Loki was up before her yet again, at the railing of the balcony looking out across the city. She lay there for a few moments, drinking in his silhouette framed by the parted drapes before she spoke.
“What wakes you so early?”
He turned, headed to the bed where he sat down. “Come, rise Eidra. The thaw has started, it is nearly Eostre, spring is on the way, perhaps the waterfall has melted a bit. We will ride today.”
He rose from the bed and walked to the wardrobe.
Ride? She put her hand over her stomach, “I cannot ride, Loki.”
He glanced over his shoulder, a tunic in his hand. “Why? if Helgi has chores for you only tell me and I will release you from them.”
She sat up in bed, the coverlet pulled up over her chest, “It is not that,”
“Is it your horse? If you require a gentler one, I will provide. Come now.” He returned to the bedside and held out a tunic of his own for her to don.
She found she was trembling now, “It is not the horse.”
Loki was now staring at her, hands on his hips, “If it is not your chores, nor the horse then what is it that has made you so reticent?”
She threw her legs over the edge of the bed and stood, pulling her robe over her head. “I have something I must tell you.”
Loki's hands dropped to his side, a look of puzzlement on his face.
“Come sit in the chair before the fire, I will rekindle it a bit.”
Loki sat down, watching her as she tossed a couple of small logs upon the embers.
When she was seated in her chair beside him, she took a deep breath and blew it out.
“Loki, I am with child.”
He turned to her, his gaze intense, “Are you certain?”
“I have not bled for three moons, the sight of food before midday turns my stomach...”
At once he was on the floor before her chair, “Who have you told of this?”
Her eyes flitted to his and away, “Helgi only. No one else.”
He stood, started to pace about the room, hands on his head, muttering to himself, “I am to be a father.... we are to have a child!”
He knelt again and kissed the tops of her hands. “We shall have a baby!”
She brought his hands to her cheek, “I was so afraid you would be furious with me.”
He laughed, squeezed her shoulders, “I am overjoyed! You must have a new wardrobe, dresses.”
Eidra nodded, “I will speak with Helgi on such matters and we will make them ourselves for they must hide me as well my prince.”
Loki stood up, “Would it that there were no need.” he muttered.
“But if Thor were to find out, he would surely make it most difficult for you.”
Even such somber caution could not dim his enthusiasm, however and all at once, he was before her again, hands on her shoulders, his smile lighting up his whole face. “Hang the oaf. Could my life be any more complete?”
Her smile faded, “What shall happen when it is time for the baby to be born?”
He rubbed her arms, “I will arrange for you to travel to Rialo when your time approaches. We have loyal friends who will assist us. I will endeavor to soften father's heart in the meantime. I promise someday you will stand proudly at my side.”
He put his hand to her belly, fingers splayed out across it. “From this day on you will lift not a finger, I will care for you.”
Eidra shook her head, put her hand over his, “I cannot let you do such a thing, if we are to keep this secret, nothing must change.”
“But there are chores much too heavy for a woman in your condition.” Loki protested.
“I will govern myself accordingly, my love.”
He put his head in her lap, “I will entrust Helgi with your care in that aspect. She will see that you are careful.”
Eidra stroked his cheek, “I promise I shall be.”
“It is not right!” Thor cried, pacing the floor before the throne, “Father, he spends all his free time holed up in his rooms with that servant wench.”
Odin, his chin in hand, gazed at Thor. “And how is it you know what happens behind closed doors? Is it not possible that your brother does as he has done all these years. Why do you think he would waste his time with a lowly worker?”
Thor slapped a hand to his forehead, “I have seen the way he indulges her, he has taught her to ride a horse, buys her bolts of cloth to sew with...”
“What of it. My manservant Kalo knows how to ride a horse, he almost surpasses me in skill, in fact.”
“She is a woman, would you teach a servant woman to ride?”
Odin was silent for a moment, “Continue.”
“I have heard him apologizing to her. I have passed by his chamber doors and heard laughter, whispered voices. When I try to talk to him of her, he refuses. It adds up.”
Odin clasped his hands together under his chin, “You take a studied interest in this matter, are you certain that it is not in retribution? He did win her from you, did he not?”
Thor scowled. “I was distracted, he took advantage of it, if not for that, I would have won the contest. You will see, father, he treats her differently. I will find a way to show you.”
Silas and Helgi were sitting at the kitchen table with Eidra talking about the upcoming feast in the Great Hall. Eidra sewed while Helgi prepared dough for bread. Eidra had been selected once again to serve and she sighed, “It could be worse, though if there is entertainment this time, I may find myself locked up at the end of the evening.”
