Author: Nena Camadera PM
Urd's breath caught in her throat and the youth fell back with a start. "Nidhogg?" She squeaked, staring at the well with large violet eyes before turning her gaze to the elder. "Was that Nidhogg?"Rated: Fiction T - English - Family/Friendship - Urd - Chapters: 17 - Words: 140,162 - Reviews: 54 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 27 - Updated: 02-24-13 - Published: 11-21-08 - id: 4668171
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
On the fifth day since arriving in the Heavens, Urd awoke with a headache.
It came with the light of the morning sun shining down upon her face, and with a grimace the child pulled the covers over her head in a desperate bid for darkness. Yet even that small act caused her head to throb, and with an unhappy whine the girl curled into a tight ball of misery beneath her covers.
Stupid sun waking me up. The youth thought miserably. And before Celestine even comes, too!
As though hearing her inner rant, someone knocked on the door to her room. "Urd, are you awake? It's time to get up!" Celestine's muffled voice came from the other side, and with a groan Urd placed her hands over her ears and scrunched her eyes together, hoping to drown the deity out.
The knocking paused, and the bronze child allowed herself a moment of respite at the temporary silence. With a sigh, the youth relaxed, allowing her hands to part from her ears and hoping the act might lessen the sound of her pulse in her head.
It did, however only momentarily. In its place instead came the sound of a door opening and Celestine entering the room. "Urd?" His voice was soft, something Urd realized, yet the pounding in her head made it come across as though the man was screaming. "Urd? Come. We need to get ready. We have a long day ahead of us and Lady Ostara promised to help with it." She felt something gently come to rest on her shoulder, and guessing it was his hand the youth ignored it. "…Don't you want to see your sister again? Belldandy will be disappointed if she doesn't get a chance to see you today."
Go chase a bicorn. The youth thought dourly, reluctantly peeking an irritated violet eye out at Celestine from beneath the blankets. "Don't care." She grumbled. "Head hurts. Want to sleep." She tugged the blankets back over her head, rolling onto her other side away from Celestine for good measures.
"Your head hurts?" The man sounded surprised, and beneath her covers Urd scowled, fervently wishing the man would shut up. Or suddenly be struck by some horribly fatal virus that devoured the man's vocal cords. Whichever came first.
Unfortunately neither of the two happened, and Celestine continued talking. "When did you get a headache?" He asked. "Can you show me where it hurts?" There was a tug on her blanket, and suddenly Urd's face was once more engulfed in blinding, painful light.
Bless you, I'm going to claw your eyes out and shove them down your throat. Only too late did Urd realize she'd screamed her thoughts out loud, yet the worst she got from Celestine was a raised eyebrow.
"I'm not sure what you said." He began. "However I'm relatively certain it was something unpleasant." A hand, cool and soft, came to rest on her forehead, and Urd stared blinking at the man above her. "I'll let it slide this time, judging by your reaction, but please refrain from cursing me in any language from here on out-not just your own."
Urd grumbled something incomprehensible in reply, and something that sounded like an amused laugh arose from the man. The hand left her forehead, and suddenly the bronze youth was bathed in blissful shade as Celestine drew the curtains over the window. It didn't stop the pounding in her head, but at least she wasn't losing her vision to the sun anymore.
With a sigh the girl allowed herself to relax, eying Celestine critically as the man crouched by her side once more. "Can you show me where it hurts the most?" His voice was a whisper now, yet still she winced. Sighing, the child ran a dark hand through her silver hair, letting it roam until she found the spot the pain seemed to originate from. Allowing it to rest there, Urd sent the man a look, and Celestine nodded.
"I see." He murmured, moving a hand of his own to rest atop her own. "May I?" He asked, and with a frown Urd slipped her hand out from beneath his, allowing Celestine's hand to rest on the origin of her pain. "Right here?" Gently, he applied pressure to the area, and Urd grunted in agreement when she felt the pain dissipate minutely. The elder deity nodded. "Alright…Urd, I want you to relax as much as possible. Can you do that for me?"
The dark youth looked at Celestine dolefully before sighing and closing her eyes. She felt Celestine rest his other hand on her shoulder, and something pressed against her forehead. "Now, you're going to feel something like a push in your mind," Celestine's voice was right in her ear. "And I need you to let it through. You're going to want to resist it; my magic is going to feel like an invasive presence in your mind, but I need you to let it pass into your mind. Can you do that for me?"
Urd peeked up at him with one violet orb, finding the man's forehead pressed against her own and the man watching her with dark eyes. Startled at his proximity, the girl flinched before sending him a look asking him 'are you serious?' Celestine smirked at her, and with a grunt, Urd closed her eye once more, taking a deep breath and trying her hardest to relax as she'd been instructed.
