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It was full on dark when they'd awakened, shivering with the cold in the abandoned cottage. The fire had burned down to coals, ineffective against the harsh Asgardian winter chill. By Simon's watch, it was after two in the morning and so they hurriedly gathered their belongings and started out for the city. They hadn't gone very far when Simon asked why they couldn't just pop into the palace from where they now stood but Brenna refused, explaining to him that she wanted as much intelligence going in as she could gather and thus she needed to set eyes upon the city first. So they kept on, racing against the sunrise until at last they came to the ridge from which Simon and Lelia had first watched the attack. The horizon had begun to lighten ever so faintly. Torches burned along the city walls, around the palace, rising into the sky. To their left, from the forest floor below, came a faint blue glow.
Brenna stood there on the ridge, scanning the walls, finding faint movement, likely guards at their posts. She hated going in blind. Where would be a safe spot to appear unnoticed by the enemy if they were indeed inside?
“ 'Tis going to be light soon,” Lelia nodded toward the west where the line of light was now more obvious.
Brenna walked through the palace in her mind. The Great Hall, the Library, the Throne room, her grandmother's bedchamber, the servants quarters....
“I have it. No one will be in the arboretum at this hour,” she held the Uruz up between her thumb and forefinger, “When the portal opens, walk through but stay close so you can retreat if the enemy be present, do you ken?”
“We do,” Simon answered, taking Lelia's hand.
“Alright. The city of Asgard, The palace, the Arboretum.”
The air before them shimmered, the view of the city fading as a large circle coalesced before their eyes, the image within a silhouette of tall trees and low lush bushes. A small bird flew out of the portal, squawking into the forest behind them.
“Go on. I will follow you.”
Simon squared his shoulders, tightened his grip on Lelia's hand and they stepped through, turning to the portal.
“Come on,” Simon whispered, “No one's here.”
With one last look about her at the forest, she hefted her duffel bag and left the freezing cold ridge for the warmth of the glass enclosed garden, the portal closing behind her with a soft whump.
“This is beautiful,” Lelia breathed, “Look at the flowers, bloomed out of season!”
“It is one of my favorite places in the palace. Do you know how to shoot a crossbow?”
“I was near born with a bow in me hand. 'Tis Asgard, who does not know how to handle a bow?”
When Simon raised his hand she clucked her tongue, “Present company excluded and that is a subject we'll broach soon enough.”
Brenna untied the crossbow and the bag of bolts from her duffel and handed them up to Lelia, shoving her duffel underneath a low lying bush, “Do not shoot unless I give word.”
“Aye.”
“How do they keep it so warm in here?” Simon bent to study a large orange specimen but Brenna was already making her way along one of the pathways, her dagger unsheathed in her hand but before she'd gone more than a few steps she heard Lelia cry out.
“Simon! Look at yer cloak!”
Rays of gold and green light emanated from beneath Simon's cloak, bright enough now to cast their shadows tall along the mosaic inlaid walkway. Simon undid the cloak at his throat and let it slide to the ground, un-shouldering the pack.
“ 'Tis the runes!” Lelia opened the flap, squinting as she peered inside.
“And the Uruz, Brenna,” Simon pointed to the necklace which was now glowing a brilliant white beneath her sweater.
“The gods wept!” Brenna hissed, pulling her necklace out of her sweater and over her head. She  dropped it into the open pack, pointing at the glass ceiling overhead, “Shut the flap, quickly before we are found out.”
Simon shut the flap, clicking it closed, shook his head. Beams of light shone through every pinhole, thin spot, seam. At last, Simon set it in the middle of his cloak and wrapped it up into a bundle, effectively damping the glow.
“How are ye going to carry that? Ye need yer hands free for what may come,” Lelia tugged at the bundle, “Just put the pack back on and pull yer cloak tight. We're all in for it anyhow.”
Simon looked at Lelia, then to Brenna who shrugged, nodded, “Whatever you do, do it with all haste. We must hurry.”
Simon unwrapped the pack, and donned it once more as Lelia draped his cloak around his shoulders, “It's not perfect.”
“We have no time for perfect,” Brenna gestured to them, “We must find the King.”



Colin sat straight up in the cot, his heart racing as he gazed about the corridor. The tall windows had started to lighten with the dawn. It looked to be a sunny day too, a complete juxtaposition to what he expected would be Asgard's last sunrise. The corridor was mostly silent save for light footfalls here and there, doors opening and closing. The palace was waking up for the day. He swung his feet over the floor, glanced at the closed door beside him.
