"these things, they were promises"
Genre: Family, Drama
Time Frame: Pre-Canon
Characters: Frigg/Odin, Loki, Thor, Sif
Summary: "In her visions, she sees two sons born to the Allfather; it never occurred to her that one would not be of her womb." Three moments that the future struck deep.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
"these things, they were promises"
In her visions, Frigg had seen two sons born to Odin the Allfather.
Hidden on a moon of Vanaheimr during the last year of the Great War in order to protect the child she had born from eager hands that would snatch and snag, she had long pondered that fact. For while the futures she saw in the needle of her distaff were shifting and turbulent things, some things were written in stone, and no one thing could cancel out the other.
And yet Thor, the child who was sleeping in just the next room over, was the only son she had birthed that spring night the last season ago - a strong and healthy babe who cried as if to match the heavens above for their violence. Already her son had her and Eir's hands full, and for a moment Frigg was tired at the simple thought of the child soon awakening, anxious again for her attention.
Weariness escaped her, though, when she saw the great flare of the bifröst burn the horizon. Her smile lost its heavy turn as she lifted her eyes as to not miss a moment of her husband's return.
The glint of Odin's armor was an easy thing to spy across the fields, and she stood once he was close enough for her to see the planes of his face – the ruin of his eye that Heimdall had whispered to her of that awful night mere days ago. And yet, it was not this that held her attention so much as she was captivated by the scream of a child alongside the pounding of horse's hooves. Yes . . . she had seen two sons born to the Allfather in her visions . . . it had never occurred to her that one would not be of her womb.
She was very still as she waited at the entrance to the nursery, as ready to introduce Odin to his son as he was to show her the child in his arms.
"Whose child is he?" Frigg whispered once their greetings had been said – her embrace an almost desperate thing that was more relief than anything else – for the war between the eight realms and Jötunnheimr had been long and bloody, and maybe, just maybe, they had peace to present to their future now.
Odin hesitated for a moment before answering her, and Frigg saw that his answer pained him to part with. "The child is Laufey's . . . and Nál's."
Her hands on the child tightened. Already, her hold was a protecting thing. "Stolen?" she bit her lip.
"Abandoned," Odin said, perhaps just too quickly.
Slowly, Frigg nodded. Laufey had been mad to start such a war, and the tie she had with the Jötunn queen had been severed once the first strike had been made against Midgard. She saw Nál in none of her visions, and the knowledge of the other woman's death struck harshly at her. Before, when peace had been fragile, and their truce a sacred thing, the other queen had been a great asset to Frigg in her first days as sovereign. The woman had been a enchantress whose talents were unsurpassed the realms wide, and her powers of reason and her silken tongue had often been the thing that had held Laufey back from his rages and his lust for more power.
And then she was gone . . . And now . . .
"Imagine," and here Odin clasped her shoulders as she held the child close, "centuries from now – the chance to breach the rift between Asgard and Jötunnheimr – if we raise it, teach it the values and the strength of the Aesir – it will be nothing but a bridge for peace in the years to come."
She nodded slowly, but still she bit her lip – to raise such a child – a Jötunn child – where the stories of his kindred were nothing but nightmares and villainous deeds – to raise him to believe and accept such beliefs. And then, centuries later, to reveal the falsity of such a farce, to pull such blinders away and expect him to parade his secret before the cruel and reckless tongues of the Aesir . . .
Too few of the futures she saw held the peace that Odin so desired. Too many held only more pain and heartache by taking in the child she held.
"It will not be as simple as you say," Frigg said softly.
"It never is," Odin agreed. "And yet, for even the possibility of such a thing – would you not take any path available to you?"
For only herself at risk? Absolutely. But the child . . .
"Can I see him?" she finally asked instead of replying to Odin's question. The request was torn from her lips, a sudden curiosity that gripped her in its thrall and refused to let her go.
Surprise fluttered in the Allfather's gaze. "You do now."
She shook his head – sometimes, for all of Odin's great wisdom, he was still dense as only a male could be. "No, I wish to see him – as he truly is."
Surprise crinkled around Odin's remaining eye. "Whatever for?"
Frigg took in a slightly deeper breath. "I wish to know exactly what you wish for me to call my own."
