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Story [Thor] "This Soft Season Will Come" | belated OTP Challenge response | Sif/Loki; AU Short Story

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Nov 7, 2019.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Title: “This Soft Season Will Come”
    Fandom: Thor (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
    Author: Mira_Jade

    Genre: Drama, Romance
    Rating: PG
    Time Frame: Post-Canon AU, Pre-Canon Flashbacks; My Ullr!verse
    Characters: Loki/Sif, Thor, Faradei, Various Original Characters and Mythological Cameos


    Summary: There was the heavy weight of history between them, of legends and time beyond mortal comprehension. Yet, Sif was hopeful to think that, perhaps, in the long path stretched behind them they would also be able to find their way forward - together.


    Author's Notes: Hello, dear readers! So, first of all, I have to share some backstory to express just how much of a personal, long awaited project this has been for me: way back in the day, before Marvel became the monolithic beast of a franchise it is now, I wrote a few hundred thousand words detailing an epic, theoretical history for Loki/Sif - most of which was posted over at Ao3 rather than here. I credit a lot of my growth as a writer to those novels and short stories. Loki and Sif were one of my mythological OTPs long before Marvel, and since the films they've claimed a place in my heart as one of my ultimate OTPs, period. This story is a long-awaited sequel to an all-time personal favourite novella of mine: “All Our Winters to Pass.” (That's the link for the thread here on the boards, but it's much easier to read in one piece over at Archive of Our Own.) To those of you who remember AOWtP, welcome back! And, for any newcomers, I also have to say welcome! AOWtP was originally published just after Avengers: AOU premiered, so it deviates from canon from there on out. You can call it an AU set fifty years after Thanos' defeat in this 'verse. AOWtP was my personal challenge to write both a Loki redemption tale and include Ullr (Sif and Loki's son from mythology) into the Marvel cinematic universe, all the while indulging in copious amounts of fantasical world-building and adding all sorts of Northern European lore to the rather sterilized shell Thor has become since then. With Marvel having since gone its own way, I honestly still prefer this little world I've created instead, so here I am adding another chapter to my saga. To do so, I have to thank the OTP Challenge for finally providing me with the much needed inspiration to push this project from the realm of idea to an actual written piece. On that note, I am happily combining my belated responses to both the Misunderstandings Cleared Up challenge and my Landscape of Love prompt of mountain into one story . . . yep, it's going to be quite the epic ride, to say the least. [face_mischief]

    So! Although this is a personally fulfilling project I'm mostly writing for myself, I'd still love to share it with anyone else who's interesting in reading, too! If you want to jump right into this story without wading through the 70k+ words of All Our Winters to Pass, I've tried to include enough exposition in the text to make that possible. For further orientation, I've also included a brief summary and plot notes beneath the cut.

    Fifty years following Thanos' defeat, Sif journeys to where Loki has exiled himself to recruit his aid on a quest. This quest is to help bring two of Thor's murderers - or, would be murderers, rather - to justice before it's too late. By this time, Thor is Allfather of Asgard, married to Jane Foster, and a father of three. Two Jötunn named Gangr and Iði sought vengeance for their brother Þjazi - who was imprisoned during Odin's reign after trying to kidnap Iðunn, in keeping with the legend of Iðunn. With Odin gone and unable to grant them recompense, they used a wraith of Niflheimr to steal Thor's soul. Their aim was to go to Huld Star-keeper, who is the warden holding Þjazi in custody, and get her to release their brother's soul for Thor's pure soul in exchange.

    To save Thor before the trade is made, Sif needs Loki's help. Huld's prison requires magic to access, but Loki refuses to help, since Huld is also the warden responsible for keeping the remains of Thanos' soul imprisoned. He would not risk Thanos' escape through angering Huld, not even for Thor. He only changes his mind when it's revealed that Gangr and Iði were using the Soul Gem of the Infinity Stones to summon and manipulate the wraith. (In this 'verse, after the Guantlet was used to defeat Thanos, all of the gems shattered and were strewn about the cosmos.) Throughout the course of the story it's revealed that Loki is trying to rebuild the gems for when Thanos inevitably escapes and will need to be defeated again. Before they can go to Huld, however, they find that Sif had been followed to Loki's hideaway - by her son, Ullr.

    Though it's clear by this point that Sif and Loki definitely have a history together, Sif lies and says that Ullr is Thor's child - a lie Loki easily believes since he has always considered himself to be second-best to Thor, even in Sif's eyes. Ullr, however, is the best parts of both of his parents and it's clear for anyone with half a brain to see whose son he really is. Through some sneakiness on Ullr's part he tags along on the quest, and so begins a somewhat atypical family road-trip.

    They go to Huld first, but Huld reveals that Gangr and Iði have yet to bring Thor to her. The Soul Gem is apparently incomplete, and with the stone missing a shard their control of the wraith is tenuous; they need the missing piece if they hoped to make their trade. Huld tells them where the last shard is, and agrees that if they bring her the Soul Gem, complete, she would return Thor's soul once he was in her possession, no worse for the wear.

    It's now a race to complete the Soul Gem, and along the way they battle an each-usiage (a malicious Celtic water-horse) who's drawn to Ullr's child-soul and nascent magic, and Andvari the Dwarf and were-dragon (the Andvari of the same Ring Saga fame that Richard Wagner immortalized in his operas and Tolkien used as inspiration for his own Lord of the Rings). These misadventures eventually reveal Ullr's true parentage - to both father and son - and result in old injuries and centuries old hurts finally being talked over and just maybe set on a path to healing. By the end of the journey, Loki realizes that he can't just steal the Soul Gem and leave Thor to his fate - as was his original intention. Instead, he knows that he wants what a family he can have with Sif and Ullr, and he wants to be there for his brother as he wasn't years ago. By the time Gangr and Iði arrive, it takes the entire family - Thor included - and a little bit of trickster magic to defeat the wraith and keep the Soul Gem out of unfriendly hands.

    Yet, even with Gangr and Iði defeated, there's still the debt with Huld to fulfill. Through a sleigh of hand that traps Huld in the exact wording of their agreement, they are able to keep both the Soul Gem and Thor - however, Huld"s anger flares for being outsmarted. To stay in her good graces, Loki promises her one favor that he'd honor in the future. Huld ends the encounter by reminding Loki of the hatred Thanos still bears him for his defeat and imprisonment . . . and how easily Thanos could slip his bonds if she but loosens them. With that threat still heavy on his mind, Loki decides not to follow Thor, Sif, and Ullr home to Asgard. If his exile is the penance he needs to pay to keep his family safe, he'll gladly stay away in atonement. Sif, however, is not as prepared to let Loki go. She follows him back to his pocket-realm, and when Loki admits that he's not quite ready to return and face Asgard again - even if he could, she decides to stay with him instead for as long as he needs. She offers to help him find the rest of the Infinity Stones, and when Thanos returns they'll fight him - together.

    Embarking on that massive quest - which will also serve the dual purpose of letting them spend some quality time together to heal and repair their bond - is where we left Loki and Sif in the last chapter of All Our Winters to Pass. And, now . . . [face_mischief] :D


    And, um, with that said, since I never actually posted the last chapter of AOWtP on the boards, I suppose that this is as good a place as any to include that missing scene! [face_blush] Even just reading this excerpt can certainly help ground you for the sequel.


    The power of the byway rippled over her body before releasing her on solid ground once more. Sif blinked to reorient herself, taking in a deep breath through her nose before slowly exhaling through her mouth. The next breath she took was cold; she let her lungs fill on the winter, her spirit on the boreal air. When she opened her eyes, she saw that Loki's not-moon was enveloped in shades of twilight. Dancing magnetic fields played in curtains of vibrant emerald and amethyst behind the fading light, brighter than even the first twinkling of the stars. Snow had fallen earlier that day, and fat clumps of flakes still floated down from the trees, disturbed from their rest by the playful attention of the breeze. Beyond her, an owl cried out in welcome to the night; she heard the shuffling of some timid creature in the underbrush, disturbed by the presence of the predator. The world shifted, and Sif felt it find its balance.

    After the last static charge of her son's spellwork dissipated, she straightened from her crouch; her boots sank into the soft, fresh snow as she redistributed her weight. The scent of wet fir and sweet spruce was fragrant in her nose. The cold pricked at her skin, but she did not feel it reach to touch her heart. Instead, she tasted the sweetness of the storm-cleansed air and felt a sensation she'd not felt in decades slip between her ribs to find her heart: home. Not in the sense of the tangible, the physical, perhaps, but in a presence, a person.

    Home.

    Slowly, she allowed herself a smile, unseen from anything but the wild. She took a moment to collect herself, and then looked towards the small cabin peeking through the woods. Guided by the river, Sif holstered her glaive, and went hunting.

    Initially, she approached the cabin warily, and was at first discouraged by the dark space lurking within. No light peeked around the corners of the drawn curtains; no smoke blew from the structure's single chimney. She frowned to wonder if she was already too late to intercept Loki. But she could feel him; his presence was a tangible pressure against her skin, a whisper trailing up and down her spine. She was where she needed to be.

    Concerned now, she placed her hand against the smooth wood of the door and was surprised to find no resistance when she pushed. The way was not blocked to her; she walked right in.