Tony had returned earlier that evening with a bowl of barley porridge topped with dried berries, trying in vain to coax Eidra to eat but nothing would move her. She simply curled up into a ball and turned away from them, not even Helgi could convince her to take a spoonful. He'd retreated to his cot, defeated.
He rubbed his face, stretched. Maybe he would visit the children in the nursery, comfort them. If only his heart would stop pounding. He stood up, headed down the corridor, trying to focus on the positive, finding none.


Brenna slid up to the end of the corridor, easing a bit further along so she could see the entrance to the Throne room. What she saw made her fairly leap with joy. There were two royal guards standing on either side of the double doors. The guard on the left she didn't know but the guard on the right was Silas.
She rushed from her hiding place, “Silas! Oh Silas thank the gods! I need to see my uncle!”
Silas had brought his pike to the ready as she emerged from the shadows, immediately dropping it as he recognized her, “Your Highness? I did not know you were returned from Midgard!”
Spying movement behind her, he lowered his pike again, “Who goes? State your name!”
“They are with me. Silas. 'Tis Simon Foster and his companion, Lelia,” Brenna pushed his pike to the side, “They have come to see the King.”
“Master Foster?” Silas stepped forward, “Can it be?”
“It can and it is,” Simon pulled his cloak tighter around him, “I have returned and I must see King Thor.”
Silas glanced at his fellow guardsman who wore a look of shock upon his face until Simon cleared his throat, “Excuse me but is there something wrong?”
“There is much wrong, Master Foster,” Silas reached for the door handle, “The King will tell you.”
“Wait, Silas,” Brenna took him by the arm, “Where are my parents? My brothers and sisters?”




“Take him,” she laughed weakly, “Put your hand behind his head...yes like that. See? 'Tis simple.”
He gazed down at the squalling infant in his arms then back up at the woman. The same woman from the palace, the woman who had been screaming his name, laying siege to his mind.
“Fenris,” she lay back on the pillow and closed her eyes, “Such a lovely name. Our little wolf pup.”
“Who are you?” The words sat ready upon his tongue though they came out much different, “The odds are now even. Two women, two men.”
“What of Helgi?” the woman chuckled, “You are yet outnumbered.”
“Yes,” his voice sounded far away, “I stand corrected.”
The baby in his arms sneezed, shuddered. He was so pale.
“Give him back to me so I might keep him warm.”
“Here now,” a voice at his elbow, the baby being lifted from his arms, “Off with you, let them rest. There is a pot of mulled wine on the hearth for yourself and Chris.”
A lady of middling age, a kerchief tied about her white hair, laid the baby in the woman's arms. The name Chris tore at him though he had not a clue why.
“Drink up lad.”
He looked about the room, spied a heavyset bearded man sitting in front of a large roaring fire, a mug raised in his hand. He returned the gesture, surprised to find he was holding his own mug, gave the man a smile.
“The son you've been waiting for. He'll fill the void left by poor Silas, not that he'll take the angel's place, mind you. Here's to his memory.”
He felt joy and profound sorrow all at the same time as he sipped the warm, sweet liquid.
“Where am I?”
“To Silas.”
“Who are you?!”
“Now to your current predicament,” the heavyset man leaned forward in the chair, “Hold fast to what you were lest you lose yourself forever.”
From behind the door to his left, the baby began to cry again. It was maddening. All so familiar and yet so alien.
“Who are you?”
The man reached across the void, put his hand upon his knee, “I was your dearest friend, you were, for want of blood, a son to me. I warned Colin of what was coming, the good Lord knows I did....”
“Colin...”
The name echoed in his head, faded.
“...and he did all he could, bless him,” the man squeezed his knee, “Now the Protector is coming. The runes have returned....”



He stared at the form her bare back to him, dark hair spilling across the fur robe. He put a hand to her shoulder, fighting desperately to recall the face of the woman in his dream, He pulled  her toward him but as her head rolled backward he saw, illuminated by the cerulean glow from the grate,  the face of the Midgardian woman. He squeezed his eyes shut as if to hold onto the dream, the old man, the pale little baby, the.....the.....
He opened his eyes again, sat up. After a moment, he stood up, striding from the shelter as the Midgardian woman gathered the blanket around her with a grunt.

As Loki neared the perimeter of the encampment, the sentries came to attention but as he attempted to cross the boundary, the sentry nearest him stuck his massive lance into the ground at his feet.
“Menyir has decreed no one shall leave the camp.”
“I must speak to the Asgardians,” Loki stepped around the lance only to be met with another, crossed like an x in his path.
“And so we will when the sun rises and we return to the city but not before.”
