"I trusted you."
He choked on his blood and reached for her weakly. Sigyn flinched away from him, trembling violently, her eyes bright with tears. She stared at him for a long moment before turning away, leaving him in a pool of his own blood.
Sigyn, he wanted to call. Sigyn, please. This was not what it seemed. Please believe me.
She never returned, taking her place beside Loki (now and forever as it always had been and always would be) and Theoric felt himself fading away.
He died knowing his death would cause worse to befall her-to befall them-and he hated himself for it.
The second he saw her, Theoric knew Sigyn was the one meant for him. He had heard her laugh and turned to see where such an enchanting sound had come from, and he saw her sitting with her friends at the feasting table in Gladsheim. So beautiful was she that he stopped to stare, to admire the way her brown hair cascaded over her bare shoulders and down her back, the way the firelight sparkled in her blue eyes. Her smile was broad and kind. Her purple dress made her seem dramatic and yet delicate at the same time.
He loved her right from the start, just as it always happened in all the old tales of brave warriors and fair maidens. And he knew that if she simply turned to look at him, glance at him once, she would feel the same instant, all consuming love as well. That was the way of things.
"Theoric?" He felt a firm hand on his shoulder and looked away from the beautiful maiden to look at Brandr, who he'd been speaking with. "Are you well, my friend?"
"Yes," Theoric said and even he noticed his own dazed tone. "Tell me, Brandr," he said, motioning to the girl. "Who is that maiden in purple?"
"Lady Sigyn Iwaldidottir," Brandr said, a note of confusion in his voice at the sudden change of topic. "She has not been to court often before now. She is young still, but she is of courting age and her Mother will likely be hoping to see suitors soon."
His heart sang at that news. It was meant to be, Theoric decided. He would marry her, and she would be the proud wife of a Crimson Hawk, and all would be as it should.
He downed the rest of his ale for some courage and handed his empty goblet to Brandr. The other man grinned and slapped Theoric on the shoulder hard, as way of encouragement. Theoric began to make his way towards Sigyn when, seemingly from the shadows, Loki approached her and came to stand at her side. She turned to face him almost immediately, as if she'd sensed him there. Theoric stopped when he saw how her face lit up at seeing the Jotun.
His heart, which just seconds before had been soaring, promptly fell to the pit of his stomach as Sigyn laughed at something Loki said. Loki grinned, then offered her his arm, which she took. They walked off together towards the balconies, leaving Theoric to wonder how Loki had won her affections.
Well, no matter. As much as it hurt to wait, he would. There would be plenty of suitors for her, Theoric thought, and her Mother-if she had any sense-would never allow Loki to be one of them. Not for long. A prince of Asgard he may have been, but he was Jotun as well, and no Aesir girl should be saddled with a Jotun as a husband.
Theoric went to rejoin Brandr, slightly calmed by these thoughts. He could not quite ignore the hatred he felt for Loki that stayed with him the rest of the night, no matter how he tried.
He soon had his chance to talk to her, much to his joy. Theoric found her sitting beneath a tree near the outskirts of Asgard, where the buildings gave way to grass and then the forest. The breeze blew loose strands of hair in her face, but she ignored it in favour of the book in her lap.
Theoric stepped away from his horse and put down his bag of quivers. He had intended to go hunting, but with the sight of Sigyn-by herself and his opportunity obviously laid before him by the Norns themselves-Theoric forgot his plans and made his way towards her.
His shadow fell across her book and she glanced up, eyes narrowed. Theoric smiled for surely this was when she fell in love with him, and to have those eyes upon him sent a thrill through him.
"I beg your pardon," she said after a moment of staring at him. "Is there something you need?"
"No, my lady," Theoric said. "I only came to say hello and perhaps introduce myself, if you will allow."
Sigyn looked him over once, then shifted her book higher up in her lap. "Hello. You're blocking my light."
"Ah, my apologies," Theoric said, and sat down just as Sigyn returned to looking at her book. She rose an eyebrow at him and moved away, just slightly. "I am Theoric Geirrson, of the Crimson Hawks."
