There was a knock at the door.

Loki stirred slightly from where he had submerged himself in his studies. Convinced his ears were deceiving him, the young Aesir ignored the sound and turned his attention back to a large, leather-bound volume on the table in front of him. Pages of dense, complicated script slowly began to turn themselves as Loki muttered under his breath, one hand moving with broad sweeping gestures, the other clutched tightly around his staff. Sweat began to appear on his brow as the spell reached its climax. The incantations became so intense that Loki's voice took on a foreign quality, sounding strange even in his own ears. Wind began to swirl around the library, churning layers of dust and neglect into a frenzied cloud. Loki paused in his chanting to laugh briefly; he had been trying to master this spell for months! Waves of violet energy sparked through the air, crackling over the Aesir's body and making him shudder with pleasure as the power coursed through him. If he could hold his focus just a minutes longer then…

"Hello? Is someone there?"

The force of the explosion flung Loki backwards like a ragdoll, throwing him directly into a bookshelf. Hundreds of tomes rained down upon his head and stars burst in his vision as a particularly heavy book bounced off his temple. With a snarl, Loki dug himself out of the pile and snatched his staff, which had landed several feet away. He stalked out across the room, a glint in his eye and murder on his mind. The demigod made his way out of the library and towards the formidable front doors, where he could still hear timid knocking coming from the other side. With a sweep of his staff, the doors flew open, exposing the main foyer to the harsh weather outdoors.

A small, cloaked figure stood forth like a dark beacon in the swirling whiteness. With a quick glance, Loki figured out all he needed to know. The intruder was young, far to young to be on their own, rather poor, given the state of their robes and absolutely freezing, if their constant trembling was any indication.

How fortunate you are, not to feel the chill…

With a quick shake of his head, Loki dispelled the troubling thought. Squaring his shoulders, The Asgardian adjusted his grip on this staff, trying to look more intimidating than his gangly form would probably allow.

"Who are you?" he said, his tone so bitter it was almost tangible "And what in the name of the All-father could you possibly want?"

"Please." The figure begged. Loki started noticeably, for the voice was soft and feminine "I'm sorry to bother you, but…I'm lost."

Please.

When was the last time someone had asked him for anything?

"Well, that's hardly my problem now, is it?" Loki said, beginning to shut the door. "There's a convent several miles ahead. They will take care of you."

"Please," that word again! "I have tried the convent my lord, and they turned me away. With the winter being so harsh, times have been poor for many and there is simply no room. If you could please, just for an evening."

"Again." Loki said, the doors barely open, "Not my problem."

Darkness once again consumed the hall. It had been many years since the candles had been lit; there was no need anymore, who wanted to visit the banished prince? Loki headed back towards the library, his mood darkening for the worse. Weeks, months of study lost, and for what? Some silly little beggar girl who couldn't look out for herself! A twinge of guilt surfaced but the Asgardian pushed it away. He had better things to do with his time, it was not his concern.

"Darling?"

"What is it mother?" Loki demanded, bent once more over his precious books. He had only torn his attention away from them long enough to right his desk and retrieve the necessary volumes, the rest of the library was still in utter confusion. Frigga stood in the doorway, watching her son with concerned eyes. She worried endlessly about him, to the point where she was practically dragging to prince away from his studies to eat. Each day, the young man continued to drift farther and farther away, until he was like a stranger to her.

"Was there someone outside?" she asked, walking over to Loki and running her fingers through his hair.

"Mother" he said dismissively "Stop. That is most undignified."

"You didn't answer my question." Frigga responded, laughing softly. "I swore I heard someone at the door."

"It was just a beggar." Loki said, unsuccessfully trying to push away his mother's wandering hands "Looking for lodgings. I sent her away."

The hands stopped

"You did what?"

"I sent her…"

"Yes." Frigga said. Loki could hear the anger building behind her voice "I heard that part, but why?"

"She's an urchin Mother," the young man said, frustrated with the constant interruptions "We do not owe her anything and-"

"Loki Odinson." Frigga said, her mouth forming a grim line "I do believe we raised you to behave much better than that."

"But-"

"No." Frigga said, "Now I want you to go back outside and make the right choice."

"She's of no use to us." Loki said, trying again

"And what if your father had decided you were no use to us? Where would you be then?"

That did it.

In a matter of moments, Loki was outside the castle and calling into the storm.

"MAIDEN! MAIDEN! IF YOU CAN HEAR ME…" Damn and blast! Why hadn't he bothered to learn her name?

"Yes?"

"Gyyyyyyyah!" Loki nearly leaped a foot in the air. With her footsteps muffled by the snow, the young woman had almost materialized out of nowhere.

"There are not many who can sneak up on me." The demigod said, clutching at his beating heart.

"I'm sorry." The young woman replied, though Loki could see the faintest traces of a smile peeking out from her hood.

"About my previous…" Loki stopped and rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "Look, if you need a place to stay, there is more than enough room in the castle."

"By the gods!" the girl grasped the young man's hand in hers, practically jumping up and down, "My lord, I can hardly…thank-you, thank-you. You won't regret this, I promise. I can work, clean, cook, whatever you desire."

He held up a hand, stilling her chatter. "We'll see. Come along."

The pair made their way back towards the castle, Loki leading with the blue light of his scepter glowing softly through the snow and his new guest trailing eagerly behind.

Your heart of ice is melting…