Massive apologies, my wonderful friends! I can't believe it's taken me more than 2 months to update. I am ashamed and afraid many of you have forgotten about me.
Rest assure, I had not forgotten about you. These last two months were filled with a lot of stress, melancholy, and sadness along with some happiness.
On the bad side: my father's illness got a bit worse and it put a great strain in the family. I had all the comfort needed, but another blow struck my heart. My wonderful dog, Luna, a border collie of the sweetest nature, passed away. I confess I was depressed for a few weeks, adding to the stress of final exams.
On a happier note: I am sure my baby has gone to dog heaven and she would've like for me to do well in my exams as she always nudged me in the morning to wake up and give my best. I did it and passed and I am very happy to share the news with you: I am now an MD! Wooohooo, after 6 long years I am graduating from Medical School, hoping to do my bit in the world to make it a better place.
Anyway, enough about me. I hope you understand that even though I wanted to update with all my heart, real life kicked me hard in the butt but I am back and happier than ever! Thank you all for your wonderful comments, encouraging messages and nudges. They have helped tons!
I hope you guys had a wonderful Christmas! What did you do? What did you eat? Oh, I love Christmas and wish I knew what everyone does. I'm a curious person.
Aright, alright, I've rambled enough and I bet you guys can't wait to read so, let's head on to it!
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Chapter 17 – A Savior
Her breathing caressed his nose. He was so close, he could almost feel them. His lips parted in agonizing anticipation. He felt a feathery touch that rocked his core with powerful shivers down his sides. Biting his lip, he stopped. He wanted to do it. He had wanted to do it for some time now. And now, that he knew they were untouched made him want them even more.
He cursed himself. He would not do it. Not like this.
His face moved upwards, touching his lips to her forehead. She tasted of sweetness and sunshine, of water and earth… so he lingered. He pulled up just a fraction and whispered against her head. "I will save you."
It was quite some time later that Kára stepped into her chambers.
Night was falling fast and the cloud that had settled on her mind seemed to fall even faster on her subconscious. He had said…Loki had told her she had slept most profoundly down by the lake. It was odd, she did not remember feeling tired at all, nor voicing it aloud. He assured her, though, that she had been exhausted.
But there was a strangeness to his manner, something she couldn't quite place or describe. She would not presume to know him as well as others closer to him, but in regards to his behavior towards her, she had noticed a difference.
She walked quietly through her room, settling herself on the vanity.
The light reflected enough to look at herself through the looking glass, and she traced a finger down the side of her face.
He had said…
But she did not believe him.
It was not a matter of trust, for above others in Asgard, she trusted him. But something did not feel right. Everything was out of place. Yet, as she looked around her room, everything seemed to be exactly where it was last seen.
Sitting there, quite alone with a silence so loud it could not be broken even by the faintest sound, she felt bare. Never before had she felt unsafe there, even if it was not her home.
There was a vulnerability in her own skin. She felt exposed…observed.
Once more, she turned her head, eyeing the room critically, trying to identify anything that could confirm her speculation. It was useless, for she was quite alone, indeed. Only a soft breeze brushed past her, not unlike the one she felt every night.
It was such a strange sensation. It felt as if her insides were bare, her secrets in the open. There was a presence in the back of her mind that did not belong to the entity she concealed. It wasn't even obvious. She wasn't even sure.
She rubbed her arms with increasing worry, a troubled look on her face, perhaps wanting to be reassured that her skin was intact, her barriers untrespassed. But it prickled uncomfortably, a thousand specks of energy disturbing its integrity.
And Kára felt as she had not felt for a long time.
She felt violated.
It reminded her of home. When she walked the streets or took a stroll, people would watch her, scrutinize her. Their uneasy gaze brought her horrors to a resurfacing set of imagery and she was assaulted with the screams and flashed of light that had hurt other.
Kára let out a strangled cry.
Her skin did not protect her, nor did the clothes on her back. It was crude and gruesome, this twisted feeling. She sat still, quiet as her breathing allowed. No… the source of such feelings was not on the outside, though she half expected something terrible to happen in any given moment. When it didn't, the awareness and panic heightened.
She couldn't see, but could feel. They were eyes of a blazing color, a seething gaze set on her. Her body gave a sudden jolt, the hysteria having reached a limit, as she turned.
There was a startling, harsh crash as her vanity vials fell to the floor. She braced herself against it, her chest heaving as anxious breaths gave over. The soft glow cast from the flame lights should've warmed her mind, eased it into tranquility. But the room felt colder than ever.
There was something inside her that begged her to run, to crawl into safety, like a child scurrying away from the dark, an irrational fear of something unseen trailing her footsteps. The room was too quiet, her memories too loud and the sudden imprint of another presence in them was too distressing.
She didn't bother picking up the glass pieces on the floor. She didn't even acknowledge the slow, shy lashes of blood as they had pierced her feet.
Like a frightened child, she climbed into bed, pressing her back flat against the wall. She clutched the pillow to her chest, angry and afraid. It was never supposed to be like this here.
Not here. Never here.
