no hesitation allowed as the Royal Court stood, bringing everyone else to their feet. Glasses rose – the glittering glass goblets better suited to the smooth grape wine and cordials and the larger pints more favoured by mead drinkers – as all shouted a chorus of acceptance. They drank and the tables vibrated with a thousand thuds as the glasses met the table. Odin sat then, releasing the hall’s attention. Immediately, a wave of sound came crashing down. A roar of epic proportion rose as servants gasped and huddled together, temporarily forgetting their duties, as lords and ladies and officials burst out in shocked, surprised, delighted or excited chatter. Those visiting Asgard glanced at each other and up at the Head Table where the dark-haired, newly appointed Prince Loki had resumed his seat.
“This was an unprecedented move on the All-Father’s part,” everyone murmured.
“What does the young man offer in reality?”
“Did you know him?”
“He was a strange one. Once he-”
“I heard from the High-Mage that his abilities are-”
“Hava! Hava! I just heard from that nice serving lad, Thorsa, that the papers were signed just this afternoon?”
“No! So quickly!”
“They really must have been prepared for some time...”
“I wonder why they waited...”
“I guess, we will have to call him Prince now.”
“What a shock!”
“Those abilities he displayed during that duel perhaps...”
“I wonder how the Prince Thor first responded-”
“Mayhap this was the ever motherly Queen at work. You know she has a soft spot for strays.”
“Not like this!”
“Perhaps she has Seen something...”
Kol’la – no, I’m Loki now, Prince Loki – an Odinsson and of Asgard – Loki knew that not everyone could or would accept him so easily. Thor will be uncertain of how this will change what has bound us together before now... More than ever, it will be important to show him - and the rest of the Realm - that I am no threat - that nothing has changed... Nothing has changed - but it has - and yet, it must not appear to be so. The new Prince, however, bearing the helmet so proudly, found himself more determined than ever. Judging by the pole-axed expression on the heavily bearded face of Volstagg, Fandral’s thoughtful expression, and Sif’s suspicious gaze, Thor’s friends would find it difficult to be supportive. Hogun’s face appears even more blank than usual, Loki noted. Well, it is understandable. I’d be worried if I was them... it is not every century a King takes a son not his own. Particularly one of dubious origins such as I... but the Queen – my mother is right – it is more important to dwell on who I am now – and who I may become... they will come to understand in time. I will make them understand. I will bring Asgard honour and guard its gates for all time.
“Congratulations, young Kol’la – ah! A thousand pardons,” a cool voice broke into Loki’s thoughts. “I should say, Prince Loki, should I not?”
“It is... still new to me,” admitted Loki graciously. “I would imagine it will be even more difficult for others.”
“Everyone will be wondering as to Odin’s reasons,” Malekith continued smoothly, “but I am sure those will become apparent... with time.”
“Or perhaps the Queen was gifted with a vision. Such is the mysterious ways of the Norns, of Fate.”
“Perhaps,” Loki replied noncommittally.
Relative silence fell and the two sat before their plates, surrounded by the quiet murmur of the Dark Elves mixing with the huskier bass of their neighbours and good friends, the Svartalfheim Dwarves. Frigga’s lighter tones washed over them as she laughed over a joke told by the ever ebullient Lord Stagathir from the Sothaborg.
“And you were renamed,” Malekith added thoughtfully. “Understandable when one is reborn as it were–” He reached for his goblet and swilled about his mead. “Loki.” Pause. “An odd name – an ancient one known by few – so old, one could almost say primeval, until it was lost and even the written word no longer held record of it.”
“Yet, you apparently know it,” Loki’s eyebrow rose slowly, his sharp green gaze pinning the enigmatic Dark Elf with a hard stare.
“Know of it. In passing,” Malekith corrected slowly. His smile was not pleasant in the slightest as he added, “The memory of the Elves is long and deep and our Race prizes knowledge above all – what is or is not considered... important or useful.” Rising, he looked down at the young Prince. “A worthy consideration nonetheless.” He smiled again and then added peremptorily: “I must go. A good day to you, Prince Loki, and... a long life.”
