When Silas arrived to attend him the next morning, Loki flew into a rage that had Silas nearly tumbling down the stairs to the staff kitchen. When Eidra saw Silas's face, she jumped up from the kitchen table and ran into the laundry room to hide behind one of Artra's big kettles, sure that Loki was hot on Silas's heels.
After a few minutes, Artra called into the laundry room, “Come child, he has just left for the hunt again. He will not be coming for you.” Eidra begged Silas to make sure that he was gone, just to be certain.
“He is gone yes, but your cot has been shoved out into the hallway.”
Artra elbowed Helgi, “It sounds like the prince is having a royal tantrum.”
Eidra stomped up the stairs, down the corridor, folded her cot up and dragged it down the spiral staircase. “Helgi, can I put this in your room?”
“Of course, child.” Helgi watched her drag the cot down the service corridor, her shoulders set, and she shook her head.
His breath was vapor in the frigid morning air, his foot at the end of the crossbow, in the stirrup, gloved left hand slowly pulling the string to the catch. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Thor, one finger to his lips, the other pointing slowly ahead of them at a large buck, its tail flitting excitedly back and forth as it sniffed the air. Loki fitted a bolt into the chamber and raised the bow to his shoulder, wincing slightly at the tug across his chest, holding his breath as he sighted onto a spot just behind the front haunches. He followed the spot with his cross hairs as the deer sauntered a few more feet, large eyes scanning the woods, skin twitching, hoof stamping the ground.
Loki's finger trembled at the trigger. He took another deep breath, held it, squeezed. The bolt drove into the deer's side just behind its shoulder and the deer leaped high into the air, twisting its head as if in disbelief. It bounced forward a few more yards before dropping to the ground, its snout buried in the reddening snow.
“Well done, brother.” Thor cried. “Come.”
They trotted to the deer which was still shuddering as its muscles began to spasm, expending the last of their energy in the dance of death.
Thor studied the terrain, found a slight decline behind them and dragged the deer to the hill, its head downhill, rolled the animal over to its back and splayed its legs outward. “Ready to get your hands dirty, Loki?”
Loki pulled his short blade from a pouch slung across his chest and knelt down in the snow. He ran the knife along the deer's throat, then started to work on the joints, making a circular cut around the four joints to release the tension on the pelt. They worked in silence, the warm blood on Loki's hands recalling for him the morning of Winternights when he had taken Eidra to the stairwell and kissed her. He lifted the lungs out of the cavity and tossed them to the side in the pile of effluence growing in the snow between them.
“I heard your door slam late last night, Loki. What was happening?”
Loki gritted his teeth, the last person in the nine realms he wished to talk to about the incident last evening was Thor.
“I slammed my door shut. It is a heavy door. What of it?”
Thor glanced over at him, “And the yelling this morn?”
Loki was washing his hands with handfuls of snow, “Have you set a spy upon me now?”
Thor took a long piece of leather cord from his pouch and began to tie the back legs of the deer together, “I was walking past your door when the houseboy shot out into the hallway on a dead run.”
“I was displeased with him. He therefore made the astute decision to remove himself from my chambers as swiftly as possible.”
Loki was silent as he tied the forelegs together, knowing that Thor would worry the subject to death but preferring to give not so much as one word of information upon compulsion.
“I had half a mind to believe that wench of yours was the cause of your outburst.”
“If it had been so, would you not have seen her running from the room instead of the boy?”
Thor cinched his cord tight, “What of her cot in the hall then?”
Loki wiped his knife in the snow to clean it of blood. After drying it with his short cloak, he slid it into its sheath and stood, looking for a sturdy tree with low branches for use as a carrying pole.
“You have not answered me.”Thor stood, undoing a hatchet from his belt, looking in kind for a long branch.
“Because there is nothing to say.” Loki growled, turning to see Thor starting to chop into a middling long low maple branch.
“Then it would seem you are losing your mind.”
Loki watched Thor, is this what it feels like to lose your mind then?
Thor picked up the end of the branch and Loki the other, carrying it over to the deer and sliding the branch between its tied legs.
“Ready?” Thor grunted, one end of the branch on his shoulder. Loki hauled the other end onto his own shoulder with a grimace.
They rose, the full weight of the deer between them and started down the trail to where the horses were tethered.
