Descent-(The Path)

26

He sat on the edge of the bed twirling the Uruz around on its leather thong, feeling its heft, its power, a soft hum, a vibration which always increased when he would couple with Eidra. He held the disc up to his eye, looking through the center hole as he considered a plan. He would find where Eidra had been taken, go to her room and steal away with her. They would use the gateway and escape...but to where? Vanaheim? Midgard? A grand plan, they would have nothing, would have to start with nothing, but, oh for the chance of a life together.

Thor's voice outside the bedroom door and his subsequent entry into his room suddenly gave Loki over to a case of giggles.

“I am bunking here tonight, brother, to keep you company.”

At this, Loki fairly howled with laughter, lying back on the bed, tears streaming down his face as Thor stared at him.

“Loki, have you lost your mind?”

“Not at all,” Loki sat back up, “Tell me, have you ever heard the word, irony?”

“What is irony?” Thor asked, eliciting another giggle from Loki.

“I thought not, irony has been demonstrated tonight with your presence here, and tragically so. Thank you for that much needed laugh.”

Thor took hold of the front of Loki's tunic and pulled him closer, “You mock me.”

Loki's laughter faded with his smile, “No brother, that is where you are wrong. I despise you.” He pulled his tunic from Thor's fingers.

“For trying to stop you from making a horrible mistake?”

. “It was my choice to make. Why did you wish to deny me even the smallest happiness, the love of a woman?!” he shouted, turned away from Thor, unable to look at him.

“Because you are a prince, you deserve a royal bride, children blessed by Odin. I remain sure that you will one day see the truth of what I say, that you will see your love for a simple servant girl was sadly misguided,” he put a hand on Loki's shoulder but Loki pulled away from him,

“I will not allow you to keep me from Eidra. Mark my words, we shall be together.”

Thor took his cloak from his shoulders, “Enough, brother, we must rest. Tomorrow promises to be a long day.”

Thor pulled off his boots and lay on the bed, on his side, watching his brother as he stood staring into the empty fireplace, barely able to stand still. Thor closed his eyes but dared not sleep. He felt the other side of the bed sink down as Loki lay on his side facing away from him and still Thor listened , waited until Loki's breathing slowed, his body relaxed, succumbing to exhaustion. Thor placed his hand on the hilt of the knife in his thigh holster and let sleep take him as well.

Eidra was given a plain tan dress to wear by a servant girl who knocked on the door early that morning. She returned a short time later with the morning meal, a tray filled with smoked fish, a loaf of bread and a jug of buttermilk to share with Helgi though neither of them felt much like eating. All too soon, she was parted from Helgi by two palace guards. Helgi followed Eidra and the guards to the doors of the Throne room. The buzz of the crowd inside, the announcement of the delegates from Asgard nearly stopped Eidra in her tracks but she felt Helgi's hand pat her back.The announcement of the High Court, followed by King Freyr gave rise to a loud shout of “Long live the king!”

Eidra found she had been holding her breath as the doors swung slowly open and all eyes suddenly fell upon her. Helgi stood off to the right while the guards brought Eidra inside the cavernous room, then she spied Silas standing behind Thor and Loki. She reached Silas's side just as Eidra took the red cushioned seat that stood in the middle of the room facing a podium with long tables on either side where the High Court were taking their seats . Behind the podium, on a dais, was King Freyr's throne upon which he now sat. Eidra turned her head to the right to see another long table along one side of the room where the delegation from Asgard had been seated. Loki was staring at her. She wished to smile at him, give him some measure of reassurance but found the effort too gargantuan to undertake

. Her father was seated at the end of the table to the right of the podium, the Cup of Volundr placed before him, a servant pouring wine from a large decanter into the gilded wooden cup. Danar stood farther behind him, a grave look on his face.

She chanced one more glance at Loki who mouthed “I love you,” and she looked away, the pain in her heart too great to bear.

All too soon, the words rang out through the throne room, “The High Court is now assembled!”

Eldan stood holding the Cup of Volundr up to the ceiling, down to the ground and to the four points, north, south, east and west, then he took a sip of the wine and handed it to the elder sitting to his right who took a sip as well, passing it to his right and so on until it reached the far end of the assembly. Eidra looked up at Freyr, his countenance unreadable.

