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A Reprieve

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The Summoner adjusted their cloak and began the long trek back to the Kingdom of Askr. Standing at their side were Alfonse, Sharena, and Anna, their weapons sheathed. Ylgr and Fjorm had dressed their wounds, leaving them stable enough to return home until the various staff wielders Kiran had summoned could heal them fully.

“I wonder what we'll do now that the war is over,” Sharena mused aloud in her high-pitched voice.

“Well, Princess Veronica and Zacharias have returned to Embla. Seems he finally found that cure he was after,” Anna responded, stretching her arms behind her back.

Alfonse sighed, saying, “I still had things I wanted to say to him…”

“Ooooh! Does my big brother have a cruuush~?” the princess of Askr teased as she gave Alfonse a small playful shove.

“N-no!” he shot back, looking down and blushing.

Anna shoved him back towards his sister and added, “Come on now, Alfonse. You can tell me! I'm your commander, after all!”

“Alfonse and Bruno, sittin’ in a tree…” Sharena sang, her song soon interrupted as she and Anna burst into fits of laughter.

“Ugh...sometimes I wonder why I put up with you two.”

Suddenly, a gentle voice spoke from behind the group, saying, “Come now, Prince Alfonse. You mustn't think we women are all so inclined to gossip.”

The four turned to reveal Fjorm, the princess of Nifl, who smiled and smoothed her white skirt.

“Princess Fjorm! Shouldn't you be back at home with Hríd and Ylgr?” Alfonse cried in surprise.

“No. I've decided to stay with the Order of Heroes and repay my debt to all of you,” she answered calmly.

Sharena squealed and rushed toward the other princess, who let out a yelp of shock as she was scooped up into a tight hug.

“Oh, wonderful! We're so glad to have you with us!”

“Y-yes, thank you, Princess Sharena, but...could you perhaps let me go? It must be awfully cold to hold me so tightly...and for so long,” Fjorm managed to squeak out, her voice muffled by Sharena's tight grip.

The friendly girl relented and stepped back, as Anna stepped forward, stating formally, “On behalf of the Order of Heroes, we thank you for your contribution, Princess Fjorm.”

“There is no need to thank me. It is the least I could do in return for all you have done for me, my family, and my kingdom.”

Alfonse gave a soft smile, asking, “Would there be some way for me to secure an audience with Prince- er, King- Hríd? He seems so capable, but he doesn't let his skill go to his head...I could learn a lot from him.”

“Certainly. I've promised to visit Nifl every few weeks, so that Ylgr and Hríd will not go mad with worry. You could come with me, Prince Alfonse- I'd be more than grateful for your company.”

The Summoner spoke up for the first time since the battle with Princess Laegjarn; after her death, Kiran had gone silent and stepped away from the group, looking downward with their hood covering their head, and had remained speechless until now.

“If Fjorm is joining us permanently, you'll need to swear the oath. Lift up your weapon.”

Fjorm nodded and obeyed, unsheathing Leiptr and raising it toward the sky in a diagonal fashion. Kiran pulled Breidablik out of a fold in their cloak and lifted it in kind, touching it to the tip of Fjorm's lance.

“Now, repeat what we say. I, Fjorm of Nifl, do solemnly swear…”

“I, Fjorm of Nifl, do solemnly swear…”

“That as a member of the Order of Heroes…”

“That as a member of the Order of Heroes…”

Alfonse added, “I will fight to defend Askr…”

“I will fight to defend Askr…”

Sharena spoke next, saying in an uncharacteristically serious tone, “Work towards achieving peace with all realms…”

Fjorm repeated this section as well.

“Ensure prosperity to every man, woman, and child…” Anna continued the oath, and was promptly echoed by Fjorm.

“And act as a force for good,” Kiran concluded.

“And act as a force for good.”

Kiran tucked Breidablik away, and Fjorm took this as her cue to return her spear to its sheath.

The three Askrans turned away and continued their walk in silence, and Fjorm hurried to catch up.  

