Unveiling the Past
Aska didn't know where she was, much less if she she was truly dead, still alive, or somewhere in between. She also didn't know how much time had passed, if it did at all, whether it was just a few brief moments or even a thousand years. All she knew was darkness, and the sensation of sometimes walking, sometimes floating through a mysterious, yet somewhat comforting world of invisible mist. She felt neither hot nor cold, neither happy nor sad. She saw nothing, she heard nothing. She didn't even feel as though she had a body. The only thing that seemed to give her a sense of being was the strange feeling of wandering aimlessly like a lonely, lost soul through a near endless world of blank uncertainty.
But whether she remained there for an unusually short or long time, it eventually no longer mattered. At one point, after spending what felt like an endless age in that world of black and silence, Aska finally came across what appeared to be a vision. It was blurry, and for a moment she could only wonder what was going on, when she suddenly realized that she was seeing what appeared to be the ballroom of the palace. She knew not whether she was dreaming, or seeing her life before her eyes before she finally expired, but after recognizing the scene before her, she did know that she was neither awake nor had she crossed over.
She knew because not only did no one in the great room see her, but she, in fact, was watching what appeared to be herself. Everyone gathered inside seemed to have their eyes solely on her, in the glowing ballgown she'd left behind earlier, as she danced with Loki. But Aska herself was now a witness this time, somehow floating over the scene as it happened below her in just the way she remembered it. Whether or not she had a mouth with which to do so, she could help but smile. Did she really look that happy when dancing with the prince? And he just as much as he waltzed her around the room? The moving picture was nothing less than beautiful. And yet, a hint of sadness sneaked into her, for she knew that she might never know such a great bliss of an experience such as this again. She knew that eventually this vision would end, and she would be free, for better or worse.
But soon, while the scene before her did leave, the vision did not. She noticed that the sight slowly changed, with strange ripples that reminded her much of those on still waters as soon as something broke their serene calm. But once the effect disappeared, Aska found herself beholding a spectacle that made her smile slowly leave as well. She did not recognize it as she did the previous one, and yet, something about it seemed most familiar. Before her stood a fine, marble hallway with a row of three windows letting in the bright light of day, obviously that of a palace similar to that inhabited by Odin and his family. Aska didn't know who lived here, but the features of the scene that stood out the most to her were the purple tapestries interwoven with gold hanging from the ceiling.
But that was far from the end of the string of surprises she then received. Indeed, the next made her mouth – if it was still there – hang open and her eyes – again, if they were there – widen with sheer astonishment. She saw a girl at least five years her junior, wearing a simple white dress with the skirt cut off at the knees, and tall leather boots. But it wasn't her attire that surprised Aska, but her physical appearance. If she were correct, this girl looked exactly like her, with the same long pale hair and the same bright, blue eyes. But what also struck Aska about her was how eager and lively, indeed mischievous, she seemed. She was smiling a sneaky smile, and being careful about her movements as if she was not supposed to be there. Being somewhat of a lover of mischief herself, Aska couldn't help but wonder what would happen to her.
Unfortunately, just as the girl was about to leave the hallway, she was stopped by a couple Aska had guessed to be the owners of the palace. Aska couldn't help but feel as though she'd been struck by lightning once she saw them, not only now that the girl being caught, but at how recognizable both persons seemed to her. One was a man dressed in a red and gold suit, with light brown hair stretching to his shoulders, a beard encircling his face to match, and kindly-looking grey eyes. The other was a woman, tall and elegant, wearing a velvet pale blue dress. Her golden hair fell in waves to her waist, and her bangs were braided. The color of her eyes matched that of sapphires, and Aska noted immediately how similar she looked to the girl. Perhaps, perhaps these people were her parents.
She watched as the girl turned around and then walked up to them, at how they seemed to be chuckling and talking. Yet, she couldn't hear what they said. Aska guessed though, that the conversation seemed to be a friendly one, judging by the facial expressions, body language, and apparent laughter that followed. While she could not say what the conversation was about, she couldn't help but let her smile grow once again as she watched the girl briefly hug and kiss her mother and father. But as she saw the girl continue down the hall, her smile slightly faded as an ominous sense that all was not well crept up on her slowly but steadily.
Even so, Aska continued to watch as the scene changed again. This time, she beheld underneath a clear blue sky a rolling, beautifully green field, the blades of grass manipulated by the wind making it look like a shimmering earthy sea. Again, Aska felt as though she'd somehow seen this location before, and yet, could not find herself able to recall when. Aska looked further around, and saw the same girl from before looking out contentedly at the landscape before her while sitting atop what appeared to be a pure white horse, tacked with a bridle but no saddle. Now she was even more confused. Why did all of this seem so recognizable and familiar, when she could not figure out the reason?
