Sif had not expected the amount of attention and concern she seemed to have gained ever since returning from Midgard with Thor. A great deal of time had passed since then. Thor had returned to Midgard with the help of one of the All-Fathers enchanted weapons he kept sealed away, and then returning home with the lost Prince, Loki in chains. It seemed to have all happened in the blink of an eye. The world was rushing by, and Sif just watched.
Thor was enamoured with a mortal girl, Jane, a woman of the Midgardian magic, called Science. Sif came to Midgard, expecting to find her beloved Thor, help him restore his Asgardian birth right, and return home as a champion. And all would be as it was. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Everything had changed. Sif's first sign of indication that the era of the six of them was over was a transaction between the mortal and Thor; their passionate farewell. Sif hated herself when she allowed her thoughts to stray to it. The memory of this sat, like an unwelcome guest, and festered in her mind until she could almost smell the idea rotting and eating away at her. She felt ill, and heavy, burdened with these feelings of regret, jealousy, and disappointment. Feelings she rarely allowed herself to feel. She ached to go back to how they once were. When the only thing Sif thought about was preparing for the next adventure Thor had always seemed to conjure up. Thor; her most trusted and dear friend. She had grown up alongside him, and Loki, and the Warriors Three. They were an unstoppable force, deadly, with an appetite for battle.
It was different now. Perhaps these thoughts served to distract her from the prying eyes and gentle questioning of the Asgardian people. She was distracted, with thoughts of Thor and the girl. If she allowed herself time to think on these, she would become consumed by them. But after a while then men and woman of Asgard's attention on her became more obvious, and much less subtle. What were they looking for? Had she changed in some way? Did they seek to just learn the latest gossip concerning Thor, who had so drastically changed in what they considered, over night?
Sif sat at the near head of the banquet table, between Thor's empty seat and Hogan the Grimm. She was grateful; Hogan rarely spoke, especially unprovoked. As of late, she found conversing with others a tiring and frustrating task. She only did so, begrudgingly, when it was absolutely necessary, and so others did not have cause to worry about her. Even now as she glanced up from her plate, along the rows of people sitting along the table, joining in the feast, she caught several lingering sets of tired eyes upon her, coupled with tired smiles.
Sif grew flustered and annoyed, turning her attention back to her meal. She sat in confusion for a while, almost grateful to have something else to think about besides the image of that frail and tiny mortal girl, pressed up against the chest of the strong and mighty Odinson. Was she truly the type of woman Thor fancied? And all these years, she had thought he-
Sif bit her tongue, as if to block her mind from straying further away from her control.
"Do you truly not know why they stare, Lady Sif?" Hogan suddenly broke through the internal struggle that was waging within Sif's mind. He spoke in an even, cool tone, only speaking loud enough for her to hear.
Sif tried to find a response to him, an answer, or a question, but none came. She furrowed her brow and glanced over his features.
"They stare because they believe you are heart broken." Hogan answered Sif's unspoken question, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
Sif was about to scoff and respond to Hogan, but her breath caught, as she adjusted her jaw, realization suddenly flooding her. This thought had never dawned on her, but now it seemed all too obvious. She was being pitied? Her eyes darted up toward the citizens again, this time a whole new set of eyes was on her, pinning her down, and offering her this unwanted gift.
How dare they. They believe she is some pathetic, teary-eyed maiden who is burdened with the bitter toll of unrequited love. After all these years, training alongside the Valkiror, becoming a War Goddess, defeating countless monsters that threatened the safety of Asgard and the realms under its protection, after being honoured and recognized as being one of the fiercest warriors in all the nine realms by the All-Father himself! Still they paint her as some silly little girl who is playing dress-up, who is chasing a false dream, who will soon realize she is out of her league, and now this; a silly little girl with stars in her eyes, dreaming of her precious Thor.
She rose from the table, bidding the All-Mother and Hogan a quick fare well, be hurried out of the dining hall. She was instantly grateful to be away from it all. They are waiting for her to break. Waiting for her to drop to her knees and wail like some heart-wrenching widow. She hated them all for it. How many times has she saved them? All of them! And they dishonour her with such presumptuous nonsense!
The following next few days brought no change, despite her entering the training grounds and besting most of her opponents. Only losing a handful of times, but only when she grew so tired she could barely grip her sword. Even after all this, she could not prove the men and woman of Asgard wrong. They persisted with their soft spoken words, asking her how she fared, as if she would shatter at any moment. How dare they! She felt humiliated. It was one thing to be tortured by the thought of Thor and his new lover, but it was accompanied by this, this incessant attention from everyone around her.