Along the way home, they engaged in some idle conversation about what they wanted to do once they returned to Askr.

At one point, Alfonse wondered aloud who would be the emissary to Queen Laevatein, and Sharena immediately volunteered, cheerfully stating, “The poor girl must be so lost without her sister, but I'll help her! If anyone can guide her on the right path, it's me!”

The others resoundingly agreed.

The group soon made their way back to the white-and-gold Askran castle and stumbled inside, exhausted from their battles and the long journey. Healers immediately rushed to them, and Barst and Bartre helped bear them to the clinic, where they were laid onto comfortable white hospital beds. Fjorm, Alfonse, Sharena, and Anna all laid back, groaning, as Sakura, Lucius, Wrys, and Priscilla whispered comforting words and raised their staves, gentle healing energy flowing from them and towards the injured warriors. Since Kiran had not fought and was merely tired, they were given a quick Heal spell from Lissa to rejuvenate them and then discharged.

Soon, the Askrans and Fjorm were well enough to be released from the healers’ care, and they began their walk to the banquet hall.

“Ooh, almost dinnertime! I wonder what we're having tonight!” Sharena giggled.

Anna quickly answered her question with, “I heard Stahl and Est are making stew,” then added, “Stahl and Est make the best stew, Fjorm. It's a good thing you decided to show up today.”

The group soon sat down at a magnificent table, where several copies of Jakob and Felicia rushed out with large bowls of flavorful and hearty stew.

“It still surprises me how quickly they get used to seeing themselves multiple times over,” Kiran spoke, before immediately and ravenously digging in to the meat-and-vegetable stew.

The others followed suit, and over time, the other Heroes wandered in and sat down to eat, having various conversations among each other. Rather late into the meal, Odin noticed the princess of ice sitting nearby, gasped excitedly, and ran over to her.

He cried out in awe, “You are Princess Fjorm! The epitome of grace and elegance! The warm-hearted wielder of cold! The beautiful princess of peerless beauty!”

L'Arachel, glancing at the affair from across the table, frowned and scoffed.

Fjorm gave a small laugh in return and blushed slightly before answering, “Oh, don't be silly. I have only done what any-”

Her response was interrupted as she began coughing violently; doubling over, she desperately gasped for breath. Alfonse attempted to rush over and help her, but she waved him away, soon managing to breathe once again as her coughing fit stopped.

“I-I’m all right. Thank you, Prince Alfonse.”

“Princess Fjorm, that cough is getting worse,” Anna spoke concernedly. “If you're unwell, you shouldn't be out fighting.”

“N-no, I assure you, I'm fine,” Fjorm dismissed, adopting a warm smile. “I owe all of you my life. And I swear on the graves of my parents and my sister, I shall fight for you as hard as I can. I swore an oath, and Niflians do not break our oaths.”

“That reminds me!” Kiran piped up, raising their head from their bowl for a brief moment in order to speak. “It's a bit late now, but tomorrow, I have a surprise planned for you. I'll show you first thing tomorrow morning!”

Fjorm politely smiled and nodded in response, and the tables were soon cleared away as everyone finished eating. The Askrans excused themselves to their rooms, and Fjorm was led by a Jakob down a nearby corridor to a large door; he held it open for her, and she stepped into a large bedroom with an ornate four-poster bed. The princess thanked him, and he bowed a little before excusing himself. Fjorm took off her armor to reveal a simple white dress, and laid the armor next to her bed, with Leiptr on top of the pile. She laid down, sinking into the plush mattress and pillow, and soon fell asleep.

Fjorm was awoken by a knock on her door and a small whisper of “Princess Fjorm?”.

She stretched her arms above her head and yawned softly before standing up and opening the door to reveal Alfonse, who was wearing simple white linen shirt and short pants that were a bit tight on him. Fjorm found herself blushing as she glanced over him.

“May I come in, Princess? There's something important I need to talk to you about,” he whispered.

