The Royal Palace burned.
Jane felt it through the walls of her chambers. She couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't know what was possibly going on outside the fortified walls of the Palace. But she knew it was on fire.
She didn't understand. The glory of the Feast of Futures still burned inside her mind just as the flames raged somewhere within the night. Was she dying? Where was Loki? Was the Earth on fire, too?
Jane allowed herself to rest, sitting on the bed and closing weary eyes. Flashes of memory, as far away as the stars that danced overhead and mocked the earthly carnage below, darted through her darkened eyes. She was skipping through the forest, she was whispering a prayer into her pillow at midnight, she was plucking a ripened fruit from a bowl and laughing with her parents over breakfast. More flashes. A long winding road, dreams of traveling South for a baseball game, hugging her father, the light breaking across frosty fields with the dawn.
She returned to sleep. It was moderately peaceful. The Palace burned.
The screaming woke her. Jane's eyes darted open. She rushed to the door, stomach clenched in fear. Pressing her ear to the frame, she listened intently, trying to make sense of the madness beyond her walls. So many voices, all expressing the same horrifying sentiment: sheer terror. A single bellowed word made its way through the chaos, reaching Jane's ears and rendering meaning before she could process it.
Jane immediately knew she couldn't stay locked within the safety of her chambers. There was no safety now. If blackfire had somehow spread to the Palace...she shuddered, suddenly cold against the heat she knew existed beyond her walls. There was no time. Unthinking, feeling only terror and some pulsing need to survive, Jane wrenched open her barred door and stepped into the flowing chaos in the corridor.
They ran like a river rushing from the flames. Men, women, highborn, servants - they all rushed, rushed, going everywhere, going nowhere, it mattered not. Jane felt the flames though she could not see them. Heat, heat rising like a sun drawing death in its chariot, ebbed and flowed through the madness.
Jane's heart stopped. She knew, in this moment, that she might never see Earth again, might never again rest eyes upon the ancestral home of her fathers. Her feet numbly ran across halls as all around her fires raged and pillars of kingship collapsed. They were cut from stone and skeletons.
Where were the Gods?
Dead. They danced tonight. They grew weary of our mortal games, Jane thought. The heat grew.
Dying was quicker than she had expected.
The ground exploded in front of her footsteps. Stone was strangely, comfortingly cold beneath her bare back. There was a flash of night, a sear of white pain, and a single word that passed through her mind.
"Blackness won. Jane burned.
Jane thought she was dead. The night enveloped her. Around, there were muffled cries, the shuffling of feet, deep voices that called for something unheard and certainly unseen. She was deeply troubled. No visions of starlight or silks awaited her in this afterlife; indeed, it was a reward that felt like the pits of death.
Was it God? Did he come to break through the darkness of the night of the afterlife? Perhaps it was the voice of Odin, she thinks, carrying her from Asgard into Valhalla. Somewhere the children danced in the pits of her mind, but she could not think, could not focus, could not feel. She floated, she did not respond.
"Lady Jane," the voice echoed again, rougher, tinged with worry.
It was not the voice of a God, Jane thought. Gods do not fear.
She tried to open her eyes. She could not. They were bound shut. Panic, panic, swirling with the depth of ten thousand burning stars. She choked on words that died in a scorched throat. Hands too cold to understand and fingers too numb to comprehend fumbled at a strip of leather wrapped around her forehead.
Rough fingers with gentle touch pulled her shaking hands away from the binding. Things were loud, growing louder, clanging with harshness against her ears. She tried to speak but the words were puffs of smoke and the crying and the screaming and the shuffling and the dying are crashing against her head.
Something cool and slightly bitter was poured down her throat. Her lips closed and her hands fell to her sides. She slipped into troubled unconsciousness.
The voice was rougher this time, and it jolted Jane from deep sleep with a sudden wrench. For a split second, she was on Earth and was woken from a summer dream.
But it was not her prince, and she still could not open her eyes, and the voice of the man crashed against her sensitive ears with waves of breaking pain. She turned her head toward the sound of the voice and managed to force a question, through the tightness of her constricted throat.
There was laughter. It was not malicious. It held contempt, but not for her, Jane realized. It hurt her head.
"Quite a loaded question, My Lady," the man responded. "Know that you are safe now, that Loki now sits upon the throne of Asgard."
Perhaps he noticed her flinching. His voice softened, but still Jane felt the shouting and the screaming.
"My Lady..." he began and trailed off, searching for words, Jane realized, searching for an explanation that would never come
She was blind.
The guard escorted her from the unfamiliar chambers. He informed her that she slept for three days. She couldn't find the proper response to these words, so she remained silent. It, too, is deafening as the words that dripped, soaked in saltwater and brine, from the guard's lips.
She stumbled over stairs and crooked stones. The guard brought hands to her arms and guided her slowly, patiently. Somewhere, she felt a lack of fingers ghosting on her elbow, but she made no mention of the lack of perception. She was crippled, too.
The guard paused before answering her questions. He apparently decided that honesty would not hurt her further than her current condition, for which Jane was silently grateful. The Throne Room is a holdfast for the dead, he said, for the burned and the pierced and the broken...and the dying, he added, more quietly than the rest.
Jane could not manage the stairs.
The guard gently suggested an alternative. Jane nodded her approval and the guard lifted her into his arms, taking special care to avoid her injuries, numerous as they marred her skin. It was a silent climb.
She was trembling slightly by the time he placed her softly upon the ground once more. The exertion, little as it was, has made her exhausted, and she was cold from the burns and terrified of the King. She raised a shaking hand to smooth the fabric of her dress, fresh but rough fabric placed upon her body by some unseen benefactor as she slept. The guard noticed her fear.
"His Grace will not harm you, My Lady," he said, words erupting in her ears.
Jane nodded, unconvinced. Everyone harms her.
"Jane," he said, and she could hear heavy footsteps upon the floor.
She flinched, partly from pain and partly from fear. The footsteps fell silent. The next words were Loki's attempt at softness. They were as soft as a dying hurricane.
"You are safe now and have nothing to fear, Jane."
She came to her senses. The King was speaking to her. The King was dead. Which king lived, which king died? Odin was a king. Was Thor a king? How long did Thor rule - mere minutes?
She bowed. It was clumsy. She stumbled. Two hands caught her softly, two unbroken and unmarred hands that burned like tempered steel.
"The dark forces attacked us with blackfire," came the simple explanation.
Jane needs no other. She does not understand the dark forces or their weapons, but she knows what has happened here, the carnage and the death.
"Does Thor live?"
Hard fingers were gentle underneath her jaw. If she had eyes to see, Sansa supposed she would be gazing upon the battle hardened face of a King. But she could not see.
The next words to rush upon her pained ears were unexpected.
"He does, but he was badly wounded," Loki's voice was constricted with pain he dared not show. "I rule, temporarily, in his stead."
Somewhere, Jane understood where their conversation wandered. The far-off realization, something she could observe but not touch, see but not understand, floated away into the darkness. She carried herself after it.
Jane did not feel herself hit the stone floor of the Throne Room.
Asgard had burned.