And when she saw the blood like small gashes of red marring the cream sheets, she cried bitterly into the night.
Loki's strides were swift as he walked up the halls towards his chambers.
The soft light cast from the wall candleholders could barely illuminate his form as his quick, determined march vibrated through the seemingly empty corridor.
Fortunately, no one had stopped him on his journey back. If they had, they would have had to endure a biting response to whatever it is they dared bother him with. He had a scowl on his face and he seemed to express a threatening gaze no matter where or what he was looking at.
In his mind, he could only see her eyes. She had doubted him. And what angered him the most was that she had been right to do so.
He wrenched the doors to his room open and closed them behind him with a violent movement of his arm, enacting the magic that had been the cause of him being so cross. He paced the floor uneasily, sneering at nothing in particular. His muscles were pulsating with restless anxiety.
It had been so close.
He had just left Kára back at the healing ward, aware that something was different between them. The walk back had been awkward and confusing for her and a more than a bit uncomfortable for him. He knew that she suspected something was amiss with his explanation of her exhaustion. He knew she was not a fool and had tried to act calm for his sake…or for hers.
She had edged away from him slightly, never walking as close as they had walked before. Touching her forehead frequently and unconsciously, she had looked over her shoulder more than once and a look of disorientation had fallen over her eyes.
He had asked her if something was wrong, appearing concerned over her, when in truth he knew perfectly well she had felt him. She must not have been certain it was him, though, because she had dismissed his concern with a small curl of her mouth that rather than resemble a smile, it had looked more like a wince.
There were no smiles when she bid him goodnight, nor that shy turn of her head as she passed the veiled entrance of the ward. Instead, she had looked into his eyes with that final attempt to uncover him, as she often did. It had been different, though. When she sought his eyes like this, she always did it for him, in a way. It was a calm pursuit of his soul, a way to reach him for…his own benefit, he supposed. It would be much like her, to act on account of others. This time, however, here eyes seemed wider, darker even. A storm raged inside but Loki was not sure what the tempest was trying to say. It was a desperate attempt to make sense of what she had felt and quite a dangerous way to try and uncover his lie.
Loki took a small orb from his bookshelf, a brightly colored sphere of water essence, and in a savage impulse, hurled it across the room, where it smashed against the door.
The acute sound of the crash was delectable enough to satisfy the violence in his heart, but not enough to soothe the promise of the consequences he had provoked by entering her mind. He reluctantly admitted to himself that he had not been thorough in his planning. In fact, he had been hasty and ardent enough to dismiss any care for the ramifications. That was most unlike him.
He had to do something. He would not allow her to doubt him. Ever.
She was much too…unique. This entity inside her could be valuable to him, advantageous even. Just as Mjölnir had been forged within the fire of a dying star, Kára had been born, in a way, within it. She was a force to be feared and treasured, and like the weapon, she held power to create or destroy. But Mjölnir was not a living being, no, which made Kára even more precious and delicate. He could help her. Maybe teaching her magic would not be such a terrible idea, especially since it would aid him to understand her essence. In a manner it would save her, by helping her control it. In turn, she would help him, by eventually providing him with what he needed.
His father had once said Mjölnir was a fit companion for a king and Loki had to agree. He admired the weapon and envied Thor strongly for sharing this bond with it. He desired it for his own. As fate would have it, it had never belonged to him. But it seemed, fate had taken a shine to him now, as he was now the possessor of a secret weapon and his selfish disposition crowed with glee at this knowledge. It was almost too delectable. A lesser royal would have gloated, gossiped, but not him. He was much to cunning for this, too aware of the potential held by secrecy. He had much to uncover and so little time. Mjölnir, it seemed, was not quite as adequate for a king, as he once believed. Not if he ever wanted to be one.
It was moments like this when he did not see her. He knew her, yes, but did not actually see her in his mind. If she had been before him, begging him with those pained eyes to save her, he might have felt the utmost necessity to kneel at her feet and swear it.
He had meant what he said: he would save her. Yet, the darkest shadows of his heart betrayed the righteous desires of his soul.
He cursed under his breath. He could not deal with this right now. Whatever she had, whatever she was, it could wait. His priority was directed on her faithlessness and how best to dissipate it.
Because if he didn't, she would be lost to him and it was only a matter of time before someone else found out about her. He needed a distraction.
The hastiness with which he had approached her had been unsuitable, most terribly wrong. It was impulse that lacked imagination, a feeble endeavor to distract her mind. She was a sharp creature, built from insecurity and fear that nurtured her mistrust. As he had thought before, lies required skill and enchantment, a finesse of verbal and physical communication. The young man that had attacked Kára in her memory had lacked such skill and she had seen right through him, or at least suspected him.
But Loki could do better. He was, after all, the god of lies.
It was quite a happy coincidence, if he allowed calling it as such, that he found her in the Archives the next day. He did not approach her immediately in the morning, although he had half a mind to do just that.
But no, he needed to be patient, exercising every deceiving detail with proper care and decorum. His pretense did not require much planning, but it needed a subtle crafting of convincing behavior and mind games, to appeal to her strengths in order to provide her with confidence.
