Far Longer Than Forever
News of Loki and Aska's engagement spread like a passionate wildfire throughout the realm of Asgard. Not only had the Purple Phantom been unmasked, but she and one of Odin's sons were to marry. The following day, preparations were already underway. Invitations were sent out, arrangements of all things down to the most minute detail were made, and all of Asgard's citizens, young and old, male and female, were very much looking forward to the joyful occasion ahead. Some villages had already started to celebrate in their own ways. The pubs were filled at night, and the streets were filled with dancing and singing by day.
But despite the excitement that had been struck on all the people even faster than lightning, they still had to wait until the future bride was healed of her unlucky wounds she sustained in battle. Day by day though, she began showing improvement. After one month had passed, she was permitted to take off her bandages. And finally, when another month went by, the universal verdict of the doctors who'd treated her deemed her fit enough to carry on with the planned wedding.
What none of the Asgardians knew though, what their closest friends and family did not know either, was that while Aska and Loki initially shared in their exhilaration and delight, as the days – then weeks – passed, it slowly began to fade. They were still very happy and still intended to marry, but accompanying their initial elation more prevalently day by day was a growing sense of nervous anticipation, as the prospect of them truly spending the rest of their days together really began to make itself known like clouds in a clear sky. Both of them kept the true state of their minds – if not their hearts – secret, even from each other. But before either of them knew it, the day of the wedding finally arrived.
Both Aska and Loki, in keeping with age-old traditions associated with such events, rose at dawn, and were escorted to separate bathhouses not far from the palace. Aska was led by the ladies-in-waiting just recently assigned to her, while Loki was led by his usual attendants. Aska and Loki were permitted to have a close friend or relative, Regin and Thor respectively, accompany them. But whether they were with total strangers or really good friends, both the bride and groom – unbeknownst to one another – walked anxiously the whole way to their destinations, neither of them speaking a word to the ones with them until they reached the houses.
Once Aska arrived and the door was opened, she was immediately greeted by the hot steam of the heated pool of water inside. The pool itself was medium sized and not too deep but not too shallow. It was also laced with the sweet smells of all sorts of flowers, wafting up from the water just as easily as the steam. In an attempt to calm her ever coiling nerves, Aska took a deep breath, taking in the scents of the soaps that so reminded her of a garden in full bloom, before finally stepping through the doorway with Regin beside her, two ladies in front, and two ladies behind.
As soon as they were inside, Aska and Regin had their clothes removed, and both at once stepped into the water that instantly stung yet soothed at the same time. They then slowly sank into paradoxically fire-like water, until they immersed themselves up to their shoulders and found seats. But as Aska could clearly see, Regin did not stop there. With a closed eyes and a great smile on her face, Regin sank even further until she was completely submerged in the hot pool. As Aska watched, she then emerged rather quickly, spreading her long, wet, black hair all over her face, and letting out a humorous sigh.
For perhaps the first time that day, Aska managed a smile herself, even a bit of a chuckle, before she remembered the importance of immersing herself as well. Not only was Aska here for the sake of bathing, but as the bride, she was here to ceremoniously wash away her status as a maiden. Imitating Regin's previous performance – minus the silly tossing of the hair – Aska closed her eyes and dipped completely into the water. Once she came out again, the ladies behind her took up her hair and began washing it, just as the other two were doing for Regin. While the experience was nice, to Aska it had a sense of oddity to it, and it didn't take long for Regin to notice.
"You're awfully quiet this morning," she said.
Aska smirked. "I don't know how I'm ever going to get used to this."
"You deserve it after five years of servitude," Regin replied chuckling. She then smiled, and let out a dreamy sigh. "I never thought you would marry before I."
Despite her best efforts to smile back, Aska soon found that she couldn't. "Nor did I," she replied.
And despite her desire to hide it, Regin quickly noticed her true state of mind. "Are you nervous?" she asked.
Once she did so, Aska knew she could deny it no longer. "I would not be honest if I said otherwise," she replied.
Regin smiled softly. "Well, think nothing of it," she said, "It's perfectly normal."
"You're not the bride," Aska replied.
Then, once she met Regin's soft, sisterly eyes, she listened intently as she heard her say, "Trust me, his Highness is a fine catch. You had good taste, just as I hoped you would."
Feeling the encouragement in both her words and tone of voice, Aska smiled back. "You seem so certain."
"Well if I was not," Regin smirked, "I would not have let you marry him."
Catching her usual humor, Aska finally managed to chuckle with Regin if not laugh. "Well, thank you," she then said with the utmost sincerity, "Thank you so much for all you've done. And thank you for participating today."
"You're very welcome," Regin replied. In spite of the ladies behind them, the two then reached forward and hugged as though they knew each other forever. And while Aska's anxiety didn't completely disappear, she knew she couldn't have chosen a better person to be her maid-of-honor.
Before long, the bathing was over. Aska and Regin were then clothed with robes, and their hair was dried and styled to perfection, flowing down their backs as easily as waterfalls. They were then given face-paint, with mascara, blush, and sparkling eyeshadow. Once they were glowing with cleanliness and were scented with the same smells of flowers emanating from the pool earlier, the time had come for them to dress. Regin was given a rose-colored dress with decorated silver armor, while Aska was given a luxurious white and silver version of the ballgown she wore two months ago. The only major difference was the veil attached to the circlet, which cascaded down behind her like a shimmering, sparkling, silver mist.
