A hot breeze dragged its silky hand through the streets of Asgard that day. The sun was high in the sky, not a cloud to be seen. The trees and flowers seemed to tremble with excitement, their soft green leaves and petals reaching up towards the sun as if to proclaim their anticipation.
The people of Asgard, however, felt no difference. The day was hot as it had been for the past few months. The afternoon thunderstorm promised by King Thor was on the horizon, ready to replenish their gardens, drinking wells, and animals. But as the people watched and waited for the storm to grow closer, water buckets in hand, it seemed as though it wasn't moving at all. As if the King had halted it in place for some reason.
That was the first sign of something new that day. The stubborn people tapped a foot impatiently, their patience growing increasingly thin as they waited. And waited. And waited.
Soon, however, the gates the the palace opened with a mighty boom, a few men on horseback racing into the center of the city. Their golden armor glinted in the sun, their strong stallions galloping fiercely, ropes of muscle shifting as their strong legs carried them where their masters guided.
A crowd of Asgardians began forming as the men slowed to a stop, a scroll in the hand of the Captain of the Guard, Haftor.
"People of Asgard,"
"Long have our ways been set in those of the past. For millennia our grand kingdom has prospered. We have conquered our enemies with ease and succeeded in becoming the most powerful of the nine realms."
"Asgard was built upon the roots of the very Tree of Yggdrasil. We as a people stand upon this great power with fairness and strength. And so, my people, it has come to my attention the need for fairness concerning those who are in bondage."
"Slaves, both male and female, shall from this moment in time be a free people. Those who are caught in the act of buying, selling, or the shipping of living beings for the intent of slavery shall be sent to the dungeons. Those who own slaves shall be compensated for their loss. Those with slaves living on their premises and working for such shall be forced to pay their slaves the same as a maid or servant. Any man or woman caught punishing these freed slaves cruelly, such as flogging, shall be sentenced to the dungeons. "
"So has Asgard thrived on the backs of Slaves, but no more. Any man or woman belonging to another Asgardian from this time forward, is a free person."
Captain Haftor posted the proclamation on a golden post in the middle of the town square.
There was a dead silence amongst the people, a shock so great that nobody could speak. Then, all at once, the anger began, thrumming through the air, directed at the poor Captain, who tried to answer as many questions as possible.
He was met with this same response of anger in every town he visited, proclaiming the same thing. Some towns had already heard the news, as it spread like a wildfire in a cotton field. Some of the slaves in town, however, hearing the proclamation fell to their knees and wept with joy, kissing the ground and praising the very Fates of Yggdrasil.
Loki knew there would soon be a crowd of angry people outside the city gates, but he would let Thor deal with them for now.
His heart was striking against his rib cage, his hands shaking the tiniest bit as he held a copy of the proclamation rolled up in his hand. He tapped it against his palm before making his way to his chambers where he knew Sorrow would be.
He, Thor, and all the council members had been working on this proclamation for a year now, and all he could feel was relief that it had finally passed.
He had promised Sorrow he would find a way to help the slaves. And this was it. They were all being set free. Every palace slave would be free to leave or stay as they chose. Those who stayed to work for the palace were to be paid as a normal servant would, and they would be provided with better beds and meals to do so.
Loki knew that most if not all the slaves would stay. They had nowhere to go, no money to get anywhere, and no food to take with them. That was why the slaves owned by other people would be paid, and those who didn't pay their now freed slaves would be punished.
Loki knew the Aesir would be furious about this, as slaves had been providing Asgard with free, lifelong service for millions of years.
But no more.
The slaves would no longer be punished with whips or shackles. Their doors wouldn't be locked at night, and they would be provided with fresh bathing water whenever needed.
It would cost a lot, but nothing Asgard couldn't manage. They were the richest of the nine realms, and Loki predicted that with the freed slaves earning their own money, they would soon be able to add to the economy and make Asgard more wealthy and prosperous than ever.
It would take time and patience, however.
Loki stopped in front of his chamber doors, wondering how Sorrow would react to the news. It was because of her that all of this had happened. If she hadn't shown Thor what was really going on, then slavery would have continued as it always had.
He opened the door, closing it behind him as he entered his rooms.
The woman came into the room and smiled. "You're home early. How was work?"
Loki swallowed at the lump in his throat, trying desperately to contain his excitement. She had no idea what was about to happen. Loki walked slowly towards her, trying to keep a solemn face, as if something bad had happened. He wanted to tease her a little before delivering such huge news.
Sorrow's eyebrows creased in concern, her blue eyes sparkling with worry. "Are you alright? Did something happen?"
Loki handed her the piece of paper, her heavily calloused hands unrolling it as she started to read. A grin spread over Loki's face as his excitement finally broke through. He waited for her reaction.
When she was done reading it, she slowly looked up at him, meeting his gaze. Her face was blank, her eyes clouded over. "So? What do you think?" Loki asked.
Finally, Sorrow's ocean blue eyes began to brim with tears, her hands gripping the paper in a white-knuckled grip, crushing the paper in her hands as her soul seemed to burn within her very being, lighting her heart on fire and letting it burn to coals. "Is this true?" She asked, her voice rough, breaking like a glass vase.
Loki nodded. He rested his hands on her forearms.
Sorrow broke down. She buried her face in his chest and wept, centuries of buried frustration finally flooding out of her heart. Her head spun, her legs growing weak as Loki buried his face in her neck, his fingers gently running over her scars, feeling all that pain as it surfaced.
"We're free." She whispered.
She had never truly thought of herself as anything but a slave. And she had never forgiven herself for leaving them behind and living a life of luxury and freedom.
But they were free. She was free. That word slammed into her mind again and again as her heart beat with unease at the strangeness of the word. Free. No longer bound by chains, no more chains. No more whips, no more scars. No more hunger, no more pain.
She was Free.
They all were.