Distracted for a brief moment, she shook her head, snapped out of her reverie, and responded, “Yes, certainly…” then stepped aside to allow him in.

The prince of Askr entered her room, shut the door behind him, and turned to her with a rather embarrassed expression on his face.

“I thought, since you've done so much for us...it was only fair of me to reward you in some way. You see, Princess Fjorm, the truth is…”

“Yes, Prince Alfonse?” Fjorm asked, her voice gentle and kind.

“…I love you dearly,” he whispered, stepping closer to her.

“P-Prince Alfonse…” Fjorm stammered, stepping slightly closer in return. “Thank you, but…”

Her eyes darted to his waist, where a sheath attached to his belt held Folkvangr.

“Why do you have your sword?”

“It's for protection in case of emergencies. You never know who might be hiding among us,” he whispered as he stepped even closer.

Suddenly, Alfonse reached down and delivered a swift blow with his sword; Fjorm cried out and narrowly dodged the attack. With exceedingly fast reflexes, she reached down to grab Leiptr and swiftly disarmed Alfonse with a flourish of her chilling lance.

“It's you, isn't it? I should have known you'd be here, you deceiver!” the princess cried, pointing the tip of her spear at the false Alfonse's neck.

He giggled and responded, in a much different voice- far more feminine and seductive- “Oh dear. Looks like I've been found out…”

Alfonse spun in a circle, laughing as dark mist swirled around him, and Fjorm felt a stunning blow hit her solar plexus, knocking the wind out of her and causing her to double over in pain. She collapsed onto the ground and dropped Leiptr; her lance clattered on the floor as she rolled onto her back to stare up at her attacker. Staring back at her was the familiar figure of Loki, the Trickster.

“Ehehe...oh my, my, Princess Fjorm! Still so weak...just as the late king said. Speaking of which, I just had to thank you in person for taking down Surtr,” she cooed, kneeling down and placing a hand on Fjorm’s cold cheek. “But you see, dearie, now that he's gone...well, you’ve outlived your usefulness!” she continued, tauntingly pressing a finger to the princess’s nose.

“You see, I know you've been keeping some things bottled up inside that cold heart of years. Now that's not going to help anything, is it?” Loki continued in a mocking, babying tone, as if she were speaking to a young child. “And I've had the best idea. I'm going to help you release all your bottled-up feelings while…shall we say, having a bit of fun myself.”

“I am not afraid of you!” Fjorm cried defiantly, but was met with an angry glare and a hard whack on the head with Loki’s staff, Thökk, causing her vision to briefly go black. When it returned, Loki was gone, and in her place stood Guunthrá.

“Now please don't be so disrespectful, sister,” she said chidingly, in her gentle voice. “Why, if you keep acting like that, you could get somebody killed!”

She suddenly cried out in pain and fell to her knees as flames flickered over her body.

“Fjorm...Fjorm, it hurts! Please, save me!”

“Guunthrá!” Fjorm yelled, desperately reaching out towards her sister.

However, as she stretched her arm out towards Guunthrá, dark mist swirled around her wailing sister, and the older princess was replaced with Fjorm's mother, who similarly screamed in pain as flames licked her flesh; she soon was replaced with Fjorm's father, who glared at her and cried out “Why didn't you save us, Fjorm? Why did you run from Surtr? We might have survived if not for you…”

“Mother, Father, Guunthrá...I'm sorry…” Fjorm mumbled shamefully, tears beginning to stream down her face, and soon freezing and crystallizing.

Loki soon changed her form once again, this time to Laegjarn, and fell to her hands and knees, screaming, “The flames of Múspell...they burn!”

Fjorm lifted her head slightly to look at the shapeshifter, and Laegjarn mirrored the gesture, staring at Fjorm with empty eye sockets that dripped blood and showed heavy burn scars. Both princesses cried out in unison.

“I couldn't save anyone...and soon, my flesh will turn to ice and pierce my body…” Fjorm sobbed, Loki's mocking laughter echoing in her ears.