She was also given brand new glass slippers to match, and when she finally looked at herself in the tall vanity mirror, she couldn't help but gaze in amazement at what she'd become. Aska had completely transformed from the ash-covered maid-servant she once knew herself to be, into a vibrant, radiant young woman made of a passionate white fire. Indeed, for a moment, she almost didn't recognize herself. But judging from the near hypnotized looks of the ladies around her, it quickly became clear what their verdict was. What Aska was soon to find out though, was that yet another awaited her.
A knock on the door came. It was opened to reveal another lady-in-waiting. Aska was wondering how many more she could possibly need, when the woman nodded her head deeply in a respectful manner before announcing, "Her Majesty the queen has arrived."
That made Aska's eyes widen. She had an idea that Frigga would show, but now that her soon-to-be mother-in-law was here, her heart began to beat nervously once again. Still, she tried to stand straight as the queen, looking ever regal in a pale, bejeweled, lavender dress with her red hair styled in an elaborate braid. But once Aska saw her kind, soft, motherly face rather than the look of one who scrutinized and criticized, she relaxed somewhat, especially when after Frigga looked her over.
"If only your father and mother could see you," she said, beginning to appear as though she might cry.
Trying to divert her from doing so, and deciding to get it out of the way, Aska once again gave voice to her troubled state. "I should say though, I've been somewhat stricken with apprehension," she admitted.
Frigga raised her eyebrows. "Why should you not?" she asked, "Almost every bride feels the same way."
"Did you?" Aska asked curiously.
"Oh of course!" Frigga nearly chuckled. She then gave a relaxed smile, and said, "But that day was one of the happiest and brightest of my life, and this day shall be the same for you."
Aska tried to smile back, but it slowly gave way to a frown. "I only wish I was as sure as everyone else," she sighed.
"Aska," Frigga then said, causing her to look back up at her, and see the most loving eyes, "Do you love Loki?"
Aska's eyebrows shot up with surprise. "Oh, of course," she replied somewhat incredulously, "I practically love your son more than life itself."
"Then that's all that matters," Frigga assured her, "He's a good young man, and he's getting an equally as good young woman."
Slowly, Aska felt her smile return. "Thank you your Majesty – Frigga," she said, correcting herself since she would soon become part of the family.
Frigga nodded. She then moved aside, allowing the two ladies behind her to come in. Aska raised her eyebrows again when she saw that they were carrying something wrapped in white silk. They set it down, and unwrapped the covering to reveal one of the most – if not the most – exquisite swords she'd ever seen. With wide eyes, Aska beheld a blade that looked as though it had been polished to a perfect gleam. The hilt, made of ebony and silver metal, was adorned with dozens of small blinking diamonds. Holding the sword was a woven silver belt, and just then, Aska noticed the ring that was hanging from the hilt.
"Loki's ring!" she exclaimed. It was made of pure gold, with a snake-like design, and featuring prominently for the eyes were two bright emeralds.
"What is this?" she asked Frigga. She knew that both swords and rings were to be exchanged at the ceremony, but she did not recognize this one.
"It was the sword your mother exchanged to your father when they married," Frigga explained, "What do you think?"
Aska could only smile with beaming happiness. "It's perfect," she breathed.
Soon, final arrangements went underway for her. With help from the ladies, Aska soon had the belt holding the sword wrapped around her waist. She was then given the garter made of a decorated white ribbon to wear on her leg for another well-known tradition, one which Aska knew very well symbolized. Her nerves quickly returned, causing her to drop the garter before she managed to get it around her leg. Fortunately though, the last thing needed posed no great anxiety. She was given a bouquet of white carnations – her favorite flowers. Aska was so touched she had to breathe in deeply their truly welcoming scent, before it was time for her to leave the bathhouse with her entourage.
"Are you ready?" Frigga asked.
Aska let out another sigh. "I suppose," she said.
"You'll do fine," Frigga assured her with a nod. Aska nodded back, and soon walked through the open doorway into the exposing daylight outside.
She walked with silence. In an attempt to keep her apprehension which threatened to constrict around her mind in check, Aska concentrated on the scenery. The morning sky was now bright, especially in fact, as if nature itself knew of the special occasion that lay ahead. Fresh flowers seemed to be in full bloom on the road she traveled, and late spring birds sang serenading songs. Aska managed to remain calm, but the anxiety that plagued her seemed to demand to stay, until she saw something that instantly lit up her face.
"Dagny!" she exclaimed happily.
At the end of the short road stood her beloved horse, decked out almost as much as she. She wore a white bridle with a white rose in full bloom just below her right ear. She had on a saddle-blanket decorated with woven silver, and rein ornaments to match. But the only thing Aska did not like was the sidesaddle. It was customary for the bride to ride sidesaddle on her wedding day, but Aska was not used to it at all. Even so, she couldn't help but be delighted at the way her horse looked, showing bright eyes that easily would have been a smile had she been human.
Just as on the night of the ball, Aska was assisted onto her horse. She would have needed it anyway, as sitting with two legs on one side immediately felt foreign to her. Still, remembering just how beautiful she felt and just how special this day was supposed to be, she managed to sit straight as the royal she was soon to be as she held on and began walking Dagny forward, with Regin, Frigga, and her ladies behind her.