“I ask you out of concern brother,” Thor said as they trudged through the snow, “You have been not yourself this season. You are like a man possessed when you ride, your blood lust on Winternights when you chased that deer until you had a clear shot, it was as if nothing would stop you. You were reckless.”
Loki threw the pole from his shoulder, Thor having to lean back in order not to fall forward onto the deer, “You have become far more concerned for my personal well being as of late, than is normal. What troubles you, dear brother?”
Thor dropped his end of the pole, “I hear the servants talk as well, the nights you spend holed up in your chambers with naught for company but that wench. It is not healthy, it is not right. Father should find you a bride. You have been far too long without the companionship of a woman.”
“I have no wish for the companionship of a woman, I have no wish for any companionship whatsoever!” He bellowed. “The subject is closed, now let us pick up the deer and head for home, it is growing late.”
He lifted the branch, feeling Thor pick up his end.
“Very well. You will tell me, brother, when you are ready.” Loki pursed his lips tightly as they headed down the trail together.
When Loki strode down the corridor and saw the cot gone, he threw the doors open to his chamber and looked to his left, expecting to see the cot in its place beside the fireplace, willing her to be upon it waiting for him. Upon seeing the empty space where her cot should have been, the strength drained from his legs. He dropped to his knees, closed his eyes, shock catching the breath in his throat. He was at the door of his chamber, about to step into the hallway when Silas appeared.
“Milord, may I assist you?”
Loki stared at Silas as if he'd never heard him speak before. “Where is Eidra?”
“She is helping in the kitchen.”
Loki looked down the corridor to the spiral staircase. “Where is the cot that was in the corridor this morn?”
Silas avoided Loki's stare, “Eidra took it to Helgi's room. She said she was staying there now.”
“Tell her she is to come to my chambers at once!” Loki turned and stalked into his room again.
It was no more than five minutes later that Silas reappeared in the doorway, his hands twisting the hem of his tunic,
Loki was standing before the fire, still in his hunting clothes. He turned his head toward Silas. “She said...” Silas backed up a bit into the corridor, “She said she would not come to your chambers.” Silas backpedaled as Loki swooped down upon him.
“Sh...she said she would not..oh please Milord, forgive me...she said she would not serve a liar, and that never a foot would she set inside these chambers again until you apologized to her.” Silas ducked on instinct.
“Apologize?!” He was insensate with rage, unable even to raise a hand to the boy. “I am a prince of the realm and she calls for me to apologize to her, a servant? She will stay there until crack of doom if that be the case!” He waved his hand at Silas, “Come, boy. Draw water for my bath.”
Silas scrambled into the bedchamber as Loki stared down the hallway towards the staircase.
One week wore into another as Eidra remained downstairs in the staff kitchen. Jul was fast approaching and there was much preparation to do, baking and cooking, cleaning, mending. Eidra had become withdrawn, somber, her thoughts unable, unwilling to stray from Loki even though she knew her heart was the only one truly affected. Silas had told her of his response that evening and so she did not venture into the upper corridor, not even to travel through the palace.
Loki would sit most nights before the fireplace, his hand stroking the blanket draped over his lap. Time and time again, he would start to rise from his chair, thinking to go down to the kitchen and beg her to return to his chambers, then pride would will out and he would sit there, seething with anger.
One night, a little over a week before Jul, he stood in his bedchamber staring at his lone chair before the fireplace, strode out of the bedchamber and headed down the corridor, away from the staircase.
Eidra helped carry the trays of mutton ribs to the staff kitchen table in preparation for steaming that next day. Jul was finally here. She walked to the fireplace and stirred the porridge inside, lifting a spoonful and blowing on it to cool so she could taste it, when she noticed a sheet of parchment on the table. She looked about the kitchen for Helgi or Artra, but even Artra was gone, busy with preparations. She put the spoonful of porridge in her mouth, waving her hand at the heat, put the spoon on the table, and picked up the parchment.
I am sorry,
Please come to my chamber.
Eidra folded the paper and stuffed it into the pocket of her dress, her heart pounding. She searched the kitchen and laundry room once more, making sure Malek was nowhere to be found, since he had taken lately to pestering her incessantly. She had half a mind to stay where she was. Malek was not above playing tricks upon her. What if he had written the note instead of Loki. Not wanting to believe the parchment was false, but hardly daring to believe it was not, she trotted up the staircase to the corridor which she found empty.