Something akin to guilt had settled in the back of his mind, a dampening shadow over the clearness of his thoughts. It was easy to exercise his treachery with anyone and everyone. Never before had he felt this slight hesitation. That dark shadow was new and different, unknown to him. It rattled him. But he didn't have a mind to ponder on this, not right now.
The bright central hall of the Archives was bustling with activity today. Asgardians were sitting in the central study areas, while others walked back and forth from the smaller passages, carrying tomes and parchments with them. The ones who noticed him bowed or nodded respectfully, aware that at least here they were bound to find him eventually.
He nodded back, only partially sentient to the people around him. The hall was illuminated with such ferocity; the afternoon sun alive with ferocity and it seemed to be sneering at the shadow of his heart. It held a melancholic quality and he was reminded again why he favored the morning sun instead. The light appeared to be setting on the conclusive victory of the knowledge he had obtained…and on the inevitable dread he had felt within her.
He breathed out harshly, his eyes roaming the small passages earnestly, looking for the elusive, old master. He only needed one answer. With his mind set, he had strolled inside his refuge intent on finding it, even if it meant porting over the same books over and over again.
Anundr's small frame appeared all of a sudden, hunched over the shoulder of a younger man who sat on a private desk. The Archives Master was frowning, addressing a question the younger man had produced as they both looked over a map. Loki halted, exasperated to find him accompanied. He had hoped for his inquires to remain private. He supposed he would have to wait.
But he didn't have to, because Anundr looked up as he scratched his chin at that moment. The young prince was about to step forward and greet him, but the older man smiled serenely and moved his head to the side, a subtle movement that motioned him to continue on his way along the passages.
Loki frowned, a quizzical look on his face. He was unsure of what his old master tried to communicate and the man poring over old transcripts kept muttering, drifting the Master's attentions back to him. Wise Anundr rolled his eyes at Loki's confusion and probed on further, another shake of his head to his right, a kind smile and a wave of his hand that effectively shooed him away.
The dark haired prince shook his head, slightly bemused. He hesitated for a fraction of a second, before he walked on. He passed one, then two passages and as he neared the third one he noticed it had become a bit more deserted. He glanced inside with a fleeting look and did a double take.
He recognized the small frame instantly, perhaps because his mind wanted to believe that it was her. But it was and his heart nearly stopped. He chastised it, feeling absurd. He relinquished the responsibility of such a feeling to the trepidation he felt about confronting the unknown, inevitably destroying whatever sentimental notion it possessed.
Confidence ever surfacing, he planted himself firmly besides the bust of an old legend and waited patiently until she would turn and notice him. He cocked his head to the side and observed her carefully.
She wore a pale gown today; so different from the ones he had seen before as they had been working garments. Its material seemed soft and loose, a gentle flow following her movements. Unlike the ones he had seen on many of the noble ladies, this gown did not enclose her tightly, but fell around her like a robe. It was only after he saw her move that he perceived its flattering side. It was the color of an early morning, a pale rose bordering on cream. Its long sleeves seemed to be the only fitting piece of clothing around her.
She leaned over a book and appeared to be restless as her hand traveled down the length of its scripture anxiously. Her eyes scanned the words wildly, skipping over sentences, desperate for information. And he saw, once more, that look of aversion in her eyes. It did not take long for him to understand why she was here. She was as he had been before, trying to shed some light on the darkness inside her. She did not appear to be finding any answers, though, and he felt a twisted sort of satisfaction at this.
Something curious happened then. She closed the book with frustration, her bottom lip caught between her teeth and straightened up, her eyes lost in a far away thought. Her dark hair fell over one shoulder, less groomed than before. His eyes traveled weakly down her neck. He must have been wrong in some way. She was more feminine than ever. The gown was not meant to attract attention, simple as that. But its ample neckline from shoulder to shoulder exposed her collarbones in a wide display and somewhere in the back of his mind he felt something dark stir, its heat traveling up his neck languidly and fleetingly. If he could move her neckline, he would expose her shoulder and the idea was enticing.
It was a brief moment that he got lost in his thoughts, missing her reaction entirely.
Kára had not found any answers to what she had felt: the panic, the vulnerability, the denudation. The books she had been reading were instructive, yes, on her land and it properties, but not one of them held records of her condition. She was growing frustrated and there was a brief pulse of pain inside her head. The feeling of someone else being side her had diminished slightly, but it was disconcerting.
She released a heavy and fearful breath. She straightened slowly and turned to gaze out the window. The sun was setting now and the tinges of colliding colors were painting the night sky as it usually did. It should've bee peaceful. The nights in Asgard brought her closer to them, the array of stars aligned in the sky. It was oddly comforting, because there was no fear of them here. They sat with majesty and hope, a beautiful collection of legends and dreams.
But there was no peace in her mind. She felt eyes on her now. It was unlike what she had felt the night before. This was blatant and obvious, a heavy pull behind her, not dangerous, merely curious and searing. She shook her head, unwilling to give in to the alarm. She turned around, giving up on her research.
