Her dress was terribly uncomfortable.
The handmaiden who had dressed her used the word "ethereal" to describe the shimmering folds of white gold that cascaded down her body and swept slightly along the floor. And Jane could not see it's beauty. Shining like starlight, the dress had apparently been commissioned by Iduun when she first caught word of Jane's arrival in Asgard, and was only now ready. How the woman knew her measurements, Jane would never guess; and uncomfortable as she felt, a small part of her thanked Iduun for having the dress made. She would have felt terribly out of place at the banquet without the wise woman's actions.
"My Lady," came a sudden voice from a servant somewhere near her side. "Would you care for some wine, Lady Jane?" he asked. "It is a fine vintage, brought in especially for the celebration."
Not a celebration, Jane thought, but a drunken wake. She knew nothing of wine. The words vintage, sweet, dry, red, white - they met nothing to her, as she heavily preferred to remain in charge of her senses at all times. However, tonight was supposedly a celebratory occasion, and as Loki's betrothed, it would be unseemly for her to refuse the drink. Nodding to the unseen servant, she allowed her cup to be filled. She imagined red liquid flowed into her goblet, spilling from the golden decanter like a river of blood.
Jane was on Earth. Puente Antiguo, to be exact. Except it wasn't quite the small town in the desert of New Mexico that she remembered, because everything was blue, a deep, icy, glistening blue. The buildings, just as she remembered them, were shades of blue and grey that stretched upward to the dimly lit sky. Underfoot, light blue sand crunched and smooth pebbles of grey slid beside her bare feet. She looked around. The silence was deafening, the empty streets filled her with both dread and curiosity. She stepped away from the main street and started walking toward the outskirts of town, following a streak of deep blue that slashed across the greying sky, dotted with stars and three large silver moons.
She moved as though in a dream, but everything was so real. Her feet carried her swiftly away from the town and into the deep blue desert, where, on the horizon, beneath the streak of deep blue, Jane could make out hazy figures walking toward her. She tried to turn away, but her feet overruled, and she continued toward the figures, which were grower larger and more defined. The sky grew lighter, illuminating a soft glow around their bodies. Closer, closer, now nearly close enough to shake hands, Jane fairly floated up to the figures. Half were human. They were men and women both, old and young, And every human was holding the hand of another figure, something that looked human but was very alien.
The alien figures were a deep blue, a blue that matched the streak overhead in the lightening sky. Their faces and visible bodies were marked with lines and symbols that formed some sort of writing, a form of ancient ruins that Jane could not read. She recognized these creatures; somewhere in her memory, she realized they were the frost giants of Jotunheim. And they were holding hands with humans.
She approached the nearest pair. There were nearly twenty total. This pair consisted of an elderly human woman and a frost giant with sad eyes. The woman was clearly of Indian descent. Her long, white hair was braided behind a smiling face, and her body was wrapped in fabrics of red and gold. Jane floated to the woman and felt herself smiling, felt herself warming from within and drawn to the couple. She wanted to form words and ask so many questions, but her mouth wouldn't work. All she could do was gesture at the pair, prompting the frost giant to firmly grab her hands and shake his head, glancing at the woman beside him. She smiled, then gently took Jane's head in her hands and leaned forward until their foreheads were touching.
Jane gasped. Through her head pulsed images, flashing like those of the memory marker. She saw this elderly woman as young and vibrant, her beautiful smile flashing through a haze of colors and chanting. She saw the old frost giant with sad eyes as young and proud, his eyes flashing with excitement. The two were meeting in an alley between buildings of red clay. The woman didn't seem to care about the frost giant's appearance. She saw them dashing through streets at night, visiting the temples and performing puja when the rest of the world was sleeping. She felt the love and the connection and the bond and the pain.
The woman released her and Jane floated back, shaking her head violently at the couple before her. A human and a frost giant. Impossible, but yet, here in front of her, their bond actually physically palpable and observable in the blue haze surrounding their bodies, stood nearly ten couples of that very combination. It wasn't the thing that bothered her the most. What scared Jane was the feeling emanating from their bodies and surrounding her own. It was the same sensation she felt around Loki; the combination of fear and curiosity and connection that drew her to him. She felt it here, surrounding these couples.
She wanted to ask so many questions, needed so many answers. She wanted to experience the stories of all these pairs, to understand their past, to determine exactly where she was. She wanted to know about her and about Thor and about Loki, and she felt these people held the answers. But overhead, coming from some gaping hole in the sky, she heard voices calling her name. The deep blue streak was opening, and through its crack she saw the sky of Asgard and the stretching trees of the garden. She was being pulled upward, her feet flying high above the ground. She looked back; the couples were smiling and fading away into the blueness of the desert sands.
A soft hand brushed against hers. She jolted from the stained memory, her mind wrenching from the a land of colors and back toward the darkness. She felt Loki looking at her. He did not speak, but allowed her to catch her ragged breath before releasing her hand. Nodding at him after the memories eased, she raised slightly shaking fingers to find her goblet and sipped at the red wine within. She found it sweet and enveloping, and her throat welcomed the warm drink.
"Careful, Jane," came Loki's voice from her side. "That is a powerful vintage."
Jane stopped drinking and rested her cup upon the surface of their grand table. She could hear signs of heavy drinking in Loki's voice, indicating he cared not about the powerful nature of the wine. Or perhaps, she thought, he relished in it.
"How powerful?" she asked, her voice sounding out like the hollow horn that broke through the darkness to honor the dead.
She stopped and mused over the wine, swirling its deep red contents around in her cup. She felt some splash upon her fingertips. Over the brim, she could hear warriors and courtiers laughing and dancing to some music that blew apart her ears. Laughter, laughter so strange upon lips that had previously cried out for their beloved dead, graced the hall of survived warriors and healers who had broken through the long night into the light of a cautious dawn. Without turning to Loki, she posed a final question.
"Will it make me forget?" she asked.
There was a pause. She could feel Loki measuring her words, testing them for their weight. Finally, he issued forth a whispered response, barely perceptible above the din of strange celebration.
"For tonight," he said.
She nodded, unblinking, unseeing the King. She could not look at him, could not meet his eyes. Instead, she raised the cup to her welcoming lips and drank deeply of the wine. The fallen dead flashed through her memory, their bodies reaching the shores of Asgard after months of battle, their souls finally freed and dashing across the Sea into the West. But she was not free. She was darkness-bound, and her eyes could not perceive the coming glory of victorious dawn, when the lonely battle would fall away, and beneath the burning mast she would enter unto swift a rising sun.
She could not see it. She could only choose to forget.
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