"I've heard of you," Sigyn said, shifting. "It is nice to meet you, Theoric."
"The pleasure is all mine, Lady Sigyn," Theoric said, inclining his head towards her.
Her shoulders took on an odd tension and she peered at him closely. "How do you know my name? I've not yet told it to you."
"My friend, Brandr, spoke of you," he said. He moved to close the space between them, frowning when she moved away again. She was acting as if he were something very unpleasant that she wished to be away from, but that could not be. Perhaps she was only trying to play coy. She was in the midst of being courted, after all, and some men reacted well to a woman who did not immediately give herself over. "You are Iwaldi's daughter, aren't you?"
"Yes," Sigyn said, gazing at him. Something flashed across her features and she shifted again, looking away from him as if for a distraction. She was shy, it seemed, and it only endeared him to her more. She glanced over at his horse and then back to him. Ah, perhaps she was thinking about riding back into Asgard with him, choosing to publicly display her favour for him? He would be more than happy to oblige.
"Weren't you going for a hunt?" she asked. "I would hate to keep you."
"If you'll forgive my boldness, you are a distraction too lovely to ignore, my lady," Theoric said, reaching for her hand, intending to take it and kiss it.
Sigyn slammed her book shut and abruptly stood. His hand grasped air instead of her smooth skin. "My apologies," she said, "but I'm afraid this conversation has taken a turn I'm not entirely comfortable with. You do not know me so well as to speak to me in such a manner." Sigyn glared at him before dipping into an almost insultingly short curtsy. "If you'll excuse me, I'm needed back at home." Without waiting for a response, she turned on her heel and left quickly, not even glancing back once.
Theoric stood and watched her go, too shocked to try and stop her. When she had finally disappeared back into the city, he cursed and shook his head. It hadbeen too bold of him to comment on her loveliness and try to kiss her hand. But how often had he been told that girls preferred that sort of daring? Too often. Without that, Theoric was not entirely certain how else to go about things.
He would try again, though, and again until something worked. As little as she likely thought of him now, Theoric would not let that stop him. He would simply have to prove her first impression wrong. Theoric continued on his hunt but he caught nothing, distracted as he was by thoughts of Sigyn.
Theoric saw her once again, shortly after his first disastrous attempt to talk to her, walking with Loki to the ocean. She was laughing again, throwing her head back and laughing so hard she had to stop or else she'd fall down. Theoric frowned, watching the sly one and how he made her laugh. She did not move away from Loki as she had from him. They kept a respectable distance between themselves, as was proper, but every now and then she strayed closer to him so that their arms brushed, or he "accidentally" bumped shoulders with her. After every one of these incidents, they'd glance at each other, smile and then back away, only to start it all again a few minutes later.
It was sickening to watch, this game between them. And yet Theoric found he could not look away. He followed them, staying a ways back so they would not notice. He couldn't hear what they were talking about, only able to hear their laughter. They came to the edge of the city and began making their way to the woods, so close to the place Theoric had first tried to speak to Sigyn. Loki found them a place underneath a tree and, with a grand gesture that made Sigyn smile, laid down a blanket for both of them to share.
That smile and the blanket gave rise to a strange, bitterly hot emotion that flooded through him. This had to be another one of Loki's tricks, surely. What could Sigyn possibly see in him that would make her smile in such a way, or cause that pretty blush to stain her cheeks? Was Loki only using her? Yes, that had to be it. He was using her for something-Theoric did not yet know what-and once he was done, he would cast her aside. Loki did not seem the type to stay true or loyal to anyone except himself.
Forcing a smile for Sigyn's benefit, he hurried up to them. "Your Highness, Lady Sigyn," he called out. They both started and glanced up in surprise. Loki's expression went from confused to a tad unfriendly when he saw Theoric. "What a pleasure to meet you both here."
"Theoric," Sigyn said, more a sigh than anything else. She inclined her head respectfully. "Hello again. Yes, how very coincidental that you've happened to find us." Loki glanced at Sigyn briefly, a rigidness setting into his shoulders as his narrowed eyes looked back to Theoric.