“How dare you?” Loki shouted, enraged, “I am brother to the king! I demand you allow me to pass!”
“We will summon the king,” the sentry nodded to one of his fellow guards, “If he says you may pass then so be it.”
The guard started for Menyir's shelter, only getting a few steps away from him when Loki called out, “Stop!”
The sentry regarded him, “Very well but you cannot pass.”
Loki shook his head, confused, irritated as the last vestiges of the dream disappeared, leaving only a profound sorrow to hang over his head like a heavy mist.
“Do not trouble yourself. I will speak with the Asgardians when the time comes,” Loki turned about, head down, staring at the frozen ground as he traced his path back to the shelter and the strange woman sharing his bed.
“Wait here,” Hobnir gave Loki a condescending look as he knocked on the door to Menyir's shelter.
“What is it?”
Hobnir flinched at the sharp response, “Milord, Your brother desires an audience with you.”
The door swung inward and Menyir appeared, his hand outstretched, “You need not announce my brother, he is always welcome, you dolt!”
“Forgive me for disturbing you,” Loki bowed deeply as he was ushered inside.
“Not at all. I was expecting your visit,” Menyir gestured to a couple of stools arranged about the central grate, “Sit, tell me what troubles you.”
“I am confused, Milord,” Loki glanced at the overlarge chairs, “My head reels with images I cannot comprehend.”
Menyir sat down in one of the chairs, “Please. We are equals. Call me brother, I will have nothing less.”
He groaned aloud, pressed his palms to his temples as if by doing so he could suppress the image which the word “brother” recalled to mind.
“What is it?”
“I am plagued by the faces of my enemy. The King of Asgard, the woman and her children in the Great Hall, the tall Midgardian, the old Queen,” he bent forward, closed his eyes, “I try to think of Jotunheim, the fortress, the Palladium mountains, the light caverns but I cannot see them up here,” he tapped his head with a finger, balling his hand into a fist.
“The enchantment Odin held over you was impossibly strong. These images will fade with time. Have you eaten yet this evening?”
He forced himself to stand upright, gagging on the word, “brother” once more, “I have not.”
When Menyir clapped his hands, the door to the shelter opened and Hobnir poked his head inside, “You summoned me, Milord?”
“Yes, fetch us something to eat. The prince is hungry. ”
Hobnir bowed, turned to leave but Loki shook his head, “I have not the stomach for food. I wish to return to Jotunheim as soon as I am able.”
Menyir leaned forward on the stool, “We cannot go home without the Midgardian Simon Foster. When the Asgardians are at last faced with their own demise, they will give him up then you shall be free to return to the realm of your birth.”
Hobnir slipped inside the shelter with a stone bowl, handing it to Menyir who offered it to Loki. He sniffed at the contents, turned his head away, repulsed at the sour earthy aroma of the pale green spongy clumps piled over the rim.
“Of course. You were not raised upon our foodstuffs. This too shall pass,” Menyir lifted a morsel from the bowl, offering it to him, as if to a recalcitrant child “I implore you, do try it.”
“I cannot. Not yet,” Loki retreated from Menyir's outstretched hand.
Menyir shrugged, popping the pale green sponge into his mouth, “When you are hungry enough, you shall be more tractable. Tell me, what do you think of your Midgardian prize?”
For a moment, Loki was lost until Menyir chuckled, “The woman, Eris? The sorceress?”
Loki frowned, recalling their little game in the shelter, “She is a Midgardian. She is of little use to me.”
“She is of much use to us, however. She will identify the Midgardian scientist. She has brought us the casket. Yes, she is a worthy ally even as she is but a woman and a terran woman at that. You could doubtless employ her as a servant.”
Loki's heart raced, his mind reeling once more and he put his hand upon the leg of the stool to steady himself, “I beg your leave, Milord. I must retire. I am in great need of rest.”
“Of course. It is for the best. Perhaps you shall be more yourself come the dawn. You may go.”
Loki bowed deeply, staggering backward to the door to emerge into the cold night air. He took a deep breath, ignoring Hobnir's grunt of laughter as he strode through the camp toward his shelter.





Colin tossed and turned on the cot he'd placed in the hall outside Eidra's door. He would start to sweat, throw the wool blankets off, become cold again and cover up, the slightest sounds rousing him from his light doze. It was of little use to try and sleep what with his mind afire with remorse, regret, anger.
Stark was wrong. Letting these people fall prey to the Jotunns was akin to murder in his opinion. It was well past time to enlist Earth's aid. They would deal with the fallout after. Of course the point was moot since the bridge was now manned by a phalanx of warriors, the portals were off line and their markers had been taken.