She shouted, a throaty, feral thing, releasing some of her deep rooted frustration out on her current sparring partner. She did not recognize him, but he had the same mousy-brown hair as Thor's mortal girl did, and that was enough to provoke her.
She briefly wondered where Thor was, how he was faring in Midgard, and if he thought about his home, of Asgard, and mostly, of her. Before she could banish the thought, an image of Thor formed in her head. She recalled his brilliant smile, his deep laugh. His lips moved to form her name, but no voice followed.
She swung her sword, valiantly, with purpose. She sought to banish these demons that clung to her day and night. As her opponent fell down, his sword clattering around him, his arms flung out in front of his face.
"Mercy!", he shouted, shaking. Either from fear of exhaustion, she did not know. He was younger than she thought, judging by the crack in his voice. He was just a boy, on the cusp on manhood.
"I am impressed, young one. You fought bravely," Sif offered him a hand to let him up. He took it, eager to please her, "You will make a fine warrior someday."
He smiled without hesitation, blushing slightly, "Thank you, my Lady. You are as powerful as they say."
Sif returned his smile, thanking him, and patted the boy on the shoulder. She turned, heading toward the barracks.
"My Lady-" He blurted, seeming to be careful as to which words he chooses to speak, "I am sorry, for the matters concerning the crowned Prince. But his lover is mortal... if he her anything, it will just be a demi-god bastard who will have no right to Asgard. You are still who we all consider to be our future Queen." He said so in a confident, cheery voice. As if he knew this is what she wanted to hear.
Sif stopped. So it was all true. This was the first time anyone had spoken to her directly. She scoffed, glancing over her shoulder, "You stupid boy. I care not for what Thor does or where he chooses to stick it, it is none of my concern. Tell your friends, or anyone else you come across that they are to end this unfounded rumour of Thor and I. He is nothing to me, and I am nothing to him. Understand?" Sif ended the conversation two feet in front of him, jabbing him in the shoulder with her finger once or twice. She didn't have time to notice how frightened her looked. He tried to sputter out an apology, but it fell on deaf ears.
Sif was flushed as she turned away, growing even more frustrated when tears seemed to form in the corners of her eyes, leaving the arena utterly silent. She didn't care anymore; all she wanted to do was leave. She had felt such love for Asgard, and its people. So much so that she would have given her life to protect it. Now she felt like an outcast, a small battered creature that they took in out of pity. She did not need their pity! And she did not need to be labeled as a Queen or Thor's former lover, or anything of the sort. She was tired… So very tired.
She arrived at her chambers, and thanked the Gods she did not run into anyone else. She slammed the door behind her, flexing her hands. That had become cramped with over use. It was in here, secluded, that she spent the remainder of the day. She bathed, read, sharpened her spear, and polished her shield. She had never enjoyed seclusion as much as she did now, as she did not once allow her thoughts to stray anywhere near Thor.
Dusk settled, and she was considering attending the last meal of the day, but decided against it. She did not know when she would feel fit to return, but it was not now. Not after what that boy had confirmed all her fears.
When she heard the soft knock at the door, she was undecided whether to let them know she was inside or not, having no appetite for conversation. The visitor seemed to read her thoughts and spoke.
"Lady Sif?" one of the hall guards called.
Damn. She had passed him, he knew she was present.
"What is it?" She called back, her voice slightly horse with disuse.
"The All-Father has sent word. You are to meet him in this throne room."
Sif's breath caught, thought she had seen the All-Father many times, being friends with Thor and Loki, she still was in such awe of his power and authority.
"I-" Sif thought for a moment, wishing against everything that she could think up some excuse to stay isolated in her chambers, "I am in bed."
"They say it is urgent..." the guard persisted.
She knew she had to go.
"Very well." She cracked open the door and slid out, smoothing out her clothes. She made her way to the throne room.
She entered the All-Fathers throne room. He sat, as daunting as ever on his throne, staff in hand.
She knelt, placing a hand over her heart, "You called for me, my King?"
"Lady Sif. I have a proposition for you," The All-Father said, continuing, "I wish to send several of Asgardian's finest warriors to Midgard to assist in rebuilding their desolated city."
He waited for her reply, "I will do your will, All-Father."
