Note from Black Lace Lamb: While this story is set before Thor, I much more enjoyed Loki's personality from The Avengers. He was much more of a threat, cold and calculating and by far much more to his character as a trickster and a liar. Just a heads up for future chapters, he may come across as much more playful and manipulative than he was portrayed in Thor. Thought I'd also just like to mention, I have not read the comics, I intend to, but not yet. I am going off how Asgard and the Asgardians were portrayed in Thor and The Avengers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I like writing it!

All characters as well as setting is (C) MARVEL

Seren and story is (C) Black Lace Lamb

Chapter I: A Golden Reception

There was an air of excitement and frenzy around Asgard on that especially bright afternoon. Cooks were sweating like the pigs they were roasting, gardeners pricking their fingers on thorns, servants polishing the floor to perfection. The halls shone like sunlight, the flowers spread their fragrance through the room, banners and tapestries were lining each of the walls and the room was filled with Asgardians.

The great Odin had requested the presence of all nobility and those associated with them to be present and dressed appropriately, hence why they all stood shoulder to shoulder in their full armour. Thor standing with the tall majesty of a lion, his brother with the alert gaze of a fox; even their friends were present there for this occasion, though they knew next to nothing of the person they were greeting. Frigga had assured them that they would be introduced formally after the feast, since they would be staying with them.

Well, whoever was arriving… they were late.

People started to shift a little, stretching their limbs and flexing their legs. Even the mighty Thor was starting to get bored of this awkward silence-

Suddenly there came a great, trumpeting call across the room and everyone turned their attention to the opening doors. With a mighty groan the doors opened and revealed six Asgardian guards and a female figure between them, illuminated by the purple and orange of the setting sun.

They were dressed in fitting armour of black crystal and leather, adorned with glimmering diamonds, silver trim and a magnificent cape of midnight blue, the figure still had their helmet on and from beneath this helmet, silvery white hair fell to their knees, on their back was a black bow and a quiver full of diamond-tipped arrows. The guards separated and stood on either side of the princes and their friends, leaving the lone figure before the All-Father; she knelt instantly and bowed her head.

"Great All-Father, I humbly apologize for my late arrival." She said. Eyes flickered to Odin, who lifted his hand. The woman got to her feet and watched as his face was unchanged, but his eye was relaxed and warm.

"Lady Seren, remove your helmet." She did, revealing her face to the curious onlookers. Tucking the heavy helm under her arm, she looked to Odin with a soft smile. With skin as white as her hair, she seemed a ghost at first glance; this was not helped by the pitch black eyes that held a strange, cosmic lustre and a tiny mole above her lip. "You are welcome here in Asgard and all it has to offer you. Come, we will speak in private." Odin lifted his arms to her, a sign for the others to go their own ways and to return for the inevitable feast.

"I cannot express my gratitude, my king." She said as they passed down the halls of Asgard to Odin's private quarters. Lady Frigga at her husband's side and Seren following behind them.

"I must admit, when we received your letter I was surprised to her from a child of Nótt after so many millennia." Frigga said as two guards opened the doors for them and they went inside.

"We try to keep a regular correspondence, but long-distant relations are so hard to maintain." Seren said with a soft laugh, Frigga smiled at her. "She sends her best wishes, and regrets that she could not accompany me. My younger brothers and sister require her attention." Odin nodded and his eye turned grim as the doors were sealed behind them, leaving the three in peace. Seren looked to the ground and gripped her helmet, Frigga looked at the girl in sympathy, as she knew why she was really here.

"They spotted your departure, didn't they?" Frigga asked. Seren closed her eyes and tucked a stray lock of white hair behind her ear.

"I know the decoy worked, but I cannot rest easy until this is over. Be it one way or another." Odin closed his eye and nodded gravely.

"We will do all we can for you, but I cannot guarantee that we have what you need." Odin said, his voice rumbling though her. Seren nodded and looked at him, her eyes locking with his.

"I thank you, great All-Father. If there is any matter that I can assist you with, do not hesitate to summon me." She bowed and left the room, outside the door were two guards.

"Lady Seren, if you will follow us please."

They led her to a hallway that was lined with doors, stopping at one at the very end.

"These will be your quarters during your stay, someone is on their way to attend to you before the feast." One opened the door for her.

"Thank you." She said, stepping into the room and hearing them close behind her. A wide smile broke out on her face as she removed her bow and quiver, her eyes looking around the room in joy. The walls were a muted, gleaming brass and decorated in magnificent tapestries of silver and purple, there were curtains of heavy black velvet to block out the sun, at her request. A huge bed with dark blue sheets stood in the middle of the room, encircled with dark gossamer curtains hung on a golden frame. Adjacent to the room was a large bathroom, with black and gold tiles and a marble tub that was sunk into the floor. Gold had always been the colour of Asgard.

It wasn't long before there came a knock at the door and two handmaidens with honey hair, brown eyes and blue dresses entered. Twins.

"We have been instructed to assist you while you are with us, my lady." They said, bowing as one. "What may we do for you?" Seren smiled at the girls and turned to the one on the left.

"Run me a warm bath, with the special salts I brought with me; and you can help me out of my armor." The girls nodded and one disappeared into the bathroom, while the other reached for the pale broach on Seren's shoulder. With the broach removed, Seren's armor became simple clothes fitting a lady of the court. Carefully the girl put the gleaming broach on her bedside table and helped her with her shirt. Seren stepped out of her boots and removed her gloves, revealing her left arm, which was covered from her bicep to her fingertips with thick, stained bandages. Her black eyes shifted to the handmaiden, who merely glanced at the arm before folding up her shirt. "I assume that you have been informed of my ailment." Seren said in a low, quiet voice.