It wasn't so much of a push she felt in her mind as it was a gentle prodding from various little fingers. They poked and prodded within her mind, pressing up against the mental barriers her mother had taught her how to erect. It felt like they were searching for some spot that was weaker than the rest of the barriers, and despite how gentle the prodding was, it sent the hairs on the back of her neck standing straight on edge. Instinctively, she drew upon her own magic to help strengthen the barriers, and though it sent her head pounding all the harder, Urd was satisfied to see what appeared in her mind's eye as small white tendrils of light suddenly withdrawing.
"Urd." Celestine's tone was a deep, condescending rumble in her ears, and the youth winced. "I told you not to fight it. Let it through. I can't help you if you don't let me in." The barrier in her mind now had angry, violet sparks dancing across its surface, and beyond the barrier Urd could still see the tendrils of light, flowing back and forth and across each other, neither retreating nor advancing, instead remaining stationary, waiting for the girl to do as ordered.
"No funny business." The mental equivalent of her wagged a finger in warning at the energy, and slowly, the youth let the barrier fall. The violet streaks of magic dissipated from sight, and soon after that the barriers lowered themselves, allowing the foreign magic further access to her body.
"We're going to need to work on your choice in language, Urd." This time Celestine's voice seemed to erupt from the foreign magic, more amused than condescending. "I understood that about as well as I did you cursing me a few minutes ago."
The girl mentally crossed her arms with a huff. "My body, my rules." She growled, this time actively ensuring she switched over to the second tongue. "No funny business." She repeated. "Or I'll make sure you leave here hurting."
Slowly, the silver magic approached her, moving past the mental 'her' and continuing onward. "You don't trust me?"
The girl sniffed. "Demons trust no one."
"Not even their mothers?" Celestine retorted. "And last I checked, the sigils on your face were blue, not red. Did that magically change upon my entering your mind?"
The youth fell silent, and Urd more felt than heard Celestine sigh. "I see. You have a lot to learn if we're to make a proper deity out of you."
The dark child scowled. "I didn't come here to be a proper deity. I came here to see Yggdrasil. How many times I gotta tell you that, 'Stine?"
"Oh, I'd say about the same amount of times I need to remind you that Yggdrasil isn't interested in demons. Only proper deities."
A frustrated growl tore through the youth's throat, and in response to her irritation her magic rose immediately, snapping and hissing in agitation. One of the violet sparks actually went so far as to reach out and snap at the white stream that was Celestine, and Urd watched as the white retreated from it with a small smirk.
"Urd!" Celestine snapped, and suddenly the girl was back in her physical body once more, opening her eyes to find Celestine leaning away from her with a grimace. The man was clutching his own head in the same manner she had her own, and Urd was surprised to see his dark eyes alight with anger. "What is wrong with you, Child?" He barked. "You could have seriously injured me!"
The girl flinched, mouth opening in protest only to be cut off by Celestine before she had a chance to defend herself. "You can't go attacking another god's magic like that! When you are allowing another deity to enter your mind with the intention to heal, you are trusting that person's magic to enter with no malicious intent in mind. Yet that same trust is applied for the entering deity. Just as you trusted me not to harm you where you are most vulnerable to attack, so too was I trusting you not to attack me within the boundaries of your mind, where your magic is strongest!" The man rose from where he'd kneeled at her side, rubbing his face with both his hands. "I'm directly linked to the magic that was sent in to heal you, Urd." He explained, his tone softening. "To attack my magic is to attack me, and the ramifications of something like that-even a small attack-can be painfully aggravated on my physical body."
The man grimaced before letting his hands fall to his sides, and Urd wondered what piece of Celestine she'd hurt. Yet the man was angry with her, and the child found herself lacking the courage to ask him any questions. "Do you understand?" The youth nodded her head enthusiastically, and the man swayed on his feet dangerously. For a moment it looked as though he might topple over, however he quickly righted himself, raking his hands through his long hair one last time. "Fine…we'll speak more on this later." He said gruffly, turning away from her and walking towards the lone closet in the room.
Opening it, the man reached in and grabbed something, before turning and tossing it to Urd with a grunt. She caught the towel easily. "Hurry up and take a bath-and that doesn't mean a quick hop in and out of the tub!" He shouted after her as she bolted from the bed and out the door.
"Got it!" She shouted as she ran past him.
It wasn't until she'd reached the bathing room that Urd realized two things.
The first was that she she'd run past a grown man as naked as the day she was born.