Malekith inclined his head. Loki followed suit stiffly and silently – filled with disquiet. Nothing more was said.
[...yet seeds are planted...]
[...waiting for soft soil, gentle rain and the bright sun...]
Watching the tall Dark Elf wend his way down among the boisterous diners on the main floor to the side of a group of Elvish compatriots, Loki mused over what the man had said.
Odin and Frigga named me – she told me it was the name which suited me best – the name she would have given me had I come to them, had they found me as a babe. Loki frowned as he stabbed his short knife into the beef which laid before him. What prompted her... what were Odin’s real motivations to take me in and make me one of his own? I am no one and they have never asked about my past... There was only those few questions during that conversation of so long ago... and since then, they have never asked me anything. What do they think they know? Why does it not matter to them? And... they said they waited for some time... Since then, since that time – surely All-Father and Lady Frigga had not intended to adopt me so long ago! And yet, they continue to imply that they had waited... To hold that wish, that dream for all those years...
Loki did not know what to think. His thoughts chased each other about in an endless loop, an unordered whirl. Lady Frigga must... must... He found it impossible to consider the word ‘love’ so easily. And that name they chose for me... Perhaps Malekith is trying to tell me something. Perhaps I can find some clues in the Royal Archives.
With that decision made, Loki turned to the task at hand – ensuring the comfort of his remaining guests.
[...but what we will and what we achieve...]
[...between those two things...]
[...lies a chasm...]
Pale pink, velvet purple and vivid red petals drifted, wafted, hung momentarily within the gentle breeze as if caught magic and frozen in time, as if the entire scene had been paused, stilled, to gift the onlookers with a glimpse, a vision of something so beautiful, so glorious as to be rare, even in this, the golden Realm of Asgard. This was a moment like no other, hauntingly beauteous in its passing.
The Royal Family of Asgard, the Realm Eternal, was riding in stately array down the spacious, statue-lined promenade now crowded with the citizens who were agog to see the new Prince. Town criers had announced the official adoption the day before – around the time of the initial celebratory feast – and now, in the cool of the early morning on the following day, before the sun had fully risen, the Royal Family with their honoured guests made their way around the longest, busiest circular road in the Capital.
Odin, in fine armour and a long, well-pressed cape, astride his favoured eight-legged mount, Sleipnir, looked as august, stern and wise as ever. His blue eye, both proud and sharp, drew everyone’s gaze upward in respect and awe. At his side, resplendent in his own silver and gold armour, long, red cape falling back regally from wide, firm shoulders, Thor rode. As usual, the cheery Prince smiled and waved, catching the posies of fair maidens thrown to him. The pink, purple and brighter red petals caught in his blonde curls and lit on his cape unheeded.
And they passed by. A space. A short one. And then, Frigga followed on a gentle white mare, long blonde locks falling gracefully over her peach-pink gown and cream cape. Her blue eyes, bright and warm, passed over the masses of her people. Her people. Once upon a time, they had not been, but now they were. Her adopted land, the place she had learned to call home. With that thought, Frigga’s gaze landed on the slender, newly instated Prince at her side: Loki. Her adopted son – the young man she had long desired to call her own.
Yet, I must tread with caution, for his heart opens slowly – and only to the tenderest touch. For him, this is a new thing... and so I must be patient. From the first day he had come to me, silently, stoically suffering, Frigga recalled, I had felt something, a feeling so inexplicable, yet familiar; so strange, yet so... right. As if it was meant to be.
And now, tears blurred the gay colours together in a palate of soft hues, he is my son. One day, he will come to understand that he is where he was meant to be – at my side.
Loki gazed about him dazedly as if the world had been turned on its head. In a way, he mused, it has. You are a Prince – you, the child of No One, the Unwanted, the Abandoned, the Unnameable, the Vaetki and the Wolf’s Child... You are a Prince... and a son...
