Ok my little munchkins, I'm back. To keep it short, I had to take a hiatus after moving into my own place with the boyfriend and being the victims of a home invasion that left us both without computers until the insurance money cleared. So, after long adieu, here's chapter four!

Chapter Four: How Old is Your Soul?

The pitch black darkness that she could see was imposing, and it frightened her to the core. Her eyes refused to open, refused to move under her lids, and with the taste of death on her tongue, Amalthia had the overwhelming feeling of dying. She didn't feel the beating of her heart, couldn't hear herself breathing, felt no sensation of clothes on her body. She was empty, and all she wanted to do was

cry.

~..~

Thor had been minding his own business, strolling through the halls of Valhalla with a lovely maiden on one arm and his hammer in the other, when he felt the chill of winter creep into his bones. He shivered, utterly perplexed at the severity of the cold in what was a very pleasant spring day. The woman on his arm was shivering, and he wrapped a bulking arm around her as they stopped their wanderings. Before he could ask anything, remark dully about the change in weather, Loki stormed past him, a breeze of freezing air following him.

"Brother? What hast thou so upset?" Loki spared him not a glance, normally blue eyes a shade of frightening green that glared at the space in front of him in a murderous rage.

"Ready thy hammer, brother." His voice was deeper than normal and practically dripped with venom, a rare occurrence even for the silver tongued prince. Thor left the lady on his arm with an apology, promising beautiful furs for having to leave so suddenly before jogging to catch up with his seething brother. He didn't question the call for battle considering he'd been itching for a fight for days, but he wondered silently why his little brother, who normally cringes at the sight of death, would be so enraged to ask him for aid.

~..~

Jorry hadn't moved since his father had stormed out of the room, leaving him with the kindly nurse and an unconscious Amalthia. He'd accepted the chair that the nurse, whom told him to call her Nana, and had seated himself by the bed. His hand found his way into her limp one, and his keen eyes watched as her chest barely rose and fell with her shallow breaths.

His eyes became unfocused as his mind ran circles about itself, thinking of all the outcomes and possibilities, analyzing the information and deducing conclusions. Clearly it had to be the fault of her tyrannical sister; who else would want her dead, considering that his father wasn't very popular with Aesir women. That only left Arameth, and from what he'd learned from Amalthia her sister had no qualms about killing people that got in her way.

He didn't notice at first when her breathing became a little deeper, her fingers twitching in his hold and her eyelids fluttering. It took him a minute to register that she was possibly waking up, and his first thought was to call for someone. Jorry's voice caught in his throat when she opened her eyes, their honey shade dull and seemingly lifeless. Her lips parted, and she tried to say something but the dryness of her throat prevented any sound coming out. Jorry regained some sense and called for Nana, who was at his side in an instant.

~..~

Sun shone through the large windows in the throne hall, casting their warming rays on Frigga and Odin as they sat in their gold gilded chairs, hands loosely clasped together as they enjoyed the rare moment ll of silence. It was broken shortly by the inevitable entrance of Loki and Thor, and Frigga would have sighed at the very familiar interruption if it wasn't for the unmistakable mask of rage that her youngest son wore. She was up and out of her chair in less than a second, her elegant form gliding down the stairs to meet her sons at the bottom.

"My son, why-"

"Where is she?" The cracking voice of Loki, so full of emotion and passion, almost broke her heart. Taking his face in her hands much as she had done when he was a small child she gazed into the unfamiliar green of his eyes.

"Who, Loki?" Tears filled his eyes, his teeth set so tightly together they were sure to crack.

He retold the story, as much as he could with his jaw so tight with anger, pushing through the gasps of his mother and the tell tale sound of Thor's hand tightening on his hammer to finish without a tear falling down his face. By the end, he was shaking with emotion, and his mother had tears streaked across her skin.

"You love her, don't you my dear?" She clicked her tongue in annoyance, more with herself than her son. "We should never have forced a woman upon you. We should have let you choose for yourself." Odin came up behind his wife, waiting for an answer. His one eye was dark and shinning at seeing this unusual display from his son.

"With my life." A resolute tone invaded his voice, and Odin moved his wife aside to face his son.

"Then this will not stand. We are on good standing with Alfheim, and if you wish to marry one princess over the other, we see no difference." Loki looked up into the face of his father, eyes shifting to a blue green that was a little more pleasant to look at.

"Thank you, father." Thor was behind him, hammer held tightly in one hand, the other gripping the shoulder of his brother. A rare look of concentration adorned his tanned face, before he smiled a smile of grim absolution.

"Come, let us deal with the rat in Valhalla."

~..~

The light hurt her eyes, and when she finally adjusted to the bright room she was in, the sight startled her. An elderly woman, who gave off the magic of an elf, was hovering over her with a glass of water in one hand. Jorry was behind her with a blank expression that mimicked the one his father wore most of the time. The woman leaned down, pressing the cool glass to her parched lips and Amalthia wasted no time sucking the liquid down fervently. The chilled water felt like heaven on her scorched tongue, and she winced as it flowed over and into the now noticeable crater inside her mouth. When the glass had run dry it was pulled from her lips, replaced shortly with soft hands of the woman.