The second was that her head didn't hurt anymore.
Fifteen minutes later found Urd cautiously entering the dining room, dressed in one of the outfits Celestine had bought for her when he'd learned that the Daimakaicho had delivered Urd to the heavens with little more than the clothes on her back. It was a rather plain, traditional gray dress that hung loosely from her thin frame. Celestine claimed it made her look like a proper young goddess, though it was meant for someone older and bigger than herself. Urd couldn't stand the way the dress made her normally long strides into short, baby steps, yet Celestine seemed to like it well enough, and after upsetting the man she thought it might appease him a little. Especially since the deity had made the headache go away. Urd didn't want him to think her an ingrate.
The smell of something tantalizing wafted in from the kitchen, and Urd's mouth began to water as she poked her head in. A bowl of fresh fruit rested on a table, and Celestine stood across from it, setting down a bowl of porridge besides a bowl of eggs, steam still rising from their shells. Eying the eggs greedily, Urd entered the kitchen, causing Celestine to look up from where he was stirring the porridge.
The man frowned. "I thought you didn't like that dress."
Urd shrugged carelessly, rubbing an arm nervously as she approached the table. "You said we were meeting Belldandy's mom. Figured it'd be better to look like a 'proper deity' for her." The youth grabbed one of the plates resting in the center of the table, reaching over to snag some of the eggs only for Celestine to slap her hand away.
"You know better." He scolded. "Now come here. I want to make sure you actually washed that wet-cat mane of yours."
With an aggravated sigh Urd set the plate down on the table, grudgingly walking around the table and glaring up at Celestine from beneath a pair of silver brows. "I still think water is for drinking, not washing." She grumbled, her cheeks heating up in a blush as the tall man stooped over her, running his hands through her hair and sniffing her head noisily. "It's weird using water instead of sand ."
When he straightened the dark-haired man looked down at her in mock shock. "What's this? Your hair smells like roses! And my fingers didn't latch hold of any tangles! Is it possible the little wild child not only cleaned herself, but actually combed her hair as well? If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were going out of your way to look nice." The shock melted into a grin, and carelessly he ruffled her hair. "Why, we may yet make a goddess out of you, little Devil Renderer." He teased, and Urd's flush darkened.
"Can I eat now?" The dark child asked, staring at the ground hard enough that she might have burned a hole in the wood had it been possible.
"I don't know. Did you drink any of the bath water this time?"
This time the man laughed. "Alright, alright. Enough teasing for now." He shooed her to the table. "Go and get those eggs you love so much."
Grumbling to herself, face still as red as a beet, Urd once more grabbed her bowl, snatching three steaming eggs with her bare hands and an apple before making herself comfortable at the table. Celestine did likewise, helping himself to a bowl of porridge and peeling a banana. "So tell me, is this love of eggs a demon trait? Or is it something you simply enjoy?"
Since their first shared morning together, Urd's one request for breakfast had been eggs upon discovering they were an easily accessible food item in Asgard. Celestine had never though much of it, his mind too filled with questions of Niflheim and Urd's life there, yet today the god found the question roaming in him mind for some strange reason.
It was something that was becoming a morning ritual between the two of them. Three on the rare times Macha was present as well. Celestine would make breakfast, and in return Urd would answer some of his questions about Niflheim and her life back home. So long as he or occasionally Macha didn't ask anything too personal, such as questions about the Daimakaicho, Celestine found Urd didn't mind talking about her life in the demon realm.
Snatching one of the eggs from the bowl, the youth rapped it across her knuckles, breaking the shell. "Both." She said without pause, peeling off pieces of broken shell. "It's 'cause eggs are hard to get. We don't have chickens that you can just go up to an' stick your hand under its butt and take its eggs." Celestine snorted in amusement, and Urd sent him a look. "Eggs are rare in Niflheim." The girl continued. "Nothing back home is just gonna let some demon or some god walk into its nest and take its eggs." The bronze child took a sizable bite out of the egg. "Lesser demons have died trying to steal eggs from the animals back home. Greater demons have died trying to steal eggs from their own kind."
Celestine raised a dark brow. "So stronger demons would try and bully weaker demons out of the eggs they stole?" He asked, cutting the now-peeled banana into pieces above the porridge.
Urd popped the remains of the egg in her mouth, chewing slowly as she thought of how best to respond. "Kinda." She finally said. "But normally the greater demons have to be desperate to want to steal from the lesser demons. More likely to be the other way around. It's more like another demon stealing the eggs from another demon's nest."