He raised his face into the soft wind and smiled briefly as a new shower of petals drifted across his skin. Catching a flower in a pale, long-fingered hand, cradling the foreign softness, he considered the fragile, vivid thing. It was too easy to recall the first day he had arrived in Asgard. Another day that seemed so unreal. Coming here had become a reality in such a sudden way. Such an improbability realized, such a dream come true – all these events appear as an illusion... an ephemeral dream, yes, ephemeral, but so beautiful.
Stirring in the soft breeze, the rose shifted, brushing against his skin and Loki – no longer Kol’la – Loki’s heart filled with something he could not name, could not identify or catalogue. Suddenly he was on the edge of the Eybjarg Falls, wind at his back, wolves at his side, facing the Void and finding song. A new verse to fit the old. A new chapter to follow the previous.
Rise above the Realms
for this is the time to stretch your wings
and seek new lands.
Return home, little one,
We are waiting here, little one,
He wanted to laugh. He wanted to cry. He wanted to dance. He wanted to sing.
He wanted to grow wings and fly.
The following four days brought feasts and hunts and dances and late night carousing and impromptu duels and all manner of frivolity that would build such wonderful memories as would never be forgotten. There was no time for Loki to get away to the Archives to research anything. Even worse, Thor was proposing yet another nonsensical quest to some world called Uxor IV in order to best some attacking vagrants who had taken residents in the plundered homes they had robbed. Loki found no spare time to take the boisterous young Prince – my brother, he reminded himself, he is my brother now – aside and talk some sense into him.
Instead, Loki found himself caught up in another whirlwind as the finale to the entire week ended with a grand parade through the streets of Asgard. Afterwards was the farewell banquet (just another excuse to get excruciatingly drunk and tumble some wenches) – and the next day’s early morning found Loki nursing a mild hangover in the cool shade of Lady Frigga’s – his mother’s – garden.
[...in the cool morning hours...]
[...there is peace...]
Frigga was on her knees contemplating a series of flowers which were not growing as well as she had hoped. After moving them to a pot temporarily, she sat back, cleaned off her small trowels, drew off her leather gardening gloves and gardening smock, cast a quick glance at her new son and shook her head with an air of incredibly tried patience. Loki, leaning against a fine ash tree, had closed his eyes, his dark eyebrows knitted and forehead lined no doubt thanks to the pressure of his headache. Once again, standard Asgardian medication did not appear to aid him readily as it did Thor. Without a word, Frigga found a spare cloth, moved to the small tap further down the path and briskly soaked the rough towelling in the cool rush of water. After wringing out most of the water, she folded it carefully and, returning to her son’s side, laid it across his eyes, blocking out the gentle morning sunlight and cooling him down further.
Loki sighed in response and he raised a hand blindly. Reaching across, her fingers found his and she squeezed him comfortingly, drawing her chair closer. Her son’s thin lips drew up in unspoken delight – then drew back in a grimace - her kettle began to screech over the small outdoor stone oven she had set up by her pavilion. Frigga stifled a laugh at Loki’s vain attempt to hide his discomfort, drew away to remove her kettle and make up some tea. Placing a cup and saucer in his, knowing that he would soon be drawn to the comfit tea she had prepared, Frigga took her seat with her own teapot, tea cup and saucer at the ready.
Picking up her stitching, she glanced over at Loki. The dark-haired young man’s fingers toyed with the delicate edge of her tea cup, a fine pale blue and green set made out of the finest stone-fired china available in Vanaheim.
“You had a long night, I see,” she finally said, voice low and quiet.
Loki nodded slowly, laughed shortly – a deprecating kind of laugh – and then grimaced sourly. Slowly, he raised the cup to his lips, inhaled the sweet scent of camomile before sipping carefully. Immediately, the tension began to ease out of his shoulders. Frigga approved and went back to her sewing.
“It was good,” Loki finally said, voice a little rusty – obviously he had not yet spoken since he had risen from his bed earlier that morning. “I think. I mean... I think it was good... I – I – ah – cannot remember a good part of it.”