    Her eyes quickly adjusted to the dark. Though she did not see as well in the shadows as Loki, she could see well enough, and the white fur still draped over the familiar line of his shoulders was the first thing to catch her eye. What light there was caught on the slope of his brow, on the high cut of his cheekbones. His eyes were closed, she suspected; she would see them gleam, elsewise. He was sitting at the table that passed for his desk, his back hunched, his brow resting against his clenched fists. He did not move, he did not turn towards the sound of her arrival. His deep, slow breathing misted on the heavy, frigid air.

    He was silent to her presence; he did not first acknowledge her. Yet, Sif knew Loki well enough to need naught of speech. Instead, there were practical matters to tend to first, and she would see them done.

    Making herself welcome, she shouldered off her own cloak of fur and set her heavy helm to rest on one of the closed chests. Her gauntlets and gloves were next, her boots too. The steel of her armor whispered in the silence, telling of her movements - she was not trying to hide. Even though Loki still did not open his eyes, she knew that he was aware of her presence. She watched a muscle high in his throat twitch as he swallowed; she could feel his attention as a tangible thing.

    Unconcerned, she found herself humming as she walked to the wood burning stove. Her thick wool stockings were silent across the floor, the cold floor, her toes protested. He may not have felt the bite of the winter, but she did, and it would be full dark soon. With easy, unconcerned movements, she stacked the kindling and the wood and then set the fire to burn. It took time with the days' cold stove, with the embers having long since died, but a cheerful glow soon illuminated the cabin. Only then did Sif allow herself to turn to Loki. She stared, little bothering to hide her gaze for as long as he refused to acknowledge her. He was still dressed for a journey, she espied; snow melted from his muddy boots to carelessly puddle on the floor. Frowning, she wondered if he intended to run still, but more suspected that such remained from their own quest.

    “You,” when she could not longer stand the silence, Sif spoke with a note of wry accusation, “did not even give me a chase. I am disappointed, Loki.”

    “My apologies, milady,” Loki's words were dry. His throat was at first slow to accept the idea of speech; he swallowed to wet his tongue. “Yet, as of late, I find that I am tired of running.”

    But run he still would, for that which pursued him. He had no choice in that regard. Sif frowned, well used to listening to the words hiding between his words. What he did not say was as a dull shout in her ears, and she tilted her head.

    “Did you think that I would not pursue you?” Sif asked, her voice soft.

    And Loki was silent. Such was an answer enough.

    She loosed a deep sigh, finally allowing a pang to pierce her heart – not of pain for the old wounds still healing between them, but of sympathy. Empathy, even. She had spent years enough in bitter rumination, with accusations and blame poisoning her heart, and she was weary of her darker emotions. Instead, she blinked to see the boy she had grown with and the man she had given her heart to, and felt a part of her mourn for all that was lost between them. She wished . . . well, she wished for a hundred different things in that moment, but Sif ever focused on the way forward, lest the path already traveled snare her feet and keep her from her stride. She exhaled, and let her grief go. Instead, there was only the here and now, open and waiting before her – and War was ever greedy enough to refuse to let such an opportunity pass.

    Sif crossed the small space of the cabin, and stood before Loki. There was nowhere else to sit, just that one lonely chair for a refuge that had never been built with guests in mind. The winter beyond them was hushed, the moon was heavy with its embrace of solitude.

    When she could not find her words, she hesitantly reached out to let her hands rest against the crown of his head, confirming with touch what he must have sensed from the tell-tale sound of her movements. She let her fingers slip into his hair, and slowly combed through the new length there. She liked the feel of it, the weight; she liked the way he turned into her touch when her nails skimmed his scalp even better. She watched as new lines appeared on his face, furrowing as if pained, and wondered for the last time someone touched him in kindness. Years – decades? Half a century, most like - a noticeable amount of time, even to those who walked onwards through eternity.

    Her heart was swollen in her chest; her tongue turned thick in her mouth. Disconcertingly, she blinked against the first tell-tale burn of tears. She had not cried in years; she had not allowed herself such a weakness, such an indulgence. She yet would not then.

    “So much has passed between us,” she finally whispered, trying to find the right words to express so much more. She wanted to give an invitation; a welcome, even. Absolution, perhaps . . . a beginning.

    “Too much, I suspect,” Loki agreed. His words were a humming sound in the back of his throat, at first almost too low for her ears to hear.

    “Your statements sound as questions,” Sif pointed out. Her fingers slipped from his hair to trace over his face. Her thumbs brushed his cheekbones; his skin was cool, as it always was. She knelt down on her knees so that she could freely meet his gaze. Only then did he blink to look at her; when his hands fell away from his face to allow her touch better access, she could see the hungry glow of the Soul Gem nestled in his palm. He had not moved since leaving Huld's Star-keep, then.

    “If I speak in questions,” Loki whispered, “would you give me an answer, then?

    Sif huffed, a familiar mix of fondness and frustration piercing her heart. It was an old emotion where he was concerned, a sweet sensation for its memory. “You do not have to spin your speech so, Loki,” she chided. “I want to answer you.”

    He looked at her as if confused, Sif thought. He did not know what to say. The Wordsmith was struck dumb in that moment, but he was not taken aback, she mourned to see. Instead, he was weary; incomprehension was simply all his brain could cope with in that moment, and so he stared at her with vacant understanding. The green of his eyes was as pale the first flush of spring, but very, very bright as the night rose beyond them. Long shadows stretched across the floorboards, dancing as the fire grew.

    “I cannot ask for what you cannot give,” he finally said. “I do not know if I can go back there, Sif.”

    Honesty always had a peculiar ring coming from Loki's mouth, and she knew that he meant his every word. But he no longer claimed that he did not want to return, he no longer had the stomach for that lie. Deep inside, Sif felt a part of herself plan and observe. A step had been taken towards victory - but War understood the necessity of a long campaign. The strongest walls oftentimes required drawn out sieges, yet, such a wait promised the sweetest of conquests in the end.

    “If you do not think Asgard a safe-haven to return to, after all this time, then more's the fool you,” Sif shrugged to give her words an air of nonchalance. She watched as he fought a flinch, and her voice softened to amend, “But if you yet cannot return to the First Realm . . . then I understand, Loki.”

    His brow furrowed; he still did not understand, she saw. “Sif?” was all he could dumbly ask, a question filling the single syllable with uncertainty. He always was adept at assigning her name many meanings.

    “It's as I say,” she strove to make due with the simplest of words. “Until you can return home,” for Asgard, no matter its flaws and bitter memories, would always remain as such, “I will stay with you. Be that here, or wherever your next step may take you.”

    His furrow deepened, and took on an edge. But she was used to his annoyance lashing out as a defense for his heart, and she was ready. “Sif - ” he began, but she did not let him speak.

    “ - for my many, many years of unfaltering service to the Allfather, I have earned a sojourn, wouldn't you say?” Sif pointed out. “There is not a duty I owe to Asgard that is more important than this. Ullr will be more than cared for with Thor's family until I return, at that,” she added, intercepting his next question. “He is no longer a child to require his mother's presence day in and day out.”

    That too brought a flinch of a different sort: the wasted years between them, she knew he reflected on. Yet that was a blade that cut both ways. For the first, she accepted its sting with the hopes of healing. She would scar, but no longer would she bleed, would they bleed.

    “What, exactly,” Loki spoke lowly, carefully, “do you propose, Sif?” His eyes followed her as if engaging in a battle of weapons, wary and seeking out signs of a feint - but she had no deflection to offer, no deceit to hide. She tilted her head up, and let him look.

    “We have spent years apart,” Sif acknowledged that simple fact for the pain that it was. She breathed in deep with its truth, and let it go. “You have changed; I have changed. Better that we learn those changes here, together, before we return to take on the capital again, would you not agree?”

    His mouth opened, it closed; he could not, at first, find his speech. She watched him with an old, returning joy filling her heart. She always did love to rob him of his words.

    “I . . . I do not understand.” Still, Loki was unable to see clearly when he had lived too long amongst the shadows. He was unused to anything but veils, he could not see without first peering through smoke and mirrors, and she had none to offer.

    “What is there to clarify?” for the first, Sif allowed herself a slow smile. It stretched across her mouth with no false joy; her contentment, in that moment, was not forced. “I mean as I say: I am not leaving you, Loki. You will have to push me away if you do not want me, for I will not allow you to continue on alone when you are not alone.”

    But still Loki gaped; he frowned. She could see the tension in his bones, the unease in the shape of his spine – the way his distress attempted to give rise to anger through a long force of habit. But he could not quite make the leap from wound and pain to snapping teeth, not then. Instead, he was frozen before her like some great stag with his crown of antlers bowed low against the truth of an arrow lodged in his heart. He did not know whether to fight her, or give in.

    So she pushed, one last time: “Do you really want me to go?” She let her hands fall to cover his own, stilling where his restless fingers had been playing with the Infinity Stone as if it were some common trinket. She understood the weight of his burden, the crushing magnitude of his self-imposed responsibilities, yet she would help shoulder his yoke if he only allowed her. “If you truly do not want me here, Loki, then I will leave. I will understand your decision, and I will not contest it.”

