‘Til Death: Loki
Part of the Free Reads Collection
Odin. Chuckling, jötunn-born trickster Loki stood amongst the trees and underbrush, his hands on his hips, head tilted back. Above, the forest canopy paused for a moment, the outstretched branches and leaves of two great trees reaching and reaching for one another, yet failing to connect. In that opening, he spied two large ravens, circling him slowly, silently. Shaking his head, he set his cloth pack down and dug through it. As soon as he found what he was looking for, he straightened again, lifting a coin-filled sack to the heavens.
“See?” While he spoke no louder than a whisper, his voice crawled up the nearby trees and shook the leaves. “I haven’t spent it… Not a single coin. Fly back to your master and tell him. You’re making it hard for me to travel unnoticed.”
The ravens circled twice more, then disappeared on the wind.
“Have faith, brother,” he muttered, chuckling again while he repacked his things. Mighty Odin, All-father to all the nine realms and their multitude of inhabitants, had only recently taken Loki as his blood-brother. Their relationship was good—for now—but he could see why the old Aesir god might not trust him completely. After all, Loki dealt in mayhem, and had he spent all the gold meant strictly to appease a band of warmongering giants, it wouldn’t have been the first time he’d put Odin and his kin in a tight spot.
And so he’d sent his ravens to check in—Loki felt only just slighted. He did have a reputation, one based on merit and fact, and Odin would have been a fool to trust him entirely with so much wealth. His life? Of course Odin could trust Loki with his life. They were blood-brothers after all, bonded by the exchange of blood and the shared scars of battle. Odin had welcomed Loki in to his clan, to his elite tier of godly creatures—Loki owed him a great deal.
However, gold was such a common thing, and Loki felt no allegiance to that. He cared not for the grumbles about the giants, nor did he think a sack of trinkets would quiet the tribe’s battle-lust.
He should know, given his parentage.
But he’d volunteered to be the messenger, the delivery boy for Odin and his ilk. Fleet-footed Loki, momentarily praised by all in the feasting hall. There was no set time to deliver the coinage, but he vaguely recalled there being some sense of urgency.
Which was, of course, why he’d stopped to play cards with a band of elves he met along the way. Gambling with the cretins was too enjoyable an activity to pass up. His skills, however, were a little rusty, and he’d been forced to steal back all the gold he’d lost while the creatures slept the following evening.
Each coin was back in its rightful place now, however. All was well, and through the forests and mountains and valleys he’d go, beyond the fjords and glaciers, to deliver a gift from the Aesir to the jötunn tribe bent on destruction.
Feeling somewhat parched, Loki deviated from his path, traipsing over thick roots and around unpassable twined greenery, until he reached a gentle stream. The water was crisp and cold, slicing through the forest, determined to reach the sea. As Loki brought handfuls of frigid water to his mouth, he noted that the woodland on the other side of the stream was less dense, and rather than venturing back to his previous path, he crossed the water and traveled on the other side.
Even if the region was new to him, he prided his sense of direction—he’d reach the giants, one way or another.
Slowly, even the placement of the trees thinned, the sun finding his face more and more oft as he hiked. He paused when he noticed that the treeline was coming to an end up ahead, his path instead opening up into a sprawling valley. Squinting, he swore mountains loomed in the distance, and then gave a triumphant smile; he’d been taking the long way round before—this was more direct, surely.
Shoulders back, the trickster strolled out of the forest and into the field, only to be hit by the most pleasant array of aromas he’d ever had the fortune of smelling. It was so powerful that he actually dropped his things and turned, nose up and eyes scouring the relatively flat plane for the source of such beauty.
He found it eventually in the form of a garden. Pack slung over his shoulder, Loki advanced on it curiously, knowing that someone had to have planted it out here. The arrangement was too precise. His first thought was Idun, but he knew the goddess had her preferred territory to sow her greens. It was unlikely she’d venture so deep into this region of Midgard. The colours were exquisite, vibrant and bright, like nothing he’d seen thus far. Browns and greens and greys and the occasional white had kept Loki company on his little adventure. But here there were purples and blues, pinks and oranges, reds and yellows. Some were native to the area, while others had come from the lands to the south, others the east.
Someone had an affinity for delicate flowers. They’d be a wanderer too, traveling far and wide to collect the necessary seeds.
