She was sick. She was dying and she knew it.
She coughed loudly, a hard and harsh sound that echoed in her dark, empty chambers. A small butterfly-winged snake landed on her knees and looked up to her. She caressed its head with crooked fingers, loving the feeling of the cold scales and the tickling of its tongue against her hand.
Her skin was wrinkled and paper-thin, covered in black veins that looked like dark rivers; her eyes were gray and teary, so tired she could hardly see the beautiful iridescent scales on the snake's body. The creature had been a present from a lover thousand years ago. It was the last one of its kind. They had killed them all to put them up on walls and because they were afraid.
She heard a faint and familiar knock on the door. Slowly she turned her old head towards the entrance to her chambers.
Her long white hair fell about her shoulders and on her face. She remembered the time when her hair had been long and brown, so thick she could tie knots with it. Now it fell everywhere and it was so thin she sometimes thought she could see through it.
Her chambers were big, full with the tokens of lovers and worshipers, which weren't the same, but she loved both of them equally. The ceiling was so high she couldn't see it anymore but knew it was made with the branches of old trees. The trees had grown every year, sometimes bare, sometimes green and sometimes creating a carpet for her to walk on them. But now she was sick and the trees didn't bloom no more. They were stuck in their winter gear and would never ever bloom again. They would die when she did and nobody seemed to miss them anymore.
It was their fault. They who once worshiped and loved her and now had all but forgotten about her.
She blinked slowly, trying to remember why she was looking in her gloomy chambers anyway. The ground was could stone, covered with skins and books and animals and plants, most of which were unique. There was a big brown egg, that was the last of the dragons eggs; there was a funny looking velociraptor, small with vicious-looking teeth, there were plants whose name noone but her remembered, and stones that had long since disappeared from her realms. Thre was even a tiny spring of thick black liquid that was not-so-long-ago considered black gold and had been used and burned and was now nothing but a distant memory on her realms.
The low knocks came again.
Nobody had crossed that door in quite some time. Not since she started to whither and die. She was sick and no one seemed to remember her. They had had what they wanted from her and had abandoned her to die with some sort of dignity. Alone, in the dark, dusty chambers that had once been so bright and full of life.
She wanted to cry, but her old eyes were just too dry.
'Go away'. Her once beautiful voice echoed raw and patched in the empty room. The raptor buried itself in a pile of old dusty magic books.
The butterfly-winged snake took off when the door opened.
There was a slim tall man at the door. She couldn't really see him, for he was too far away for her tired old eyes, and the light hit him from behind, rendering his face in shadows. But she would know her lovers everywhere, so she knew he had sharp high cheekbones, deep fiery eyes, a long and thin nose and scarred lips. She knew his long hair was red-orange and that it fell beneath his shoulders in gentle waves. She knew he wore old clothing of thick wool and leather, with a broad leather belt with little leather bags hung to it. She knew that in a little bag he held a bit of dirt, in another a bit of water, some fire in the next and a breath from her lungs in the one that came after it. She knew he could create anything that crossed his imagination with those materials and that any creation of his would bring delightful chaos. A sword hung at his side, on the opposite hip hung a hunting knife in a beautifully carved sheath.
When he entered he walked on noiseless feet clad in high boots of worn suede. He limped a lot, as if he was sounded and seemed to be in urgent need of a cane.
'Go away', she said again. 'I don't want to see you.'
He kept walking, stumbling every few steps. When he finally reached her chair, he fell to his knees, looking up to her with the scared eyes of a child.
Cold light cut across his handsome face. He hadn't changed at all. He was still the young lover she had taken to bed so many times. Yet all of his energy seemed to have left him: gone was the thrilled look, the light that shone in his eyes every time he talked of his dreams. Dreams of eight-legged horses; of little fat birds that didn't fly the air but the oceans of cold waters. He had imagined the fire that sometimes heated her skin and sometimes bit her hand and he had created unbelievable flowers only to braid them in her hair. Now his eyes were big, round and nearly lightless, the flames that used to dance in his pupils were now only golden embers.
She wanted to cry and send him on his way. She didn't want him to see her like this. And at the same time she wanted him to hold her tightly and caress her thin hair, and lie to her. For he was the master of lies as well as the bringer of life and chaos, and his lies would taste like honey in her ears.