"Loki!" She clutched a hand to her heart, startled.
It brought him out of his thoughts effectively and he gave her a small smile for apology.
"Why must you always do this?" Her eyes were stern but she smiled nervously as her heartbeat returned to normal. "You've startled me." She whispered, concerned her original cry had been too loud.
"I'm sorry." He whispered back, a cheeky grin on his face. Surprisingly, he meant it. After all, he didn't want to strain her discomfort further.
Kára shook her head, finding him incorrigible. "You said you would give me fair warning before you appeared." Her tone was not accusatory, but it diverted him. She hastily turned her back on him, attempting to cover the books she had been reading by arranging larger tomes around them.
It was not very subtle, Loki noticed, and with quick glance at her hands he was able to discern the title of one of the books. He had read that very same one nights ago, when he had trying to uncover the secrets he was now in possession of.
Ah, so she had been looking for answers. That only meant that something had changed, indeed. Perhaps she had felt him inside. Confirming his suspicions, it only heightened his resolve to put that to rest.
He decided to indulge her, satiating her need for privacy and discretion. With that in mind, he pretended to ignore her choice of literature, abiding by a more playful, mischievous attitude. "But once again, we are not in your quarters, Kára." His voice held mock surprise as he circled the heavy table before her. "I could not have had a bird flying around, even with such a noble intention. Imagine the shock on the master's face."
She raised one eyebrow at him. "I would have at least expected you to announce your presence, not wait until you could've scared me."
"Indeed, you are right." Loki conceded with a slight bow of his head. "I apologize."
She nodded and the atmosphere changed. It felt cold, somehow. Where there had been a pleasant sort of tension in their encounters before, there was now awkwardness and a growing feeling of dread. It was most unsettling. The air was charged with secrets and deception, imagined in her mind and known in his. Her brow furrowed as she tried, in vain, to decipher the sensation around her. Loki made it better, company always did, but it still felt different. But she did not want him to ask about her well-being.
"I thought you would be at the ward today." He stated, trying to distract her mind. If he reached out, he may be able to feel her, but the risk was too high.
She shook her head, smoothing the front of her gown self-consciously. "No, I had some time to myself today."
"It's a beautiful day. Why spend it indoors?" His question was light and fun, a stark contrast to his feelings. She was being short with her answers and he did not like it.
"Oh, well." She hesitated, only slightly but turned a bright glance his way, trying to cover some of her trepidation. "I cannot neglect my duties, even if I do have some free time." She was pleased with her cover up.
He grinned. Cheeky little thing. She tried to deceive him. He found it most amusing and charming that she should try that. Attempt to win a hand over his abilities, thought she may not even be aware of them. Well, it worked for his advantage, so he used it.
Groaning, he spoke. "Kára, you have to enjoy Asgard too. I'm sure if I were to tell my brother about it, he'd be most insistent on taking you out for another night in town."
Kára smiled, a real one this time. The vast emptiness inside her mind that had felt contradictory overwhelming even with an imprint inside was dissipating. It felt odd, like wind sweeping dust from stone floor. She did not acknowledge this consciously, but that panic had slowly disintegrated. And all she felt was dull sort of pain, emanating from around her though the source was still occult.
"Would you be coming too?" The words were out before she could stop them, her voice sounding soft and small. Ducking her head, apparently busy over her books, her cheeks colored and only now he saw how pale she had been.
He stopped and stared openly. There was cleanliness and purity in her and the darkness in his mind intensified, now producing a vague clench of his heart. His gaze softened, as did his resolve. "Yes." He replied and it surprised even him. "You are indebted to me after all, remember? For a dance."
She changed the subject, feeling trapped in this tension. "I'm afraid I won't have time for that. But I did promise to attend the next festival."
He nodded, pleased with her compromise. "Indeed you did. I have not forgotten."
She rolled her eyes, fixing him a mock glare. "Is it possible for you to forget anything?"
He pretended to ponder over this for a moment, his gaze fixed in a point somewhere in the distance. "I don't believe so, though I seem to forget how to produce black birds at the moment."
It made her smile and he was pleased.
It resembled a sort of dream, this feeling. She pierced him through eyes too expressive to decipher. He made it so easy, this distraction. Gone was that vulnerability, replaced by youthful nervousness, invigorated by his presence. She tried to calm the disquietude of her heart, but it was futile and only natural. She had never met anyone as him.
He was young and aged at the same time, a vast knowledge inside the green eyes that shone wickedly, some sort of secret enigma within. He was that boy she had been supposed to love at some point in her life, a time where she would've been young and buoyant, but had never come along. Her life had not been the same since the star had fallen and many things that were meant to have happened were lost. He wasn't supposed to have come at all now. Not now when she…
Her chest constricted in a painful clench. It was a beautiful lie, but a lie nonetheless.