“What is the feast for?” Silas asked.
“It is a meeting to discuss the planting season with the town elders in the surrounding villages. I say it is another reason to get together, eat and drink themselves into oblivion.” Helgi sniffed.
Eidra had been working on her latest dress and now she paused, her hand holding the needle in the air, in the middle of a stitch. A smile grew upon her face and she looked at Helgi. “I felt it.”
Helgi glanced at Silas then to her, “That is wonderful, dear. How long until that dress be finished?”
“Felt what?” Silas cast a curious look to Helgi.
“The baby moved. I shall be back.” Eidra leaped from the bench and ran up the stairs, leaving Helgi pale and Silas with a look of shock on his face.
“Eidra is going to have a baby?”
Helgi sat there, her hands working the dough before her, waiting a time before she spoke.
“She did not mean to say it.”
“But is she? I know she lies abed with Lord Loki. Is the child his?”
Helgi was wide eyed, “How do you know, you little whelp?”
Silas shrugged, “I have seen them asleep together.”
Helgi groaned, “I told them to take a care..and your mother tells you far too much about babies.”
He tilted his head, “Does this mean she will marry Lord Loki?”
Helgi laughed aloud as they heard steps down the stairs. Eidra reappeared, taking her seat across from Helgi again. “He is still away.”
“Eidra, are you going to have a baby?” Silas had turned to look at her. She put her hands to her mouth.
“Oh gods, I forgot myself.”
She looked at Helgi who wore a disgusted look on her face. “Yes, Silas, but you must keep it a secret for my sake.”
Silas thought, nodded. “I will. When will you have it?”
“I believe by the end of summer.”
“Will it be a boy or a girl?”
Eidra picked up her sewing, “I know not but I would love a boy first though I will be happy if it be a girl as well so long as it is healthy.”
“I hope it be a boy too, we have too many girls around here already.” Silas remarked as Helgi and Eidra laughed.
Loki was in high spirits that evening when he appeared at his chambers just before the evening meal. He managed to sneak up behind Eidra as she was folding his tunics on the bed and scare her. She turned to swing at him and he shoved her onto the bed where they proceeded to wrestle. She squealed uproariously, trying to best him. He would get a pinch in one place, a spank the other, she would trap his arm to the mattress, poke him where he was most ticklish. He was, however, the stronger of them and he eventually managed to pin her down, breathless, their ensuing kiss hungry, desperate, the rush of adrenaline coursing all over her skin as pure lust consumed them.
“Wait,” She pushed him back a bit and he yielded, “I have something to tell you.”
“What is it, my little minx?”
“I felt the baby move today,” she sat up with him, “just a flutter, but I felt it.”
Loki leaned over and kissed her stomach, “And so soon, he will be strong.”
She put her hands on her hips. “A he, says you. Perhaps a she, says I.”
“Then she shall be strong. A fine big girl, one who will become a warrior,” he rose from the bed. “now to find a name.”
Eidra stood shaking her head as she started to refold the pile of tunics. “Have you thought of any?”
“I confess I have thought of boys names alone, like Jörundr, or Kali?”
She looked over her shoulder at Loki, “What do they mean? The name must reflect the child?”
“Kali means cold.” He came up behind her, kissed the back of her neck and she shivered.
“Cold, I do not want our baby to be cold. Think harder upon it.”
“Magnús? It means mighty.”
Eidra smiled, “Mighty, I like that, and I like the sound of it. We shall agree on that one for now, unless we find another name we feel is better. Oh I felt it again.”
She put her hand to her stomach where it was soon joined by his.
“When shall I feel it too?” Loki looked crestfallen.
“In time, my prince,” she caressed his cheek.
“And if it be a girl, what names have you thought of?”
She picked up the pile of folded tunics and carried them to the wardrobe where Loki opened the door for her. Loki followed her back to the bed where she started on the pile of breeches.
“I have thought of names from my family. Brenna, it means dark-haired, Cait, maybe. Cait means pure. I have always been partial to Cait, or Clare, it means bright.”
“Leave these out for tomorrow,” Loki took a pair of breeches and put them aside, “I like Cait, the way it rolls off the tongue, and the meaning, I also like Clare. You must name the girl though, so I will accept Cait.”
Her smile was gentle, “We shall first have to see what fate gives us.”
Eidra turned to the side and smoothed her dress down before her, looking to see if there was a noted difference at first glance but the billow of the skirt was still cover enough for her. Loki had lain in bed beside her that previous night and he had observed that her belly had started to round out a bit, had in fact fallen asleep with his hand splayed across it.