A wanderer like Loki. He cocked his head to the side as he knelt, letting the head of a purple flower in the height of its bloom, impervious to the cold, rest in his palm. The garden stretched on for rows and rows, and Loki found himself wishing it encompassed the whole valley—what a pleasant path he could have trod.
Mercifully, he wouldn’t be driven mad with wonder about the garden’s master. As he drifted along the outskirts, pausing here and there to admire and smell, the sounds of falling water grew louder. He soon found himself gazing upon a pool, at the far side of which was a trickling waterfall—melted snow turned into a stream from the nearby mountains. The falling water traveled over a small cave at the foot of the pool.
And in said pool was a maiden—or, at least, the head of a maiden. Bobbing on the water’s surface. Fair hair with a smallish nose from what Loki could see. His curiosity instantly turned mischievous, and as he approached, silently weaving through the magnificent garden, he was pleased to note a neck and shoulders and a pair of arms and legs were attached to the floating head—a whole maiden, just for him.
She dipped back below the surface for a few moments, giving Loki enough time to leave his things and creep to the edge of the pool. When she emerged, bursting forth with a gasp for air and facing in his direction, her eyes widened in shock to find she was not alone. He grinned his usual crooked grin, head cocked to the side, as she gave a little squeal and swam to the opposite side of the pool. Her clothes, he noticed, were discarded in a rumpled pile nearby.
“Accept my sincerest apologies for frightening you,” he said, his voice skimming the water, leaving little ripples in its wake. He’d hoped she’d feel it drape over her naked form, but she gave no indication of such an occurrence as she scrambled onto the shore. Much to his annoyance, there was a blanket of sorts that she managed to find, wrapping it around her dripping body. Modest. He pursed his lips. He’d taken more modest creatures in his time.
“What do you want?” she demanded, her voice girlish to suit her slight figure, but carrying with it too a weight that turned his sly grin into something more genuine. She looked nubile and sweet, but there was something more to her—age, perhaps. Godly, certainly, a child of the immortals. How else would she acquire such a vast array of flowers?
“I’ve been traveling alone for so long,” he told her, the lie trickling smoothly off his tongue. “I saw you and delighted at the thought of company on my lonely road.”
She stood there, her long wet hair stuck to her delicate features, arms holding the sheet around her. Fabric clung to her curves, not exactly giving her the modesty she’d hoped to attain. His eyes wandered freely, but always back to her sweet face—upon which was a crooked grin of her own.
“Your words are pretty, Liesmith,” she announced finally, then gave a tinkling laugh that made the hairs on his arms stand to attention. “From what I’ve heard, Loki desires no company but his own.”
Outed, Loki sat back on his heels and crossed his arms. “So you know of me, fair one?”
“All the realms know of you,” she remarked before lifting her sheet to give her legs more room to move as she strolled around the little pool’s edge. She hopped over the mouth of the stream, agile and graceful, before pausing. “I only never thought I’d be any reason for the great trickster to give pause.”
He stood slowly, sensing a more intimate game might be afoot. She’d come toward him, after all. Closed the space. Bedding an exquisite maiden in a garden of beauty was a perfectly acceptable reason to halt his trek to the giants. He licked his lips, his mind instantly alight with more wicked thoughts than innocent mischief. “And why would I not pause?”
Her lower lip caught between her teeth, her eyes suddenly cast down—shyly, almost. When she looked back at him again, she gave a little half-shrug. “Because you never have before.”
“Haven’t I?” His brow furrowed. Had they met some time in the past? Surely he would have taken note of such splendor. Eyes narrowed, he sped through his memories, pushing aside the depraved thoughts he’d had for her. Faces flashed in his mind’s eye as he and the maiden stood in silence. She seemed to be waiting for him to draw the pieces together, her smile faltering when recognition spread across his features. Loki did know her, but not this particular version of her. She’d been younger when he last saw her, quiet like a mouse, hiding amongst the Aesir without drawing much attention to herself.
Sigyn. Sweet Sigyn, daughter of a pair of unremarkable beings in the Aesir tribe. Godly but not—soft-spoken and insignificant.
Well, insignificant no more. She’d blossomed, bloomed like one of the flowers in the garden.
But perhaps she’d always been exquisite—and he’d simply never noticed before.