Her physical entity was distracted by him and the essence inside did nothing but relinquish control over her own psyche. As long as her mind was focused on the stimuli of her surrounding atmosphere, the star beyond would not surface. And Loki was perfect for that. Poor Kára did not know this, but her own naïve persona could be so easily enthralled by the confusing sensations of this unpolluted affection.
She sighed, exhausted. "I hope you remember to produce it next time. I may be cross with you if you don't."
Loki raised his eyebrows. "Oh, you wound me. I do not believe it possible for you to be cross with me."
Once more she shook her head, a smile of disbelief tugging the corners of her mouth. "You will not like it when you find out." She nodded kindly and a bit sadly too. "I must head back."
"Stay a moment." He commanded, abashed by her sudden flight.
The seriousness in his voice stopped her. "Did you need me for something? She asked, confused. She thought they had merely encountered one another.
"Not particularly, but now that I've found you," He hesitated, suddenly looking very young. "And before you decide to run away, I have something for you."
She sobered up, a curious look in her eyes. "For me?" She ignored the mad tempo of her pulse.
"Yes." He said and the light suddenly seemed more like a glow and his voice more like wind. "A gift."
Kára felt shy all of a sudden, a light tinge of color on her cheeks. She stood before him, her hands entwined at her front, a calm demeanor so adverse to how she was feeling inside. "Why?" She blurted out. His jade eyes locked hers, a playful smirk on his lips. "Forgive me, that was rude." She muttered.
"I've had this idea in my head for some time." He started, unusually diffident. "I thought you might need this someday, if only just for practice." He chastised himself, as he sounded much like young boy in need of justification. "And I distinctly remember you disliked what you used before."
The question in her eyes was a wary one, struggling to understand what he was referring to. "What it is?" She asked softly, her gaze wandering about his hands.
He caught her gaze at his hands and let out a shallow breath. He moved his hands around each other, as if trying to catch air, slowly bringing them together until they rested palm to palm with each other. Loki closed his eyes, tugging at string of some far away energy. He moved them apart just as his hands and inside a figure was materializing. The orb glowed blue, expanding with veins of shallow light as it formed a box. She stood still, transfixed by his magic and he watched her with unbidden eyes. He pushed the box with his hands and it floated neatly towards her.
She looked up, another question in her eyes and he smiled encouragingly. Her hands were surprisingly steady as they outstretched before her, forming a platform where the box came to rest. It was light and she was somehow amazed to find it fell solidly in her hands. Somehow, it felt more real than she thought it would be.
It was a flat wooden box. Unlike the one where her daggers rested, the color on this one was light and cheerful with delicate carvings framing it. She placed it delicately on the study table, railing a hand down its side. The carving seemed familiar with emblems of stars and suns aligned. He recognized them immediately. It was home.
Kára felt a clasp on its front and pulled. The top opened silently and she pulled it up and all the way back, where it came to rest on the table. Inside there was a covering of a dark crimson color, but the fabric she did not recognize. It felt somewhere between fur and feathers as she touched it. She debated going further, an irrational fear for her soul.
A strong grip on her heart, she continued, pulling the straps that held the coverings together. She pushed them away from it center and her hand fell on another garment, soft this time but resilient its color of a dark maroon with a softer terracotta shade in pattern with it.
She took it by the shoulders pulling it out of its case. It was a full body suit, with complex sewing, the textures and colors changing over body areas that seemed to be more exposed to harm, the darker maroon covering them: neck, chest, shoulders, mid body, coming down to a belt low on the waist. It was subtle yet fit for strength she did not yet possess. These were war garments, fit for a warrior underneath the armor. The color was not of Asgard though.
Kára flushed with pleasure. This was the color scheme of her realm, her home. She held it up, admiring it before bringing it close to her, careful fingers feeling its softness and its endurance. "No leather?" She teased lightly and he could hear the strain in her voice, awed and careful.
He grinned. "I know you dislike it." He spoke daintily, a silken quality hiding his excitement.
"These are the colors of my father's hall. How did you know?" She asked.
He let out a soft chuckle. "I did some research." He stated and when she finally looked at him she saw his light excitement. He looked carefree and eager, much younger than she had seen him. It reminded him of that night at the public ball where he had seemed so jovial.
And he was eager for her approval. He would not admit it, but there was a place in his soul that lit up to her, nurturing on her smile. "I have seen you get better everyday. If you wanted, we could train harder. I believe you are ready and it pleases me to see that you believe yourself ready. And I thought it was time for you to have proper garments. I took the liberty of choosing for you and hope that you are satisfied with it." He was talking fast, an uncomfortable sensation at the top of his chest, constricting, conflicting his motives.
She heard him speak, and every word he uttered ignited a flame inside her. She felt oddly flushed and heated, warmth radiating from something deep within. But as she looked at him, she saw his insecurity, something she had never seen in him. There was a lost thread of his life laced with his speech and his eyes, a vague look of self-doubt that he fought hard to hide. And there was something else, something dull and aching that was not quite near enough to reach. He seemed sweet and innocent, virtues that had probably remained forgotten.