Celestine paused from where he'd been about to take a bite of his own meal, staring at her with perturbed black eyes. "You mean to tell me there are demons that lay eggs?" At Urd's nod, the man let his spoon plop back into the porridge. "And there are demons that will steal those eggs?" Another nod. "For food?" Again Urd nodded, and for a long time Celestine did nothing but stare at her. "Have you ever...?" He couldn't even bring himself to ask the question.
Urd shrugged. "Maybe." She said. "Sometimes we get eggs, sometimes we don't. No one ever told me where they came from and I didn't care. All I wanted to do was eat 'em." She happily took a large bite of another egg.
Celestine paled considerably. "I'm never eating eggs again." He muttered, rubbing his brow before focusing on his meal once more, this time managing to take a bite his porridge. The tall man grimaced. "Not sweet enough." He grabbed a spoonful of honey and mixed it into the bowl, and this time is was Urd's turn to make a face.
"Gross." She muttered, wrinkling her nose in disgust. She'd tried honey the day prior and had been thoroughly put off by it. The substance was too thick and too sweet and too sticky. Why anyone would want to put something that was made by bugs on their food was a disturbing mystery to her. And after Macha's explanation for how the bees made it...
Seeing her face, Celestine raised an eyebrow. "Don't judge until you've tried it." He advised. "It's not that bad if you mix it all together."
"But you're eating bee vomit!"
"No I'm not. I'm eating porridge with bananas and bee vomit mixed in." Celestine corrected, before pointing to her bowl. "And you're eating unfertilized bird embryos. Alone. Without anything for flavoring. Not even salt. I think we can call it even, Urd."
"Better to eat unfertilized embryos over a bug's throw-up, 'Stine."
The deity stared at her for a moment before groaning, allowing his spoon to fall back into his bowl in disgust. "That's it, I've had enough." Pushing his bowl away from him, Celestine sent Urd a glare. "No more food topics during meals. My stomach can't handle it." The deity sent a glance over to Urd's bowl. "Are you done?" The youth nodded. "Then help me clean up so we can meet Lady Ostara and Belldandy. And for the Almighty's sake, not a word of this to either of them. Lady Ostara might strangle us both."
"Urd!" Excitedly, Belldandy tugged on her mother's hand, half-leading, half-dragging the older goddess towards where she'd spotted her older sister. "Mama, I see Urd! And Mr. Celestine too! Come on, this way!"
A large smile on her face, the bright-eyed youth waved to the approaching duo, tugging enthusiastically on Ostara's sleeve as she rushed to meet the duo.
Above her head, Ostara chuckled lightly at the child's excitement. "Calm down, Sweet Child." She murmured. "They can see us. There's no need to pull my arm from my shoulder."
Belldandy smiled apologetically up at her mother, easing her grip on Ostara's hand. "Sorry Mama."
Urd needed clothes. Urd needed clothes badly. And Celestine had no clue how to shop for a little girl. Why Celestine required Lady Ostara's assistance over a certain Crow's had been a mystery to her upon hearing the request, yet Belldandy seemed more than happy to agree to Celestine's request before the goddess had a chance to decline.
Today's get together was a long overdue shopping trip upon the discovery that Urd had no clothes of her own nor Celestine the ability to shop for a little girl. Originally Macha had been suggested, being both a woman who worked with younger girls, such as her Fledgeling Valkyries, on a daily basis, only to find the woman conveniently busy.
"Sorry Ostara." The woman had apologized with a grin. "I've got new fledgelings I need to terrorize, and I honestly don't know the first thing about shopping for little girls." This coming from the woman who'd chosen Urd's dresses to begin with, going on nothing but brief glances at Urd to make her choices. If not for Macha, the cur-child would still be wearing the clothes she'd been dressed in upon arriving in the Heavens.
"Good morning Lady Ostara." Celestine greeted, pulling the goddess from her thoughts. The young man bowed lowly to her before greeting Belldandy as well. "Good morning Belldandy."
"Good morning Celestine!" Belldandy cried, tearing herself away from Ostara and launching herself at the god, colliding with the older deity and embracing him in a hug. Chuckling, Celestine returned the hug, and Belldandy released him in favor of her next victim, who was hiding behind the tall man and doing her hardest to look invisible.
"Good morning Big Sister!" And as she'd done to Celestine not a minute prior, Belldandy launched herself at the tan youth, sending an uncomfortable squawk from Urd as the little brunette embraced her. Almost immediately the silver haired youth tensed, and with a grimace the girl sent a pleading look to Celestine, as though asking for his aid.
The look didn't go unnoticed. Ostara raised a dark brow in curiosity. "Why so uncomfortable?" She asked the child. "I thought demons were used to physical interactions. I wouldn't have thought something as simple as a hug would make you so uneasy, Little Urd."