Odin nodded slowly – no doubt just catering to the whims of a woman in his eyes. But still, he placed his large hand over the baby's brow. The air buzzed, as if charged before lightening struck, and she could smell the ozone of spring storms as her husband's magic worked.
Slowly, the pale cast of skin faded from the child. A cool shade of blue – milky and frost toned didn't so much seep into the skin so much as the illusion slipped away, revealing what was already there. There were markings on the infant's face – black lines, glittering and elegant, marks she remembered on Nal's skin; on Laufey's skin. A prince's stamp, enchanted down to his very bones. The longer the illusion was stayed, the darker the blue became, something beautiful in the half light of the nursery around her.
The baby's eyes flickered at the magic, a delighted grin parting to reveal sharp teeth – already more developed than a child of the Aesir. The child cooed at the gold which circled it as Odin dropped his hand away, reaching out chubby fingers as if to take the light as his own.
Frigg smiled, entranced as the large red eyes looked up at her – warm as embers were warm, the darkest part of a flame shining until there was no white in his gaze – just a sheet of color interrupted by a darker shade for pupil and a dotting of black at the center.
"You need not fear for its appearance - nothing short of the harshest of the waste's enchantments will alter my hold."
But it was not who he was meant to be, she wanted to say. Already sweat beaded on the baby's brow from the warmth of the nursery. It shone like ice in the dim light. The difficulties in raising him would not only be that of the mind and prejudices long since decided.
And still, the wide eyes held hers, and she felt a part of her reaching out to the child she held. She tried not to, truly she did – in the case she could talk sense to Odin and return the child to Jötunnheimr before Laufey's grief had time enough to turn to a rage, furthered.
"He's beautiful," she still could not help but say, entranced as the deep red eyes blinked owlishly up at her.
Across from her, Odin was silent.
She reached a curious finger to trace the blue skin, and couldn't help the smile upon her face when the child reached out a surprisingly strong hand to capture the digit curiously. His little hands were cold, but there was a curiosity in his gaze that captured her. The instinctive pulse of magic that she carried within herself beat a loud tune so close to the child, and she sucked in a breath as she felt the song echoed and amplified by the baby in her arms.
Such power, for one so small . . .
Considering, Frigg closed her eyes, and saw futures rush past her – she saw the long sleepless nights of raising a child so far from home – the fears of discovery and the first seeds of discord that would sprout between she and her husband as the years wore on and he refused to reveal the secrets on his lips. For what could he expect from a lie but more lies in return? She saw a force at the side of her natural son, and then a force from the opposite side. At the last, she tightened her embrace over the child she held, already sick with a mother's fear at such a fate.
Odin saw when her gaze shifted – when she stopped thinking of the future as a possibility, and instead reached out to grasp it for her own. "Then you will raise it, my queen?"
She was silent for a long moment. The baby in her arms was cooing softly, and already the sound entranced her.
"Him," she finally answered, her subtle correction not lost on her husband. "I'll raise him. . . as my own."
Frigg had not seen her second son from the time her children had left the breakfast table that morning, until the time that the cosmos beyond Asgard was darkening in a flare of gold to mark the evening hour.
Normally, such an absence was one to cause nothing but the utmost of concern, but she saw Thor flicker in and out of her sight throughout the day, and one brother was not known to cause mischief without the aide of the other. She assumed her youngest lost within the depths of the library – the one place Thor would not follow him – and did not have her thinking countered until she set to looking for him in earnest.
When she looked inside her son's rooms again, Thor was sitting by the fire that had been lit for the evening, and polishing his training sword – a wooden thing that had belonged to Odin centuries before. There was a smile on his wide and expressive face when she asked him if he had seen his brother, and he answered, "Mother, he is right before you."
Frigg raised a brow, but there was no jest in Thor's words – and her first son was not one to spin a tale when he could see she spoke to him in earnest. There was not the ability to lie within him – as Loki had often complained of when one of their schemes had gone awry because of Thor's honest tongue.
"What do you mean?" Frigg asked, not understanding.
Thor looked at her oddly. "I mean as I said . . . Loki sits right next to me."