Earlier that evening what members of the High Council were present in the palace held a meeting in the secrecy of Thor's bedchamber. He'd been in attendance, his title of liaison still in place. He listened in stunned silence as they called for the surrender of the Midgardian Simon Foster to the Jotunns, tearing Loki apart, upbraiding Thor for appointing him adviser though Thor was resolute in his decision, seeming the only one besides himself standing in his brother's defense, for that was what Thor continued to call him. Urtek was one such violent detractor, his rejection of Loki made obvious when he spied Lisle endeavoring to comfort Fen after the incident in the Great hall. He'd taken Lisle by the arm, steering her toward her mother, warning Fen to stay away from his daughter.
“He is a danger to the realm as he has ever been!” one council member cried, “He should have remained locked up in the cells!”
“Banishment is not enough!” howled another, “He is guilty of treason!”
But when Urtek stood up and spoke, Colin could no longer hold his tongue.
“He is a Jotunn! One of our hated enemies. He has no place on the Council or at the side of the King, nay, in the realm itself!”
“You knew!” Colin rose from his seat by the bedchamber door, “You fecking knew. Whether it was rumor, conjecture, fecking street corner gossip or gospel, you knew what he was and you've known for ages. That didn't stop you from accepting him back into the royal family, letting him advise the King, begging yer Majesty's pardon, yet when he's taken over by stronger magic, yer ready to toss him into the street like yesterday's refuse? Hypocrites, the whole lot of ya!”
“Of course,” Urtek sneered, “Do you not bask in the light of his hospitality? Commingle with his family so thoroughly that you now wish to become one of us? I find it strange, exceeding strange that you would come to the defense of someone who remains guilty of laying waste to one of Midgard's great cities. Have you so completely renounced your citizenship that you could forgive him such glaring indiscretions?”
Back and forth they'd shouted at each other, only stopping when Thor roared for order. Incensed, Urtek strode from the room, Colin only kept himself from following the man by sheer force of will and the realization that it might create a bad impression were he to break a Council member's jaw. Still he'd excused himself as well, sick at heart, returning to Eidra's bedchamber where he found Stark sitting before the fire with Helgi. The room looked like a sleepover, blankets and bodies spread about the floor, no one willing to leave their mistress's side. After reporting to an incredulous Stark what had been said in the meeting, he'd retreated with his bad humor and a cot to the hallway, preferring to be alone with his frustration.
He fell once again into a light doze and was immediately beset by a dream of Brynn and Astrid chasing fireflies in the manor yard. He opened his eyes, looked up at the torch on the wall, watching the flames flicker. Somewhere in the palace, a door clicked shut. He closed his eyes once more.
“Master Denehy?”
“Mmmm,” Colin groaned, “G'way. Sleeping.”
“Master Denehy, please.”
Colin sat up, rubbed his eyes, “What is it, fer fuck sake?”
Below the torch across the hall, as his vision cleared, he spied a haze which immediately coalesced into a thin pillar, solidified until he could make out Hal's pinched features, hands clasped at his waist in the pose he'd always adopted in life, ever ready to serve.
“Well this is new,” Colin swung his legs over the side of the cot, “Where's the old man?”
“Really, Master Denehy,” came Hal's reply, his countenance haughty, “It is breech of etiquette to speak so casually of the dead.”
When Colin continued to stare at him, he continued on, his voice hollow, exasperated, “Master Wallace has moved to the next...existence if you will....with Mistress Wallace, therefore it falls to me to  watch over the Protector.”
“You mean they've been reborn?” Colin chuckled, leaning back against the wall, startled by the echo of a a child's giggle and the caress of a cold breeze across his cheek.
“Call it what you may, rest assured they were happy though Master Wallace expressed great concern about leaving his Highness, Prince Loki.”
“They were good friends,” Colin touched his face, feeling a spot of cold along his cheekbone fade beneath his fingers.
“Yes, and his Highness has a tremendous need for just such as this right now, does he not?” Hal drifted closer to the cot, “You must rescue him from his captors, restore balance to the realms.”
“How can I rescue someone who's not interested in being rescued in the first place. He's not himself anymore. Not right in the head.”
Hal drifted back and forth before him, “Nevertheless, you will try.”
“I will?” Colin sat forward, “You sound pretty sure of yerself.”
Hal nodded, mist flowing up and down with his movements, “I am because I have been so told.”
“Okay then do I succeed?”
“I do not know,” Hal's form flickered.