A tall blond-haired older man dressed in a long gray robe stood then and started to speak, “Good King Freyr has called for this assembly today to hear the charges brought against a member of the House Denari, Speaker Toldun?”

Another man stood, he was bald, rounder, shorter, dressed in an identical gray robe save for the blue strip of silk running around the collar of his robe.

“Eldan Denari, of the House Denari, holder of the Sacred cup of Volundr, gave his daughter Eidra this year hence as a tribute in thanks to the Crown Prince of Asgard, Thor of the House of Odin. The ownership of the young woman was passed, unbeknownst to the High Court, to the Prince Regent, Loki. While employed in his household, Eidra was taken against her will in violation of the sacred laws of Alfheim which thus states that the deflowering of an Alfari female requires ritual purification and family negotiation. Such an act by a man or woman is punishable by death.”

Eidra clasped her hands together, her knuckles white.

“The High Court can only assume then, that the prince regent, aware of the violation, then approached Eldan Denari to negotiate terms in form of payment or other such tribute to assuage the damage caused by the act and Eldan, for reasons also unknown, did then give him the Uruz to present to his daughter, thus violating the sacred laws of succession stating that a female of mixed blood must remain pure in order to preserve the bloodline and therefore cannot possess her family birthright save under the most extenuating circumstances. In giving the Uruz to her, Eldan did give her the ability to choose a mate with which she produced a child, stillborn,”

Helgi put her hand on Loki's chair.

“In violation of sacred law stating no woman of mixed blood may reproduce. This is also punishable by death.”

Helgi moaned, steadied herself, the hall was silent for a moment until Eldan stood, “I ask to be recognized.”

The speaker nodded, “The High Court recognizes Eldan Denari of the House Denari.”

Eldan turned to King Freyr, “Are the laws irrefutable?”

Freyr looked at him curiously, “The laws are sacred, thus is your answer.”

“Were the man guilty of these crimes to reveal himself, would the court take his life in exchange for hers?”

The speaker looked up to Freyr who gave a slight nod.

“Yes it would. It is the law that the perpetrator of such an act be put to death.”

Freyr gazed at Eidra who was silent, her eyes downcast, “The woman would have to acknowledge the accusation, lest innocent blood be spilled in error from a chivalrous act.”

Eldan stared at Loki who was sitting, his hands on the table, his eyes trained upon them. As Eldan had begun to ask his question, Loki felt a strong hand on his thigh. He glanced at Thor's face then, his gaze slipping to Loki then back to Eldan.

“Eidra, tell the High Court who took you against your will, who fathered your child.”

Eidra kept her eyes fixed on Freyr, silent and Eldan slammed his fist on the table, “If you cannot, I can. Lord Loki is the guilty party!”

There was a collective gasp among the spectators and the High Court. Murmurs started to rise in volume as Toldun raised his hands for silence.

Thor stood then, his hand on Loki's shoulder, “How dare you accuse a Prince of Asgard of such base, vile acts!”

Loki made to stand but Thor squeezed his shoulder hard.

“Loki came to me, to ask forgiveness for his deeds!” Eldan waved his hand at the delegation.

Freyr had been observing the proceedings and now turned his attention to Eidra,

“Eidra,” Freyr asked, “Is what your father says true? Is Lord Loki guilty of violating our sacred laws?” She could see Loki nod out of the corner of her eye. Her voice was at first small in the vast room.

“No,” then louder, steadier, “No!”

Loki slammed his fists on the table, “EIDRA!”

Thor shoved him back into the chair hard as the Speaker clapped his hands loud in the din of the room then turned to the delegation, “The High Court will retreat to discuss the matter, we will reconvene shortly to pass sentence.”

“This is it? There is nothing more to be said?” Helgi cried asThe High Court members stood and filed out of the room, the crowd starting to move, people to stand and stretch. Before Thor could catch hold of Loki, he was around the table, before Eidra. The guards blocked his way at first but Eidra's cry of “Please!” led them to back away.

“Eidra, what in the name of Odin are you doing? How can you ask me to let this happen?” He knelt before her, “Tell them the truth, Eidra.”

She stared at him, tears rolling down her face.

“Eidra! Tell them. Please.” He took her hands in his, laying his forehead upon them and was suddenly lifted from the floor by Thor.

“Let me go!” Loki growled, “Eidra please.”

