Niti sits on your bed like a mother waiting for a wayward daughter to return after curfew. Se’risa is with her, trying to affect that same look--and succeeding.
“Spill.” They say in unison.
With Niti you wouldn’t really have a problem divulging the truth of what went on after the bandits and before the trip home. But with Se’risa there…
“The last bandit pulled me from the saddle, he was going to kill me. But Loki arrived just in time to stop him.”
“And then what?” Niti asks.
“They probably had sex.” Se’risa answers far too frankly for a girl her age.
Niti snorts and explodes into giggles.
But you just want to sink into the floor, your face breaking into hopeless embarrassment before you have the time to summon a defense.
You sigh and pinch the girl’s cheeks. “Can you promise not to utter any of that to your friends?”
“I’d never tell your secrets!”
Niti rights herself, dabbing the corners of her eyes to stop her tears from smudging her makeup. “Since you’re smart enough with that look on your face to not deny it, did you enjoy yourself at least? What’s he like?”
Sensing an opportunity for payback, you shrug and make a noncommittal noise deflating both girls’ desire for the juicy details.
“Magic.” You say, disappearing to your bathing chamber.
“If you continue to make that stupid face I’ll melt it off you.”
The brothers are spending a rare moment of quiet together in Loki’s study, Thor pouring over the martial history of your kingdom while Loki reads a book on poetry. Thor reads, just not often, and never with him. Loki knows his brother, he came to talk, not read.
“What face?” Thor closes his book, stopping right in the middle of the Wars of Withstanding; a very, very long period of continuous warfare in which kingdoms outside of Asgard competed with each other and against your people for control of your land. A period that only ended with your mother and father a few centuries before you were born.
“That face.” Thor plays dumb, but Loki’s one of the few who knows his brother isn’t actually dumb, maybe a bit slower compared to his own intellect but definitely not dumb.
“I was only expressing marvel at the Princess’s history. Seems like they fought for ages trying to keep or win back their independence. It shows, she seems feisty.”
Loki smiles, remembering the look on your face as you near sliced him open to get him out of his clothes. “She is.”
“Aha! I knew it!” Thor slams his book in triumph. “I knew something was going on.”
“Congratulations.” Loki sneers, eyes never rising from his reading. “You have eyes.”
“Don’t play cute. You hated her not too long ago. What changed?”
“You won’t tell your brother? I’m hurt.”
“Nothing to tell.”
“Oh, is that why mother has engaged a legion of seamstresses to make the Princess a dress in your colors? She wants grandchildren so badly she can almost hear them bleating.”
“Then she’ll have to settle for whatever bastards you have laying about.”
Thor gasps, mortally offended, rising from his chair ready to challenge his brother for his honor. “I have no such!”
Loki cackles. His brother’s dalliances are well known as much if not more so than his own. “That you know of.”
Thor’s face starts to match his cape around his ears and across the bridge of his nose. He sits grumbling, but launches one more parting shot.
“Well, since you’re so clearly not interested beyond the obvious you won’t mind then if I --”
Thor cannot finish his sentence before his brother flies from his seat, book forgotten, to tackle his brother to the ground. It’s a good natured tussle, no bruises or too much blood spilled, but Loki makes his point abundantly clear.
“Next time use your words, Silvertongue, instead of your fists to prove a point.”
Loki snarls, magicking away his brother’s black eye lest Frigga sees it and orders the both of them to clean the stables for fighting-- again .“I am reminded of Olga.”
“That...wasn’t..okay, that was my fault but still she was bad business for the both of us anyway. At least with the Princess, I was only jesting. I’d never come between you two. She’s like to geld me for trying anyway. They’re fiercely independent those horse folk.”
Loki laughs and extends his hand to help his brother off the floor. “That she is.”
“She’s special to you little brother. And I’m happy for you.”
Loki retracts his hand. “You said that about Olga!”
“I mean it this time! Honest!”
Loki leaves him on the floor, payback for an old hurt that somehow doesn’t hurt so much anymore.