But once she was getting close to the palace, which had been freshly polished to a shine from the inside out, her eyes widened when she saw the crowds of people already gathered in front of it. Though they might have been able to see her anyway, she nonetheless looked away, preferring not to meet the curious looks which would only increase her anxiety all the more so. Fortunately though, they were headed to the back of the palace, so she and the crowds wouldn't spot each other for long. And once she did make it to the back, she would have to wait until she was called to finally make her appearance for the ceremony. But truth be told, she did not know whether to be happy, or even more apprehensive about the added prospect of waiting.
However, the bride was not the only one to be struggling with uneasiness. While Aska had been dealing with her own troubles, both she and the groom might have had some much needed reassurance knowing that neither was going through them alone. At around the same time his wife-to-be was ceremoniously washing away her former status, Loki was doing the same, letting drift from him his previous status as a bachelor. The steam of the hot water in which he was immersing himself was a welcome sight from the clear daylight of earlier, for as much as he wished to, prior to entering the house, he could not veil himself in smoke without drawing attention to himself. Here, it seemed he could properly hide the discontent that slowly seemed to seep into his mind. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before Thor, who was sitting just across from him, noticed.
"Something ails you brother," he suddenly said, "Tell me."
Though he otherwise would not have done so, Loki subconsciously raised his eyebrows. "Who said something ails me?" he asked.
"You did," Thor smiled in a cocky manner, "Just now."
Once Loki realized his joke, he couldn't help but chuckle. "Clever," he admitted. In spite of his efforts though, Thor was not distracted.
"Don't tell me my own brother is nervous about his own wedding," Thor said sarcastically with a hint of disbelief.
Trying to divert attention from him once more, Loki asked, "Again, who said I am?"
"Well if you are," Thor said as he cracked a smile, "how are the people going to tell which one is the bride and which the groom?"
Despite the chuckle that followed, this time, Loki did not return his humor. Instead, he posed his brother, with a question of his own. "Well, how would you feel if you were about to commit to spending the rest of your life with one person?"
Thor did not reply immediately. Although a fresh wave of steam kept his face largely hidden, Loki could tell merely by the silence that Thor was clearly thinking about what he'd just asked him. Before long, he gave his eyebrow-raising response.
"I probably would be about as anxious as you," he admitted.
So genuine, yet ironic, was this statement, that Loki felt a bit of his humor return. "About?" he inquired.
"Yes, about," Thor nodded insistently.
The two brothers then chuckled again. But throughout the rest of their time in this part of the house, neither of them spoke, allowing Loki more time to contemplate more thoroughly. Although Thor could occasionally be somewhat rough around the edges, Loki knew he'd done the right thing in making him his best man. If there was anyone who could even come close to understanding his situation, it was his brother. After all, they'd gone through so many situations of varying states in the past, so Loki did not see why this had to be any different. But despite this somewhat comforting arrangement, the young prince still remained outside of his usual comfort zone.
Still, he did his best to keep it hidden from those who accompanied them after he and Thor left the hot pool to prepare even further for the day ahead, which would not be an easy task. Not the actual preparations themselves, but trying even harder to keep his usual, confident face on. Although he had a rather wide-ranging reputation for his cunning and illusions, even he had to wonder if he could manage to keep those around him from suspecting otherwise.
But to his slowly replenishing comfort, no one seemed to take notice, nor did Thor point it out to any of them. And before long, both were appropriately dressed for the ceremony. Thor was wearing his black suit with silver armor and his long red cape attached to his shoulders, while Loki was donned in a suit of his own, decorated with gold armor, and a green cape just as long as Thor's. And for the occasion, on his head he wore his gold helmet with two long horns. With all of his finery, he very much resembled a tall, dark stag. The only thing missing was a calm, relaxed mind.
In an attempt to distract himself, Loki asked his brother with complete honesty, "How do I look?"
After looking him over from top to bottom, and then back again, Thor replied, "Like a groom any lady would fall for."
Whether or not it was sincere, Loki let out a droll chuckle. Thor shared in it with him, until he finally looked closely at him with the eyes of a loving and supportive sibling. "Hard to believe my little brother is finally marrying," he admitted.
Even though he knew now for sure that he was sincere, Loki halfheartedly returned his smile. "I know," he agreed.
Just then though, both men turned heads curiously once they heard a knock on the nearby door. In walked another attendent, who bowed before Loki before announcing to him, "Your highness, your father the king has come."
His curiosity, and his anxiety, now intensified, Loki raised his eyebrows, and then watched as his mighty father, dressed in royal robes of black embroidered with gold, made his way almost effortlessly into the room. For a moment, Loki feared he might be given another lecture, or even have his intended marriage denied, when he saw only the most genuine love in Odin's eye, causing his smile to return to his face at last.
"Father," he said happily before embracing Odin.
"My son," Odin greeted him in the same manner. When he looked at him again, his smile had become as big as Loki's. "You truly are no longer a boy, but a young man," he said proudly, "I can hardly believe that the day has finally arrived at last."
Hearing the similarity of a phrase he'd just heard previously, Loki's smile slowly disappeared. "Indeed," he nodded, "Nor can I."
In spite of his hopes, Odin immediately knew something was amiss. "Is something wrong?" he asked.
Knowing he could not lie, Loki replied, "I hate to tell you this but, I'm a bit nervous."
Suddenly, he heard Thor chuckle behind him and say, "More than a bit if you ask me."
"Thor!" Loki whispered with frustrated, gritted teeth. But when he looked up back at his father, he saw no condemnation on his face.
