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The Silvertongue and The Thunderer

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The violent clashing of steel against ice echoed through the halls of the palace. The soldiers of Asgard were pushing the warriors of Jotunheim further into the city, conquering the lands of eternal winter. Loki Laufeyson, the youngest heir of the Fierce Warrior-King Laufey, sat silently beside his dam, listening to the armies of Asgard press further and further into the palace. The sounds of fighting drew closer and closer to their chamber door. Wrapped tightly in gold and precious stones from elbows to fingertips, the Jeweled Sorcerer-King Farbauti twisted his hands in complex circles, weaving spells of protection into the doors.

Sensing his dam’s hands faltering in their spell casting, Loki raised his own to complete the spells. Weaving his own fingers through the familiar magic of his carrier, bending it to his will, Loki sealed the spells tightly to the entrance to the chamber. He understood the importance of keeping this room safe from invasion. It housed the greatest treasure of Jotunheim.

The battle raged on. For three days and three nights Loki sat at the door, listening for any sign that the war would be over. Farbauti remained at his side, plaiting and re-plaiting his hair, draping and re-draping the pleats of his skirts. Loki suffered his dam’s attentions quietly. In three days hardly a word was spoken between them.

As light pierced the horizon on the fourth morning, the sounds of battle ceased abruptly. A distant cheer sent a shiver of fear through the room’s occupants. Loki could feel it in the way his dam’s hand tensed on his shoulder. He could feel his own tension deep in his bones.

“The war is over.” Farbauti murmured, his voice scarcely a whisper. Loki turned his eyes to the mountains of snow, barely visible through the sheer curtains of the window. What horrors would the Aesir inflict upon the Jotnar, the people of Jotunheim; his people. Farbauti turned from the door, silently gathering the clothing Loki had cast aside days ago.

Loki rose at his dam’s beckoning, returning to his royal dress so they may face the conquering army with dignity. Farbauti adjusted Loki’s skirts once more, folding the fabric of the deepest black with the greatest care, the finely woven gold border displayed prominently on the length of his leg. The pristine white fur of an ice stag was then wrapped around his waist, jeweled clasps pinning it into place.

Next a length of fabric that matched his skirts was carefully wound around his back, crossing his chest and draped over his shoulders. Farbauti placed the edges of fabric against the floor, ensuring they were even and that the crest of the house of Laufey King embroidered into the wrap was carefully centered on Loki’s back.

Exquisite ornaments - jewels as large and brilliant as a dragon’s eyes, golden bracelets by the dozen, strings of pearls and dragon teeth - were applied to Loki’s arms, chest, and neck, covering the young Jotnar in precious materials. A delicate jeweled chain was finally tied to his horns, draping down across his forehead; a traditional sign of royalty among the Jotnar instead of the crowns used by the people of Asgard.

Running his hand down his child’s plaited hair, Farbauti carefully traced the strings of gold interwoven with the the ink black strands. Loki stood passively as his dam ensured that no detail was out of place. When it was time to apply the final mark of his station, Loki raised his eyes to meet his dam’s.

Farbauti fell to one knee before his youngest child, his fairest and most delicate child. In a moment of weakness, the Jeweled Sorcerer-King allowed his proud head to rest against Loki’s. The two sorcerer’s, so alike in magic, yet so different in station shared a final gaze. Both understood what the fall of Jotunheim would mean for their people.

“My precious child,” Farbauti was first to break the silence of the room, “this is what you were born to do. You were destined for this purpose. It is your duty to protect all of Jotunheim.” Loki turned away from his dam, bracelets moving musically as he summoned the fabric that set him apart from every other Jotnar on Jotunheim. “If there were any other way, Loki-” Farbauti paused.

“I understand. It is my place to repair the damage wrought by my sire in this foolish war.” Loki smiled softly at his beloved Sorcerer-King. “I fear my fate, but I do not deny it, my dam. Regardless of the distance between us, you will always be with me. In the magic you have taught and the spells you have woven. Though I may travel far from our lands, I will never be alone.”

Loki presented the sheer cloth in his hands to his King Farbauti, bowing his head delicately in respect. With a final touch to his son’s cheek, Farbauti placed the veil over the youngest Laufey heir. Stepping back, the powerful Jotnar sorcerer bowed deeply to honor the Treasure of Jotunheim.

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Loki softly traced the edge of the veil where it rested against his fingertips. With a small twitch of his newly gemmed hands, the veil darkened around his face, the color gradually lightening as it draped down to his thighs.Tinted just enough to allow the wealth of his dowry to be displayed while prohibiting any from viewing the greatest prize that Jotunheim had to offer. This had been his station from the day of his birth. No person apart from the Fierce Warrior-King Laufey and Jeweled Sorcerer-King Farbauti was allowed to see his face.

Soon that would change. He was to be bartered for peace in Jotunheim. His fate rested in the hands of the Aesir King. Disgrace to the House of Laufey if he was rejected. Shame to the Jotnar if his face was exposed before he was wed. Defeat of the greatest magnitude if he was killed. If he could speak with the Allfather-King, he might perhaps persuade him to take Loki to Asgard as war prize. But his place was behind the curtain of the throne room. Witness to all proceedings of Jotnar royal court yet having no voice in it.

If Loki had been allowed to speak during the war councils perhaps Jotunheim would have been victorious. Loki took a deep breath, breathing in the crisp cool air of his homeland. What is past, is past. His future lay with the Aesir. Summoning a magical flame into his hands, illuminating the shape of his face behind the veil with an icy hue, Loki turned to follow his dam to the throne room. To his fate.

Though his face was hidden, the spells surrounding the veils allowed Loki to watch every guard in the palace bow in his honor as they passed. So many of them were injured – bandages dark with deep blue blood, missing fingers or limbs – the sight brought Loki near to tears, both in rage and in sorrow. So much bloodshed, so many wounded. All in the name of a quarrel between kings. What would the Jotnar have gained in controlling Midgard? The climate was far too warm to sustain them well. So many of their foods were toxic to giants. Midgardians looked upon them with fear and revulsion, where the Aesir were revered as gods. No war or conquest would have changed that.

Laufey had set war upon Midgard merely to pick a fight with Asgard, in retaliation for the cessation of trade. Truly a stupid, petty war between foolish child-like kings. What would they do next to the whole of the nine realms in their quest for their own perceived greatness? This war had left its mark on every realm, not merely those fighting in it. The Dvergar of Svarltalfaheim could no longer create their metal works without the ice of Jotunheim to quench the flames. The Alfar had lost many from hunger when trade of grains with Asgard had ceased. The Vanir had suffered greatly in the loss of trade with the Jotnar, the witching flower of the glittering plains of glaesisvellir was part of a powerful medicine. Traces of this war would be felt for years to come.

With heavy heart and a light step, the Treasure-Prince and the Sorcerer-King approached the royal court room, guarded by both Jotnar and Aesir soldiers. As the heavy wooden doors swung open Loki slowed, allowing Farbauti to enter the room first. As the elder Sorcerer walked the length of the hall, surrounded by the bowed heads of the Jotun courtiers and the scowling faces of the Asgardian warriors, Loki paused at the threshold. As his dam alighted the platform at the end of the room, Loki braced himself for the perilous jaunt he was about to take. Every head in the room turned to witness his entrance, both sides of the room murmuring and shifting in their impatience.

With a single step of his elaborately decorated shoe, one half of the room fell into a tense silence. Another step and the Asgardians calmed their creaking armor and aggressive murmurs, bringing the room to a deathly hush, sensing the solemnity of his entrance. Then, the courts of Jotunheim kneeled. As Loki passed the length of the room to his place behind the royal curtain, he was keenly aware of the Aesir warriors. Coated, still, in the blood of his people and standing taller than he on the left as the Jotnar knelt on his right. For all his jewels and adornments, Loki made not a single sound as he traversed the thin dividing line between the Jotnar and the Aesir. His silence in the courts was absolute, no word nor sound at all.

On the dais, raised above the crowd, Fierce Warrior-King Laufey and Jeweled Sorcerer-King Farbauti stood stoically next to the Triumphant Allfather-King Odin and his second-in-command, the Brave Warrior-General Tyr. His parents bowed as he ascended the stairs onto the throne platform. The conquering king and his second did nothing. Passing through the curtain on one end of the dais, Loki transferred the flame from his hands to the torch in the back of the small secluded area. The cool blue light from the Flame of Hope would display his silhouette. It was a reminder to the Jotnar that, so long as he lived, there would be hope in their lands. The Treasure-Prince settled into luxuriously soft furs that were piled atop thick cushions of varying hues, arranged upon the hide of a frost beast - killed in celebration of his coming of age nearly 200 years ago. Maintaining his silence, Loki carefully lifted his veil and fell still, the signal to start court proceedings.

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As the Jotnar of the royal courts rose from their respectful kneel, the murmurings of the Asgardian soldiers began anew. This time accompanied by the equally disgruntled grumblings of the courtiers. The noise grew so loud, Fierce Warrior-King Laufey could not be heard over the din. A second time, a third, Laufey called for silence in the courts. When the crowds finally quieted, Laufey was quick to dismiss any soldier or courtier not directly involved the war planning for their realm. Nearly two thirds of the room slowly dispersed. With so few people, only warriors and tacticians, the hall became silent once more.

On the dais, closest to Loki’s curtain, Laufey and Farbauti stood united facing the Asgardian delegation. Odin and Tyr wore grim, determined faces as they signaled for the scribe of the Aesir war council to step forward. A slender man with fiery red hair carried his parchments and inks and pens toward the dais only to pause in bewilderment a moment later. There was no wooden furniture to be found in the courts. The Jotnar scribe stepped forward and solved the dilemma, creating a large desk and bench out of ice for them both to use.

Both scribes settled into place, side by side. The Jotun nodding his readiness quickly, clay pad on slate tablet and stylus in hand. The Aesir scribe took longer, heating his ink and setting it down multiple times only to find the ink frozen again once his pen was in hand. Blushing fiercely at the attentions of the entire court, the red-head frantically heated his ink once more. Before he could set the small inkwell down the Jotun scribe slid a small piece of slate below it, broken off from his own tablet. The two scribes met eyes momentarily, each nodding once in turn before turning and nodding in unison to state their readiness. Loki smiled. It warmed his heart to see two people, different in race, but alike in position, behaving with warm decorum. While the warriors of each race may disagree, the normal folk of each realm had no quarrel with each other. This cordial behavior boded well for the fate of their two peoples.

The leaders of the two warring realms faced off at the front of the room. As negotiations began, discussions were tense and short. The first condition of the treaty was an exchange of all prisoners of war, both Aesir and Jotnar. Each soldier would be returned within one day’s time of the conclusion of the negotiations. That agreement was easy to make for both sides. There were many Aesir prisoners and very few Jotnar. Most Jotun warriors would rather die than be captured; and many did, fighting through crowds, killing as many Aesir as they could before being killed themselves. Aesir soldiers felt the same way, of course, but a few groups had been cornered only to find growing walls of ice surrounding them.

After the first successful item in the treaty, conversation broke down. Triumphant Allfather-King Odin would not offer anything to the Jotnar. Fierce Warrior-King Laufey would not discuss the needs of his people. Both parties sat at a stale-mate. As the frigid silence stretched on, negotiation halted, Loki felt the need to speak. To mold his own destiny, his own future, his fate. As treasure he had no right to speak in the courts. But in treaties and negotiations, however, Loki did have a voice.

“The Aesir wield weapons crafted by the Dvergar of Svarltafaheim do they not?” his voice asked, clear as a bell ringing through the hall.

“Who would speak in this court out of turn!” Odin roared, swinging about, rage flaring as if a living thing. The red of his cloak stood out in stark contrast to the icy blue walls around him. Brave Warrior-General Tyr stood silently by, listening carefully for the slightest hint as to the origin of the intruding voice. From his seat behind the curtain, Loki could be heard from every spot in the hall. His voice seemingly echoing from all directions at once.

“The Silvertongue of Jotunheim,” Loki grinned as he replied. His reputation may not be known to the King of Asgard but his advisers and warriors knew the name well. Several were murmuring and sharing glances between them. The Jotun courts stood stoically silent, they understood how important the following advice would be.

“Mind your place, Silvertongue!” Odin growled in response. Tyr stepped forward and gently tapped his King’s elbow. A signal, no doubt, to quell his temper.

“As Silvertongue it is my place to negotiate treaty and trade between worlds,” Loki began. “The Vanir sought my council to negotiate their own treaty with the Aesir. Surely you will heed my council now for your own?” At these words Odin paused. It was true Loki had assisted the Vanir in their negotiations. The deal between their worlds was equally fair. Asgard had not been able to broker a better deal following the war. Every attempt Odin had made had been thwarted. He had not been pleased, to say the least. Tyr and Odin conferred quietly choosing their next move.

Eventually Odin replied “Yes, it is true we wield the finest swords in all of Yggdrasil.” Even though it was said begrudgingly, Loki would not comment.

“To craft such metal wonders, do they not require intense cold to temper their steel?” A simple question, guiding Odin to the correct conclusions, the correct outcomes.

“I know not of their methods - “

“You do,” Loki interrupted swiftly, cutting off Odin’s denial of knowledge. The Allfather knew all. “The Svarltafar no longer produces steel in this time of war, correct? How could they? Where would the Dvergar procure such ice?” Careful pauses in speech, delicately placed and crafted with the greatest skill. It was truly Loki’s finest power, to wield such political advantage.

“The people of the mists - “ Odin began.

“Do not trade with outsiders.” Loki put as much force behind his words as he could muster without shouting. “Your swords grow dull, Allfather-King. If Jotunheim could begin trade again, your swords would be renewed.” Another delicate pause to allow that information to settle into the Allfather’s mind. And now, the next step in his intricate dance, “Do the Vanir still trade with Asgard?”

“The war has kept trade lines closed - “

“The war could not affect trade. The all seeing Heimdall knows where the battles rage. Trade shipments are at no risk of attack under his watchful eye.” Loki drew a breath as he prepared to deliver the worst words in his speech. “The Vanir suffer. Their people are dying. If Jotunheim could begin trade again, the people of Vanaheim would be healed. Their medicines would be available to the Alfar, who themselves have suffered at the loss of grain trade with Asgard.” Such information was best served at once, a bloody bandage over a healing wound should be removed swiftly. “Renewing trade throughout the World Tree would benefit us all.” Loki offered gently, a sweet balm to terrible news.

King Laufey’s eyes met Odin’s one. In that moment of time, truce was being struck. Both sides could finally see the damage they had wrought upon the worlds. Loki basked in the glow of his own success. How truly wonderful it was to have such a reputation for political navigation. Farbauti turned to the side momentarily, casting a glance toward the curtain. A warning not to celebrate too soon. His dam truly knew him too well.

“I can agree this is true,” Odin drew a deep and heavy sigh. “A resolution to resume all trade contracts that once stood before the war?” He offered as a line to the treaty.

“The Jotnar can agree.” Warrior-King Laufey and Sorcerer-King Farbauti jointly spoke.

“The Aesir can agree.” Odin responded, Warrior-General Tyr nodded alongside.

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“On the matter of the Casket - ” Laufey began. One of the most important artifacts of Jotnar livelihood had been recently stolen during the siege on the palace. It's absence was already affecting the land. Small pools of freshwater for drinking and bathing had begun to close over with ice and the great salted glaciers were melting. Order and balance had twisted until what was up was down and what was right was wrong.

“The casket remains in the possession of Asgard for safe keeping.” Odin ordered, slicing his arm across the room. A dividing line in the negotiations. “There will be no discussion.”

“Without the Casket of Ancient Winters the fields of glaesisvallir will wither into dust. The witching flower used by the Vanir grows only in that place. Without the Casket there will be no new generations of elk or fox or frost beast or ice dragon. Whole species will die. The Jotnar will die.” Fierce Warrior-King Laufey attempted to keep his voice level, to refrain from pleas. They would fall upon deaf ears.

“It is tantamount to genocide!” Farbauti shouted. For all Laufey's reputation for war, it was truly the sorcerer who bore the greater temper.

“Calm, Sorceror-King,” Loki provided a warning. “If the Aesir will provide the Casket of Ancient Winters, what do the Jotnar have to offer in trade?” Loki knew the only answer there could be, but it was important who made the initial suggestion. It would not do to offer his own hand in marriage.

“We could offer the Beloved Treasure of Jotunheim,” Jeweled Sorcerer-King Farbauti responded, though his words grated as though drawn over broken glass. The discussion pained him. Loki could hear it in his dam's voice, see it in the tense line of his shoulders and in the way Laufey rested a hand at the small of his mate's back in comfort.

Odin scoffed, “We have no need of trinkets. We want the casket.” The reaction to his words was intense. The Jotnar courtiers growled in unison, taking great offense to the dismissal. Laufey and Farbauti grew darker, flushed with anger, their blue blood rising to the surface. Frost snaked across the dais floor, curling in angry circles and twining around their feet.

“That cannot be offered, Allfather-King.” Loki responded, firmly and quickly. The stench of anger and fear grew more prominent until even the Aesir soldiers were shifting in uncomfortable silence. Though he wished to speak and break the tension, these negotiations needed to find their own logical conclusion. To interrupt or interfere would mean disaster. All he could offer was a calming voice.

“It is the greatest promise of peace,” Odin argued smugly. “Without it you will be unable to start another war.” The Allfather acted as though he knew the Jotnar were trapped at his mercy. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“The strongest promise of peace is marriage,” Farbauti growled in response, “and yet you turned away our offer!” Odin's only eye widened slightly. Disbelief was plainly displayed on his face for several moments before he collected himself enough to respond.

“You made no such offer!” Odin bellowed. Huffing and puffing like a dragon being challenged. “The Beloved Treasure-Prince Loki is a mere ornament to you! A trinket!” The Jeweled Sorcerer-King gesticulated wildly toward the curtain. Bracelets singing and spells drawing tight to his fingers, waiting to be unleashed.

“Calm, my Kings. Shouting only brings noise, not compromise.” Soothing sounds of the Silvertongue draped over the quarreling Kings, bringing a dull hush to the room once more. Odin took several deep breaths, his ire slowly dissipating. Laufey and Farbauti drew closer together, calming each other and drawing strength from their closeness. It was the Brave Warrior-General Tyr who spoke next, breaking his long silence.

“To call a prince a treasure is strange in our lands, though they are treasured of course. We did not know the … greatest treasure of Jotunheim was a … living being.” Tyr, similarly talented in politics as he was in battle, bowed to the Kings of Jotunheim. “We meant no offense.” Loki considered the statement. It was highly likely that the traditions and cultures of Asgard and Jotunheim were so dissimilar that this petty argument was based upon a mere misunderstanding.

For long minutes neither side chose to speak. Though the silence stretched on, there was no tension in the air. Only a sense of anticipation. “Allfather-King, would you accept this offer of unity between our worlds in exchange for trade and the casket?” Loki asked.

“Seems to be that Jotunheim would receive greater reward in this. No child would ever be sired between my son and a Jotun. My line would end with him.” Loki felt the tension seep from his own shoulders, a tightness he did know he held. Allfather-King Odin had not said no. There was still a chance. The King of Asgard was resisting, but there was still hope.

“Quite the contrary, King.” Farbauti smirked maliciously. The Fierce Warrior-King Laufey glanced at his mate, unsure how to temper the rage in his eyes. Loki, himself, couldn't think of a way to bank the fires of Farbauti's ire. It made perfect sense, of course. Decades of effort and work went into raising the Beloved Treasure of Jotunheim to be someone worthy of a diplomatic marriage. Any dam would be angry to have their child rejected from a potential wedding match.

“How so?” Tyr questioned and Farbauti's smile dampened into something more sincere and calm before he replied. “Though it appears that Jotnar are solely male, we are truly intersex. The prince will be able to bear a child to your son, Allfather-King.”

“Am I to take it on faith that you have a third son?” Odin asked, gesturing to encompass the room. “I know of the princes, Helblindi and Byleister, yet I have never heard of Loki.” How wonderful a statement. Loki could not ask for a better opportunity to mold this treaty to his own wishes. He could have more power than he had ever hoped. To be widely known as the Silvertongue would bring him more respect in the courts of Asgard.

“Would you believe you speak to him now?” he asked sweetly, smiling slightly. As expected, the Allfather scoffed in return, “I will believe it when I see it with my own eye.” That is a wish Loki is all too happy to comply with. Things are finally moving along, a conclusion was certainly close at hand!

“With my King's permission.” Loki demurred. He shifted on his cushions, gathering his feet beneath him, ready to reveal himself to his future Father-in-Law. Anything to move this negotiation into it's final stages. “You have it, my Beloved Treasure-Prince. Let him see you, as a sign of good faith.” Farbauti spoke over his shoulder, keeping his eyes on Odin. At their Sorcerer-King's admission, the Jotnar began to whisper among themselves, the identity of the Silvertongue had been a secret until this day. Laufey stepped aside to allow the Allfather-King to enter behind the curtain, glaring at the murmuring courtiers as he did so.

As Odin stepped inside the curtain – gaze moving to take in the luxuriously appointed room lit by a fierce blue flame on a crystal pedestal – Loki rose gracefully. He bowed his head to the Triumphant Allfather-King. “No living being, aside from my sire and dam has looked upon my face,” he stated clearly, raising his eyes to stare directly into Odin's one remaining eye.

“Not your siblings?” Odin inquired, looking more and more intrigued. “No, Allfather,” Loki responded. Their conversation was interrupted by a uncomfortably loud exclamation from the war councils collected below. “The Silvertongue would bring honor to the courts of Asgard.” The Asgardian that had spoken stepped toward the dais. It was true of course, but speaking out of turn in the courts would surely ruin his career and reputation. Loki almost felt sorry for the idiot.

“Mind yourself!” Tyr barked. The man quickly retreated into the group which parted around him, leaving him exposed on all sides, a sore and solitary spot within the crowd. With silence restored, Odin and Loki shared another quiet moment of consideration. With a look of satisfaction on his face the Allfather turned and exited the curtained room.

“A marriage contract between the youngest Laufeyson and the eldest Odinson will cement the bonds between our people. Should a child be produced in the first year of marriage the contract will be complete and peace restored in its entirety.” Odin declared to the room, seeming confident in his decision.

“The Jotnar can agree,” both Laufey and Farbauti spoke, looking greatly relived from Loki's place behind them. Only those closest to the Kings would know the signs to look for.

“The Aesir can agree.” Triumphant Allfather-King Odin responded firmly.

“I have only one request” Laufey stated. Odin froze in place, figuratively, and asked “What is this request?”

“Our lineage is traced through matriarchal feature lines. To call him Laufeyson is an insult to his very image and his dam's family,” Farbauti nodded as Laufey continued speaking. “Because the Aesir use patronymic names I understand where the confusion lies. In any formal introductions, please refer to our son by his proper title, position and rank.”

“And that is?” Tyr questioned.

“The Jotnar's Beloved Treasure-Prince Loki, The Silvertongue of Jotunheim.” Farbauti declared clearly and proudly. “Should you need to announce his parentage the phrase 'sired of Fierce Warrior-King Laufey and born of Jeweled Sorcerer-King Farbauti' will be sufficient.” Both Odin and Tyr nodded in acquiescence, the task is easy to honor.

“The Aesir currently possess the casket. We will present it to the prince as morning-gift. Trade rights will be your bride-price.” Odin replied quickly. The articles of the treaty were complete, the negotiations were over. Wedding preparations would need to be initiated as soon as possible.

“The Jotnar agree to this. The dowry shall be prepared and the leaving ceremony planned.” Farbauti agreed, inclining his head regally.

“I will return at the morrow's first light to fetch the prince for the Aesir bridal preparations.” Odin stated before turning to leave. He did not wait for any response. The soldiers of Asgard followed their King in strict formation. With a small gesture from Laufey the Jotnar courtiers exited swiftly behind them.

As the tall wooden doors closed behind the last Jotun the Jeweled Sorcerer-King Farbauti swirled on the spot, ripping open the curtain and marching toward his son. “You should not have interfered Loki!”

“Would we have reached a peaceful conclusion otherwise? Would you have spoken civilly? Would you have abstained from beginning the war again, fighting until every last Jotun lay dead at your feet?” Loki spoke quickly with no fear of his dam.

“You speak beyond your right, Treasure-Prince,” Laufey warned, reminding Loki of his proper place. “As Silvertongue it is my right,” was the swift retort.

Farbauti only sighed in fond annoyance. “I must tell your brothers to prepare the arches, the courtiers to prepare your dowry. You, impertinent child, should begin packing your things.” The Sorcerer stepped forward to press a gentle kiss to his son's brow.

“Remember to retrieve the Dvergar sword for the exchange of morning-gift.” Loki answered, throwing his veil back into place and collecting the Flame of Hope.

“I know what must be done, Loki, I am the one who taught you,” Farbauti grinned. “Now run along, we have only half a day to prepare.” With the thought of leaving his home chasing his every step, Loki made haste to his rooms with a rapid yet regal pace. Tomorrow he would leave his homeland. His home of ice and snow. With it's fantastic beasts and sweet smelling flowers. A land bursting with mountains and valleys and fields. Warm with friends and frost and family. Loki would leave them all behind.

Forever.

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Farbauti prepared for his son's departure by first indulging in a quiet, anger-fueled burst of combustive magic in his private chambers. As the walls melted slightly around him, delicate carvings slicking smooth, the Jeweled Sorcerer-King pressed his long fingers tightly to his face. With a deep, strong breath the dam of the royal family marched through the halls of the palace, ordering courtiers to gather the dowry, deliver empty chests to Loki's rooms, and remove the Asgardian prince's morning gift from the coffers of the Jotnar.

Laufey prepared for his son's departure by agreeing to speak with his elder heirs, to take on one of his mate's duties. One that Farbauti dreaded. The Fierce Warrior-King exited the palace with a determined step, eager to return to his duties as leader of the Jotnar. Helblindi and Byleister were found directing troops; toward the healing sorcerers if injured or to mend some damage to the city's defenses. The defenses that were meant to resist frost beasts, not armies of Aesir. Gathering his sons close, Laufey delivered the news of the treaty. It was time to prepare for a wedding. As the brothers to the bridegroom, it was their duty to prepare the ceremonial arches.

The elder princes of Jotunheim prepared for their brother's departure with heavy hearts. They truly loved their brother and could hardly bear the thought of losing him. Merciless Warrior-Prince Helblindi, the one-day King of Jotunheim, dismissed his gathered warriors before turning toward his unfortunate destination. He walked with head high to appear strong and fearsome before their enemy, though his assigned duty weakened his resolve. With fear in his chest at the news of his darling brother's plight the Fearless Warrior-Prince Byleister followed his elder sibling, keeping his own head held high as well, presenting a unified front. Both princes had never felt so alone though they were together. Loki had always tied them together with his trickery and playful joy. With solemnity, the first arch of purest crystalline ice was erected only steps away from the palace doors. The crowds of Jotnar that had gathered to watch the Aesir soldiers depart the crowds quieted as the princes worked.