“I thought the spirit world was omniscient? Does everything work out? Are the Jotunns gonna feck off?”
“I regret I do not know.”
“All you know is that I'll try...right,” Colin lay back down on the cot, closed his eyes
“You must,” Hal hovered over him, “If you do not, the realms will suffer for it.”
The click of the bedchamber door made Colin look up to see Stark poking his head out into the hallway.
“Who were you talking to?”
“Meself,” Colin grunted, turning to face the wall, “It's a form of schizophrenia. It comes from being held hostage by blue meanies.”
“Uh huh,” Stark nudged the cot, “Whatever you say, buddy. Just so's you know, Eidra's awake again, staring off into space. Kinda creeping me out. Helgi's nodded off in the chair and the rest of the band are out.  I'm going to try and find Eidra something to eat. She's gotta keep it together for the kiddies. Why don't you go in and sit with her, try and bring her around?”
Colin glanced over his shoulder at Stark, “What am I going to say? Sorry yer husband has turned out to be an enemy of the realm. Better luck next time?”
“You know, it's good to see you take your job so seriously,” Stark kicked the cot harder, “What with your playing around at being an Asgardian, you might want to act the part and comfort one of its citizens in her time of need.”
Colin scowled at Stark, sat up, swinging his legs over the floor. To be honest, he'd been dreading having to face Eidra. For all of him, this whole nightmare would never have happened if the portals hadn't been built and he felt personally responsible even though he knew deep down the matter was out of his hands, had been ever since the king had given his blessing to the project.
“I'll be back in a few minutes,” Stark waved at him as he started down the corridor, “Gotta find the damn cafeteria in this place.”
Colin eased the door open and slipped inside. Chase raised his head to look at him, rolled over and hunkered down beneath his blanket. Eidra, if she'd been awake before, now looked to have drifted back to sleep. He sat down in the chair beside her bed, gazing about the room. The firelight cast low shadows along the walls, hanging drapes. Colin glanced at Eidra once more and nearly leaped out of the chair. She was staring at him.
“I thought you were asleep. Fergive me.”
She lay there, silent as he struggled to find something to say that wouldn't sound like he was avoiding every relevant subject in the last twenty-four hours. He came up with nothing. At last he leaned down, elbows on his knees to look at her.
“I'm sorry, Eidra. I'm so sorry. We've made a mess of this whole affair and now yer family is suffering for it. I wouldn't blame the king if he ejected the lot of us from the realm. If I could fix this, if I could bring Brynn back, break whatever hold the Jotunns have over yer husband, I would do whatever it took...”
Though she said nothing, Eidra's hand emerged from beneath the coverlet, coming to rest atop his own and Colin gave her a sad smile, hoping that maybe, just maybe, everything would be alright.





Eris's eyes flew open moments before she hit the floor of the shelter. She lay there stunned, looking up at Loki as he crawled onto the bed, collapsing face down with a whimper.
“Oh hell no,” Eris rose to her knees, “I am not freezing to death for anyone. You're going to share your space,” she had considered saying warmth but as of yet she'd not encountered any, physical or emotional. His only response was to turn on his side and curl into a ball. She gave the rough blanket beneath him a tug, then a hard yank, ducking when he sat up, kicking and thrashing at the coverlet until it spilled into her lap.
“Take it!” he roared, “I have no need for it. As long as you will cease your hue and cry!”
“Do you not get it?” she nudged the bed, feeling a bit braver, “I don't care if we sleep back to back but I need some body heat or I'm going to be dead by morning.”
Maybe it was a slight exaggeration, maybe it wasn't but she didn't want to play the odds. When she received another groan, she climbed onto the bed. He raised his head and she tensed, ready to run  if he started swinging.
“How dare you come to my bed uninvited! Away with you!”
She dropped to the fur robes which passed for a mattress, facing away from him, “You didn't complain about me being on the bed earlier. Sorry, I'm down for the night.”
She felt hands at her back and she gripped the wood frame tightly as they gave her a mighty shove. If not for the situation, it could have been almost comical as she pushed back with her legs, inching further and further into the middle until at last his hands disappeared and she heard a dull thud.
“Shit,” she whispered, flipping over to see him leap up from the ground, his face a mask of rage.
“Bitch! I could have you beaten! I could cast you out into the night. There you would surely freeze!”
Had she gone too far? There was only one way to find out.
“You won't throw me out because Menyir still needs me and you don't want to disappoint him so you can just give up the spoiled prince act and go to sleep. Is that too much to ask? I don't appreciate being treated like a servant...”