When he finished, his eyes fell on the garment. She clutched it close to her chest, a feeling of deepest gratitude surfacing. Her hands tightened on the fabric, enacting an agony of conflict she was not ready to show. Her heart was thumping madly in her chest and she was sure, it could be heard if it weren't for the soft chatter that filled the Hall. She felt she ought to thank him, but words were not enough. How was she to explain all that seemed to raging inside her?
Calm and collected, she approached him, one small step at a time. Her eyes were downcast and slightly ashamed, but she held the robes close to herself like some protective charm. Words were not enough, not for the expression of cherish she wanted to give him. But he couldn't not possibly understand why it meant this much. She was slightly at his side now and he was looking at her questioningly, but he had not time to react, because she suddenly stood on her tiptoes, her shoulder grazing his arm and pressed her lips to his cheek.
It was fleeting and ephemeral. Something that could have lingered seemed to pass much too quickly and as she pulled away, muttering a sincere, joyful thank you, his head pictured a mirage, much like this one but he would not have let her go. She would have pressed her warm lips to his cheek and he would have touched her back, strong, eager fingers traveling down her waist to pull her against him. Then, he might have…
His gaze fell to the floor, lost to the ambience. She smelled of cleansing water and sunshine and it seemed to drift around him, the sensation transforming into touch as her flesh lingered on face. He felt an ambiguous pressure, the ghost of a contact that had only just transpired.
"Thank you." She spoke again. "Loki, this is…" She wanted to say beautiful but it was not enough.
He understood. She had not liked it, no. The way she carefully folded it and placed it back on the flat box told him more. She had more than liked it and this awarded him a sense of victory.
He approached her, aiding in the closing the wooden lid. "Might I accompany you back?"
"Yes, of course!" She grinned and just like that every doubt had drifted, in a moment that had been lost to her, and now felt like it needed to be forgotten. "I could use a friend today."
"Hmm." He smiled warmly, and as she walked past him, his hand moved furtively by his side, slightly forward, catching her gown near her waist. The fabric glided across his fingers, feeling just as he had envisioned.
They had walked back to the ward in comfortable company, their steps slow and deliberate.
She looked every bit of a female today. Soft, willowy attire that he now noticed was flattering in an illusive manner, appealing to the subconscious. A shyness that was entirely too ladylike, calm and reserved in her comments, a fleeting look his way.
She would've been a powerful ally. Alas, that was not her destiny. And he wondered, if she had not stumbled upon the star, if her life had not unraveled the way it did, would she still be the same?
He was deep in thought as she continued to explain the properties of her land, when she slowed. They had reached the veiled entrance of the healing ward and had stilled him, as she always did when she was about to go in.
"Thank you for coming with me." She said, holding the flat wooden box close to her body. "And for this gift. I shall treasure it."
His grin was one of amusement. "I'd rather you wear it." He replied, but leaned in to whisper. "You're most welcome."
"Next practice then." She promised a childish sort of shine in her eyes.
"Perhaps I'll even let you fight me." He raises his eyebrows, an obvious challenge in his expression.
She laughs, a sound of skepticism escaping her lips. "Loki, please. I am nowhere near ready to – "
Someone was shouting from inside the ward, a female voice with a urgent tone. She turned abruptly, her brow furrowing. From behind the veiled entrance Ástrid was coming towards them, her steps in a brisk run.
"Kára, we need you!"
She didn't hesitate. Leaving Loki by himself, she walked up to meet her handmaiden, a determined look on her face.
"What is it? What's happened?"
"We've been looking for you. The other healers…they don't know…how – " The honey eyed girl couldn't breathe but her eyes were frantic.
Kára nodded, while she passed the flat wooden box to Ástrid, which she took without question. The dark haired girl shot a curt look towards Loki, an apology in her eyes. He walked behind her as she headed inside, unable to contain his interest.
But what he saw as he stepped into the threshold of her ward was something he did not expect.
Chaos and order seemed to be colliding inside the normally peaceful room. He saw a small boy on one of the beds, healers rushing around him. He had a pale complexion, with a greenish hue around his mouth and eyes. His fingers, however, were quickly turning darker as were his lips, a final note of blue.
To the side, his parents, Loki could only assume, were shouting hysterically, panic and helplessness surrounding them like a cloud. Healers were keeping them at bay, trying to soothe them into composure, but they would have none of it.
Kára rushed forward, making her way to the boy's side. A quick assessment provided her with suspicion but she needed to know more. "Bergdis, what happened?"
Bergdis was at the boy's other side, holding him slightly as his body shook with uncontrolled movements. "He has just been brought in. His parents have not been of much help. We don't know if something bit him, or if it was something he ate."
She nodded and approached the parents who looked at her with desperation. "I need to know what happened."
"There's not time for this! Do something!" The man was shouting at her. "He is dying!"
Kára collected herself, a patient gaze setting on them. "I understand you're worried and feeling helpless, but I can't treat him without knowing what happened to him. Was he eating something? Was he injured?"
"No…" The boy's mother was crying, a note of hysteria in her voice. "He had something in his hand. It smelled bitter."
"Was it food, a treat?"