“Yes, well,” Frigga chuckled dryly. “That is the foolishness of youth for you.”
A pause. Then Loki added, “I thought I was above it all... Apparently not.”
“It is good to relax – and a little folly harmed no one. Not really.”
“Really,” Loki replied, a little deadpan. “Well, you may not regret, but I am currently very much rue the moment I took Thor up on a drinking challenge.”
“You know... I do not know.”
Both chuckled a little and Loki took another sip of tea for comfort.
“What will you do now?” Frigga finally asked. “It has only been a week. Less than a week, really... and settling in will be difficult, despite the fact that you were practically living with us toward the end.”
“Yes. Well,” Loki shifted a little, “I have a few plans. Going to Uxor IV is not part of them. I will have to try to explain why to Thor. Again.”
“Oh dear. He is not listening to you?”
“He has his moments.” Loki stopped and then started again. “We all do... but this time, this time, there is much - there is much for him with which to come to grips...”
“I can talk to him as well.”
“That may help. Perhaps. If you could reassure him - of his place.” Loki’s long fingers toyed with the edge of the saucer and he sighed then. “Underneath his smiles and jokes, there is... there is uncertainty, I think. He does not realize, not yet – but I think this quest is a way for him to come to a better understanding of what happened – to tell himself that nothing has really changed.”
“And it has not!” Frigga said firmly. “Not for Thor, not in the important ways... He will always be close to my heart.”
“No, but some need more time to realize that,” Loki shrugged, “and Thor will understand – eventually.”
“What will you do?”
“Not go to Uxor IV, that is for certain. It is a volcanic planet and too hot for my liking.”
“Yes. And it will be summer soon here in Asgard. Perhaps you should flee while you can.”
“I thought you would wish to have me close by you,” Loki turned his head then to stare sightlessly in Frigga’s direction.
“I do,” she smiled, leaning forward to caress his cheek reassuringly, “but if you are happy elsewhere, I can wait. I have waited so long already.”
“So long,” echoed Loki and then asked nonchalantly as if the answer did not truly matter. “How long?”
“Since the first day I saw you,” Frigga admitted, “when you came into the Healing House borne by Thor in his arms, covered in blood - after that incident with the Raiders and that bull. I knew then – when you opened your eyes, when we talked that you were the son I always wanted. Now... you are here. Finally here – and so I am content.”
“So long,” repeated Loki. “Why did you not say anything earlier?”
“Well, I could tell you were not ready to hear such things, dear. You would not have understood. You would not have trusted me enough – and rightly so. Who was I to force you into such a huge decision?”
“You waited so long.”
“It was worth it... was it not?”
“Yes,” Loki admitted, squeezing her hand which had slipped once again into his. “Yes.”
“I know you have many questions,” the Queen finally added, easing back to take up her stitching again. “One by one, they will be answered – in time.”
“Such as why you would really want one such as I standing as brother to your son?”
“That could be a reason, but that is not the full answer. Even I cannot know the why of everything... I can only follow my heart.”
“Your heart.” Two quiet words full of disbelief.
“Yes, my heart.”
“I – I am not...” Loki shifted uneasily, his teacup rattling warningly in its saucer. He stilled. “Matters of the heart are difficult, I find.”
“They can be.”
“What did your heart tell you?”
“That we needed each other, that this was meant to be, that you were the one I was waiting for all this time – the hole in our family which needed to be filled – and not just by anyone. Not just anyone would do. It had to be you.”
“This is a mother’s intuition?” he hazarded.
She laughed, “Perhaps. Your father asked me the same question.”
Frigga watched as Loki’s lips parted suddenly at those words and soundlessly moved a little as he repeated the words silently – ‘your father’. It was apparent the young man still had not processed the entire episode with as much ease as he projected.
“Your future holds great promise, Loki,” she said softly. “You were meant for remarkable things... and in more ways than one, you stand as Thor’s equal.”
“That cannot be,” Loki shook his head dismissively.
“Nevertheless it is true.”