"Indeed, my lady. Both my sister and I have been sworn to secrecy over this matter, you need not worry about idle gossip from us." Seren flexed her shoulders in relief, now free of clothing, her skin could breathe. She reached for the bandages around her bust and started to unwind them, walking to the bathroom as she did, the room was already thick with fragrant steam. With the bath now prepared, the other twin assisted Seren with the bandages.

"Have you travelled far, my lady?" She asked.

"I have, it has been more than a week's voyage from my home to Asgard. But I'm happy to have finally arrived, albeit a little later than intended." With her chest exposed to the steam-filled room, the maid handed the bandages to her sister; but she hesitated for a moment before reaching for the bandages on her arm. "You need not worry, it is not a contagious infection." Seren said sweetly, setting the girl's heart at ease. The bandages were slowly peeled back, the final layer was somewhat difficult, the blood and pus making Seren grit her teeth as the bandages ripped off a little of the raw, sensitive skin. The maid wrinkled her nose in disgust, but Seren didn't take offence, it was a repulsive sight to behold.

From her elbow to her wrist was a wound that had been caused by noxious venom, veins pulsing near the surface and open sores oozing blood and mucus. Her usually white skin was now a deep purple and green, riddled with swirling black curls of toxin that moved on their own accord.

Seren caught the maids staring at her arm and cleared her throat, they gasped and bowed their heads.

"S-Sorry my lady! It's just-"

"When is my treatment starting?" She asked, removing her lower undergarments and stepping into the steaming water. The maids lifted their heads and went to the cupboards, retrieving scented oils and soaps.

"Tomorrow afternoon, when you awaken, and once more during your evening." One said as she sat behind Seren and lifted up her sleeves.

"I would rather get started straight away, have someone meet me in my chambers after the feast."

"Yes, my lady." Seren was up to her shoulders in warm, rich water, the ache in her arm fading under the herbal potion. A sigh left her lips as she closed her eyes and let the girls get on with their jobs. While one massaged soaps into her long hair, the other rubbed scented oils into her slender legs and arm. Seren took care of her infected limb herself, carefully washing clumps of blood off and tenderly massaging soaps into her sore skin.

Seren stood before a mirror, while the girls fixed her long, fine hair in a complex bun on her head. One girl thread black ribbons through her locks, and the other adorned it with gleaming black diamonds.

"Where will I be seated tonight?" She asked. One of the girls adjusted her neckline and passed Seren some black diamonds for her ears.

"At the table with the Warriors Three and Lady Sif, and afterwards you have an arranged meeting with the princes Thor and Loki." Seren couldn't help but be a little excited about meeting the princes, she had been told of Thor's boldness and charisma and Loki's calculating, wise mind. However, she didn't allow herself to become nervous or anxious, if she could stand before Odin, she could stand before his sons. The girls stood back to look at their work, they smiled and Seren got to her feet, tucking a stray lock behind her ear.

"Thank you, you have done excellent work." She said to the girls, as she looked herself over in the mirror. They bowed and looked at one another, fidgeting with their hands. "If you have something to say, I would prefer it if you were honest with me." Seren muttered as she dabbed perfume along her collarbone, the twins jabbed each other in the sides and one of them gulped.

"We were just wondering if you had decided who was to escort you to the hall?" Seren cocked an eyebrow.

"Oh really?"

"Y-You could ask Fandral! He's a very good man-"

"No way! Prince Thor is perfect for an escort-"

"The prince? Lady Seren hasn't even met the man yet!"

"Still here, by the way…" Seren sighed as the twins bickered over who was to take her to the dining hall. After dusting off her sleeves, she turned and opened the doors to her room.

"M-My lady?"

"I escort myself in, I do not require a hand to lead me." She said, the girls looked at one another in surprise and bowed as Seren disappeared from view.

She made her way to the dining hall and saw two guards standing by the closed drapes of gold. Just in front of the drapes was a man in gold robes and glass spectacles, the two of them nodded at one another before the drapes parted and Seren lifted her head.

"Lady Seren, granddaughter of Nótt." His voice boomed across the halls as she entered the room and felt the chilling hush of those present. They did not fall mute, but an overall stillness hung across the moment. Seren had grown used to this from those who did not know her, so with perfect posture she made her way to her seat. In a gown of darkest purple, which flowed behind her like smoke, she kept her gaze on Odin, Frigga and the princes. Her sleeves were tight and fitted to her wrists, concealing her ailment, her bust was tightly concealed and a scoop neck revealed a subtle curve of her breasts. Her neckline was adorned with black velvet and diamonds, which winked in the golden light of the room. Seren looked up at the princes and couldn't help but smile a little at their attention, Thor was grinning with a warm, friendly gaze and even Loki was looking at her with quiet contemplation. She took her seat at the table of Sif and the Warriors Three, who glanced at her in silent greeting. Sif was dressed in a gown of beige and gold, her hair twisted with strands of bronze thread. The men were in their armor, which gleamed under the light of the hall. All turned to Odin who gave thanks for the feast in ancient tongues, giving a final welcome to Seren before the merriment began.