"And why are you ashamed of that?" Odin asked.
Though he knew he was attempting to bring him comfort, Loki found himself seriously taking his question to heart. Suddenly remembering the friction that had emerged between them three months ago, and all that he'd done to finally be reunited with the one he loved and cherished in spite of the odds, the new groom's anxiety suddenly began to slowly leave him, allowing him to stand tall and straight as the prince he was, and don a face devoid of any uneasiness.
"Father," he said with a matching tone of voice, "I know Aska has had somewhat of a murky past, and that she willingly acted outside your will for quite some time, but, I love her so. She is my heart and soul, and I intend to be hers as well."
Once he'd spoken his mind, Loki expected a bit of surprise – if not shock – to emanate from his father's face as he did so in the past when he made such statements. But this time, and thus receiving some surprise himself, Odin regained his proud smile.
"Spoken like the man you've become," he proclaimed, "The man she deserves."
Though he did not believe he would receive some comfort, Loki couldn't help but let it show with his own smile. He was also about to thank his father, when he noticed two more attendants behind him, and raised his eyebrows at the long, thin bundle bound in leather they were carrying.
"Indeed," Odin interrupted him, having noticed his curiosity. He then motioned for the men to unwrap the treasure that lay underneath. They nodded, laid it on the floor, and Loki watched with an intensifying interest, until he finally beheld one of the most important pieces to be used in the ceremony: his sword he would exchange to his bride. It hung from a belt of woven gold. The hilt was made of ebony, gold, and dozens of piercing emeralds. And the blade, made also of gold, seemed to have a special glow to it, making the sword itself look as though it was a ray of daylight. Loki had seen this artifact displayed in the palace, but even as a child, he never dared to even touch it.
"The sword I exchanged to your mother when we married," Odin explained.
Loki could only smile greatly in the utmost gratitude, when he suddenly laid eyes on the ring which hung from the hilt of the sword. It was made of sterling silver, with a prominent white flower decorated with small diamonds in the middle. It was the ring he would also exchange to Aska.
Looking back at Odin, Loki said, "Thank you Father. I'm certain she'll love them."
"As am I," Odin nodded in agreement. Loki then took the belt with the sword and had it wrapped around his waist. And soon, once all the necessary preparations had been made and everything was ready, Loki faced his father once more, silently feeling to his dismay some of his old anxiety return.
"Very well, it's time," Odin announced.
Loki nodded deeply in agreement. "Let's be off," he said.
With another nod from Odin, he stepped out of his son's way, allowing Loki to make his way forward out of the house and on the path toward the palace.
Once he was on the road, Loki felt as though he'd strayed into a dream. Though still aware of the world around him, staying connected as though only by his five senses, he felt almost transfixed, knowing he truly was now on his way to marry the love of his life. He really did mean what he said to his father, and was happy that the two had finally managed to find common ground, but seeing the image that had so long been in his mind now so close to him, he kept silent as he felt the true gravity and weightiness of it all settle upon him like a fine snow.
Fortunately, the haunting feeling lifted somewhat when he saw at the end of the path a familiar face. That of his horse which had faithfully carried him to all his adventures. Striding more confidently over to him, he quickly took his long head in his hands just as he did so many times before.
"Grani," he said, "there's a good boy."
It was then that Loki noticed how his horse had been rather decoratively tacked. Along with his usual bridle, he wore golden plate of armor that stretched down his face, with two small horns at the top of his head. The reins held green ornaments embroidered with gold, and underneath his usual saddle he wore a saddle-blanket to match. Truly, he looked the most handsome in all his days Loki had seen him. And he felt his long eluding comfort return, knowing Grani would not judge him for his uneasy state of mind.
But knowing that he also could not waste time, Loki took hold of the reins, swung one leg over, and was soon sitting tall and – somewhat – confident atop his equally as fine steed. He only hoped that no one would catch him in the act. Still, he urged Grani forward, and soon found himself on his way to the palace for one of the most important events of his life, with his father, his brother, and the rest of his group behind him.
In spite of his hopes though, his time spent just inside the borders of his comfort zone proved to be short-lived. Just as he was finally getting used to the drama surrounding the upcoming event, Loki's head turned to see throngs of curious spectators already standing outside the golden gleaming palace in large numbers. He quickly turned back the other way to focus on the road, though it was nearing an end. He and his party were headed toward the back of the palace. But once they got there, Loki would follow his father up the steps to greet the whole of Asgard – who would be urgently watching the ceremony inside or waiting for them outside the entire time. Even so, Loki decided he would face this bravely, even if facing Frost Giants was at this point rather easier.
"Announcing his Majesty, King Odin Borson, and his Highness, Prince Loki Odinson!"
With these words, Odin, then Loki, entered into the ballroom where the ceremony was to be held. Once he did, Loki beheld hundreds, if not thousands, of eyes all staring at him. Men and women, young and old, had gathered to nearly full housing, parting only for the aisle down which Odin and Loki were to walk. The aisle itself was decorated with a royal red carpet, embroidered at the borders with a line of thousands of small golden stars. Hanging from the ceiling were six banners, three on the left and three on the right. Half were green woven stylistically with gold, and the other half were purple woven in the same way with gold also. Although it was day, lit torches hung from the right and left walls, their flames dancing in a rather celebratory manner.