Before she could think of an answer to this question, she then saw to her great dismay that the marble palace was now ablaze. Like a giant bonfire, the menacing, almost alive flames of red, orange, and yellow, seemed to devour the once majestic fortress, sending a large amount of black smoke up toward the sky, moving slowly and threateningly as though it was a snake-like dragon. But that wasn't all. The girl on the horse had seen the catastrophe too, staring at it with horrified disbelief before she made her steed rear and then gallop back across the field toward it. Watching her do so made Aska feel as though her own heart had been wrenched from her being.
But even there, the shock did not cease. Aska continued to gaze, unflinching, never allowing herself to look away, as she eventually saw the girl being pursued by what appeared to be a small group of Frost Giants across the lands stretching away from the burning palace. Even from where she was, she could see the sheer panic and fear that adorned the girl's face, as well as the determined, monstrous faces on those of the Jotuns, obviously intent on bringing her down in every sense of the word. But the one that stood out in a very unique way, was the one in front. From the body shape to the flowing black hair, and piercing red eyes which were locked on the prize ahead, Aska knew immediately that this one was a female, and one that she had seen very recently.
She kept her own eyes firmly fixed on the scene that sent her spine shivering, wondering if the agony of seeing but not being able to do anything would leave her, when she saw the scene change one more time. Aska now saw, against her best hopes, that the lands did indeed end, split in two by what appeared to be a deep chasm. Still, she watched as the girl continued to gallop, headed toward the edge, making Aska's fear grow much more intensely, when she finally reined in the horse to an abrupt stop and then hastily dismounted. For a few brief yet somehow long moments, she looked over the side, then looked with wide eyes at the ones still after her. Aska then watched, her own eyes now like saucers, as the girl sent her horse hurrying away, without her, before she turned, gazing much like she would at the grim fate before her, and finally leaped into the gorge.
Not only did Aska hear herself gasp once she saw her do so, but suddenly, she too felt as though she were falling, and fast. In the blink of an eye, the vision before her disappeared once and for all, and she knew that she was descending rapidly into another sort of chasm – one in which only nothingness, darkness, and doom awaited her. Aska swiftly put her arms in front of her, feeling herself go in all directions. She opened her mouth, but no scream came out. All she could do was hope that her time in this most unpleasant world would soon end, and whatever fate that was in store for her would swallow her up shortly thereafter.
Suddenly, Aska did feel something, something wet and hot being pressed against her face and forehead. Not only that, but she also thought – no, she knew – that she was lying on something else that felt too hard to be a cloud, yet too soft to be any sort of ordinary mattress. She knew too that she was covered by a set warm, enfolding blankets, and that her head was resting against a feathered pillow. And just then, she felt a hand take hold of her own wrist, and press its fingers against it. But her eyes remained closed, leaving her to wonder where she possibly was.
She would not stay in this state though. Using all the strength in her head – which she at last knew was there – Aska slowly opened her heavy eyes which wanted to stay closed, and came upon a confusing, blurry sight. Slowly though, it began to clear, and she soon realized she was seeing a white-robed doctor sitting beside her, continuing to press his fingers against her wrist as he looked back at her with soft eyes.
"Good day, Miss," he greeted her. Before she could ask, the doctor added, "Just checking your vitals."
Aska let out tired sigh, and then slowly began to look around a scene that – rather thankfully – did not look familiar. She found, as she'd previously thought, that she was lying on perhaps the most comfortable bed she'd ever felt, with long gold blankets interwoven with ivory. Her hair lay unbound beneath her, and underneath the blankets she was wearing what seemed to be a nightgown. She then looked around further, and saw a medium-sized room with golden walls, lit by the soft daylight that was flowing through the nearby balconies, forming pools on both the left and right.
After moistening her lips and slightly clearing her throat, Aska managed asked, "Where am I?"
"You're in the hospital wing in the palace of Asgard," the doctor replied.
Aska instantly widened her eyes. The palace? But, how could she be here? Had someone – perhaps Loki – brought her back here? If so, then she immediately knew what had become of her in all that time of seemingly aimless wandering.
"I'm alive then?" she asked.
"Yes," the doctor nodded, "And you're lucky that his Highness brought you here in time, otherwise, we might very well have lost you."