You are not a fancy girl. Something you regret since it always made your mother so happy to see you in dresses instead of your tried and true Captain’s leathers.
“Katkat. This a royal dinner.”
“I know, and I’m in my Royal Cavalry armor.”
She smooths out your cape, sighing. It was your father's, cinched around the neck with a pin depicting the symbol of your house--a horse--of course. You wear it like he does, proudly, and with a gaze of vigilance, like war might break out over the dessert course. She fought, your father--her heart-- by her side for so long so you wouldn’t have to.
But you are your father’s daughter, she thinks, sometimes more than you’re hers. And it’s good, it's good to look at you and see so much of him. Proof he lived and still does. But part of her wishes you could just be the Little Princess he wanted you to be; worry and war-free.
“It would not kill you to wear a dress.”
“For me then?” Your mother goes to your closets and pulls out a dress that was made of silk and was summer-grass green. She has to shake it a few times to smooth out the fabric, it had been bunched at the bottom of a chest and likely never worn.
You wrinkle your nose at the garment. It’s not ugly but…
“No thank you mother.”
So when Niti tells you to open your eyes and look in the mirror after having wrapped and tied you into this dress, you cry.
You hide your ‘perfectly make-uped by Niti’s expert hands’ face in your hands and sob. Mamae would have loved to have seen you in this. It would have been her heart’s joy.
You are beautiful. The perfect Princess. She never wanted a Cavalry commander, she wanted just this.
Niti sniffs, guessing why you’re in tears. “Stop! Your eyeliner will run and we’ll have to start all over and you’ll be late and Frigga will be mad and the servants will talk.” Her protests turn to blubbers and she starts crying too.
Only Se’risa can keep you two together. She misses her mother too, but she has to be strong for you. Princesses have to be strong for each other.
The dress a beautiful green. Like the color of grass stains on a white saddle on the hottest day of the year. It’s lighter than silk, softer and sweeter than linen, pleated from your neck to your toes and beyond with a multitude of full skirts that swish and sway. There are no sleeves but a little capelet drapes about your shoulders fastened there by a crest of pale pink and purple and gold spring flowers. The only real skin you show is down the front, a deep v that slashes to your navel, no cleavage but daring enough to reveal just a bit of you including the trailing edge of one of your scars.
“Don’t cover it.” Niti tells you as you struggle to hold the front of the dress closed just a hair's breadth or so more. “This is what got you here, you survived the attack that made this. You’re indestructable.”
“I can assure you, I’m not.”
“Well make them believe you are.”
You smile for Niti, and you can feel your eyes water again. You let the dress go.
Undone from your usual cornrows, your hair frizzes into a sphere of curls around your head. With some artful pin work from Niti and intricate braidwork from Se’risa, you manage to push it back out of your face to hang loose and wild about your head.
“The other ladies are gonna shit.” Niti claps her hands ignoring Se’risa’s mumbles about proper language.
“Do I really look--?”
Se’risa and Niti nod.
“Do you think the Prince will--?”
They both nod harder.
As is becoming a time honored tradition, Se’risa picks your bracelet. You smile as she slips the cuff on your wrist, a simple band of hammered gold. “I wish I could come,” she sniffs.
“I’ll tell Queen Frigga that I won’t attend another party if I can’t accompany you, princess.” You kiss her forehead. “Don’t wait up.”
Niti cackles. “Oh we already know not to expect you back tonight. Looking at you,” She appraises you, giving you a serious head to toe evaluation. “Better make that a couple nights.”
You reach for a pillow and throw, Niti grabs it and uses it to bop Se’risa on the head.
“Princess?” A voice sounds, muffled by your closed door. “Princess, your escort has arrived.”
Niti coughs and straightens, replaces her trusted friend mask with her servant one--at least for when Royalty is watching. She coughs, making frantic motions with her hands.
“Stand up.” She filters the words through her clenched jaw, hand over the doorknob.
When you’re standing and decent and flashing the biggest smile you can muster to your face, Niti opens the door.
And finds Lady Frigga there.
“Good evening child.”