A/N: I did only one proofreading for this chapter, so mistakes may occur. Please - if anyone reads this - feel free to point them out!
The following day, a great celebration was held in Ódinn's Halls, for the hunt with his sons had been greatly successful; and it seemed that even Thór – who would be known for his boasting and slight encroachments when it came to demonstrations of valour – behaved in a manner unprecedently close to humbleness. For he and Loki – Ódinn flaunted with a cup of ale in his hands, and thunder in his voice –, would disappear during the hunt, and the rest of the party would only find them seven days later, next to the carcass of a giant boar they had slain, together, it seemed.
Yet Thór would not speak of what befell them through the course of those seven days; indeed, he would not say a word. Instead rose Loki, and spoke of his brother's heroism in words so persuasively sweet that all eyes watered in Valaskjalf, all cheeks would become rosy – especially those of the female persuasion -, and Asgardians would smile and sigh, and the Æsir would raise their bejewelled cups for Thór, as they shouted praise him with great praise!
Yet Thór would not drink, or speak, or raise his head when the boar was mentioned, save for the tense, determined rebuke that 'twas, in truth, Loki who should be praised; upon which statement the good people of Ásgardr refilled their cups and emptied them anew, this time for the sly Lord o' Mischief (not a soul could deny that they were fond of drinking). Then, the boar was served with pastries upon Ódinn's table, and the Æsir tasted it all, one by one; and there was great bewilderment, for it felt bitter for certain, and for others, sweet.
Seeing what appeared to be a truce between his ever-combative sons, Ódinn was pleased, and he sent for more food and drink, then commanded that the celebrations should continue until the Moon would once more appear in the skies; for the Wolves had swallowed it indeed, and the skies were dark, and scattered with stars.
It happened thus that Fjöllmenr gathered his three daughters and descended to the Great Hall of Valaskjalf, among Æsir and Vanir and mortal Men alike, and he did so with great expectations; for many of his fellow warriors had sons, and he knew that he would quite feasibly find worthy husbands for his daughters if he looked closely enough. Indeed, his daughters were thoroughly wooed, especially the one Sigyn; yet she was the only one not to answer those in pursuit, not to grant them attention willingly and only to speak when asked. Some great bewilderment seemed to have overruled her; her fair brows were furrowed, her motions scarce and her voice hushed, as if something of unfathomable greatness and depth had occupied her every thought and morsel of care. Thus, her suitors have soon found other targets – all of them, save one, for that matter.
This man was called Theoric, son of Einhendr the Steadfast, a great hunter of giants and a greater friend to Fjöllmenr; and for his young age, he had been in many battles, mastered many arms and possessed many crafts. From Valaskjalf to Viði, people would sing the praises of his deeds, his wisdom and generosity. Yet Theoric, for all his valour and greatness, was no vain man, and his reflective cleverness was profoundly different from the sharp, oftentimes cruel wit of Sigyn; therefore, conversing with Theoric began to bore her as soon as they danced their second round in the back of Ódinn's Halls. Nevertheless, she did dance with him, and Fjöllmenr was glad to see it happen so.
At the same instant when satisfaction settled in Fjöllmenr's good heart, Loki, God of Mischief looked down to the crowd of mortal men from his high seat at Ódinn's left, and saw Sigyn as lightly, lithely, she danced with valiant Theoric; and he was displeased. Such a naturally great liar was Loki that thoughtless, unguarded, he deluded his own self; and he spoke to Ódinn, with a stirring in his heart that he himself mistook for grace and magnanimity, so earnest it would appear.
"Good Father mine! Grand are these halls and wondrous the merriment around us; yet I cannot help but ask why we would separate ourselves so loftily from mortal Men. There are heroes and warriors in these Halls; would it not be most fitting to invite them to dine at your own table, along with their children, and give them your blessing? 'Twould seem only too little of a thanks for the great, unwavering loyalty they have to thee."
"Rightfully you speak, Odinsson," said the Allfather, and emptied his cup. "What say'st thou, Thór? Does Loki tell the truth, for once?"
"He does indeed," said Thór, with a smile on his earnest face, "and cherish this moment of wonder I shall. Let the mortals come, and we shall see if they can bear the merriment of the Æsir!"
Thus, their agreement was made; and Frigg descended the marble steps that led from Ódinn's table, and Freyja followed her, and the Valkyries themselves were in their heels; and they went to the warriors and their kindred and invited them to dine with the gods. The table was long, and Ódinn's command made it longer still, so most convenient seats would appear everywhere they were needed.
Out of chance and unconscious intention, Fjöllmenr and his daughters were seated closest to the head of the table, along with Einhendr and Theoric, in a design that Sigyn and her suitor faced each other. And even as all the grandeur and glamour of Valaskjalf surrounded them, Theoric had only eyes for Sigyn; yet Sigyn had only eyes for the grandeur and glamour. And she remained silent while greetings, praise and pleasantries were exchanged between gods and men; in her heart, a deep, secret desire arose: a feverish want to be immortal like the Æsir, and a hungry wish to master all kinds of magic and forbidden lore.
Thus, she did what very few dared to do; she raised her eyes, even while her father, her sisters and all her kinsmen were bowed, and boldly, she faced the Allfather at the head of the table, and beheld his sons who sat at his two sides (Thór at his right hand and Loki at his left). And Loki did not wear his great horned helmet, nor the dark winged cloak that carried him oftentimes above the hills and rivers of Ásgardr, and nor was he otherwise disguised; Sigyn recognised him, both as the Trickster and the one who filled her heart, and she wondered.