So, Loki had brought her here, and by doing so, he'd saved her life, just as she once saved his. Suddenly curious, Aska slid a hand inside her nightgown, and reached down to her lower right side that she remembered being injured. She soon found that she had bandages wrapped around her waist. She then reached her hand out again, and then moved it toward her left cheek, and touched three bandages covering each of her scratches.
But when she reached toward the upper half of her face, her eyes widened, and her heart began to beat nervously. Where was her mask? Did they know who she was? Transferring her anxiety to the rest of her body, Aska tried raising herself up, when she was suddenly stopped by the doctor.
"Pardon me Miss," he said as he lowered her gently back down, "but you really should try to rest."
Aska could only stare up at the ceiling. How could she possibly rest knowing that her biggest secret was now most likely known throughout the realm? Who had made the decision to remove her mask anyway? And furthermore, what did all of those visions – possibly dreams – that she had even mean? All of these overwhelming thoughts soon took their toll, as Aska began to feel her pulse beat against her head, making her ache and feel dizzy. She feared she might faint, when the doctor suddenly raised her up slightly and urged her to drink the small cup of water he was holding out in front of her.
Aska, just then feeling very thirsty, quickly did so, drinking all of it in one sip. The doctor then laid her back down, but she continued to stare, unblinking at the blank ceiling above her, wondering if she would eventually simply float away into oblivion.
Unfortunately though, she was soon pulled out of her self-induced trance when both she and the doctor heard a series of knocks on the door. Before she could object, the doctor stood up, strode toward the door, and opened it. Aska could only then do her best to control her nerves which threatened to coil around her like a snake while she watched him speak to the unseen people outside, and guess who they could possibly be, as well as what they might have to say.
Luckily, she didn't have to wait long. The doctor soon leaned back in and turned toward her with a questioning face. "Are you willing to have some visitors, Miss?" he asked.
"That depends," Aska replied, trying to remain as calm as possible, "Who are they?"
"Their names are Regin and Jarl," he said, "Do you know them?"
Once she heard their names, Aska's eyes widened, and had she been well enough, she would have leaped right out of the bed. After adjusting her pillow and trying to sit up as best she could, she replied eagerly, "Yes, yes i do. Please, let them in."
The doctor nodded, turned, and motioned for the two to come in. He then opened the door wide enough for them, and as Aska tried to sit as still as possible – though she wasn't sure she could contain her excitement – in walked a young man and woman whose faces she would recognize anywhere, ones that she had never been so happy in her life to see. Fortunately, they too seemed to share her happiness, as they both returned the wide-eyed look she gave them.
At once they flew towards her like two birds after finding a lost sibling, obviously too excited to say anything. All any of them could do was laugh happily as Regin, then Jarl, hugged her, gently so as not to make her ache any more than she still was. Only when the two were finally calm enough to take a seat on either side of her bed did any words at all come.
"Oh Aska," Regin sighed as though breathless, "thank heavens you're alright!"
"How are you feeling?" Jarl asked.
"I'm doing fine, I assure you," Aska replied. Feeling her head begin to throb again, began rubbing her fingers against her temple. "How long was I asleep?" she asked.
"Since last night," Regin replied, "It's now early afternoon."
"I got here as soon as I heard the news," Jarl spoke up.
"Well, thank you both, for everything," Aska tried to smile, remembering just how much they helped her last night, "You two really the best of friends."
Both Regin and Jarl nodded. But then, as Aska watched, their own smiles slowly began to fade. They looked at each other, and then slowly back at her, leading Aska to believe the two had something serious on their minds. "Is something wrong?" she asked, giving voice to her concern. Suddenly, a thought entered her mind almost out of nowhere. "Where is Brynja?"
"I turned her in yesterday, shortly after you left," Regin replied, "She's being held for eventual questioning."
Aska raised her eyebrows. She'd known her best friend to be occasionally bold, but she couldn't help but imagine what such a scene was like. Even so, she turned to Jarl, who had pressed his lips together, obviously rather nervous, before asking, "Aska, would you be willing to tell us what happened last night?"
Immediately, Aska felt her heart become as heavy as stone. She blinked twice, and her mouth fell open. So much had happened the night before, but she knew very well what they were asking about. And more than likely, knowing them, they would not let her alone until she told them, even if she was in this state. Well, she might as well get it over with. No matter how unpleasant it might be, at least it would be out of the way.
Sighing in order to prepare herself, Aska nodded. "Perhaps."