The door suddenly burst open, as Alfonse, Sharena, and Anna rushed in and drew their weapons.

“Princess Fjorm, we heard screaming! What happ...” Alfonse said, his voice trailing off as he saw the two kneeling in front of him.

“Princess Laegjarn? No...it's you, isn't it, Loki?!” Sharena cried; she threateningly pointed Fensalir at the prone Laegjarn.

“Oh, you Askrans simply are no fun…”

Another mass of swirling dark mist coalesced around Loki, and soon dissipated to reveal her standing up in her true form.

“I just thought I'd help Princess Fjorm let out some of those secrets she's been keeping from you...the naughty girl!” she chastised. “But now it seems I must take my leave...Ta-ta!”

Anna quickly tried to swing Noatún at the robed woman, but her axe met only air, as Loki had already vanished.

She angrily spouted, “Damn that evil trickster…” then knelt down and continued in a more gentle tone, “Did she hurt you, Fjorm?”

“What secrets was she talking about?” Alfonse inquired, leaning forward and narrowing his eyes a little.

“Brother! I can't believe you! Fjorm would never keep anything from us!”

The prince retorted with, “That's what you said about Katarina.”

“That's true, I suppose…” sighed Sharena.

Fjorm stood up, shuddering, and took a deep breath.

“She was right. I have been keeping secrets from you,” she whispered mournfully.

“Princess Fjorm…” Anna mumbled, shocked.

Unable to stop herself now, Fjorm continued, “The truth is, I’m consumed by my emotions most of the time. The deaths of my mother, my father, and Guunthrá weigh on me greatly. But the royal family of Nifl has been taught to hide our emotions- even from those we care for. So when Hríd and Ylgr act coldly towards me, I know it is because they truly love me. I didn't want to be a burden on you, and I care for you all so much...so I had to pretend I was all right and that I had finished grieving. But when you mentioned poor Princess Laevatein, and how lost she was without her sister, just as I am...it was all I could do not to burst into tears then and there.”

“Fjorm, you don't need to hide your feelings from us. Any of us are always willing to talk, especially the Summoner,” Anna reassured.

“Thank you, but...there's something else. Múspell's Rite of Flames grants immense power for a short time before consuming you, while the Rite of Frost grants long-lasting but weaker power...and kills you slowly.”

The three Askrans gasped quietly, Sharena holding a hand over her mouth in shock.

Askr's princess then asked, “So then, you're going to die, Princess Fjorm?” in a questioning way, as if she did not believe it- or did not want to.

“Yes. I do not know when, but I do know I don't have much time left.”

A pallor of gloom fell over the four. They stood still, deathly silent and unsure of how to proceed.

Alfonse soon let out a mournful sigh, breaking the silence, and spoke aloud, “Well, discussing it this late at night won’t help anyone. Let's all get some sleep and think on it. We'll talk more in the morning.”

The Askrans slowly exited the room, each turning back briefly to glance at Fjorm. Once they were gone, the princess of ice set Leiptr down, stood up stiffly, and curled up in the large bed, hugging her knees. She sobbed quietly to herself as she tried to get to sleep, but the release of slumber was kept from her for a time, as Loki's laughter still filled her mind.

However, she did eventually manage to fall asleep. The next morning, she woke up slowly, sunlight softly streaming through the window onto her face. Fjorm stood up and stretched a little before putting her armor back on and beginning to walk out into the corridor. At the end of the hallway, she was met by a woman in a maid's dress and rather intimidating spiked high heels. Her pink hair was done up with a white ribbon.

“G-good morning, Princess Fjorm! The Summoner sent me to wake you up, but it seems you beat me to the punch!” the woman greeted her, nervously giggling as she finished her sentence.

“Erm, good morning. Forgive me my rudeness, but I was wondering- who exactly are you? I remember seeing...well, a few of you, last night, but I haven't gotten your name yet.”