She knocked on the door to Loki's chamber. Receiving no answer, she pushed the door open and walked inside. The room appeared empty. She turned toward the fireplace where they'd spent so many nights sitting on the floor, playing dice and her eyes started to tear again. She sniffed angrily, wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. It was then she spied her blanket draped over the arm of one of the chairs before the fireplace. She walked over to it and snatched it up, muttering to herself, “The little thief.”
When she stood back up, she realized there was not one chair, but two before her.
She looked at the chair, her blanket slipping from her fingers to the floor. It was a heavy chair, done up in blond wood. The arms were carved with flowering vines in various stages of completion. The heavy legs spiraled to the floor, supporting the seat which was polished to a satin sheen, the backing was the most elaborate, the design mimicking the snakes on Loki's headboard but for one change. They were facing each other and in their open mouths, arched at the top of the back board, was carved a name, Eidra.
She heard the door close behind her, and slow footsteps that stopped beside her. Loki stood there, hands behind his back, dressed in his evening robes.
“It still requires a little refinement, but I wanted it here for Jul.”
Eidra found her ability to speak temporarily lost.
“Do you like it?”
She nodded, running her fingers along the vines on the arm of the chair, closing her hand around the flower at the end of it.
“Will you forgive me and return to my chamber?” he paused, “I am sorry.”
“For what?” She traced the petals of the wooden flower with her fingertip.
“For denying what you said was true. For denying that I wished to throw that whoreson from the nearest cliff for daring to touch you, to speak to you.”
She chanced a look at him, saw the flash of anger in his eyes.
“Then I am sorry that I did not show that little red haired bitch the the flat of my palm.”
He laughed, a low chuckle, she felt his hand slip beneath hers, “All is forgiven, then?”
She nodded as he caught her in a tender embrace which she returned with equal warmth.
“I have been miserable, inconsolable without you, Eidra.” his voice was a whisper in her ear and she hugged him tighter.
“Oh Loki, so have I,” she felt his hand slide up to her head, caress her hair.
“I wish never to hear you call me by title again when we are here alone. Ken?”
“I do ken.”
He gently pushed her away, “I will have Silas return your cot. Tonight we may sit in our chairs together.” He swept a stray hair from her face. “It will be a good Jul.”
She watched Silas struggle with the cot up the staircase, her heart pounding in her ears as she fingered the Uruz. The decision had been made as she stood looking at the chair that Loki had commissioned for her. This was the man she wanted, the man who deserved to receive the necklace and all its symbolism, with its power, and the power over her as well. He would either accept it or reject her but she could no longer suffer to hide her feelings.
Helgi had listened to Eidra as she told her of the chair and of her return to Loki's chamber. “He went to great lengths to repair the rift between you two. Take care. Malek will ask where you are tonight.”
“Then you can tell him I have returned to serve Lord Loki. It is as simple as that.” Eidra heard Artra singing in the laundry room, “Everyone is in high spirits, Malek will be busy celebrating with the workers.”
Helgi watched Eidra fidget with her necklace. “Keep that close to your heart, it is precious.”
“Helgi, it was made to be given away. When I find a man I love, who loves me back, I will give the necklace to him. That is the purpose of the deflowering gift. It symbolizes the turning of a girl to a woman and a woman to a wife.” Eidra smiled at her. “I will be here early in the morning to help you.” Before she stood up, she leaned over and kissed Helgi's cheek.
“If my mother had lived, I hope she would have been like you.” Eidra rested her head on Helgi's arm for a long moment.
“My dear poppet,” Helgi whispered, bussed the top of Eidra's head.
Eidra was suddenly up from the bench, “I must return to my chambers, Lord Loki will be returning soon.”
Helgi stared at the stone steps a long time after she had left the kitchen.
When Loki opened the door to his chambers, he found Eidra sitting on the edge of the chair, staring into the fire, her hands clasped in her lap. She jumped up and ran to him, “Would you like me to draw you a bath?”
He smiled at her, “I would at that. Have you yet eaten the evening meal?”
She shook her head, she had been to nervous to eat but she kept such things to herself.