Knowing they might be here for a good while, Regin and Jarl leaned forward, quickly revealing their usual eagerness, if accompanied by anxiety, to hear. With two pairs of eyes locked on her, Aska took one more deep breath, and finally began telling them of how she had managed to track down Ylva, save Loki once again from her, and finally stop her before she could break the Jotun seal. Regin and Jarl listened intensely the entire time, never looking away, and never interrupting her. Yet Aska could tell that they were not unaffected by it. As she told her story, she could see all sorts of emotions flash across their faces, from confusion, to astonishment, and even blank stares. Even so, she did not stop at any point, knowing that once she started telling them, she would have to finish it.
Eventually though, she did stop once she had gotten to how she'd finally defeated Ylva, resulting in a fate she found herself almost regretting. At once, she saw the silent dismay that crossed Regin's face. She did not blink once for a long time. Indeed, she seemed to be staring out into space, until she finally asked, "Then, my mother is…?"
She trailed off, leaving Aska able only to nod. "I'm…I'm sorry Regin," was all she could say. Truthfully, she did not know how Regin would react once she told her what happened to her mother. Still, Aska watched as she let out a long, sad sigh, and then turned to Jarl, who took her hand in his in an attempt to comfort her. What surprised Aska though, was that Regin, despite her clearly sad face, never once shed a single tear, leaving her to wonder what she truly did feel about Ylva.
"I understand," she finally nodded, "You did what you had to do, for the good of the realm."
Aska nodded in return, slightly happy that she and Regin at least found common ground. Even so, none of the three didn't speak another word, but rather remained in silence together for a long time, all contemplating how such momentous events could occur all in one night, how so much could change in less than twenty-four hours.
But eventually, all their trains of thought were broken by another series of knocks on the door. All three turned their heads and watched as the doctor went over and answered it, but only Aska nervously wondered who it could be. She could not see the person beyond the doorway, but before long, his familiar voice, and the way in which he spoke, slowly revealed his identity. Indeed, she already knew who it was before the doctor turned back to her.
"His Highness Prince Loki, Miss," he said, "He wishes to see you."
Aska unconsciously swallowed a great lump she didn't even know was in her throat. She turned first to Jarl, and then to Regin. Both looked almost as anxious as she was, but neither seemed to know what to say. Aska knew that once Loki came in, he would immediately recognize her. And yet, she also knew that the time had come to face the facts. She could no longer hide behind that protective mask. She wanted Loki to know her – and love her – for who she truly was.
Bracing herself for whatever reaction she might receive, Aska looked back at the doctor and nodded. He nodded back, and slowly opened the door. As he did so, Aska laid her eyes on a pair of soft green ones that she instantly knew. She quickly looked him over. He was wearing a simple black and green tunic, and judging by the wide-eyed look on his face, he probably hadn't gotten much rest, if he'd gotten any at all. For what felt like an eternity, the two stared at each other as if transfixed. Aska knew only that after this time had passed, everything would change. But once she saw the smile that slowly donned the prince's face – which made one grow on her own – she had the feeling that things would change for the better.
"Aska!" Loki exclaimed. He then rushed over to her side faster than Jarl and Regin even did, and just as quickly took her hand in his.
"Loki!" Aska exclaimed back, realizing now how happy she was to see him. Truthfully, had she not been bound to her aching body, she would have leaped forward and kissed him over and over again.
"Aska!" Before another second could pass, Loki leaned in and planted a kiss on her right cheek, allowing Aska to give one on his. He then sat down next to Jarl and placed another kiss on her hand. "Aska," he breathlessly said, "thank heavens you're awake! Are you alright?"
"Could be better," Aska replied, remembering what he'd said to her the second time she'd rescued him.
Loki couldn't help but release a chuckle. Before long though, his smile faded once he saw that hers had, for both now knew of the truth that lay ahead of them.
"Loki…" Aska began.
"I know," he interrupted her. Then, almost as if he knew that what he said would make more than her body ache, he said slowly, "In fact, I should tell you…I, was the one, who took off your mask, shortly after you fainted."
Upon hearing him say so, Aska immediately felt all the comfort she'd once felt around him, which she'd been trying to hard to hold onto, leave her grasp. Part of her didn't want to believe it, but the way he looked at her and the way he spoke to her told her she could not deny it. With wide eyes and a dismayed voice, she asked, "You, you what?"
"Forgive me, please," Loki implored her, "I just, I didn't know what else to do."