The Jotnar knew, as the arch rose before the palace that it was time to prepare for the Beloved Treasure-Prince's departure from Jotunheim. The prince had saved them, freed them. Several long moments were spent in silence out of respect for the solemn occasion. Then, as if one body, the people of the city moved upon the palace. Each Jotun, adult and child alike, touched the arch in turn leaving behind a trail of ice. Each touch was a farewell to their Treasure. Some trails were straight as sharp as daggers, encouraging strength in the prince. Others were curled, mirroring life's twisted path. Some were shaped as flowers or the creatures of Jotunheim to remind the prince of his home. Or the leaves and branches of Yggdrasil, the backbone of all the realms, uniting them. As the first arch was filled, Helblindi and Byleister began to create another. And another. And another. The Aesir soldiers watched curiously as the crowds ebbed and flowed around the palace doors. Each Jotun leaving their mark on one arch before departing, returning to their hidden homes or rushing into the wastes beyond the city. The war-torn land, devastated and dark, was suddenly a lively bustling city once more as the arches rose solemnly, bridging the gap between the palace doors and the city gates.

As the elder princes and devoted people of Jotunheim worked through the night to mark the Treasure's final exit from the palace, the Crown Prince of Asgard was upturning tables and smashing pots in the great feasting halls of his father's home.

The Thunderer prepared for his wedding by raging through the gilded halls of Asgard, sending servants and soldiers scattering as he approached. How dare Father wed him to a frost giant! Being sent away from the front lines of battle had burned him. To think that anyone could claim that he was too violent against the evil creatures from that frozen wasteland! And now, not only was Mjollnir enchanted, but he was being made to wed! Thor slammed through the doors of his mother's chambers, tapestries trembling in his wake and portraits rocking on the walls. Frigga pursed her lips and pinned her eldest son with a fierce look. With thunder rocking the palace and lightning sparking around his fists, Thor growled and seethed as he was made to wait. Dismissing the attendants from her rooms, she turned to give Thor her attention but before the furious young prince could utter a single word, Frigga spoke. “I know why you have come, Thor. But I cannot overturn your Father's decision. It is for the best.”

“How could you have me wed to a beast! To spend my life tied with a horrid savage from that realm of murderers and thieves!” Chest heaving as he spoke with fierce inflection, the flaxen-haired warrior gestured wildly with Mjollnir.

A deep frown marred his mother's face, “Thor, the treaty has been agreed. There will be no changes. You will be wed in the morrow.” The Allmother rose from her seat to take her son's hand. “You should be preparing.” Eyes downcast and sorrowful, the Queen of Asgard could only hold tightly to her eldest son.

Frigga prepared for her son's wedding by clutching his larger fingers in her own delicate hands, trying to impart just how much she shared his anger. How much she agreed with her wrathful son. Her wisdom and foresight had shown her how much her son would accomplish. A Jotun daughter-in-law was not something she had expected. Not something she wanted. Even now, the knowledge of this creature's future played out through her mind, and yet she still could not bring herself to be joyful of her son's wedding. Frigga stood with her son, mourning the day to come, until Thor turned away to seek solace among friends instead.

Sif, the fiercest woman warrior ever known to Asgard, prepared for her dear friend's wedding by viciously defeating several highly ranking soldiers on the training fields. Spending her anger in exercise so as to not cut down Odin himself to prevent Thor's fate. Sif's attention shifted as the object of her distraction appeared in the nearby path, marching away from the palace. With her gaze firmly locked onto the blond Thunderer, the beaten warriors fled the practice arena to escape her wrath. With no other way to vent her anger, Sif set out to join her dearest and closest friend and share in his misery.

The Warriors Three prepared for their friend's wedding by ordering several casks of ale and enough food to keep even Volstagg satisfied. As Thor and Sif approached the mead hall the Warriors Three sent up a cheer for the soon-to-be groom only to be met with silence and a dark glower from both parties. Thor threw himself down onto the steps, casting Mjollnir aside harshly. The five close friends sat together in silence until Fandral nudged Volstagg, urging him to say something.

“Thor, as a happily married man I can tell you that marriage is the greatest adventure you will ever set upon. You may not have chosen your partner, but bonds formed in battle are the strongest. So... think of your marriage as a battle … and....” Volstagg glanced at Hogun, who stared blankly back before offering his own small piece of advice. “You will not be alone. Two realms will help your marriage survive.”

“That's right, Thor,” Fandral smiled, clasping the groom's shoulder tightly with a gentle shake. “You'll have all of Asgard to keep that blue-skinned bride of yours in check.” At this, Thor only growled before turning to retreat into the mead hall. “Do you think he would get frost bite from touching her though?” Fandral asked of Hogun while the Warriors Three and Sif followed their prince.

Odin prepared for his son's wedding by meeting with his closest advisers to prepare the courts for a foreign bridegroom. How much influence would Loki be allowed to have? Would the child of a Frost Giant truly be allowed to rule in Asgard? Would Thor be allowed to take a mistress? Odin silenced these doubts and made his position on the matter quite clear. The Silvertongue of Jotunheim would be considered a foreign diplomat in the royal courts, because as bride to Thor, Loki would normally have no place there. To keep the peace between their two realms, Asgard must name a child of Thor and Loki as heir. If Thor produces a more suitable heir the matter would be revisited. Though in his omniscience, Odin believed that Loki and Thor would produce the greatest king Asgard would ever have.

Heimdall prepared for the royal wedding by watching the frantic whirl of motion taking place in both realms simultaneously. Through the bustle of people, both Aesir and Jotnar, he could feel a deep vibration thrumming through the world tree. Change was happening. A change that sent tremors and shakes through all of Yggdrasil. Was it a pleasant change, or sinister?

The Aesir that worked within the palace prepared for the royal wedding by roasting meat, collecting casks of honeyed mead, and setting out the linens for the great feast. The royal halls were cleaned from top to bottom. Music was written and rehearsed, flowers and tapestries decorated the wedding hall, the book of wedding vows was gathered from the library. The prince's helm and the coronet for the future princess were both polished to a gleaming shine. New rooms were prepared in a separate wing for the new couple to use. For better or for worse, Asgard was ready to welcome their new princess.

Loki prepared for his wedding by packing away all of his books and clothes, with preference given to the former. Robes and veils were wrapped around delicate tomes, furs coiled around magical objects. Every inch of his six chests was full to bursting with his possessions when he was finished. Seeing his nearly empty chambers filled him with dread. Why had he thought this would be a good idea? Loki could not stand the thought of leaving his home behind. What had once been a solid resolve was now a bundle of nerves tucked deep in his chest. In the silence of the night, Loki could not find the will to rest. The empty walls echoed around him, trapping him, surrounding him. He had to get out before he did something stupid.

Without a sound, Loki carefully stepped out of his rooms, gliding unseen down servant corridors and secret passages. Treading carefully around warriors and maids, holding his veil tight around his face, Loki held his breath until he was racing out into the hills and valleys beyond the palace walls. Sliding down the ice, swirling and spinning with intricate footwork, he could finally breathe again. Loki felt free for the first time in so long. Gracefully swooping through a deep curve in the ice, Loki could feel it the instant he was joined by his much larger brothers. As the three brothers reached the smooth, flat, and glittering plain behind the city, Loki stopped abruptly. How could he ever leave this place? His home?

For all the difficulties that his station had brought him, hiding behind curtains unseen and unheard, Loki never thought he would come to regret his position in life. He had wielded such political power, controlling treaties and influencing nations. And he had thrown it all away. For people who had never even seen his face. With eyes closed to the beauty of the plains around him, the quaking of the ice sheets tickled his feet. Without the casket, these glossy fields would vanish. The wind howled over the hills, carrying voices of children playing, singing, laughing. Without the treaty more Jotnar would die. The Beloved Treasure-Prince opened his eyes and watched his dear brothers turn back for him. Without the treaty they would surely die in the siege.

Loki turned his gaze to the stars, to the very fabric of the worlds. He would never again see the realms this way. The stars of Asgard would shine in patterns he did not recognize. Helblindi and Byleister came to rest beside their youngest sibling, turning their own eyes to the stars. They rested their strong arms around Loki's tiny shoulders. A deep sigh rattled through his chest as he sank into their cool embrace. This is why he could leave this place. He could leave to protect it. Only by leaving to wed an Asgardian could Loki protect all that he loved.

Though they did not wish it, for better or for worse, the royal family of Jotunheim was ready to send away their youngest prince to be wed.

Chapter Text

The next morning dawned to find Loki awake and pacing his chamber floors. The soothing frigid air pouring through the open windows was of no comfort to the departing prince. Echoes of the sound of the Bifrost opening had finally dissipated. Soldiers from Asgard were slowly making their way to the city gates. Well accustomed to suffering through long and tedious meetings with his sire, Loki knew how painful waiting could be. This waiting, however, was far more agonizing than any he had experienced before. He was entirely at the mercy of slow and clumsy Aesir feet on the icy Jotunheim roads. Several sharp taps at his doors provided Loki enough time to don and adjust his veil before his sire and dam entered his chambers.

Jeweled Sorcerer-King Farbauti entered with a tight smile. This was a trying time for the entire royal family, but none so much as Farbauti. Now his dam would be the only sorcerer in the palace. Surely the warriors would run amok without Loki keeping them on their toes with his pranks. To distract his dam, Loki twitched his veil minutely out of place, causing the elder sorcerer to fuss over the perfect placement of every drape and crease. Fierce Warrior-King Laufey gently closed the door behind him, glancing around the empty rooms. What had once been full of books and trinkets was now a stark and barren reminder of how empty their lives would become. For this, Loki had no distraction. There could be no healing until the source of the pain had been removed. Until he left.

“Now remember, Loki, the rules of Asgard are different from our own. Don't cause too much trouble.” Laufey smiled. Of course he knew exactly how likely that was! Loki smiled back at his sire, sharing the private humor at the situation.

“The restrictions placed upon a royal treasure will end when you are wed.” Farbauti added, “You may remove your veil when the contract is complete.” At this Loki nodded solemnly. He would finally be free of his cursed veil, a symbol of his strange birth. Finally able to stare at the night sky with no cover shielding his gaze. Able to sit among others in conversation and be seen, not simply heard.

A long deep sound rang through the palace, a signal from the city gates. The Asgardian delegation had arrived. It was time.

The walk from his rooms to the palace doors was a long and quiet one. Not a word was spoken. The gentle creaking of the ice was the only sound to be heard. No soldiers or servants lined the halls on this day. The halls were still as death with no life to fill them. In the entrance hall, Helblindi and Byleister stood by the heavy wooden entry doors, waiting to become part of Loki's escort to the city gate. Loki hugged his siblings as tightly as he was able. His small stature did not make him fragile. His status as treasure did not make him weak. The elder princes would always smile when Loki proved that his appearance was deceiving. Today their smiles were tinged with sadness. When Laufey and Farbauti embraced their son together a few tears were shed. No one in the royal family would ever admit to it. It just wasn't something a royal did. Loki took a moment to compose himself once more, taking a deep cleansing breath before he produced the Flame of Hope in the cup of his hands. With a gentle sigh, Loki nodded at Byleister to open the doors. He was ready to depart.

As the doors opened and Loki laid eyes on his well decorated ceremonial departure arch, he was humbled that so many would wish him well on his journey. As he passed through the frozen columns, five more arches came into view, each more elaborately decorated than the last. It appeared as though every living Jotun had left their mark to wish him well. Passing through each icy monument brought a new chill of fearful anticipation. Beyond the final arch, much to his surprise, Loki could see crowds of Jotnar gathering around the Aesir carts and horses. All those well-wishers leaving marks on his arches had now come to bid him farewell in person. Loki was proud of his people, a bittersweet emotion to be feeling as he leaves them forever.

Among the mass of blue bodies, Loki could see that the carts were already loaded with his 12 chests, full to bursting. Six chests bearing his dowry, six bearing his possessions. Six arches to pass through, the six sides of their city. Six sides of a snowflake, the sacred number six.

As promised, the Triumphant Allfather-King Odin himself was waiting at the city gate, sitting astride his warhorse in full regalia. The last cart in the procession was empty and waiting. At Odin's silent gesture, Loki moved to seat himself upon the waiting pile of cushions. His sire, dam, and brothers remained by the final arch, heads held high, as he left their protective circle. He kept his gaze turned forward, facing the horizon, facing the Bifrost. If he turned to watch the palace shrink into the distance, he would surely lose his composure. An Aesir attendant, assigned to escort him to the palace safely, and his own Jotnar witness, assigned to see the contract complete and to return with the casket, would walk behind the cart. The Brave Warrior-General Tyr, mounted on horseback, took up position behind the attendants, the rear guard of the procession. With a stuttering jerk the cart began to move, slowly, as the Jotnar shifted out of the way, forming a single row on either side of the roadway. Loki didn't know what they intended to do until, one by one, the Jotnar approached the cart and placed a gift upon him.

Furs of hare and fox, still warm from tanning through the dark hours of the day were draped about his shoulders. Children brought flowers, yellow sun-cups woven into chains or dewy storm-flowers and red thrum tied in small posy’s with brightly colored ribbons, to adorn his hair and hands. Baskets of the witching flower and five petal; wreaths of woven icicle-pine and forevergreen were lain at his feet. Necklaces, rings, chest plates and bracers – family heirlooms from dozens of different families piled higher and higher in his cart.

For all his efforts to prevent it, Loki found himself shedding bitter tears as they reached the Bifrost. They understood the sacrifice he was making. They understood and they were grateful.

As the cart came to a halt at the crest of the hill, a child approached – he was small, born a treasure himself – bearing a single flower. The sacredstar. Colored in the deepest black, petals radiating in rings of six from the snow white center. A rare beauty known for it's meaning most of all. To some it was a symbol of death and mourning. To the Jotnar it was a symbol of deepest devotion, given only to those held in the highest regard. Plucking the sacredstar from it's growing place for any lesser reason was a betrayal of all who live in Jotunheim. It was the greatest gift he had ever received.

With a heavy heart, Loki cast his final spell. He picked up the deep blue Flame of Hope and tied it tightly to his own soul. The flame bobbed and waved in the well of Loki's fingers, responding to the rhythm of his beating heart. Near the Bifrost site was a tall pedestal; with a small gesture of his fingertips, the flame gently floated across the breeze to rest at the top of the snowy column. No wind or weather would extinguish this flame so long as his heart remained beating. It was a permanent symbol of hope. So long as he lived, Jotunheim was safe. His eyes remained locked on that pedestal until, with a thunderous roar, the Bifrost opened, carrying the Silvertongue to Asgard.

Chapter Text

Roaring sound and flames of color surrounded, enveloped, transported Loki to his new home. As sudden as a blink, all sound and light ceased, for just a moment, before the cold, golden walls of the Asgardian transportation chambers appeared before his eyes. As they exited the round room, the rising sun shone brightly upon the golden spires of Asgard, setting the city ablaze in a wash of brilliant light. Gleaming towers and arching structures blurred slightly at the edges, their brightness magnified by the tears in his eyes. The metal architecture of Asgard; curves carved in bronze, silver, and gold, was a far cry from the peaks and corners of frozen cities. Asgard was even more beautiful than he had expected it to be. But it was not Jotunheim. The wind was warm and wet, an odd change from the cold, dry air of his homeland. The blazing star that lit their world was far brighter than Jotunheim's own. The differences were immeasurable, but Loki could not find it in himself to hate this beautiful new world.

Loki brushed away the last of his tears, the dampness spreading into the edges of his veil. Their damning evidence clung to the fabric, refusing to evaporate in the damp morning. So many new colors, sounds, and smells to experience. Not for the first time, Loki felt a thrill of excitement unfurl within him, invigorating him. Waiting with nervous anticipation was difficult for Loki. The treasure-prince had never been made to wait so long for something so important. Jotnar were decisive and swiftly carried out their plans when they were set in stone.

As they finally neared the city Loki watched as their caravan separated. His possessions and dowry passed into a tunnel that lead beneath the city while his cart was guided through the heart of Asgard. Whispers erupted from the gathered crowds as they stepping inside the city walls. Gossip flew around them as they passed and more than one wounded warrior glared at him eyes full of hatred and malice. This city of light suddenly seemed dimmer, fear casting shadows over any hopes he had held onto. He would need to tread carefully from now on, for the safety and continued peace among the realms. Any interference or influence he attempts to execute would need to be planned carefully. Upsetting the people of Asgard would only mean death and warfare.

Aesir appeared to be growing in number the longer they traveled through the city. Similarly, their route appeared to be taking far longer than necessary for their apparent destination. If they wished him to be a spectacle, a sign of Asgardian might over the Jotnar... then we would make himself a sight to be remembered. As the gathered Aesir watched, Loki lifted his palm to the sky, blue matching blue, and spoke a simple charm. A small whorl of light appeared in his hand as snow began to fall. Floating gently in the breeze, delicate crystalline flakes danced around the procession and the gathering crowds.

Silence reigned. Whispers and murmurs turned frantic, Aesir turning to leave. Then one single laugh, small and bright, ripped through the crowd. It echoed through the street, capturing the silence. Shattering it. Then, just as suddenly, many more children ran laughing into the streets behind the cart, chasing the swirling novelties. Joy was palpable in the air. If Loki had been surreptitiously observing the children behind him – so many young faces smiling in wonderment – and happened to spy the stoic Warrior-General Tyr brushing at the snow in his hair with a tiny grin, Loki would never speak of it. Jotunheim may be defeated but her people will never be broken, and, it seemed, the same held true for Asgard.

The caravan passed through a series of towering entryways that seemed to demarcate the grounds of the palace if the sudden absence of crowds was any indication. Allfather-King Odin led his soldiers off toward a large arena as Loki's cart continued on and came to a stop before a wide colonnade. One woman stood alone in entry, though there were only a handful of steps from the street to the passageway, she towered over those around her. Loki rose from his seat as gracefully as possible, stepping off of his cart and bowing to the Allmother-Queen. No other person in Asgard save the King himself could carry such influence in silence.

The beloved Allmother-Queen Frigga raised her head regally in acknowledgment. Her golden curls shone in the bright morning light, twirling and shifting color as she turned away. Harsh, staccato notes pierced the air as she left, filling the silence of the hall. Loki was momentarily stunned. What did she expect? Was he to follow? The maids on the steps appeared to be waiting for him. Carefully composing himself, he turned to his escorts, both Jotun and Aesir, and gestured to his furs and flowers, trinkets and jewels. “Would you be sure that my gifts are delivered to my rooms?”he asked.

“All of them?” The Asgardian escort asked, voice tinged in shock and disgust. The court scribe of Jotunheim, acting as witness to the wedding activities, glanced at the attendant.

“I will explain, Treasure-Prince. Continue with the preparations,” the lean man bowed. Loki smiled, nodding his head in thanks, and turned to gracefully alight the stairs. The Aesir women fell into step around him, guiding him down the colonnade. Near the end of the passage, the air grew warm. Almost uncomfortably so. The heavy scent of an unknown flower tinged the air. Silently, Loki allowed himself to be lead into a bathing chamber. Perhaps women were not allowed to speak at all on Asgard? Loki thought, baffled at the death-like hush that seemed to encompass this entire wing of the palace.

Wordlessly, the maids removed their outer dresses and entered the pool of water in the center of the room. After a panicked moment to recall the wedding preparations favored by the Aesir, Loki removed and folded his own clothing reverently before joining the women in the bath. Tense silence reigned as the ladies stared in shock as he descended into the blistering hot water.

After a moment, one young woman reached forward to remove his veil. As gently as he was able, Loki rebuffed the attempt. Shocked murmurs erupted for a moment before they were quieted by the eldest among them. With a stiff but polite smile, the eldest turned toward him. Loki knew that empty smiles were the masks worn by the contemptuous. “Your highness, please remove your veil so we may prepare you for your wedding.”

“I will not remove my veil.” Loki responded immediately.

“But it is a symbol of death!” one young girl cried. Whispers of agreement raced through the other maidens.

“In Jotunheim this veil is a symbol of purity and honor. Those who bear a veil are considered so beautiful and prized that a simple glance could send the strongest men to their knees. When I am wed, the veil may be lifted by my husband only.” Loki drew himself up to his full height. Though it was not more than the typical Asgardian, he was taller than all of the gathered women. Even fully nude, he demanded respect and was able to intimidate those around him. Several tense moments passed before the eldest turned to a dark corner of the room. Loki followed her gaze and found that Allmother-Queen Frigga had been sitting in silence, unseen in the dimly lit space. Calculating blue eyes judged him from the shadows. Loki wondered; what would she find in him?

Before any intervention could be made by the Queen, Loki shortened his veil to cover his face only. A compromise between two contrasting customs. Hung from his horns and tethered to his earrings, the veil draped down his neck and brushed against his collarbones.

Swallowing down his discomfort, the proud prince allowed the young girls to begin washing his rich blue skin with their rough cloths. The water was far too hot for his liking. Any larger Jotun would faint in this heat. In this instance, Loki's stature and status were beneficial. Heat, though terribly uncomfortable, was not a death sentence.

After the washing he was encircled by the women and led into the next room where a much cooler bath was waiting. A few younger girls sat at the side of the pool with many combs in different shapes and sizes. The maids surrounded him as he entered the new bath. They were close enough to impair his view of the steps. Accepting combs from the girls, the maids untied his hair and combed through it carefully. As they cleansed his hair in the chilled water, the ladies became more talkative. Without the Allmother-Queen in attendance, they appeared to feel more at ease to speak.

“Tell me Princess, are you looking forward to your wedding?” one young girl asked brightly, passing a comb to the nearest woman. The word princess grated harshly. His proper titles were clearly declared during the treaty negotiations. Loki was hard-pressed to accept her words as anything less than an outrageous insult.

Holding tight to the retaliatory magic that threatened to erupt, Loki coolly responded “I look forward to the peace that will fall upon our two peoples.”

“But are you not excited about being wed to the future King of Asgard?” the young girl pressed. Straight white teeth exposed by her wide grin. A few of the elder maidens exchanged glances, clearly better able to recognize his rising ire.

“I have never met my soon to be husband and therefore have no opinion on him. His rank is of no consequence so long as peace is assured.” While his words were perfectly crafted, Loki couldn't bring himself to believe them.

“Surely you have some opinion of him! He's famous among the nine realms!” The thoughtless young girl was finally silenced by the eldest handmaiden with orders to retrieve fresh towels.

“His reputation is not the kindest.” Loki admitted. Unkind is the most generous word for it. “All I know of him is in gossip and rumor. I would prefer to make my own judgment as to his character.” Loki could only hope that the rumors of violence and extreme prejudice were exaggerations. Warrior-Prince Thor had been sent away from the icy lands of Jotunheim in the midst of battle. Reported executions of captured Jotun had spread like wildfire. Wherever the Asgardian prince traveled, horrible bloody battles followed.

“Oh don't fear, your highness. Prince Thor is well known to be a generous lover. All the lucky ladies who've had him speak of his strength and intensity with fondness. You will be pleased,” another woman responded, with a smug, satisfied smile.

Loki could not fathom how that would ever be a comfort. Knowing that purity will mean nothing to his husband. His soon-to-be husband had apparently spread his seed as far and wide as the storm-flowers that canvassed the numerous rocky slopes of frozen mountains that ringed the capital city.

Chapter Text

Frigga had been surprised to see her son's bride decorated in such a strange fashion. Insulting flower wreaths of holly and heather, heinous jewelry made from antler and tooth. The beast had even been crying, her frost speckled veil gave it away. Such a weak creature. Though she knew the greatness her future daughter-in-law would bring to their realm she could not bring herself to care for the Jotun. It was contrary to her nature, but the wars had been hard on them all.

She was known as the Allmother. One who watches over all those under her care. With Odin away at war, she had become a ruling warrior queen. With her husband returned and peace assured, her rule had ended. The power and sense of responsibility still surged through her veins. Frigga settled into the darkest corner of the bathing room, waiting for the bride to arrive. Bride. How could Odin have thought that a wedding with the savage people of Jotunheim would be a way to cement the newly forged peace? For the good of Asgard, Frigga could not openly defy or disagree with the Allfather. But she had doubts.

Returning soldiers had told tales of blue-skinned, ice-wielding warriors whose very touch made skin wither and blacken. Now her son was to be subjected to the attentions of one of those creatures? Though Odin had made it plain that there is more to the Jotnar than can be seen on the surface, Frigga could not agree. Her beautiful Thor was to be wed with the runt child of the evil King Laufey.

Obviously, Odin was bewitched. He had even called the bride a “prince.” Though, with the flat chest and slim hips of a young girl, Frigga could easily see how Odin had made that mistaken statement. With the thought of enchantments and spells on her mind, Frigga watched as the veiled Jotun entered the room. She would be very careful to watch for any sign of the spell that had befallen her husband. If she brought direct attention to her doubts, the peace treaty would crumble. The best course of action is to wait, wait for evidence of trickery. Perhaps there will be a way to dissolve this marriage contract without damaging the entirety of the treaty.

As the creature disrobed and entered the bath, Frigga made note of the shocked faces of the handmaidens. Whatever had surprised them was not visible from her seat behind the Jotun. She was sorely tempted to insist on inspecting the beast to see for herself what had surprised her most trusted handmaidens. An outburst from the sunken pool caught her attention, interrupting her thoughts and musings. The veil symbolizes the beasts ‘purity?’ Laughable. What do those savages know of the purity expected for royal ladies. With a quelling glare to the young girl who had spoken out of turn, Frigga made eye contact with the would-be bride. Blood red eyes, shielded by thin veil, locked with hers for only a moment. In that one glance, Frigga could see nervousness, apprehension. A small pang of sympathy ran through her. She had felt much the same on her wedding day, having met Odin only once before they wed.

The attendant assigned to escort the bride to Asgard entered the bathing chambers just as the Jotun was ushered out of the pool, closely surrounded by Frigga’s handmaidens. The Allmother rose to follow but was stopped by the attendant’s call for an audience.

“Speak. What news do you have of your travels to Jotunheim?”

“All was well with my travels. I witnessed the wedding departure celebration of the Jotnar. Thousands of blue skinned warriors were present at the leaving. The path from the palace doors to the caravan was arched with wicked ice. Jagged points and curling frost covered every inch of the six arches. When the prince joined our caravan on Jotunheim, he bore with him only his dowry and personal possessions. As we travelled to the Bifrost gate, each Jotun stepped forward to give him a gift.“ The attendant paused, collecting her thoughts.

“What I saw, I did not understand. I have spoken with the Jotun representative and learned much of their culture and traditions in our conversation. The arches, when erected, are smooth as glass. Each spike and curl and frost mark was left by well-wishers. Most Jotun brides will have one or two arches. Prince Loki had six. Each one completely covered with different shapes and textures. Ice lined the path, riddled with marks from those who could find no place on the arches.

“When the prince had settled into his cart the Jotun surrounding the caravan parted so we could proceed to the Bifrost. As we travelled....” The attendant stuttered to a halt.

“What is it?” Frigga asked, intrigued

“They showered him with gifts, m'lady. Gave him furs and flowers and jewelry. The trinkets we find so hideous and insulting are actually treasured heirlooms. Every family on Jotunheim wanted to give their prince something of themselves. The Jotun representative explained that the flowers mean so much more to their people than ours do. The black flower we find offensive is a symbol of enormous respect. A rare bloom that is only plucked for those who have brought honor to Jotunheim,” the attendant finished.

Frigga was stunned.

Such terrible trinkets had been gifts from the common people. The Aesir would never react in such a way to a political marriage. If their situations were reversed, if they had lost Thor to Jotunheim, of course the people would mourn. They would mourn shortly before continuing their lives, assured that Baldr would take his place. They would not lavish him with gifts to take into his new home. They would not wish him well upon his journey.

