Cephalus warns you before you long before any earthquake, before the sky ever darkens or turns red. He’s not a skittish horse, warhorses can’t be. He’s solid and strong and steady, more like a sphinx than a steed, but he stomps and snorts and bucks during his morning brush down, large chestnut eyes looking straight at you as he does.
The Princess of your legends could speak to her Crimson Rabbit. As could their children, and grandchildren and descendants until somewhere somewhen the talent was lost before it could be birthed in you.
Cephalus can’t speak to you, and you can’t hear him, but you know when to heed him.
“Sir,” You conceal your yawn as you address Commander Torbjorn. You’re not sleepy as much as you are tired out from the night before.
Your commanding officer barely acknowledges you with a glare, his mare discomfit beneath him by Cephalus’s continued fit.
We’re wasting time!
“Calm your mount before you address me! What do you want?”
“I seek--Cephalus please--permission to ride ahead. Something has him spooked, I’d like to see what that is.”
“Denied. Fall back in line.”
You pull harder than you need to on your reins, censure for the horse.
“Ok, you heard him. Now calm down Cephy, you’re making me look like a fool. AH!”
Cephalus rears and bucks so hard a lesser rider would be thrown. You upset the line of riders as they trot pass causing everyone to give you the widest berth.
“Look everyone! A horse princess who can’t control her horse!”
Laughter ripples up and down the line, but Edvard remains silent. He steers his gelding toward you and reaches a soothing hand for Cephalus’s neck.
“Is everything alright?”
“I don’t know what’s gotten into him.”
“Maybe he needs a good rut.” Edvard suggests as casually as he can without blushing. The horse disagrees, swinging his head around to bite at Edvard’s hand.
“Or not! Bullheaded nag!”
“Easy boy! Cursed stars, I think something’s wrong.”
“Like what?” He asks too eagerly. “You can tell me. You can trust me.”
Ignoring Cephalus for the moment, you focus attention back to Edvard. Your skepticism concerning his intentions has eased somewhat, he seems too fragile for that kind of guile. But remnants of discomfort still nag at you.
You’re just unsure of him, unsettled by his closeness.
“It’s been my experience that those who say ‘you can trust me’ are always the least wor--.”
The ground heaves, knocking the most surefooted of horses to the ground. Cephalus remains upright, Edvard barely so.
“An earthquake?” Someone asks.
“Likely. Hold tight. There’ll probably be aftershocks.”
Cephalus, your steadiest friend, loses his mind.
Mistress heed me!
Sure enough, aftershocks ripple the earth accompanied by distant booming thunder and finally you feel something stab at your heart.
Something really is wrong.
“That’s not natural is it Cephalus?”
The horse tosses his head.
He takes two solid strides forward.
“The Vanguard’s that way.”
Yes! Mistress your mate is in danger.
Horse and rider move together. Cephalus finally yields to your reins, the two of you united in purpose.
“Commander! The Vanguard is in danger.”
Torborjn is still in the middle of calming his mare as the aftershocks roll in a continuous wave.
“They’ll suffer no danger from an earthquake.”
“That’s no earthquake sir!”
“Oh really? And what does the Horse Princess know of these hills? Is your stable nearby?”
His lieutenants snicker behind him, but you ignore the jab.
“At least send scouts ahead to--”
“Answer my question girl! How do you know?”
The cavalry has stopped, those closest to the Commander watch and wait for your answer.
Shame burns in your face but fear ices it quickly.
“I have a feeling.”
“A feeling...you want me to risk scouts on a feeling?”
“Then send me! I’m the fastest, I can go and return within the hour.”
“No! You will remain to teach you humility.”
His sword slides free and presses to your neck. “Give me a reason Lowlander. You’ll not usurp my command.”
A fork of lightning splits the sky above you, cutting off your retort, and you swear it’s tinged red with blood.
You give your commander your humblest bow, fist to shoulder, head down, eyes penitent.
Apologizing not for what you’ve done, but what you’re about to do.
“Cephalus,” you whisper. “Can you hear me?”
He snorts and stamps a hoof. Yes.
“Can you make them follow?”
He tosses his head. Yes!
Your spear is tied to your back, in a matter of gestures you free it, swinging the haft all the way around to cuff your commander in the mouth with the butt.
He flies free of his saddle and hits the dirt, knocked completely out.
His lieutenants spur their horses toward you, readying arrows and swords to cut you down for treason, but Cephalus--heir to Crimson Rabbit, The Lord of Horses--gallops out of reach and screams as he races up and down the line of soldiers.
Brothers! Sisters! Run! Follow me! Put aside fear and weak reins and follow me!
You don’t understand him, you probably never will, that birthright is long lost to you. But his isn’t.
Some soldiers fall off, but most hold on for dear life as their steeds mutiny under them. Each and every mount bucks the command of their rider and follows their master and the Princess upon him as the sky turns red above them all.
The cowards die before he has the chance to kill them. These towers are indeed heavily guarded. Six in total including the largest spire that powers the rest, Loki’s lost most of his guard by the time he’s destroyed five.
And it’s getting harder to keep up this fight.
An arrow slays the boy fighting next to him, cutting his remaining forces down by a fifth. Loki knows his name but can’t recall it now to shout to him. Shouting takes precious energy he needs to funnel elsewhere. So does recalling. So does walking, moving, and breathing.
He’s running on nothing and fighting with less.
Loki regrets, not his night with you but that he didn’t heed you. He would have the magic to keep going if he had. He chuckles to himself as a sluggish misstep earns him a bolt of fire to the side.
“I will listen to you next time Princess.” He thinks, though he knows there won’t be.
“Get the Prince. Kill him! Send his head back to his father!”
His last thoughts are not of you. No flashes of your time together, or a stream of images chronicling the hows and the whys a Prince of Asgard fell in love with a Princess of Nothing.
Even in death Loki is not sentimental.