“After you start the water, would you fetch our meals? You will sup with me.”
Eidra walked into the bath room and turned the handle to fill the large basin, trailing her hand in the water for a minute, pondering the necklace wrapped in a little packet beneath the blanket of her cot. She heard footsteps behind her and turned her head to see Loki standing there, stripped to the waist. The scar from the elven sword had faded to a light red line running diagonally down his chest. He had untied his long black hair from the leather thongs and now it hung in waves at his back. She shifted her gaze to the floor and stood, afraid that if she continued to stare at him, she would lose her nerve.
“I will return, Milord.”
“However are we to break you of that habit?” He clucked his tongue.
“I am sorry, Loki.”
His grin widened, “There 'tis not so hard. Off with you, I will not be long in here.”
When she pushed the door open, carrying the tray of food, he was standing beside the bed, pulling his evening robe over his head.
She put the tray down in front of the fireplace and he crooked a finger to her.
“I have something for you.”
She glided over to the bed, “What more can you give me?”
He held out another robe, smaller but nearly identical to the one he now wore, “It is more comfortable than the staff dress you wear. Go put it on.”
She took the robe from his hand, the silk cool to the touch.
“This is too fine for me.” She tried to hand it back to him but he simply pushed her towards the bath room.
“Nonsense, woman. Now go change. I wish to see if the seamstress has done her chore well.”
In the bath room she dropped her dress to the floor, swiftly grabbing the robe and throwing it over her head. She caught her image in the reflection of the polished metal panel. Twirling around, she smiled at the graceful way it flowed around her, shocked at the way the silk also hugged the curves of her hips, the swell of her breasts as it hung in delicate folds from her shoulders. She felt indecent.
“Eidra, come let me see you.” Loki called from the bed chamber.
She picked up her dress, holding it before her like a shield, and walked out, her eyes trained to the floor, unable to look up at him, even when he took a hand and led her further into the room.
“Put down your dress and stand up straight.”
Upon reflex, she hugged the dress to her once more, then dropped it onto the floor.
“Oh Eidra.” Loki breathed, “You are a true vision.” He twirled her around and smiled.
“You do too much for me, Loki.”
“I cannot begin to tell you what you have done for me.”
He took her hand and kissed it, began to pull her towards the chairs, when she took her hand away and swallowed hard, now was as good a time as any.
“Wait, I have something for you as well.” She ran to her cot and pulled the packet from under her blanket.
When she handed it to him and backed away, he tilted his head with a lopsided smile, “What are you up to, little minx.”
He untied the leather thong around the package and let the cloth lie open, the smile slipping from his face as he beheld the necklace.
“Eidra, I cannot take this, it is yours to keep.” He held the packet out to her, shaking his head, but she pushed it back towards him.
“It is mine to give not to keep.” She took the necklace from the packet then, reaching around his neck and tying it there as she continued.
“When a girl becomes a woman, the deflowering gift is meant as a symbol, meant to be given to the one she loves, the one she wishes to share her life with. You may drive me again from this chamber and I would gladly accept it but for the chance to tell you of my feelings for you, such a heavy weight they have been on my heart.”
She brought the pendant out to lay it over his robe and he caught her hand upon it where she could feel his heart thundering beneath her palm as realization dawned upon him.
“You cannot know what you are asking.”
But Eidra nodded, “I do,”
“Would you wish so to be bound to me thus?”
Eidra smiled though her heart felt like to leap out of her chest, “I love you, Loki, I would give my life for you.”
He put a finger to her lips his eyes searching her face, “Do not say that.”
Eidra frowned, “Do not tell the truth?”
“No, do not entertain such thoughts of death lest the spirits of the night hear.” He entangled his fingers into her hair and she closed her eyes.
“I wish you to make me a woman. I give you the Uruz and all it means to me because I love you.” Eidra murmured.
Loki's hand had begun to tremble. “I had been alone for so long when you came into my life Now I fear to show you the depth and breadth of a love such as mine is for you.”
She wanted to cry for joy, he had said it, had said he loved her. She gazed up at him, “What is there to fear?”
He grabbed her by the shoulders and stared into her eyes, “My desire for you, my passion, my determination to keep you by my side for the rest of our days.”
“I bend to your will, I share your wish.”