    She had bridged the gap between them as far as she could. Now, all she had to do was wait. His throat worked, she saw; his eyes were very, very wide before his expression softened. He broke her hold on his hands only to put the Soul Gem aside, and then she watched as he hesitantly lifted his hands to touch her face. She held herself completely still, refusing to even breathe lest she startle him away. He looked at her with a question in his eyes, as if he was still waiting to be turned aside with a rebuke at any moment. Eventually, his fingertips were impossibly soft as they touched her skin, and she let loose a sigh as he slowly, tenderly, cupped her cheeks. When he leaned forward to touch his brow to her own, she was not sure if it was he who rested against her, or she against him. Perhaps, she too was more weary – weighed down by her years and duties, then she had first realized.

    “No, Sif,” at last, Loki found his words. “I do not want you to go.”

    “Can I stay, then?” she hated how small her voice was - hesitant and so sorely, painfully hopeful. Her heart was a bruised thing in her chest, but still it beat.

    “Please,” Loki whispered against her skin. “Don't go.”

    No matter how many years they had spent apart, it was the simplicity of memory for her arms to wrap around his shoulders and seek out his embrace. It was familiarity and easy expectation for him to rest one hand high on her back and one low on her waist to pull her as close as he could with the awkwardness of their positions. The cool warmth of his body, the way his heart seemed to beat so much faster than any of the Aesir, the deceptive strength of his willowy form – all were missed by her, and, to have them so suddenly returned . . .

    She needed to be closer. Perhaps understanding her need - and sharing it, even - Loki shifted, and a moment later she was sitting in his lap with his arms better wrapped around her. She sank into the tangibility of the affection, and closed her eyes tight so as to fight back a sudden onslaught of tears. But she was not the only one grappling with the tide of her emotions. “I'm sorry, I'm so sorry,” Loki whispered over and over again while his hands traced her back, her arms, her hair – anything he could touch he did, as if needing to make certain that she was there, that she was real, and her hands shook to embark in a similar such quest.

    “I'm sorry - I'm sorry too,” she whispered against the skin of his throat. For oh, how she was. She was sorry for her blindness and her ambition and the arrogant stupidity of her youth. She was sorry that she had not held on to him when she had a chance to do so; she was sorry that she had failed to be a strength for him when she stood so strong for so many; she was sorry that she had ever let him go. While, he . . .

    . . . but that would be the subject of many conversations over the future to come, Sif suspected. They had much to sort through, much to hash out and relive – as if rebreaking a limb to ensure that it was properly set, and she would bear through the inherit pain that came with the promise of healing. They both would. Until then, she only drew in a deep breath to know that this was something they could mend, that this was something they could make right. The both of them. Together.

    Yet, for the time being . . .

    She did not know if he kissed her first, or if she kissed him – all she knew was that she was breathing alone one moment and the next she was sharing his breath in a slow, simple meeting of mouths. It was a simple, easy thing between them: a sharing of warmth, a homecoming. During their years together, their embraces had been heated contests more often than not – even when their relationship was at its zenith. Even their first kiss, when they were youths clueless to the ways of love, had been more of a battle of wills than any sort of shared affection. Yet it wasn't so then. Instead, one kiss turned to another, and then to many, with each one soft and undemanding as they learned each other anew. There was comfort in the affection, assurance even. She did not feel need, or the potent urgency of desire thrum through her veins – not then, not yet. Instead, she felt as if he was a mooring in a storm, holding her steady; for the first time in too long he was a ballast to her, and she clung to the promise of security, to the sense of belonging she felt return to her spirit. In an equal such way, she believed that he did so as well.

    An indefinable amount of time passed – so much so that Sif was uncomfortably aware of a cramping in her spine from holding such a position for so long. She knew that Loki must have lost feeling in his legs some time ago, no matter that he did not utter a word of complaint. Instead, he looked content, at ease in his own skin – such as she had not seen in centuries . . . if ever, she allowed herself to acknowledge. He looked like some great hunting cat who had just awakened from slumbering in the sun, with all the world at his feet. She understood the sentiment; she felt it too.

    Sif could not keep the grin from her face if she tried. She felt very young then - girlish, even. Her joy was a giddy fountain in her heart, and she could not contain it.

    Ignoring the impulse she had to move to a more comfortable position – she had wasted too much time to pass up any chance they had for intimacy, after all - Sif straightened, and looped an arm around his shoulders to better balance herself. They had set the first stones of a foundation, and she would now have them build.

    “Well then, where are we going next?” she infused her voice with an almost playful note of lightness. If the timbre was at first strained, it quickly turned sincere as she looked down on the maps he had stretched out over the table – for she truly did relish the chance of standing side by side with him once more. It had been too long, truly, and she was itching for another quest.

    “I do not know,” Loki was slow to admit – honestly so. If she did not know him any better, she would say that he was overwhelmed by the monumental task set before him – the completion of all six stones when their fragments were strewn across the cosmos. A greater part of her simply took pride in knowing that he allowed her to see his doubts; his worries, his fears. Together, then, they could better see about triumphing over them. “There are so many . . .”

    “But it is less a task now, with we two together, right?” she could not help but whisper.

    “Yes,” Loki's voice was soft to agree. Many voices over many years had called her goddess, had called her War, but she had never felt as worshiped as she then did underneath his gaze. She felt an uncharacteristic flush rise up in her cheeks. Her spirit felt lighter than it had in ages.

    “How about I choose first?” she prompted when he remained unforthcoming with a course. A cheeky expression bloomed across her face. “Any of these markers will do, correct?”

    Loki raised a dubious brow. “I will allow you to suggest, perhaps - ”

    “ - you will allow me?” Sif challenged. Her grin turned sharp.

    Slowly, Loki allowed his own grin to stretch. It was an expression she had not seen in many, many years. “Perhaps,” he offered a compromise, “you could simply grant me a choice, then?”

    “Well saved, Silvertongue,” Sif tugged on a lock of his hair, and enjoyed the well-meaning scowl she received in return.

    “Anything to please my lady,” Loki dryly remarked.

    He meant the words as a quip, but Sif felt her expression soften. She gave him a small, almost shy smile to say, “Which you do, Loki . . . I'm sorry if I did not tell you that enough before.”

    She'd left him speechless, again. From their childhood to now, Sif had never seen him so often at a loss for words. Instead of speaking, she felt his hand tighten about her waist; she could feel the press of his fingertips against her skin, even through the layers of leather she wore. “I believe we've had enough of apologies for today,” he swallowed to say – but she could see the gratitude in his eyes. “Choose, Sif.”

    So, she leaned over and let her eyes focus on the maps – truly, this time, looking over the places marked in Kree space, over through the Shi'ar Imperium and on to Spartax. Perhaps, she reflected somewhat ruefully, they should work themselves up to inimitable peril and certain doom. She didn't necessarily want their first outing together marked by blood - overly so, of course. She would save that for their third trip, at least. Until then . . . she looked, and caught sight of one of the smallest moons of Álfheimr.

    “Oh, I haven't been to Stöðuvatn in centuries.” Sif felt a flush of happy anticipation; she could not keep the growing excitement from her voice if she tried. “Remember the fun we had there last time, Loki?”

    “Last time?” Loki let a long-suffering sigh out through his nose and rolled his eyes heavenwards. “You mean when Thor got himself locked in matrimony to the chieftain's eldest daughter because he couldn't be bothered to listen when I said not to - ”

    “ - technically,” Sif could not help but tease, “we too shared the same cup and fire. Would that not mean, in Álfheimr's eyes . . .”

    A moment passed. “ . . . well then,” Loki gave, slowly so. She felt the fingers of his opposite hand move up and down her arm, and felt an old, pleasant shiver whisper across her skin. She felt a reawakened flush of heat drowsily light the underside of her heart to recall that one particular night. The lake country of the Elves was a fond place to her memory for more reasons than one. “Perhaps you do have a point.”

    “Of course I do. You demonstrate your much lauded wisdom by listening to my counsel,” Sif could not help but shake her head imperiously. “So, Stöðuvatn it is then?”

    “I'll agree to Stöðuvatn,” Loki allowed after only a moment's hesitation. “Then, after - ”

    “ - oh,” Sif interrupted, her words a whip-crack, “definitely somewhere in Badoon occupied space – don't think that I didn't notice that.”

    Loki raised a dark brow – but he didn't contest her choice. He knew the score she still had to settle there, after all. “Moord next, then. Though I'm sure that there's still a fair bit of coin attached to my name in that sector. We could be walking into quite the . . . messy diplomatic incident.”

    “And there's even more of a reward attached to mine, if you recall,” Sif shrugged, her eyes glittering at the memory. “Yet that's what shall make the journey interesting, I suspect.” Thoughtfully, she leaned over to tap a single fingertip against the star chart, already anticipating the encounter to come. She welcomed it: do your worse.

    And, afterward . . .

    “Perhaps, then we may return home? Even if just for a little while,” Sif suggested softly. Yet, while she was used to walking on thin ice where Loki was concerned, she did not feel the need to avoid the tenderness of his heart then. She knew that he yearned as she yearned. “That is, if you are ready?”

    “Yes,” Loki agreed – slowly, but with a growing strength to his words. His arms locked, sure and warm about her. “Perhaps . . . then we'll return home.”