Perhaps the Jotnar were not the beasts she had believed. “Where is the representative of Jotunheim now?”

“He begged pardon and remained the hall. The heat is too much for him.”

“It is too hot?” Frigga asked, surprised. The baths were the customary temperature for bridal preparations.

“Yes. I’ve been told that Jotunheim is quite cold. If they are accustomed and well suited to cold weather, the heat must be unbearable.” The attendant was being cautious with her words and posture. The Jotun representative must have made quite an impression upon her.

“The Jotnar have fought many battles on the edges of our lands, near the shores of the great desert. Surely the heat does not bother them as badly as they claim. Thor’s bride has made no complaint.”

“I imagine that they do what our own soldiers do, Allmother. Tolerate it for a short time. Do our warriors not return to Asgard to rest between battles on Jotunheim? Also… the prince will be entering your household and will be subject to your rule. Perhaps he was trying to be accommodating and adapt to our cultural expectations.”

What her attendant said did make sense. While at the same time, it made no sense at all. Why would the Jotun Princess-- “Why do you keep calling her a prince?”

“I asked the same question myself of the representative. Jotun are… intersex, ma’am,” the attendant visibly squirmed as she delivered the news. “They carry both sexes within them and may choose which pronouns they wish to use. Most Jotun choose words that loosely translate to male pronouns in our world. Their language is so far removed from our own that I am finding many times that the words of the representative are in the wrong order or sometimes make up a completely different, and incorrect, phrase. I believe our allspeak is not as all encompassing as we first imagined. I believe something is truly lost in the translation. However, the representative assures me that Prince Loki has made an extensive study of other languages and cultures. The prince will adapt well to the differences in our two cultures.”

With a dismissive nod, Frigga passed through the doorway into the second bathing room where the bride was to have her-- his hair washed and combed and prepared. The room was empty and voices were ringing through the next open door. Frigga moved slowly toward the dressing room, listening to the quiet voices of the handmaidens. She could finally see her future d-- son-in-law. The maids were attempting to wind a long sheet of crimson fabric around the prince’s waist, frustration clearly shown on their faces. Gently, Prince Loki took the fabric from their hands. Deftly winding it about his waist and pleating it, the skirt took on a beautiful shape. The red was tinged with a silver sheen that shimmered in the light of the midday sun streaming through the window.

The prince’s veil had returned to its original length, moving silently against the prince’s elbows when he shifted to allow a handmaiden to adjust his skirt. A long separated train had already been wound about his shoulders, two emblems embroidered into the ends. From this distance, Frigga could clearly see the distinctive crest of King Laufey on one of the trains, though the other remained hidden.

The flat chest Frigga had attributed to a young girl was now, quite clearly, the sculpted figure of a young man. Without a shirt it was plainly obvious that the prince was no bride. His state of partial undress would surely turn some heads and stir up some gossip. The Allmother would be sure to stamp out any of that nonsense. No reason to put her new son-in-law through the harsh words of mis-informed busybodies.

While the skirt, train and veil were all being pressed into place, one handmaiden lifted the carefully polished and prepared coronet onto Prince Loki’s head. It rested easily upon his veil. Though his skin and clothing was so very different than that of the Aesir, the Asgardian-made coronet looked exactly right sitting upon his deep black hair. Like that is where it was meant to be.

With a pensive face, Prince Loki raised one hand. A single touch left the coronet encased in ice. A few of the maids stepped back, whispering amongst themselves. Slowly the other maids backed away, leaving the groom standing alone in the middle of the room. The ice slowly became opaque, concealing the coronet.

When those blood red eyes meet hers, she smiled. She smiled the first smile of many more to come. Now, standing in the doorway of the bridal preparation room, Frigga could see why this young man would one day lead the nine realms into a glorious new era of prosperity. She would be proud to call him son.

Frigga sees Loki in his bridal clothing

Chapter Text

Odin walked the open halls of his palace, armor gleaming in the mid-day sun. Zephyrs swirled through the passageways, teasing the skin and warming the bones. After a chilled morning in the frozen lands of Jotunheim, the heat of the Asgardian sun was a welcome change. Bustling with gentle noises, palace attendants, event planners, and court representatives followed his every step. They all waited eagerly for his permission to speak. News of wedding preparations, requests for decisions, questions, answers and messages from various persons filled the air as the Allfather received the information. As the final attendant relayed his message and the last planner received his instructions, the members of Asgardian parliament gathered close, waiting with baited breath. With a sigh, Odin gave a small wave of his hand.

A cacophony of discordant voices erupted forth from the collected representatives. The Allfather merely paused to gaze impassively at the annoying mass behind him, effectively silencing them. With much more decorum, the gathered Aesir elders began to ask their numerous questions in a slightly more ordered fashion than before.

“Allfather” one court member began in a high wheezing voice. “Who is this horrid Jotun that Crown Prince Thor is to wed?”

“Mind you keep a civil tongue in your head” Odin growled in warning. “Prince Loki is the youngest born of the Kings Laufey and Farbauti, he is known by many as the Silvertongue of Jotunheim.”

“The Silvertongue?” a new voice inquired in disbelief. Echoes of surprise rang through the hall. “The Silvertongue is a woman!?” “The famed negotiator who has ended many minor wars in these last centuries? Impossible!” The disbelieving grumblings of various court members were silenced by the Allfather’s furious gaze. The foolish and hard headed were the last to understand change, the last to accept differences like an unconventional gender identity.

“The treaty has been decided. Thor will wed the Silvertongue and, when a child is born between them, peace will be restored. This matter is not open for discussion.” Silence reigned for a precious few moments until the gathered court members began shouting once again.

“A child of Asgard and Jotunheim?!” “Unheard of!” “Surely you cannot expect it to be heir!” “Could the pair even conceive?” A younger representative pushed forward from the back, interrupting the outraged outbursts with his own question, “Allfather, Allfather! Please tell us you put a limit on it! A limit on the time when a child must be conceived.”

“One year” Odin answered as he walked toward Prince Thor’s chambers. Sighs of relief surrounded the King’s answer. Laughter tinged the voice of a man with gray hair growing out of his ears, “Thank goodness. Thor may yet be rid of her and wed a woman worthy of his station.”

“YOU DARE suggest we return to WAR?” Odin roared, turning on the men around him. His anger cowed the representatives, causing several to step back hastily. Before another word could be spoken, Queen Frigga stepped into the nearest doorway. She spared the court half of a glance before pinning that piercing gaze upon her husband. Silence reigned in her presence.

“We are ready” she said, serenely. Turning toward the gathered old men, she inclined her head, looking down her nose at them. “I suggest you all find your seats…” The threat of her words was left unspoken. These men, too old to do battle, found it difficult to follow a woman’s rule in wartime. Frigga had made no friends in the courts during her time as ruler of Asgard.

As the various Asgardian court elders scurried away toward the throne room the Allfather turned to the blonde woman beside him. “Well, my wife,” Odin asked, placing his hand gently upon her waist. “What do you think of these events?”

“Truthfully?” Frigga asked with a sly smile.

“Of course,” Odin replied with a fond look, and a sweep of his hand through her artfully woven hair.

“I thought you had gone mad,” she replied with a hearty grin and a twinkle in her eye.

“You had?” Odin asked with no little amount of surprise.

“Yes,” Frigga’s smile dimmed. “But now I see what greatness can become of him. Of both of them, if they are united in a cause.” The mother of Asgard could see that strength and power beyond all else in the World Tree was theirs for the taking. If they only worked together to conquer it.

“Then let us hope that they become united.” Odin tucked his wife’s hand into his arm with a soft smile and led her gently down the hall toward their son’s rooms. As they approached, the large doors were suddenly flung wide open. Thor, hair dripping wet and armor hastily donned, stopped suddenly when he noticed his parents standing before him.

“Ah! Thor. Have you finished your preparations?” Frigga asked lightly, fixing her son with a quelling stare. A few attendants came running up behind the prince, carrying a cape and crown, bearing silver vambraces. The shortest boy stopped to stare at the king and queen, holding a pair of socks limply at his sides.

Thor stood silently, glaring sullenly at the floor, unwilling to meet his parent’s eyes. With a smile and a graceful wave of her hand, Frigga dismissed the young men around them. With a bow, each attendant turned to replace the clothing they carried before exiting the prince’s rooms. Odin escorted his queen to a chair in the sitting area, leaving Thor to trudge back into his chambers. As the doors shut behind the last of the attendants - the short boy’s eyes full of wonder at the sight of the royal family in full regalia - Frigga’s serene smile curled down into a disapproving frown.

“You had a late start to your preparations, didn’t you, Thor?” She asked, rising from her seat to approach her son. “Where were you? Galavanting about with the other warriors? Trying to escape your duties?” Frigga circled the blond warrior. Though his height was greater than hers, Thor was visibly cowed under his mother’s harsh gaze and fierce words. “Go and put your armor on, correctly this time, and return so that we may speak before the ceremony,” Frigga dismissed him.

Several minutes were spent in silence, the King and Queen sharing identical looks of disappointment and irritation, as the prince finished dressing. When Prince Thor finally returned, armor and crown perfectly in place, Frigga returned to the chair she had vacated, motioning her spouse and son to sit as well.

“Thor,” she began, “I know this isn’t what you dreamed of-”

“There’s a saying! A tradition!” Thor interrupted, shocking his mother and irritating his father in the process. “‘Luck comes sparingly to a bride that weds warily’ If the frost giant doesn't want to marry me, you won't make her, right?”

Odin answered, “The marriage was offered initially by your spouse-to-be, a highly respected court negotiator known throughout the nine realms.”

“Then the Jotnar aim to corrupt the parliament!” Thor retorted.

“The Silvertongue of Jotunheim will be very welcome in the court of Asgard.” Odin decreed as he positioned himself further back into his chair, opting for a stance more similar to one he would use in the throne room.

“But no woman has ever spoken in court before!” the blond argued.

“The Jotnar do not have the genders that we have.” Frigga interjected, “Your future husband prefers masculine pronouns, which means that you and all of Asgard will have to get used to that. Prince Loki is a foreign royal who will be treated with respect. The war is over. If we are to keep the peace then past prejudices against the Jotnar need to be set aside. We must lead by example.”

“You’re making me marry a filthy Jotun, a male Jotun at that. How could you expect me to lie with such a dirty beast?”

“That’s quite enough of that,” the Allmother rose to her feet swiftly, anger in her eyes. “Your groom has kept himself pure for this day. You will wed and bed Prince Loki and there will be no more discussion about it.”

“Who cares about purity!? I meant that he is a jotun!”

“I said that we must stop those prejudices, Thor. You most of all. And you should be proud that Prince Loki’s purity is a match to your own. The royals of Jotunheim hold our same belief that one should not lie with another until they are wed.”

Silence followed the queen’s words. The prince turned his head away, refusing to meet his mother’s eye. Guilt settled heavily over his bulky frame. Odin frowned in confusion when his wife glanced his way.

“Thor. Answer me, truthfully, have you bedded a woman?” Silence remained unbroken. “Answer me!” Frigga demanded. A short nod was the only response she received.

“I KNEW IT!” the Allmother-Queen Frigga roared. “I knew I should have kept you home instead of allowing you to play at war! You were only a boy when you went away and I find you here in front of me, a man, but not a prince. Those warriors became your guiding influence. I was a fool to think you would remember my teachings.” Frigga gestured wildly, pacing the room. “Those men are not expected to keep with the standards and traditions that befit the house of Odin Allfather. You were to keep yourself honorably so that any wife-- spouse you take would be proud of you as their husband.” Blond curls whirled as the queen turned on her son. “You have brought shame into this house, Thor Odinson!”

It was not shame, but anger, that flitted across the prince’s face. Before the prince could speak in his defense, Odin stood from his seat. “It is time. Go and fetch Mjollnir. It is tradition for the groom to carry his weapon into his wedding. You will leave it at the stair when you kneel in greeting.”

Thor grudgingly turned to collect the hammer Odin had long ago enchanted to curb his temper and prevent excessive violence against the Jotnar. As he entered the sitting room where his parents waited, a single malicious thought entered his mind. The thought of a tragic accident happening that very night.

Without warning, Mjollnir grew heavy in Thor's grasp. Shifting his grip on the handle, Thor found himself struggling, for the first time in his life to lift his mighty hammer. With a final deep pull from an unseen source, Mjollnir fell from his grip, landing with a dull thud onto the glossy wooden floor. Stunned, Thor immediately attempted to lift his hammer again. He pulled and pulled and pulled.

“RRRRGH! Move you blasted piece of metal!” No matter what Thor did, or how hard he tried, there was no way for his hand to lift the hammer.

Odin stepped forward and easily lifted the weapon, cradling the mallet and turning his head to listen. The Allfather’s eye widened slightly as he lifted his head away from the enchanted metal. “Thor, the hammer has spoken to me. I know of your plan.”

“I have no plan! It lies!”

“Your denial only confirms my fears,” Odin sighed.

“Thor how could you?” Frigga cried, appalled at the very thought. She knew of the only reason why Mjollnir would fall from Thor’s grasp.

“But I haven't done anything!” Thor cried.

“You would have,” the weary statement hung in the air. The king stared at his son in disappointment. The queen stared in horror at the man her son had become. In the distance, bells began to ring. Shaking her head in sorrow, Frigga left her son’s rooms to meet with Prince Loki once more before the wedding and to take her place in the throne room.

“It is time for you to be wed, Thor.” Odin Allfather turned to leave the room, pausing just once. “And be warned, the Jotun Prince Loki is now under my personal protection.”

Chapter Text

The entirety of the Asgardian royal court, hundreds of noble families, and a great number of foreign ambassadors from throughout the world tree were seated along the rising rows of benches lining the audience chamber. Ladies were dressed in the finest silks and purest gold. Lords stood proudly, carrying ceremonial swords at their sides. The war was over, but weapons remained only loosely peace-tied. The sunlight spilling through the high windows set the golden walls aglow, the armor of the royal guard gleamed brightly. Sheer banners of red silk lay draped through the beams and pillars, fluttering in the breeze.

As the wealthy and the noble rested in the luxury of the hall, the common folk of Asgard were scaling the highest peaks of nearby buildings, eager to get a glimpse of the ceremony. The war was finally over! It was a time to celebrate the glory of a victorious empire. Asgard stood strong and proud this day. And no man, woman or child could deny the excitement and curiosity surrounding the marriage of Prince Thor to the unknown offspring of Laufey the Fierce.

The whispers and murmurs of courtiers died out as musicians began the royal fanfare. King Odin Allfather stepped into the audience chamber and all those assembled rose to their feet. When Odin was seated in his throne and the guests were settled into their own seats, a second fanfare, of a completely different tune, filled the room. The Allmother Queen Frigga gracefully entered the lofty space, immediately commanding the undivided attention of every person present. She was escorted by a young boy, no more than a millenia in age. A small golden circlet rested in his bronze toned hair, marking him as the youngest child of the royal family, Prince Baldr. The pair bowed to the Allfather and moved to stand beside the throne.

As the musicians struck up the “grooms march” tune, the doors were thrown open violently, crashing against the walls with a mighty bang. In the sudden,i stunned silence, Crown Prince Thor stalked through the hall. Thunder cracked ominously in the distance. At the dais, Thor knelt heavily, his head bowed just enough to glare at the Allfathers’ feet. After a moment, Thor stood and stepped onto the throne platform, taking his place before the throne, just in front of his mother.

The silence of the hall was pierced with fierce whispers as a blue skinned Jotun entered the room. Without fanfare or any official announcement, the Jotun took up a position that mirrored the Queens’. As the traditional sounds of the “bridal entrance song” began, two attendants slowly opened the main doors.

Tension was palpable throughout the hall as the crowds held their collective breath. In the distance, the cheering and calling of common onlookers faded into silence. A single jeweled shoe passed the threshold of the audience chamber. The people watched, transfixed, as Treasure-Prince Loki began his long trek across the room.

The icy spires of his altered coronet gleamed in the late morning sun spilling forth from the windows. Jewels of every color sparkled in the golden jewelry draped around his frame. Thick fur of the purest white color encircled his waist, held tight in the iron talons of an eagle-shaped clasp. The shimmering fabric of his veil stirred lightly in the breeze as he moved. Trailing across the polished tiles, the traditional Jotnar dual-train proudly displayed the crests of both his family houses. His carefully measured steps brought him to the dais as the final chords in the music faded. In the silence that followed, Loki knelt before the Allfather.

A herald stepped forward, “Announcing the third prince of Jotunheim, sired of Fierce Warrior-King Laufey and born of Jeweled Sorcerer-King Farbauti, the Jotnar's Beloved Treasure-Prince Loki, the Silvertongue of Jotunheim.”

Finally announced, Loki rose from his kneel and lifted his head proudly. The excited murmurings of various nobles and courtiers echoed in the room as he stepped onto the throne platform and took his place across from Prince Thor. Through the veil, he locked eyes with the golden-haired prince and received a fierce glare for his trouble. Obviously, his soon-to-be husband was less than thrilled with the arrangement. No matter, this wedding was arranged to end a war. In time they would come to an understanding and hopefully create a genial relationship.

Allfather-King Odin rose from his seat, spreading his arms wide to bridge the gap between the two princes. “Today we are gathered to unite these two in a bond of marriage. As promised, the bride price will now be presented to the Jotun representative.” From the wings, an attendant approached the dais bearing a single scroll. The young boy knelt before the assembled royal party and presented the scroll. Loki took the parchment, unrolling it to read out the first line.

“By order of King Odin the Allfather, trade rights between Asgard and Jotunheim will be reinstated upon the completion of marriage between their two realms.” Carefully closing the scroll, Loki bowed his head to the Allfather. “The houses of Laufey and Farbauti, representing the realm of Jotunheim, accept this bride price.” Turning, he passed the scroll to the Jotun representative. Several chests were brought forward next, each opened in turn. The chests were filled with thick furs, rich fabrics and jewels that sparked with inner fire.“I present my dowry, may it be held in trust for the care of our future children.” At these words, the blond prince snorted derisively. Odin himself sent a sharp glance at the man.

Prince Thor stubbornly remained silent, glaring at the chests and refusing to announce the dowry fit for their house. To Loki’s great relief, the Allfather cleared his throat and quietly tapped the blunt end of his spear against the ground. Turning away from the chests, Thor nodded his head once, stiffly. When no words escaped his lips, the Allfather spoke for him. “The dowry is acceptable. On my honor it shall be held in trust for the care of your future children.”

With that slight change in scripted dialogue, Loki nodded his head gratefully. Harsh whispers began to rise from the crowd. Prince Baldr stepped away from his mother’s side, stumbling slightly as he carried a long sword toward his elder brother. Thor lifted the sword quickly and aggressively. Odin leaned forward minutely. After a moment of silence, Thor spoke, “I present the sword of my father’s father, Bor the Conqueror, may it be held in trust for our first born son.”

“On my honor it shall be held in trust for our first born son.” Loki replied, accepting the sword and placing it into the empty scabbard, tied to his waist, hidden slightly by his furs. The Jotun witness stepped forward and extended a sword to the Treasure-Prince, hilt first. Loki carefully lifted the thin blade, “I present the sword of my sire’s sire, Naal the Swift, to my future husband. May it bring blessings into our home.”

Thor took the sword from Loki’s hands, silently passing it to Odin without a word. The Allfather spoke next, raising his voice to be heard throughout the room.“May the spirits bless your union to be fruitful and joyous. May you never know unkindness and let any burdens you face be carried together.” Odin extended the sword of Naal the Swift toward his wife, the razor sharp edge stopping inches from her chest. Smiling fondly, Frigga glanced at her husband from the corner of her eye before placing two golden rings upon the flat of the blade. The Allfather turned to extend the sword between the two princes. “Take these rings and speak your binding vows.”

Loki was the first to reach forward and collect the smaller of the two rings, his fingers thinner than his soon-to-be spouses’. “With this sacred circle, I bind myself to you. In heart and hand and brow.” After a moment Odin cleared his throat once more. Thor took his ring and spoke his own vow with anger in his words, “With this sacred circle, I … bind… myself to you. In … heart and hand … and brow.” Concerned, Loki glanced toward his future father-in-law, hoping for guidance at this aggression.

Either Odin ignored his discomfort or failed to notice it as he spoke once more, “Take this sword. May it become the sword of your house and bring the happiness of both families, wield it together now as you would wield it against your opponents.” One hand clasping the blade, Allfather-King Odin presented the hilt to the couple..

Both princes grasped the hilt, lifting the sword and planting it, point down, between them. The large sword rested lightly, leaving no mark on the fabric beneath their feet. Loki placed his left hand upon the cross-guard, waiting for Thor to place his own hands upon the sword so they could complete the infinite and equal loop of their bodies. With thick hands, rough and battle-scarred, Thor placed his hands upon the cross-guard. They held each other, their left hand held in place by a right, so they may hold each other in check when they might act foolishly.

It was time to speak their pledges of honor upon the sword of their house. “By the honor of the world tree, Yggdrasil, I pledge myself to you, and only you,” Loki stated clearly. The roots of Yggdrasil are thick and strong, a good base for any marriage. Upon the branches of the world tree, all are equal. The world tree cares not for the petty grievances of the citizens of each realm. By honoring the world tree in marriage vows, the spouses agree to stand on equal footing. Thor echoed his response. “By the honor of the world tree, Yggdrasil, I pledge myself … to … you,” his voice trailed off quietly before it was completed.

With this vow, Odin looked perturbed. The king of Asgard stood from his throne, speaking,“As Allfather and ruler of all of Asgard, I accept these vows and pronounce you wed. Please seal your bond with a kiss.”

Blue skin stretched around a small smile of excitement. The treasure-princes’ jeweled hands fell to the edge of his veil, preparing to lift it when Thor suddenly crushed his lips against Loki’s. Their first kiss was brutal and short, the veil was rough against his mouth. Furious blue eyes glared through the fabric between them. “Don’t you dare show your face here, you beast,” Thor growled. “Keep that veil on so no one has to see how ugly you savages really are.”

Thor stepped away from their marriage sword, turning to face the crowd. Stunned and bruised, Loki did the same. As the crowds cheered, the ice encasing his coronet blew apart, shredded into millions of pure white flakes. As they fell to the ground before the dais, the snow landed in the pattern of a hammer held aloft. The mark of the newly-made house of Thor.

Chapter Text

Alone in a private sitting room adjacent to the throne room, Loki and Thor waited for the crowds of guests to exit the main hall. The numerous nobles would then proceed to one of the many feasting halls prepared for the wedding celebration. When it was time, an attendant would come to guide the newlyweds to the royal dining hall. Then, after the feast, well.

Loki cleared his throat gently. Thor growled in response. The silence continued to stretch between them. Something had to be done, they needed to speak to one another if they were to be together. Straightening his spine, lifting his head high, the Jotun prince once more grasped the edges of his veil. Thor crossed the space between them in two long strides. Striking the cold blue fingers away from the fine fabric. Piercing red eyes slanted into a glare at the aggression.

"I had hoped,” Loki spoke as clearly and as neutrally as possible, despite the anger building in his heart. “Now that we are married, that we could get to know one another." The blond brute shoved a finger into the veil, missing skin but coming too close for comfort.

"Let me be perfectly clear. I don't like you. I don't want to know you. After I stick a kid in you I don't want to set eyes on you again." That thick knuckled finger jabbed at fabric covered abdomen, leaving no doubt as to the prince’s meaning. Their remaining moments together were spent in tense silence. Thor, brimming with anger. Loki, wrapped up in rage.

A young girl was the one to fetch them. As she led them to the dining hall, Loki allowed his ire to dissipate. If his husband was going to be grim, that shouldn’t affect his own disposition. Usually, Loki was a charming person. He was persuasive and understood how people would think or act. Thor would come around, he was sure of it. The young attendant left them at an immense set of golden double doors. Two guards stood poised to open them, they were looking at Prince Thor expectantly.

Ah, yes, it was time to carry the "bride" over the threshold. It was an intriguing custom that Loki had actually been interested in participating in, even if he was not a true bride. Without a word, the doors opened and Thor marched swiftly inside. He didn't spare Loki a single glance. The Jotun hesitated a moment before stepping into the room unaided. Loki could feel the edge of the sill beneath his slippered foot. For a split second, he is honestly afraid that he would trip against the threshold, cursing their household with bad luck.

A heartbeat, an inhale of breath setting fire to his lungs. The heat in this place was nearly unbearable. Kashok the scribe would likely be miserable. With excessive care, Loki entered the feasting hall. It was a silly old custom anyway. He was fine, obviously. There was no need for his husband to carry him anywhere, but then why was disappointment building in his chest?

Thor now stood in the center of the room, drawing the sword of Naal the Swift and inspiring the cheers of onlookers. Violent blue eyes pinned Loki in place before he hurled the sword, quick and strong.

It struck. It struck hard and true into the pillar holding up the roof. So hard, that it went all the way through. Loki knew the tradition of stabbing the core of the pillar was meant to represent the husbands’ virility. To have that ‘virility’ break apart the core entirely was darkly ominous. He wasn’t suspicious by nature but the Jotun prince was thoroughly unnerved as the assembled guests cheered and roared.

Throughout the dinner, dancing, wrestling matches, and contests of insults, Loki watched with a sense of amused astonishment. These people were every bit as strange as his books had told. The Silvertongue itched to participate in the festivities. The insult contests alone would be something like a child’s game to him. After their entrance, Thor had shoved his new spouse into a seat at the head of the room. With a vicious warning, the Asgardian prince had gone off to join the celebration while Loki sat alone.

Not quite so alone. Frigga had joined him shortly after the food was placed on the tables. Food, so much of it that Loki couldn't believe it, kept coming out of the kitchen. Each platter filled with ever more delicious smelling meals. With a slight rumbling sound, Loki’s stomach expressed its presence. Thankfully, only his new mother-in-law was close enough to hear and she seemed engrossed in the latest wrestling match. A slim red-blond Asgardian was struggling against a dark haired man from Vanaheim. Their grunts of effort sounded more like laughter and the cheers around them were more light-hearted than during previous matches between others.

With the match completed, the Allmother turned to face him, a neutral yet pleasant smile gracing her features. “Do you plan to partake in any of the contests? Maybe a dance?”

“I do not think my new husband would enjoy my participation.” Loki grimaced, it was foolish of him to say such things to his husband’s mother.

“Perhaps a meal first,” the woman demurred. The treasure-prince balked, “It is…” He caught himself before he could say any more.

“What is it?” Allmother-Queen Frigga asked, her mesmerizing blue eyes full of encouragement. Compelling him to answer.

“It is customary in weddings among the Jotnar that spouses feed one another. To show they will provide for each other.” Loki answered, unable to keep from ducking his gaze away from her eyes. Though she could not see his face clearly, the queen refused to turn her gaze. She sat in silence, watching his every move. It was simultaneously perfectly easy to remain still as his years of court training dictated and horribly difficult to resist squirming in his seat.

Finally the silence was broken. “How does the tradition feel about mother-in-laws?”

For once, the Silvertongue was rendered speechless. This was a kindness he had not expected after his cold reception this morning.“That would be… acceptable. Thank you Allmother.” Loki bowed his head in deference to her.

