Author's Note: This is all Allexurath's fault. ;)

OoOoOoO

Brin woke me before dawn. I sat up, groggy, feeling like my head was full of wet sand. She lit a few lamps and laid out my clothing.

It was a deep amber tunic and black trousers. The gold embroidery mimicked the engraving on my armor. She also brought out my sword and scabbard. As I dressed, she set out breakfast. We hardly spoke, but I could feel Brin glancing at me from time to time. What Loki had done was no secret and I wondered what she thought of me.

As I finished my meal, someone knocked on the door. Brin opened it and bowed low. Odin walked in. I hastily stood and bowed.

"Your Majesty," I said. "I wasn't expecting you."

"I came to speak with you, my dear, before the day's proceedings," he said. "You may go, Brin. Her ladyship won't be needing you again until after the pronouncement."

Brin curtsied and left. I watched Odin with wary eyes. "What is it you wanted to talk about?" I asked.

"I wanted to speak with you about your offer, yesterday. To be Loki's keeper."

Hope surged through me. "Yes?"

"It is a foolish thing you're offering."

"Foolish? How is offering a man a second chance foolish?"

"I lost Sigyn; I do not wish to loose you. Sigyn was a great asset. We would have lost even more in the Frost Giant War if it weren't for her. As the heir to her power, you have the same potential. We need you here. You could do much good here."

"If his Majesty is seeking to test my resolve-"

"I am merely stating that we need you here."

"Loki needs me as well. And I choose to remain with him."

Odin studied me for a long moment. "I ask that you think about what I've said. I believe your companions are awaiting you. We will be going into the throne room soon."

He turned and left.

OoOoOoO

The room was already full of spectators and the court. Thor stood on the steps leading up to the throne. When he saw me, he came down to meet me.

"Thank you," he said, "for doing what you've done for my brother."

"Has Odin said-"

"He hasn't revealed his judgment to me."

"Do you think-?"

"I hope he will exile him. I tried to reason with him at the beginning of the trial but he would not hear it. I was surprised when he listened to you."

At that moment, a phalanx of guards strode into the room with Loki at the center. He wore what I assumed was his court garb: black and green leather with a gold band looping over his chest. His hair was sleeked back. He looked tired. I started toward him but Thor grabbed my arm.

"No one is allowed to approach him," he said. "If Father... You'll be given an opportunity to say goodbye."

At that moment, Odin came into the throne room. Everyone knelt as he and Queen Frigga came up the long hall. I chanced a glance up and found Frigga smiling down at me. The little piece of hope lodged in my heart throbbed.

Odin took his place before his throne with Frigga standing to the side. Everyone stood.

Looking out over the assembly, Odin said, "I have judged Loki Odinson guilty of crimes so grievous, Asgard has been rocked to the very core by them. As I was about to pronounce my judgment, a lost daughter of Asgard returned to us: Sigrid, heir to the power and immortality of Sigyn, who was renowned for her magic, her strength…and her constancy.

"Sigrid has offered an alternative to death. Exile. For both him and herself, for she would accompany him to assure he will not harm others. If he does, her punishment would be greater than his. This is a great offer."

He stepped forward to the edge of the first step, looking down at us. I stared back, my heart in my throat.

"However, Loki has proven himself unworthy of trust."

My heart began to freeze over and nausea rolled my stomach.

"He is a danger to himself and those around him."

The whole world was slowing down. I turned and found Loki staring at me, his face unreadable.

"Therefore, I, Odin Allfather, sentence Loki Odinson to death."

"No," I screamed. I ran toward Loki but the guards grabbed me. I struggled against them. Through my tears, I could see Loki pushing against his own guards.

"Release them," barked Odin.

The guards dropped their hands away. I stumbled forward and was caught up in Loki's arms.

"Hush," he whispered into my ear.

"I should have helped you escape," I rasped. "I shouldn't have let Thor take you."

"You did the honorable thing."

"Damn honor to hell."

He turned his head and caught my mouth with his. I gripped his face with my hands while he crushed me to him in his arms. He tasted cool and like spearmint, his hair warm and soft under my fingers. I tried to hold him tighter.

The moment ended too soon. Guards separated us.

"I love you," Loki said as his mouth broke from mine.

"I love you," I replied, the tears streaking my face.

I watched helplessly as Loki knelt at the foot of the steps leading to the Allfather's throne. The executioner came forward, battle ax in hand.

At the last moment, I remembered the promise I had made. I turned and buried my face in Eartha's shoulder as the executioner raised the axe. I heard it swoosh through the air and make the dull, wet thud of metal against flesh and bone. A soft shiver of cloth and a softer thud of something falling followed. And it was over.

Loki Odinson was dead.

I sobbed uncontrollably against Eartha's shoulders. The throne room was as silent as a tomb save for my cries. I barely heard the guards clearing away the body.

After a moment, a heavy hand laid on my back. "He's gone, now, Sigrid." It was Thor. "The Allfather wishes to speak to you."

Slowly, I raised my head, looking up to meet Thor's gaze. His eyes were deep and shiny with tears. He looked as if he had aged thirty years in a matter of moments. I stepped away from Eartha, turning to meet the Allfather's gaze.

"You have nothing to say," I said savagely, "that I am remotely interested in hearing."

"You must understand-" he began.

"Loki was your son! And you failed him!"

"How dare you!"

"I dare to speak the truth. I want nothing to do with you, Odin Allfather. Or with Asgard. I choose exile over a life of servitude to a man that would murder his own son rather than give him a second chance."

Turning on my heel, I strode out of the throne room, the eyes of everyone upon me. But I did not care.

OoOoOoO

To this day, I don't remember our return to home that well. But somehow, we all got back with the horses and the armor. I sat in my room, still wearing the clothes Brin selected for me. Someone knocked softly on my door.

"Come in," I said thickly. My face and throat ached from sobbing.

The door opened and Eartha sat beside me on the bed. "Sig, I'm sorry. But you did your best."

"My best is obviously not enough."

"At least he had you, at the end."

I nodded, not meeting her eyes. We sat for a long moment, not saying anything, when a thought occurred to me that made me smile.

"What is it?" asked Eartha.

"Our whole family has been waiting for the one who would be Sigyn's successor and return to Asgard. Now that I'm the one, I've exiled myself from there. Centuries of hoping and praying, all come to nothing."

"I wouldn't say that. I think Sigyn would be proud of you, that you stood up for someone in need of a defender. That you stood up for what was right. And who knows? Maybe you can go back one day. Odin isn't going to be king forever. Thor will take the throne eventually."

"Thor is hardly better."

"But I doubt Thor would have sentenced Loki to death."

I nodded, seeing the truth there. "So. Now what?"

She sighed. "Well, we could leave here. Go start somewhere new. Loki wouldn't want you spending your whole life mourning, you know. Maybe we can go open that horse ranch we've been talking about."

"I guess."

"I'll go down and fix us some lunch, how about that?"

"All right."

Eartha kissed my cheek and left my room, closing the door softly behind her. Wearily, I stood and went to the bathroom, blowing my nose and trying to make myself presentable. I also made a mental note to burn the clothes I was wearing.

As I came out of the room, a cold breeze brushed over me and I swore I smelled spearmint. The window was open, which had been closed before. Suddenly, wild with hope, I ran to the window and looked out. Coal grazed in the pasture below, alone. No wind shook the trees. I inhaled deeply but only smelled the lunch Eartha was preparing downstairs.

As I stood at the window, looking out, wondering if maybe I was losing my mind, I slowly came to the realization that I felt less alone. I felt as if my heart might heal one day.