    Now, with all that said, I invite you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the story. [face_love] [:D]


    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words! :)






    This Soft Season Will Come”
    by Mira_Jade



    “the hard season
    will
    split you through.
    do not worry.
    you will bleed water.
    do not worry.
    this is grief.
    your face will fall out and
    down your skin
    and
    there will be scorching.
    but do not worry.
    keep speaking the years from
    their hiding places.
    keep coughing up smoke
    from all the deaths you have
    died.
    keep the rage tender.
    because the soft season will
    come.

    it will come.
    loud.
    ready.
    gulping.
    both hands in your chest.
    up all night.
    up all of the nights.
    to drink all damage into love.”

    ~ Nayyirah Waheed


    I.

    King Gandalf’s Halls, Álfheimr - Then

    The sun broke over the crest of the Dagrhamr mountains, bathing the halls of the Elven-king in the soft rose gold hues of dawn.

    While nothing could quite compare to the play of the cosmos that domed the skies high above Asgard – at least, not to the bias of his own heart – there was something ethereal about the realm of the Elves, something that was as enchanted in splendor as their legend and heritage would first suggest. The light was a force all its own here on Álfheimr, seemingly emanating from the ground and threading through the trees rather than just shining as the mere byproduct of some distant star. Here, the light was of the very air and ether, just as much as it was a part of the Álfish people themselves.

    While Loki knew that his own inclination to seiðr was different than the Elves’ propensity for enchantments, watching how they communed with and manipulated their elements had illuminated a great many things about his own skills. In many ways, his talents as a seiðrmanðr were somehow closer to the Elves than they were to the rare few in Asgard who had the ability – and more importantly, the desire – to dabble in the mystical arts themselves. Through King Gandalf’s kindness in extending the hospitality of his home, Loki had spent the last five winters learning at the feet of the master-mages. Now, at the end of his sojourn, this was the first time in his scant few centuries that he finally felt comfortable with his own skills as an enchanter. Loki knew that he could make his power his own, now – he had made his power his own underneath the watchful eyes of the ancient ones here on Álfheimr. The seasons he’d spent away from the First Realm had been an experience he would never forget as he continued to build on the foundation the Elves had helped him set.

    Yet, now, it was time for him to return back home to Asgard, where he belonged.

    With the last moon of winter now ebbing and the springtime dawning anew, this was the time of year when the Allfather usually made his rounds to visit the realms he commanded and solidify his bonds with his sworn peoples. It had long since been decided that Loki would stay until the spring meet and then journey home with the entirety of the delegation from Asgard. Only, he watched the pageantry that accompanied one monarch of a sovereign realm greeting another from his place standing beside King Gandalf’s family, this year it was not Odin Allfather who traveled from his seat high in the halls of Glaðsheimr, but rather, Thor his heir he sent to speak in his place.

    The needs must of diplomacy aside, Loki was happy to see his brother – truly he was. And yet, it was still something of an oddity to see Thor Tanglefoot leading a progression of Odin’s highest lords and ranking warriors, some entire millennia older than his own scant two centuries of years. But if Thor felt beleaguered underneath the great weight of his role, he hid his burdens well. His back was as straight as it ever was and his shoulders were squared in a proud line underneath the high crest of his scarlet cape. His clear blue eyes were bright with confidence, and a ghost of a smirk twisted at his lips that nearly bordered on irreverence. The only gesture that betrayed his discomfort was the way his right hand twitched by where he normally kept his obnoxious excuse of a war hammer looped to his belt. Loki could well imagine how the laws forbidding steel in the halls of the Elf-king had grated on him – the same as they must have for all of the Aesir in his company. But, as Loki would surely tease him later to say, better was it to trade blows with what was inside his thick skull first, rather than resorting to outright violence as was his usual inclination when tested by another – even an ally. This, he thought with no small amount of humor, would be . . . tedious for Thor.

    Loki continued to observe his brother, reflecting that if he himself had grown since leaving home – he was now most likely as tall as he’d ever be, and there was a certain sharpness now defining his features as he left behind the soft countenance of youth – then all the more so was true for Thor. Even last winter, when he’d visited before the snows had fallen, there’d been a certain breadth lacking from his shoulders, a last bit of height still wanting in his build. Thor looked, Loki thought, more and more like their father in his halcyon days with each passing season.

    Self-conscious for the thought, he curbed the impulse he had to reach up and tug on the stubborn curls of his own ink-black hair. The texture and shade there was the exact opposite of Odin's in every way, and though a small point, that knowledge oftentimes felt like a stone sinking within him. The only thing that held him still was the reminder that, even when standing a part from Asgard’s delegation, it wouldn’t befit his station as a prince of the highest realm if he started fidgeting.

    Instead, he locked eyes with Thor from across the way and mouthed: don’t mess up, with an arching of his brows that bespoke his playful challenge louder than any words. If his brother wasn’t so focused on the script he now had to voice in their father’s place, Loki was quite certain that Thor would have turned a rude gesture his way before ignoring him entirely. As it was, Thor admirably kept his composure – which was only somewhat to Loki's disappointment.

    “Greetings, King Gandalf, Lord of All Light and Guardian of the Third Realm,” Thor gave in a strong, clear voice. He executed a perfect bow to accompany his words, neither bending too low and thus surrendering his place as an avatar for the supreme realm but neither too shallowly to give disrespect to their host and ally, and an elder to their own scant years, besides. “I, Thor Odinson, on behalf of my father Odin Borson, King of Asgard and Allfather to the Nine Realms, do call upon the bonds between your people and my own to seek the hospitality of your hearth and the salt of your table, so that we may remember our ties of old and strengthen the friendship between us.”

    His delivery was flawless. That was, until the brute ruined it by lifting his head and winking over at him, ruining his show of respect with a single gesture. Loki counted to ten, and then scuttled a long-suffering sigh. You may dress a troll as a prince, he philosophized to himself, and still a troll the prince will be.

    King Gandalf, however, did not seem to be offended as he stood to return Thor’s greeting with his own. If anything, his eyes twinkled in a way that Loki now knew for amusement. A subtle expression tugged at his mouth as he inclined his head, his great crown of horns and twined boughs throwing shadows from the light emanating from his throne. Surprising Loki, Gandalf bowed as low to Thor as he would have to Odin – far lower than Thor himself had bowed, with the thick mass of his sleek white hair falling over his shoulders in his obedience.

    “On behalf of the friendship I bear your father and the bonds of old linking the Elves and Aesir, I, Gandalf Hvitálfarson, Lord of All Light and Guardian of the Third Realm do welcome you, Thor Odinson of the First realm, on behalf of King Odin your father and Allfather to all Nine Realms. I offer you the hospitality of my hearth and the salt of my table, so that we may remember our ties of old and yet still renew the friendship between our peoples.”

    The Elf-king held his bow, and Thor too inclined his head once more, no matter that his deference was no longer required outright. “As your hospitality is offered," Thor said, "so do I accept the kindness of your hearth and table for myself and all those with me.”

    “Then come,” Gandalf stood upright in all his regal height once more, and with a clap of his hands he broke the yoke of formality binding them. “You and yours are thus welcomed.”

    At the command of the king, all those gathered in the hall from Elf to Aesir seemed to breathe easier with the conclusion of the ceremony. Dozens of conversations started independently of the other, with many old friends and acquaintances fondly making their greetings anew after a season spent apart. Loki’s first impetus was to immediately go up to Thor – his brother was a cave-troll, to be certain, but a cave-troll he’d missed – but Thor was not done playing his own part yet. No matter how he must have wanted to shrug off the rigidity of tradition, Thor admirably held himself to the required rituals – as must have been beaten into him by Master Logberg for days beforehand, Loki could well imagine – and greeted first Queen Álfgróa and then Gandalf’s twelve sons, each in their order. The elders of the Elven high houses were next, and then the master-mages by their rank. For a long while, Loki only watched, his arms folded as he withdrew just slightly from the crowd and leaned against one of the twining pillars of cut ever-wood to simply watch and observe in peace.

    . . . because he was just observing, of course – looking through the midst of the Aesir delegation that had followed behind Thor for not any one face in particular. He was just waiting for his brother to be done; he was in no way searching. Yes . . . obviously.

    Still . . . Loki couldn’t help but try to glimpse a slight form amongst Odin’s gilded jarls and diar and ranking Einherjar, each as they stood in their gleaming mail and armor of gold. When he did not at last see anything worth seeing, he fought the urge he had to frown as he stared darkly down at the floor. He scuffed the toe of his boot against the tiled motifs depicting the great boughs of some primordial forest, discontent in his skin and yet trying not to be. A clever incantation made it appear as if there was water running betwixt the tiles, and he focused on the sparkling rivets as they ran their course. He was not looking for anyone in particular, he reminded himself, so there was no reason to feel . . . whatever the dull, stabbing sensation he could feel expanding in his chest truly was. His fingers pressed into the bronze gauntlets of his formal armor until the tips were white and bloodless, even as he hooked his jaw.

    Loki had only just pushed his disappointment (though he stubbornly refused to call it as such) down to where it could not longer touch him, down where he’d had hundreds of other such buried thoughts and whispers, when Thor finally found him waiting on the edge of the throne-room.

    “You did well in your address – too well, truth be told. How long did you practice that in front of the mirror?” Loki could not help the warmth of his smile, even as his mouth sharpened to tease in favor of any other words he could have spoken in greeting. He had a whole season of missed jibes and rejoinders to make up for, after all – whole seasons more than that, really, over the last five years – and he intended to bridge the gap that now existed between them. “You had even me convinced that you really know what you’re doing.” He paused for a moment to bait his words. "Or well, you almost did, I should say."