“Please, call me Frigga” her smile warming with her words.

“Then I insist you call me Loki” his lips curling into a smile of his own. The Allmother reached across the short gap between them to touch his hand gently. She rose regally and proceeded to fill a dish to bursting with different foods. Meats and cheeses, fruits and vegetables prepared in numerous ways were collected onto the silvered plate.

After filling Loki’s plate, she filled her own with a more reasonable amount of food before returning to her seat beside the Jotun prince. They ate in companionable silence, observing numerous dance reels and contests both of mind and muscle.

Clearing her throat lightly and dabbing at her mouth with a golden napkin, Frigga broke the silence between them.“Your proper title is Beloved Treasure-Prince Loki, correct?”

“Yes, that is my title, position and rank.” Loki saw the question behind her question. “I know you do not have the same naming style that we use. I shall explain. Titles are earned at majority and might be changed after significant life events. Position refers to the shape of ones’ birth. The smallest are Treasures. The largest are Warriors. Those who carry the gift of magic are Sorcerers. It is similar to your male and female genders, though the difference does not center on the sexual organs. Rank is changed through military service, careers, marriage or experience. For example, my dam is the Jeweled Sorcerer-King Farbauti; my sire, the Fierce Warrior-King Laufey. The representative that stood witness at my wedding is known as the Exalted Warrior-Master-Scribe Kashok.”

“What about the common folk?”

“Those rules apply to all Jotnar. Warrior simply means that they have little magic and are generally stronger. Sorcerer means that they have a lot of magic and, while physically weaker, they are strong in mind. Treasures often have the highest concentration of magic. They are very small compared to the average Jotun and may be weakened by the cold instead of strengthened by it. Regardless of your position, you could have any job. I know your magic users very rarely fight and your warriors rarely know how to heal. If a sorcerer wishes to be a soldier, they may. If a warrior wishes to be a healer, they may. No matter what job you wish to do, you may do it. Your position has no influence on which jobs you may perform.”

“And the titles? I understand yours and those of your family but why is your… dam called jeweled?” Allmother-Queen Frigga stumbled lightly over the word dam. It was understandable. Vocabulary is an important part of language. It would take time to reassign the word ‘mother’ with dam when referring to his family.

“On Jotunheim, jewels are carved out of rock by strong sorcerers. Farbauti is jeweled because of his strength. He is the most powerful sorcerer among all the Jotnar.”

“And yet you say that treasures are stronger?” Frigga asked in curiosity.

“This is true.” Loki nodded his head in confirmation.

“You claim to be stronger than your own dam, who is much older and more experienced?” An elegantly sculpted eyebrow arched high above blue eyes.

“I know it,” Loki smirked lifting his head proudly, straightening his back. If his skill at political machinations was impressive, it paled in comparison to his gift of magic. Not only could he build spells and destroy them but he could manipulate the spells of others to suit his needs. His dam had trained him well. And when his skills advanced beyond the strength of Farbauti, they turned to creation of new spells that had not existed before. Frigga smirked back, seeming intrigued. Perhaps he would have the chance to duel with her in the future.

As the conversation faded comfortably, Loki’s eyes fell upon his husband from across the crowded room. With a flagon of mead at his lips, the blond prince remained unaware or unconcerned of the power present in the man he had married.

Chapter Text

After the meal was mostly finished, the dances slowing in tempo and the wrestling matches coming to an end, a group of men began to gather near the entrance of the feasting hall. Among them were several high ranking military officials, Brave Warrior-General Tyr and the scribe who had been present at the negotiation were easily recognizable, and numerous old men who appeared to be part of the royal court judging from their chosen style of dress.

When the gathered men numbered eleven, the Allmother-Queen Frigga signaled a pair of women to approach. “These are my most efficient and skilled handmaidens. They will guide you to the newlywed suite and help you to prepare,” Frigga smiled warmly, squeezing Loki’s hand one last time. With nerves coiling in the pit of his stomach, the Treasure-Prince of Jotunheim rose from his seat and turned to leave the feasting hall.

As Loki and the Queen’s attendants passed, the men gathered around the entrance followed. Of course, the consummation required witnesses. Silly of him to forget. These men, most of whom he had never met, were going to see him completely bare in every sense. He would open himself to his new husband, body, mind, and soul, in front of all these strangers. Loki tore away from those thoughts. Now was a time to prepare, to strengthen his resolve, not to mourn the end of his privacy.

The suite of rooms set aside for the newlywed princes was separated from the palace proper by a pair of wooden doors, thick and tall, with rich engravings and gilded details. They opened onto a spacious sitting room meant for receiving guests. Through one of the three smaller doors in the sitting room was a short passageway, lined with archways into several more rooms. At the very end of the hall, with doors standing open wide, the bedroom was bathed in soft light from the wall sconces.

Closing the bedroom doors behind them, the handmaidens turned to assist the newlywed prince in undressing. Loki passed his jewelry to one attendant, while the other gathered his clothing. When he was finally free of all coverings, save his veil, the Treasure-Prince stepped up to the bed. With a careful eye, he lowered his body onto the large four pillar bed. At the first weight of pressure, Loki sank into the thick mattress, inspiring a deep sigh of pleasure. The bed was like the rest of Asgard. Warm and soft and more pleasant to behold than he could have ever imagined, garrish new husband aside. He had never before encountered such luxurious materials. All the furs of Jotunheim could not compare with the velveteen fabrics he was resting upon now.

Once his jewelry was safely stored and his clothing bundled off to the washing rooms, the two attendants opened the doors for the gathered crowd. Loki knelt in the center of the bed, the veil lengthening to cover him completely as the witnesses took their seats in the dim room. The torch light was just bright enough that there would be no question of their consummation and yet they could retain some of their modesty. Kashok the scribe had joined the men while the treasure-prince had been preparing, bringing the gathered witnesses to twelve. Twice the number necessary for such a marriage. Odin was taking no chances with this union.

Silence stretched across the room, tense and still. As sudden as an explosion, loud raucous laughter spilled forth from the sitting room at the entry to the suite. His groom had arrived. Prince Thor was escorted to the door of his new bedroom by three inebriated young men that smiled and winked to one another as they parted ways with the prince.

With only slightly uneven steps, the Thunderer walked to the bed, tripping slightly over the rug as he approached. Sneering at the blue skinned Jotun, Thor reached out and plucked the crown off of Loki’s head. The coronet was lowered onto a nearby table with exaggerated care. Loki tentatively shortened his veil, preparing to lift it. He was cautious, given his new husband’s previous reaction.

 

The blond prince stripped bare in full view of the gathered witnesses. Unabashedly nude, Thor climbed onto the bed and Loki tried for a third time to lift his veil. Suddenly, the Asgardian was on top of him, knocking him back, down onto the rich fabrics. Heavy hands landed on the bed, only a finger length from his ears, one on either side. The veil was pressed tight against his face. Never before had he felt trapped in his veil, but now he would never forget it.

A drop of hot red blood splattered against the fabric. In response to being shoved down, Loki had latched onto the shoulders above him, digging his sharp nails into the thick flesh. The gouges were bleeding slowly but no more than an ordinary scratch.

As he was distracted by the bright crimson color, Thor gave a sudden, severe thrust and he was penetrated. Unceremoniously and without any warning. All Loki could feel was shock. Shock from the pain. Shock from the callousness. The violence of it. This was not what he had expected at all.

It hurt.

His sire and dam had always assured him that sex would be quite enjoyable. The handmaidens all spoke of Thor as a gentle lover. This was an attack. An attack on his person. Revenge, perhaps, for the wedding he had a hand in arranging.

It was all over so fast. He felt the larger man finish inside him, hot and uncomfortable. This night had been unsatisfying in more ways than he could count. He had taken no pleasure in their coupling and had not reached his own climax. A small reaction had been awakened in the process, but it was little more than a result of the stimulation and not any real arousal. With a grunt, Thor rolled off the bed, pulled on his trousers and left the room. Loki lay still, unwilling to watch his husband walk away from their marital bed. Apparently, he was no more than an obligation. A duty for the hot-headed crown prince of Asgard to complete. The witnesses quietly rose from their seats and left the room without comment.

Loki brushed away the wetness that had spilled from his eyes, a reaction to the sharp pain centered between his legs. A curl of his fingers and his magic healed the tears he could feel inside him and dismissed his unfortunate erection. He could sense that one witness had not left. Kashok was looming, tall and dark, in the corner. Even seated on the floor his height reached more than halfway up the wall.

 

“Is there anything I can do for you my Prince,” he asked in a deep comforting voice.

“Tell no one,” the numb response lacked emotion.

“But-” Kashok was stunned, enough to question royalty.

“Tell. No. One.” Loki commanded, lying still in the bed. “New and continued peace among the realms is paramount. My enjoyment of my marriage is of no consequence.” He stubbornly refused to tear his eyes away from the ceiling above him. Despite his dismissive words, the beloved prince could not bear to meet another’s eyes.

The scribe grumbled“... as you wish, your highness. I will not tell our people how your brutish husband has harmed you.” Anger tainted those words and Loki smiled, finally turning to face his kinsman. It was good to be loved by his people. He may never achieve cordial relations with his husband or the people of this realm, but his memory would always live on with the Jotnar. The tall Jotun had remained on the far side of the room, and the veil still lay between them, but the Treasure-Prince grinned widely enough for it to be heard in his voice.

“Please send my fondest greetings to my Sire and Dam. Tell my brothers to sweep the games in the Rising Celebration. Remind the Jotnar how fierce the house of Laufey has become.”

With a sigh, Kashok nodded his large head in acceptance. He rose and immediately it seemed as though he took up the entire room with long blue limbs. At the door, he turned slightly. “Sleep well and sleep soundly, may the wind blow gently this night.” A traditional Jotun evening farewell.

Though the rooms were designed for the height of an Asgardian, the main hallways and royal gathering rooms were tall enough to accommodate even the tallest Jotun. A reminder of days when their two peoples had been allies. Kashok had been only a boy then, before he had begun his training for writing and languages. Traversing the passages of the royal palace, the Warrior-Scribe wondered if the Treasure-Prince knew that his own dam had once been friends with his new mother-in-law. The war had been raging for nearly a century before the prince had been born.

Guards snapped to attention when Kashok approached the king’s receiving room. As politely as he could, the giant man requested an audience with the king. A small boy, a page, had to be shaken out of his awkward stare before he could be sent off with the request. It was several long moments before the doors opened to allow him entrance. Wearing simpler clothing than the ceremonial uniform he had worn during the wedding, the king rested easily upon a small throne.

“Allfather-King Odin, I would have a word.” The Exalted Warrior-Master-Scribe Kashok called out on his approach, drawing upon years of court experience to appear as powerful as possible.

“Speak.”

“As ambassador to Jotunheim I am authorized to speak on behalf of the royal family.”

“Proceed,” the king responded, appearing far more interested than he had moments ago.

“You would do well to advise your son to be gentle with his spouse. Asgardian sexual customs are far more aggressive than we had thought. Treasure-Prince Loki will not suffer at his hands quietly. His silver tongue is sharp and his power is immense.”

“The price asked you to speak in his behalf.”

“Quite the contrary. He asked that I tell no one. But he is our beloved treasure. No living jotun would stand by when he is suffering.”

Odin paused. “He means that much to you?”

“Did you not notice how reluctant Jeweled Sorcerer-King Farbauti was to offer his hand?” Kashok asked, exasperated. “Prince Loki' s place is in the courts of Jotunheim. At his birth we had prayed he would one day wed a strong upstanding member of another realms court. To be bartered in a peace contact is not what we had ever wanted. Our treasure loves his people and all of the realms far more than himself.

“He fought too hard the political battles many could never comprehend just for a chance to bring peace to the world tree. He will never jeopardize the peace he has so recently bought with his freedom. But he will fight back and make your son regret ever laying a hand upon him in violence.” His closing words were spoken like a vow, ensuring that the king understood the weight of the situation.

“I understand. I will speak with my son.”

Chapter Text

Loki woke from a restless sleep when the bedroom door opened on near silent hinges. Four ladies entered the room quietly and bowed when the prince sat up from the bed. The veil brushed against his cheek as he shifted upright. He was tempted to lift it. He even reached up to do so. But he stopped. Being free of his veil wasn’t worth angering his new husband. Though Loki knew he was terribly stubborn at times, he also knew that sometimes inaction was the best course of action.

The Treasure-Prince rose from the bed as the handmaidens opened his six trunks, searching for his clothing. Two chests held books, two more were full of artifacts and trinkets. In the fifth trunk, the servant girls found a collection of clothing, furs, robes and shoes. A large basket rested upon the last chest, full to bursting with his parting gifts. The flowers had all been arranged into numerous vases upon a nearby bureau. Loki carefully moved the basket out of the way. The handmaidens held up a long flowing garment in shades of green. The hem ended in long strips of fabric trailing to the floor. It was far too small for him. Amused, Loki shook his head gently but remained silent, unwilling to break the tentative peace of the morning. He opened the final trunk to search for his favorite waist cloth to wear to the Morning-Gift ceremony. He heard a drawer open and close. When he turned toward the noise he spotted a pair of golden shears in the girl’s hand.

“Stop! What are you doing?” Loki rushed across the room.

“Making it larger to fit you.”

“That is for the child. It’s a welcoming dress. It’s exactly the size it should be,” the prince responded indignantly. He paused a moment. “Well… I admit, sewing isn’t my strong suit and it might be a little big but… My clothes are here, in this trunk.” Loki returned to the last trunk, showing the gathered girls the numerous beautiful cloths. “I would like to wear this white one today. Please find the gold shoulder cloth with matching embroidery.”

While one girl searched for the matching cloth, Loki showed the remaining three how to wind the skirt around his waist and pleat it. “Do all Jotun dress as you do?” one young lady finally gathered the courage to ask.

Loki smiled softly. “Yes. Though this long skirt style is more reserved for special occasions and courtiers. Most Jotnar wear a shorter skirt so they may be free to hunt, gather and run as necessary.” The golden cloth was passed over as he finished tucking his skirt. “The shoulder cloth is special, used only by the Treasures. Though they are often much shorter than mine. Being in the ruling family, and thus, an important figure, my train needed to be longer.” A light of understanding rose in the eyes of these girls. Progress was being made today. The thought rekindled hope in Loki’s chest, nearly extinguished by last night’s brutality.

“The folds are so precise. It seems so complicated,” One girl commented quietly.

“Your clothing is far more complicated!” He chuckled. “All those snaps and buttons and buckles and ties. It’s a wonder you can ever get out of your clothes, let alone trying to undress in a hurry.”

“Clothes aren’t meant to come off easily…” The handmaidens traded uneasy glances.

“No? Have you ever fallen into a frozen lake? Or climbed among sticky brambles to fetch the finest winterberries? Or hunted a frost beast in the dead of winter?” Loki positioned his shoulder cloth across his back before slipping it over his shoulders as he spoke. Wishing for a mirror to check that everything was centered. “Having clothing that easily can be removed is of great use to the Jotnar. Warm clothes after a dip into freezing water to collect fishing nets… Yes, the cold doesn’t bother us much, but freezing water is still uncomfortable. We’re not invulnerable.

“Getting stuck in a bramble patch may not be painful, but it certainly is embarrassing to be fetched out by another climber. The height of winter brings fierce ice storms that freezes fur and fabric in seconds. If you get caught in a storm while fighting a beast and your clothing becomes frozen to its fur… You likely won’t live to see another day. No, it is best that the Jotnar have clothing that can keep up with them.”

“But you would be nude! Among other people!” came a scandalized reply. Loki took a moment to locate his jewelry chest, a small box he had tucked inside one of his robes.

“I don’t understand your taboos on nudity. Though we do keep ourselves covered it is mostly to keep the icy breezes away from more sensitive body parts. We have no stigmas about being without clothing. It might in part be due to the fact that we have only one gender.” He paused as the lacquered red box finally emerged from the blue robe it had been hiding in.

“In any case, I have no intention of wandering the palace without my clothing.” Loki selected a few of his favorite bracelets and slipped them onto his wrists. The horn chain he prefered came to rest easily against the veil. He knew from long practice that his jewelry was perfectly positioned. The coronet he had been given for the wedding was another story. He couldn’t quite tell if it was on straight or if it was tilted in his hair.

The Jotun prince, though much shorter than his kinsmen, was quite a bit taller than the handmaidens around him. The tallest among them only came to his shoulder. He couldn’t exactly ask one of them to straighten it since he would have to stoop for them to reach and it may become unbalanced again as he rose. Finally, after he worried at the position for several moments, one of the girls suggested using the mirror in the next room.

It appeared to be a dressing closet. A tall mirror stood on one wall, surrounded by racks and shelves where his own clothing would soon rest. The golden crown was nearly perfect, just a small tweak to the left. Now more confident in the feel of the coronet in his long black hair, sure that he could replace it when it slips, the Treasure-Prince Loki was finally ready for the Morning-Gift ceremony.

The throne room had changed dramatically overnight. Celebratory banners that had graced the walls and timbers yesterday were gone, leaving the golden walls unadorned. Triumphant Allfather-King Odin and Beloved Allmother-Queen Frigga stood on the dais with Exalted Warrior-Master Scribe Kashok, speaking quietly. Prince Thor stood behind them, staring at the floor and looking, if possible, even angrier than yesterday.

Eleven other men, the witnesses from last night, were arranged against the wall, waiting for the morning gift ceremony to signify the completion of this marriage. In the light of day, Loki noticed that a few of them were important foreign dignitaries that he knew personally, through dealings with the other realms.

Before the befuddled Treasure-Prince could decide how he felt about friends witnessing his humiliation, Odin beckoned him closer. On the dais, the newlyweds faced one another. The Silvertongue and the Thunderer. The morning-gift is most often a gift that would be of use during the marriage. In some cases, it is more personal, for those who have known one another a long time. It is often a surprise. But Loki knew what his morning-gift would be. He knew that it was more than useful. It was life itself for the Jotnar.

“On the dawn of our first day, I present a gift to you.” He spoke clear enough to be heard by the witnesses but not so loud as to echo in the enormous empty chamber. Some murmuring followed his words and Frigga cleared her throat delicately.

“Only the groom needs to give a morning-gift, dear.” Loki paused, he hadn’t read about this difference in their wedding practices.

“On Jotunheim we stand as equals. I would like to give my own morning-gift. If that will be allowed.” After a moment of thought, Odin nodded. Loki took the Dvergar sword from Kashok and presented it to his new husband. It was a fine sword, sharp and light, decorated along the blade with swirls and whorls that mimicked the path of frost on glass. The pommel held a large clear diamond Loki had collected himself. Thundering Warrior-Prince Thor inspected the sword, testing the edge with his thumb. Sharp as a razor's edge, it slid along his skin as smooth as silk.

With a nod, Thor slid the sword into its scabbard. The jeweled case as a sight to behold on its own. A line of gems ran along the side, a rainbow of color in the plain white lacquered surface. Finally, the Casket of Ancient Winters was brought forward by two guards.

“On the dawn of our first day, I present a gift to you.” For once, Thor’s words did not sound stilted. Did not sound as if they were horrifically painful to speak. The gift was passed from husband to husband. Loki had never before been allowed to hold the casket. It’s power sang, as strong and clear as any melody he had heard before. The Beloved Treasure-Prince, awed at the power resting in his hands, nodded in acceptance. With pride and hope and elation rising in his chest, Loki passed the casket to his fellow Jotun.

Soon the casket would be back in Jotunheim. The realm would recover. All the pain and humiliation he had faced so far, all the fear he held for the future. It was worth it to know his home was safe. Kashok bid his farewells and departed for the Bifrost, escorted by a few guards to ease his path through the city.

The assembled witnesses separated and left the room, leaving the royal family alone. Tense silence fell between them. The tension held as they broke their fast together. It remained as the King and Queen discussed the duties the newlyweds were to take on. After they had separated for the day, all that lay unspoken between them became that much heavier.

Loki wandered the palace, familiarizing himself with the corridors and passages. He found himself in a garden, full of riotous color, flowers brighter than any on Jotunheim. One patch in particular caught his eye. Blooming in the shade were numerous plants of the same type in various colors. The stems held a succession of flowers, each smaller than the last. Pink ones, white ones, red ones and even yellow. It was here, beneath a mighty oak tree, that Frigga found him.

“I didn't expect you to visit the garden. I worry it is too hot.”

“I'm alright in this shade, the heat does not bother me much.” Loki looked up at her from his seat among the flowers. “I find your garden fascinating.”

“You don't have gardens on Jotunheim?” The queen asked, taking a seat beside him.

“No, what blooms we have grow wild. Some are well hidden and it takes a well trained eye to find them.”

Frigga hummed in response and they lapsed into silence for a time. “Could you show me your sorcery?” Frigga finally asked, suddenly eager.

Loki could not help but to laugh at her blunt request. With a wave of his hand he conjured a small whirlwind of snow, changing it into a fiery inferno, then a hard ball of earth. When the ball fell to the ground, it splattered into water which seeped harmlessly into the dirt.

“Impressive. Is there anything else you can do?” Though her voice was steady, her expression mirrored her words. She truly was impressed. It filled the prince with no small amount of pride.

“Weave a spell for me,” he asked. Now to show his finest skill. As the Allmother began to weave a fair weather spell into the walls around them, Loki watched it take hold over the area. He imagined it was a common enough spell to cast over a garden. After she had finished, Loki rose from his seat.

It was different than weaving in his dam’s magic. Each magic user had their own unique signature which could be used to identify their spells. The Silvertongue was also known as the Trickster. He could change a spell without changing the magical signature. If he had ever been so inclined, he could have easily framed another magic user for all manner of misdeeds.

The fair weather spell warped and changed, creating a net that could trap any creature that attempted to pass through it. To any other magic user, it would appear as if the queen had placed it there herself.

“I’ve not met many who can weave another’s magic as you do. Your magic is powerful indeed.” Frigga’s smile was small but fond. Loki responded in kind. Perhaps living on Asgard wouldn’t be so terrible after all.

Chapter Text

Two uneventful weeks passed. While his days were spent pleasantly - memorizing the layout of the palace, teasing out the best hiding spots and fastest passages, and learning the names and faces of every member of the royal household from the lowest pages and servants to the king’s personal guard and the members of the court - his nights were spent suffering the pain of his husband’s brutal “affections.”

His handmaidens assisted him every morning and tidied the rooms every afternoon. Allmother-Queen Frigga and Allfather-King Odin welcomed him to break fast with them and to dine with them every evening. Loki’s life had fallen into a pleasant routine, punctuated with violent meetings with the Thundering Warrior-Prince Thor.

On the morning of his 15th day in the palace, Loki was called to the court to act as an impartial representative. It was with no small amount of glee that Loki carefully selected his wardrobe and jewelry. Around his neck he wore the Jotun familial markers he had been given, shrunken now to mere charms on a long chain and his veil was shortened to keep each charm visible. A silver cuff engraved with the court symbol of Vanaheim and a unique bronze waist chain and medallion showing the emblem of the Svarltalfaheim high council joined the necklace. Both had been gifted to him after aiding each realm in important, high-risk negotiations. With the Asgardian coronet on his head, Treasure-Prince Loki wore his reputation for all to see.

Loki was led to his seat by a young page named Fiske, the son of a grocer in the city proper. As they passed by the assembled courtiers grumblings broke out, whispers of complaints reached Loki’s ears. As the young prince of Jotunheim took his seat to one side of the audience chamber, well removed from the courtiers, one voice rang out in protest from among the gathered Aesir.

“Allfather, I must object! No woman has ever spoken before the court! There is no need for the prince’s bride to be here, let alone sitting as judge.”

Loki sat forward, his veil rippling as he moved, lightening enough that his blood red eyes could meet those of his opponent. “As I am neither man nor woman that reputation remains intact.”

“No spouse of royalty has ever spoken in court” the man retorted snidely.

“Has a spouse of royalty ever before been a foreign dignitary with years of court experience and a reputation for flawless negotiations?” Loki asked, raising the cuff and chain up into view. His question was met with uneasy silence. Sitting back and darkening his veil, the Treasure-Prince asked one final question, “The world tree is changing. Are you going to change with it or be changed by it?”

Allfather-King Odin nodded to his new son-in-law, suppressing a smile.

Grievances that could not be decided among the individuals or groups involved would bring their argument before the King for judgement. Certain matters were easily handled by the King alone, but larger issues that would affect the city or realm were decided by the court. As the two sides of the dispute each took turns speaking, Loki watched the courtiers. It became clear why he was brought in as an impartial judge. These old men were divided in opinion. As the courtiers began debating the issue among themselves, Allmother-Queen Frigga joined them, taking the seat next to Loki.

The negotiations took several hours but, in the end, Loki managed to sway both parties into a pleasant agreement that left each side satisfied. His silver tongue had not lost its edge.

After that successful negotiation, the Silvertongue was asked to aid the courts on several other cases, providing Loki with a much needed distraction. After his fourth successful session at court, Loki found his way to a palisade that spanned the border of the palace grounds. Walking the edges of the palace allowed the Treasure-Prince to view the people of Asgard while remaining within calling distance of the guards he had befriended.

As he passed by a brightly-lit street lined with vendors selling their wares, Loki noticed a group of children watching him and whispering among themselves. The Treasure-Prince slowed his steps, shortening his veil and lightening it to better see the shape of his face, hoping to make his appearance slightly more welcoming.

The children began to jostle one another as they moved one boy toward the front of the group. It was the youngest Odinson, Baldr. With a jolt the prince was shoved forward, where he stumbled and caught his balance. He immediately turned to give his friends a dirty look for the push.

With a smile in his voice Loki called out “Good afternoon, Prince Baldr. How do you fare on this day?”

“Good, Prince Loki. How do you fare?” Baldr responded as his upbringing taught him.

“I am fine.” The Treasure-Prince made a show of leaning to the side as if to view around the young brunet, even though Loki could clearly see over Baldr’s head. “Do your friends wish to greet me as well?”

“They’re scared to.”

“Why?” he asked, perplexed.

“They think you’ll eat our toes.”

Loki was surprised. What cruel rumors had these Asgardians been spreading about the Jotun people? Do the people view him as a monster that comes in the night to torment them? The blue-skinned prince stilled the instinctive unease in his voice and responded calmly. “By all of Yggdrasil, why would I want to eat your toes? They would taste so awful! I would much rather have sweet desserts instead. Don’t you think those are better to eat than toes?”

The children all giggled and moved a bit closer. One girl with hair as shiny as a copper urn called out with a voice as lovely as a bell, “Would you make the snow for us again?”

“Of course I will,” grateful for an easy task to gain favor among the children, Loki raised his hands skyward, drawing the moisture in the air into their natural crystalline shapes. The snow fell softly into the open street, creating a thick even blanket across the cobblestones. Numerous adults turned away from their shopping and gathered around the end of the market street to view the freshly fallen snow.

With a joyous shout, the children rushed into the snow, tossing loose handfuls at one another and rolling about in it, getting completely covered in the white fluff. The adults watched with brilliant smiles as more children joined the fun. In general Asgard is a warm realm and the snow was already melting slightly, allowing some water to collect between the cobblestones. Snow continued to fall.