Thor released his grip, allowing Loki to drop back to his knees, “You disgrace the house of Odin!” He snarled but stood aside, staring down anybody who chanced to be looking at the scene.

Eidra, you must reveal me to the court!”

She stroked his hand, feeling the tremors, the distress within, “I cannot forfeit your life for mine. I cannot betray my love for you.”

“I shall do so for you. I will present myself to Freyr, admit my guilt.”

“Then I shall deny you,” Eidra swallowed hard, “One of us must live...”

Loki knelt before her, his head to hers for some time, talking, begging her to listen to him until

he felt Thor's hand on his shoulder again. Before he could shrug it off, he heard Thor's voice in his ear,

“The High Court is returning, brother, come and sit back down before you violate another sacred law.”

Thor managed to draw him to his feet, steer him around the table just as the High Court began to file in and sit down with King Freyr at the rear, taking his throne again. The speaker stood to the podium and held up his hands for silence.

“The High Court has reached its decision. However, in light of the circumstances, King Freyr has requested the question be asked again of the woman. Eidra Denari, will you reveal the name of the man responsible for the acts upon your person?”

She hung her head. “I shall not condemn the man I love for loving me back. I shall not reveal his name.”

Freyr nodded then, “So be it.”

Helgi heard Loki gasp, start to rise but Thor put his hand to his chest, sitting him back into the chair

The speaker turned to Eidra. “You will be brought to the high ground where you will be put to death in accordance with the sacred laws of the Alfari people.”

Helgi wailed then, as Eidra looked over to Loki, grief plain on his face, chest heaving, panicked.

The guards gestured for her to rise from the seat and she did so, following them from the room as if in a trance. Helgi pulled Loki from his seat as Thor rose from his chair, heading away with the push of the crowd.

“Come, Milord.” She kept her arm around Silas's shoulders while they pushed through the throng trying to follow the guards as they escorted Eidra from the room. Helgi kept an eye out for Thor, swearing to the gods that if he approached Loki and tried to steer him away from Eidra that she would violate yet another law and stab him with his own dagger.

Clouds had gathered overhead, ominous, threatening rain as the contingent stepped out into the main courtyard, followed by the members of the High Court. Eldan looked barely able to stand. King Freyr approached Eidra and put a hand on her head as he bent low to speak to her.

“I hope this bring you peace little sister, for your road has not been an easy one to travel.” She managed to nod. She desperately needed Loki to hold her, wanted Helgi to comfort her. She was so afraid.

As the party started from the gate, Helgi pushed forward through the crowd until she reached Eidra and grabbed her hand.

“Helgi,” Eidra cried, hugging her as the guards tried to move them along, “Where is Loki?”

In the ensuing rush, she had been parted from him, she scanned the crowd to see him stopped at the castle gate.

Loki!” Helgi cried, “Hurry”

Loki heard his name, willed his feet to move but they seemed destined to disobey him. He felt a hand take his and give it a sharp tug. He looked down to see Silas,

“Come, Milord, you must see her!” Silas shouted, angry tears in his eyes and Loki started forward through the crowd. Eidra stopped once, was pushed forward by the guards, stopped again determined to wait for Loki who was nearly to her. She felt her arm yanked by one of the guards,

“We must continue.” He grumbled.

Eidra wrenched from his grasp, ducking through the crowd, the shouts of the guards following her as she reached Loki's arms which locked around her.

“Tell them,” he roared, “TELL THEM!”

“No my prince,” She leaned to his ear, “I love you,”and was suddenly being torn from his arms,

“Wait! Eidra NO!”

Loki took the Uruz in his hand and held it up only to feel rough hands on his shoulders pulling him backwards. “Brother, you must let her go.”

Loki wrenched himself free of Thor, “Do not tell me what I must do! I love her, have you even heard me before now? I love her!” He could feel his control slipping away, his mind spiraling ever downward as they reached the high ground where stood two short stone pillars with iron rings attached to the top. The guards walked Eidra between them and locked her wrists into black iron shackles linked with chains, threading the chains through the rings at the top of the pillars, pulling them outward so that she stood, hands atop the pillars, her body trembling hard enough to rattle the links, her eyes fixed on Loki's.