He thinks me a threat? Theoric thought. Good.
"Is there something you need? We're rather busy," Sigyn said, motioning to their supplies.
"Could we speak in private, my lady?" Theoric said, not even sparing Loki a glance.
Sigyn hesitated, shifting almost as if she was uneasy. "As I said, we're rather preoccupied," she said at length.
"It will only take a moment, I swear."
"We're busy," Loki repeated slowly, as if for a child. Theoric immediately bristled at his tone. "I doubt it is more urgent than Lady Sigyn's magic studies, so it can wait until later."
"Magic?" Theroic said, taken so aback that he couldn't focus further on Loki's insults.
"Oh yes," Sigyn said. "Surely you know of my talents, Theoric? I am able to wield magic. Loki and I have been studying together for quite some time now. My apologies," Sigyn said, looking as if she was holding back a smile, "I thought you knew."
Theoric stared for a long moment before slowly saying, "I see." He tried to take in the fact that Sigyn was a witch. Magic was best left to people like Loki, cowards who lurked in shadows and played tricks instead of fighting with honour. "No, I had not known of your talents. Are you studying healing magic?"
Loki let slip a choked laugh that quickly turned into a cough. Sigyn shot him a look and Loki grinned back and oh, he hated how they gazed at each other.
"It's one of my talents, yes," Sigyn said as Loki composed himself.. "But I intend to study every kind of magic I can."
"You... intend to be a sorceress?" Theoric asked slowly.
"And she will be a great one," Loki added, over his mysteriously short bout of coughing. Sigyn smiled shyly as he continued. "You're welcome to stay and watch," he said, though it was obvious he wasn't welcome at all. "Today we'll be studying how to turn one object into a completely different object."
Theoric gave him a dry look. "That sounds interesting."
Loki frowned, clearly displeased that Theoric refused to take the hint, and seemed ready to say something more when Sigyn sighed. "Oh, really," she muttered. She closed her book and set it down before standing. "Yes, Theoric, you may speak with me for a moment." Theoric blinked in surprise, having forgotten his original request after everything he'd learned about her in the past few minutes. "Loki, if you'll excuse us. I'll return shortly."
Loki nodded reluctantly and Theoric felt the Jotun's gaze on him as they walked off. Sigyn led him away from their blanket until they were far enough away that Loki would not be able to hear them.
"What is it you wanted to speak with me about?" Sigyn asked once they'd stopped.
"I wanted to apologize," Theoric said. "I realize that our first meeting was a disaster, and it was my fault. I shouldn't have been so forward. It was rude of me, and I hope you can find it in you to forgive me. And offer me a second chance."
Sigyn studied him for a long moment, arms crossed her chest, before nodding shortly. "I accept your apology." Theoric smiled broadly and started to speak again when Sigyn cut him off. "But I know what your intentions are, Theoric, and I will tell you now: No matter how much you try, I will not accept you as a suitor."
Theoric stared at her. "Beg pardon?"
"You're courting me," Sigyn said. "Or attempting to. It's been rather obvious since that first meeting, when you stopped on your way to a hunt simply to come speak to me."
Theoric hesitated, quickly realizing this was another conversation that was not going to go the way he'd wanted it to. "Do my efforts not please you, my lady?"
"I'm merely warning you to put your efforts elsewhere," Sigyn said. "I can see the sort of man you are, Theoric, and I know that you and I would never work in a marriage. I'm certain some other lady will appreciate you more, so please, go and find her, and leave me be." She paused, tilting her head as if in consideration. "Lofn, for instance. I think she would find you darling."
"Wait," Theoric said, approaching her. She stepped back, suddenly tense and watching him carefully. "How do you know what I am like, my lady? We've barely spoken. Forgive me, but you've given me no chance. This is highly unfair."
"I know what you are like because I saw your expression when you learned of my magic," Sigyn retorted. "You disapprove of it."
