The words were curt.
To Loki Odinson, First of His Name, King of Asgard and Protector of the Realm:
I accept your terms of surrender and shall arrive within a fortnight for your ceremonies.
Commander of the Legions of Darkness
The words were light on Idunn's tongue as she read the letters for Jane. They were heavy in Jane's heart. Somewhere, she knew that Loki would accept terms of peace with the Commander. But the months of war had grown weary and her energy had drained; she gave hope to her king and kept none for herself.
But Jane has learned that hope was akin to foolishness.
She no longer kept hope for herself, but gave it to the Realm Eternal. Thor kept hope for himself and relinquished the throne, pleased to live peacefully within the kingdom as prince. She will be Queen, she will be Queen.
"Are you excited to see him again?"
The words darted into Jane's mind. She was broken from her reverie of lost hope./
"Oh...I'm sorry, Lady Jane, I only meant..."
Iduun's words trailed off, and Jane realized she apologized for the use of a single word that assumed her functioning eyesight had returned. Jane was not offended. No words that dropped from this sweet woman's lips could possibly harm her now.
"I'm both excited and scared. He will be different. Everything has changed."
"So have you.
Jane nodded. Hands were at the nape of her neck, braiding her hair, fingers tracing scars that lick along her skin like flames. They may never heal.
But neither will she.
She can no longer see the stars.
Blindness is a curious thing. It does not render the life unlivable, nor the circumstances unbearable. There is the diffcilut transition, yes. There is the lack of books and the reliance on others and the inability to do the great and curious explorations once possible with eyesight. It turns everything one understands about life on its head. But it does not end the life.
There are stares. They are felt, if not perceived. There are pitiful glances and snickers and shocked sighs and sympathetic gazes. They are all understood through the blackness. There are those who help too much, who presume infirmity, and there are those who, feeling that lack of eyesight is transferable, touch not at all.
Normalcy is lost. The blindness renders humanity and relationship obsolete.
But Loki Odinson does not stare. Loki Odinson has expectations.
Loki Odinson has a Kingdom to run, and loss of eyesight or fingers will not excuse one from duty.
The fingerless guard, Dag, gifted her with a thin, carved pole upon the army's return from long months of war and victory. She ran her fingers over its surface. It was smooth and polished, with intricate designs carved into the woodwork, symbols and patterns and pictures that her fingers could not separate. It ticked loudly upon the stone floors of the palace.
"A gift from the Reaches, from Takoda" he said, voice gruff but kind as ever.
Jane was becoming accustomed to the loudness of sound.
She has heard of Takoda, the notorious pirate and sellsail, friend to Dag and ally of Loki. The head guard, in his available hours, always gifted Jane with tales of his travels and explorations, leaving out the bits of illegality, at the request of the King. Jane has heard the name of Takoda dropped on several occasions.
The pirate captain apparently had caught wind of Jane's condition. Having seen many a blinded fighter, Takoda commissioned the pole from an artisan in the Reaches. Dag described the benefits of the pole, their frequency in the reaches and upon the pirate ships of the Glimmering Sea. Jane listened, enthralled by the words, spirited away to a land where moonlight shattered mirrors and where gems were cut and where the hope of all the world flowed with a trickle of honey, a story beyond her touch.
Loki did not approve of the carved pole. It reminded him of the lawless pirates upon the seas, he said, without justice and without law. He asked her to place it aside.
Jane begged him to reconsider. It gave her freedom, hope for solitude, an unaided walk in the gardens, a life with some measure of independence away from the supportive arms of the head guards.
His words were louder, sharper, angry. He asked if she presumes to travel freely without the guards ever again. She responded with words of spite and bitterness, throwing his farcical marriage proposal back into his face. The air moved. Sansa flinched, anticipating the pain to come.
Loki saw her movement, her fear, her remembrance of days past. Loki did not strike. He did not speak.
She felt tears leaking at the corners of her dead eyes. Loki does not speak. She tossed the pole aside and rushed from the room, grasping along the walls and stumbling along the stones until she reached her chambers. Sleep came mercifully quickly.
The pole was resting against her hand when she woke.
King Loki did not care for wedding preparations.
He was forced to listen, of course. They both sat at rapt attention at the Small Council meeting as Padraig droned on about monetary issues and as the new Head Guard, Dag, discussed matters of security. Sansa felt him shift uncomfortably at her side as Padraig spoke. She knew Loki despised the man, but she also knew that Asgard was deeply in debt from the wars against the Commander, and the new King could not afford to lose so experienced a Head Banker.
Padraig kept his head for now.
Jane was of Earth, but she was never very religious. Her dream, a dream from so far ago, of the fields of Elysium, drifted back to her. She knew that the ceremonies would require a certain measure of tact as the new King of Asgard wed a mortal. Jane delicately suggested certain elements of both her culture and Asgard's to incorporate into the ceremony.
Loki believed that each word was another coin owed, she felt. They continued talk of ceremonies.
The priestess Mahealani was dead. Her body was brought home from battle with the rest. Jane heard that she died praying over the souls of the enemy dead. Dag suggested Ealasaid of the Reaches as a viable candidate for completing the necessary marriage rites. Jane felt the agitation pouring from Loki.
"I will not participate in that farce of a ceremony," he hissed./
Jane found Loki's sleeve and placed a hand upon his. It is rough, cold. He jerked away as she gripped firmly but gently.
"Loki," she said softly. "Many have died in these wars, and a great number from the Reaches. You do them injustice by leading them through battle but not to sustained victory." She turned her head toward Dag. "We will have the ceremony. Send word to Ealasaid."/
There was silence. Jane realized what she had done. Her stomach clenched with anticipation.
Fingers, so cold and rough, finally broke free of her grasp. Jane's stomach plunged for an instant, but its rapid descent was halted by fingers again grasping her hand, squeezing gently. The touch was unsure but true, strange but comforting. It was burning hands upon a warm cup, shocking but welcome. She assumed that Loki had nodded his approval at her words, as the subject of conversation immediately turned away from ceremonies and toward housing and provisions.
The fingers did not leave her hand.