"Thor," Frigg said slowly. "There is no one next to you."
"Of course there is - you just can't see him," Thor said matter of factly, reaching out to poke at the seemingly empty air, the smile upon his face one he only wore when he was jabbing at his brother.
Understanding dawned on Frigg as Thor pushed a book that had been open next to him forward in explanation. He said, "Loki could make the shadows listen to him once, but he can not do the spell opposite." Thor tilted his head, watching her, when suddenly he held his arm as if in pain. "Ow!" he exclaimed, glaring at the empty space besides him. "Well, its true, there's no need to take insult."
The book raised, as if lifted by invisible hands, and the pages held themselves open to a particular passage. As Frigg translated the dead language before her, she understood. This tome was an ancient text – written by the mages of old who had been there at the beginning of the world. A Grimoire of Shadows – telling one how to use the places that light forgot for everything from complete concealment to expedited traveling. It was a book forbidden to all but the highest of Asgard's handful of enchanters, and her son must have tried very, very hard to get it out past the wards that were set upon it.
"Loki," Frigg breathed his name like a sigh, trying not to let her bemusement show lest she encourage him to try such a foolish thing again – with a spell more dangerous than simply summoning shadows.
She concentrated, but the magic within her was a small thing, she knew. The Aesir were not made to channel the elemental arts so much as they were made to defend them; they were built for steel and warcries, and their blood was hot and red. The Álfar with their bodies born of nature were made to be magic's children, and the Svartálfar were born of the earth itself, perfect at casting magical objects in their forges. Even the Jötunn, who were cool of blood, could feel magic and channel it to great extents – their minds were calm and twisted things that an enchanter's power could thrive in. And her son . . .
Loki could access these paths naturally – and so far was his talent past what any of the Aesir had to offer that she feared for him – feared for the day when she could not help mold his powers, or sate his yearning for knowledge.
But that was a day to come. For now, she simply had a little boy before her that was lost inside a spell.
Calling upon the part of her that fed her her visions, she channeled that seed of energy into chanting the words on the pages before her. The syllables were complex, and in the end, it wasn't her own might that unraveled the magic so much as it was her shaping her son's power that let the shadows fall away from Loki.
As soon as he was visible again, she felt small arms wrap around her in a desperate hold. She returned the embrace, her sons already at the age where such affections were few and far between, and so she cherished the moment. She rubbed at Loki's back soothingly, feeling where his long and slender bones were catching under her husband's spell; keeping him in the form of an Aesir.
"Loki," she began gently. "How did you do that?"
"The shadows asked me to do so," the child said, his voice still shaken. "They said they could show me how – show me how to slip away and join them. They're everywhere; they surround everything," and upon saying so, the prince sounded so incredibly awed at having glimpsed a world so much more so than his own. "They're not only where the light doesn't reach – but along the paths. I can feel them; I could follow them if I wanted to – they wanted me to. I could let them lead . . . I don't know where they would take me though."
She still moved her hand in gentle circles, the heart within her heavy as she listened to his words.
And still, he clung to her. "I did not want to follow, though, not yet – not when I couldn't take Thor with me. But, they wouldn't let me go without showing me. I could not tell them what to do, and you could not see me," he whispered. "No one could see me, and no one could hear me, and the shadows just would not listen when I told them to fall away again."
The shadow he cast from her was a long, twisting thing, and Frigg swallowed past the lump in her throat; the visions that pressed against her mind were wild and tempestuous pictures that overwhelmed her sight as she sighed, and said, "I shall always see you, my son. No matter what shadow may try to conceal you."
Sometimes, Loki was almost completely certain that there was a deity out there who hated him. That was, past the ones he already knew about.
And it wasn't that he minded being stuck . . . as he was. Truly, there were worse forms that he could have been unable to turn back from; and pondering that helped his predicament somewhat. Somewhat, that was. Some of the shapes were much smaller, and he still could have been trying to inform the others of his mistake. And some of the shapes were much larger – and he could be confined somewhere much worse than the stables.
The stables . . . If he had a face to do so, he would have curled his lip in distaste. As it was, he threw his head back restlessly, feeling the long brush of his mane against his neck.