"No, I don't-"
Without another word, Sigyn lifted up her hand and in the middle of her palm, a single flame appeared. It wavered in the breeze but held steady as Theoric took a long look at it before stepping back. With a flick of her hand, the flame winked out of existence and Sigyn met his gaze grimly. "That is why I will never marry you." When Theoric didn't answer, she sighed and put a hand on his shoulder. The touch was not romantic at all, but rather a comforting one. A friendly one. He wished she hadn't touched him at all. "You will make a fine husband for someone, Theoric. I'm certain of it. However, that person cannot be me."
She stepped around him and began making her way back to Loki. "Good luck to you in whoever you court next, Theoric. All the best to you and the woman you choose."
Theoric was about to stop her when he paused and let his hand fall back to his side. He watched her return to Loki, who was standing with his arms crossed over his chest. Theoric knew Loki was staring at him, so he turned and walked the other way, leaving them to their studying.
You have won, Loki.
But then, that would have implied that both sides stood an equal chance in the first place. And Theoric knew now that that had never been the way of it.
He did as she asked and never approached her again. What else could he do, in the face of such adamant refusal to even speak with him? Well, that was not entirely true. Sigyn still spoke with him at times when it was proper or polite to, and sometimes she even relaxed around him. But there was always a subtle threat, warning him not to try anything. And so he didn't.
She had plenty of suitors after him, Theoric noticed, some lasting longer than others. She never accepted their proposals, if there were any. The only one who stayed by her side through it all was Loki, her one constant. Rumours had begun to spread about them, whispers making their way through the crowds whenever they were seen together. They were lovers, which he could not stomach listening to. That Loki had bewitched her in some way, which he found all too possible. And then there was the rumour that caused him to go out often on hunts and missions, just to get away from it: That Loki was courting her and she would one day accept his proposal. That they were truly and honestly in love with each other.
Their companionship lasted far longer than anyone-especially Theoric-had thought possible. Their names had become bound together. Loki and Sigyn, always with each other. If one showed up, the other was likely to follow not too long after, and they were always drawn to each other by some force invisible to the rest.
It made his blood boil. But Theoric left her alone, as she'd asked, and merely clenched his fists and looked away when he saw her smiling at the Jotun. There would come a time when Loki turned on her, Theoric knew. When their bond-he grudgingly admitted it could be called such-was severed by Loki's hand. It would come, one day, of that he was certain.
And then came the day Loki's mouth was sewn shut, and everything changed.
Sigyn had fought for Loki, from the moment Thor burst into the hall and slammed Loki into the ground, to the moment when Brokk tied the thread off in Loki's mouth. She had struggled and kicked and bitten his hand, all for Loki. She had screamed at them in horror, tears in her eyes, asking them how they could have done such a thing. And then she had left them, rushing after Loki who had run away, his blood leaving a trail on the floor.
He had spent the day after the sewing looking for her, hoping to find her well and not injured by Loki's hand. Who knew what the Jotun would do in such a pained, angered state? They were unpredictable creatures. And while Sigyn had fought for him with tooth and nail, and while Brokk had the misfortune of crossing her the morning after the sewing, he was not entirely convinced of Loki's good intent towards her. She'd done so much for him and yet, Theoric had never seen Loki do anything in return. Would he have fought for Sigyn as she'd done for him?
Theoric didn't think so. Loki had never been one for heroics.
Sigyn was seen occasionally, going to the kitchens and taking food back to Loki like a well trained servant. She spoke to no one, sought no one out, and no one-save for Theoric and her parents-went after her. He managed to catch her one day, returning from the kitchens. He had called her name and she had paused, just briefly, before continuing on her way. He caught up to her, trying to get a good look at her face, see if she was unharmed.
"Lady Sigyn," he said, "your parents are worried for you. You must go and see them." It was the truth. They had come to Gladsheim often, asking after their daughter, and left each time more worried than they'd been before.
"I must do nothing," Sigyn said, her voice harsh. "They should know I am... well, and unharmed," she said. "Despite the best efforts of everyone here."
"No one has tried to harm you, my lady."