A troop of soldiers passed in loose formation, crossing the distance between the training arena near the stables to the barracks located by the kitchens and servants quarters. Their boots left impressions in the snow, leaving small puddles. Most young men smiled at the children playing, some brushed away the falling snow with amusement, and one or two nodded in greeting to the Treasure-Prince. Loki had not spent any time with the soldiers, primarily because they were often in the arena, where Thor spent most of his day. He was not sure of his welcome.

One soldier in the back spoke to his fellows, gossiping, “There’s the Jotun bride. She must be wild in the sack if those scratches on Prince Thor are anything to go by. I guess they really are beasts after all.” The men around him chuckled and a few of the nearby citizens appeared to have heard. Things had been going so well. Everyone had been pleased with him.

A flick of his fingers was all it took for the water beneath the laughing soldier's feet to turn to ice. Three men fell, shouting in surprise and drawing the attention of their troop and the gathered Aesir. Two men stood without incident, but the gossip found his hands trapped, frozen to the ground in a thick layer of ice covered in wicked spikes. The snow stopped falling.

The Beloved Treasure-Prince Loki approached the trapped man. His steps were even, carefully measured to allow the soldier to realize his situation. The mounting fear in his brown eyes proved that the soldier knew he was in trouble. A few guards stepped away from the palace edge but Loki waved them off. Murmurs of interest rose from the crowd, soldiers and civilians alike. Would the guards truly let the Jotun kill a soldier? Or did they trust the foreigner’s judgement?

As Loki stood over the prone soldier, the guards slowly stepped back to their posts, though they remained alert. In a clear and calm voice, with enough volume to be heard by those assembled but not to disturb the children playing nearby, the Treasure-Prince spoke. “There is a saying on Jotunheim. What one has given one shall receive.”

Silence laid heavy around those gathered, cold as the ice beneath their feet. The veil flared and magically tucked back as Loki leaned forward over the man sprawled on the ground. “Perhaps you should not speak about things you do not know or understand,” He warned. “You have shamed me this day.” His voice betrayed his sadness, his pain at being portrayed as a villain among the people.

The soldier bowed his head slightly, though he showed no sign of any true remorse. “Forgive my rudeness, princess.”

“Prince,” a small voice objected. Baldr stood a few paces away at the edge of the snow. Surprise rippled through the crowd. “His name is Prince Loki. He’s not a princess.” Numerous significant glances were exchanged among the people. At least one woman whispered to the others about the Jotnar lack of individual genders. It seems that word had spread from the palace into the city. Hope and pride burns deep in Loki's chest.

“Forgive me… prince.” Now with the obvious support of the royal family behind him, Loki was given more respect in this second request.

“Say please,” Prince Baldr insisted, much to the amusement of the gathered men and women.

“Please” came the response, small and meek. The ice encasing the young pale hands melted instantly. Magic left his hands and clothing dry. As the soldier rose to his feet and joined his troop, Loki watched passively. Saying nothing further, the Beloved Treasure-Prince of Jotunheim walked away. As he passed Prince Baldr, he gently touched the smaller shoulder, squeezing lightly with a final pat. A silent thank you for the support. Later that night, Loki praised Baldr during the evening meal, presenting a small glass orb filled with enchanted ever-falling snow as a gift. The support of the royal family, whether through the trust of the Allfather or the defense of the young prince, was immensely important to Loki’s safety in this strange new realm.

 

Yet all the safety that the royal family can provide could not protect him from one of their own. Word of the soldier’s embarrassment must have reached Thor’s ears for that evening’s congress was the most violent yet. The Thunderer tore open the chamber door and grabbed Loki tightly. Large dark marks bloomed across his arms, his waist. His soft green waist cloth was shoved aside, his jewelry lost among the bedsheets. A jeweled chain became trapped beneath their bodies scratching blue skin and leaving long rolling bruises.

At the peak of his husband’s performance Loki felt a thick hand press against his throat. In an instant, the Jotun grabbed hold, pressing his arctic magic into the offending arm. With a shout, Thor pulled away momentarily before ramming into Loki once more shoving forward faster and faster until he was finished.

 

The Asgardian prince shoved his spouse away, climbing out of bed and stalking out of the room, completely bare. His left arm blackened with frozen skin. The door slammed shut behind him. In the silence, Loki felt angry tears well up in his eyes. Drawing a breath and sighing loudly, the abused prince made a decision. He had no other choice. It was time to end this. He would not put up with this treatment any longer than necessary. One day soon they would come to blows for real and Loki did not know who would come out the victor in that battle. No, it would be better to stack the deck in his favor.

With this thought, Loki stumbled out of bed. The pain between his legs nearly too strong for him to remain standing. Pushing a surge of healing magic through his private parts eased the pain. Dressing quickly in a short waist cloth and a long robe, eschewing his shoulder cloth and lightening his veil to a sheer opacity. He needed to be quick.

The halls of the palace were quiet. His carefully gathered knowledge allowed him to avoid detection until he neared his destination. Passing through an archway onto an open balcony, Loki stopped suddenly as he caught sight of the Allfather standing at the railing. Two inky black ravens perched nearby. One called out a rattling cry in the dark night.

“I have been without a King-Sleep for many years.” Allfather-King Odin spoke quietly. “Before the war my brothers would watch over Asgard. Now that duty would fall to Thor” Odin turned his head to meet Loki’s eyes. The transparency of the veil made him feel exposed, more so than if it had not been there at all. The wind brushed against the thin fabric, rippling and warping the Jotun’s view.

“I am so tired,” the king sighed. In the quiet night, the Treasure-Prince approached, coming to stand against the balcony beside his father-in-law. “Yet I fear Thor is not ready.” The silence between them held for several minutes. before Odin turned and spoke again. “You do not speak of your husband’s fitness as protector of this realm. Have you no words to speak on his behalf?”

“I would not betray the secrets of our household,” he spoke demurely. Odin gently placed his hand upon Loki’s cheek. Curving his large scarred hands around the delicate chin. Aesir white against Jotun blue. The look in the Allfather’s eyes was fond and comforting. “Do you know that many witnesses approached me, telling of Thor’s violence in your consummation?”

Fear washed over him like a frozen tide at the king’s words. Many had spoken on his behalf? He knew that the Jotun witness, Warrior-Master-Scribe Kashok, likely had not complied with his request but who else may have defended him? In the shocked silence, Odin continued “I spoke with my son but I fear he did not heed my words. I hope someday he will understand the blessing he has in your company and guidance”

“I…” Loki paused. What could he say? What should he say? To know that there were those in Asgard who would speak on his behalf, attempt to defend him, warmed his heart. For all the pain he had endured, all the trouble he had suffered, there were those who were his allies. Or at the very least, they wished for the same outcome he did. Peace in the world tree. With an inhale of warm evening air, he spoke. “I... I’ve grown tired. I beg your leave Allfather-King.”

Odin watched Loki with a small barely-there smile. “The healer’s office is not locked. Close the door when you’ve finished.” The Treasure-Prince, known to some as a trickster, was momentarily baffled. How had the king known of his plans? But, of course the ravens, Huginn and Muninn, spoke of the happenings in the realm. They whispered the secrets of Asgard into the king’s ears.

The king began to walk away, leaving Loki on the balcony with the evening breeze dancing across his clothes. As he passed through the archway, Odin called over his shoulder, “Good night, Loki. Sleep well.” Loki smiled.

“Good night, Allfather-King Odin.”

Chapter Text

When the handmaidens arrived in the prince’s chambers the next morning they were shocked at the state of the room. Hanging on ribbons from the bed canopy were several large elder boughs, draped with millions of tiny gypsophila flowers. The strong scent of powdered nutmeg and spices, piled high in a silver bowl, assaulted the nose and the sage branches burning in the fireplace filled the room with a light smoke. In the center of the room the blue-skinned prince laid on the floor on a woven rug with hands folded across his abdomen. His veil covered him much like a shroud. Beside him an empty tea cup and a folded card rested upon a silver tray.

“Please maintain the fire. Leave the room in this state. Do not disturb my rest for any reason,” one girl read from the note. The handmaidens were nervous and confused but they did as they were asked. Throughout the day, the handmaidens took turns stoking the fire and watching over the prince’s body. Hours went by with no movement, only the shallow rise and fall of breath passing through the prince’s lips. When the time of the evening meal passed with no change, the youngest handmaiden was sent to fetch the healer. As she opened the doors to leave, she was surprised to find the Queen standing in the doorway.

With a hurried bow, the handmaiden stuttered out and apology and explained her intended task. “Why don’t I have a look?” Frigga asked. Taking in the pungent hazy smoke and the unusual decorations around the bedchamber, the Allmother entered the room and moved toward the hearth. The silver tray and it’s teacup had long been cleared away to the kitchens, but the heavy iron kettle remained next to the fire. Inside the simple black pot was the residue of the tea the prince had prepared.

“Raspberry, Nettle, and Alchemilla,” the wise queen smiled. “Fret not, the prince is completely fine. In fact, I believe it is time we wake him. Prince Thor should be arriving momentarily,” Frigga instructed. The handmaidens all moved aside as the golden haired Allmother approached her son-in-law, calling out gently to rouse him from sleep. Jotun Prince Loki sat upright and rose to his feet with little prompting, eyes distant as if focused on some internal conflict.

On the table, beside the tray of spices, sat a vase of purple orchirises and large white moon flowers. Queen Frigga saw an opportunity. While beautiful, the orchiris was known to have a unique effect on men. Snatching up the violet colored blooms, Frigga crushed the petals in her fingers, dropping them into the nearly empty tea pot. Magically filling the kettle with boiling water, she requested cups from the maids and headed to the entrance of the suite.

Thor threw open the doors to his suite, stopping short at the sight of his mother standing with kettle in hand. With a serene smile, Queen Frigga gestures invitingly to the sofa and chairs nearby. Grumbling, the Thunderer takes a seat roughly. He was eager to finish his duties and join his friends for an evening filled with drink and good company, he didn’t want to make small talk with his mother. A tray with two cups was brought into the room. Silently, Thor drank the tea his mother offered. Frigga did not offer any words of advice or condemnation. They sat in silence. When the kettle had been drained the queen rose from her seat, kissed her son on his brow, and exited the suite.

In the bedroom, Loki slowly pulled himself out of the self-imposed trance, gaining back his senses one by one. Sensation, the brush of his veil across his face catching at his eyelashes. The aroma of nutmeg and sage, rich and earthly, and the flowery scent of his hair. Red berries on his tongue and a kaleidoscope of colors before his eyes. The sound of crackling embers are lost under the heavy, foreboding footsteps echoing down the hall. With his wits restored, the Treasure-Prince needed to move fast.

Plunging his hands deep into the pile of nutmeg powder, Loki drew out a spiky green pod, the brown powder clinging to the edges. The prince hardened the skin of his hands as he cradled the razor sharp spines. Drawing his shoulders back, Loki rose to his full height. He faced the door and rested his hands at the small of his back, hiding the thornapple from sight. The effects of thornapple would help the princes to conceive a child this night.

As he had every night since their wedding, Thor threw open the bedroom door and marched over to his spouse. This time, Loki was ready. With the large pale hands clutching his shoulders, the Treasure-Prince wound his blue arms around his husband’s torso and pulled the thornapple across the cloth covered back. Blood welled up beneath the spines. Loki crushed the pod against the open wounds, allowing the seeds and juices and nutmeg powder to enter the bloody gashes.

 

Thor roared in pain, pulling away. With a savage growl, the Asgardian prince shoved his blue-skinned spouse onto the bed and took him roughly. As the blond thrust into him again and again, Loki could sense the nutmeg and thornapple working their way through the prince’s blood. The once violent thrusts softened as blue eyes grew slightly clouded with lust.

With each long thrust, the Asgardian shifted his position. The new angle and gentler friction drew a moan from Loki’s lips. It felt… good. More as he had imagined love making would be. At the sound of his moan, Thor grinned and continued thrusting, varying his speed and depth, seemingly intent on drawing further cries from Loki’s throat.

After a particularly sharp thrust that resulted in a keening wail, Thor kissed his husband. Loki stilled, stunned. The kiss was passionate, sweet even. Unlike any he had experienced before. The tenderness of this union was too much to bear. Tears welled up in blood-red eyes, deep sighs and moans became hitched with sobs.

Something was building up inside him, winding tight in his groin. The Thunderer turned his lips against Loki’s chest, latching onto a nipple and teasing it. Loki arched wildly, the tension in him jerking forward. Arousal. This is what arousal felt like.

The pair rutted against one another, racing to finish, kisses growing frantic, thrusts erratic. As Loki came for the first time by another’s touch, Thor spilled himself deep into Loki’s womb. For nearly an hour, the couple lay entwined, connected. The Silvertongue sighed as he drifted into sleep, for once content. But all good things must come to an end.

 

The Crown Prince of Asgard blinked sleepily, shaking away the effects of the thornapple. Below him was his beast of a... wife? Beast? Yes, that must be right... He stumbled away from the bed, the cool air of the room wrapping around damp skin and sending a chill up his spine. Washing up quickly in the adjoining bath, Thor donned his clothes hastily. The Jotun was awake and watching as he left, the door closing slowly behind him. Thor moved down the halls of the palace calmly for once, several guards and servants took notice.

A night spent with friends in the mead hall held no interest to him for once. Sif and the Warrior’s Three were happy to keep him company in his old sleeping quarters, now a sitting room. In the morning Thor joined his family for breakfast. But the Jotun beast was not there.

“Thor, perhaps you should fetch him? I’m sure he’s hungry.” Frigga asked, though the request was not, in fact, a request at all. Thor grumbled, setting aside his plate. People moved out of his way as he passed. Thor tossed open the doors to their chambers roughly but the suite was empty save for the handmaidens, pulling down the bed decorations and sweeping up the dirt on the floor. The prince was in the healer’s hall, was he? If that evil creature intended to shame him by showing off his bruises he would find that Thor had no patience for blackmail.

Storming through the palace, the Prince burst into the Healing Halls to find his hideous bride rising slowly from one of the tables. Eir turned as Thor approached, a smile dancing across her lips. "Congratulations my Prince! You shall soon be a father." The news caught him off guard. Finally he was freed of his husband chores. With an insecure nod, Thor extended his mother’s invitation to breakfast and left quickly.

Watching his husband’s back retreating down the hall, Loki stepped off the healer’s table. "By your leave Healer-Head Mistress, I must inform the Allmother-Queen of this glad news." Healer Eir bowed to the foreign prince as he left the room. When the Treasure-Prince of Jotunheim delivered the news of his pregnancy, Frigga was thrilled and Odin was pleased. Even Baldr seemed excited at the prospect of becoming an uncle.

Thor stood in silence, accepting congratulations stoically. As the royal family resumed their seats, the crown prince excused himself. He exited, but not before throwing a vicious sneer and glare at the Silvertongue. Loki tried to treat Thor cordially, not fighting back unless his life was threatened. If not for the fact that Frigga, Odin and Baldr seemed to favor him, Loki’s time here would have been unbearable.

But now he was pregnant. He could relax. His position was secure.

Hours later, a messenger sent from the Bifrost gate reported that the prince had left Asgard without permission from the Allfather. Perhaps Loki’s position was not so secure after all.

Chapter Text

Weeks passed with no word from Crown Prince Thor. Heimdall watched as his prince traveled from tavern to tavern in a seemingly random pattern. Never staying in any place very long. Taking short excursions into the forests to do battle with the wild things found there. As the crown prince drank and fought his way through Alfheim, the glorious home of the Light Elves, his child grew by the day.

One week after the child’s conception, Baldr and Frigga invited the Jotun prince into the queen’s chambers to present him with a gift to celebrate his pregnancy. The gift supposedly would prepare him for ‘motherhood.’ Baldr happily passed over the white and brown furred creature to the Jotun. Eyeing the tiny being distrustfully, Loki asked “What is it?”

“It’s a kitten!” the young prince of Asgard enthused. Loki had never heard of a kitten before. It had not been in any of his books. “This is a pet?” he asked.

“Yes, it’s a descendant of one of Freyja’s own chariot-pullers,” Frigga smiled. “It’s a cat?” Loki asked, bewildered? How is a cat a kitten?

“A kitten is a baby cat,” Baldr explained, petting the creature between its ears. The small ball of fur squeaked like a mouse, startling the prince slightly. He had read of cats in his books but had no idea what sounds they made. “He’ll grow up big and his meows will be loud just like Asmund.”

Behind Loki rose a loud rumbling cry. Jerking in alarm and whirling around in his seat, the Treasure-Prince came face to face with a large brown striped creature, perched on the bookshelf behind him. It looked exactly like the illustrations in his books. “Is that the sounds that cats usually make?”

Frigga laughed, the sound like the tinkling of bells. “Yes. Asmund is very good at sneaking up on my guests. I think he finds joy in scaring them.” She clicked her tongue and the cat easily leapt over Loki’s shoulder onto the sofa beside his mistress. Baldr continued to pet the baby cat in Loki’s hands.

“What are you going to name him?” The young prince asked. Loki was at a loss. He had never had a companion animal before. “Why don’t you help me pick out a name, hm?” Baldr smiled.

A week after that, Baldr visited his brother-in-law in the bridal suite to play with Vidar, the kitten. Loki had learned that the colors on the baby cat was called calico, and that even kittens had sharp claws. He learned the second fact the hard way. The kitten hadn’t done much but sleep and eat and play in short bursts throughout the day and night. Thankfully, the baby cat was still small enough to keep tucked away in a large open box at night to keep him out of trouble.

Baldr enjoyed playing with the small creature, dangling strings or pushing a ball around for the kitten to chase after. “Loki, why do you wear a veil?” Baldr asked out of the blue, voice full of innocent curiosity. The Silvertongue of Jotunheim was struck speechless for a moment. Loki set aside his book, heart fluttering with unease. It was a simple question. Why was he so nervous? “Well, it is tradition in my culture for a Treasure-Prince to remain unseen until marriage. To preserve modesty and retain purity.”

“But you're married now. Why don’t you take it off?”

“Well … My husband demanded I continue to wear the veil.”

“Why?”

Bitterness soured his voice. “To save the people of Asgard from looking on my horrid face -” Loki stopped suddenly, the young prince watched him with an open expression. “... I'm sorry, Baldr. That was completely inappropriate. I should not have said such thi -” The veil was suddenly lifted away from his face.

“Wow,” Baldr smiled, meeting Loki’s eyes for the first time. He didn’t shudder away from the blood-red color.. “You're really pretty, Loki. You should take the veil off anyway. If Thor sees how pretty you are -”

“Sometimes Baldr…” Loki interrupted, taking hold of the veil and smoothing it down. “Sometimes, it is right to act in your own interests and be decisive. But at times it is better to wait and be sure that where you stand is safe before taking another step.”

“What?” The young boy appeared confused. Loki smiled, blue skin stretching over his white teeth. “Never mind. Let's go do something fun. Have you ever been ice dancing?”

“Ice dancing?”

“I'll show you.”

As more time passed, it became clear that peace had not yet returned to Yggdrasil. Skirmishes were being reported across the nine realms. Strange creatures would attack a town and then vanish without a trace. No pattern in their behavior had been identified yet, but the courts and military strategists were hopeful. In an effort to keep the realms united against this foe, Allfather-King Odin invited representatives from every realm to meet in the golden city of Asgard to choose a course of action. The light elves and dwarves were the first to respond and arrive. The dark elves declined the offer, sneering at the light of Asgard. The giants and the people of the mist sent their own representatives. Prince Byleister was the representative sent from Jotunheim.

The meeting between realms went as well as could be expected. The Silvertongue was in his element, quelling arguments before they could begin and helping to create a viable plan of action. When the meeting was called to an end and the representatives departed, Byleister requested a moment alone with his brother.

“By!” The smaller prince greeted, reaching up to embrace his much larger sibling.

“Loki,” the elder smiled. “It is good to see you, though I had hoped to finally see your face after all these years. Though it is much lighter now, why do you still wear the veil?”

Loki forced a smile, “I wear it at my husbands’ request,” he answered, lifting the veil away.

“Oh! You look so much like our dam.” Byleister exclaimed and the Treasure-Prince beamed with pride. “I can see why your husband would want to keep that beauty to himself.” Loki’s smile faded.

“Did you win the games as I asked?” He turned the conversation toward news of home. Byleister was pleased to report that the royal family had been bested in only one contest. Now that Loki was married off, Laufey and Farbauti were both eager for their elder sons to wed as well. Loki lost his troubles for a time in his brother’s welcoming voice.

As weeks went by, the child growing in Loki’s womb grew by leaps and bounds and soon a small bump became evident on the prince’s belly. One morning as the royal family broke their fast a messenger arrived from the Bifrost. The crown prince had become lost to the eyes of Heimdall in the realm of Vanaheim. He was last seen leaving a mead hall, far beyond reason, charging into the forest.

The news of Crown Prince Thor’s disappearance spread among the courts and the people. Loki heard the whispers they spoke behind his back.

“The child the Jotun beast carries may be all that remains of Prince Thor.”
“Could we trust a child from a Jotun?”
“It is best we prepare Baldr for succession instead.”

Loki would not stand to be ousted from his position of power and respect. He hadn’t put up with all this trouble just to be shunted aside as a former-prince’s bride. No, Loki would have to take matters into his own hands. He would need to find the prince himself.

Chapter Text

A pale, thin figure shadow-stepped into the realm of Vanaheim, the land of the Vanir. The Asgardian search party was still assembling at the Bifrost site. Now was a time for action, not patience. He pushed aside his raven hair, smoothing down his green and black tunic as he marched up to the home before him. The door was richly carved with two boars beneath a rising sun. Rapping his knuckles smartly against the door, the man called out, “Lady Freyja, I beg of you, lend me your feathered cloak so I may search the land for the lost prince of Asgard.”

A voice called from within, “And who makes this request?”

“One who is sworn to him,” the man responded. The door opened and the glorious Lady Freyja turned her gaze upon her visitor. In the weight of her gaze, the man felt himself being measured. Her long blonde hair shimmered in the light of the fire behind her. Her green eyes glittered as she watched him. Two large cats rested before the hearth and a boar stood nuzzling her knee. After a time, Freyja smiled. She seemed to find him worthy. Fetching the cloak from her chest, she delivered it onto the stranger asking for her help.

“Please be sure to return it,” she asked.

“I promise that I will,” the man bowed his head slightly, slipping the black feathered cloak around his shoulders. Spreading his arms wide, the magic took hold, morphing the cloth into gigantic wings around his arms. With a mighty flap the pale man was off, soaring over the forest in search of the missing prince. Freyja watched the figure until it disappeared over the horizon. That strange man, she knew, was the last chance to rescue the Aesir royal from certain death. The forest was a dangerous place at night and precious few have ever survived.

Many hours were spent fruitlessly searching the hills and valleys, peering through the dim canopy to the forest floor. The bright star lighting the sky of Vanaheim was falling toward the horizon. Late afternoon was upon him and dusk would soon arrive. All manner of strange beast resided in the forest, but there was no sign of the missing prince. A sudden bellowing roar shook the trees and the dirt. Thundering hooves began to charge, ending with a hideous crack that could only be a tree breaking in two. In the near distance, a tree falls. Flapping his arms turned wings to gain speed, the pale man raced toward the sound.

The roars and bellows heard echoing through the trees are coming from an enormous bilgesnipe. Larger than any described in books. Male, and completely enraged. The source of its anger appeared through the underbrush, red cape thrown back from the broad shoulders of a blond-haired man. Crown Prince Thor foolishly waved about the broken axe in his hand, slurring drunken insults at the deadly beast. Blood trickled down his face from a wound on his scalp, a liquid splash of red to match his cape.

The slender man swoops down with the winged cloak of Freyja and dives through the canopy. For only a moment, the enchantment of the forest is broken, long enough for Heimdall to locate the prince. He calls out to Sif and the Warriors Three, waiting on the rainbow bridge for news of Thor. Heimdall can finally send the Asgardian warriors to the forest of Vanaheim. He could only hope they would not arrive too late.

Thick green scales rippled over bulging muscles. The stench of rotting bog and blood was enough to turn the black-haired man’s stomach. Crown Prince Thor, drunkenly swaying in the small clearing, appeared unaffected by the scents and sounds around him. The bilgesnipe grunted and pawed at the ground. With a hideous grin, the Aesir man hurled his broken axe toward the beast. Splintered wood and cracked metal clattered against the mud caked antlers, falling into the wide palms of bone and catching against the numerous points.

A shrieking bellow echoed through the forest, startling a flock of birds into flight. The bilgesnipe charged toward the blond Asgardian, antlers angled forward with deadly intent. With heart in his throat and too far away to interfere, the man with magical wings could only watch as the prince made contact with the beast. Thick, strong hands, calloused through years of handling weapons gripped the antlers tightly, pushing the sharp points down into the ground. The dueling pair struggled. Thor was pushed back several yards, the bilgesnipe’s antlers raking deep grooves in the thick peat. The odor of decay grew.

After a moment, the blond prince anchored the bilgesnipe into the ground, allowing for his own escape, snatching up the blade of his broken axe out of the thicket of bone points. With a manic grin and a drunken laugh, Prince Thor ran off to chose his next battleground. The black-haired man finally caught up to the prince, dropping out of the air at his side. He stumbled on the landing, the sudden weight of gravity pressing on his thin ankles more strongly than he had expected.

Prince Thor wiped at the blood covering his face as he slowed into the next clearing, red streaks smeared across his brow and dripping through his golden hair. Turning, he jerked back, startled by the black-haired man’s sudden appearance. “Who-?” the blond prince began as the ground heaved violently under their feet.

With several frantic howls, the bilgesnipe bucked wildly, wrenching his long antlers free of the thick peat below. Moss and dead leaves and rich, dark dirt are sent flying through the air. Thick hooves dig into the ground, propelling the enormous beast forward into a new charge. The men dodged in opposite directions as the bilgesnipe plowed a path between the two men. The Asgardian rescue party, delivered to the forest edge by Heimdall and marching steadily inland, finally caught sight of the ongoing battle.

In the very far distance, Prince Thor’s signature red cape was barely visible through the trees. The bellows of a bilgesnipe are recognizable at any distance. Sif and the Warriors Three knew there was no way they could reach the prince in time to stop the bilgesnipe. Not without the power of flight. The beast was too enraged, too aggravated, pushed too far. Prince Thor was truly knocking at death's door with this fight. Injury was guaranteed. The quartet could only pray they reached the prince before the bilgesnipe finished him off.

Thrashing wildly against the trees and bushes as it turned, the foul-smelling beast blindly rushed the blond prince, knocking him off his feet.The Asgardian lay wedged between the points of the bilgesnipe antlers, relatively unharmed. With his feet in the air Thor could gain no traction to grapple the bilgesnipe. A sudden stop loosened Thor’s position in the antlers, and violent shaking threw him across the clearing.

A deep sickening thud echoed through the forest as Thor was thrown into a tree. The trunk creaked and the branches shuddered as the prince fell limply to its base. With the prince unconscious, the bilgesnipe turned his attention to the only combatant standing. The black-haired man with green eyes watched the fallen prince for a sign of life before running for his own life.

Minutes spent dodging antlers and weaving through trees felt like hours. In desperation the man twisted his hands and spread his fingers, sending duplicate images of himself running through the forest. The bilgesnipe followed a duplicate and he was finally able to catch his breath. The enormous beast bellowed in rage as one one the illusions disappeared before him. The mindless chase had taken them in a wide circuit of the area, returning to the clearing where Thor lay injured.

