Noble adventurers and friends! Before beginning this journey, I must warn you of something vital: I will be composing this narrative at the same time as I am writing an original novel "Bauldr's Tears: A Retelling of Loki's Fate." I will be posting "Frozen Heart" here and publishing "Bauldr" on Amazon serially—writing TWO NOVELS AT THE SAME TIME. I have never before attempted this. Therefore, my wonderful friends, I am not afraid to say that I NEED YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT! Desperately! Let me know how you are liking this story with reviews! Download each book of "Bauldr's Tears" as it comes—you will love it, I can promise you that!
This will be my LAST VENTURE INTO THE LOKANE KINGDOM.
After this, the "Bauldr's Tears" kingdom shall hold sway.
Come with me.
And now, without further ado, my noble friends and allies, I hereby give you…
For Simon, Always
"Sometimes the heart sees
what is invisible to the eye."
-H. Jackson Brown, Jr
Jane shivered, twin tears falling from her eyes and sliding heavily down her cheeks. The lifeless breeze touched her bare arms, and she wrapped them close to herself. She glanced up and to her right at Thor's towering form, his majestic, lionish head bowed, tendrils of his golden hair caught in moonlight and flamelight. His brow twisted, his eyes closed. He had not looked at her all evening.
Jane's attention trailed back out, past the stone railing, out over the silvery, rippling water…
Out at the fleet of boats, each laden with a splendidly-decked Aesir—eyes closed, beautiful faces white, fair hair braided with beads and jewels, beloved weapons laid across their still hearts. All drifting away from Asgard, away from their home, out across the open sea—out into eternity. All set to burning by keen-eyed archers' flaming arrows. And leading this procession of the dead was Asgard's beautiful queen, Frigga. Thor's own mother.
She'd died just today.
Earlier that afternoon, when Jane had found Thor hiding in the shadow of a pillar near Frigga's bier, he had told her—with stiff voice and averted eyes—that usually, Aesir lay in state for at least a week, so everyone could come and bring flowers and presents. But with war looming, and the clatter of ready armor resounding through every corridor…
Jane swallowed and looked down, a sharp stabbing constricting her ribs.
She hadn't wanted to hide from the danger like some little kid, but the queen had leveled a look at her and pointed so forcefully that Jane had lost her mental footing and found herself crouching in a corner behind some curtains. And before she knew it, a terrifying, pale-faced, dark-garbed invader and a beast that walked on two legs had blasted their way into the inner chamber and killed the queen.
Killed her. While she'd been protecting Jane.
Jane swiped the tears from her face, but the stabbing in her chest only got worse. She shut her eyes, the glow of the flames burning into her vision.
A bright, sudden flicker in the side of her mind.
She gasped, and straightened—opened her eyes.
It was gone.
She frowned, then quickly searched the crowd around her.
No one had moved. The wind rustled through their draping clothes again. Silence reigned, except for the listless flap of the banners, and the crackle of the torches.
Her eyes went wide.
A voice—so distant, so far away that it sounded like more of an echo than an actual voice.
But it sang through her bones with absolute familiarity.
And it came from somewhere else.
She turned her head, looked back in between the pillars of the shadowed building behind her. A bearded guard stood there, holding a drooping flag. He gazed out across the sea, and, taking advantage of his unobtrusive position, had allowed his tears to fall.
That's where it came from.
Jane shivered again, and set her jaw.
She backed away from Thor, turned, and soundlessly re-entered the open door. She whispered through an abandoned, marble passageway, her breathing unsteady, listening with all her strength.
She kept walking. The entirety of Asgard seemed as if it were draped in a shroud. Silence dominated every darkened hallway, and Jane fought to keep her tapping footsteps from disturbing it. The doorways stood abandoned, and the few guards she did spot leaned against walls, or covered their faces. Several times, she had to pick her way around the rubble of a fallen roof, or a toppled statue. She had no idea which way she was going. Nothing looked familiar.
She paused, then turned to her left, obeying the whisper of an echo.
She followed it, traipsing through the common rooms and cobbled courts, up staircases and through lines of graceful arches. She could feel the palace looming before her, though she rarely glimpsed its reaching spires. Her heartbeat staggered and her mind raced every which way, but she picked up her pace, too curious and confused to even call out in answer.
Finally, she felt the palace itself swallow her. The air richened, and she drew in deep breaths of all the roses that had recently flooded the main chamber where Frigga had lain.
She stopped on a landing just outside the throne room.
To her right. A narrow stairway.
She hesitated. Bit her lip.
It wound around and around, an occasional torch flaring to life as she passed, just barely lighting her way. Her silken dress and cape rustled around her.
The staircase opened up. She slowed down, and eased out onto a dimly-lit stone platform.
Away in front of her stretched a long, wide, low-ceilinged hallway. On either side stood square chambers divided from each other by white walls.
She sucked in her breath and froze.
But nothing moved. All of the cells stood empty and dark.
Her brow furrowed.
One, off to the right, in the second block. Its opening glowed with a slightly-golden tinge. A forcefield of some kind, probably.
And a voice.
A voice—raspy, broken. It was coming from that one.
Jane's lower lip trembled. She crept closer. Her soft soles made no sound.