She stopped dead then and turned to look at him, her eyes narrowed, fierce in her anger. "No? Perhaps not in the way you think of. Not with their swords or fists or hammers, but with needle and thread, with me being forced to watch while someone I love more than anything in the Nine is tortured by the people meant to protect him, by his own family." Her voice never raised, not even a little, and that was the worst part of all. It was far more terrifying than it would have been if she'd begun yelling and screaming. "And now I must watch him try to come back from that betrayal, all while wondering if he ever will. So don't you dare tell me no one has tried to harm me," Sigyn said. "For they have, quite successfully."
With that she turned and began walking again, fingers white as she gripped the plates. Theoric went after her.
"No," she exclaimed, turning suddenly so that he nearly ran into her. "Whatever it is you're about to say, no. You held me back and made me watch while Thor and Brokk sewed Loki's mouth shut. You held me so tightly your fingers left bruises on my arms. You have lost any right to speak to me. I don't care what it is you have to say."
"I was only trying to protect you. The Allfather and Thor-"
"I do not fear them," Sigyn said. "For the people I love, I would stand up to them again and again if need be. And what is more, Theoric Geirrson, I do not need your protection."
"And what would you have done?" Theoric asked, his voice rising, echoing off the stone walls. "Would you have taken up your magic against them? A healer against the Thunderer and the Allfather? Sigyn, think clearly. They would have done worse to you for fighting against them. I saved you from that-"
"I don't need you to be my hero, Theoric," Sigyn said. "And if it had come to that, yes, this healer would have gone up against them both for Loki. Should I have done nothing, then? Stood by and laughed as the rest of you had?"
"I didn't laugh."
A sudden, tense silence fell between them. Sigyn stared at him and he stared at her and neither of them moved. Theoric watched as Sigyn took in what he'd said, disbelief warring with the tears in her eyes.
"I didn't laugh, Sigyn. I swear to you."
He didn't share the reason why he hadn't laughed. Loki had gotten what he deserved, Theoric did not doubt that. He had to learn that he could not make a mockery out of everything.
But Sigyn's screams would haunt him for the rest of his life. The way she looked now, dirtied and frenzied and so close to breaking down, would be what he thought of instead of her brilliant smile or her kindness. He did not laugh because he had watched someone he loved be hurt in the most excruciating way and he had done all he could to stop it, and in the end it hadn't been enough.
Sigyn stepped away from him and shook herself, just slightly. "I need to go," she said quietly. "Loki, he-we need our breakfast, and-"
Theoric nodded and stepped back as well, giving her the space she needed. "I'll send word to your parents that you're well."
"Thank you," Sigyn said, and Theoric knew she meant for more than just playing messenger. "Thank you, Theoric. Truly." She left him then and he watched until she turned a corner.
He didn't see her again for a long time, for shortly after that, Loki and Sigyn disappeared. They had left Asgard, giving no hint or clue as to where they were going, and no one heard from them.
Quietly, Theoric mourned for her.
Time passed, and life continued on without the Jotun prince and Sigyn. Their disappearance had not caused much of a stir past a few people cheering that Loki was gone from Asgard, hopefully for good, though it was a shame that Sigyn had gone with him. Her parents were distraught and Iwaldi often went out in search of them, but every time he returned alone, head bent and shoulders slumped in defeat.
And then, somehow, the tide changed. Not very fast, as these things happen slowly, but it happened. The rumours that had followed Loki and Sigyn during their time in Asgard had not left with them. They'd only grown stronger. It started out as nothing but a few murmurings, spoken between bent heads and in hushed voices, meant only for the one speaking it and the one hearing it. And then it caught on, like fire.
It became a cacophony, the voices and rumours. Sigyn had not run away with Loki at all, not in horror of what had happened or repulsion of Asgard. She had been taken by Loki as revenge for what had happened. Just as he'd turned Sif's hair golden hair to black in revenge, he'd taken an innocent girl to further torment the people of Asgard for their justice.
Theoric was no longer entirely certain he believed these rumours. Not like he had once.