Despite the somewhat overwhelming scene before him, Loki kept his back straight as he walked further into the room, down the steps, and then down the aisle behind his father, as the musicians played music befitting their arrival. The altar at the end was two marble columns decorated with hundreds of flowers adorned with silver and gold glitter. In the middle stood a golden box containing an important artifact for later, supported by a red pillow and column underneath. Beyond that lay the balcony, where Loki would greet his people not just as a prince, but as a new husband.
Odin stopped in front of the altar, as he would be the one to marry his son and new daughter-in-law, while Loki stopped a few feet behind him as the music ended. He tried to smile, and let out a sigh as he began to await the arrival of his bride. Fortunately, the people soon took their attention away from him as they began speaking to one another in a sea of voices, allowing Loki to relax somewhat. But before too long, the doors opened again, the voices unanimously hushed, the music began again, and Loki straightened, knowing his bride was soon to appear.
"Announcing her Majesty, Queen Frigga!" one of the guards called out. In then walked his mother, who looked just as beautiful as ever in her knew lavender dress, walking down the aisle to her own husband with a sense of royalty about her. When her and Loki's eyes met, she smiled and nodded, causing him to return her good wishes. Then though, came the time for the rest of the participants to appear.
He watched as his men and the bridesmaids made their way down the aisle, arm in arm together. Thor was in the front of the line, walking with Aska's good friend Regin, who looked rather nervous herself. One by one, the pairs separated, with the men on the left with Loki, and the maids on the right where Aska would be. His heartbeat anxiously increased with every couple, until the last one finally split apart, leaving only one person left to make what Loki knew would be a dramatic appearance before the ceremony officially began.
With all eyes, including his, looking toward the empty, open doorway, Loki apprehensively awaited the arrival of his wife-to-be, until she at last walked in. As soon as she made her appearance, for Loki, it felt as though time had stopped, both abruptly and slowly at the same time. He'd thought Aska lovely before, but right across the aisle from him stood perhaps the most beautiful, indeed, ethereal, woman he'd ever beheld.
She wore a dress much like the one she'd worn at the ball, but was now a pristine white adorned with pure silver. She also wore a flowing white cape decorated with thousands of sparkling diamonds several feet long, which was carried by two ladies at the end. As she got closer, he could see that she was wearing another pair of glass slippers. She carried a bouquet of white carnations. And though she was veiled, he knew that the face of the woman he loved was right behind it. Just seeing her was enough to make his nerves slowly disappear, made him feel as though all was well. But of course, there was still the ceremony.
As soon as Aska entered the ballroom, although she was veiled, she could still see the two seas of faces that immediately looked up at her upon her arrival. She might have seen a similar sight before, but she did not think she would ever get used to it. Even so, she stood straight and continued down the aisle as the musicians continued to play, her heart pounding with every step. But then, once she saw Loki, all sense of anxiety gradually started to fade.
He looked most handsome as the grand prince she knew him to be, wearing his black, armored suit with his green cape he once wore at the ball. The only major difference was the horned helmet he wore atop his head, bestowing upon him his own crowning glory. But what stood out the most to Aska was his face. If the saying that what is in a person's heart shows on their face was true, then she knew it to be so as soon as their eyes locked on each other. If she was not mistaken, she could see that he was probably about as nervous as she. Such understanding seemed to pierce through her veil to her being, her heart. And it seemed her gazing at him appeared to have the same effect, as he returned the same, unblinking, mesmerized stare.
They then took each other's hands, neither of them looking away from each other. In the following seconds that felt like hours, both found their previous apprehension mostly – if not completely – disappearing. Countless words seemed to pass between them by the looks they gave each other alone, until they realized it was time for the ceremony to begin. The two stood in front of Odin, Aska gave her bouquet to Frigga, and the music ceased. Loki then unveiled his bride with careful hands, giving himself a moment to gaze upon her soft face, before they held both of each other's hands, allowing Odin to begin.
"People of Asgard," he said in a loud, clear voice, "we are gathered here today to bear witness to the union of my son, Loki, and the once-thought-lost Sigyn, daughter of the late Forseti the Just. Such a union should not be approached lightly and unwisely, but reverently and solemnly. And into this sacred estate shall my son and his beloved be joined as husband and wife. If anyone objects to this estate, speak now, or forever hold your peace."
Not one word was spoken. In fact, one could have heard a pin drop. After the short silence passed, Odin continued. "Then it is my honor to join this young man and woman, who love each other with an immeasurable strength, into the new life they shall embark on together as one."
Now the time had come to make their vows. Odin gestured toward his son, giving him permission to speak. Loki turned to Aska, giving her a soft, serene smile with eyes to match, and cleared his throat slightly. He'd worked hard on his vows, rehearsing them day after day, but if there was one thing he knew for sure, it was the certainty and magnitude of his love for her.
"I Loki Odinson, Prince of Asgard, take you, Sigyn, daughter of Forseti the Just, to be my wife, in the presence of all gathered here. As a prince, it is my duty to love, protect, and serve my realm, should it come under my authority or not. And I now vow to do my duty to you: to love, protect, and serve you as your husband. Not to be over, or underneath you, but to share the intimacy of becoming one with the one who complements me perfectly. I promise with the utmost sincerity to esteem your needs above mine, to protect you in such a way that I would give my life in place of yours, and to love you with the most genuine, devoted, and beautiful love my heart can give for all of our days. May you be proud to consider me your husband."