    “Is that how you would greet your brother after so long a time spent apart?” Thor held a hand to his chest as if stem the flow of some imagined wound. Still, his blue eyes crackled as with storm light, his mouth widdening in an all too obvious smirk. “Would you not believe that I am a master of diplomacy?” he tilted his head up haughtily to insist. “I am quite naturally fluent in the ways of the court and all the etiquette that entails.”

    Right: and Loki was a Giant’s uncle. “Leave such silver turns of speech to me,” he drolly countered. “You have not the tongue for them.”

    Predictably, Thor didn’t try his lie twice. Instead, he gave a deep throaty laugh, even as he shrugged. “What can I say?” he was ever unashamed to admit. “You know me too well, brother.”

    When Thor threw his arms open to engulf him in an embrace, Loki bore the affection for a long moment – Thor was a brute who ever forgot his own strength, and the breath left his lungs in a whoosh as his arms tightened. But, still . . . it had been much too long, just as Thor had said. “I was only gone a season,” Loki was out of breath to tease, freeing his own arms enough to pat Thor’s shoulder with a long-suffering sigh. (No matter that, deep down, he didn’t quite mind as much as he protested.) “You act as if I’ve been gone to Helheimr this whole time.”

    “Just a season? You say it so easily! Yes, but it was one last season at the end of five whole winters,” Thor disagreed, even as he finally released him. “Such is much too long a time.”

    Hardly, really, to those with their years – but Thor was always an impatient one, their vast millennia of life expectancy aside. Yet, those five years would prove ultimately trifle in the face of everything he'd learned, and yet still strove to understand. Loki endeavored to say as much aloud: “Yet those years weren’t nearly long enough for what I set out to accomplish.” He shook his head in wonder, trying to find the words to explain something that was so large, so infinite as the wider world he’d been able to glimpse while studying in King Gandalf’s halls. No matter the gap between their interests – with Thor ever the golden son who embraced the Aesir’s love of steel and the ways of war, and Loki usually lost in his scrolls and spells and . . . well, being less than what a son of Odin should endeavor to be, admittedly – he still wanted to share this with his brother. He wanted Thor to understand.

    “I have learned so much these years past," he couldn't help but enthuse, "and this is only the beginning. I can summon my seiðr through primordial sources now – directly from my connection to the Mother, Thor, and not through Asgard’s ridiculous insistence on incantations and third mediums. I didn’t realize how truly tiny their views were before, but now I finally feel like I am able to at last be more like myself than I ever thought possible - ”

    “ - yes, well, you can bury your nose in your scrolls and study your little tricks at home,” Thor put his nose up to say, wiggling his figures in a disdainful gesture for mage-craft. He rolled his eyes, clearly only humoring his interests, and then just barely. Inwardly, Loki wanted to bristle, but it was a common enough reaction to his skills that he told himself that Thor's regard – or lack thereof – didn’t really sting. Not quite. After all . . . there was a reason that Odin himself had not led the traditional delegation that spring meet. With events on Vanaheimr claiming his attention, and the growing hostility from the Dwarves therein . . . it was war that ever demanded the Allfather’s interest, and not this fair land of light and magic. “You are of Asgard,” Thor continued, resting a heavy hand on his shoulder and squeezing, blind to his thoughts as ever, “and Asgard is where you belong.”

    It helped, only just – the bright, easy affection with which Thor said those words. “Careful,” Loki teased, even as he felt something deep inside of his chest deflate, “it almost sounds as if you missed me.”

    “Like one misses a plague,” Thor huffed to say. And, yet: “It’s just . . . well, it will be good to have you home,” he concluded simply. He squeezed his shoulder one last time, and then let his hand fall away. It always was that easy for Thor, Loki envied his brother his openness for a moment. He always seemed to know his heart, and was proud to speak honestly of its beat.

    So, Loki tried to honor his honesty as best he could in return. “It will be good to return home,” he admitted. At the very least, no matter what he had gained here amongst the Elves, Asgard was still home, even with its inherent trials and tribulations, and he did miss Glaðsheimr.

    And, amongst the things that Asgard had to offer which Álfheimr could not . . .

    “So,” Loki started, an air of nonchalance lightening his voice that he would never admit to being forced otherwise, “is there any of your party who's yet still to come?” Surreptitiously, he yet still tried to look through the throng of the gathered assembly, but he'd still not found the one he sought . . . if he were looking in the first place, that was.

    “What?” Thor was as thick as a rock to understand his question – for which Loki should have been grateful, perhaps. “Am I not company enough for you, brother?”

    “Too much, really,” Loki replied, the reflexive quip coming more by rote than by any conscious thought. Then, and only then, did he cease not searching through the crowded hall, finally acknowledging: face it, she’s not here. She had no desire to come and see you . . . and so, she did not.

    Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t even shrug Thor away when his brother slung a heavy arm over his shoulders. “Come now, Loki – there is still a fair bit of remembering the friendship between our peoples that’s left to be done. I don’t intend on leaving until I drink my weight – no, Volstagg’s weight! - in that addicting yew ale we sampled last spring meet. It’s time to celebrate!”

    “Yes,” Loki reflexively shook his head, keeping his words light instead of the hollow echo he wanted to voice instead, “it’s time we celebrate.”

    He let Thor pull him back to where a pair of King Gandalf’s sons were talking to a senior captain of the Einherjar and one of Odin’s regional diar – conveniently by where the Elves were beginning to serve a table of refreshments – and smiled what a smile he could. This was an important occasion, he reminded himself, honoring a great alliance – and he would not slight Gandalf’s hospitality after everything the Elf-king had done for him, especially with Odin himself being unable to attend that year.

    So, Loki bit back a sour note of disappointment (hurt, he better knew), and accepted a horn of ale when it was offered. It had been an entire season, after all, since the autumn festivities. No matter what had happened, no matter what he had thought . . .

    . . . well, he was wrong, he threw his serving of ale back quicker than was his wont to acknowledge – for which Thor laughed outright and merrily signaled for another. Better would it be for him – for both of them – if he accepted her decision sooner rather than later. By the time he did see her again, the matter would be quite forgotten by his heart and he wouldn’t feel the dull pain of rejection he felt now . . . or the excruciating ache of hope he’d known before.



    TBC





    Loki and the Elves - Loki living with King Gandalf's family for a time to learn to better control his magic is a fanon of mine that was established in AOWtP. His friendship with the Elf-prince Faradei Gandalfson - and, indeed, those events in Stöðuvatn that were alluded to in the last chapter of AOWtP [face_mischief] - will all be covered in this story. [face_love]

    Seiðr - Norse term for magic.

    Seiðrmanðr - Norse term for an enchanter.

    Glaðsheimr - Capital of Asgard.

    Jarls and Diar - Titles of leadership; Odin has twelve regional diar that preside over the more localized jarls.

    Einherjar - Collective name for Odin's warriors.

    Asgard's Dominance & the Aesir Prejudice for Magic - The Aesir (proper plural term for 'Asgardians') value martial strength above all else and revere those with the physical might and strength of will required to conqueror their enemies. The honor and glory of actual battle itself is just as important to them as the ultimate victor. Magic, in that school of thought, is viewed as a coward's shortcut to achieving true prowess in battle, no matter how enchanters were revered by other races like the Elves, Dwarves, and Giants. (Yep - that sets the stage for the drama between Loki and Thor in a big way, doesn't it? [face_plain]) This collective 'might makes right' mentality shapes Asgard's entire culture, and is how Odin's forefathers from Búri Firstfather on down rose to a place of absolute power over all Nine Realms. That's also why realms like Vanaheimr and Álfheimr still pay tribute for Asgard's protection and friendship. (For example - which is still my fanon, though heavily inspired by both the myths and comics - Frigg herself was given to Odin as a wife when Vanaheimr was defeated for an 'alliance'; and that's one of the reasons Loki was taken from Jötunnheimr - besides Odin wanting to keep a child who was prophesied to bring Ragnarök down on their heads closer rather than not, of course. :p o_O) This concept was sorta played on in Thor: Ragnarok, to an extent, but I'm building my 'verse in a much different way. According to AOWtP, a cornerstone of Thor's reign is returning independence to all the individual realms and uniting them through treaties of mutually beneficial friendship and shared interest, rather than their 'allies' paying a tribute of ransom every season. Which was a very 'Viking' practice, to say the least. :p


    And that's all from me this time around! I hope you enjoyed and if you have any more questions please don't hesitate to ask. I'll be happy to answer them. [:D]



    ~MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
    Findswoman likes this.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Exquisite final chapter. I could visualize the entire wintriness.
    Sif and Loki's interaction is lovely, as they feel their way back to one another.
    For part 1, great Loki POV as he struggles with many tangled emotions.