"Please, Allfather," Iwaldi said, kneeling before Odin one day, some time after Loki and Sigyn had disappeared. "You must send someone to save our daughter. Loki has taken her captive, I know it. She would not leave without saying a word."
"We do not know for certain that Loki took her by force," Odin said. His voice was calm, a stark contrast to the desperation and pleading in Iwaldi's. "They have always been close. She may have gone with him willingly."
"Please," Eydis insisted. "At least send someone with my husband to search for her. He cannot do it alone. You would not even have to promise to bring her back. We only want to make certain she's safe and see why she left without a goodbye."
Odin considered it for a long moment, then looked towards Theoric. "I will send with you two men," Odin said at length. "Theoric and Brandr, of the Crimson Hawks."
He could have laughed. Of all the people the Allfather could have chosen, it would be him, wouldn't it? He and Brandr shared a look before going up to the Allfather and kneeling.
Of course he accepted. What else could he do, when the Allfather asked it of him?
They began their search before dawn the next day. "This time," Iwaldi said, face set in determination as he checked their supplies, "we shall not return until I've seen my daughter."
Theoric thought he should have felt far more excited about this venture than he really did. He was possibly rescuing the girl he'd loved from afar for quite some time from the man who would only bring her shame. That was a good, noble cause. If that had been what the circumstances were, which he now knew wasn't quite the truth. Instead of bounding through the hills and forests, he trudged, his legs and heart heavy with doubt, his steps leaden. Instead of feeling hopeful and triumphant, his uncertainty kept him up at night, made him toss and turn more than the rocks digging into his back did.
"My friend," Brandr said quietly, sitting next to Theoric one night while Iwaldi was off gathering firewood. "Are you well?"
They'd been searching for weeks and had not found a trace of the missing sorcerers. Theoric stared off into the distance, his gaze unfocused, chin resting on clasped fingers. The woods were quiet around them, night falling fast. The only thing breaking the stillness was the occasional breeze, rustling the leaves and bushes and making Theoric on edge. It sounded too much like something was sneaking up on them during those times. Alfheim often had that effect on him. The Elves woods were far too peaceful.
"No," he answered at last. "I am not. I feel as if this entire mission is a lost cause."
"Why do you say that? We will find them, eventually. Iwaldi is set upon it."
Theoric glanced around to make sure the elder man was still gone before saying, "His devotion is moving, but I think Lady Sigyn went of her own free will. Yes, it was suspicious that she didn't leave any word of her departure, but..."
"But?" Brandr prompted when Theoric had fallen silent again.
"But I cannot help thinking that, if she truly hadn't wanted to go, she wouldn't have."
Brandr shrugged one shoulder, cleaning off the knife he'd used to skin their dinner. "She could wield magic, true," he said. "Was she powerful enough to stop Loki from bewitching her? It's always been suspected he wanted her for nothing but her power." When Theoric didn't answer, Brandr continued. "Though she was devoted to him, almost as if she were his wife already. She bit your hand during the sewing; clearly she was willing to do anything for him, as Brokk found out," he said, his voice grim. "He may use that as well. Perhaps she did go willingly, but Loki's only using her for his own gains."
"Perhaps," Theoric said. "Or perhaps she went willingly and Loki has no ill will towards her." It felt strange to defend Loki, left an unsettled feeling in his middle, but it was starting to become a realistic possibility the more Theoric thought about it. Perhaps in each other, Loki and Sigyn had found something that the rest of them simply couldn't see. He shook his head and swallowed thickly in an attempt to get rid of the bitter taste that thought left in the back of his throat. It seemed unlikely that the Jotun had any good intent towards her. It was easier to believe that she'd been spirited away.
"We'll know soon enough," Brandr said, putting a hand on Theoric's shoulder. "Maybe you'll be the one to rescue her and she'll marry you," he said with a laugh.
Theoric managed a smile and shook his head. "I have no wish to marry her anymore."
"Do you not?" Brandr said lightly. "When she was still in Asgard, people noticed your attempts to court her."
Theoric sighed and rephrased his statement. "I still hold feelings for her, yes, but I have no wish to marry her. And she made her feelings on the matter pefectly clear."