So powerful were Loki's words, that for a moment, Aska herself was without words. Indeed, she wondered if she might forget her own vows, when Odin gestured toward her. Though she'd felt somewhat exposed ever since he unveiled her, by keeping herself focused on Loki, whom she knew would love her no matter what she said, Aska took a moment to calm herself as she used to in long-gone-by days before a battle, and finally spoke her vows.
"I Sigyn, daughter of Forseti the Just, take you, Loki Odinson, Prince of Asgard, to be my husband, in the company of those who have come to witness the celebration of our coming together. Though trials and tribulations have, and surely will, threaten to tear us apart, may we never succumb to the temptation to allow them to do so, as we have refused to do in the past. I promise to stand by your side through them all, to be the noblest of wives. And I now vow to honor you greatly, to prefer you before myself, to come to your aid and defend you from any foe, to be the most selfless of brides, and to love you in the most faithful way I can: with serenity, valiance, and passion. May you be delighted to have me as your wife."
In that moment, Loki did not believe he had ever heard more perfect words from such perfect lips. Indeed, he was so touched, he found he did not know what to say, so speechless was he. Still, he allowed himself the happiest smile he could give to her at that time, and Aska responded by returning it to him. But the two could not linger in their state of wedded bliss for long, as they still had to exchange rings and swords.
They first exchanged swords, both of them marveling at their gold and silver beauties. Loki went first, allowing Aska to gaze upon the sword that was once his father's before he said, "I give you the sword of my father, as a symbol of becoming part of your family. My family is your family."
Aska smiled as she took the sword from Loki, with slightly tingling features, before attaching it to her belt. She then took her own sword, and held it out toward him, repeating his words. "I give you the sword of my mother, as a symbol of becoming part of your family. My family is your family."
Now that the swords had been exchanged, the time had come to give each other the rings. Loki reached forward and took the white, diamond encrusted ring from the hilt of the sword, and then tenderly took her hand in his, saying, "I now give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness. May it remind you always of the vows we've spoken today."
After blinking once, then twice, at the jeweled ring that blinked back at her, Aska took her own ring from the hilt of the sword she'd just given Loki, and took his hand in hers, once again reciting his words, this time almost word for word. "I too give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness. May it remind you always of the vows we've spoken today."
With the final scene of the ceremony now set, with the vows said, and the swords and rings exchanged, Loki and Aska looked now spellbound into each other's eyes, while Odin smiled and said in a voice even louder and clearer than before, "By the power vested in me, as King of Asgard, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride!"
Their hearts now beating the same excited, pounding way in unison, both Loki and Aska, in spite of their previous anxieties, finally let loose the passion that had been buried within them for so long. In full view of all the wedding guests, which they were now practically blind to, they kissed in an enchanted, adoring manner, while everyone gathered in the room gave their approval with their celebrated applause and cheering.
But even then, the formalities did not end there. Now that Aska was married to Loki – which both could hardly believe despite what they'd just experienced – because Loki was a prince, Aska would be formally made a princess of Asgard by coronation. She would also be abandoning the name that tied her to her old identity in favor of the new. One she realized that this too had finally arrived, she felt a silent wave of a new nervousness travel through her, as she could only wonder how the realm would receive a rather unconventional princess. Still, once the applause ended, she turned back to Loki – whose smile caused her own to quickly return – and allowed him to carefully take off her circlet containing her veil before he stepped aside. Once she gathered all her strength and let her anxiety out with a sigh, she then turned to her new father-in-law, who looked upon her with a serious but loving eye.
"Sigyn, daughter of Forseti the Just," he said in the same tone of voice as before, "now that you have married my son, Loki, Prince of Asgard, it is my pleasure to see that you are now given an appropriate title."
Odin then turned around, and opened the golden box that had been waiting behind him. Aska's eyes then widened with wonder when she finally beheld the crown with which he would formally title her. It was slightly larger than the circlet she just wore, made almost entirely of sparkling silver shaped like leaves and flowers. But she could not revel in her wonder for long.
"My daughter," the king said, "do you solemnly swear, in the presence of all these witnesses before us, to serve with humility, to honor with loyalty, and to love with admiration your realm and your king?"
Though she felt her now familiar nervousness, hearing those words from Odin's own mouth, and with such esteem and respect, Aska remembered how she'd already done so all those times in the past as the Purple Phantom, and smiled as she knew just how much more she could do so as a princess. Standing straight and tall, she confidently replied in the same tone of voice as he, "I do solemnly swear, your Majesty, to serve, honor, and love both to the best of my ability."
Odin's smile grew as he said, "Then I, Odin, King of Asgard, now lay this crown upon you."
Trying to smile, Aska bowed forward, closed her eyes, and placed both her hands across her chest, listening to the celebratory music that now played, until she finally felt the crown being set on her head. When she opened her eyes again, she looked to see Loki's now beaming face gazing happily back at her, and in that moment, any previous doubts that being a princess would bring anything good immediately fled like a flock of birds. She then straightened again, and Odin motioned for her to turn around to face her new subjects. She did so, and as she once again saw two oceans of faces all looking at her, she heard the king proudly proclaim, "From this day forward, you will now be known as her Royal Highness, Sigyn, Princess of Asgard!"