Aska was about to object, to say otherwise, but again, Loki spoke and gazed at her with nothing more than the purest honesty. Indeed, it made her think about all the times she hadn't been exactly truthful with him. And now that he stood before her, knowing who she was, Aska knew that she couldn't blame him for acting the way he did.
"No," she shook her head, "You're right. I've been the stubborn one." Aska then slowly began to look down, away from him, in a manner that reflected the way her heart felt as though it would sink. "And, I'm sorry too," she said softly and slowly, "for not being the one you were hoping for."
A brief yet long moment passed, leaving Aska to wonder what the prince would say to that, when, suddenly, she heard Loki chuckling again. She looked back up at him, and was immediately not only surprised but confused once she saw the smile on his face.
"Is that why you've been fleeing me?" he asked. Aska didn't reply, she only gazed at him with a blank stare, blinking once, then twice. "Aska," Loki continued, "all that matters is that you're alive and well." He then kissed her hand again, making Aska's heart not only rise again, but even melt. "You don't need to apologize," he smiled.
Aska couldn't help but smile back. She hadn't expected the prince to say something of the sort at all, and yet, she found that she couldn't be happier with the result. "Thank you," she nodded.
"Still," Regin then spoke up, "it would be nice to know who you were. Who your family were."
"Regin!" Aska scolded her. Though, whether she wanted to admit it or not, what Regin said awoke a secret longing within Aska that had been kept buried for far too long. And it wasn't much longer before that desire came to a head.
"You don't know who you're family are?" the doctor asked curiously as he strode over.
"No," Aska shook her head regretfully, "Nor do I know who I am. I've been living with amnesia for five years, ever since I came to Regin's house."
The doctor suddenly donned an intrigued expression. "Interesting," he murmured.
Loki instantly raised his eyebrows. "You have an idea?" he asked.
"Indeed," the doctor nodded.
Only Aska remained confused, and eager to know something she did not. "What's going on?" she asked.
The doctor turned to her with a kind but professional expression. "Miss, I don't know if this may interest you, but we have blood samples of every noble family in Asgard," he explained, "Would you be willing for us to test you for any possible relations? I can't make any guarantees but, we can try."
Once again, Aska didn't know what to say. Whether she liked it or not, during all those years she'd been under Ylva's service and been treated as nothing more than a slave, she did occasionally wonder if her family was indeed out there, and if they loved her. Now here she was, with the option to find out the answers to those questions right before her. Part of her wanted to refuse, to stop living in and chasing the past that had eluded her for too long. What did it matter who she originally was? And yet, another part of her knew that if she did say no, she might never get another opportunity like this again. She might forever remain in the shadows that had plagued her memory for nearly endless days and nights, instead of finally letting light be shed upon it.
After thinking it over carefully, knowing how big this decision was, Aska soon realized she had made her choice, and turned back to the doctor.
"Yes," she nodded, "You have my consent. You may test me."
"Very well," the doctor nodded back, "I shall return later."
He then left, and returned about an hour later with another doctor at his side. The second doctor – a woman – came in holding a small tray, on which stood a small cylinder to contain the sample, a tube to transfer the blood to it, and, to Aska's eyebrow-raising anxiety, a needle that appeared even sharper than the blade of a sword. Even so, she held out her arm, took in a sharp breath, and bit her lip as the second doctor slipped the pinching needle into the crease. She then watched as the dark red life-giving liquid seeped through the tube and into the cylinder, until it was about halfway full. After which, Aska was bandaged.
"We will get back to you with the results as soon as possible," the first doctor said.
Aska nodded. But what no one in the room knew the entire time and for the rest of the day, was that she began wondering nervously over what the results would turn out to be, and even if she should have gone back on her decision when she had the chance. But she could not deny that she could not turn back now. All she really could do now was wait, and try not to get her hopes up lest she be disappointed.
She thus tried to keep her mind on other things. The following day, Aska was giving permission to finally leave her bed and attempt to walk around. With help from Regin, Loki, and Jarl, all of whom almost never left her side, she managed to make her way through a few hallways before going back to her room. At first, it felt wonderful to be back on her feet after such long hours spent in that bed. But by the time she made it back she felt tired as though she might as well have spent the whole morning running. Still, she did not wish to return to bed. Instead, Aska decided to take a seat on a stone bench on one of the outside balconies, where she could let the refreshing light of day warm her, feel the cool breeze on her face, and see nearly the whole of the realm.