Loki shuddered, dropped forward to kneel on the bed, grabbing a fistful of the front of her tunic, “What is her name?”
“What the fuck? Who?!” Eris struggled to tear his hand away, “Who's her?”
“THE SERVANT! THE WOMAN IN THE GREAT HALL!” he bellowed, nearly nose to nose with her.
“I don't goddamn know! Jesus....,” then her mind burst to life. Perth had on occasion mentioned Loki's wife had been a servant in the palace when she was a young woman. They had in fact met when she was given to him for his household.
“You mean your.....her...ahhhn!” she gasped as he shook her harder.
“What is her name!”
Should she say it? Would he throw a rod? Have a complete meltdown?
“If you know of whom I speak, tell me!”
“Her name is Eidra, okay? Eidra. Now let go of me!” her tunic slid from his grasp as he sat there staring through her for a long moment before sinking to the mattress with a moan.
Eris watched him for a few minutes as he lay there, covering his face with his hands until she realized he had at last fallen asleep. She lay back down beside him and drew the blanket over her, gazing at the blue rock in the grate as she once more contemplated escape but where would she go? Back to Perth to share in his fate as Menyir laid waste to the realm? She shivered, yawned, exhaustion intruding upon her concerns, shutting her eyes before she could think further upon them.


At least half a dozen times, Brenna lifted the Uruz out of her sweater, only to drop it back inside, reminding herself once again that she had no idea what she might walk into if she were to open a portal. If only they'd left Willow in the stable. hated having to slog through the snow along the side of the road. By the time she reached the crossroads it was past the noon hour. She'd expected to come home and raid the pantry but the shock of finding her home in such a state had driven all thoughts of food from her mind, now, however, she was starving, cold, wet, and exhausted. She started off down the road to her right, barely giving a nearby small cottage a second glance.
When she first set out from the manor, every farm, every hovel or cottage had looked deserted. She'd stopped at the farm of the Widow Brunhild a few rods north toward the city, dismayed to find the small cottage empty as well, things tossed about the common room as if Brunhild had left in a hurry. Where had she gone? Had she been headed to the city or had she fled further into the countryside and what of the other cottages, farms? Where had the people gotten to? Maybe they'd taken refuge at the encampment, at least she could hope this was the case, any other explanation was impossible to fathom.
At a bend in the road, she stopped, looking through the trees at the encampment as she had always done when visiting Chase. The angle always afforded her a decent view of Longhouse one and the main gate, especially helpful when she was desperate to avoid her father but what she now saw made her stumble forward to lean against a tree, all discomforts forgotten. Longhouse one was a burnt out shell, its roof open to the sky, timbers smoking, the tent city was decimated, the ground a vast swath of muddy burlap, tent stakes, poles standing naked in the snow. Longhouse two was largely untouched though the side door looked to have been rammed inward but all the destruction was secondary to the activity around the exterior. A line of Jotunn stood watching technicians, agents, carry boxes and computer equipment into Longhouse two, presumably from the remnants of Longhouse one. She made her way through the trees, closer and closer until she reached the tree line and stood behind a short ragged fir tree, looking for Chase, praying to the gods he was there safe among the remaining agents but the longer she watched, the more despondent she became. Where was Mister Stark? Agent Kenworth? She'd never felt as alone as she did at this moment.


“Simon, are ye daft? If we stay here, we're caught for sure!” Lelia whispered, tugging at the sleeve of his tunic but Simon was rooted to the spot. The camp was devastated, the tents collapsed like dominoes, one on top of the next and so forth down row after row. Longhouse one was destroyed, he could just make out the silhouette of the portal ramp, the cubes were nowhere to be seen. Whoever was left alive had been pressed into service with the Jotunns standing sentry, watching them as they worked to transfer equipment into Longhouse two.
“What are they after doing?”
Simon shrugged, felt the weight of his backpack and was grateful he'd taken his personal effects along with him on his trek, “They can't possibly know what the portals are for, can they? I mean why would they have our agents moving equipment to Longhouse two?”
“I've not the slightest notion. Do ye think we should check in on me Ma and Da?”
“Well we're not going to get near the...”
A roar from one of the Jotunns made them drop into a crouch behind the fallen tree they'd been leaning on. They peeked over the top to see one Jotunn standing over a fellow warrior, pointing at him, yelling in a strange tongue.
“...near the palace,” Simon finished, “We might as well go to the farm. At the very least they might know what happened.”
“If they've not taken to the shelter,” Lelia crawled down the length of the tree to a nearby overgrowth of brush and stopped.