His words caught in his throat then, he put his hand behind her head and covered her mouth with his own, the contact sending shivers like stars along her spine. She met his tongue with her own, her hands splayed out across his chest, fingernails scratching lightly at the silk. A slight rush of cold air brought her to her senses then and she pushed him from her, gently. “We should close the drapes.”
He nodded, eyed her, then they both ran laughing for the long drapes that spanned the balcony beyond the braziers, pulling both sets from either side until they met in the middle, this time to hold each other in a lovers embrace. His mouth fastened to her throat, trailing down to the swell of her breasts where he breathed in her scent, a mixture of fresh air, and wood smoke, deeper still, the musk of her sex as her desire rose to overcome her fear. She felt his own arousal, hard and free beneath his robe as he pressed her to him, his arms crossing her back.
He lifted her then, carrying her to the bed where he lay her down, standing at the side, taking her form in and committing the moment to memory. The trusting look on her face, eyes half lidded with unbridled desire, a hint of fear which he mirrored, the robe splayed across her body like a shimmering second skin. He sat on the bed beside her, trailing his fingers across the flat plane of her stomach, smiling as she shivered, her hand rising up his forearm to his bicep beneath the long sleeve of his robe.
“Teach me.” She whispered, felt his hand glide down her stomach to her thigh where he slid the hem of her robe upward. He turned then and lay down, matching her length, his arm cradling her head, kissing her neck, her shoulder, the shell of her ear. He smiled at the slight elven point, nipping at the lobe, the sensation causing her body to shudder, her hand to fasten on his shoulder as she pulled him in closer. He gazed then into her eyes.
“I do not wish to hurt you. Do not be afraid to stop me..”
Her nod sent his free hand beneath the hem of her robe, his fingers to the cleft between her thighs, the heat therein, the slick softness at his fingers causing him to throb hard against her thigh. He started to move his fingers against her, his touch bringing her hips up from the bed to press into his hand, a tempo to keep her writhing on the coverlet, panting, her hands gripping the silk of her robe, twisting it as the tension built within.
She begged him to kiss her and he readily obliged, watching her, overcome at her beauty, the wonder at the sensations coursing through her, bringing her closer to her peak. He bent his head then and closed his lips over one nipple through the silk of her robe, caressing the hard nub with his tongue, an act that served to push her over the edge, her legs clenching together as she came against his hand in shuddering spasms. He pressed his mouth to hers, taking her cries of ecstasy to himself as he rose above her where she lay, breathless. He raised the robe over her head to drop it on the floor beside the bed.
“I want to see you as well,” She pushed up on her elbows, “I have never seen you without being afraid to look upon you.”
He leaned back on his heels and drew his own robe over his head, suddenly self conscious, his gaze thrown to the side so that he could not see her reaction. She stared at her dark prince kneeling on the bed before her, full hard, his long hair wild about his face, body flushed with desire, his lean muscular body aglow in the torchlight.
“My beautiful prince.” her hand brushed against his chest, causing him to shudder. She reached up then and pulled him down, arching beneath him as she felt his lips close once again upon the nub of first one breast, then the other, his tongue swirling around the tight flesh, hair falling to the side to rest upon her arm like a silken blanket. She felt transported, her whole being afire with the urge that had filled her when she had given him the necklace now fully realized.
“I am ready,” She whispered.
He positioned himself between her thighs, trembling, inflamed with desire, love, terrified by the union he was about to form with her yet unwilling to stop it. He lunged at her shoulder, biting at the tender flesh there, his manhood poised at the very heart of her, feeling her hips rock upward to accept him, he moving forward slowly, entering her, silk, soft, tight, until he was sheathed inside, his forehead against hers, his breath ragged with lust.
Fighting the urge to possess her fully, to take her fast and hard, he began finally, when he felt able to move without triggering his fast release, to move in slow, deep thrusts that were sweet, intense, calculated at first, yet he could no longer hold back when she began to meet his thrusts and match them, arching forward to take him deeper, her hands in fists at his back as she entwined her legs over his, wanting to lock him there pressed to her, forever.