His eyes crinkled in a wary smile. The same smile she had been given these past months, filled with pity. She flushed, straining to show no signs of anger or humiliation.
"My will is to send the Midgardian rulers a token of good faith, after a Prince of Asgard had attempted to take control her their people, I feel it would do them good to be reassured that this will never happen again," Odin stopped, his smile leaving, "And my will is for you to be happy again, Lady Sif."
Sif looked at the All-Father, over whelmed. She was astonished he so much as had the time to think of her and her apparent unhappiness.
"I accept this offer, my King. I will aid the mortals in the recovery and rebuilding of their city," Sif rose, bowing, her fist still clenched over her heart, "and thank-you, All-Father."
Odin nodded, seemingly pleased, "For your good efforts, and service, I feel it is fair that I give you something in return, for all your good works."
The All-Father rose from his throne and withdrew a sword that he seemed have been wearing on a hilt at his side.
"Lady Sif," he began, beginning his descent down the short flight of stairs, "I, Odin All-Father, bestow upon you a powerful and noble weapon, for your years of service, and love for Asgard and its people." He presented her the sword. She rose from her knees, awe-struck at the mighty weapon. Its hilt was made of bright gold, embedded within it were several gleaming gems. The blade was long and thick, with a groove down the center. It had several protrusions along the side, which she assumed would deal extra damage. In short, it was beautiful.
"This sword that I give to you now is called Sjálfrádr. It was a gift to me, from my father, long ago," Sjálfrádr, she thought, it meant freedom, Odin continued, "It is enchanted with the ability to transcend dimensions, and cut through realms. I give you this, in good faith, and trust you will use this weapon for the good of Asgard, and all under its protection."
Sif reached for the weapon, dumb-founded by the incredibly gesture. This was a mighty weapon. The All-Father rarely gave such gifts. She held it, and forced her gaze away from it, shifting it to Odin.
"I do not know how to thank you, my King-" Sif tried to think of words that would be acceptable, and would be fitting for such a situation. She could not.
The All-Father just smiled and laughed a little, "I trust you will take good care of Sjalfradr. It has been a good companion to me; as it shall be to you."
Sif returned his smile, still struggling to find her tongue, "Y-yes, My Lord, It shall be my greatest honor to take care of her." This seemed the please the King.
"Go then, Lady Sif. May you return to us soon, and with good news. You shall take the Warriors Three with you."
"I thank you again, All-Father. I will do my duty."
He nodded, "You may go now, and depart for Midgard within the night."
She bowed her head and exited the throne room. Once outside, she examined the mighty sword once more. She felt the long shaft of the blade, its coolness seeming to reach out to her. It was a sweet, lovely thing, so beautiful you would never expect it to be so deadly. She smiled, much like herself. Yes, Sjalfradr would be a fine companion.
She collected her belongings, and the Warriors Three. She bid the All-Mother a farewell, as well as her mother and father. She hugged her half-brother, Heimdall, and bid him good-bye as well.
She was flushed with anticipation. She could finally be away from these pitying looks. She did not hate them, she admitted. She hated herself, and hated her position. She hated how she had been perceived. She hated how they were right about her loving Thor, and it not being returned. She might still have the demons that prodded at her mind with images of Thor with his lover, but at the very least, she would be away from men and woman who knew exactly how deeply this hurts her. She begrudgingly accepted that new rumors would start about her, how she ran to Midgard to be with Thor and attempt to win his heart back. She pushed these dreaded thoughts to the back of her mind. Whatever they say, she will not be there to hear them.
With these last thoughts clinging to her, she took out her new weapon, and demonstrated its full power. It began ripping through dimensions, acting on its own, as if knowing exactly where Sif needed to go. She stepped through, feeling the rush of space engulfing her.
She reveled in this feeling, letting the past few months of misery slip away from her, like letting heavy pieces of armor clatter to the ground at her feet. Sif allowed herself to be washed clean of her sorrow, and when she set foot in Midgard, she knew she had broken free of something; perhaps not her love for Thor, but at the very least, her anger and jealousy for the mortal girl. She felt happy, with a new future within reach, her dear friends by her side, and Sjalfradr in her hand, she finally was able to see things for what they were. Her life did not depend on Thor's affections. She needed to find her own place in the world, like she did when she first decided to become a warrior. She longed to just be 'Sif' again. Perhaps on Midgard, she could achieve this. Sjálfrádr had led her to freedom, all Sif needed to do was venture down her presented path.