    =D=

    I know you are all too deliriously happy to be writing this pairing again, and let me say, it feels just as good reading them in your expert hands!
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2019
    Findswoman and Mira_Jade like this.
  3. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Thank-you! That finale is one of my favourite pieces I've ever written, so I'm all too happy that you enjoyed it too. [face_love] [:D]

    Whew, but tangled emotions really sums up Loki in a nutshell, doesn't it? Even this far pre-canon! I'd like to say I'm going to make it easier on the poor guy, but it'll get worse before it gets better . . . :p

    So, so happy! [face_love] [face_dancing] :D Writing this story really is like coming home to old friends. And, as always, I am more than grateful and happy to have you along for the journey! I hope that you continue to enjoy the tale as it goes! [:D]







    II

    Kaupmaðr Bryggja, Vanaheimr - Then

    The troll was half plus her own stature in height and well over thrice as broad about the wide barrel of his chest. In almost comical contrast, his head was much too small to match the massive girth of his body, sunken near into his shoulders as it was. His eyes were near wholly black and tiny in his face, used as his kind were to their nearly blind existence in the dark and secret places beneath the surfaces of the realms. Further matching his usual subterranean haunts, his skin was covered in hard, calcified plates of natural armor that neither blade nor bow could puncture with any sort of ease. This troll, as was also common for his ilk, had more brawn than brains of which to speak, but what he had in brawn he had in surplus.

    Yet, Sif Týrsdottir had been vanquishing foes like him all day now – well, all night, really. Soon, this one would fare no different a fate than the others who came before.

    It was nearing dawn by then, with a silver haze flushing over the dark horizon of the great Stórr Sea. Soon, their bout would end just by their opponents own nature; while Illska the Dwarf gained in strength by threading his ranks with so many of the thurs-beasts, he also handicapped himself with only being able to attack beneath the cover of night. The Aesir had hunted the marauder for much of the winter season, protecting their Vanir brethren when called to defend their shores. Now, so close to the end, Illska was growing sloppy; sloppy, and desperate – desperate enough to attack Vanaheimr's great port city of Kaupmaðr Bryggja in a last grab for riches enough to pay for his retreat and exile, if not fund his retirement outright.

    Yet, if Odin had his way, they would have the Dwarf’s head to gift to Freyr Vanir-king before the sun touched the sky. There would be no quarter shown to Illska, whose death would serve as a warning to any who'd dare raise steel against Asgard or any of those sworn to the First Realm.

    To that end, Sif played her part. As one of the youngest members of the Einherjar – gleaned just that last autumn at the Tourney of Nine that was ever held to celebrate the meet – she was stationed nowhere near the brunt of the main conflict, where the Allfather himself and his foremost warriors marched with steel in hand. Instead, her unit fought on the outskirts of the city to keep any of Illska’s host from going further inland, both on their own impetus as much as they acted on their master’s orders to harass the local citizens. Soon, Sif was certain, this troll would be the tenth they had slain in half as many hours -

    - but, she reminded herself as she ducked out from underneath one of the troll’s massive, meaty fists, he wasn’t slain yet. She had to focus if she wished to keep her head atop her shoulders. The ignominy of having her own legend cut short on account of one of the thurs-kind would have been unbearable, even if Valhalla itself was opened as reward for her end of days.

    Since she was the smallest and quickest of her unit – and the junior-most, at that, scarce above an armor-bearer in rank, or so she was routinely informed by her captain – it fell to her to serve as the distraction. The troll didn’t pay her much attention at first, no matter that she was fitted with the same trappings as the rest of the Einherjar, marking her as a soldier of Asgard and not an enemy to be taken lightly. The creature just rumbled and swatted at her in annoyance, but with a little bit of patience and daring, the long reach of her glaive – little damage as the blade would do without time and effort; time as she did not have and effort she better knew to conserve – convinced him to pay her credence at last. They had but few stone-cutters that could pierce through a troll’s hide – well, with a fraction of the time and effort that it would take for traditional steel, at least – and only one of the Dwarven forged swords was assigned per company. It was her job, along with Meiri, a warrior gleaned just earlier than her, to lead the creature to where their captain Bjarg was waiting at the end of the quay with one of the stone-cutters in hand. All in their unit were divided into similar such pairs, herding the creatures away from the Vanir people and unbeknownst towards their doom. It was slow, tedious work, but it was necessary.

    While Sif served as the distraction running ahead, Meiri held a torch in hand, playing on the beast’s innate fear of sunlight to move him towards the now deserted docks and vessels by the water. Though this winter was her first season actually training and seeing true combat as a warrior, rather than her improving her skills solely through her own discipline and the misadventures of her youth, it was certainly not her first time battling a troll. Once, she recalled, years ago when crossing the Nafjord, they had used Loki’s spellwork in a similar such way to blind one of the beasts so that Thor could then -

    - but that memory was something that she was most certainly not thinking about if she wanted to stay canny in the here and now, she reminded herself as she ducked out of the way again. She was quick enough so that the troll missed her entirely, but his two-handed blow put an impressive sized crater in the stone of the alleyway just where she'd been. The incensed troll chasing after her had to have her singular attention, she grit her jaw to inwardly berate; period.

    On and on, their ebb and flow continued. All was going well – or, as well as could reasonably be expected – when there was an explosion from further up the shoreline. At first the sound was deafening, ringing in her ears even as she was violently thrown to the ground from the way the land heaved beneath her boots. The sea raged in its cradle as she held her shield up to guard against the bright light of the blast. Heat danced across her skin in warning, even as far as they were from the epicenter of the explosion. She could smell smoke and the crackling burnt ozone scent of power that she recognized as coming from Gungnir, and thus, the Allfather himself.

    What, she wondered as her senses reeled, in Hel’s name was -

    - but she didn’t have time for answers when their troll friend shrieked in terror for the flash of light. The beast was even more deadly now, panicked as he was – and especially for Meiri, who had been thrown to the ground and his torch extinguished. It only took a fraction of a second, but Meiri was not fast enough to find his feet again before the troll pinned him. He tried to protect himself from the troll’s merciless blows, but the troll wordlessly bellowed in his face and batted his hands away as if he was nothing more than an errant child, with a child’s paltry strength to match. When the troll gave up trying to bludgeon Meiri’s armored sides and instead picked him bodily up to slam him back against the ground hard, so hard that his helm cracked, the steel cutting into his brow so that he bled -

    - Sif didn’t think; she only knew that another such blow could see Meiri dead, and ingloriously so. Meiri was her shield-brother, one of her own who needed her protection, and she’d let the troll harm him not. She refused, it was just that simple.

    With an inarticulate cry tearing from her own throat, she launched herself at the troll’s back, her glaive fully extended. At first, it felt like she was trying to puncture the side of a mountain, and her attack was futile as the blade skid harmlessly across the troll's back and to the side. But, at the very least, the troll did not slam Meiri into the ground again for the distraction she served. Aggravated, the creature swatted at her, but his angle was awkward enough to rob him of power, and she refused to be moved. She jammed her fingers tight between the plates covering the troll's skin to keep her perch, her resolve only settling in all the more so when she saw the whites of Meiri’s eyes over the troll’s shoulder. He tried to shake his head, clearly wanting her to leave him to his fate but having not the voice to say so. Ignoring her comrade, Sif stubbornly grit her teeth and -

    - there!

    With the troll twisting and writhing in such a frenzied attempt to dislodge her, he'd revealed the soft skin between his thick shoulders and the base of his skull. Trolls had nearly no neck to speak of between the hard ridges of natural armor that so protected them – it was one of the reasons that they were so notoriously hard to kill in the first place. But here from her vantage point she had a clear line of sight and a moment to act if she but seized her opportunity.

    So, she brought her glaive down again with all her strength and fury. This time, when she struck, the blade found its mark. A snick of steel and a grunt of effort, and the troll gave a pained cry, jerking violently in shock. Yet his fighting was no use; with a futile twitching of his great limbs and a last, gurgled exhale the troll fell forward, lifeless. Finally, it was over.

    At first, Sif could only breathe out a sigh, relieved, as she slumped against the troll’s back. Only her hold on her glaive kept her from sliding off completely. The smell she found when her nose touched the troll's skin, however, gave her impetus enough to move – jumping to the ground and then heaving to turn the corpse over and free Meiri out from underneath its mass. Her legs felt boneless as she helped Meiri find his feet, the muscles in her arms burning and sore after so many long hours spent fighting those who were so vastly her superior in both strength and size. Even so, she couldn’t help but revel in the way her heart thundered out a victorious song for her feat. She, Sif Týrsdottir, had single-handedly killed a troll, without a stone-cutter or even an entire season spent training amongst the ranks of Einherjar. If this didn’t wet the pens of the skalds, then she didn’t know what would.

    “I am,” Meiri said, trying to remain stoic even as he winced, “most grateful that you have more bravery than sense, Sif. You should have let me be; I knew that I was done for as soon as the beast had me pinned.” Sure enough, Meiri looked a sight with his split helm as he gingerly hunched over to protect his ribs with his left arm. His right arm fell limply from his shoulder at a painfully low angle, telling of an injury to the cuff. He had broken more than one bone, which was telling in of itself – the Aesir were made of notoriously hardy stock, and did not wound easily.

    “Yet you're still here, are you not?” Sif couldn’t help but grin in answer, still cresting the high of her victory. Wiping at what she could of her brow beneath the crown of her helm – there was nothing worse than troll blood, really; she’d be fighting the smell for days – she felt as a pulse of triumph rushed through her veins. “Or maybe it was that even Valhalla itself wasn’t ready to suffer your presence just yet, and delayed your passing. I was but a vessel for the will of the ancient ones.”

    Meiri snorted. “You jest, but I don’t think you realize just how impressive a feat that really was, Sif,” he shook his head, incredulous. “There are battle hardened men, even, who would’ve hesitated to -”

    “ - men?” her eyes glittered to challenge.