“You must forgive me. I’ve been a blind fool,” he insisted, sweeping toward her and snatching her hand. She stiffened, tugging back a little, but he held firm. Their eyes met, and he breathed her name so that it would dance on the breeze, and in the human villages beyond the great forest, someone would hear its whispers on the nape of their neck. He enjoyed the way her cheeks coloured, a pinkish hue that made her blue eyes even brighter, and the lewd thoughts crept back in. She swallowed thickly, noticeably so, as he pulled her closer, her eyes slipping down to his lips, her body trembling ever so slightly.
But she ducked away when he tried to kiss her, giggling and wriggling free when he loosened his hold on her wrist. He smiled, almost amused by her blushing, but wouldn’t let her get far. An arm hooked around her waist, and Loki pulled her to him, her back to his chest, her small form nestled securely in his firm grip. Wetness clung to her still, coating his lips as he ran them along her shoulder and up her neck, reveling in the way she shivered.
Sigyn didn’t stay for long. No, while she seemed fine with kisses and nibbles on her neck, she put her foot down when his hands started to wander, and eventually elbowed him hard enough in the ribs to make him let go. She staggered a few steps forward, and when she turned back, Loki saw her chest rising and falling heavily.
“Have I insulted you?” he asked, knowing he hadn’t done enough to hurt her. If she’d scrambled for clothes, then it was her modesty he’d hurt if anything—but there were ways to work around that. She shook her head, but retreated again when he moved toward her. “What then?”
“I won’t give you what you want,” the goddess remarked with a slight nod down to his pants. “Only my husband will have me as you wish to.”
Without meaning to, Loki scoffed. “Why?”
“Because when I marry,” she told him, her tone neither snippy nor angered, but gentle and sweet, as if he hadn’t been too forward with her, “I’ll give myself wholly to my husband. Every part of me will be his, just as every part of him will be mine. I’ll not share myself with anyone except for him.”
Hands on his hips, he gave a chuckle. It wasn’t an unkind sound, but her smile weakened somewhat.
“And what if he has shared himself with others?” He couldn’t imagine a man, no matter the creature, who’d take no one to his bed before marriage. She gave a little shrug again, looking upward and squinting as a fluffy white cloud blew out of the sun’s way.
“I’ll love him all the same,” she admitted, still studying the sky, “because he’ll be mine then. I’ve no interest in thrusting my ways onto another. But I cannot give you what you desire, I’m afraid.”
In a way, he admired her. Deep down, of course. On the surface, Loki wanted nothing more than to rip her sheet away and ravish her—show her what a silly girl she’d been to deny herself such wonderful pleasure.
He didn’t do any of that. Loki had never taken an unwilling woman by force, and he’d not start today. Instead, he smiled, thrilled at what he’d found along his journey. Pure beauty. He suddenly realized he had no interest in sullying it. Just as he’d taken great care not to crush any of the flowers underfoot, he decided to take great care with the creature before him.
Because he would have her, but not today.
Today, he would study her, soak her in, this exquisite being who’d escaped his notice for far too long.
She shuffled away when he drifted toward her again, going as far as to toe the water’s edge, but Loki merely moved past her and gathered her discarded clothes. It was nothing more than a shift dress of simple fabric, blue like the sky, and a grey shawl. Her eyebrows twitched up as he held out her things to her, and she seemed almost grateful. Her smile, so delicate and serene, told him that he’d done the right thing, that he could enjoy her now in more ways than one.
He settled on the pool’s edge while she dressed, his back to her, his shoes discarded and feet in the dark water. She joined him moments later, watching the stream fall over the mouth of the cave nearby, seeming both young and old, her skin smooth, her eyes filled with the wisdom of the ages. Without thinking, he reached up and tucked her damp hair behind one ear—and this time she didn’t flinch back.
“I’ve planting to do,” she told him, looking now to the sprawling valley. “Would you like to help?”
He nodded. “I would. I’m afraid I’m not much of a gardener.”
“You can hand me the seed,” Sigyn offered sweetly, resting her hand on his shoulder as she pushed back up to her feet. “Have you nowhere else to be? Surely your lonely road leads to somewhere.”
His eyes darted back to his bag, in which sat Odin’s gold, but then shook his head, grinning. “I’ve nowhere to be today. In fact…” He accepted her hand when she held it out to him, letting her pull him up, enjoying the way her small hand fit so neatly in his. “There is nowhere in all the nine realms I’d rather be than here with you.”
Her blushing returned, and after grabbing her gardening bag, they ventured into the field of petals and colour together, all the worlds forgotten just for that day.