Her planned bliss did not last long though. During a conversation with Regin, Loki, and Jarl, all their heads suddenly turned when they heard someone knocking on the door. Before any of them could offer to answer it, in walked the doctor from yesterday, followed by – to everyone's surprise – Odin and Frigga. All three had blank looks on their faces, neither frowning nor smiling. But all of the four could tell immediately that they had rather important news.
"Good day my lords and ladies," the doctor greeted them.
"You have the results Doctor?" Loki asked eagerly.
"Indeed," the doctor nodded, "But, they were so surprising, I felt the need to share them with his and her Majesty."
Loki, Regin, Jarl, and especially Aska all widened their eyes instantly. While Aska would have preferred to be the first one to know, if the results were this important to share with even the king and queen, she knew that some dramatic and grand secret was about to be revealed. She could feel her heartbeat quicken greatly.
"Well," Regin spoke up, "what do they say?"
"I think his Majesty should be the one to answer that," the doctor replied.
He then stepped back, allowing Odin to step forward toward Aska. Once his single eye laid upon her pair of eyes, once she now stood before the man who previously – in fact, even now – could have had her arrested, Aska did her best to calm her anxious nerves that threatened to be her undoing, and decided to act as anyone else would in the presence of the king. She stood from the stone bench, and nodded deeply to show respect.
"Your Majesty," she said in a soft voice.
When she looked back up at him, she watched as Odin looked over her, and was soon surprised when she saw a smile grow on his rather kind face. "My dear girl," he said, "I should have known it was you from when I saw you last night. And now, I know for sure."
"Pardon?" Aska asked, trying to quell the way her heart began beating almost violently.
Then, in full view of all gathered there, Odin said, "Dear child, you are the Lady Sigyn."
Although she'd prepared herself for a startling revelation, once she finally heard those words, once she at last heard her true identity, Aska felt as though she'd suddenly been hit by a great, blinding light. All sense of reality around her seemed as though it was drastically beginning to fade. Her, nobility? And the long-lost Lady Sigyn? Trying to take it all in at once was comparable to trying to lift a mountain, so great did this news weigh upon her. Indeed, she wondered if she could possibly comprehend any of it at all.
"Wh-, what?" she stammered. Just then, Aska began to feel that the sheer weight of this surprise might tear her shoulders off. She felt dizzy, light-headed, and even nauseous. Her vision began to blur. Feeling the now familiar aching of her body quickly return, as though her entire being itself were reacting to this greatest of epiphanies, she began to have this sensation that she was falling to the left.
"Aska!" she suddenly heard Loki exclaim. Aska then felt her herself landing in his embrace, and the next thing she knew, she was being laid down on her bed. There, she pressed one hand against the side of her throbbing head, stretched her arm across her butterfly-filled stomach, and did her best to keep her eyes open.
"It can't be," she then said, fearing as though she might lose her breath, "That's impossible!"
"The samples were a perfect match," the doctor said, "The only possible deduction is that you are the same person."
"Think Aska," Loki suddenly spoke up. Aska looked up to see him smiling, rather excitedly. "It all makes sense! You arrived at Lady Ylva's home shortly after she disappeared, you're the same age, you look just like her…"
Despite his enthusiasm, Aska still didn't want to believe it. "I know but…" She trailed off, and her eyes widened, as her mind suddenly came upon another great realization. She remembered those visions, those dreams, she came across while she was unconscious. That marble castle, the kind, loving couple, and especially the bright, happy girl who had her world literally engulfed in flames before her very eyes, all of it quickly dawned on her, banishing all doubt as morning banishes the night.
"Wait a minute," she said, "All those dreams I had… It's all coming back to me now."
As she then began to recount the events that led to her disappearance, Aska could practically see it unfold as if she were actually there. All listened with great intent, but she looked at none of them, instead, staring out into the space of her memory.
"It was a spring day. Loki and I had planned to go horseback riding, and I had decided to go out early. I had just received Dagny as a birthday present, but she was too young for me to ride, so I rode another horse instead. I was having so much fun, until I saw my home, burning. I immediately turned my horse back, but before I could get back there, a group of Frost Giants started to chase me, and they were being led by a woman."
"My mother," Regin murmured. But Aska didn't hear her as she continued.
"I became frightened, so I fled. I rode as fast as I could through the lands near my home, but they kept coming after me. I eventually came to the chasm that lay just beyond the grounds, and I knew I was trapped. They still came toward me, and there was nowhere for me to go. So…I got off my horse, sent her away, looked down, and jumped."
Feeling as though reliving the rush of the wind she once knew, Aska took a deep breath before she went on.