The man sighed, closing his eyes to try to bring back the memory. "No, it was… a plant of some sort. It was a white flower, small, like snowflakes."
Kára did not thank them. She quickly turned to Ástrid who seemed to be carrying a bowl with paste. "Ástrid, it was hemlock." Her voice was steady and driven and still he could hear a note of dread in her words.
The handmaidens moved then, with awful collected speed. Somehow, she had turned from soft female to resolute healer and he noted she changed not with her attire, but with her attitude.
She needed to save this boy. There was not much hope for him, but she had to try. She furrowed her brow, confused and scared that hemlock grew in Asgard. Then again, there were uses to its toxins, but they were hardly worth the risk. The boy was slowly slipping into a hazy sort of confusion. He was moaning and writhing.
"He needs to be held up, Bergdis. Ástrid, I need the oil. We need to get it inside him."
What happened next he did not see, it was much too fast and his head was swimming in the general hysteria. Loki watched in fascination as she issued command after command, working with diligence and harmony with her healers. The others were by her side, aiding her. She was not a leader, but a piece in a moving tapestry, practicality and ordained function in their movements. Somehow she had changed and the girl he had seen, so fragile and helpless, dying in her guilt was gone. And this savior had replaced her, a woman with unfaltering purpose, a steady hand and resolve in her eyes.
She was losing him. His movements were too erratic for him to sit still and drink what they had. It was too late. Her arms were restless, pulsating with an energy that refused to watch him die. And she felt his pain, a losing grip on his soul that screaming. Every part of his body screamed its fading energy, unweaving from its core.
She gasped, a sudden thought entering her head. She felt him quite as opposite as she had understood words that had been spoken to her, Loki's words. Was he still here? She glanced around, and there he was, a bit confused and a bit lost. Hope flared inside her. If he could do it…
She walked towards him. "Loki, I need you."
He snapped out of his thoughts, startled. "What?" His eyes were dark and wary.
She spoke quickly with those brown eyes set on him, faithful and certain. "You spoke once about binding energy. The echoes of its oscillations reaching out. I know you can feel them, but can you bind them?"
He was confused. "Yes, but – " His voice was full of trepidation, unsure of what she needed from him.
"Can you bind them back together, when they're unraveling?" There was urgency in her voice, like dying time.
"Kára, I'm not sure. It is complicated – "
She stopped him, taking his right hand in hers. They were cold and damp, but she squeezed them with reassurance and hope… "Please."
And he could not deny her. "What do I have to do?"
She led him towards the bed.
"What's he going to do to my boy? I won't let him." The man's voice resounded with suspicion and antagonism, freezing Loki. Bergdis was with them, attempting to reason with him.
And he felt unsure, of himself. He hated this feeling. So many times growing up he had known how inadequate he was to this realm. He often wondered why, ultimately accepting it. Yet, there were times when people reminded him of what he hated to know.
"Loki, I can't do anything more. He needs you. You're the last hope." She spoke firmly, commanding him.
Ignoring the man, he reached out to feel him, closing his eyes, touching the boy's chest and forehead. He was almost gone and yet he grasped the last strings of his essence. He used everything around him, plants, the healers and himself. He reconstructed the strands, ghosting the pattern of what he used to be and mirroring it in him. The boy's soul was strong and it greedily caught on to what was left of life, feeding on what Loki was providing. It grasped on with zeal, until it burst forth, a warm rush of life spreading through his little body.
Loki groaned, stepping back weakly. Bergdis steadied him, while Kára rushed over to the boy. He had regained his natural color, and somehow the feeling of dread about him had disappeared. His mother lunged forward, assessing him with eyes of incredulity. He was warm again and alive, steadily growing stronger as his insides reconstructed.
Loki stepped back, unsure of what happened. There was a sense of closing purpose in his mind and yet he could not understand it.
And what happened next shook him profoundly. The mother walked up to him, kneeling at his feet. She was speaking and yet he could not hear her. His mind was fogged with disbelief and insecurity. She took his hands, kissing them and he could feel her tears hot and searing, a reverence unlike anything he had experienced. The man came to his wife's side and he too was crying, though he attempted to hide it. He knelt too and bowed his head, grateful and humbled.
"You've returned to us what we hold most dear." The woman spoke. "My prince, you've saved him. How can we thank you?"
He was shaking and staring at them with agitation. "I –"
"Forgive me, sire. We owe you our lives, for you have saved his. I am sorry to have doubted…to have –" The boy's father stopped, as a regretful choke erupted.
Healers were pulling them to their feet, bringing them back to the boy's side. And something was growing inside him, a constriction and pressure on his chest.
He stepped back, unable to remain in this closed space, unwilling to accept what had just transpired. His feet moved without him noticing, taking him through the hall and out the ward. There was a garden across the veiled entrance, past the main hall that led all the way into the palace. The space was small and peaceful, overlooking the vastness of the realm. He could see the Bifrost and it seemed small, smaller now compared to this sensation. Suddenly the ocean beneath was looking much too small and yet overwhelming. Only the colors above were settling, mirroring his heart's conflict with strokes of colliding illusions.