Celestine answered for the youth as Belldandy released her older sister. "So long as it's someone they're familiar with." He said, looking down as he came under the older deity's gaze.
"Is that so?" Ostara tilted her head to one side, green eyes cool and observant. "And who told you this?"
"It was a topic Macha brought up during a dinner conversation one night." The tall man replied. "From what Urd's told us, physical contact is fine and even encouraged among demons who are familiar with each other. Yet if a person is new, or not a demon, physical contact is normally minimal or avoided altogether until both parties are better acquainted."
"Really now? And does this extend to first time meetings with family as well?" Ostara asked, her gaze drifting away from Celestine and down towards Urd, who refused to meet her gaze. "I seem to recall a great deal less hostility when Belldandy embraced you upon first meeting you. Less still when your dear father took you into his arms, sweet child."
The dark child bit her lip before growing bold and meeting Ostara's gaze with her own heated violet. "I didn't really have any time to do anything." She claimed. "How was I supposed to know everyone was gonna get all touchy-feely around me? It was creepy. "
The youth shuddered in emphasis, and to everyone's surprise Ostara laughed. "I do seem to recall a rather panicked look in your eyes." The brunette said in amusement. "I believe an ample term would be the Valkyrie's phrase 'shell-shocked' to be exact."
Urd flushed and looked to the ground, perhaps finding her feet more interesting than Ostara's laughing eyes. At her side, Belldandy stared at her sister in concern. "Does it really bothers you?" She asked, and at Urd's hesitant nod Belldandy grew distressed. "I'm sorry!" She cried. "I didn't know! I won't hug you ever again, okay? I promise!"
Urd looked at her younger companion sharply. "I don't think you need to go that far." She muttered. "Just...wait until I'm comfortable enough to hug you first, okay?"
"Oh...okay..." Belldandy stared at the ground gloomily, and Urd rubbed an arm uncomfortably.
Celestine and Ostara watched the two siblings quietly. It was the mother goddess who broke the silence. "Well." She began. "I believe we've made the atmosphere awkward enough for one day." She smiled thinly, and the children looked up at her with a range of emotions traveling across their faces. "I do believe its time we took care of this clothing issue, don't you agree?"
'Shopping' as it turned out, was a task easier said than done. While Ostara was used to the intricacies and mischief children could get into, Celestine was not. And Urd proved time and time again just how easy it was to lose herself amongst the many deities fulfilling their own shopping duties for the day.
Ostara refused to take any part in keeping an eye on the child. She had her hands full enough ensuring Belldandy didn't vanish as her older sister was quickly making a habit of doing, and if Celestine couldn't keep an eye on one unruly child such as Urd, was he really a worthy mentor for Belldandy?
Celestine bit his tongue on that one. If I wasn't a 'worthy mentor' as you're so keen on reminding me, then why in the heaven's did the Almighty choose me as her instructor? Why give me the responsibility of trying to raise Urd?Without Ostara's help, the deity was alone in searching for his ward. The girl had vanished several minutes ago, forcing Celestine to backtrack from where last he'd spied her.
Could be that He's trying to test you, like he does those mortals He's so found of from time to time. Soulful Elation chirped, deliberately ignoring the annoyance that manifested in the link shared between god and angel.
Celestine scowled. If he wanted to test me in such a way, I could have told him ahead of time not to bother. If earning the position of one of the chief-ranking first-class deities entails details such as 'babysitter', 'bloodhound', and 'ignorant, surrogate parent', some other deity can take it. I'm not too sure I'm cut out for this kind of work. The man brooded, and Soulful Elation laughed.
Are you so certain? The angel asked. For from my perspective, you seem to fill all three of those roles rather well...ahead of Celestine was a gap in the crowd of gods, and for a moment a pair of violet eyes stared up at him. Then Urd laughed and ran towards him, allowing the current of deities to push her closer to the tall god.
"Stine! 'Stine! I found it! Come on, you need to see it, I found what I wanted!" The dark child burst out in front of him, earning the raven-haired several annoyed looks from the surrounding citizens. Ignorant of their looks or simply not caring, Urd grabbed his hand and tugged. "Come on 'Stine! Before someone else sees it!"
"And what is 'it' that is so important that you let yourself get separated from Lady Ostara and myself, Urd?" Despite his condescending tone, Celestine allowed Urd to pull him through the crowd, no small part of him wondering what had gotten the girl so riled up. And considering the luck they were having in finding any clothes Urd wouldn't glare moodily at...