    Meiri leveled her with a look, little impressed. “You know what I mean, just as much as you know better than to group me in with everyone else. I saw you at the Tourney of Nine, remember? I knew better than to doubt you from the beginning.”

    Her first reaction was to duck her head for the honesty of his words, but Meiri deserved her holding his eyes, no matter how much she may have wanted to look away otherwise. It was true what he said; many had been her silent skeptics and vocal critics outright since Odin offered her the chance to either fail or succeed by her own hand as a warrior of Asgard. Meiri had never been amongst her naysayers – a courtesy that her own captain had not been able to extend her more often than not, and for that she was grateful.

    “And for that you know you have my gratitude,” Sif voiced her thoughts aloud, offering her hand to him. “I have ever been, and will ever be, in your debt.”

    “There’s no debt needed for common courtesy,” Meiri did not agree, even as he clasped her forearm fondly, “or, in my case, common sense.” He nodded back at the fallen troll. “I’m smart enough to trust my eyes rather than indulge in such ridiculous biases. And a debt,” he reached up to touch his broken helm only somewhat ruefully, “if ever there was one, has surely been paid by now.”

    His look soured, then, which Sif could more than understand. “Don’t worry,” she assured him, elbowing his uninjured side as they turned down the alleyway to head back towards the quay, “the next one’s all yours.”

    “Oh,” Meiri’s eyes turned alight to narrow, “I'm counting on it.”

    With that, they left to regroup with their unit. Captain Bjarg was initially annoyed to see them appear sans troll, but his ire quickly cooled for a surprised sort of respect when they reported that the beast had already been slain. When he went to congratulate Meiri first without even considering that the kill may have been hers, Sif hid a pang deep down inside where she had sent a hundred such furies and pains down to die over the years, yet refused to hang her head. When Meiri honorably turned the credit to her, as was her due, her captain only fixed her with a stony look and muttered a grudging, “well enough, girl,” before pointedly turning his back on her to address the rest of his men.

    If Sif felt her hand tighten over her glaive for the bald insult, she kept her honor by leashing her temper and clamping down on her tongue. At the very least, she was satisfied that Captain Bjarg had nothing negative to say simply because she had given him no room for criticism. In that, there was victory enough to be found.

    Following their encounter with the troll, the battle was quick to come to a close. Illska’s forces were either slain or routed, and the Dwarf-lord’s own head was severed by the Allfather himself and offered to Freyr Njörðrson as a gift to all the Vanir people. Sif was at last released from duty, yet instead of turning in with the rest of her comrades she found a relatively quiet spot on one of the stone retaining walls overlooking the sea. There, she was content to sit in peaceful silence and watch the rising of the tide, coming down from the high of the battle in her own way. Crossing her legs beneath her, she took off her heavy helm and placed it to the side with a sigh of relief. She stretched her neck and rolled her shoulders before reaching up to run her fingers through her hair. Since the autumn meet, her hair had only just regrown to reach her chin, but even that short length was now matted with sweat from being so long trapped beneath her helm. Yet, the same as always, she couldn’t help a soft sort of smile to feel the new length . . . the new dark length, as dark as the night was black and so very different from the headful of pale gold tresses she’d had this same time the year before. The change felt symbolic, as if it were an outward mark of how she’d gone from a mere child trying to teach herself the ways of steel in the shadows to a woman grown and accepted by the ranks of the Einherjar; a true warrior of Asgard, in every way.

    And, as was also marked by that change . . .

    Sif felt a whisper brush over her scalp, tingling as if in memory. Answering that call, she looked up to where the stars were only just fading from the early morning sky. The realm of the Vanir was just above that of the Elves on the branches of their Mother Yggdrasil, and she could still pick out the winking orb of light in the heavens that marked Álfheimr's place in the cosmos. Her heart thumped with a curious sort of beat, lost from its usual rhythm as she stared, feeling as if her chest was somehow too full and yet empty all at once. She . . . she hadn’t thought that it would take so long to subdue Illska and his horde, with their campaign running just into and beyond the time when she was supposed to attend the spring meet in King Gandalf’s halls with Thor’s delegation. Now that the Dwarf had fallen she felt restless in her skin, both eager to depart and resume her place besides the sons of Odin once more, and yet strangely hesitant to do so. After all, there had been safety, of a sort, staying here with steel in her hand as she felt she was born to, rather than journeying to Álfheimr to wage the battle of a different sort that awaited her there. Without any further reason for her delay, there was now only uncertainty and apprehension and yet such a dizzying sense of possibility -

    - yet, just as those thoughts threatened to emerge from where she'd squelched them the whole winter season through, she heard a heavy, beating sound descend down through the air from above. A strong breeze stirred, disturbing the heavy material of her cloak and ruffling through the short strands of her hair. A shadow fell from the heavens, with the nascent sunlight shining even brighter and the ocean waves cresting all the higher, and then a Valkyrie lightly touched down on the stone wall beside her. For a moment the great cast of her wings was enough to block out even the dawn when so unfurled, before they gracefully folded back to rest against her body. The wind from her approach stilled, and then she stood from her landing crouch to find her full, indomitable height once more.

    This particular Valkyrie was one she had the honor of saying that she knew personally. Sif could not keep the proud expression from her face as she stood so that she could respectfully bow to one of the Women of Glory, who had been more a mentor than she ever could have hoped for over the season past. She hoped, more so than anything else, that Sigrún the Fetterer had seen her last bout against the troll, and knew pride for her victory.

    “Well done, little one,” sure enough, Sigrún approved, her sharp teeth flashing in an expressive grin to answer the unspoken. Even after a winter spent learning at Sigrún’s side, Sif could not help the shiver that pulsed through her for the sound of the Valkyrie’s voice – a timbre that was all flashing steel and victory cries and a deep, velvety sort of undertone that spoke of her divine knowing of the ways beyond the constraints of their mere physical realms. Though Sigrún had once been a daughter of the Aesir, drinking from the Well of Idísi had changed her in a physical sense. She now towered over even Asgard’s tallest warrior, and the wings that spanned from her back – another gift from her transformation – added all the more so to her grand impression of majesty. All of the Valkyrior had skin that ranged from tones of silver and copper and gold to obsidian and jade and other such precious things, but hers was a marbled ivory and pearl tone to match the pure white of her wings. The same as all her sisters, her eyes shone without pupils; instead, they were simply the colour of light in a reflection of the splendor of Valhalla – for the Valkyrie were the only ones who could walk between this world and the next as the sworn guardians protecting both those who lived now from journeying onward before their time, and those who were ready to lead the warriors of Valhalla in glorious battle when Ragnarök finally came.

    The tenets of the Valkyrie were, quite simply put, everything that Sif herself strove to uphold as a warrior. She knew that she was blessed that not just any Valkyrie – but one of Brünnhilde’s own lieutenants – had taken such an interest in her progress.

    “I thank-you, my lady,” Sif bowed her head even lower. “Your words do me honor to hear.”

    “Such gravitas for one so young!” Sigrún reached down to tweak her chin, tilting her head back up again. “Haven’t I told you that you may save that formality for Brünnhilde? I need no such subservience myself.”

    For her having heard her say as much before, Sif felt the shadow of an impish smile as it grew. “I thank-you, my lady,” she still carefully enunciated every syllable to repeat. “Your words do me a great honor.”

    “You’re a cheeky little eyas, Týrsdottir,” Sigrún snorted. “Be glad I like that about you.”

    “Yet, one could say instead that she simply knows her manners, is that not right, sister? Unlike others I could mention.”

    If Sigrún cut an impressive figure with her arrival, then she was nothing to Lady Brünnhilde, the Captain of the Valkyrior and She Who Walks Between Life and Death. As bright and golden as a yellow sun in comparison to her lieutenant’s pearlescent tones, there were shades of rich chestnut and red in her massive wings to match her copper plated armor and ruby studded mail. The great-sword Dragonfang was strapped to her back in a scabbard between her wings, with the length of the blade near as long as Sif herself was tall, while scales from the felled wyrm Fáfnir gauntleted her strongly muscled arms. There was infinity in her eyes, even more so than shone from any of her sisters; Sif could not hold her gaze for long, and knew better than to even try. Instead, it was instinctive to drop to one knee before the Valkyrie and let her head fall forward as low as she could manage, showing the same respect that she would to King Odin himself.

    “My lady,” Sif kept her voice strong and clear, even as she held her subservient pose. By her side, even blithe and easy Sigrún did much the same in deference to her leader.

    “I bid you rise,” Brünnhilde waved a hand to release her. “I desire to speak with you, daughter of Týr, and I cannot do that with your nose pressed to the ground.”

    “My lady?” Sif did not understand, even as she carefully found her feet as instructed. What interest could the Captain of the Valkyrior have in her? she wondered. Sif glanced over at Sigrún, but the lieutenant's usual bright humor seemed subdued then. Instead, she was looking from her captain and back to her again as if in anticipation. Her expression did not give anything more than that away but for a certain glittering in her eyes. Clearly, whatever Brünnhilde wished to say, Sigrún was already privy to.

    “Walk with me,” Brünnhilde invited instead of answering her curiosity outright. “It is a beautiful morning, and after a night of such ugliness I wish to watch the sun complete its rise.”