“There is only one throne in Asgard,” he replied softly, “and it can never be my place. That I know.”
“The throne in Asgard is not... is not necessarily the end of all things,” Frigga replied carefully, picking her way through the minefield of a conversation. “There are other... destinies just as important.”
“What did the Norns say?” He blurted out then, setting down his cup unsteadily. “What do they say of Prince Loki?”
“Oh, Loki,” Frigga set aside her stitching, rose and took her place by the young man on the soft rug placed between the wide spread roots. Her arm slid about his tense shoulders, bringing wordless comfort and her hand rose to gently ease his head under her chin, fingers running through the now wild disarray of wavy hair which curled up at the ends. “They told me that there is only one throne in Asgard, but you and Thor... the both of you are blessed with glorious destiny, both were meant to be kings.”
“Meant to be,” Loki pointed out meaningfully, voice low.
What he was thinking, Frigga could only guess. What did he see? Some memory of long ago... the ones who abandoned him? The ones who were his parents before they died or disappeared? The homeland to which he belonged and to which he appeared to have no inclination to revisit? Oh... Loki... She said nothing more, but cradled him in her arms until he fell asleep.
After, he woke in a better mood. Accepting his slightly awkward, yet earnest apology gravely, trying to hide a smile, Frigga embraced him and drew him back into her suite for a much needed lunch of white wheat bread, honey, fruit, thin slices of tenderloin and a light apple cordial. They discussed Loki’s plans to visit Vanaheim and Alfheim, to research in their libraries and discuss some magick theories he had about the infusion of Life force into inanimate objects. Joking and laughing, they remained there – and when Loki rose to leave, in order to allow Frigga some rest in the afternoon, the Queen drew him aside to a chest, and opening it revealed a stack of neatly folded garments.
Drawing them out, Frigga carefully unfolded them, revealing a well-tailored, hand-woven, deep-green tunic, which he saw would hang quite nice and low about his hips, easily cinched by his belt. A well-padded leather over-tunic – gleaming black and already supple beneath his hands.
“This is...” He murmured astounded as several more tunics, another deep green over-tunic fell open. He blushed over the small stock of white drawers. My underpants will have been handmade by the Queen and her handmaidens... The cotton seemed so soft to his touch – soft, not rough or slinky or cheap like his usual wardrobe. As a Prince, Loki realized, I will have to learn to dress in a more formal fashion...
“...too much...” He found himself saying a little incoherently. “Oh-”
The last exclamation he could not withhold as Frigga, with proud and shining eyes, slowly unfurled the most amazing coat he had ever seen. Immediately, Loki wished to try it on – instead, his fingers ran along the small metal teeth edging the lapel and the soft woven cloth, also a dark green, which lined the entire coat. Below, the coat split onto various flaps which he knew would enable him to move and ride more freely.
“It is... beautiful...” Loki said, eyes meeting Frigga’s finally, glimmering with unshed tears. “How – why – I – I mean...” A pause.
“You are welcome,” Frigga replied softly, laying the coat aside and drawing Loki into another embrace.
“I – I am sorry. Thank you,” Loki finally managed to choke out. “Many... many... thanks... I do not know how I deserved this...”
“This is what any mother does for her boy,” she replied, “especially when she wants to help him – to support him as he goes out into the world on his own.”
Loki stilled and then eased back, eyes fastened on the ground at his feet.
“You know that I will go, and you will... understand, then...”
“Yes,” Frigga smiled and laughed lightly. “Of course. In fact, I said earlier that you should feel free to go. This is a gift. I hope you – I know you will wear it well.”
“Thank you,” Loki repeated.
For a moment, they stood together, hands clasped and Frigga found herself reciting the words she often spoke before Loki travelled on a mission or went on a quest with Thor.
“As far as you travel, no matter into what dark places you stray, no matter what terrible workings you weave,” Frigga whispered, “know that you are always welcome at my side.”
“I know,” he replied as was tradition, words replacing the ones he still could not speak, “I will always come back.”