Urd paid his words no heed, merely looking back up at him with a large smile before pulling Celestine's arm harder, and this time the god actually released a pained grunt. "Urd, will you slow down?" The man asked. "You act as though someone might steal whatever it is from beneath your nose! Is this really so important that you'd drag me there? I can assure you, whatever it is, it will still be there regardless of how fast or slow we go!"
This time Urd shook her head. "I can't believe that!" She cried back at him. "I'm positive someone else will take it before I do. It's too good not to take!" The girl didn't expand beyond that, instead slowing just long enough outside a storefront door to open it and drag Celestine inside.
"It's over here." Her voice was softer now that they were inside, and hurriedly Urd pulled Celestine along after her, tugging him through aisle after aisle of cloth before coming to a halt in front of a manikin display. "This is what I want."
The outfit was a deep shade of violet. Gold etching outlined the sleeves and neck and along the dress bottom. The dress itself wasn't very long; primarily coming down to the manikin's knees loosely and providing ample room for movement, while a more decorative cloak attached to the shoulders hung down to the manikin's ankles. A matching golden sash was wrapped around the waist, with a pair of knee-high black boots etched with silver runes to finish the look.
All in all, the outfit looked like it was very much out of Celestine's price range.
"This is what you want?" Celestine asked incredulous, tentatively reaching out to touch the fabric. It even felt expensive. A closer inspection revealed a price tag, and Celestine winced. The dress cost enough for a week's worth of outfits for the price range he'd set, and the idea of coughing up so much coin for only one outfit when Urd needed so much more than just one dress made him sweat.
He eyed the outfit wearily, half-expecting the dress to reach out and bite him. "I don't know, Urd..." He mumbled. "This...is a little too much...especially for one dress."
Urd frowned. "I want this." She stated. "Nothing else will work. The colors...they're my mot-" The youth bit off what she was going to say, and for a brief moment a look of melancholy swept across Urd's face. The child bit her lip before speaking again. "The colors...remind me of good memories." She nodded to herself. "Yeah...purple is a...comforting color. It's-it's reassuring."
The youth was on guard now, Celestine noticed, choosing her words carefully. Why does she fear revealing so much about her mother? The tall man wondered. Is the world she comes from so dangerous that even a favored color brings danger if revealed?
The tall man frowned. It was almost pitiful that a child so young felt threatened revealing something so innocent. So the Daimakaicho enjoys violet, is that it? The frown deepened. How much does she miss her mother that she seeks what small bits and pieces that remind her of her old life? A man who'd never ventured far from the land of his birth, the idea of 'homesickness' was a foreign concept to Celestine; something he'd only heard and seen evidence of. Nothing the man had ever experienced first hand.
And yet the look on her face...
"So here is where you and your ward vanished to."
Ostara's voice caught him by surprise, and Celestine jumped, looking over his shoulder and finding the goddess in question steadily making her way towards them, Belldandy at her side. The woman wore a small frown on her face that deepened into a scowl as Celestine met her gaze. "I'd grown concerned when neither of you returned to us." She explained. "I've been tearing up half the market searching for the two of you." A brunette brow raised in question. "For your sake, I hope the reason behind it is worth it."
Celestine felt a shiver race down his spine, and from within his mind, Soulful Elation whispered, Scary Lady is scary.
Feeling Urd suddenly dart behind his back and grab his robe, Celestine was inclined to agree.
Putting on a brave face, Celestine smiled at the goddess. "Urd thinks she might have found some clothes that she might like." He said, looking down at the youth in question and finding the child sending him a rather uncomfortable look. One of her eyebrows was twitching.
If looks could kill, I'd be ten feet under right now. Ignoring a look that would have peeled paint, Celestine patted one of Urd's shoulders reassuringly. "Isn't that right, Urd?"
"'Stine." Urd hissed urgently, only for the man to step away and allow her to come under Ostara's green gaze. The youth grimaced.
"Is that so, Little One?" Ostara asked, and unable to meet the woman's gaze, Urd looked at her feet, nodding in agreement.
The woman pursed her lips, looking from Urd to Celestine critically. "And what has she discovered?"
Now it was Celestine's turn to look uncomfortable. "It's, ah..." He pointed, rubbing the back of his head nervously. "It's a bit...pricey, so I don't think we'll be getting it..."
"But it's so cute!" Belldandy cried, appearing from behind Ostara and trotting over to Urd excitedly. "I bet you'll look really pretty in it, Urd!" The child gave her older sibling a beaming smile, and Celestine was pleasantly surprised to witness the older girl's face turn as red as a tomato.