    There was no way that Sif could refuse such a request, even if she wanted. Instead, she holstered her glaive and shield, and then tucked her helm underneath her arm without donning it again. She stepped down off of the wall when Sigrún did so too, and fell in line to follow wherever Brünnhilde would lead.

    For several long minutes they simply walked parallel with the seaside. Brünnhilde did truly seem to be enjoying the dawn; she tilted up her face to the sky, and her wings unfurled behind her just slightly to enjoy the sun’s rays as they crested from the horizon. Soldiers of the Aesir and Vanir alike bowed low in respect as they passed, and Brünnhilde did not stop them from doing so. While she held herself as regally as a monarch, her eyes fixed ever ahead, Sigrún occasionally stopped to applaud a warrior here for his valor . . . and console another for the loss of a comrade there. She listened, and promised to bear more than one message with her when next she journeyed to Valhalla. Illska had taken too many good warriors before finding his own end, Sif reflected as she squared her jaw. For that, she wished him nothing but enmity in Hel’s domain for the pains he had inflicted on others for nothing more than greed in life. Yet, it was hard to think thoughts of vengeance overly long with the sky flooding with colour and the sea singing a soft song to greet the dawn.

    The entire orb of the sun was at last visible in its ascent when Brünnhilde finally spoke: “You have made quite a name for yourself in so short a time, I trust you know? From the Tourney of Nine to your acts of bravery in this campaign, your name is already mentioned in many halls beyond those of mere Asgard alone.”

    Sif, who could oftentimes only hear her captain’s disdain and the whispers that followed from those soldiers of like mind, could not quite believe the Valkyrie. Yet, she knew better than to say so aloud.

    “At least,” Brünnhilde amended, “they do so where such opinions actually matter. In Valhalla, they are already calling you War, by your father’s old name.”

    For that, Sif started, drawn up short. Could that really be true? Her father . . . Týr Hymirson had once been Odin Allfather’s most trusted general, and was renowned for his many victories in battle. Yet, he had died before her birth, slain on the last eve of the Great War against Jötunnheimr. His sacrifice had kept Odin to only losing one of his eyes, rather than his very life itself, when battling the enchantress Nál Jötunn-queen, and he was still revered as one of the foremost heroes of their history. His memory was one of the reasons Sif strove to forge her own path now; most everything she did was in an effort to honor his name, just as she sought glory for her own.

    She had to stop and take in a deep breath, unexpectedly taken by emotion for the parent she had never known. Slowly, Sif recovered herself, and let her next exhale out slow.

    Brünnhilde, she thought, understood. The Valkyrie stopped, and turned to look down on her with an expression that was as kind for all of its inherent ferocity. “Týr toasts your name in the halls beyond the Nine, do you know?” she gentled her tone to say. “He knows nothing but pride for his daughter, who honors his memory every time she draws her sword in his name.”

    “I had hoped, yet I had not known,” Sif found her voice thick to reply. She had to try twice . . . three times even to find her words, and they sounded as a rough whisper for just how much they meant to her when they did form. “I can think of no higher praise than that which you have given me.”

    “You need think higher, then, for I could praise you yet still more.” When she raised her eyes, her brow knotting as comprehension eluded her, there was a telling sort of smile tugging on Brünnhilde's mouth, as if she knew a secret that she was waiting to share. “My Sigrún here speaks highly of your potential, even more so than what you have already accomplished in such a short time already. She has not spoken as such since she last took an interest in Krista herself.”

    Sif frowned, understanding teasing at her without quite settling in as true knowing. Krista the Young was the last Valkyrie who had drank of the Well of Idísi – long before even Odin himself sat upon his father’s throne. She and her sister, Hildegarde the Elder, were the last to ascend to the ranks of the Valkyrior; none had been invited since then.

    That was, not until -

    - Sif froze, comprehension smacking into her with a force greater than anything the troll could have possibly mustered. She gaped, stunned with incredulity.

    “Your ears do not deceive you,” Brünnhilde's timeless voice was alight with wry amusement. “I have not found one worthy to drink of the Well in many years; yet you, child, may just indeed prove worthy.”

    “I . . . I do not know what to say,” Sif answered honestly. That, at least, was the whole of the truth as she could make it. The offer was an honor, certainly, and a momentousness one, at that. If she accepted Brünnhilde's invitation, then everything she'd once thought to know about the shape of her path – including every hope and dream she'd long set for herself – would change. Nothing would, nor possibly could, ever be the same again.

    And yet . . . to serve all the realms through the divine commission of the Valkyrior? There could be no greater way to honor her father than through accepting Brünnhilde's offer.

    “We would have you say yes,” Sigrún interjected for the first, and for the lieutenant’s quip, Sif found the familiarity she needed to ground herself again.

    “I . . . you honor me, my lady, please do not think that I do not understand the magnitude of your offer,” Sif honestly replied. Even then, she still could yet believe that this was real. “Yet, I would respectively ask you for time to give my answer full thought.”

    Brünnhilde paused, something unreadable in her expression as she searched her face. Sif tilted up her chin to better let her look, uncertain of what she sought to glean. “It is indeed best that you carefully weigh your decision,” finally, Brünnhilde said. “It is a hard thing, to sunder oneself as we do. If you drink of the Well of Idísi, then the only vows you ever speak will be to Asgard and the Nine Realms. Though being rebirthed as one of the Valkyrior, you will leave everything of your past self behind. You will cease being a daughter; you will never be a wife; you will never be a mother; you will watch comrades fight and fall beyond the counting without every truly joining their brotherhood. You will only ever have your duty, and your sisters who share in your calling. It is not an easy decision to make; all but a worthy few can bear the enormity of our choice.” For a long moment, Brünnhilde fell silent, with her sightless eyes turning to stare as if far away. Sif wondered, then, what she had sacrificed in her time for everything she had now. Her name was second only to the Allfather's in glory, but that, it seemed, had come at great cost.

    “Yet, the sacrifices we few make are for the gain many. Ragnarök is still nigh, as all in the realms should do well to remember. The Valkyrior shall be the first line of defense against the End of Days, and in that there is no greater honor. I can tell you from my own experience that there is no greater fulfillment to be found in life than through that of service, and yet . . . that is something you are already beginning to understand, I think.”

    Silence fell, thick with only the constant rhythm of the waves and the distant sounds of the city starting to pull itself back together again in the aftermath of the battle. Sif only gave a respectful nod in reply to Brünnhilde's words; there was nothing more she could yet say. “I have your leave to depart, then?" she asked. "I will answer soon, I promise.”

    Before she even realized it, she had reached up to fiddle with the dark ends of her hair, inexplicably troubled for all that she was overwhelmed at the amazing possibility placed before her. Her breath suddenly felt tight in her lungs – much too tight.

    “Of course,” Brünnhilde gave her leave, glancing back to Sigrún as she said so. “I know that this last skirmish against Illska’s forces kept you from the Elf-king’s halls. You were supposed to accompany Odin's son, were you not?”

    “Yes,” Sif confirmed. “I have a dear friend – friends, whom I have not seen in far too long.”

    With that truth spoken – such as it was, the knowing sort of light in Brünnhilde's eyes only grew brighter. With a force of effort, Sif lowered her hand from her hair; she had to curl her fingers into a fist to keep them still. “As I said,” the Captain gravely intoned, “give my offer honest thought. The vows of the Valkyrior are not an oath to be made lightly – if you drink of the Well, there will be no going back. Yet,” she held a hand out to her in a show of respect, “I hope to someday call you sister, Týrsdottir, in every way.”

    As she was offered, Sif reached out to clasp Brünnhilde's forearm in a warrior’s embrace, even as she felt her heart fall to seemingly tangle with her stomach. She held her shoulders square against the weight that had suddenly settled upon her like a stone. There was now much that she had to consider, and difficult decisions to make . . . about a great many things.



    TBC


    The Valkyrie: Odin's army of female warriors, whose job it was to collect the worthy fallen from the battlefields and take them to Valhalla, where they perpetually prepare to march as an army again when Ragnarök comes. Brünnhilde is quite possibly the Valkyrie most are familiar with - even if my concept of her and her sisters here is vastly different that what canon has since depicted. But I started this 'verse first, and I didn't want to change my depiction, as it keeps a bit more faithfully with the myths. Sigrún is also a Valkyrie from mythology, where she was mentioned to lead other Valkyrie in battle, so I made her one of Brünnhilde's lieutenants. Krista and Hildegarde are Valkyrie from the Marvel comics, to draw a little bit from all sources. :)

    Sif's Hair: Loki cutting Sif's hair - and his misadventures when atoning for the deed - is a famous Norse myth that's symbolic for the changing of the seasons. In my 'verse, though, it was done at Sif's behest to help disguise her when she made her debut as a warrior at the Tourney of Nine - but, more about that later. [face_mischief]

    All of the other names here, from Meiri to Illska are OCs.

    And I think that's all for this chapter. But, as always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask! :D [:D]




    ~MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2019
  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fantastic details of the battle with the Troll and the interaction with the Valkyrie =D=
     
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  5. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Well, you had me at "Loki". (Followed this link from the MMM thread) Loki and Sif as a couple is a bit weird to me, though.

    Cool that Sif got invited to be a Valkyrie.
     
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  6. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    This is really beautiful. I'm glad I stepped out of my normal star wars realm to try something different. I do love how you interwove the details of the world into the description - masterfully done.