There wasn't much time. Using his magic, the man fashioned a trap. A pit of mud to trap the creature long enough for him and the prince to escape. He would rather not kill the beast if possible. It wasn't the bilgesnipe’s fault that Thor was impulsive and br--

The pale man was knocked cleanly off his feet into the unfinished mud pit. The bilgesnipe struggled for purchase on the unstable ground. The mud pit was uneven. Some places were deep enough to drown a man, while others were still shallow. The pale man lay prone in a shallow pool of mud, one leg sinking into a deeper pit. He shook his muddied hair away from his face and scooted backwards, looking for a safe spot to stand up.

Hot wet air, smelling of rotting flesh blew across his face, stopping him cold. The bilgesnipe had flailed through the mud, moving closer and closer to the prone man. Bulging brown eyes glared down upon him. Spittle and foam ringed the mouth of the slavering beast. A booming call from the struggling creature vibrated through his chest. Terror rolled through the pale man’s body as the creature regained its footing.

Fear tasted like mud and sweat and blood. Fear smelled like bog and rotting flesh. Fear left the black-haired man paralyzed in indecision as the bilgesnipe reared up onto it’s hind legs, slipping in the muddy ground. As the thick, scarred cloven hooves plunged toward his head with intent to trample, the young man spread his arms across his face reflexively.

A sudden silence filled the forest.

Green eyes opened and glanced upward. The beast was dead. Skewered upon dozens of spikes emerging from the mud pit. A heavy sigh gurgled out of the beast’s mouth as the body sagged. Blood ran down the spikes and dripped to the ground, staining the muddy ice a macabre shade of red.

The beast defeated and the danger passed, Sif slowed from a full sprint to a brisk walk. The Warriors Three stopped entirely. Volstagg panted and collapsed against a tree. Without a battle to fight, the energy to continue moving left his body rapidly. Hogun watched with a quiet smile and Fandral chuckled at Volstagg wheezing on the forest floor. Sif continued forward, eager to reach Thor and confirm his safety.

Legs shaking, chest heaving, pulse pounding. The dark haired man panted and struggled to his feet. Mud oozed up around his ankles, making forward movement difficult. It took several tense moments to carefully pick his way around the deadly sinkholes. Prince Thor finally stirred against the tree he had been thrown into. Blue eyes blinked open, slowly losing their dazed quality with each passing second. Successfully emerging from the failed trap, the pale man sought out the injured prince. With a few gestures, the gallons of blood and mud coating the black and green clothing dried up and vanished. The icy spikes melted into nothingness, leaving the corpse of a male bilgesnipe to sink in the mud pit.

“Come now, my prince. On your feet.” Thin ivory hands pulled upon tan shoulders, pushing back the red cloak and lifting the prince with surprising ease.

Thor groaned, “Who are you?” he rubbed at his face, fingers coming away bloody. He leaned heavily against the smaller man, slowly regaining his footing.

“Your rescuer.” The pale man sighed in relief, the shaking fear slowly leaving his arms and legs.

“A bit pretty for a warrior,” Thor grinned lasciviously. “I'll give you a go.” Stumbling away under his own power, the prince finally noticed the fallen bilgesnipe. The grin took on an edge and he chuckled harshly.

“Charming,” the man responded, green eyes hard, “but I know you have a spouse awaiting you, carrying your child already.”

“A beast,” Thor laughed, lolling his head back onto his shoulders, gaze breaking away from the fallen bilgesnipe.

“Even more charming by the minute. Here, now, hold still. Don't want any parts to go missing.” With an unexpected strength from such slender hands, the black haired man pressed Prince Thor back against the bark of a nearby tree. Holding the larger man in place with one hand and drawing forth a small amulet, the slender man quickly spoke the necessary spells.

“Hold still for wh-” Prince Thor popped out of the realm of Vanaheim before he could finish his sentence. The amulet vanished with him leaving the man stranded, doomed to return to Asgard through more conventional means.

Lady Sif faltered when she saw her prince disappear. Continuing to walk silently through the trees, she was finally close enough to see and hear this stranger clearly. She watched as the young man with angled features visibly shrank in on himself. He clutched his own arms, squeezing them and shuddering. When he spoke his voice was quiet, sad.

“Is that really the man I am wed to? Is this what my life has become?” Green eyes searched the sky and canopy, finding no answers. “Perhaps I should stay here, let the oaf create a life of his choosing?” He gripped his arms tighter. The feathered cloak around his shoulders brushed against his fingers. Gathering the edges of fabric, he fluffed them outward as a bird might ruffle its wings before flight. “Well, at the least, I must return the cloak.” As quick as a blink, the cloak became wings and the black haired man flew out of the forest into the evening sky.

Sif, the finest woman warrior Asgard had ever seen, was struck speechless. The strange man that saved Prince Thor had been the Jotun bride? The thought strained the imagination. Her gaze landed upon the bilgesnipe carcass, riddled with holes. It seemed there was much she needed to consider. With Thor gone, the Aesir search party could return home. Lady Sif turned on her heel and returned to the Warriors Three. A spear thrown through the canopy broke the enchantment long enough for Heimdall to open the Bifrost around them, delivering them home to Asgard.

Chapter Text

As the black haired man swooped in for a landing, Freyja emerged from her home. The sun shone bright against her golden hair, glinting off the silver of her breastplate. Enormous wings morphed back into a thick feathered cloak, falling from long pale fingers. Deftly removing the cloak and folding it, he approached the Vanir woman.

“Lady Frejya, I thank you for the gift of your cloak,” he bowed, presenting the cloak stretched between his hands.

“Giving up the search so soon?” Freyja asked, examining her most prized possession. A few flecks of mud are quickly brushed off before taking the cloak back.

“He has been found, m'lady.”

Freyja pauses, stunned. “Already?” She asked, her eyes narrow with suspicion. “Who did you say you were again?”

“One who is sworn to the prince, that is all. Forgive me, I must return.” He smoothly excused himself, backing away.

“Of course.” Freyja responded, voice low and curious. She watched the man walk as his brisk steps took him around the trunk of a thick tree and out of the realm of Vanaheim. How strange for someone from Asgard to know how to shadow-step.

The palace of Asgard was a flurry of activity. Crown Prince Thor had returned! His rescue was largely a mystery and only the whispers of Lady Sif provided answers, delivered straight to Frigga’s ear. Staff of the palace move out of the way as the Queen makes her way to the newlywed’s suite. Most assumed she was delivering the good news of Thor’s return.

Frigga entered the room without knocking, bursting through to the bedroom. Loki turned, the last vestiges of pale Aesir skin bleeding into a welcome Jotnar blue. His shoulders tight and hands fisted, a tight smile upon his face -- all signs betraying his nervousness.

“Greetings, Allmother.”

“Loki.” Frigga threw her arms about his shoulders, pulling him close. Her arms tightening into a strong embrace. He paused for a moment in surprise before returning the gesture. “Thank you for bringing him back.”

The Treasure-Prince sighed before responding, “I am sworn to him. It was my duty.” He pulled away, twisting his arms around his waist in a mockery of the hug they had just been a part of.

“I know how you feel about him.” Two thin pale hands come to rest upon Loki’s shoulders. “You are twice the man my son is. I am so proud to call you family,” Frigga smiled. Her face souring into a scowl a moment later, “I should go right out there and give that boy a piece of my mind-”

“Please don't tell him,” Loki begged, holding tightly to the Allmother’s hands. The door opened again to reveal the Allfather-King Odin.

“What are these secrets of which you speak?” he asked with unusual levity. His tone was often somber or scolding.

Feeling the quickening of breath in Loki’s chest, Frigga spoke up first. “A secret between mothers, Odin. Nothing more.”

“Are you sure it has nothing to do with the boar slaughtered in celebration of Thor's return? Gifted by Frejyr and Frejya?” Odin asked and Loki went still. Frigga’s smile returned. “Or the necklace, commissioned by Frejya, to be gifted to the 'one who is sworn to the prince of Asgard?” Odin held out his left hand, opening his palm. The gold necklace was a gleaming gorget, fronted with a carving of two birds grasping Mjolnir. Simple in design yet telling in its meaning.

Grasping tight to his arm, Frigga glanced between her husband and the man who saved her son. “Wear it, Loki. It is yours. You've earned this symbol of your accomplishment.”

“I would rather not. I already receive enough attention. This will only cause more concern over my fitness as dam of the next heir to the throne.”

“And the child is healthy?” Odin inquired.

“I was very careful,” Loki smirked ruefully. “This child's life is worth more than mine at the moment.”

Frigga gasped, “Never, Loki.”

“Without this child, Thor could reject me and send our two realms once more into war. I would not have that. So long as I prove I can bear him a child, the treaty stands.”

“Odin...” The Queen begged, turning to her husband with pleading eyes.

 

The Allfather sighed, “I cannot change the terms of the treaty. No matter how much I may wish to. You saved my son, Loki. For that I am grateful.” Crossing the room, the tall Asgardian placed both hands on the slender Jotun’s shoulders. “You may choose any gift you can imagine. If it is within my power to give, you shall have it.”

There is very little that Odin would be unable to provide, Loki realized. After several long moments, Treasure-Prince Loki knew what to ask for. “When the child is born, will you permit my parents to visit?”

“They may visit today if you wish. There is to be a large celebration.”

Loki shook his head solemnly, “when the child is born, please. So they may know the safety of Jotunheim.”

The King and Queen of Asgard share a glance. With gentle smile and kind eyes, Odin answered. “So be it.”

Allfather-King Odin leaves the suite to greet guests while Frigga helps Loki to prepare to join the party brewing in the main hall. Lords and Ladies all across Asgard have come to celebrate the prince’s return. Guests from foreign realms arrive in groups from the Bifrost gate. A blond woman and man, dressed in green and yellow finery approached the king when he entered. Odin greeted them cordially. “Lady Frejya, Lord Frejyr. How kind of you to share this feast in Thor's honor.”

“We are glad to provide for such an occasion.” Frejyr, brother of Frejya, intoned politely. He stood tall beside his sister, resting his free hand upon hers where it rested in the crook of his elbow.

“And where is the lost prince?” Frejya asked.

“Resting. There was some sort of mishap but the healers say he will be fully revived by morning.”

“I’m sorry to hear that the prince was injured. His champion did not appear harmed when we last spoke.” Behind the blond pair, Lady Sif and the Warriors Three enter the main hall dressed in formal attire for the occasion.

“Ah, yes. Thank you for the use of your feathered cloak. I have not yet received a full report on what happened in the forest, but it is true that the… champion was unharmed in the rescue.” Odin responded as Frigga entered the hall and moved into place at the king’s side.

Moments later, Loki entered and the hall fell silent. His deep blue skin seemed to glow, framed between a white waist-cloth and a dove feather cloak borrowed from the Allmother-Queen. The ever-present veil was short, and the gorget at his throat was plainly visible. The entire hall stopped to stare. Those in attendance had already heard about the gift Frejya commissioned for the rescuer. Whispers broke out, murmuring about the presumption of the Jotun bride to take such a reward for his own.

Ignoring the gossips and rumor-mongers, Loki approached the King, Queen, Lord, and Lady. “May I present my son-in-law, the Silvertongue of Jotunheim, Treasure-Prince Loki,” Frigga welcomed Loki to her side as Odin spoke. “Lord Frejyr and Lady Frejya of Vanaheim.”

The statuesque blonde woman said nothing as her brother nodded in greeting. Loki smiled behind his veil knowing exactly what she was irritated about. She believed, as many others did, that he had taken the prize from the prince’s rescuer. Loki folded his hands together over his abdomen. “I thank you again for the use of your feathered cloak, Lady Frejya,” the Jotun prince murmured as the skin of his hands flickered blue-pale-blue. Her brilliant blue eyes widened in realization, flickering up to meet his through the veil.

“It was my pleasure, Prince. You may ask to borrow it anytime you wish.” Freyja smiled, guarded in the presence of so many political and noble persons, yet instantly fond. Loki smirked, secure in the knowledge that he had made yet another powerful ally.

The party continued, guests mingling and trading easy conversation. While standing with Queen Frigga, and speaking with a few older members of the council, Loki was surprised when an old man dressed in well-worn and old-fashioned clothing approached. His mother-in-law introduced him as the man who educated her in Asgardian magic. Introductions complete, the wizard nodded at the Jotun absent-mindedly before he pressed on, “Mi’Lady, I was cleaning out some of my old trunks and discovered some things from your time as a student. Do you remember that frost giant who went crazy? I found some of her belongings that were left behind. Now that we are no longer at war, do you think we should return them?”

“A Jotun lived here?”Loki interjected, shock overtaking his manners. He paused to collect himself, clearing his throat and smiling tightly before continuing, “what do you mean crazy?”

“There was once a Jotun that came to stay here and learn spell weaving with me and a few other students. One day
she simply attacked the guards without provocation and was removed from Asgard. It was a shame. I had thought we were becoming friends.”

“I had no idea that a Jotun had been here before.”

“Yes, our two people were once close allies. It seems so long ago now. I had only just come to Asgard myself, newlywed to Odin.” Frigga smiled sadly, eyes growing distant and thoughtful. “Now, what was her name? Far? No, something with an f and b sound for certain.”

“Fellbart? She’s an older Jotun, decent sorcerer,” Loki offered.

“I think it ended with a vowel sound?”

“Foboro? or maybe Fabenai? Folmontai?” With each name Frigga continues to shake her head even as Loki ran out of sorcerers to name. If they had been educated in Asgard, they would have been a well known Jotun. “The only other sorcerer I can think of would be Farbauti but…”

“That was it! Farbauti,” the old man smiled, poking one bony finger in his direction.

Loki was stunned. It felt like a betrayal in a way. Both a betrayal and a comfort. To know that he was walking the same halls that his own blood had walked before. “… Why wouldn’t he have told me he stayed here? Learned here?”

“You know her?” the two magic-users asked over one another,“Who is she? He?”

“My dam. Farbauti is the Jeweled Sorcerer-King of Jotunheim.”

“My goodness! I knew your mother’s -excuse me, dam’s- name is Farbauti but I honestly never made the connection before. Funny how easy it is to let the good memories fade into the past when bad blood arises.” Allmother-Queen Frigga sighed sadly, shaking her head slightly.

“What happened? To get Farbauti kicked out of Asgard, I mean,” the Treasure-Prince murmured, stepping closer to the queen’s side.

“I don’t really know. Farbauti attacked the guards in the hallway by her, his room one morning and was quickly escorted out of Asgard. Both guards retired and I never heard from Farbauti again. I had forgotten all about it.”

“Strange. Farbauti has a temper but I’ve never seen him attack someone unprovoked. With the Allfather’s permission I will write to him. Hopefully my dam can shine some light upon the subject.”

“I imagine that he didn’t want to burden his,” Frigga spoke the word with an upward inflection as if still questioning the correct pronoun, “children about things that happened so long ago, so long before the war.” He had nothing to say to that and silence fell between them. The old teacher excused himself as several noble families approached to convey their best wishes for the prince’s recovery. The last family to approach had two small children with them, who peered up at Loki from behind their parent’s legs. As the family moved off, Loki turned to Frigga.

"I have been meaning to ask. Why do the children of Asgard believe I will eat their toes?”

“Eat toes? They’re children. You can’t believe what they say,” an old court official scoffed dismissively from his seat nearby. The Treasure-Prince restrained himself from commenting directly on the rudeness of interjecting into a private conversation.

“They must have heard it somewhere,” he demurred instead, turning away from the man. But before he could continue the youngest Odinson approached, towheaded and gangly with a sudden growth spurt. “Baldr? Why do you think the Jotnar will eat your toes?”

“My teacher was once a soldier but lost his toes while they were fighting on Jotunheim. He said the frost bit them off.”

“Oh” Frigga laughed in surprise. “Baldr, frostbite is a condition where the skin and muscle tissue freezes and dies and cannot be repaired. It doesn’t refer to a frost giant eating toes!” Loki smiled and chuckled along. The translation was slightly lost on him but he thought he understood it well enough.

A grumbling voice muttered quietly, “Well, I wouldn’t put it past the savages.” The treasure-price whirled in place, startling the doddering old fool behind him. Despite his courtly dress, his behavior was that of a thuggish lout. His bared arms showed thick scars and signs of battle. It was clear that he had been part of the war against Jotunheim.

“Why do you continue to refer to the Jotnar in such a fashion? We are no longer your enemy,” the Silvertongue soothed, quelling his own temper at the same time.

“What else do you call someone that dresses and acts like a savage?” the man smirked, gesturing to his fellow courtiers who nodded slightly and mumbled amongst themselves. He shifted in his seat, spreading his stance confidently at their agreement. “Not to mention the cannibalism,” he added, dropping his forearm to rest on one knee as he leaned forward in challenge.

“Cannibalism!” With this shout, many heads were turned in their direction. Loki’s opponent surged to his feet. With the man’s blustering voice raised, Loki finally recognized this man as one that protested his every appearance in court.

“Entire platoons of fine Aesir soldiers lost with only their bones recovered! Can you honestly say that one who eats other sentient beings is not a savage?!” The man’s shouting echoed through the hall, sending the room into a hush. Odin slowly made his way toward the pair, stopping at Frigga’s hand. Loki took a deep breath before leveling his gaze at the man. An increase in volume will not open another’s ears, he reminded himself. Just as an argument between kings cannot be resolved through shouting, this hatred cannot be cured with raised voices.

“Our manner of dress and our food preparations are different from yours, yes. But we aren’t savages and we don’t eat people. Did you witness this?” Before the man could answer, Loki shook his head with a dark chuckle, “of course not. So where did these men go missing? Where were the bones found?”

“I’ve heard it referred to as Ginnungvellir.”

“Oh…” Sick dread swept up his spine, spreading shivers of fear across his skin. All Jotnar knew the danger of that place. “This would have happened in the dark hours of night when even the evening suns in our sky reflect no light on our lands.”

“Yes…,” the man answered slowly.

“The Ginnungvellir hides a deadly secret. There is a reason why the Jotnar have no city there. It is the perfect place for a settlement, yet beneath the snow millions of tiny tunnels hide the Soltimmvaettir. Each tunnel hides one of the hungry wights. They eat any meat that stays still during the hours of darkness. They eat our children, our dead, our flocks. A single soltimmvaettr can devour a fully grown Jotun within an hour. No one stays in the Ginnungvellir. Think carefully about that time. Did our warriors push yours into the crater or did you select the location yourself?”

“...We selected it,” he admitted reluctantly, turning his eyes away.

“The Jotnar would never force a living creature to stay in the Ginnungvellir. It is a slow and painful death akin to torture. If I remember the time when we were fighting in that region, we pulled our warriors away so you could leave the Ginnungvellir. We moved our soldiers all the way to the mountain, several hours march away.”

“You could have been luring us into a trap! It was a decent site and we had no reason to leave it to pursue.”

“Then it is by your own folly that those men died with only bones to recover. I know that some of your soldiers were captured and held but these men have all been returned to you. The only people whom you have lost were those cut down in battle or due to the Soltimmvaettir. Those don’t sound like the acts of a savage race to me. Any other reason you believe us savages?”

Another voice rose from the crowd. Another courtier. Another Aesir that objected to the Jotun’s presence in court. “The frost giants broke the treaty and attacked Midgard. They refused to compromise.”

“No, Odin broke the treaty. It began with a request for more silks. We asked for higher prices. If we were to produce a greater number of silks artisans would need to be pulled away from our flocks and fields and food purchased from--”

“You have flocks?” Another courtier interjected. Odin stood at his wife's side, watching passively. No emotions showed on his face.

The interruption tested Loki’s already shortened patience. He breathed deep before turning his gaze on the interlocutor. “Not the animals you are thinking of, I imagine. We rear frost beast, snowy foxes, rock goats, and winter hare. Some for furs, some for food, some for their ability to produce a strong fertilizer for our crops. Yes, crops. We may have to harvest the witching flower wild from glaesisvellir but there are many other foods that we farm.”

The treasure-prince returned his gaze to the one who insisted that the Jotnar had broken the treaty. “When we asked for a higher price, Odin denied us and demanded the silks at the current rate. We refused to create additional silks at the lower price if it meant the Jotnar would go hungry.”

“I don’t think that’s quite what happened.” The gathered crowd murmured around them. Some in agreement, others in speculation.

“Believe what you wish. I speak only from our histories, directly scribed from the meetings between Allfather-King Odin and Warrior-King Laufey. When the Jotnar refused, Odin retaliated by complaining to our other trading partners that we were demanding higher prices. He failed to mention his own demands.” At this, Loki could not resist looking to his father-in-law. Odin had pursed his lips into a neutral expression, yet his eyes looked pensive.

Loki continued, “Our other trade deals fell apart soon after and our people were left to starve without adequate food from trade. Laufey foolishly believed that by raiding Midgard we could get Odin’s attention and broker a new agreement as a peace treaty. Then the former Aesir-King Borr was killed in a terrible accident and it had been all out war from that point on.”

“Well…”the chastised man scrambled to come up with another argument but the Jotun prince waved a blue hand through the air.

“If you’ll excuse me, I wish to retire from this conversation,” Treasure-Prince Loki nodded his head shortly to the victim of his sharp tongue before sliding his gaze over the gathered crowd. His veiled eyes fell upon the reigning king and queen of Asgard. He could find no malice in their expression, despite the way he gracelessly exposed the true cause of the war.

Loki exited the hall with as much poise as he could muster, measuring his steps until he reached the empty passages beyond the hall. We waited until no one was around to see him stumble.

Chapter Text

With a dull echoing sound, Odin pounded his spear Gungnir upon the floor, calling the courts to attention. The assembled courtiers cease their mumbling, falling silent as Loki and Frigga took their seats on one side of the hall. What seemed like yet another day at court was anything but. Today Odin was to pass down judgement on Thor for his brash behavior. Some courtiers had already argued that he was still young and would learn with time. A few believed that a journey would give the crown prince a more jaded eye, as it had for his father. Loki was of similar mind, though it seemed that Odin, and most of the court, was set upon trapping the thunderer in the palace and forbidding him from leaving at all, as punishment.

They had been arguing back and forth all day. If no decision could be agreed upon by the court then the matter would fall on Odin for a final verdict. With conviction, the Silvertongue of Jotunheim rose from his seat. “Allfather, may I speak?” He requested, voice ringing out over the bickering courtiers, silencing them.

“You may.”

“Crown Prince Thor is arrogant,” the treasure-prince began and murmurs erupted throughout the hall. ”He’s reckless and he can be dangerous if angered. Is this what Asgard deserves to see in its king?” Dozens of voices rose up in argument but were silenced as Odin pounded Gungnir upon the floor again, quieting the hall. Loki nodded his thanks before continuing.

“You believe that keeping Thor confined to Asgard will be seen and received as a punishment for his foolish actions. Yet this very punishment will only fuel his resentment and bruise his pride.” The slight whispers of the courtiers shifted in tone at this announcement, changing from negative to speculative. “I suggest, instead, that Thor be given a challenge. Task him with the care of the other realms. Through the responsibilities of managing troops and leading them, the prince can prove himself. I believe he will surprise you, perhaps even himself.”

The courtiers fell into an anticipatory hush as Odin rubs his fingers along the edge of his throne, thinking carefully. Speaking quietly to the silent room, Allfather-King Odin asks, “Are there any objections to placing Thor in charge of our troops? Tyr will supervise and report his actions, of course.”

“Of course,” Tyr intoned, turning toward the king and nodding his agreement. With his back to the courtiers, Tyr quirked an eyebrow in Loki’s direction. Treasure-Prince Loki grinned beneath his veil, secure in the knowledge that he had collected yet another ally within the Asgardian governing body. Frigga smiled and shared a proud look with her son-in-law.

No courtier could object to allowing the crown prince to lead troops and gain necessary experience. If not for a few murmurs of doubt it would have seemed that the entire court was in unanimous agreement. Loki took little joy in the fact that his brash and ill-mannered husband would be away from Asgard, finally earning his titles.

On one hand, the man would be gone, and the large Thor-shaped space on their bed would be empty due to his absence from the realm and not his refusal to enter their suite. On the other hand, Thor’s absence had previously provided Loki with more opportunities to expand his influence among the ruling class of Asgard, if only by accepting sympathy from people who assumed Loki missed the crown prince. The Jotun would never miss him.

He only felt resentment. At the way he was treated by a man who should have cared for his well-being, if not for him. After his recovery Thor had not asked if his spouse and unborn child were still among the living. It was not through any help from Thor that Loki and the child were still alive. The strength of Jotun magic was filling the void where paternal support was absent.

Weeks and months pass with Thor away with the troops, quelling the strange attacks that plagued the world tree. The identity of the creatures was still unknown. The damage they wrought upon the land had become more costly and the frequency of their attacks had increased

The baby nestled in Loki’s womb was growing by leaps and bounds. It seemed as though the Treasure-Prince grew more rotund by the day. Vidar, the calico kitten, also grew quickly, easily tripling in size within those few months. One hazy summer afternoon found Loki walking the halls of the palace behind Vidar as the small cat chased dust motes. Their meandering path took them down to a river valley just outside the palace walls. Prince Baldr sat crouched at the edge of the water, a small net in hand, when Loki came upon him.

“Good day, Baldr.”

“Shhh!”

Oh? How odd. Baldr had never shushed him before. Loki had of course heard the sound often enough during his growing years chasing behind Byleister and Helblindi. It took a bit of effort but eventually Loki managed to contort his body until he was crouched on the next rock over. The water tripped and trickled over the tiny rapids, swirling into calm eddies where Baldr had trained his gaze.

“What are we doing?” Loki whispered.

“Catching frogs,” Baldr whispered back, gesturing toward a large rock submerged in the river. Loki hummed thoughtfully in response while Vidar rubbed up against the boy with apparent affection.

“Waiting long?” he asked. Baldr shrugged. “Well if you want to catch anything before dark we better chase them out.”

“You can’t help. You’ll get your clothes dirty. That’s why I have play clothes. My teacher says adults don’t play so they don’t need play clothes.” This answer set a disgusted look upon Loki’s face. These Asgardian teachers need some teaching of their own.

“Well, on Jotunheim, everyone plays. All of our clothes can be play clothes. Watch.” Loki waddled slightly as he widened his already wide stance and drew his long waist cloth forward, tugging it high onto his thighs. With no little amount of difficulty, Loki passed the excess cloth between his legs and wrapped it around his waist. He would normally forgo this and simply strip bare but the Aesir are more modest than the Jotnar. He probably looked ridiculous with his enormous belly extending out over his feet. Tossing aside his shoulder cloth, Loki carefully waded into the water.

The water was cold. Not as cold as the valley streams of Jotunheim but much colder than any water he had yet encountered on Asgard. A glance toward the massive mountain behind the palace gave hint at the source of the frigid liquid. Loki luxuriated in the feeling, shuffling his feet toward the rock Baldr had pointed out.

With great care, Loki slid his fingers into the water and under the edge of the large stone. Baldr nodded and shuffled around until he was ready to throw the net into the water. Blue hands carefully lifted the stone and a pair of frogs darted out of hiding. Tossing the net, Baldr waited with baited breath as the water settled. As the surface of the water smoothed out, one of the frogs could easily be seen, struggling beneath the fine weave of the net.