"I landed in the river below, and I soon felt my head hit something hard, a rock maybe… And the next thing I knew, I was waking up on a riverside far away. And, I remembered nothing."
For a long time after she finished her harrowing tale, silence fell on Aska, Loki, and all the people around them. Aska's shock at two of the grandest revelations of her life seemed to transfer to all of them, for none seemed to know what to say. They could only wonder how so much could so drastically change in only two days.
"I can't believe it," Jarl eventually spoke up, "All this time, none of us ever knew."
Aska shook her head in agreement. But it wasn't long before another ominous, shadowy issue arose within her mind. She tried to ward it off, but found she no longer had the strength, and it appeared this troubling thought desperately wanted to be solved.
"If the bodies of my parents were found…" she said before trailing off again. Then, looking up at Regin at her left, and Loki at her right she said, "Then that means, my father and mother are…dead."
Once that last word escaped her, Aska's vision began to blur again, this time due to tears welling in her eyes. Feeling the true heaviness of all that she'd experienced in the past month – from fleeing Loki, to fighting back Ylva, to now regaining her long-lost memory – along with the need to shrink away so no one could see her do so, Aska pulled her knees to her mouth, hugging them tightly as though to keep from being exposed, leaned her head forward, and began to weep.
Fortunately, it wasn't long before Frigga called everyone's attention by saying, "Come. I think it would be best if we let her alone."
Odin, Jarl, and the doctor agreed. But while they left with Frigga, Regin and Loki decided to stay with Aska. Despite her otherwise usual attempt to stay alone in times such as this, Aska did not push them away, but instead welcomed their comforting touches as she continued to cry, to mourn. Mourn for her lost past, family, and sense of identity.
The next few days seemed to pass by in a blur for Aska. Whenever she walked, she felt as though she were in a daze. Often, she would wish to see her usual kitchen room, revealing all to have been a cross between a dream and a nightmare, when she awoke. But every time she did, she beheld the golden walls of her palace room. Eventually, before she knew it, a week had gone by. And on the seventh day, Aska knew that she could no longer deny that she had indeed learned the truth about who she was.
Still, she longed to find a comforting refuge. On that same day, she began searching, until she finally walked outside the palace for the first time and came upon the areas where the horses were kept. There, she was happily reunited with her beloved horse Dagny, whom she knew would love her no matter who she was. But while she watched her frolic and graze in one of the pastures, Aska noticed how often she did so near a black horse which she soon recognized as Loki's steed, and whose named she'd learned was Grani. At the sight of them getting to know each other, Aska finally felt herself smile for the first time in what seemed like days.
Suddenly though, she jumped slightly when she heard her name being called. "Aska, there you are!" She turned, and allowed her smile to grow when she saw that it was Loki, striding over to join her. "I've been looking for you," he said.
So great was his own smile, and the cheer in his voice, that Aska couldn't help but chuckle. "I just wanted to see how Dagny was doing," she replied as she looked back at her horse, "It seems she's become quite fond of your horse."
"And he her," Loki agreed as he too looked at them. For a moment, the two watched contentedly as the pale mare and the dark stallion began affectionately nuzzling each other, and then graze side by side, until Loki broke the silence.
"Are you feeling any better?" he asked Aska.
Aska gave him a shadow of a smirk. "I'm getting there," she replied, "Slowly but steadily."
Loki nodded, glad to hear her say so, but his smile slowly disappeared once he saw that hers had. "Are you alright?" he asked.
Aska didn't look at him, but released a grim sigh that gave him an answer before she replied, "I don't know."
"May I sit next to you?"
Slowly, Aska looked up at him again, and tried to smile as she nodded and said, "I suppose."
Loki then took a seat next to her on the stone bench, but his inquisitive gaze did not leave. Before he could put his troubling thoughts into words though, Aska beat him to it. "I just don't know what to do now that I'm no longer Ylva's servant," she said, "That's the only life I ever knew…until now, at least."
"You're not happy to know who you are?" Loki asked her, confusion in his voice.
"Oh no, I am," Aska shook her head, "I simply…" She broke off for a moment before finding more words to say. "I've just been feeling so exhausted lately, and I'm certain it's not just from my injury."
"I understand," Loki replied, "You've been through a lot in the past few weeks. We all have."
Aska sighed again. "I just can't believe how much things have changed in such a short amount of time."
Before she knew it, she felt Loki touch her hand, causing her to look up into his eyes which were now soft as ever. "Well, we haven't changed," he said.