“O-oh! Well, I'm Felicia,” the maid stuttered, awkwardly curtsying. “I'm a maid, you see. Normally I would work under Corrin, but since the Summoner brought me here, I thought it was the least I could do to help out around the place. And apparently the other me's all had the same idea.”

“I see,” Fjorm nodded. “So is there anything the Summoner has asked me to do?”

“Oh!” Felicia jumped up and began to nervously wring her hands. “Yes! They've asked me to take you to the summoning pillar! Come this way,” she continued, walking away and gesturing for Fjorm to follow.

“The summoning pillar?” the princess asked as she began to walk with the maid.

“Oh, yes! The Summoner's magic is so lovely- oh, but I shouldn't spoil the surprise. We always look forward to summoning sessions around here- well, most of us,” she explained as they walked through the Great Hall, politely nodding to Navarre, who glanced away and allowed his long black hair to cover his face.

“I hope they'll summon my sister Flora soon. I miss her greatly,” Felicia spoke wistfully.

“Yes, I know how it feels. But I don't understand- why won't the Summoner bring Flora here?”

“Oh, it isn't a matter of deliberately doing it! The Hero that's summoned is usually random. The Summoner can only pick who they summon on very rare occasions- only when the Hero in question has been made stronger by the wishes of the people. We call them ‘Brave Heroes’. Then there are seasonal Heroes, Legendary Heroes...in fact, I believe you're one of those, right, Princess Fjorm? Can't you empower your allies with your ice magic?”

“Why, yes…” Fjorm mumbled, seeming confused. “Me, a Legendary Hero? It's a bit difficult to believe,” she thought.

“Flora and I have some ice magic ourselves, you know!” Felicia chattered, trying to keep up the conversation. “Since we're from the Ice Tribe and all. In fact, we're told touching us is-”

“Like touching ice,” Fjorm finished her sentence. “Me and my sister are- well, were- the same way.”

“Well, it's nice to finally meet someone with magic like ours! Oh, and it seems we’ve arrived. I'll be on my way, Princess Fjorm,” Felicia curtseyed again and walked off, stumbling slightly as she did so.

Fjorm marveled as she stared up at the huge stone pillar in front of her, at the center of the stone circle she stood on. It was rounded at the top, like a gravestone, with a large circular hole near the rounded section. Kiran stood near it, but turned to face her as they heard her and Felicia enter.

“Ah, Princess Fjorm! You're here. Come join me!”

Fjorm gracefully walked towards the Summoner, her footsteps echoing on the stone floor. She stood behind the cloaked evoker and folded her hands over her lap.

“Anna told me what happened last night. I'm sorry I didn't notice how you felt sooner,” the Summoner sympathetically apologized.

Fjorm shook her head and responded, “N-no, it's perfectly all right, Summoner.”

“If you're sure...anyway, that surprise I planned ties into that. You see, at different times, the warp and weft of the universe- the force that drives our magic and binds the worlds together- changes, and different Heroes become more likely to be summoned. I've named these changes in probability ‘banners’. And right now, we're having what's called a ‘legendary banner’. I assume Felicia already told you about Legendary Heroes- they can use the elements to make their allies stronger.”

Fjorm nodded in response.

“Legendary banners are good, because- as the name implies- they allow me to summon powerful Legendary Heroes. Including, if I'm lucky...your sister Guunthrá.”

The Niflian princess let out a loud gasp.

“Truly? You could summon Guunthrá- before she died?”

“Yes. If I get lucky, I can summon her from another world. It won't be the same as our Guunthrá, but it might help you cope with your feelings. Let's begin…”

The Summoner dug through their coat and soon pulled out a shimmering rainbow-colored sphere, about the size of a small bird's egg.

“This is an Orb. We use them to summon- among other things, but mostly to summon.”

“It's beautiful…” Fjorm whispered, staring at the Orb in awe as light shone across it.

Kiran nodded and dug a few more out of their pocket, making 5 in total.

“I've been stockpiling them for this banner- we usually get a warning a few days in advance through monitoring the worlds.”