'Why have you come here?' she asked harshly.
He opened his mouth to talk. And closed it again. Took a deep breath, letting his head hang a little. Now she could see the faint black lines that covered his head and throat. She knew they also covered his shoulders and his broad chest and back. She knew he had many scars, most of them inflicted by those that were like him as punishment for his chaotic ways.
'I wanted to tell you I'm sorry' his voice was very soft, just like it had been, just not as joyful. It was sad seeing him like this, like seeing the smoky remains of a bright and big fire.
'You told me. Now, go away, Creator of Monsters.'
He shuddered at her harsh words and looked down, still kneeling before her. Hot tears fell on her bare feet and she wanted to kick him but couldn't muster enough energy to move.
She was old and ugly and sick and dying and she only wanted to have her peace. This monster shouldn't come here to disturb her. Neither should he, she thought with a pang of regret for treating him badly even in her own head.
'You're still beautiful' he whispered without looking up, and his velvet voice was broken with sobs.
'I said go away!'
'I won't! Not with my life untouched! I came here because I am sorry. I never thought… never dreamed this could happen. I just wanted to create something beautiful to keep you company, to amaze you and to make you laugh.' His rough scar-covered hands grabbed hers with something like desperation. He truly needed her to believe him.
Her anger rose like the flames behind his eyes should.
After everything he had done, he came here, to her death-chamber to try and gain her forgiveness for all his faults before it was too late.
She pushed him away and hit him squarely in the face with such force that his head fell to one side. Her long nails cut across his pale skin, leaving trails of red on his cheek. He didn't react to her anger and that passivity, so unlike him, fuelled her even more.
She stood and fell into his arms and she beat at his chest with all of her little strength. 'Curse you! Curse you and you lies and your creations and your gifts! You've done nothing but harm me from the day I met you, Master of Fire and of Lies!'
And she kept beating him even when it was he the one who was keeping her up and didn't try to stop her.
But it was true.
He had created the giant wolf and the giant snake and the hairless apes. He had created the giants that made the earth tremble with each step, the fire that destroyed her forests and plants. His brother, whom she had loved so much, had given her the winged snakes and the singing birds and the thousand-coloured flowers. The other brother had given her black-winged birds that whispered news and grey wolves that where loyal beyond imagination. But this one, the smallest, the one who had wanted to show her he loved her best of all, he had given her the hairless apes who could create and destroy like the fire, who were loyal and deceitful, who could sing like the birds and create news like the crows. He had created the fires that let place for the new creations, he had planted the seed of the tree of golden apples and created the giant wolf, which ate those nasty unicorns.
She stopped beating him, sobbing lowly against his chest, feeling deeply ashamed of her behaving.
No, it truly wasn't his fault, it was his nature to bring death and chaos so that his elder brothers could create life and order and that's why she had loved him. Because he was unpredictable and funny and, even if not loyal, he was passionate and warm.
He was the only one that had come to her now that she was no longer beautiful and young. Now that there was no room for anything new his kind could bring her, for everything belonged to the hairless apes.
She wanted to be beautiful and young again, she wanted her thousand lovers. Some had been so jealous she would push them aside after some time; some were like the brothers: quite open-minded and had lovers of their own. They all wanted her happy and created things to inhabit her world.
Her lovers had created the green forest and the small flowers so that she could rise and shine, some had given her light so that she was warm when her lovers left her, some had given her moon and stars so that she could have someone to talk to, others had given her the vast oceans and the small rivers. Some created storms to water what was there and some created creatures to laugh and scream and sing and jump and run around her.
Some of those ideas where good: like the slippery fish or the humming bees or the eight-legged spiders. Others were bad ideas: like the dinosaurs. Others seemed good ideas like the unicorns: so pure and so white, but were not.
She looked up to his handsome face.
He had thought of a creature that didn't seem like a good idea: a giant wolf that would protect her from all evil. It had turned to be an ok idea: it had killed all of those nasty unicorns that hunted her down for not being pure and untouched, but in the end it only feed on horses and it had ended chained up in a cave and she couldn't find it anymore. She had wept because the wolf had been nice and warm and it had loved her as much as she had loved it.
There had been other bad ideas, but those had died in time. Other good ideas had taken their place. And then there where those ideas that seemed good and turned out to be the worst of them all: the hairless apes.