He had felt more powerful than ever. Having thought that his magic could only be used for submission, he found it unsettling that he had just used it to save someone, a small boy. What other could not do, he had done. He had brought back his soul from the edge of the shadow world, grasping life in his hands, manipulating it.
He sat on a bench near the balcony's edge, letting out a shallow breath. He looked at his hands, feeling a sweet gratification. He had seen the fear and doubt in the boy's father. He had looked at him with the utmost dismissal, as so many others had done, as some still did. He had been shadowed and beguiled. And it all had changed, so abruptly. He had given them back their world, saved their sole existence. He could not begin to understand what it must feel to be a father, but he could imagine if they wore their heart out on a sleeve, submitting themselves to him in reverence and worship. Thoughts were forming in his head, illusions of the sweetest nature, his vanity reformed and strengthened.
His heart beat with a mad rhythm, recognition close to his soul and purpose strong in his hands.
Having put the boy under his mother's and Bergdis watchful care, Kára walked out, set in finding Loki. He had left, but she was sure he was not gone.
It took her some time but she found him, a solitary figure across the great hall, overlooking the Rainbow Bridge.
She walked slowly, feeling as if she was intruding on something deep and personal. He was still against the soft night breeze. It carried a dull melancholy tune, like buried pain echoing through space. It was subtle and piercing and so alike her own, the one she had forgotten because she had overcome it.
It was radiating from him, strangely. Her body was exhausted but the essence inside her was alert, inspiring the affliction of his soul. It assaulted her senses and Kára was almost knocked back with its power as she approached him.
There was a numbing scream, a song of lament and recklessness. And as she neared him, she could see him. His profile looked serene enough, a deceiving contrast to his soul's cry.
"Loki?" She spoke softly, afraid to break the atmosphere.
He turned and fixed her with conflicted emerald eyes, a slow breath preluding his words. "What did I do?"
His question was complex, and she did not know how to answer. Kára was sure, it asked a million different things and she could only address one of them.
"You saved him." She replied, sitting tentatively at his side. Her eyes were searching and patient and he was not sure he could look at them anymore.
Kára shook her head, confusion in her mind. Of all the things he could've asked, this was not one of them. His inquiry spoke of his own life and its end, the means in between and actions so far taken.
"Because you can." Her words were gentle, as she traced a finger down his hand.
It was the ghost of a touch and yet he felt her more real than ever.
"I had never –" He stopped, brows furrowed in silent contemplation. What did he want to say? He had never used his magic for this purpose, had never thought it capable. And he had never felt as he did. Important, essential, worthy. Hi saw the mother's eyes full of reverence and her husband's full of respect. And he could see more: Asgardians aware of his power, certain of his skill, and eager for his dominion, taking his rightful place.
The darkest shadows of his soul were moving, becoming dense with anticipation and excitement.
Yet something was missing, something small and bright.
Because she understood his pain, even if he did not know it, even if he wanted to hide it. She understood the lost look on his face, the absent gleam in his eyes. He needed more just as she had. But she knew he had not received it. Because it was his pain that she had felt, stronger and more heinous than his usual demeanor expressed.
She needed to touch him, to assure him that he was worthy, that he had done well, that he was everything she…
She took his face in her hands, her slightly trembling hands, and forced him to turn to her. He looked confused, ashamed even and more than a bit lost.
She felt warm on his skin and he almost leaned into her touch, a soothing peace to his crumbling inside. Kára moved her hands, caressing his cheek. Her fingertips grazed his ear and an insidious shiver arose.
His green eyes rose on hers, awaking with a flame of longing, confusing him further. And he seemed so broken, a shattered mirror of unknown reflections staring back, vulnerable and afraid, a shattered child hidden underneath. It was hurting her and it felt like physical pain, unrelenting, pitiless.
But then she spoke, seemingly so far away, with a voice that carried promise and eyes that willed him to understand.
"I'm so proud of you."
And he was lost to her as she was there for him, feeding his desire, nurturing his demise.
IMPORTANT: I have envisioned Kára's war robes as Bastila Shan's robes from KOTOR. A picture of them can be found on my livejournal. Ignore the lightsaber lol, but it looks like hers. It shall be under Kára's Robes.
So finally I updated. Hope you guys enjoyed it. I'm already working on the next chapter, promise! Things are about to get juicy. Wooohooo.
For people without an account or who have the messages disabled: I will reply to your reviews tonight, so be on the lookout for them in my livejournal. I've missed you guys! You have all been amazing, sending me messages of encouragement and nudging me to get on with the chapter. They've all been very very helpful.
Please, please, drop a word or two with your thoughts. I love all your reviews.
Trust me, they make me very happy and they are greatly appreciated and treasured.
Hope you all had a VERY Happy Christmas and I wish you all the very best for this New Year. What are your plans, resolutions, how do you spend Christmas and New Year's Eve?
With much love
PS: Please, excuse the typos. I shall get on to edit as soon as I get back from my cousin's bridal shower.