Mane . . . Even as he was, he cringed.
Because really, what was it about horses that made it so hard for him to hold a shape and consciousness? He had managed a fledgling wyrm the other day with Thor, and the week prior he had even been able to turn into a hawk; and oh, how marvelous flying had been . . . He had shifted into the form of a snake and back without a problem, and Thor had placed him within Freyja's rooms so that they could hear how the girl screamed upon finding him.
Of course, he had to shift back before Freyr got to him; but still, shift back he had been able to.
How was it a horse, of all things, that troubled him so?
It was a rather powerful spell, as well, and the mages were still debating how best to untangle the strands of magic that he had cocooned around himself in order to forge the shape in the first place. On top of that, Loki was almost certain that Odin Allfather – his father – had told the mages to stall until the morning. Something about consequences and recognizing his limits before trying spells long past his talent. For it wasn't past his abilities, so much as it was past the abilities that the mages were insisting that he should not yet possess . . .
The thought was an uncomfortable one against his mind, and so he turned it away, a part of him thankful for the simplicity of an animal's mind that let him do so.
The stables weren't so bad, either, he had to admit. Earlier, when his . . . predicament had been brought before the Queen, Frigg had decided that, Prince of Asgard or not, she would not suffer a horse at the dinner table. And so, it was the stables for him. All night.
His nose crinkled at the thought, the natural gesture for him made odd on the long face he now held. His mind told himself that his arms should be aching from standing so, and once again he reminded his mind that his arms were legs now; and yes, horses rested standing up, so he would stand there as long as was needed.
He felt skittish, spooking at shadows and creaks in the massive wooden beams above. What he really wanted was some mulled wine and some fruit, but he supposed that the water and grain would have to suffice. The grain was better than he thought it would be, actually, and he had actually nickered – nickered, for the shame of it! - when his brother had brought him an apple.
Sif, always a shadow at his brother's side, had laughed at that; her eyes curious as she traced them over the shape of him. "You still have not been able to shed that form? Have we been calling you a serpent for too many years without basis?"
Oh, what he would give for the powers of speech; he thought as he flattened his ears back, his body bent tightly in a sign that anyone could recognize as displeasure.
"Peace, Sif," Thor reprimanded gently. "The last thing you want is for Loki to try to turn you into a horse when he's himself again."
And there was a thought, Loki mused over, even as Sif said: "Let him try," danger a promising thing in her eyes.
Thor shook his head, bemused. "Now, if you wouldn't mind assisting me . . ."
The shield-maiden made a face. "I still do not agree that this is necessary."
"Of course it is," Thor countered her, rather simply, and Loki stepped to the lip of the stall to see where Thor had a pile of furs collected. Blankets, pillows stuffed with feathers, and a small collection of candles for when the sky darkened even further. There was a traveling bag with various amusements to pass the time, and a cask of wine.
He tilted his head, understanding slow upon him; and he looked to Thor to speak, and give words to the thought that was slowly building in his mind.
"Staying all night in the stables?" Sif's tone of voice made it clear what she thought of that. "You may have been born in a barn, Thor Odinson, but not all of us share your tastes."
"And the great Lady Týrdottir is distraught at the idea of sleeping on the ground?"
"Only when in response to one of his misdeeds," Sif tilted her head back to Loki.
"It was you who challenged him to hold the form," Thor pointed out.
"And?" Sif questioned, rolling her shoulders and crossing her arms. The smile on her face said that she was enjoying quite the laugh at his expense. "It isn't my fault if Loki Tangletongue here can't control his spells enough to shift back after humoring me."
If he was not a horse, Loki was completely certain, he would have tried to trip her. Doing so as he was now seemed to be . . . problematic. On a few different levels.
"But humor you he did, and now we shall stand by him through the consequences."
Sif was silent for a long moment."Fine," the single word tripped off of her tongue, sour as surrender as she rolled her eyes. But still, she started bringing in their provisions for the night.
Her smile, when it fell upon him, was not as antagonistic as it could have been. "You look better as a horse than you do an Aesir," Sif snickered, her tongue between her teeth.