"If it does not hurt you, pull your tongue out so I can see, deary." Amalthia tried to comply but the pain of moving the large muscle in her mouth caused her to shut her eyes tightly, the feeling of her tongue quivering with effort making her vision swim. Just as she was about to pull it back into her mouth, she felt fingers graze along her tongue, hot and searing pain dancing along her nerves for a breif moment before a spark of magic set in her teeth and the wound was covered in the soothing embrace of the woman's healing spell. Amalthia could feel the muscle twitch and regrow, but the pain of earlier never returned, and after a few minutes the fingers were removed, the one substantial hole in her mouth now gone.

"There you are, all better." Amalthia opened her eyes to look at the woman that was now busying herself with something next to her bed. She spotted Jorry near the foot of the white sheets and gave him her best smile, which he returned with earnest. She slowly sat up, feeling the woman shift and prop up the pillows for her. Jorry came up and sat next to her in a little wooden chair, one of his hands coming up to rest on top of hers.

"Father was sure you were dead." His voice shook a little, and she squeezed his hand gently. "He took off in a murderous rage, intent on finding Grandmother and Grandfather so they could deal out punishment for your sister." Amalthia sighed.

"I truly never wanted to wish her harm, but if it was she who indeed poisoned me, then I guess it leaves me no choice." She looked towards the door, feeling many emotions so thoroughly muddled together it was hard to choose one. She was angry at her sister, sad that she might end up just like her mother, fearful of what lie in the future, and happy that the man she loved would care about her so much as to forsake the woman he was supposed to marry because of her.

"She deserves far worse than what they will give her." She turned back to Jorry, who was staring at her intently with his slitted eyes. "Banishment and ridicule is most likely the worst of it."

"Yes but to her, loss of face is the worst kind of punishment." Jorry gave a crooked smirk, reminding her so much of his father that it almost hurt.

They sat there for an hour or so before Nana came back. She informed them of the public announcement that was commencing, and that Amalthia should be in attendance. Jorry helped her out of the bed, even when Amalthia protested softly that she didn't need help. With a good wish and farewell from Nana they hurried off to the dining and throne hall, where almost all of Asgard was gathered. There stood Odin and Frigga in front of their thrones, with Thor and Loki by their sides. Amalthia noticed his eyes scanning the room, and she drug Jorry to the side where they stood in line with his vision. When their eyes met, she could see him relax and he even gave a very soft smile before putting on a face of determination.

"People of Asgard!" Odin's booming voice quickly quieted the room. "As many of you know, your Queen and I had sent for a Princess of Alfheimr in an attempt to inspire your youngest Prince into marriage." He glanced at Loki, who gave him a slight scowl that had the crown snickering. The whole kingdom had watched Loki and Thor grow up, so these antics were as normal to them as their own daily lives. "But alas, that was not to be the case. Along with this princess came her sister, whom in her lands was not but a maid, in these glorious lands her title changed to Princess." Odin's eye fell on Amalthia, who wore a look of awe and inspiration on her face. "It was this shadowed princess that this morning was poisoned," a gasp from the crowd. "by none other than her own sister." At this point the whispers started, and two guards drug out a kicking Arameth from a side hall. All went silent, and from every corner of the room Arameth's voice rung out.

"These lies! This slander! How can you call yourselves gods and yet torment a noble such as myself to this-this- PUBLIC ridicule!" From the back, Amalthia could see the hate in the eyes of her sister, the way her hair was frazzled and messy, so unlike her sister that it almost brought a tear to her eyes. Frigga stepped forward towards the struggling Princess.

"Princess Arameth, it is with no grievance that we banish you from Asgard, and bid you return to Alfheimr this very day." Arameth opened her mouth to retaliate, but she was just as quickly drug away again, yelling curses that should not have come out of a lady's mouth. Frigga turned towards her people. "From this day forth, let the Lady Amalthia, once scorned in her kingdom, be welcomed into Asgard as a Princess, and let it be known that our son, Prince Loki, has begun the courting rituals with her." Frigga extended her hand towards Amalthia, and the crowd parted, all eyes shifting towards her. Slightly flustered, and still overcome with emotion from her sister's appearance, Amalthia took as graceful of steps as she could to the steps of the thrones. Locking eyes with Loki, her heart calmed some, and she was able to accept the hand of Frigga with a grace and reverence that befitted her new title. Her rightful title. She curtsied to Frigga and Odin, who nodded in turn. The crowd cheered as Loki and Amalthia clasped hands and Frigga stepped back, letting the two lovers have their moment. Thor stepped forward and surrounded the two in a hug, raising his head to face the crowd.

"And now, we feast!" Thor's voice was just as loud as his father's and with a roar and applause from the crowd, the tables were brought out and the people shuffled to the seats and benches that they were familiar to, being as feasts were very common in Asgard. Amalthia was at a complete loss, never having such a grand and raucous crowd spread before her before. Loki sensed her unease, and gave her hand a squeeze.

"Love, fear not, our people are kind and even when they stink of wine and beer, they hold the same respect for their nobles as when they were mostly sober." Amalthia laughed, and didn't object again when Loki grabbed her around the waist and literally swept her off her feet and half carried her to their table.

~TO BE CONTINUED~

Oh sweet merciful lord beans, I'm so tired. After this, I still have a whole story to start, which I may or may not post on here, but at least it will get the hell out of my head. Review please, or I'll hunt you down and kiss you until you beg me to stop!

Love and Kisses,

~N.