“We caught one! We caught one!” the young prince cheered jumping up from his rock and splashing into the river. Vidar was off like a shot, out of range of the splashing water in an instant. Loki chuckled and eased the rock back into it’s place.

“What are you going to do with it now that you’ve caught it, Prince Baldr?”

“I’m going to show Momma!” he replied, scrambling away from the river's edge and racing toward the palace entrance. Vidar gave chase, hot on the prince’s heels through the field.

“You’ll bring it back and release it later, yes?” Loki called after him.

“I will!” Baldr shouted back. Treasure-Prince Loki could hear the smile in his brother-in-law’s voice. Such joy in simple pleasures. Oh to be young and carefree. With peace in the world tree more and more children would be able to grow up without fear of war. Loki was proud to have made it happen.

Watching his surroundings carefully, looking out for any potential interlopers, the Jotun walked further downstream into a deeper section of water before tossing off his waist cloth completely and submerging himself in the cool waters. The chill seeped into his bones, easing his aches.

As his body temperature lowered, the sorcerer could ease up on some of his own maintenance spells that helped him keep cool despite the heat of Asgard. With the strain on his magic reduced, the baby demanded more and more. Loki almost immediately regretted his actions. The baby would be terribly unhappy later when he emerged from the river and needed to take up his maintenance spells again.

If only he had another person to gain energy and strength from during his pregnancy. Someone to rely on for support. Ah, but there is the issue. Outside of the royal family, a few guards, and some other members of court, Loki was not close with anyone here. On Jotunheim, pregnant Jotuns received energy and strength from their lover first, then family and friends in order to aid the child’s survival. Loki was the most powerful sorcerer on Jotunheim and possibly Asgard as well. He could handle this.

Grumbling that the child’s weight was easier to manage while floating in the water, Loki slowly shuffled his way out of the river. He flicked his fingers to summon his clothing rather than bend over to fetch it. With well known movements, Loki wove cooling spells around himself, defending his cold Jotun skin from the heat of the sun. The baby kicked out wildly in protest, causing it’s dam to grunt in pain. “You are going to be a troublesome one, you are,” Loki muttered, slowly tying his cloths back into place.

Breath heavy as he trudged through the field, the treasure-prince made his way back into the palace. It was quiet, only the echo of birdsong and bubbling water from the many small internal gardens accompanied him through the halls. Odd, that there were no distant shuffling of soles or rattle of pans in the kitchens. Some noise should have been present. Loki stopped beside an open palisade that looked upon an inner garden space with a large fountain. He listened.

A lone set of footsteps suddenly began to rapidly approach his position. The sound was light, as if the shoes were soft soled, like those of children. Heavy breaths were pitched high, higher than that of an adult man or woman. A fleeing child was coming this way. Loki remained on guard.

Prince Baldr pelted around the corner, looking behind him with a panicked expression. Without saying a word, Loki opened his arms and welcomed his brother into them. “Loki!”

“What has happened, Baldr?”

“They’re in the court hall! Dark Elves! They’re threatening everybody! They’re gonna kill my mom!”

“Did they see you? Did they chase you?” Loki eases away from Baldr’s clinging hands to frame his face and look him over for any injuries. Despite the panting breaths and flushed skin, he seemed unharmed.

“Yes, but they lost me in the hallway--” A sound in the distance caused Baldr to freeze, eyes widening with fear.

Loki tugged the boy behind him as heavy footsteps rang out down the halls. Metal clanging with each rhythmic step. The steps came closer and closer. Baldr shuffled nearer, slipping under the veil and tucking his face into the middle of Loki’s back. With half a thought, the veil extended to his knees, growing opaque as it covered the hiding prince. Gravelly voices echoed down the halls, indistinct. The footsteps were just around the corner. The nearby fountain stopped suddenly, water splashing over the edges. Overwhelming silence took hold of them.

Three towering dark elves, frightening masks covering their sensitive eyes, entered the corridor intersection. One spotted him, calling out as he approached, “You there. Where is the boy?”

“What boy?” Loki asked, spreading his hands and the veil, further obscuring Prince Baldr. Water seeped along the spaces between the tiles in the floor, pooling and puddling in the hallway.

“Where is the princeling? Malekith the Accursed demands his presence.”

“Demands? Who is Malekith to demand anything of an Asgardian in their own palace?” Loki growled, tilting his head in a mockery of curiosity.

“Who dares question our will!?”

Loki grinned “I do.” With a flick of his wrist, shards of ice jump out of the puddles on the floor to slice through the three elves. They bled out in moments.

“Alright. They’ve been dealt with, Baldr. Let’s move into the garden, hm?” Loki spoke calmly as he shuffled sideways toward the open archway. The young blond prince went quietly, allowing his Jotun brother-in-law to shield the bodies from his view. He would never admit it, but he was grateful to not have to see them.

“I’m going to the court hall. You should wait here, hidden until these Dark Elves are taken care of.”

“No! You can’t go! You can’t leave me here!” Baldr grasped tightly to Loki’s arm, tugging on the edge of his waist cloth. His voice was edged with panic, eyes wide and scared.

“Don’t worry,”the Jotun prince soothed, “I’m going to protect you.” He settled his young brother-in-law onto a bench for a moment as he wove some spells.

Loki magically formed a large urn out of mud and filled it with water from the fountain. Though he could form ice and snow out of the water from the air, having a surplus supply would be helpful. Before he left the peace of the garden, Loki carefully hid Baldr in a large dense bush. Vidar sauntered into the garden, calm as can be, and curled up into Baldr’s arms. The mottled colors easily hid the boy’s small form. With final instructions to stay put and remain quiet, Loki made his way toward the main hall.

Shouts echoed down the empty corridors, muffled by the heavy doors of the great hall. Fear and anger were evident in the Asgardian voices. Malice was all Loki could hear in the voices of the dark elves. Pausing outside the grand doors, Loki made a few changes to his appearance to make himself less suspicious. He hefted the urn high into his arms, struggling to maneuver it around his belly.

In the great hall dozens of dark elves filled the darkened room. Frigga and the assembled courtiers were tied to their chairs, threatened with longswords and daggers. Odin was shackled to the floor, his back to the hall. The shape of his shoulders showed his determination had not faltered. This was not a king who had given up the fight yet. In the midst of the shouting, several noticed the large doors swung open slowly. A sudden silence fell over the room as every eye turned to watch the newcomer. A slight woman with golden hair and snow-white skin entered the room with a large pot in her arms.

The nearest dark elf lunged toward her. With a dramatic gasp, the pale blond girl stumbled away toward the center of the room. The urn tumbled end over end, spilling water across the tile floor. A few dark elves chuckled. Backing away from the spilled water, the girl gave a high pitched squeal of terror as several more dark elves approached, their weapons at their sides. As they stepped into the growing puddle they were immediately immobilized with thick tendrils of ice.

A wicked grin spread across the girl’s face as she elbowed the dark elf behind her in the face, knocking him flat. Heavy curtains had been pulled across each window in the hall, leaving only torches to light the room. The room was dry, but the fresh air on the other side of the drapery was damp enough to be useful. Loki drew upon the water in the air to pull open the drapes and ice them into place. Most dark elves in the room fell to their knees clutching their eyes in pain. A few still wore masks that blocked the light. Agonized moaning from the injured dark elves was quickly joined by the angry growls of those still standing.

The veil floated back into place as pale Aesir skin faded into Jotun blue. One dark elf stood ahead of the rest, watching. Loki cocked his head back, looking down his nose at the creature in front of him, “You must be Malekith.”

“You must be the Jotun runt.”

“Runt,” Loki repeated, anger flaring up at this disrespect. His veil fluttered and rippled, growing short and becoming tinged with black. Malekith continued, unconcerned with the rage he had awoken.

“Asgard had its time. Now it is time for the Dark Elves to rule. Time for me to rule.”

“Not yet,” Loki growled, tossing out a burst of magic from his palm, a green flare of light designed to pierce and sting. A dagger flew past his head in retaliation. The battle between them was as vicious as it was short. Malekith was bigger, stronger, and faster but Loki fought dirty. Another knife flew through the air but Loki redirected it. The wicked blade embedded itself a scant inch from Frigga’s hand.

Allmother-Queen Frigga sprung into action, using the dagger to release her own bonds before slitting the throat of the nearest dark elf. In mere moments Odin found himself freed from the shackles and each courtier felt their bonds give way under a carefully placed spell. The remaining dark elves were quickly overtaken by surprise just as the Asgardians had been only an hour before.

With a final strike of green magic, Malekith was subdued, falling to the ground and bleeding out. Loki stood over the body as guards from all around the palace charged into the room. Allfather-King Odin took charge of the room once more. The captain of the guard reported on the dozens of dark elves, now dead or captured, that had been terrorizing the city as a distraction to lure the guard from the palace. This ruse had worked, unfortunately. It would be removed as a potential weakness in the future.

Frigga’s first concern was for Baldr and for Thor. A report from Heimdall proved that the Asgardian forces in other realms were completely unaware of the attempted coup. Loki was happy to lead Frigga and a few guards to the garden where Loki had left the young prince. With a bit of coaxing, the young prince was finally convinced that his mother and brother-in-law weren’t shape-shifters.

Baldr stepped out from behind the bushes, clutching Vidar tightly to his chest. All assembled gasped in shock at the sight of him. His face was bright red and flecked with welts. Prince Baldr was quickly shuffled off to the healing halls where Respected Healer-Head Mistress Eir pronounces the hives caused by a previously unknown mistletoe allergy.

Treasure-Prince Loki breathed out a sigh of immense relief. He had worried that his choice of hiding place had nearly killed the young Asgardian prince. All was well after all. He released the tension of his shoulders and arms, the tension that had been keeping him upright since Baldr ran to him in fear. With his deep exhale, Loki felt the strength of his magic falter. Perhaps his battle with Malekith was too much. He stumbled over to a nearby chair, grasping the back tightly as the world tilted sideways. Spots grew in his vision and bells began to ring in his ears. His knees buckled, sending him toppling onto the ground. Voices echoed around him, muffled and distant. His sight faded to black, though Loki could clearly feel the flagstones beneath him. He could feel hands grabbing, pulling. As his body was drawn off the ground, Loki became lost in space, untethered until the blackness swallowed him.

Far away from the glitter and glory of Asgard, a lonely sentry stood on the hill where the Bifrost entered Jotunheim. Their job was to monitor the gateway and to stand watch over the Flame of Hope. Most days were quiet, with nothing more than trading deliveries or missives passing through the Bifrost. The sentry yawned into the frigid breeze, digging his spear into the snow-covered ground out of boredom. A flicker of motion caught his attention. He glanced up but did not immediately recognize any change in his surroundings.

The pillar that held the Flame stood several paces away. Dismissing the movement as a shift in the clouds, the sentry almost missed it. The Flame of Hope had flickered. The once steady throb that represented the heartbeat of the Jotnar's beloved treasure had stuttered. With fear rising in his throat the sentry stared, eyes transfixed on the most important symbol of the Jotnar royal family.

A gust of wind swept across the land, blowing snow across the open plains that stretched below. The Flame of Hope throbbed once, twice, three times in tune with the Treasure-Prince’s heart before fading to a low ember, sputtering weakly.Though the sun was shining down through the clouds, it seemed as if a darkness had overtaken the land. Fumbling at his hip, the guard raised a horn to his lips with shaking hands. His deep bellowing call echoed through the valley. Other guards took up the call, repeating it until it reached the icy palace.

What was only minutes felt like an eternity. Hundreds of Jotnar raced to the site of the Flame of Hope. Many fell to their knees, weeping openly. Others rallied, demanding that the Aesir answer for their inability to protect the Treasure-Prince. As the royal family approached, all assembled parted to grant them access to the pillar. The kings needed only to glance at the flame before they turned their gaze skyward.

“Heimdal! Open the Bifrost! I would be with my son in this desperate hour!” Laufey called, eyes searching the sky as he unbuckled and tossed the ceremonial weapons he carried to their first born son, Helblindi.

“Our son lays dying! Please! Let us come to him, Please!” Farbauti begged, tears beginning to fall from his blood red eyes.

Silence was their answer.

”I can try to shadow step into Asgard,” the Sorcerer-King offered, desperate to reach his youngest child.

“No. You know the cost, Far. I won’t let you risk it.” Laufey took hold of Farbauti’s shoulders to give him a gentle shake. “The more you step in the shadows the more attention you draw from the Titan. We cannot afford to lose you. I can’t afford to lose you.”

The people of Jotunheim waited. Some watched the low flame on the pillar flicker and throb. Others watched the sky as the light began to fade.

A sudden burst of light struck the land, etching a deep mark into the snow and ice. Warrior-King Laufey held tight to his spouse as they leapt forward into the Bifrost.

Chapter Text

Roaring sound and flames of color surrounded the two kings as they were transported between the realms. The pair raced past the golden walls of Heimdall’s watchpost onto the glittering bridge that led into the city. A single figure was charging down the bridge on horseback. Pulling harshly on the reins, the rider drew his mount to a sudden stop. Laufey called out in recognition. “Warrior-General Tyr! Our son. Is our son--”

“Prince Loki has fallen ill. He’s resting in our healing hall. I’m to escort you. Can you keep pace?”

“We'll be as fast as we need to be.” Farbauti assured, eager to get underway.

Tyr nodded in satisfaction, wheeling the horse around and setting off at a gallop. Jotuns, despite their immense size, are fast and agile. It is a credit to the Asgardian horse trainer that the warhorse doesn’t flinch at the sound of massive footfalls directly behind it. Instead of bringing the conspicuous guests directly to the main palace, Tyr leads them to the soldiers’ gate. A smaller entryway that leads into the barracks and training grounds. The gates and doors in their path are standing open in preparation. Tyr was ordered not to stop until the Jotnar royals were delivered directly to the Queen.

Under the gated archway into the barracks courtyard, through the doors into the training grounds, onto the stone palisade that leads to the backdoor of the palace. At each turn and entry, guards stand at the ready, holding open doors and gates or keeping personnel away from blind corners. Mere minutes pass before Warrior-King Laufey and Sorcerer-King Farbauti are delivered before Queen Frigga.

Both Jotuns nod their thanks to the general as the man wheeled his horse around to retrace his steps. Tyr called instructions to the guards to close the doors behind him. Queen Frigga smiles tightly, foregoing any official greeting in favor of guiding the visiting kings to the healing halls. As the kings matched the queen’s shorter stride, Farbauti whined low in his throat at the much slower pace. Laufey squeezed tightly onto his mate’s hand. Frigga quickened her steps.

The healing halls of Asgard were designed to allow for winds to keep the smell of sick away from other patients, and bring the bright sunlight into each room through windows and skylights. In addition to the open air styling of the healing hall, specially woven curtains keep each area sterile to prevent cross contamination. The ceilings are tall, designed to accommodate special equipment being moved around, but only barely tall enough to fit two fully grown Jotuns. Servants in the room stared openly as Farbauti’s long horns caught on a floating chandelier and Laufey scratched a deep groove into the ceiling with his ridges. While Treasures and Sorcerers bore traditional horns, Warriors had thick bony ridges emerging from the scalp that prevented hair growth and acted as a natural helmet. Yet another unique feature that set the Jotnar apart from the other races of the world tree.

In the room furthest inside the hall, facing a shaded courtyard, Loki was surrounded by dozens of healers. He was still unconscious, despite the magical healing and support the women in the room were providing. Healer-Headmistress Eir stepped forward as Laufey and Farbauti duck under the low lintel. “Prince Loki is resting. The child drains him. He pushed past his limits and fainted. Luckily he did so here where we were able to address his weakness immediately.”

“Our son is not weak.” Farbauti growled, quietly so as not to disturb his sleeping treasure. Laufey rumbled an additional warning growl, though his intended target was unclear.

“Of this, I have no doubt.” Eir responded while lifting her chin defiantly, refusing to be intimidated in her own halls. “However, it does appear that the growth of Prince Thor’s child has drained Prince Loki of his strength.”

"Why has the Thunderer not provided aid to his spouse?” Laufey questioned. His gravelly voice rumbled like falling rocks.

“I don’t understand,” Eir tilted her head slightly in curiosity. Several other healers leaned forward to better hear the answer.

Farbauti scoffed, “The sire must give their own essence to the growing child, either through contact or magic spell. If Loki is drained from this child it is because he bears the burden of two parents on his own. This is no fault of our line, but of yours.”

“It appears we are woefully uneducated in Jotun anatomy. Aesir pregnancy is relatively simple in comparison,” Eir answered, appearing concerned. The other healers in the room broke out into a flurry of whispers, mostly inaudible. One voice spoke slightly louder than the others, “Why would Loki send Thor away if he knew that he needed support?”

“The thunderer was sent away?” Laufey asked. It was no secret that the crown prince of Asgard held deep prejudices against the Jotnar. If he had been sent away, the Warrior-King of Jotunheim would wager that it was related to his behavior with Loki. Exalted Warrior-Master-Scribe Kashok had reported the roughness that Thor had displayed at the consummation. Laufey had sworn the warrior to secrecy. If Farbauti had heard of it, there would have been bloodshed.

Frigga sighed as she answered, “It is a complicated situation.” Before either king can question the Aesir queen, a motion on the bed captures their attention. Loki had shifted beneath the blankets, turning toward the voices in the room. His eyes remained closed as his sire and dam move to either side of the bed to attend to him.

The worried parents carefully settled on their knees, positions they took every night to read tales at bedtime. Farbauti’s large fingers brushed under the veil to stroke Loki’s cheek as Laufey cradled the prince’s much smaller hand in his. The difference in size between the parents and their child was striking. Beside his sire and dam, the Treasure-Prince looked like a little doll. Loki’s long black eyelashes fluttered for a moment before opening slowly.

“Sire? Dam?” Loki’s eyes wheeled frantically from the Jotuns beside him to the healers watching from the foot of the bed. “What have you given me? I'm hallucinating!”

“Fret not, Loki. We are here.” Laufey soothed, patting the tiny hand beneath his.

“The flame grew dim, dearest.” Farbauti soothed, gently caressing Loki’s face.

“Oh… The child?” He asked, leaning into his dam’s touch. Mistress Head-Healer Eir began to quietly usher the numerous healers out of the room, their presence no longer necessary now that Loki had regained consciousness.

“We will help you now. Rest, while we lend our strength.”

The room fell silent as Loki slipped into sleep once more, a soft smile on his face. Frigga stepped forward cautiously, approaching Farbauti as the sorcerer continued to caress his son’s face and stroke his hair. “May I help?”

Wordlessly, Farbauti shifted closer to the headboard so Frigga could hold Loki’s free hand. Once settled, he looked over his shoulder at the Queen of Asgard. “It has been a long time.”

“It has. I had almost forgotten you, to be honest. I did not know you had married so well.”

“Perhaps Laufey is the one who married well.” Farbauti grinned roguishly.

“Of course, my heart.” Laufey murmured, gazing lovingly at his spouse. A few of the remaining healers shudder as they leave. Blood-red Jotnar eyes staring with such intensity were unsettling to the Aesir. But the queen had become accustomed to Loki’s eyes and knew how to read the emotions behind the unusual color. Frigga could not help but to smile at the royal couple, pleased to see such love in her friend’s marriage.

“Our teacher kept a few of your things that were left behind if you would like to claim them.”

“To be honest, I would rather not remember that time of my life,” Farbauti answered shortly.

“Oh…”

“Being banished for defending myself against that disgusting guard is not something I would like to relive by examining items from my youth.”

“Defending? I’m sorry, I know you don’t want to discuss it but… we were never told what happened,” Frigga tried to remain conscious of how tightly she was clutching Loki’s hand.

“It was simple. The guard said that he liked ‘big women’ and attempted to force himself upon me. I used my power to remove him from my chambers. I was escorted from the palace that night. From that moment forward, I saw no reason to return to Asgard.”

“That’s awful. I had no idea,” Frigga struggled with the need to apologize. Silence reigned for only a moment before Laufey spoke up, breaking the tension in the room.

“Why does my son still wear his veil?”

“I do not - “

“Because Thor doesn't think Loki's pretty,” a small voice piped up from the doorway. The few remaining healers had parted to allow Prince Baldr access to the room. In his arms, Vidar hung limply with ears perked in interest not discomfort.

“What?!” Farbauti barked, anger swirling through him.

“Yeah. Thor told Loki to keep the veil on. But that's dumb. I think Loki's very pretty.” Baldr shifted Vidar’s weight in his arms. The enormous cat mewled lowly at the jostling. “I brought his kitty to cheer him up!”

“No, no, prince Baldr, we mustn't disturb prince Loki. He's resting.” One of the healers took hold of the young prince’s shoulders, preventing his approach.

“But I brought his kitty!” Baldr shouted and Loki jolted out of sleep.

“It's alright.” Loki called out, struggling to sit upright to see more of the room. Laufey lent a hand, effortlessly lifting his son. “I would love to see my kitty. Are you feeling better now, Baldr?”

“Yes. You were asleep for hours and hours, Loki!” Vidar was deposited on the bed with a flop, closely followed by the fair-haired prince himself - dodging Queen Frigga’s attempt to pull him into her lap instead.

“Oh, I must have been very tired then,” the Jotun prince sighed.

"Yes. Do you think you could help me catch more frogs?”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to, Baldr. I’m sorry. I need to stay healthy for the baby.”

“Okay, that makes sense. Maybe Thor can help me when he gets home.”

“Prince Thor is returning?” Loki asked, surprised.

“I overheard father talking to the head of the guard.”

“Baldr, you shouldn’t be listening in and spying.” Frigga scolded with an irritated scowl.

“I wasn’t! I was looking for Vidar.” Baldr protested, pointing at the cat who had curled himself around the baby bulge.

“Well I look forward to meeting the Thunderer. I have some words to share with him.” Farbauti rumbled.

“Everything is fine, Sire, Dam. There is no need for words. Prince Thor was sent away where he was needed most. I was stubborn.” Loki stroked Vidar between the ears, making a curious noise in the back of his throat. The cat was purring, curled up against his abdomen. He had felt this before but what he hadn’t realized was that the creature had been providing strength to the baby, in it’s own way. If he was more superstitious he would be concerned that the child would emerge with cat like features because of this. Thankfully, Loki was well-educated and unlikely to fall for such silly stories.

Baldr continued to talk about what Loki had missed while he was unconscious, mostly clean up from the Dark Elf invasion. This of course led to some concerns over the safety of the palace. Loki drifted back to sleep as his mother-in-law, sire and dam discussed ways to make sure that the Treasure-Prince of Jotunheim and the unborn child could be kept safe. While the Kings of Jotunheim sat vigil at their youngest son's bedside, Odin sat upon his throne directing his guards and sending missives to their military units stationed abroad, recalling them to Asgard.

The palace had been infiltrated by dark elves and this was a blow to his pride. Yet a greater threat still remained in the world tree. It was not dark elves that attacked settlements on Vanaheim, Alfheim, and Svarltafaheim. The Vanir, Dvergar and the Light Elves had all begged for the Aesir to step in to fight back against the strange and unknown creatures that fought without honor and killed indiscriminately.

Odin had already determined that the dark elves were a distraction. But for what? What threat was looming on the horizon? Even Odin’s all seeing eye could not discern the dangers hiding in the darkness between the branches of the world tree.

Chapter Text

The swirling colors of the Bifrost resolved into the glorious shine of the capital city of Asgard. The early morning sunlight lit up the city with a wash of golden color. Crown Prince Thor lead the surge of troops returning from abroad, passing eagerly through the gate chamber to the bridge that would carry them all home. Heimdall stood watch as Asgard’s soldiers traveled through the Bifrost, keeping a wary eye out for possible intruders. The mood was light, with soldiers gladly marching home.

General Tyr sat astride his warhorse upon the bridge, waiting, a riderless horse at his side. With a cheerful greeting and a wide smile, Thor swung astride the mount and the pair began to trot toward the palace. “I take it you enjoyed your assignment?” Tyr asked, smiling at the happiness radiating off the younger man.

“Yes, immensely. I had not expected that the challenge of negotiating with local groups and making decisions for the troop movements to be so rewarding.” Thor gushed, turning his head to watch his troops as they marched up the bridge toward the city. “Our skirmishes with those strange creatures from beyond the world tree, we’ve been calling them outlanders, were fun, I will admit, but I found I enjoyed peacetime far more than battle. I had not expected that.”

“I am glad you enjoyed the assignment. Some were worried you would not take to the job. It seems that Prince Loki was right to make the suggestion.”

“Loki suggested it?” Thor spun around, shocked at the news.

“Mm,” Tyr nodded with a hum, “Odin had wanted to banish you to Midgard. I think this was a better choice. Most of the military agree with me.”

Thor lapsed into silence for a time. The bridge and docks gave way to the city proper as Thor contemplated this news. The implications of a banishment were not lost on him. Could he have learned to be more tolerant of other cultures and patient with those under his command if he was banished to Midgard? Clearing his throat in discomfort, Thor asked “Do you know why father recalled the troops? Our work was not complete. Small skirmishes were taking place nearly every day.”

“The Vanir can handle it. The troops are needed on the homefront. A great threat looms on the horizon.” Tyr’s hand tightened on the reigns, his eyes narrowed and his lips curled in anger. “The Dark Elves attacked.”

“Attacked!”

“Yes. They somehow managed to infiltrate the palace and subdue the guard without raising any alarm in the city proper. They held the Allfather and Allmother hostage during a court meeting.”

“Was anyone hurt?” His heart was pounding in fear, nearly beating out of his chest with anxiety. Not just for fear of his family, but also for the soldiers and common folk that often visited the palace. Any number of people could have been killed with such an invasion.

“Thankfully, no. A few guards had minor injuries and Baldr suffered an allergic reaction to the mistletoe bush he was hiding in.” Tyr’s response sent a rush of relief through Thor’s body.

As the blond prince caught his breath a shout rose up from an open tavern door. “To Prince Loki!” Those lingering around the door raised their glasses and repeated the cheer. Even more people, walking through the street took up the cheer as well. Laughter and good cheer surrounded the two riders.

Thor was surprised at the toast. “What was that?”

“The Jotun prince has been making quite a name for himself. He has been working with various merchants on trade deals and endeared himself to the palace staff simply by being kind. Baldr and Queen Frigga both enjoy spending time with him and the court has begrudgingly admitted that his superior arbitration tactics have reduced their workload. There is also the fact that he single-handedly took down the dark elf raiding force.”

“What?” Bafflement colored Thor’s tone. His eyebrows climbed higher on his face, expressing his disbelief.

“Without Prince Loki the Allfather and Allmother would be dead and the realm of Asgard would have fallen into darkness. I cannot even begin to imagine the casualties the dark elves would have wrought upon our people.”

“Loki did that?”

“Yes. Your husband is a hero to us all. Wellwishers have been leaving tokens at the palace gates all morning.” As he listened Thor quirked his head to the side and gave the General an inquiring look. With a sigh, Tyr continued, “The battle against the dark elves took a toll on the prince. His body couldn’t take the strain. The Kings of Jotunheim are visiting now. Perhaps… Perhaps keep a sharp eye about you and mind your manners?” Tyr cautiously offered his advice, wary of the Thunderer’s temper. “When I was tasked to bring Prince Loki here, I could plainly see just how much the Jotnar love him. Now the Aesir love him too. We would all be very disappointed if he died or were taken back to Jotunheim.”