If he were not a horse; and he had words to speak with, he would have told her that she already looked like a horse, Aesir though she was. He settled for stomping a forehoof against the straw, shaking his head in agitation. His mane itched something fierce from where it settled against his neck, and he couldn't quite figure out how to scratch it . . . By the Allfather's ravens, but he had never thought that he would have missed having fingers that much. Truly, fingers were glorious things to have.
When Thor was finished, Loki eyed the pile of furs somewhat longingly as he circled the stall, unsure of what to do with himself. His own mind was saying how very much he wanted to lie down, while the form he was stuck in was quite content to stand the whole night through. The overload of contradicting information was making something fierce pound at his temples . . . and did horses even get headaches?
Only him, he finally decided with a huff of air that was universal in any form.
Deciding to turn his back on what was 'proper' by nature's way, he carefully folded his long legs beneath him, and settled in on the floor of his stall. It was more comfortable than he would have imagined, in the end, and he kept his massive head by the card game that Thor and Sif had started up by the torchlight. Thor still talked to him as if he could speak in reply, and Sif's barbs became less and less cutting as the night went on.
When the two were ready to turn in for the night, Loki was already dozing; awareness only returning to him when Sif brought her bedding to rest right against him. He looked at her, surprised that she would choose to use him as some sort of giant pillow.
Sif caught his look. "If you tell anyone, I will cut out your tongue and beat you with it, do you understand?"
But her weight was slight and soft against him, and he really didn't mind too terribly when she whispered, "And I am sorry for taunting you into this." Her smile was wry in the shadows of the stable. "You are beautiful, though," she added, the confession a torn thing from her throat. "Not to stroke your ego – because that is the last thing you need . . . but this animal you hold is magnificent."
By Sif's side, Thor shook his head, not bothering to add to her words as he too leaned against his brother's body. In no time at all, he was asleep. Loki followed him, suddenly exhausted from the strain of holding so much magic the whole day through.
Loki awakened sometime in the night to find that the magic had fallen from him. The spell had faded, and he once again held his own body. Cautiously, he curled his fingers and toes, doing a quick inventory to make sure that everything had transferred back properly. His tongue stuck against his teeth, and he was suddenly so incredibly grateful to have that smallest part of himself back.
To his right, Thor was still sleeping; his snores loud and boisterous, as was everything else about him. And to his left, Sif had curved into him, as if seeking out the heat of him in her sleep – and that he didn't mind at all. She was warm, and smelled sweet – better than the hay all around them, at any rate. He knew he would hear an earful in the morning if he put a hand on her shoulder now, but the morning was a long way off.
With Thor at his back, and Sif at his side, he let himself nod off again; the magic at the core of him once again a content thing ready to be used.
Mira's Mythological Mauling Madness:
* In mythology, Vanaheimr was one of the nine realms, and home to the Aesir who had roles to play when it came to fertility, wisdom, and foresight and prophesy. It seemed to be a fitting home for Frigg, who was Goddess of matrimony and mothers; and also she who had prophetic visions.
* In mythology, and the comics; Frigg had visions of multiple futures that she saw when she spun the spinning wheel.
* Yes, in mythology, and the comics, Frigg is not the mother of Thor. In mythology, where fidelity means nothing, the personification of Earth was the Goddess Fjörgyn, and she was Thor's mother. In the comics, Gaea (a much more recognizable Earth goddess for the general public) was Thor's biological mother, although Frigg raised the child as her own. I cut both woman out of the picture though – especially since I am not exploring Balder and Týr as Frigg's sons in these pieces.
* Yes, in the comics, Loki was abandoned by Laufey for being a tiny child for a Jötunn, and an embarrassment to the king. But, the first thing Laufey calls Odin is a murderer and a thief – and while that easily could mean the Casket of Ancient Winters, I like to think that there is a deeper meaning for their feud. Loki's beginnings were not really explored as much in mythology as Marvel does.
* The name I used for Loki's mother was taken from the Sörla þáttr. In the myths, Laufey was actually the name of Loki's mother, not father (who was called Fárbauti), but Nál was a secondary name used for Laufey. So, I followed that to its logical conclusion.
* Yes, Loki always has a problem when it comes to shapeshifting into horses. Just look where Sleipnir came from. ;)