And in that way, the tension was broken, and a small smile graced Ostara's face. The goddess drew near, and Celestine wisely stepped back, quietly taking himself out of the picture. "Come step close to the dress, child." Ostara motioned Urd closer to the garments. "Lets see how you look ."
The youth did as told, and Ostara nodded, humming to herself in approval. The woman grabbed one of the sleeves. "Extend your arm." The tall woman crouched in front of Urd, and as the youth did as ordered, Ostara moved the sleeve in front of Urd's arm.
"Yes...yes, it seems violet is a good color for you, Urd. It compliments your eyes. And the colors are gentle enough that they don't add too much contrast with your skin." The woman murmured, releasing the sleeve and rocking back onto her heels. "Have you tried it on yet?"
Mutely Urd shook her head, letting her arm drop to her side. "Then go try this on while Belldandy and I find some pieces that might match this outfit." Rising, Ostara gathered the outfit and handed offered it to Urd, who looked at the clothing as though it were a live snake. After a long moment of hesitation, the girl gingerly took the clothes and all but vanished in her haste to depart.
Calmly, Ostara turned her attention to Belldandy, who stood watching her sister's quick departure in curiosity. "Belldandy, be a good girl and go pick something nice out for Urd that would match her dress."
The child blinked before redirecting her attention to the older woman. "Yes Mama." She said, before disappearing behind the many clothes racks that lined the small store.
Absent of children, Celestine decided to bring up a topic that had been bothering him since the early morning. "Urd's going to need training." He said.
Ostara nodded. "Yes. That's normally what happens with children of so young an age." The goddess sent him a sideways glance. "...Or are you referring to something else?"
"The girl lacks discipline." Celestine replied. "She's already got a great deal of power. Power that she knows how to use, as I discovered this morning." The tall man ran a hand through thick obsidian hair. "My head still hurts after she attacked me, even if it was unintentional..." He shook his head. "I was thinking of training her alongside Belldandy."
Ostara gave the man a sharp look. "Celestine, what are you talking about? The child attacked you?"
The god raised his hands in defense, as though warding off an incoming blow. "Unintentionally!" He cried. "She didn't mean it, I'm certain. It's just...I don't think she has the discipline she needs with the amount of power she can already wield."
Ostara narrowed her eyes. "I think it might be best if you started from the beginning."
Celestine grimaced. "It's nothing, really. Urd awoke with a bad headache and I was trying to see if I couldn't get rid of it for her. Everything was fine until her magic lashed out at me." He neglected to mention the conversation that had riled Urd up enough for her magic to actually assault him. "I assure you, Lady Ostara, I'm fine."
The woman scowled, looking him up and down before finally deciding that what Celestine said was indeed true. She didn't appear to relax, however. "Be very careful of what you're considering, Celestine. One student is hard enough, especially when this is your first time as a mentor. Two? One of them with demonic blood?" The goddess snorted. "It'd be easier to hand her off to someone more experienced. That girl will run you ragged before a week has passed."
Celestine frowned. "I appreciate your concern, Lady Ostara, but it will be fine. Besides, it just doesn't seem right teaching one sister while the other does nothing but watch. This way they can learn from each other, and perhaps Urd will gain a better grasp on controlling her magic with someone younger than her looking up to her."
Ostara did not look convinced. "And if it turns out Urd grows only more unruly? I don't want Belldandy injured because a cur-child lacked the discipline to hold back her magic, Celestine." The brunette sighed, closing her eyes in displeasure. "Besides, a student is paired up with the person who is believed to be the best mentor for her. For Belldandy, that was you. You know that Celestine. Yet Urd is not Belldandy, nor has she taken any of the testing required to pair her up with the one she could benefit from the most."
"True." Celestine nodded. "And I agree with you. However until a proper mentor is found, I still believe it might be in out best interests for Urd to at least learn from someone. Besides," He eyed the goddess at his side. "this will give both her and Belldandy some time to get to know each other, right?"
The goddess pursed her lips, obviously displeased. "I want a proper mentor found for her as soon as possible." She decided. "Until then, I suppose I'll allow you to mentor them both. But only under one condition." She pointed to the taller deity. "During those shared lessons, I want Lady Macha at your side so that she might break apart any unnecessary violence between Belldandy and Urd. Is that clear?"
Celestine winced. "But that...Lady Macha has her duties as a Valkyrie to contend with. You can't expect her to attend every lesson simply to play 'guard' for a pair of children, do you?"