Kiran then tossed the 5 orbs into the air, and they immediately floated into a pentacle formation. Each of them briefly shone with a bright light before changing color- one pale red, two green, one bright blue, and one dull gray; small geometric shapes appeared in each of them.

“You see, Princess, each Hero has a color assigned to them based on their weapon. For example, sword wielders are red, axe users are green, lancers are blue, and archers are colorless. Different colors have different advantages and disadvantages- I'm sure you've noticed how thunder magic seems to hurt you more than dark magic, or how axes are harder to parry with your spear than swords. Because she wields ice and wind magic, your sister is green- so we'll select a green orb.”

The Summoner drew Breidablik, pointed it at the green stone at the top, and pulled the trigger. A blast of light shot from the weapon and hit the orb, fusing with it, and the green sphere floated into the opening on the pillar. Fjorm gasped and glanced around her as the lines indented into the pillar and floor began to glow green, the light flowing through the streams, up the pillar, and to the orb; a bright light filled the area and soon grew blinding. Fjorm held her arm over her face and averted her eyes. After a few seconds, she opened them to see a brown-haired man with a large axe slung over his back, his arms crossed, and a scowl on his face.

The man spoke with a rather gruff voice, saying, “I'm Raven. Just a mercenary. Nothing more to it.”

“Yes, I know who you are,” the Summoner sighed. “And you aren't of any use right now. Sorry for pulling you away, Raven- you can go home now.”

The robed mage pointed Breidablik at the ground below Raven and pulled the trigger. A small portal opened up at Raven’s feet, and he fell through it. A moment later, a few shining white feathers floated out of the portal; Kiran gathered them up and stashed them in the pocket of their robe.

“Those are Hero Feathers. We use them to make Heroes stronger and create items that do the same.”

Rubbing her head softly, the ice princess found herself unable to say anything but “Goodness…”

“No Guunthrá yet,” the Summoner sighed. “Just for fun, let's try for a different color.”

Four more Orbs were loaded into Breidablik, and Kiran pointed it at the red stone and fired. Fjorm covered her eyes a bit earlier this time as the pillar began shining; once she opened them, she saw a rather scruffy-looking man in leather armor with a wide grin on his face.

“Hinata the samurai! Good to see you,” the Summoner greeted him. “I know you must be confused, but I need you to go find a short-haired man wearing…”

They dug through their pockets and soon pulled out a dark blue, wing-like mask.

“...This mask, and teach him how to use his rage to make himself stronger. Then walk through that portal and you can go right back home.”

At that, the Summoner fired another portal at a nearby wall.

“Uhh, you're the boss!” Hinata awkwardly smiled as Kiran lightly nudged him into the castle proper.

“That's called Skill Inheritance, Princess Fjorm. We can have Heroes give their weapons or teach their abilities to other Heroes- though they have to go home afterwards.”

“How useful that must be.”

“Very. Now for another green…”

Kiran pointed and fired Breidablik for a third time. This time, however, when the light faded and Fjorm opened her eyes, she reacted with a gasp of shock.

She saw a woman on a white horse, clad in elegant Niflian robes and a white veil, her pink hair cascading down her back.

Smiling gently, Princess Guunthrá greeted them, “Summoner. Fjorm. It is good to see the two of you again.”

“Sister!”

Fjorm rushed forward, her arms outstretched, and Guunthrá stepped off her horse to embrace her younger sister.

Once again, tears fell from Fjorm's piercing blue eyes, as she sobbed out, “I missed you...when Surtr attacked, I thought...I thought I would never see you again!”

“Sister. Please, do not weep for me. I know I am not the Guunthrá of this world, but I am here for you.”

“Y-you've always been...there for us…” the younger princess stammered out between her sobs.

“As an older sister ought to do for her siblings,” smiled Guunthrá.

Soon, Fjorm let go of her sister, albeit hesitantly, and turned back towards Kiran.

“You have given me yet another reason to repay Askr, Summoner.”