And Loki would look at her and laugh, for the night was young, and his mood was high.
"Father mine!" Said he, "I am overjoyed, I must confess, to see brave Fjöllmenr and his kin around our table! Such pleasure! And brother mine", he then added, with a privy and most inconvenient wink at Thór, "I am so pleased to introduce to thee the fairest Lady Sigyn, who made such a sparkling comment on my backside the other day!"
There was no sound around the table, save for the general noises of bewilderment, and her sisters looked at Sigyn with indignation and disbelief; yet she only smiled, and said, in a voice that was low and still, yet could be heard clearly all along the high table,
"Surprised I am, Lord, that a master of glamour and deception could be this easily swayed! You have told me yourself, with grave vehemence, that no man or god had the power to expropriate the meaning that words held! Now, was that one of your cunning lies as well? Would it be so impossible that one should speak of the other's backside while referring to, for instance, their very face?"
Such a response was enough to silence Ódinn's entire Hall; and that silence stretched and stretched, until it was almost unbearable; yet all of a sudden, Thór broke it with his thunderous laughter. And Ódinn laughed with him and Freyja and even Frigg; and then did all the rest, gods and men alike, and so great was the merriment that Sigyn began to secretly fear Loki's wrath. Indeed, all eyes were turned on the God of Mischief in anticipation; and lo! against all odds and expectations, all he did was smile, and bow.
"No proper trickster can deny when they were most unmercifully tricked; but it may be – it may be – that 'twas not entirely without merit. After such a ceremonious defeat, Loki can only hope that the Faerie of Wit shall gracefully accept his hand for her next dance; although it would be a greater gift than the recompense fairly due."
"Hope, if you must," said Sigyn, more out of habit than intention, for her heart was swayed, and heat rose to her cheeks, no longer unseen.
And dance with her, Loki did; gracefully they led the line of god and men, mingled more than was usual; and together they would stay until the Moon's thin crescent appeared in the starry skies. One dance after the other, Sigyn granted to the Trickster and those who saw them wondered, for they seemed a worthy pair.
Sigyn would talk and Loki would listen; and he would learn all the small secrets of her heart, more proud, more free than any heart he ever had the occasion to break; deeper and deeper he would delve, yet always he would find another shard of wit, another curious thought, another hidden quality that made his eyes widen and his heart race. A raw gem was in his hands, or so he deemed; a woman of brightness, of talent, and of the sharpest wit. Like a bird, she seemed to him, a delicate white bird that could have flown higher than the Sun and Moon if not for the fetters of humankind, and, especially, mortality. And he wanted to have her for himself, to teach her all sorts of things he liked: to see how she would end up if made a sorceress, enlightened, empowered. Never had Loki wished so fervently to master the Imperishable Flame like Ódinn did; Ódinn Allfather, who could raise mortals to the ranks of gods. As he led Sigyn in dance – and later, out into the soothing darkness of the woods, where only the stars, the giant trees and the nightingales would see them –, he wished he could steal a sparkle of that flame, and plant it in her heart, making her his lover, his possession 'till Ragnarøk and after.
Time passed, relentlessly so, yet Sigyn failed to notice; the very time seemed to have stopped as she was held in the arms of Loki. The chill of the night could not reach her, and all her wishes, ploys and endeavours were forgotten; and to Loki she would talk eagerly, in a hushed voice that spoke from the echoing depths of her curious spirit. And it seemed to her that the Trickster understood, for Loki possessed such a talent of listening that his very eyes drank in the knowledge that she offered her; like two bottomless dark wells, like two windows opening to a starless night, like two gems of shining onyx from the Doors of Valhöll.
Seldom did Loki speak to her while they danced, and even less when he led her out from Valaskjalf on his arm; yet as they threaded the meandering paths through hills, rivers, and shady groves, he would find his voice, and he would tell her many things. He would teach her how to greet the wind and shoo the lengthening shadows, how to speak to birds and wolves and other beasts, how to make a curse on one unworthy and how to break it, how to see through the masks of pretence that people stick to their faces without the slightest knowledge or sophistry; and a great many other things he showed her. And it seemed to Sigyn that his words were wise, yet not less cunning; and his intentions, sometimes darker than coal, were not at the least bit concealed; and with that she was pleased. Many a riddle they threw at each other under the shade of trees, much did they laugh, and many questions did they ask; and a sparkle of kinship kindled between them, a small, yet pervading flame that could not be ignored or blown out by the breeze of reason.
Sigyn had felt these feelings lingering ever since she had encountered the God o' Mischief the other day beside the lake, and there was a part in her that knew they were inevitable; yet what sly Loki felt was wildfire, and exposing heat, and a terrible, terrible openness that bared him to the bone. Yet in his youth and arrogance, he would ignore it, and make his pounce into the shapeless realms of passion as Thór would charge at the boar that swallowed his thunderous ambitions.
For a long time have Sigyn and Loki walked; and after what seemed thousands of years or maybe merely an instant, Loki took the youngest daughter of Fjöllmenr in his arms (not far from the lake of Frigg, for that matter), and Sigyn tasted his kiss; and upon her skin the godly touch would burn for many days to come.