"I'm sorry, then," Brandr said after a long pause. "I think you would have been good together."
No, Theoric thought, we would not have.
Before Theoric could respond, something came crashing through the bushes behind him. Both he and Brandr whipped around, their swords drawn, muscles tense.
A figure appeared in the fading light, tall and familiar. "I found her," Iwaldi said, breathless. His face was red from running and his shoulders heaved as he panted. He did not even notice that their swords were out.
"You found her?" Theoric said, hope leaping into his heart.
"Yes," Iwaldi said. "There is no time to explain. We must hurry. I will not lose her again."
They put their swords away as Iwaldi turned and began running again. The younger men scrambled for their belongings and followed after him, deeper into the woods. Theoric faltered only once in his path, when a shudder crept down his spine and chilled him all over, though he could not know why. Shaking it off, he hurried after Iwaldi and Brandr before he lost them.
Over the woods, night fell. Beams of moonlight filtered in through small openings in the leaves, some shining on the glass that hung from the branches of the tree, leaving a spectrum of spots on the ground. It was eerily silent, the sound of a twig snapping underneath a man's boot seemingly as loud as thunder. The air was still, no breeze to break the quiet, no animals to run underneath a bush and rustle the leaves in the silence.
Theoric shifted and glanced over his shoulder, certain someone was following him. Brandr and Iwaldi were a few paces ahead of him, and he could see the tension in their shoulders as well. Iwaldi had his sword out, and Brandr kept his hand near his. Theoric rested his hand on the hilt, eyes roaming over the dark forest for the slightest movement.
Then, slowly, there came the smell of wood burning. In a break in the trees he could see the warm glow of a fire and then-
A laugh broke the silence, ringing out through the trees, and Theoric's heart leapt at the sound. It was her.
Iwaldi broke into a run before Brandr or Theoric could stop him, his steps landing loud and hard on the ground. They followed close behind until they broke into a clearing.
What happened next blurred before Theoric's eyes. He saw Loki scramble to his feet and stand protectively in front of Sigyn, a look of alarm on his face before a burst of raw energy and magic hit Iwaldi, sending him flying back into a tree. Brandr yelled and drew out his sword, and distantly Theoric heard Sigyn yell as she too stood up. Brandr swung his sword to Loki, who just barely dodged, knocking Sigyn back.
"Sigyn, back to the house!"
"Sigyn!" Theoric yelled, and she turned to look at him, eyes wide and frightened.
Time seemed to stand still. They looked at each other, Theoric no longer seeing the battle between Brandr and Loki, only able to see her. All this time, he thought, and I'm still in love with her.
And then Sigyn's expression cleared into one of horrified realization, then anger. All too quickly Theoric realized what this looked like to her. Before he could say anything she threw her hand up and her magic struck him with more force than Mjolnir itself. He felt himself flying backwards, the world blurring around him, and he landed hard on the ground with a pained grunt. His mind dazed for a moment as he fought to get the air back into his lungs, but every nerve in his body tensed as he heard an agonized yell from someone and a scream-
Sigyn was screaming.
Theoric sat up immediately and forced himself to ignore the dizziness that washed over him. It took him a second to focus on the fight, but then he saw all too clearly how Loki's blood stained the grass, almost black in the firelight. It dripped from Brandr's sword and from the wound in Loki's side. Sigyn stared in disbelief as Loki fell to one knee on the ground, a hand on his side in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding.
Slowly, she looked up at Brandr. Her expression was unreadable. Then, with quick, decisive steps, she closed the distance between them and laid a hand on his shoulder. It looked like so gentle a touch, from where Theoric knelt. Then Brandr's eyes widened in agony as his body began twitching and seizing underneath her hand, his sword falling from his grip. Not a sound escaped from him, and somehow that was worse than if he'd been screaming.
Brandr fell to the ground and continued seizing until, finally, he went still.
Healing magic, Theoric remembered hearing once, can work in reverse as well. What an odd thing to remember as he stared at his friend's dead body.
"Sigyn," Theoric heard Loki groan, "Sigyn!"