“What...” Simon began but Lelia held up her hand to silence him, tilting her head to a copse of trees near the main gate.
There was someone hiding behind one of the large oaks, watching the encampment just as they had been. Simon stared hard, trying to focus. Whoever it was, wasn't dressed like an Asgardian, rather the person wore a  blue parka, dark green sweater and black pants. Had someone escaped from the encampment?
Simon started to rise but Lelia grabbed his hand, “Yer mad. Who is it now? Tell me this.”
“I'll know when I reach them, won't I?”
“Simon!” Lelia hissed as he moved off in the direction of the stranger, “Odin's beard, stay low!”



By the time Brenna noticed movement in her field of vision, she knew it would be far too late to run, especially in the deep snow. She cursed herself for not paying better attention to her surroundings as she fumbled with numb fingers for the dagger fastened to her leg, thanking the gods she'd strapped it on before she set out from the manor. She twisted around, the dagger held blade out along her wrist as her father had taught her, ready to fight her way free but what she saw made her nearly lose her grip.
Scurrying toward her was a bearded humpbacked man, his features hidden beneath the hood of a heavy cloak, hurrying along behind him was a young woman, her red hair braided and coiled atop her head. As they drew closer, Brenna lowered her dagger. She knew the woman, had seen her on a few occasions while she was out walking the property lines with her father. The manor's land was adjacent to theirs. What was her name?



The closer they came to the stranger, Simon saw he was wrong. The stranger was a girl. No, a young woman, a woman whose face he'd seen before.
“Simon,” Lelia panted, “Wait. Slow down!”
But Simon kept slogging through the snow, throwing his hood back from his face for better visibility and at last he knew who he was looking at.



Brenna slid her dagger into the holster on her thigh, sure she was starting to hallucinate for the man struggling to reach her couldn't possibly be....
“Simon Foster?” she whispered at first to herself, then a bit louder, “Simon?”


Simon stopped before her, grinning, out of breath, “Good lord, Brenna? What are you doing here?”
In reply, Brenna enfolded him into a tight hug, “Oh thank the gods. I thought I was alone. I thought everyone I knew had disappeared.”
“Oookay,” Simon patted her gingerly on the back, “It's lovely to see you too but I think we should get out of earshot before we're found out. Lelia and I...”
“That is it!” Brenna cried, letting go of him, “Vargas is your father!”
“So he is, Milady,” Lelia gave her an awkward curtsey, “Have ye seen him? Where is he?”
“I have seen no one.”
“Hush, the both of you!” Simon tilted his head toward the encampment where two of the Jotunn warriors were staring in the direction of the tree line.
“Do ye think they heard us?” Lelia whispered.
At a wave to his fellow Jotunn the two warriors started in their direction.
“We have to get out of here,” Simon gestured toward the women, “Deeper into the brush,”
“Where are we going to go?” Lelia took his hand as they began to skirt the tree line away from the encampment.
“We're going to find shelter and food before we die of exposure now say no more.”
They hurried through the snow as best they could, spurred on by the sound of crackling tree branches and the thunder of heavy footfalls.




Brenna pushed open the door to the little cottage, “Hello? Is anyone here?”
When there came no answer, she gestured inside, “Do you see? I declare everyone has fled the realm.”
“Perhaps they haven't exactly run off,” Simon drew off his cloak and unshouldered his backpack as Brenna giggled.
“Oh I thought you had a hump on your back. I am sorry.”
“Mmm, no. I just wanted to keep the pack undercover,” he reached down to pat it, “I'm carrying precious cargo.”
Brenna regarded the pack curiously as Simon began to set some logs from the box beside the hearth into the cold fireplace, “Precious cargo?”
“Yes, and I need to....uhn...get it to the palace but that's going to be next to impossible.”
Brenna drew out a chair from a long table which had been shoved to the side along one wall and sat down while Lelia began to explore the shelves beside the hearth.
“Impossible,” Brenna breathed, “Odin's beard.”
“Aye, the Jotunn have laid siege to the city,” Lelia picked up a heavy crock and set it down on the floor, “From what we could see, there looked to have been a horrible battle, scores of guards covered the fields, frozen, up against the main gates, poor things.”
“Lelia,” Simon grunted, “You're being a tad indelicate.”
Lelia looked up at Brenna's stricken face, “Oh please fergive me, Milady. I forget meself.”
“No, go on, “ Brenna shook her head, “I must know what we are up against however painful it might be to hear.”
Lelia pried off the lid of the crock, “Aye, well, standing with the guards were common folk, pitchforks and scythes, bow and crossbow in their hands..that's where yer people have gotten to. They joined in the fight to defend Asgard, more's the pity.”