Aska managed a smile at his remark, but she soon began to frown again when she saw Loki continue to do so.
"Did you really think I would not love you if you told me who you were?" he asked.
"Well, could you have blamed me?" Aska asked back with a troubled voice, "I mean, you're a prince, and I'm – was – a servant."
Loki nodded, and opened his mouth to speak, when Aska continued further, "I've always been a doer rather than a wisher. What good can wishing do if you're not going to put it into action?"
"Of course," Loki nodded again in agreement. Then, as he looked straight at her with his mesmerizing gaze, he added, "But that doesn't mean they can't come true."
Normally, Aska would have dismissed such phrases. But hearing it being said by a voice she'd come to know very well, and love to hear just as much, led her to believe that such words might be true, especially concerning what they'd been through just over a week ago. Even more so, she had not forgotten Loki's intent once he found out who she was, and her heart began to beat anxiously against her chest in anticipation over what he'd say next.
Taking her hand in his, and looking at her with the utmost seriousness, Loki said, "Aska, our marriage was arranged many years ago. But, whether they like it or not, my family still needs consent from both of us."
Aska nodded, trying to remain calm, as she listened to him continue to speak. "And, I don't want you to feel as if you have to because of political duties…" Suddenly, he broke off, and began to chuckle, though nervously rather than humorously. "I'm rambling again, aren't I?"
Despite the twisted nerves that both of them felt, Aska managed a chuckle herself. "Go on," she encouraged him.
Loki ceased any sense of laughter, and went on as she wished him to, saying, "The point I'm trying to make is…I love you, so much."
Hearing him say so and letting her eyes remain locked on his face which reflected the utmost honesty, suddenly made Aska's heart beat not as a hummingbird's wings, but like those of a dove. Smiling the most genuine smile she could give, she replied, "I love you too."
"And look," Loki said. Aska watched as he then reached into one of his suit pockets, and pulled out two things that made her gasp and widen her eyes with happy surprise: her pair of glass slippers, both still intact just as when she'd first saw them.
"Where did you find them?" she asked.
"You don't remember?" Loki asked her, "You left one at the palace, and the other at the teleportation dome."
Raising her eyebrows, Aska nodded at the recollection. "I remember," she said. With her silent permission which Loki immediately detected, he stood from his seat, knelt down, and slowly took off her walking shoes she'd been given. He hen lifted one foot, followed by the other, into the first, and second slipper. Both of them, just as before, fit perfectly, leading Aska to wonder how she could have lost the first one before fleeing the palace.
But before long, that was the least of her wonders. Now that he was kneeling before her, Aska glanced at her uneasy fingers, which tingled once Loki took both her hands in his, and then gazed once again at his handsome, kind face, which she soon found herself lost in.
"I'm asking you not as a prince, but as a simple man," he said. Then, staring at her with unblinking eyes which she all too willingly returned, he asked the question both of them knew had now finally come.
"Aska – Sigyn – will you marry me?"
Once she at last heard the words from his lips, Aska's mouth came open with awe, and for a moment, she didn't know what to say. Ever since she first heard Loki's proposal all those weeks ago, she'd been rather nervously anticipating it, sometimes against her better judgment. But considering all that they'd gone through together already, in her lives as a maid, the Purple Phantom, and now the one she'd finally remembered, now that she knew for sure that he truly loved her, and she him, it wasn't long before the answer came to her like a welcome, blissful summer breeze.
"Loki, I…" She stopped, having wanted to say something rather grand. But she soon knew that all of her happiness could only be summed up in one, simple word. "Yes," she nodded.
As soon as she gave her reply, Loki's face lit up as bright as the breaking dawn of a spring morning. Before she could blink, his smile broke into the happiest laugh she'd ever heard, but her joy was somewhat stifled when he then leaped forward and embraced her.
"Oh, ow, Loki!" she cried as she felt a sharp pain travel up her right side. Immediately, Loki realized his mistake and let her go.
"Forgive me," he said hastily with clear excitement, "I suppose we'll have to wait until you're healed."
Despite the pain she'd just received, Aska couldn't help but let herself feel – no, revel in – her new fiancé's euphoria and allow a laugh to escape her own lips. "I agree," she nodded again.
Both of them laughed happily again, which immediately sounded like music to both their ears, and then hugged each other more gently with only their horses as witnesses. There they stayed, thinking only of how much they were in love with each other, until their happiness finally drove them to go back inside and tell everyone they knew of the good news.