Everyone had cheered at that. Half of her lovers had loved them and had played with them, giving them different amounts of power and her fire-eyed lover had been so proud of himself. He had had a bad time among those like him and they had shunned him until only she was by his side, caressing his scarred body. But when he created the hairless apes all had had fun with them and had forgotten that he was a Lie-Smith and a Two-Faced-Con. They hadn't hurt him for a long time and she was happy and he was like Fire.
He seemed lost now that she was about to die herself.
'I never intended on this to happen. You know they say that I'm a Lie-smith and that no one can ever trust a word that comes out of these scarred lips. But, Gaia, I swear I never wanted to harm you. Kill me if you like.' He pressed his hunting kinfe into her hand. 'Cut my hands so that they may never again create a single thing. Take my power from me and burn my hair so that it won't ever grow again. Sew my lips with magic tread so that not a single lie springs from them ever again. But, please, please, believe me.'
Her eyes met his and she smiled and old smile at him.
'I believe you.'
His name tasted sweet in her mouth, and he kissed her in the mouth. His breath was hot against her patched lips and it seemed to bring back some of her energy. She caressed his skin and his long red hair. Her heart burst into flame and he took her in his arms, crushing her against his body.
'I love you so much, Gaia.'
And even without being a lie it was like sweet honey in her ears, tears rolled down her face.
She knew what was to come now. Her time was up and all would be chaos and he would reign supreme for a while, until his brothers came back and brought new life and new order. She knew this was inevitable and she knew that, the one that came after her would love him as much as she had loved him. And he would show the next one that fire-bird he called phoenix, that died and was reborn again.
She knew his older brother had given him a phoenix as a gift when he was little, because he could set the animal in fire as much as he wanted without it really leaving him alone.
She caressed his face and asked him to put her to bed, for she was tired of sitting up and wanted to rest her old eyes for a bit. She begged him to sit by her side and sing to him ballads of old good times. And for hours he sang and told goofy stories of his kind and of the hairless apes that made her laugh, he told her of deep love and heated hate that made her eyes tear. After hours he was ready to keep going even if his throat was patched and his mouth was dry. He had entwined his fingers with hers and kept caressing her with sweetness.
In the end she smiled up to him took the hand that wasn't in his and caressed his face and hair one last time.
She wanted him to know that she really didn't think him responsible for what had happened. It was in his nature and she loved him for it. She had known this was to come and accepted it. She didn't want him to think that she as still mad at him, or that she hated him. That was so far from the truth! But she knew that if she forgave him, he would try and change for the next one to come, and she didn't want him to change. He was just what was needed. So she smiled and said four words before her body went still and her last breath left her with a small sigh.
'I love you, Loki'
And with that she died.
The fire-haired god kissed Gaia's forehead, tears falling on her eyelids. After a few more moments he stood. He only took a small blue and green ball that lay forgotten in one corner before walking out of the room. He set the body aflame and then the rest of the room. The rest of her realm was already aflame, maybe not with the read and golden flames of his fire, but with the fire of chaos that fed him.
He returned home in silence and set the small ball in a small trunk hidden away with magic, by other six balls. He remembered the names of all of them and he wished the next one didn't end like her predecessors, and still knew she would. The red-feathered phoenix landed by his hand and he caressed it without really thinking. He felt alone and sad and at the same time he felt kind of thrilled for the chaos that was about to take the rest of Gaia's realm, and thrilled to know who would come after her.
When he went to bed, the phoenix sung a sad song that reminded him of her. He still had Gaias parting words in his head when he fell into slumber: 'I love you, Loki.'
I had never before written any serious fanfics in english. My mother-language is spanish, and my beta is sadly still my word-corrector, so I hope there aren't many misetakes.
That being said I've based this story on what I know of norse mythology, which ain't all that much. The butterfly-winged snakes I found in another story published on this site, THEY'RE NOT MINE, they belong to the marvelous writer StarTreckFanWriter and I hope the author doesn't get mad for my using them. It's a great writer and if you don't know her work, you should definitively check it out.
Anyway, I hope you liked this story and keep in mind that reviews and comments can help me improve my work, for I think these characters are stuck in my brains now and there's more of them to come.