She started and then turned around, quickly going to her knees. She said something to him and laid him down, then paused and glanced up. Their eyes met again and they stared at each other before he heard Iwaldi yell.
"You, Jotun! What have you done to Sigyn?" he yelled, approaching them.
"Stay away, Father," Sigyn warned. "Please, let me heal him and then we-we can talk-"
"Sigyn," Iwaldi said. "You're not in your right mind. Loki, he's done something to you." He glanced briefly to Brandr's body, keeping a good ways from it. "You would never have done something like that before. It's him."
"He attacked us," Sigyn said.
"Loki attacked first!"
"He thought you were bandits!" Sigyn seemed to be ready to say more, then pursed her lips into a thin line. She turned her back on Iwaldi, ignoring him in favour of Loki. She put a hand on Loki's forehead and the love Theoric saw in her gaze broke his heart. Before Sigyn could heal Loki, Iwaldi came forward and grabbed her roughly by her nightdress. He would not dare touch her skin, but surely... surely Sigyn wouldn't kill her own Father. Would she?
Theoric glanced down to Brandr's body again and shuddered. He was no longer certain. No, he wascertain. Loki had her in a spell. The Sigyn he knew, the one he'd seen laughing at the feasting halls and smiling at children and dancing at festivals, flowers in her hair... she would not have done that. She would not have killed someone in so horrific a manner. She would not have attacked Brokk and spelled him so that his jaw wouldn't open, effectively sewing his own mouth shut. Theoric only knew one person as twisted as that, and he lay on the ground bleeding out while Sigyn was thrown aside, leaving him vulnerable for Iwaldi to attack.
Theoric stood and, gripping his sword, made to help the older man.
What happened next came quickly. Loki growled and sent another wave of magic, throwing Iwaldi back again. Theoric didn't see what happened to him, only knew that the older man did not come back into the battle afterwards. Sigyn was slowly coming to her feet, and Theoric gripped the hilt of his sword tighter in his hands as he ran for Loki. The Jotun caught sight of him and snarled, trying to get to his feet, trying to crawl away, but he had more wounds than Theoric had originally realized. Brandr's sword had found its mark more than once on Loki's bare torso.
Theoric intended to only strike once, right in Loki's heart. Then his spell over Sigyn would end.
He did not see Sigyn approaching, only saw a blur of brown and white out of the corner of his eye. And then something struck him in the chest, hard, causing him to slip and fall onto his back. Pain exploded throughout his body and he gasped, but that made it worse, made his skin constrict against something in his chest, made it scratch against the bone of his ribs-
Theoric looked down to see the hilt of Brandr's knife sticking out of his chest, just above his heart. And above him stood Sigyn, looking down at him with utter hatred in her eyes.
"What do you see in her?" He'd asked Loki once, during one of the rare times he'd been able to speak to the Jotun.
He didn't even need to specify who he was talking about. Loki knew. Loki knew and he looked at Theoric in contemplation as if wondering if he should bother to answer. And then, finally, he said one simple word. "Everything."
It had confused him at the time. Now Theoric knew what Loki saw. He saw the good, yes, the kindness and compassion and love. But he'd also seen the darkness, something Theoric was never able to see himself. He saw it now as she stood over him, triumphant, blood staining her white nightdress.
She knelt down and pulled the knife out, her eyes never leaving his. "I trusted you," she said quietly, her voice breaking just a little. "I trustedyou."
Blood welled up in his throat, in his mouth, and he found he could not answer her. He wanted to tell her this hadn't been what she'd thought. He hadn't come to steal her away from Loki. He'd only come because the Allfather had ordered him to, so Iwaldi would know she was safe, so that he would know she was well.
He tried to speak her name, but only succeeded in causing the blood to bubble and trickle out of his mouth. He reached for her weakly and Sigyn flinched away, tears in her eyes. She stood and even with his vision blurring, he could see the tremble in her hands.
Sigyn turned and left him staring up at the stars that were slowly disappearing in the morning light. Theoric closed his eyes and faded with them.