"No." Ostara replied. "However neither do I expect you to give every lesson to both children." She looked at him. "If you must teach Urd, teach her that control and discipline you claim is so lacking in her abilities. Belldandy can benefit from such lessons as well, however that should not be the primary focus of Belldandy's lessons. For those, I expect her lessons to be private." The smile she graced him with was slim. "Different children have different needs, and somehow I sincerely doubt Urd holds any need or interest in learning how to sing for a choir."
"I-I see...yes, I understand, Lady Ostara."
The duo lapsed into silence, watching as in-between aisles Belldandy grabbed one article of clothing after another. Gathering them all in a bundle in her arms, the child darted back and forth between the changing room Urd was locked away in and the clothes racks, depositing one outfit after another at the top of the wooden door. Occasionally, a dark hand would reach up and snatch one of the hangers, and the garment would disappear on the other side of the door.
It was Ostara who broke the silence once more. "That child is scared to death of me." She stated. "The way she hides behind you, it's as though she believes I'll kill her if given the opportunity." She shook her head with a frown. "Of course, given some of the rumors about Niflheim, perhaps there's some rational behind her fear." The goddess muttered as an afterthought.
"Oh?" Celestine peered at her in curiosity, and Ostara shrugged.
"The offspring of certain beasts will kill their siblings at birth, you recall I mentioned that to you?" At Celestine's nod, the woman continued. "Likewise, there are certain beasts that will kill the offspring of a rival if they manage to steal that one's mate. And considering how savage the Demon-kin are, perhaps something similar happens in Niflheim."
Celestine couldn't help but snort in amusement at that. "So you're saying that because you are now the spouse of Urd's father, that little girl believes her life is in danger?" He shook his head. "I think that might be taking things a little too far, Lady Ostara. I think she's just intimidated by you. You do have a bit of an...intimidating persona whenever she's around, after all."
Yet the goddess merely looked at him. "Yes." She agreed. "I am still cautious around her for I still do not believe she can be fully trusted around my daughter yet. And so perhaps it creates a bit of an aggressive aura around me. However that does not mean I'll slaughter the girl in her sleep or poison her next meal."
Ostara shook her head, sending chestnut hair flying. "When you think about the Daimakaicho though...when you put that woman in my shoes...what do you get?" She peered at Celestine from the corner of one emerald eye. "Do you not think, that if it were Belldandy who'd gone to Niflheim rather than Urd to Asgard, that things would be different? Do you honestly think that woman would tolerate the offspring of her prior lover and another woman in her halls?"
Celestine could think of no response, and so the woman continued. "That woman has always been of the more vicious sort." She said. "Even before the wars, before Niflheim, I've always known her as a wild beast of a woman. A temper worse that a dragon's and with a possessive streak as bad as a gryphon's." Celestine was surprised to see the woman shudder. "Vicious, bloodthirsty woman. It was no wonder Odin favored her. He always had a thing for the more savage entities."
Celestine wisely held his peace, wanting to ask more but finding a clothes shop in the middle of the day was not the appropriate place. Instead he decided to change the subject. "I don't know if I'll have enough money for all these clothes." The tall man admitted. "They're rather expensive."
Ostara sent him a sharp look,and Celestine was surprised to see what might have been relief flash across her face. "Money won't be a concern." She said. "Though I appreciate your offer to buy, it was already decided earlier in the week that I'd be the one buying."
The goddess nodded. "Do you think I came on this little outing purely to allow Belldandy to meet with her sister? Celestine, despite your position as well as the additional funds Lady Macha is bringing in, it is improper to expect you to provide so much for that girl without support. Especially given the rather...unique circumstances behind her becoming your ward. My husband supplied me with a rather generous portion of funds to ensure Urd was properly clothed, and with the education you're giving Belldandy, an additional pay will be added for watching over Urd."
Ostara smiled in amusement at the bewildered look that dawned on Celestine's face at the announcement. "Never let it be said that those who serve the Almighty are not justly rewarded."
For a long moment Celestine stared at the goddess, desperately searching for the right words to express his gratitude. "T-thank you, Ma'am." He finally stuttered out. "But I can't-it isn't-"
Ostara cut him off. "Celestine, be a good lad and accept it. It isn't as though you've not earned it. And given how...unpredictable Urd seems to be, I do believe you'll be needing those additional funds."
"If you're so adamant on paying us back, then take that money you brought with you for Urd's clothes and use it to treat us all to lunch. Understand? Beyond that, I don't want to hear another word of it."
Comments of a Madwoman: Bah, I couldn't stand writing this chapter. As usual, the original plan was blown to smithereens upon writing this chapter, and the point I wanted to reach won't happen until the next one. So instead it's more devoted to two different cultures coming together in a clash. That and lots of talk.