"The sky is dark and the hills are white
As the storm-king speeds from the north to-night;
And this is the song the storm-king sings,
As over the world his cloak he flings:
'Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;'
He rustles his wings and gruffly sings:
'Sleep, little one, sleep…"
Jane stepped very slowly, watching that forcefield wall, until she could peer into more than half of it. She frowned, searching it…
Jerked to a stop.
Groped out and back with her left hand, and caught hold of the cold edge of an opposite, cattycorner cell. Her throat closed. She stood in a full length of shadow. She desperately hoped he couldn't see her.
A young man.
He sat back against the white back wall of that cell.
Everything in that little space had been smashed and strewn out all across the floor. Jane's eyes ran across bits and flinders of what had once been very fine furniture, ripped-out pages of books, a glass tabletop shattered on the floor…
His bare feet were bleeding.
Bright blood stood out against the floor…the walls…his pallid skin…
Jane felt her chest and forehead tightening again.
He wore dark, loose trousers, a homespun, long-sleeved gray shirt with the front of the collar laying open. His long raven hair lay torn all around his narrow, snow-white finely-formed and delicate face. His lips looked grey, dark circles framed his glassy, distant and shadowed eyes. He blinked dully, and his eyebrows drew together.
"On yonder mountain-side a vine," he whispered through his soft, chapped lips.
"Clings at the foot of a mother pine;
The tree bends over the trembling thing,
And only the vine can hear her sing:
'Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;
What shall you fear when I am here?
Sleep, little one, sleep…"
Jane's mouth opened, and her heart caught.
She recognized him.
She knew those classical features, she'd heard that lilt of phrase before.
On the news. During the invasion of New York.
All the pieces instantly clicked together in her mind.
This was Loki.
Rage flared through her…And then her chest tightened.
Her rage washed away as quiet again filtered through her mind.
Thor's younger brother.
And…what was it he was singing…?
He swallowed. It looked like it hurt. His brow knitted.
"The king may sing in his bitter flight," he gasped.
"The pine may croon to the vine to-night,
"But the little…" His voice snagged in his throat. And he spasmed forward, his hands jerking up. His left hand suddenly twitched toward his chest.
Jane covered her mouth.
Loki caught at his collar, and sat back against the wall. His arm fell limp. His eyes rapidly searched the ceiling of his cell.
And a tear—as if it was the last one his entire being possessed, as if it wrenched from his spirit—bled down the side of his face.
"…But the little snowflake at my breast," he said hoarsely.
Liketh the song I sing the best.
'Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;
Weary thou art, anext my heart;
Sleep, little one, sleep…"
He stopped. Swallowed again. And closed his eyes.
Jane gradually lowered her hand from her mouth.
Shaking, she wiped at her eyes, helplessly standing away from the wall.
The echo of a voice had ceased a long time ago. And her heart filled and clamped inside of her so hard that the pain nearly doubled her over.
She turned toward the staircase, then had to gather her strength—her legs had turned to water. Then, finally, she hurried away, careful to make no sound, rushed up the stairs and, panting and nearly blinded, made her way straight to her room.
Loki opened his eyes.
His skull felt as if it were splitting crosswise, his body as if he'd been beaten half to death with a club. He shifted his numb left shoulder—hm. He was lying on it.
He swallowed. His mouth felt like sandpaper. He sighed stiffly, and adjusted his head.
Glass jingled in his hair. He closed his left eye, but with his right he blearily glanced around his cell.
It was apparently night. The lights had automatically dimmed, as they did every evening two hours till midnight. He hazily watched the energy slowly crawl up and down the borders of the forcefield. Listened to it softly buzz…
He blinked. Slowly, slowly frowned.
Lifted his head, just one inch.
Something glittered. Over there, by his toppled desk.
He blinked a few more times. Lay there for an hour longer.
It glittered at him again.
He groaned out a sigh, and lifted himself up onto his elbow. Glared over at the irritating, glittering thing.
Finally, he turned over, pushed off of the broken glass and got up onto his knees. Sat there in a kneeling position for another hour, his head hanging, his hair a curtain around his face.
He reached out, felt for the wall…found it.
Leaned sideways against it, and crawled to his feet.
Stood for half an hour more, eyes shut.
Then, he shuffled forward, his toes stinging, until he stood in front of that broken desk. He frowned. Sank down into a kneeling position again, and absently fumbled around underneath it, without looking.
His hand met a thin chain. His fingers caught it up, and he dragged it out.
He lifted it up, and squinted at it.
His face cleared—so did his vision.
A pendant dangled from the chain—a silvery, sparkling setting, in the heart of which sat a fathomless violet stone, in the depths of which seemed to wink all the stars in the universe.
For an eternity, Loki sat there, staring at the familiar—but utterly impossible—stone hanging from that chain.
Then, he shook himself.
He must be dreaming. Or hallucinating.
Or fooling himself.
Carelessly, he tipped sideways and fell from his knees to a sitting position, gripped the stone up in his hand and thought about tossing it against the forcefield. He glanced down at it again, his vision flickering in and out. He felt like he might lose consciousness.
Better…to be safe…
He opened up the chain and slipped it over his head, then let it fall down underneath his collar. It jingled against…something else he wore there.
He lay back down, onto his back, his knees bent up, his hands curled on his chest. And he stared blankly at the ceiling, letting unconscious tears trickle down his temples.
To be continued…
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