Before another second could go by, the audience of wedding guests gave their verdict: in the form of applause and cheering even louder and happier than before. As their merrymaking echoed throughout the great hall, Aska – now Sigyn – glowing with joy, turned back to Loki, who immediately embraced her happily before planting a kiss on her cheek. She then went to Odin, whom she kissed on both cheeks, and just after went to Frigga to do the same, all of them smiling with pure delight as Sigyn's maids removed her cape.
Soon after, Odin motioned for the new couple to follow him to the balcony outside, where they would greet the whole of Asgard. Both the prince and princess instantly wondered what kind of reaction they'd get, but as soon as they turned to each other and saw that they were not alone, both relaxed and smiled softly before taking each other's hands, and began walking behind Odin out of the safety of the walled room to the wide open space awaiting them.
They then waited for a moment as Odin made his way to the very front. They could already hear the voices of the massive crowds below them, and froze where they stood as the king made his announcement. "My people, my children, may I, King Odin Borson, have the pleasure of presenting to all of you gathered here, your Prince Loki, and your new Princess Sigyn!"
Trying to put on their most confident faces, Sigyn and Loki walked forward together, holding firmly the other's hand, until at last both came upon a scene that would have otherwise overwhelmed them. Hundreds of feet below them, and spread out hundreds if not thousands of feet, stood an expanse of near countless distant faces, all of them looking directly at them. Even from here, they could hear the combined sounds of the unanimous ecstatic celebratory cheering once they made their entrance, and soon, both found themselves sharing along with their happiness. For a while, the two stood waving at all of the citizens gathered below while they continued to laud their joy and approval in the most jubilant way. Soon, Sigyn and Loki decided to humor them even further by turning to one another and kissing, making them cheer even louder, if such a thing were possible.
Fortunately though, they did not have to stay for long. Eventually, the time had come for them to leave and lead the party inside to the largest courtyard on the palace grounds to engage in the feasting and merrymaking. Once they made it there, both the bride and groom couldn't help but be surprised at how the servants had really outdid themselves at decorating it. Garlands of assortments of colorful flowers in every imaginable color adorned the walls. Sigyn thought she could even see small jewels such as crystallized diamonds on the greenery. The food on a line of tables – especially the two many-layered cake with edible flowers – looked very inviting. Indeed, neither could find anything wrong with the scene they beheld, nor did the guests who soon came after them.
Once they did, it did not take long for the merrymaking to start. There was no shortage of participants, who laughed, drank, ate, and danced to their hearts' content. Both Sigyn and Loki spent much of their time saying thank you to all those who had come to congratulate them and wish them well, until their opportunity for their first dance as husband and wife finally came.
Loki led Sigyn to the floor in a manner similar to how he did so on the night of the ball, their eyes never straying from each other. With the eyes of all there watching the new royal couple, once the soft, mellow music began, the two, holding onto each other – and hoping they had improved on their dancing – soon set off on a romantic odyssey of a waltz. It seemed that every series of steps, every twirl, every movement, called to mind all of the things they'd gone through together – happy and sad, joyful and despairing – that they soon forgot that there was anyone there at all. All that seemed to matter was that they were celebrating the love that had blossomed from all those times, culminating in this most amazing of days, until all of a sudden, their dreamlike states were broken by the sound of applause.
Later came the events that all the unmarried men and women present awaited most: the throwing of the garter and the bouquet. Sigyn sat down in a chair brought to the middle of the floor, and bit her lip slightly as Loki knelt down and slowly removed the garter from her leg, relenting only when it was fully off, letting her regain her smile. She then watched with rising humor and excitement as Loki smiled like an imbecile, put his hand over his eyes, and then tossed the garter over the heads of the group of bachelors gathered behind him.
It landed in the hands almost no one could have guessed. He was not even paying much attention at the time. He was merely sitting idly, beyond the crowd of men, two admiring women on either side, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a decorated white ribbon fell into his grasp. His eyes immediately widened, and he quickly wondered what it was, when he heard a series of gasps erupt in front of him. He looked up to see dozens of widen eyes from masculine faces, and soon realized what had just happened. Fandral had caught the bride's garter.
Feeling he might as well go along with it, he shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "Well what do you know?" he said. He then held his new prize high above his head, calling, "You see this ladies? I'm available!" Immediately, laughing from all directions soon reached his ears. Eventually though, so did the sound of a hiss. Fandral looked up, and his eyes widened with shock once he saw that he was now holding a snake. He instantly let out a shout and dropped it, causing the laughter around him – especially that of Loki – to erupt even louder.
But later, all attention – at least that of all the maidens – turned to Sigyn, who was once again clutching the bouquet of white carnations in her hands. With dozens of eager young women, including Regin, standing just a few feet behind her, she smiled a sneaky yet excited smile, feeling her heart beat in the same way, and then threw the bouquet high into the air. All the girls held out their hands, screaming ecstatically as they tried to get hold of the flowers, but none of them caught it. Again, it fell into the hands of someone unexpected. Once they heard the sound of it being caught, all the women turned, and widened their eyes in surprise to see that it was not a maiden, but a man with long red hair who had done so.
All of them, especially the men, looked confused, until the man, now smiling, turned to Regin with a hopeful look on his face. "Perhaps, we should be next?" he asked, a hint of nervousness in his voice. Regin raised her eyebrows at his somewhat unexpected question. But soon, as all the people who'd seen what just happened eagerly watched to see what would happen next, she slowly let a smile grow on her face, and then gave her answer to Jarl. "Yes!"