Thor could say nothing more and the pair lapsed into silence. More cheers were raised as they rode through the city. Some were for Thor and his soldier’s return. Some were for the continued health of the Asgardian royal family. Most were for Loki. Even at a distance, as they detoured off the main road toward the soldier’s gate, Thor could see the gifts and tokens piling high outside the main gates. Several palace staff were carefully collecting the items into baskets as a messenger was speaking with the citizens. The soldier’s gate swung open wide to admit the two riders and the army that followed them. A royal groom waited in the courtyard to take the horses away to the stables. As Thor and Tyr dismounted their steeds a messenger stepped forward with an announcement that the Allfather was awaiting the prince in his office.

The stately chambers tucked beside the throne room were rarely used but gave the Allfather a quiet place to hold more private meetings. Thor could remember a few times he was called to these rooms, often for chastisement. It was with no small worry that he entered the rooms now. Odin was standing at the window and did not turn when his son arrived. It was through experience that Thor knew not to interrupt his father’s quiet contemplation.

“Do you remember - though you may have been too young to recall - a time when I rested and my brothers held the throne of Asgard?” Odin asked, eyes trained on the distant horizon.

“I do not remember a time without you, father.”

“Ah. It has been so long since I have had a King-Sleep. A time to rest my weary all-seeing eye and learn from my past mistakes.”

“Mistakes?” Thor asked in surprise. Today was a day of surprises it seemed.

“Oh Yes. Everyone makes mistakes. Even kings. I feel as though I have failed you if you truly believed that I was infallible.” With a weary gait, Odin moved to his desk and took a seat. “You are luckier than you know. Not just by birth, but by marriage as well. Loki is a blessing. You need to accept your mistakes and learn from them. Be better because of them.”

Thor could not find words. “I am tired, Thor,” Odin sighed. “I once feared that you were not ready to watch over Asgard. Now I fear that you will be but you will have no spouse at your side to aid you.” Thor opened his mouth to protest but stilled when his father raised a hand in silence.

“Frigga is more than just a companion. She is a guiding light for me. A shining compass that points me in the right direction. Every decision I made was with her blessing. Loki is the finest negotiator the World’s Tree has seen in all my years, and all my father’s years as well. I had hoped that his guidance would balance out your impulsiveness.”

“Thor. You are so lucky. Your spouse will be a fine companion to you. I hope you come to see this, before it is too late. You have much to think about and much to make up for. Get some rest,” Odin dismissed.

With his head spinning, Thor wandered through the halls back to his suite of rooms. The rooms he shared with Loki. He was coming to understand just how little he knew of his spouse. The lights were dim and the curtains drawn closed in the front room of their chambers. It was so dark that Thor nearly missed his mother, sitting beside the banked fire.

She sat hunched in on herself, a position he had never seen her take before, her hands clasped tightly in front of her, head bowed. Frigga lifted her head at his approach, surprise flitting across her features. Thor knelt in front of her, resting his hands over hers and feeling the tension that ran through them.

“Oh, Thor. You have returned. Are you well?”

“Yes, I have returned.” Thor was puzzled by the somewhat detached tone. Her eyes were distant, and her normally carefully coiffed hair was lying limply over her shoulders.

“Good,” she murmured. Beneath Thor’s massive hands, Frigga twisted her hands around to reveal the necklace she had been clinging to. Two birds stand out in relief on the gorget, cast in gold and clutching Mjolnir between them.

“What’s this?”

“It was a gift from Lord Freyr and Lady Freya. Gifted to the one who rescued you from the bilgesnipe on Vanaheim.”

Ah, he had heard about this gift but had not seen it. To be honest, Thor barely remembered anything about the battle with the bilgesnipe. Only impressions of the creature dying in a mud pit and a black feathered cloak. "Why is it here then? Who did rescue me? I was… I was too drunk and self-absorbed to be concerned for my rescuer. They did survive did they not?”

“Loki lives. For now. With luck and care he will live through the delivery. It should happen soon.”

“Loki rescued me?” Thor failed to disguise is surprise and disbelief.

“Yes,” she answered, launching into a desperate explanation of all the good that Loki had done for Asgard. Thor was stunned and could barely make out her words. It seems that the Jotun he had hated was responsible for his very life. The bilgesnipe would have killed him. To extend the point, Loki also prevented thor’s banishment. Without the Jotun’s intervention, he would never have experienced the ups and downs and challenges of his military assignment.

“I… had no idea. I owe a lot to him, I suppose.”

“Yes, you do. We all do. Do you think you can be worthy of him?” She asked urgently. “Laufey and Farbauti want the marriage contract voided after the baby is born. They want to take Loki away. Asgard has been blessed by the presence of the Treasure-Prince of Jotunheim. He is beloved by his own people and now also our own. I and many others would weep to see him leave our lands. But... if that is what he wants…”

A single tear rolled down her cheek, falling into her golden hair. Thor could barely believe that his mother was crying over a Jotun. He had assumed for so long that she shared his hatred of the race. It seems that he was wrong. If Loki truly had done as much good for him and for Asgard, maybe he needed to rethink his own hatred. “Thank you mother.“

“He’s in the healing halls. His parents are with him.” Rising to his feet, Thor placed a gentle kiss upon his mother’s cheek.

He meandered through the halls, thinking deeply about the information he had learned. Every action that Loki took could be seen as a political maneuver, one that had been calculated to ensure his own success and survival. But any person would act that way under such circumstances. What truly struck Thor was that Loki didn’t have to come after him into the dangerous forest of Vanaheim. Loki didn’t have to speak up against his banishment, suggesting the greatest challenge Thor had ever enjoyed. Loki didn’t have to be kind to his mother and the people of Asgard. They certainly had not shown him kindness on his first arrival. Thor certainly did nothing to help.

With each measure of devotion that Loki had shown to Thor, the blond prince had thrown it away. Dismissing him and treating his bride, his husband, with such disregard. Thor was ashamed.

His feet came to a sudden stop that left Thor swaying at the abruptness. Mjolnir stood upon her pedestal in the armory. The leather wrapped handle sat at an angle, as if in invitation. A deep thrumming tone in his core was echoed in the cold gray metal. Thor lifted his hand to take hold of his weapon, the weapon that Odin had deemed him incapable of carrying without prejudice. The spell on the hammer said that only one worthy of its power could wield it. Thor didn’t feel very worthy right now. He dropped his hand, the hammer untouched, and left the room as quickly as he could, eager to get away from the proof of his poor behavior.

Darkness fell as Thor wandered the palace.

The healing halls were quiet. Deep rumbling breaths echoed from one of the treatment rooms. The window curtains were half open, allowing a gentle breeze and the light of the moon to flow through the room. Loki lay sleeping in the center of the bed. On the far side of the room, mostly hidden behind the furniture, were two pairs of large blue feet. Obviously the Kings of Jotunheim had decided to remain at their son’s bedside instead of taking up beds in another room. Careful not to disturb the sleeping royals, Thor took a seat in the chair at Loki’s bedside.

A sudden hiss startled him. Over Loki’s shoulder, a dark shape stalked forward with glowing yellow eyes and a warning growl.

“Hello,” Thor whispered, feeling slightly foolish for speaking to a cat. “I wish I knew what Loki named you. But in either case, I am glad you are protecting him. Even from me.” Thor held out one hand for the enormous cat to sniff at daintily. The growling stopped as his scent was tested. Sharp teeth wrapped around his fingers momentarily before letting go. A very clear warning, that Thor would take to heart.

The silence of the healing hall was pierced by a soft whisper. “Thor? You’re back”

“Baldr. Why aren’t you in bed? It’s late,” Thor twisted in his seat to address his younger brother. The pale haired young boy approached the bed and leaned against Thor’s chair before answering.

“I wanted to check on Loki,” he murmured.

“Do you like Loki?” Thor asked.

“Yup. He plays with me and teaches me things. He helped me catch frogs and saved me from the dark elves.”

“What sorts of things did he teach you?” Thor asked, grabbing Baldr around the waist and pulling him into his lap. Baldr didn’t protest. He was getting older but was wise enough to know that he would grow out of cuddling age very soon. He would take what he could get.

“He helps me with my lessons, explaining things when my teachers only confuse me. He lets me play with Vidar. Did you know that he didn’t know the word for a baby cat was kitten?”

“I did not know that.”

“Yes. Loki is teaching me how to be diplomatic in a different way than how father has been teaching me. It’s neat to see the different negotiating tactics.” Thor chuckled. Now that phrase was definitely something Baldr had learned from Odin or Loki. What young child called them ‘negotiating tactics?’

“Thor?” Baldr asked and Thor hummed curiously in response. “Why don’t you think Loki’s pretty?”

“What?”

“Loki won’t take off his veil because you told him not to. He doesn’t have to wear it and I don’t think he likes it much. His parents seemed pretty mad that Loki was still wearing it.” Thor froze. He remembered, with sudden clarity, his harsh words at the wedding ceremony. How cruel he had been. How angry. With a knot in his throat, Thor rose to his feet, setting Baldr into the chair.

Thor reached toward Loki’s face and the veil that laid over it, puffed by each exhaled breath. Vidar growled again. Thor slowed but continued, grasping at the gossamer edge of the fabric. He lifted it gently, setting it above Loki’s head. For a long moment he stared. The fine features weren’t displeasing, in fact they suited the type of person Thor was usually attracted to. Long, thick black hair laid in a braid over one deep blue shoulder. Aside from the skin color and horns, Loki looked exactly like someone he would flirt with at a tavern or a ball.

Adding the fact that his husband had been so loving and devoted despite Thor’s rough treatment. Thor could feel himself falling a little bit in love with the Jotun prince. The Treasure-Prince. His husband.

Odin was right. He was truly lucky.

“You’re right Baldr, I was a fool. I will try harder not to be one in the future. I am very lucky that Loki married me. Hopefully I can learn quickly how to be a better husband.”

“I can help, I think. Mother and father too.”

“Something to discuss in the morning, then. Come on Baldr, to bed with us both.”

Thor plucks Baldr out of the chair and into his arms before quietly leaving the room. Loki’s blood red eyes opened slightly, watching Thor’s retreating form. He pondered, restlessly, for the remainder of the evening. Just how sincere was Thor? With a sigh, Loki watched golden light filter into the room as the sun rose. Only time would tell.

Chapter Text

Laufey left Asgard early in the morning. The skirmishes with outlanders on Vanaheim had bled over into Jotunheim. It was nothing that the Jotnar couldn’t handle but they welcomed the presence of their Fierce Warrior-King to guide the young Fearless Warrior-Prince Byleister and Merciless Warrior-Prince Helblindi. Farbauti remained on Asgard to nurse Loki back to health.

The Jeweled Sorcerer-King of Jotunheim was horribly stubborn but Respected Healer-Head Mistress Eir was not so easily cowed. The pair butted heads constantly over the proper care for the young Jotun prince. It was during one such argument over proper nutrition that Farbauti was drawn away from his son’s bedside. Thor took the opportunity to sneak into Loki’s room in the healing halls, hoping to have a private word with him.

The large Asgardian could not hide his entrance but cleared his throat and set his knuckles against the wall a few times out of politeness. A junior healer froze like a rabbit before an owl, pillow half-fluffed and dangling from her fingertips. Her eyes darted to Prince Loki where he lay on the bed, veil once again covering his face. With a nod from Loki, the young healer bolted out of the room.

“Do you always have that effect on people?” Loki asked, amusement coloring his voice.

“Only the young ones that haven’t seen me embarrass myself in the mead hall yet,” Thor joked weakly, wringing his hands together and resting against the far wall. “I wanted to apologize for my behavior. A lot of it. Starting by… I am sorry that I was mean to you on our wedding day. It isn’t right that you should continue to wear the veil when you don’t have to. You really should have just ignored my mean-spirited words and taken the veil off anyway.”

“It would have been unseemly to be start a fight with my husband mere minutes post-nuptials.”

“Oh. Right. Well…”

“I could take it off now if that would make you more comfortable?”

“Only if you want to.”

“Good answer.” Loki smiled as he lifted the veil over his head, detaching it from his horns. He did not lift his head to look Thor in the eyes directly. He couldn’t bring himself to be that brave yet. “I understand you have been speaking with Baldr and Frigga and others about me?”

“Yes. I’ve only heard good things, of course.”

“Of course.”

“To be honest, I think I would be hard pressed to find anyone on Asgard that doesn’t like you.”

“I’m sure a few of your generals still hold a grudge.”

“Well they shouldn’t,” Thor spat out angrily. Crimson red eyes rose in surprise to meet with eyes as blue as the afternoon sky. A sad smile stretched over the pale Aesir skin. “I’m sorry I was mean to you at our wedding, and after. I’m sorry I was so hard on you while we were trying to conceive. I’m sorry I drank so much and made the process harder. I’m sorry that I ran off into the wilds of Vanaheim and left you alone. I’m sorry you had to put yourself in danger to rescue me but I thank you for doing so anyway. And I’m very grateful that you encouraged my father to reconsider banishment. I truly have learned so much while I was away.”

Thor paused, licking his lips in nervousness and clearing his throat once more. “There is one thing I learned that did not come from my time away. Something I find myself wishing I had learned earlier.”

“And what is that?” Loki asked, holding Thor’s gaze and reading the emotions hiding in those blue eyes.

“The importance of attempting diplomacy before resorting to violence. Despite my previous beliefs, violence is not always the answer. That’s something I learned from you. You treated everyone around you with kindness. You were firm and authoritative when you needed to teach someone a lesson but you were always kind. It surprised me. Angered me, if I’m honest, because part of me was waiting for the catch. But you simply knew better than I. You knew that it is much easier to get your way through kindness and compromise.”

Loki was stunned. Perhaps his brash husband really was sincere in his desire to mend their relationship. Thor continued, “I’ve been horribly unfair to you. I don’t deserve your forgiveness. Not yet. But I’d like the opportunity to earn it. To show you that I’ve learned the lesson you nearly gave your life to teach me. One cannot walk through life alone. They must rely on allies to guide and aid them. My father believes you could be a guiding force in my life like Frigga is for him. My mother believes we could be the greatest rulers the World Tree has ever known. I would like the chance to see if that’s possible.

“With your permission, and that of your parents I suppose, I’d like to court you. Officially. To earn the right to stand at your side.”

“You’ll have a hell of a time convincing me to let you anywhere near my child again, you oaf!” Farbauti barked, storming into the room and planting himself firmly between the Thunderer and the bed. Eir bustled in, completely ignoring the sudden standoff between the royals and placed a tray onto Loki’s lap.

“Do not even think of getting out of this bed. You just rest and let these fools sort themselves out,” the healer admonished. Loki smirked at her. Lunch with a show? He wouldn’t miss it for all the gold in the realm.

As it turns out, even the Thunderer was no match for an enraged dam. Thor was practically cowering in fear, trying desperately to explain himself and get the sorcerer’s approval to court the Treasure-Prince. Eventually Farbauti settled on trial by combat as his chosen method for Thor to earn forgiveness. Thor refused, adamantly, but the much larger Jotun merely snatched the Asgardian up by the back of his shirt and hauled him outside.

Lunch was abandoned immediately and, with a gaggle of healers protesting and flitting around him, Loki followed his dam and his husband outside. Handmaidens and servants bustled about, rushing to prepare a comfortable resting place for the pregnant prince alongside the fighting ring. One young trainee healer was sent to fetch the lunch that Loki left behind. Eir would not let the stubborn young man get away without finishing his plate.

Once the Jotun prince was settled into a padded chaise, shaded with large tasselled umbrellas, Farbauti took up a staff and tossed another to the Thunderer. Thor reluctantly brought the staff into a defensive position as Farbauti paced the ring around his opponent. Anger seemed to roll off the towering figure in waves. This was the man who hurt his child, be it physically or emotionally, and that would not stand. Laufey thought he had been clever, hiding the truth that Koshek had brought back with him. The Warrior-King should know by now that nothing is unknown to the Sorcerer-King. This was Farbauti’s chance to take his own pound of flesh from the brute that abused his child.

He wouldn’t kill the Thunderer. Merely bruise him a bit. A lot.

The first strike came quick as a flash, a heavy blow to Thor’s thigh. Another hit to his tanned arm. The pair circled the ring, not daring to look away from each other. Further blows followed, most were blocked by the Asgardian’s reflexes but several hit their mark. Despite the brutal assault, Farbauti remained unscathed. Not a single swing was leveled at Loki’s dam.

For all his known prowess on the battlefield, the Thunderer was making a very poor showing of his skills. Murmurs overtook the audience, hushed whispers starting to spread gossip about the crown prince’s reluctance to fight. From the center of the ring, Thor risked a glance at the gossip-mongers in the crowd. Loki knew his husband could hear the dissent forming in the ranks.

Thor caught Loki’s eye and tilted his head toward Farbauti, who continued to pace the edge of the ring. A slight nod of Loki’s horned head and Thor began fighting back. His blows were swift, nearly faster than the Sorcerer-King, and struck at each point where he had taken damage earlier.

When Thor had evened the score, he returned to his more pacifistic stance. For several minutes, each strike from Farbauti was returned in kind. Loki watched carefully. Farbauti had made his point, Thor had made his. There was no reason for this to go on if one or the other combatant began struggling. And it was only a matter of time before a weakness made itself known to the Silvertongue.

“Dam?” Loki called out in alarm, clutching at his belly and hunching over. He panted slightly and stretched one hand out toward his parent. Farbauti dropped his staff and raced to his child’s side in an instant. His large arms lift and cradle the Aesir sized Jotun. The healers urged the blue-skinned pair back inside for an examination. With all the fuss over the pregnancy, Thor was abandoned in the fighting ring. Over the Farbauti’s shoulder, Loki winked at his husband.

Thor’s jaw dropped open in shock. That little snake. It seemed that even more gratitude was in order. The Sorcerer-King of Jotunheim was a better warrior than Thor had believed. If Loki had not caused an early end, well, he just couldn't be sure who would have come out on top. He tossed his staff to an attendant and rotated his shoulder to ease the growing stiffness. He thought wryly that the large jotun’s own knee should surely feel as tight. It was a good fight, one that he hoped had earned him some respectability in his… dam-in-law’s eyes.

Chapter Text

The hustle and bustle of the healing halls calmed quickly when there were no further signs of labor from the prince. Eir tutted disapprovingly and tucked Loki firmly back into bed, handed him his lunch once more and stood over him as he ate. Farbauti hovered around the bed, straightening the sheets and then tucking them closer to his child in equal measure. When Thor entered the room, the intimidating Jotun pierced the Thunderer with his blood red eyes. Thor chose to settle into a chair near the entryway, trying to stay out of the way while the healers watched Loki eat.

Loki was clearly exasperated with the attention being paid to each bite he slipped between his lips. His eyes flashed in irritation and his usual mild smile was curled into a moue of discontent. As the meal was finished and the room cleared out, the Silvertongued Prince of Jotunheim finally relaxed. Even his dam seemed to be more at ease in the quiet, settling on the floor as the chairs were far to small for his large frame. He closed his eyes, finally at ease, though he did twitch in irritation when Thor cautiously moved to sit at Loki’s bedside.

Frigga bustled in just as Thor was relaxing into his new seat, having avoided being ousted by the territorial dam. She carried with her a tray of sweets and savories that Loki had become fond of during his time on Asgard. She set the tray down on the bed and drew another chair up beside Thor’s. Her delicate hand whipped out, fast as a viper, to swat her son’s hand away from the tray when he tried to sneak away a sweet treat. Loki muffled his laughter as Thor dramatically clutched his hand to his chest. Farbauti glared at the blond prince over the linens.

The rest of the afternoon passed gently, with easy conversation, despite the strained relationships among those present. When it was time for the evening meal, Odin himself came by to visit, bringing several servants along to serve their meal in the healing halls. Eir was less than pleased at the disruption but would not deny the Allfather unless her patient’s life was at risk. A shared meal may in fact heal some of the wounds that existed within the royal family.

It seemed as though, by watching Thor interact with his younger sibling and his parents with affection and respect, that Farbauti was slowly warming to the man. At the end of the meal, Farbauti asked Frigga for a tour of the gardens, claiming that he had missed them dearly since he left. Loki wasn’t fooled. It was a clever ploy to leave the expecting couple alone for a time.

Quiet fell over the room as everyone filed out. Thor cleared his throat awkwardly. “So. Do you think your dam will allow me to court you?” He only stuttered slightly over the unfamiliar word. “I’m not sure he has much say in the matter,” Loki responded, looking to Thor expectantly.

“Will you allow me to court you?” Thor asked.

Loki smiled, pleased that his husband was not as dull as he had previously behaved. Perhaps there was hope for him as the eventual King of Asgard. “Yes, I will allow you to court me and earn my forgiveness. Though I understand why you behaved the way you did, I do not excuse the behavior. I hope you will continue to grow as you have these last few months as leader of the armies of Asgard.”

“I can only wish the same. I think I’ll be alright. If I have you as my teacher.”

“Flatterer.”

Thor grinned, pleased.

The evening moved into night. Farbauti returned to sleep at his child’s bedside. Thor chose to stay and do the same. As he lay upon the floor Thor heard Farbauti sigh from across the room. He turned his head and saw the Sorcerer-King was watching him beneath the frame of the bed. A pair of wide-spread outstretched fingers raised up to the Jotun’s eyes, before turning to point aggressively at the Aesir prince. The warning was clear and Thor slept uneasily that night.

In the early pre-dawn light, Loki woke in silence, unable to speak. He fumbled and knocked a pillow off the bed in his thrashing. Suddenly awake, Thor groggily sat up to look at his husband. Pain was etched deeply into the Jotun’s face, fingers made pale with a fierce grip on the bed sheets. Thor clambered to his feet, adrenaline surging with fear and uncertainty. “Should I fetch Eir?” he asked in a frantic half-whisper. Loki could only shake his head and breathe as the contraction eased. He eased his grip and reached out for his husband’s hand. With trepidation, Thor took Loki’s hand in his own, gently caressing the thin blue fingers.

Loki shifted and writhed on the bed, unable to contort himself into a comfortable position. An irritated sigh escaped his lips. Nothing he did was enough to ease the thrumming ache in his spine. Moving around usually eased the sensation. The fact that it wasn’t helping today, was particularly irksome.

Thor rose from his seat and released Loki’s hand. He clambered onto the bed, settled against the headboard, and gently tucked Loki against his chest. "Is it...Are you…?" Thor stuttered quietly.

"No. Just practice, I think.”

"May-"

"Hm?"

"May I?" Thor asked, lifting one hand to hover over Loki’s extended abdomen.

This request gave the reserved Jotun pause. Could he trust the Thunderer? If they were to ever reconcile and truly become a family then a certain amount of trust would be needed. As ever, it was falling to the Silvertongue to ease the way toward a brighter future. "Yes," he answered with false confidence.

Thor smiled as he gently caressed the bump. A peculiar feeling tickled the edges of his mind through his fingertips. "That's a strange feeling."

To Loki this was a familiar feeling. "He's hungry."

"Hungry?" Thor gasped, pulling away his hand in surprise.

Loki chuckled and tugged the large pale hand back into place, “Jotunheim is a rather difficult place to live and the hermaphroditic nature of the Jotnar is no help in regards to the conception of our children. Once conceived, pregnant Jotuns must give their own strength to the growing child, either through contact or magic spell. Additional energy and strength is gathered from their spouse or lover, family, and friends if the child is to survive to infancy.”

"I suppose my mother, father, and brother have been helping you, then."

"No. I didn't ask."

"You must be very strong," Thor hummed.

"Yes, I am."

"And so modest," he rolled his eyes.

"Of course," Loki grinned.

"But also stubborn and foolish."

"Yes, but so are you." Loki turned his head to share a smile with his husband.

"Yes.” Thor chuckled in agreement. He paused for a moment before asking, “Did you say 'he?'"

"A guess. I didn't find out."

"Tradition?"

"In a way. The Jotnar don't have traditional genders so looking at physical features won't tell us anything about the child. Once they are born we can identify if they are warriors, sorcerers,or treasures but their pronouns are their own to choose as they grow up."

"That's... interesting. I hadn't considered that our physiology was so different. Will that put our child at risk?"

"No. Aesir traits will overcome. There have been other genetic hybrids between Aesir and Jotnar and the child is always physically Aesir."

"That's a shame.” Turning his head, Loki pinned Thor with a curious look. The Thunderer continued, “That our child won't take after you at all."

"I didn't say that. Hair color and family lines are occasionally inherited. One memorable child had one half and half eye. Split right down the middle, red and blue. They passed young from an illness."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

Loki hummed in response and as a reaction to the rising pain. His eyebrow twitched when he felt an additional sensation between his legs.

"Um. Is that..." Thor asked, also feeling the dampness seeping into the bed.

"Yes. It is," Loki sighed. He was beginning to enter labor.

"Should I-" Thor shifted minutely, only for a vice-like grip to entrap his wrist and force him into stillness.

"If you move I'll strangle you.” Panting, Loki waited for the contraction to subside.

"We could at least wake your dam, Farbauti."

"We've got time. This won't be a rapid birthing." Loki took the time to breathe. He tried to remember how long he would have to rest between contractions.

"If you're sure." Thor grumbled hesitantly. Only a few moments later Loki was again overtaken.

When he was finally able to speak, he panted, "Alright. Maybe you shou-" for an additional contraction to rip through his body.

"Just breathe,” Thor soothed, pulling Loki’s tense body back against him once more.

"Don't tell me to breathe. You aren't feeling this." Loki growled.

Woken with a start, Farbauti sat upright in alarm. "What's going on?" He reached for Loki’s arm where it had wrapped around Thor’s bicep, nails digging into the skin.

"Touch me and die." Loki warned. Each contraction struck harder and faster than the last. The pain was greater than the powerful sorcerer had anticipated. Farbauti stared in shock at the vicious comment from his normally peaceful and loving child. Remembering the pain of his own pregnancies, the Jotun decided he would just have to forgive the slight. He contemplated fetching Healer-Head Mistress Eir to assist in the birth but decided against it. The soon-to-be parents appeared to be working in sync, closer than he had ever seen them. It would do them a world of good to share this experience without too many outsiders infringing on their moment.

Loki groaned in pain, pushing against the beefy arms around him, sliding further down the bed. Moving purely on instinct, Loki wound his arms around Thor’s thighs, anchoring himself for the next stage. Minutes later, the urge to push came over him. Time stretched toward an hour before Loki finally knew to reach down and bring his firstborn child into the world. Thor’s own arms followed, helping to support their child.

"Wow!" Thor exclaimed in surprise and awe. That was a baby in his arms. His baby. With a heavy sigh of relief, Loki tucked the tiny form against his chest, wiping the expected bodily fluids away from his baby face.

"I'll fetch Healer-Head Mistress Eir," Farbauti smiled at the young couple entwined on the bed. He stroked his son’s hair, pressing a kiss to his treasure’s temple. “Congratulations darling,” he demurred, slipping away into the hall.

"I guess you were wrong."

"Hm?" Loki hummed quizzically, not tearing his gaze away from his newborn.

"They weren't practice and this was rapid," Thor chuckled. Squeezing his arms around Loki gently, indicating he meant no harm with his comment and only spoke in jest.

The exhausted new dam could only laugh breathlessly. “Shut up.”