Kiran shook their hooded head and replied, “Fjorm, there really is no need. No matter how delayed, the Rite of Frost will claim your body eventually. You should spend these days with your family.”

“No. I told you, Niflians always repay our oaths. I owe you my life, and it is only fitting I should dedicate what little remains of it to assisting you and the Order.”

Fjorm drew Leiptr and held it aloft.

“I, Fjorm of Nifl, will fight to defend Askr, work towards achieving peace with all realms, ensure prosperity to every man, woman, and child, and act as a force for good. That is what I swore, and I will fulfill my promise.”

“Summoner, you should know by now that my sister is dutiful and dedicated beyond measure,” Guunthrá playfully warned, wagging her finger as a warm smile spread across her face. “You cannot change her mind once she has decided to do something, no matter what otherworldly power you may possess.”

Kiran chuckled, “Very well, then. If that is what you really want, then I can't stop you. I think I speak for all of us when I say we are glad to have you here, Princess Fjorm.”

Far away, in the flame kingdom of Múspell, Princess Sharena stood next to a kneeling Laevatein, gently placing a hand on her warm cheek.

“Shh, don't worry,” she whispered comfortingly.

“What am I to do without my sister?”

“It's okay, Queen Laevatein. The other kingdoms are all full of people who can help you.”

Faint sizzling sounds were heard as wisps of steam drifted from Laevatein's face. She placed her gloved hand on her cheek, and pulled it away to see small drops of salty water that soon evaporated.

“Wh-what...is this? Why is this coming from my eyes? I don't understand…” she sobbed.

Sharena continued to gently whisper comforting words to the queen, and inwardly steeled herself to stay there for as long as necessary.

In the frost kingdom of Nifl, Prince Hríd brushed a lock of his gray hair away from his face, staring into the mirror. A rhythmic knock sounded on his ancient wooden door.

“Brother? They're ready for you,” came the high-pitched voice of Ylgr. “Try to come quickly, please! Coronation ceremonies are boring, boring, boring!”

The young prince smiled faintly and nodded, responding with a curt and polite, “I'm coming, Ylgr. You won't need to be bored for long- I am eager to begin my work.”

“I don't understand how you can like all this royalty stuff...you and Fjorm have always been so, ugh, responsible.”

There was a brief silence.

A different tone crept into Ylgr's shaking voice as she asked, “Do you think she's having fun too?”

“I hope so, sister.”

In the dark kingdom of Embla, angry and nearly inhuman growls and screeches echoed throughout the castle.

“No! Don't touch me!”

“Begone from my sister, you fiend!” cried Prince Bruno, his voice deep and serious. “With this cure, you will do evil no more!”

“Gah! No, stop, get that away! Get it AWAY!”

The sound of Veronica’s Elivágar rang through the castle, its dark mist coalescing around Bruno. However, with a quick cast of his own magic, the prince dispelled it, and forced open Veronica's mouth, pouring the light blue potion down her throat. After a few more cries and child-like flailing hits, Veronica was still. She slowly opened her eyes.

“B...brother?” she whispered, disbelieving.

“Veronica!”

Bruno threw his arms around his sister.

“The voices, brother...I can't hear them anymore,” she said at the same faint volume.

“I know. Those voices will never trouble us again, and what's more, we are in the middle of peace negotiations with Askr and the Order of Heroes. You don't have to be lonely anymore, Veronica. You can have all the friends you've ever wanted.”

Hesitantly, Veronica reached around her brother and hugged him tightly.

“Thank you…”

And far away from all this sadness and all this hope stood Loki, on a great peak.

“Foolish, foolish mortals. I have told you...death’s scythe hangs over your head,” she rasped. “Ragnarok comes, and none shall survive. The dead shall walk the earth…”

Overwhelmed, she began to laugh maniacally, her voice growing louder; it almost sounded as if she was moaning in ecstasy. A wicked grin spread across her flushed face.

“This is going to be so much fun.”