Immediately, applause and cheering rose to a fever pitch as the wedding guests directed their celebrations to the newly engaged couple. Regin and Jarl, now in the heat of the moment, gave their response by hugging, and then kissing, making the people around them clap even harder. Sigyn, feeling especially happy, rushed over to Regin and couldn't help but embrace her as if she were a sister. "Oh, Regin!" she exclaimed, "Congratulations! Now we can both be happy!"
Regin couldn't help but chuckle. "Thank you!" she said, "But I think one wedding per day is enough for me!"
Both girls instantly laughed and then hugged again, until Sigyn felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked, and was immediately happy to see that it was Loki, who, though also smiling, seemed to have something on his mind. "Would you mind if I had a word with you, alone?" he asked.
Sigyn raised her eyebrows, and turned to Regin to see what she thought. Regin only smiled and said, "He's all yours."
Now fully smiling herself, Sigyn turned back to Loki, and nodded. "Of course," she said.
Loki nodded back. But before taking his new wife's arm in his own, he turned to his new friend, and gave him a pat on the shoulder. "Congratulations Jarl," he said.
"And you your Highness," Jarl nodded, smiling in return. The two men then turned to the women they loved, and soon went their separate directions, one toward the wedding party still steeped in feasting and celebrating, and the other away from it, toward the peace and quiet that they both realized they'd wanted for a while.
Sigyn walked in silence with her new husband, wondering what he wanted to speak to her about, when he eventually led her to the grand courtyard he'd shown her the night of the ball, which she now considered her favorite part of the palace. It looked considerably different in the daylight, which was now steadily decreasing, but the lines of bushes of magnificent flowers were still there, giving off the scent of familiarity, along with the golden fountains, and stone benches. And thankfully, like before, it was empty of anyone besides them. Loki motioned for her to sit on one near the closest fountain. Suddenly realizing just how tired her legs were, Sigyn did not hesitate to do so. She let out a small sigh, and then allowed Loki to join her. Both could only gaze into each other's eyes at all the wonder they'd experienced in only one day, until Loki decided to put it in words.
"Well, we did it," he said, taking her hand in his, "We're both married now."
Sigyn smiled, and took a moment to admire both her ring and Loki's, until she looked back at his sweet face. "I know," she said, "It was beautiful. And yet, it happened so fast. But, I suppose that's what it's like when you're in love."
She let out another, more drawn-out sigh, feeling almost as though she might cry. "Truly," she admitted, "I never thought I could be this happy."
"Nor I," Loki said, in that calming, smooth voice of his, which immediately made her tears disappear. He then led her away from the bench, and toward the edge, until he stopped, took her other hand, and looked at her with a face that made her heart soften.
"Do you remember when we first met?" he asked.
Sigyn widened her eyes slightly, and tried to remember, but then said, "Remind me."
"I was about your age," Loki explained, "And you were still ten years old."
Sigyn's face instantly lit up with memory. "Oh yes," she nodded. Then chuckling, she said, "And I kissed you and made everyone laugh!"
Loki immediately chuckled as well, and then let out a happy sigh. Stroking his hand through her long, blond hair, he said, "And look at who you've become."
Sigyn smiled at his affection, at how much he'd come to love her and she him, when, all of a sudden, a hole in her heart grew enough to cause her to frown sadly. She looked slightly away, at the mountains which stood beyond the inhabited realm, and said, "I've been wondering what would have happened, if I had been there when my parents died. If I could have seen them just one more time."
Feeling her silent mourning but not wishing to see her this way, Loki touched her face then gently and slowly turned it back to look at his. "If you did, you would not be here beside me," he reminded her. Putting his hand back in hers, he reminded her also, "You would not be my wife."
Sigyn looked slightly down, but knowing he was right, she nodded. "I know Loki," she sighed again.
"Sigyn," he said, causing her to look back at his compassionate face, "We can't linger in the past. Neither of us. In fact, do you know what the name Sigyn means?"
"I, I'm afraid I don't recall," Sigyn shook her head.
Giving her a smile he knew would make her do so, Loki replied, "It means 'victory bringer.'"
Once he saw her face light up again, this time with serene happiness, he continued. "Sigyn, you've been victorious through everything that's threatened you. You've brought us victory in so many ways."
Allowing her smile to grow at his words, Sigyn nodded. "So have you," she said, "But of course, like I said, there will certainly be more trials and challenges ahead."
"I agree," Loki nodded back. Then, he leaned forward until she could feel his breath, and said in a voice only they could hear, "But now we can face them together."
Hearing him say so, despite the sentimentality she otherwise would have avoided, immediately brought an unexpected joy to Sigyn, one that she did not recall feeling before, causing her smile to now beam with radiance. "You're right!" she said.
Loki nodded again, and the two then turned back at the scene before them. With his arms around her waist, and her hand pressed against his face, Sigyn and Loki looked with hope at the beautiful landscape, as well as the future, that stood before them, knowing that whatever came their way, they wouldn't back down. Before long, Loki surprised his bride by literally sweeping her off her feet and spinning her in several circles, making her laugh in the most beautiful, musical way, before he finally stopped. The new husband and wife, now looking with great glowing happiness at each other, allowed it to build to a climax before they finally kissed in the most passionate way both knew, sending both of their hearts soaring. And all the while, the light in the expanse above began to shine down on their love, which proved more radiant than any light the sky could offer.
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