She flounced the dress out again and glanced at Helgi who stood by the fire with her spoon halfway to her mouth, “Faith I cannot blame him for noticing you, what a vision you are, even in plain staff dress.”
“Thank you Helgi, I am flattered.” She peered up the staircase at the light filtering down from the corridor windows, “It is time for me to go. I will tell you about the meeting if I hear anything of interest.”
The meeting itself consisted of agricultural concerns, the turning of the soil, the choice of crops to plant, when to plant them, where to plant them, how to share them. Eidra drifted behind the chairs, filling the chalices, being quiet, unobtrusive. One of the town elders, a short, well-fed man with dark hair and piercing eyes, dressed in silks and velvet, would smile at her every time she approached him. She had politely returned the smile and moved on, glad to reach Loki who held her gaze a moment more than was proper, making her blush.
When the meeting turned informal as the guests filtered into the Great Hall where the food was laid out on the long table, she refilled her ewer and returned to the hall, making rounds yet again. She found Loki talking to the man who had been smiling at her all evening and she curtsied as she filled his chalice.
“You have such lovely women here at court.” The man remarked to Loki as he eyed Eidra. I implore you, introduce me to this absolute vision would you?”
She cringed inwardly, he had this simpering condescending way about him. His speech was rapid fire, his gaze nearly obscene.
“This is Kivas of Rialo.” Loki's tone was clipped and she felt mortified for him that he had been forced to acknowledge her, a servant, among the visiting dignitaries.
Kivas took her free hand and bussed it. She heard the creak of leather as Loki shifted his weight. She dared not look at him,
“And what is your name, my delicate flower?”
“Eidra,” She murmured, eyes downcast as she pushed a strand of hair behind her ear.
“You are Alfari?” He raised his hand to point at her.
“Enchanting!” Kivas turned to Loki then back to her, “And how old be you?”
“I have seen twenty-one winters.”
Kivas clapped his hands and crooked his finger at her, “I have need of more servants in my household, I must procure you, come with me, my dear.”
He bowed to Loki. “If you will excuse me, Milord.”
Kivas started to drift into the crowd and Eidra cast a frightened glance at Loki who held up his hand. “She is my personal servant.”
Kivas whirled around on the balls of his feet, “Then we must barter, every man has his price.”
“She is not for trade.” Loki kept his hands to his side, fingernails digging into his palms.
Thor had drained his third chalice and was looking for another wine steward even if it be her, when he heard Loki. He could see him few feet distant, talking to the town elder from Rialo and he edged in closer to hear them.
“A dozen heifers, all prize stock. Come now, you could swell the palace holdings.”
Loki shook his head, “I repeat, she is my personal..”
“Brother,” Thor interrupted him, “Hear him out at least.”
Loki's stare was pure malice as he turned to Thor.
“Two dozen heifers!”
“Done.” Thor shouted as he reached for Kivas's hand but Loki knocked Thor's hand aside with a growl.
“She is not for sale, I tell you, she is mine!”
Thor glared at him, “She was mine first, and I say it is a fair trade.”
“You gave her up!”
Thor pushed Loki with a fist to the chest, “And you tricked me!”
Loki resisted, shoving against his hand, “You were busy being arrogant! I took advantage of it and won the contest fairly!”
People had stopped their conversation and were starting to stare at them. Kivas put his hands up and began to away. “I am so sorry, I did not mean to create a problem.”
“You challenged me because you knew I would accept it,” Loki roared, “Only you did not think you would lose!”
“Milord,” Eidra whispered and he whirled around, startling her.
“Forgive me, but you are drawing a crowd. Kivas has retreated.”
He stared at her, momentarily stunned, then looked back to Thor who was watching them. Around the room, everyone had fallen silent. Loki grabbed Eidra by the arm then, dragging her through the crowd to the large arched windows looking out over the city.
“Are you mad, speaking to me like that?” He hissed, leaning close to her, “In front of my oaf of a brother?”
“I only meant to help you. I did not want him to make a fool of you in front of the guests.”
She was trembling now.
“Eidra, you chided me. I must deal with you severely in front of him or he shall take me to task.”
Eidra nodded, “Yell at me.”
Louder, “Yell at me!”
Loki hesitated. She could see the angry tears in his eyes.
“You wench!” he shouted, “How dare you speak out of turn! Return to the kitchen at once, I will personally see to it that you be made to answer for your impertinence!” A tear escaped to lay on his cheek. “Go!”