When he dipped forward, she kissed the hollow of his throat, her tongue slick against his skin , tasting, savoring, exploring, one hand now entwined in his hair, gripping it tightly. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he bent into her, lifting her from the bed with animal passion, bucking into her, ever deeper, groaning as he felt her clench around him, ripples caressing his length, panting, crying out against his shoulder until his rhythm began to break and he could no longer hold back the rising tide. He locked eyes with her, not with a roar but a whispered “Oh” as he spilled into her, lips against her own, holding her as if he would never let her go.
“Loki,” the sound of his name spoken by the woman he loved, served to move his hips once more, another spasm to close his eyes, weaken his body as his head dropped to her shoulder. They lay there waiting for their hearts to slow, before he withdrew to lay beside her, his head resting on her shoulder, arms entangled with one another until the cold drove them to burrow beneath the covers. It was a long time before they spoke, their hands playing together, interlacing, caressing, teasing and he whispered,
“You inflame me once again, little minx.” She lay on her side then, facing him, her hand at his cheek.
“I shall try to behave.”
“I never said you must behave,” he shook his head, grinned then heaved a great sigh, “Eidra, I have never known contentment like this.”
The thought saddened her. She pressed herself into his chest, his arm over her, at her back.
He looked down at her, curled at his side, “I have never given myself to someone I love, have never felt so completely loved in return. Eidra, you must stay by my side, promise me this, I cannot be without you.”
She kissed him, her hand nestling in the scant dark hair at his chest, “I am where I wish to be, Loki.”
She opened her eyes. The fire in the fireplace had died to embers, the braziers similarly low. She shivered, the fires would need to be rekindled. Loki was pressed to her back, his arm around her waist. She made to rise from the bed but he tightened his hold with a groan.
“The fires have nearly gone out, the room is freezing, and there is faint light beneath the drapes. It is Jul morning. Silas will be coming with more firewood.”
He planted rough kisses at the back of her neck that nearly crumbled her resolve. She arched against him, he returning the motion until she heard footsteps coming down the corridor.
“Loki, let go,” she hissed, disentangling herself from him, snatching the robe from the floor and pulling it over her head. She ran to the fireplace, her feet nearly numbed by the frigid marble. She had just lifted the poker to move the embers in preparation to place new wood on the pile when the door swung open and Thor strode in.
“Good Jul, brother! Are you ready to ride?”
Eidra hunched before the fire, her heart hammering in her chest at how close Thor had come to finding her abed with Loki. Surely he would comment about her new garment. She was more frightened he would surmise what had happened between her and Loki.
“I am awake but scarcely ready.” Loki sat up in the bed and she could fair feel his eyes burning into her back as she stoked the fire back to life.
“Well arise, we must meet in the courtyard to ride about the city. It is tradition.” Thor looked about the room, “Has your servant wench let the fire go out? It is cold.”
“Forgive me, Milord.” Eidra said as she stood, hands clasped in front of her. Thor cast a glance at her and at once his stance changed. Dim as the room was, she knew he'd noticed the new robe she sported.
“What is this?” he cried .
She stepped back until she was nearly inside the fireplace. Thor picked at the fabric of the robe at her shoulder and she flinched.
“Brother, did you give this to her or did she sneak it from your wardrobe?”
Loki had gathered his own robe and thrown it over his head. He walked to the fireplace, holding his hands out to the low flames.
“I gave it to her as a gift,” he rubbed his temples with his fingers, “Let me get dressed and I shall meet you soon.”
Thor shook his head, his blond ponytail swinging much like the tail of a horse. “A fine robe for a servant. The only gift she needs is the privilege of serving you, brother. You do indulge her far too much.” He took one more look at Eidra. “Make haste, we ride soon.”
As the door closed behind Thor, they realized they had both been holding their breath. Loki laughed, his voice tremulous. Eidra put her hands to her cheeks.
“Oh Loki, that was much too close.”
“I could have countered him with the many times I have walked in upon his indiscretions. I would put a lock upon that door would it not raise questions with him.”
She quickly helped him with his ceremonial dress though it took longer than usual because he kept kissing her in between garments, while she laughingly kept pushing him away, her fears allayed by his loving attention.
“When my brother and I return, I will take the morning meal with you, then to celebrations.”
He caught her up in his arms then, “I love you, Eidra.”
“I love you, Loki.” His smile intoxicated her and she returned it as he strode through the door and was gone, leaving her to start her day, happier than she'd ever been in her life.