The guard drew his sword from his scabbard and bowed to her, finally eliciting a response as she began to sob, struggling against the chains in a primal effort to stay alive for as long as she could. The guard walked up to her, put his hand on her shoulder and lifted the sword.

Loki could hear her voice in his head, I would give my life for you, do you fear death, see her smile, her hands upon his shoulders, smell her hair, feel the warmth of her skin against his and it broke him.

“ME!” Loki cried, “My life for her, let me take her place!” He surged forward through the crowd, as the guard hesitated, looking back at Loki.

“Let me stand for her..!” He had reached the edge of the crowd, about to break free when a large hand closed around his mouth and his arms were pinned against him.

“Loki, stop this madness!” Thor growled in his ear. It was then he began to scream against his brother's palm, thrashing with as much strength as he had left in him, putting them both to their knees. He watched the guard turn away from them as Freyr gestured for him to continue.

His eyes grew wide, panicked as the seconds ticked away. The guard placed the sword against her stomach as Loki bucked hard against Thor's grip, finally freeing an arm which he used to tear at Thor's hand across his mouth. Eidra turned her eyes away from the guard, kept her gaze locked with Loki's as the guard shoved the sword forward.

The threads of sanity snapped when her cry reached his ears. He tore himself from Thor's grip with a cry as her knees began to buckle beneath her. He stumbled up the hillside to her as she reached the ground, panting hard. He dropped to his knees before her and gathered her to him, feeling the blood soaking the front of his tunic. He began to wail, to rock her back and forth as she struggled to speak. “Loki, Cait...” words failing as the damage done by the blade ravaged her.

He could not bear the agony upon her face, the shock as her body began to succumb to the mortal wound. She opened her mouth, endeavoring to speak again as her breath caught in her throat. He brushed her hair from her forehead.

“Peace, my love. Soon there shall be no more pain.”

She tried to raise her hand to touch his face but her strength was gone,

“...will wait....for...”

He closed his eyes, touched his lips to hers one more time, then whispered, “Ditt hjerte slutter å slå, din smerte retrett.” He felt her body relax in his arms then, and he roared to the sky.

The rain had begun in earnest but no one at first dared approach the dark prince as he rocked Eidra's body and sobbed, holding her, stroking her wet hair, his lips to her forehead. Finally Thor put his hand on Loki's shoulder, “Let them take her and prepare her for her journey.”

Helgi knelt beside him, stroking Eidra's face as she was lifted from his arms feeling as though he were dreaming when Helgi helped him to his feet. He stepped back from them then, withdrawing his sword from his scabbard, eyes raised skyward as Thor rushed forward, “Brother no!”

“DO NOT TOUCH ME!” He bellowed, then softer, “Do not touch me.” He reached behind his head and lifted his hair from his back, shearing the long ponytail off just at the nape of his neck, gathering it into a sodden coil around his hand, following the guards as they carried Eidra's body back to the castle.

When they prepared her body, he watched them, marking everything in his memory. The way they brushed her hair; he recalled doing the same for her on many nights. She seemed so peaceful, the light green silk gown they adorned her in fitting her perfectly, making him wish he had brought the sash she had woven to put around her waist, then glad he had not, he would wear it against his skin from this day onward.

He insisted on helping them to erect the scaffold she would lie on, though he worked in silence beside the Alfari. After they placed her on the platform, he climbed up, placing his ponytail beneath her folded hands.

He stayed there at the base of the scaffolding that day and through the night, kneeling, his head down, his lips moving in silent prayer until Thor began to fear that his brother's mind had come undone. When he finally rose, mounted his horse and followed Thor out of the glen where she lay high above the forest floor, he was silent.

Upon their return to Asgard, Loki locked himself within his chambers, stripped down, dropping the blood stiffened clothes to the floor and retreated to the bathing room where he drew water into the basin. There he remained a long time, watching the blood wash away, letting the rage, the grief, madness sink deeper into his skin until it touched his very soul.

After he'd dried off, he opened the wardrobe, taking the sash Eidra had woven, tying it about his naked waist. He drew on a robe then lay down upon the bed where he stayed until finally his mother's pleading at the door moved him and he let her inside. She held him as he screamed his agony to the heavens. The man he had become had died with Eidra, with her love, her sacrifice, reborn as hatred, rage, spite. He lay there in Frigga's arms as she cradled him, his thoughts on one person alone, Thor.


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