She bowed, fleeing from the room, leaving him to stand there. He scanned the room where he saw Odin and Thor, their heads bent together, talking and he started the way Eidra had gone. He'd only taken a few steps when he was halted by Thor's booming voice, “Loki!”
Thor was waving him over to where they stood. He set his jaw and made his way to them.
Odin nodded to Thor and with a glare, he blended into the crowd though not far enough away that he could not interject if needed.
Odin put a hand on Loki's shoulder, “My son, your servant girl is a bit out of hand, let me replace her with a houseboy.”
“I already have a houseboy, I do not need another.”
“Then what need have you of her?”
Loki, still agitated at the commotion with Thor, was quickly becoming rattled, “She already knows my routine,”
Odin squeezed his shoulder, “You must not become so attached to one servant, others can be taught her chores.”
“And what of your manservant?” Loki snapped, “You have had him since I was in swaddling clothes.”
Odin shook his head, “He is a man, a woman in a man's household has the potential to lead him astray.”
Loki gave a wry smile, “And this, you think, shall be my fate?”
Odin was silent but Thor was there to answer.“It has already. You have taught her to ride, I hear tell you now prefer her company in the saddle to your own brother! You buy her trinkets, fine cloth with which to fashion dresses that she can scarce wear but in your chambers, and a fine silk robe you had made for her as I recall.”
Loki was trembling with anger. He had all he could do not to lash out at his brother but he needed to keep Father unaware at how close to the bone Thor was striking.
“Gifts for doing her job well, I told you that before. I pity your own staff, are you as hard upon them?”
“Only as hard as you have been in the past. They are servants, they are given room and board and that should be sufficient.” Thor was bristling now and Loki meant to continue,
“What more are they given? Tell me about your own handmaids, dear brother. Do they help you dress, draw your bath? Surely you do not make Sif do all the work? I seem to recall a night in recent memory where you invited me to join you in greeting a new chamber maid. Do you recall that? It was similar in kind to when you asked me to share mine own with you.”
“Loki! You say far too much than is proper.”
He smirked. He had found something to fluster the golden boy. He waved a hand at him. “Why? Is Sif walking about? Are you concerned she might take you to task if she hears me?”
Thor lunged at his brother, stopped only inches from him when Odin held his hand to Thor's chest.
“Loki, apologize for your slights.”
Loki's mouth hung open. “Slights? He is obsessed with my household's doings, accuses me of having been overindulgent with my handmaid and yet I have slighted him?”
“He has not inferred any activity on your part. You however, have accused him of dalliances. Now apologize.”
Loki stiffened, bowed. “Forgive me, brother. I did not mean to offend.” He felt as if he would purge before them both.
“Now think hard upon a new servant.”
Loki bowed again, disappearing through the throng of guests until he was out into the corridor, sweat beading his face as he made his way to his chambers.
Eidra was sitting on her cot, hands in her lap when Loki burst into the room. He stood there for a moment, trying to catch his breath.
“Father wishes me to replace you.”
She nodded, her eyes upon her lap.
“He thinks that you are out of hand and should be replaced with a houseboy. What say you to that!”
“What would you have me say?”
Loki strode up to her, “Tell me no. You were quite able to speak out in the Great hall!”
He knelt to the floor before her, his hands upon her knees.
“Beg me to let you stay. Harden my heart to my father's demand!” he dropped his head to her lap, “Tell me you love me!”
She felt his body spasm and she realized he was crying, sobbing in her lap. His arms came around her waist, his cheek pressed to the swell of her belly. She stroked his hair, his back. “I love you, my prince. Think not upon them, they can only hope to have what we have.” Felt his hand caress her stomach, his kiss upon it, the words he was murmuring to their unborn child through his tears and she folded herself forward, holding him.
“You are here with me now, banish all the world, this portion be ours.”
She pushed him gently from her and led him to the bed where she undressed him, cooing softly, drying his tears with her kisses, her touch, her smile. When finally she straddled his hips, taking him inside her in one satin motion, filling her completely, she felt her own tears wet her face. He wiped them away with his hands, trailing them down her throat to the swell of her breasts, her waist, her hips where he held her tight as he began to move up into her. She leaned forward over him, feeling the intrusion her belly was starting to create, kissed him, felt his hands tangle into her hair, his passion overtaking him swiftly then as he murmured beside her ear, “I am yours, Eidra.”and arched up from the bed with his release, holding her to him as she dropped to his side and they lay there, wrapped in each others arms.
He spoke to her of contentment, of the strength of his conviction, his love as he cradled her, his hands never leaving her body, craving the touch of her skin, sleep all that much sweeter with her heartbeat as his lullaby.