Kenna padded down the quiet hallways, ever mindful of the eyes that could be hidden by darkened corridors and alcoves. Tonight of all nights she must not let herself be seen. She'd worked too hard, had given up too much to fail now. Her heart pounded almost painfully in her chest as she realized that she still had more to give before getting what she'd plotted toward. After this night, she would be free of Fraener, free of her betrothal to that cruel man that took pleasure in her pain. She would not spend an eternity under his yoke but first, she needed to pay the final price for her deliverance. From the time of the moon's zenith, to the first light of dawn, she would belong to another. She would give him the only payment she had to give.
The shining, golden city of Asgard inspired all travelers with its majesty and splendor, all travelers but one. Kenna had walked through the gates and had seen none of that. All she saw was her last stop before her eternity in ownership and hopelessness. Try as she might, she couldn't even take pleasure in her final moments of freedom. She had looked forward to these months of training with the best healers of Asgard from the moment she first tied a bandage around her doll's ripped leg as a child. Healing is all she ever wanted to do, had trained tirelessly for, only to have it all come to an abrupt end at the announcement of her betrothal. Her intended had scoffed at her 'unnecessary accomplishment' and announced that no wife of his would scurry among the sick and the wounded. Her place was to take care of him and him alone. In three months time, she would belong to that man and each passing day took some of the life out of her step and some of the light from her eyes.
She spent her days immersed in tutelage and study, trying to forget her fate for as long as she could, resigned to her desolate future. That was until one day, as she sat in the library of herbal lore, surrounded by piles of beautiful books, that she overheard excited, gossiping whispers.
"Did you hear what happened to Lord Bjorn?" Whispered one.
"Something of interest I hope." Stated a bored voice, receiving a volley of giggles from the first before the answer came.
"It seems someone placed a number of strange little creatures in his private pools." The first one whispered.
"Pray do tell." The second now sounded interested and amused.
"They were disgusting little things that floated about the water but couldn't be seen due to their clear bodies. Lord Bjorn dove into his pools only to be coated in the viscous like little things."
"How revolting." The second laughed.
"Not only that, but they apparently have long, threadlike tentacles that stink quite badly. I hear he is covered in red welts from the tip of his nose all the way to his toes. It's said that one wrapped rather intimately around…"
"This is too much." The second was now having a hard time containing some rather undignified snorts.
"I saw him walking rather stiffly toward the Great Hall this morning. It seems he knows who did such a thing against his person."
"The Great Hall? To see the All Father?"
"You know what that means?" The first asked conspiratorially.
"It seems there's been some masterful mischief. Let us go tell Pyri."
"Who do you think told me?"
They laughed but headed off all the same. Kenna listened to the entire tale but with far less humor than the gossips. Instead, she focused on the description of the creatures that had been placed in the gentleman's pools. They sounded familiar and with them, her mind started to form a silly little idea. The described creatures were not something of Asgard, that she knew. As an apprentice of the healing arts, she was well versed in all of the flora and fauna of the realm. She sat in silence for many moments before standing suddenly and heading off for a different wing of the great library. She scurried down the halls to the catalogue of realms and into the section clearly marked Midgard. She opened and closed drawer after drawer, searching for the file she knew had to be there. Finally, she saw what she was looking for.
Aquatic Life of Midgard
She memorized its location from the file card and then headed on her way. Several flights of stairs and one ladder later, she pulled a large tome from its resting place. If it hadn't been so cumbersome, she would have scanned its pages there. Instead, she stepped down the ladder as quickly as she could before plopping down in a very un-lady like manner onto the floor and began scanning the pages. She knew she was right but she needed confirmation. Page after page she saw drawings of shellfish, worms, fish and every other creature that Midgard called its own until finally she found it. An entire section devoted to the class of creatures called jellyfish. Many were clear of body and many of those delivered a noxious substance to the flesh of anyone who touched their non-threatening looking tentacles.
The idea that started the moment she heard of the jellyfish slowly formed in her mind. The idea was absurd but still it persisted. Someone had gone to Midgard, collected a large number of jellyfish and then placed them in Lord Bjorn's pools. Traveling to Midgard would have required the use of the bifrost, which would mean that the gatekeeper would have had to allow passage. He was not known for his jovial spirit or for pranks. He would not have allowed such a thing to happen but there was someone known for causing such mischief and the gossips in the library had all but said his name. If he could travel to Midgard without anyone knowing…
The idea continued to form as she replaced the book on its shelf. How many times since the announcement of her betrothal had she daydreamed of running away? The daydream always ended the same way when she realized that there was nowhere to which she could run. Fraener would find her but what if she could run somewhere he would never look, could never look? If one person could go to Midgard undetected, then maybe that one person could take her there and leave her there. The idea, as ridiculous as it seemed, gave her the first glimpse of hope into a future of freedom.
"LOKI!" Odin bellowed.
The younger son cringed slightly but the small smirk never completely left his lips.
"You are an Odinson and no longer a child. Why must you continue in such ways as though you were?"
"No. I will have none of your excuses or apologies. I will have a simple answer, one you cannot twist. One word is all I require. Did you or did you not place those things in Bjorn's pools?"
The smirk left Loki's lips. Leave it to his father to take away his natural means of defense. There wasn't even any evidence that he was the wrongdoer but everyone always assumed as much. Of course just happened to be the perpetrator in this instance… and most others, but he still did not appreciate the immediate assumption. He sighed slightly and then answered.
"You will apologize to him at once."
"I will not. The man is insufferable. He deserved far worse for his slight against me." This would not do. He, Loki Odinson, would not apologize to the likes of that man.
"I do not care what imagined slight he committed against you. You will apologize to him today or you will apologize to him in the Great Hall that I will fill the citizens of Asgard. Do you understand me?" His father was not quite yelling but he was very nearly. Loki stiffened, his features hardening.
"Of course Father. I'll give him my apologies today." Loki begrudgingly acquiesced through clenched teeth.
"Good. Let us move beyond this then. You are dismissed my son." With that, Loki spun on his heal and exited the Great Hall. No sooner had he stepped beyond its massive doors, then a strong hand from an even stronger arm smacked his shoulder, taking a firm grip. After all these years, he should be used to his brother's manner of greeting but it still had the effect of throwing him off balance.
"Brother!" Thor greeted as they continued down the hall together. "I do hope Father wasn't too harsh this time?"
"No more than any other." He replied tersely.
"Have you seen him? Bjorn I mean."
"No, I have not." The moment his brother began laughing, he felt some of the tension leave his person.
"He looks horrendous." Thor chortled. "Wherever did you find those ghastly little things?" Loki smiled for the first time since being summoned to the Great Hall. At least his brother still appreciated his penchant for mischief, not that their father ever had.
"And tell you my secrets brother? You know me better than that." Thor just laughed that infectious mirth of his, pulling on the hand still clasped around his brother's shoulder and crushing their sides together for a moment before releasing him.
"That I do brother. I also know our father. Go to your business with the red stripped man and then join us for a bit of sparring to forget this trouble." Loki's mood darkened at the mention of his task but he straightened his stance and lifted his head.
"I'll join you shortly." At this his brother just smiled and headed toward the training grounds, eager to start the day. Loki watched him go for a moment before turning toward the grim task he'd been forced to endure, all the while thinking of the next, far more Machiavellian machination for the man who continued to slight him. If running to his father Odin and tattling on him was not a slight, he truly didn't know what one was.