Brenna regarded her own crossbow, dangling from her duffel bag, “Poor match for ice giants.”
“Too true....ah, look! Dried apples! And up there in the cloth, sure and it's a loaf of bread!” Lelia stood up, moving parcels and packages out of the way, “If we can find a bit of cured ham, we've a meal.”
“I'm not very hungry,” Brenna put her head down on the table.
“Well you have to eat,” Simon called to her as he moved the logs with a long hook, encouraging the air to circulate around the growing flame, “You can't go without eating.”
“Would you be able to eat if it were your family that had gone missing?”
Simon stopped, sat back on his heels, “What do you mean. Missing?”
As Lelia brought the crock and the loaf of bread to the table and started to divide them evenly, Brenna told them of her arrival at the manor, finding the front door broken in, her father's manservant dead. Finding Eldred in the empty stables where he'd informed her that her family had been led away by a group of Jotunn warriors.
“But how did the Jotunns manage to reach Asgard?” Brenna picked up a slice of bread, sniffed it, “They are forbidden to use the bridge and I have possession of the Uruz,” she patted her chest, feeling the comforting shape of the disc beneath her sweater.
“I believe they came through the portals,” Simon joined them at the table, “I've no idea how but it's the only explanation I can come up with and judging by what we saw at the encampment, I think I'm right.”
“It does not make sense. My father said the portals cannot work like the bridge. Someone with the ability to control the portals would have had to help them.”
“Quite the mystery,” Simon popped a dried slice of apple into his mouth, “One that I hope we can solve but the problem remains, how to get inside the palace?”
“What is it you have in your back pack that is so dear?” Brenna nodded toward the pack beside the cottage door.
With a smile, Simon fetched the pack and set it on the table before them as he opened the flap, bright light illuminated the interior of the pack, bathing the cottage in hues of green and gold. He reached inside, pulling out first the ship's prism, then the chalice, setting them on the table, “I am bringing the rune elementals back to Asgard. I've had to bury them deep in my pack or their light would be like a beacon over our heads.”
Brenna's mouth hung open as she reached out to stroke the smooth glass of the prism, “I knew it was special when I repaired it, I could feel its energy but never did I believe it was a relic of Asgard. Oh my.”
“And the chalice. Velos had it. He returned with us to Asgard but when he saw the devastation, the Jotunns, he headed back to Muspelheim, with any luck, to bring his own people to our aid.”
“Milady, look!” Lelia cried, pointing at her, “Inside yer tunic!”
Brenna glanced down at her sweater, at the bright white circle glowing through the fabric. She pulled the Uruz out and held it, dangling over the prism and the chalice, watching their light mingle until it was almost too much to look at directly. She shielded her eyes, letting the necklace drop to her chest again.
“By the gods, my necklace is a rune elemental?”
“It must be, look at it.”
A shimmering haze had enveloped the three runes, pulsing, possessing a life all its own, extending tendrils outward to Simon, caressing his hands like a lover.
“D' ye see that now?” Lelia gestured at him, adopting a proud mien, “Simon is descended from Melos. It was his destiny to gather the runes together when they were needed again.”
“Melos. I have not heard that name since I was a child on Helgi's lap,” Brenna smiled though it quickly faded as she thought again of her family, “She told me the legend of Volundr and his companions, how they retrieved the runes and scattered them across the realms to keep them safe but I did not know they had reached Midgard.”
“This was as much of a shock to me as it is to you, trust me. I set off on this insane trek without a clue what I was supposed to do and do you know what? I'm still clueless. I was headed to the palace with the runes because it was the only place I could think of to bring them. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing or not, I'm just following my gut.”
Brenna slipped the Uruz back inside her sweater, “Perhaps you are doing just what the runes wish you to do. Sometime we have to let fate guide us.”
“I've been doing just that for weeks,” Simon sat back in the chair, rubbing his eyes, “but fate isn't going to get us inside that palace. We've reached an impasse.”
Brenna tapped the still glowing shape of the Uruz, “We most definitely have not. I shall get us inside the palace. All I need to do is open a portal and step through.”
“But what if ye open this portal and ye come face to face with a legion of Jotunns?” Lelia shook her head, “Ye'll be done for.”
“I will simply close the portal,” Brenna mimed twisting her thumb and forefinger in the air, “They will not be able to follow us. I will make every effort to place us where we might be the safest.”
“I think any semblance of safe has disappeared,” Simon grunted, standing from the table.
“Nevertheless, we must try. I need to find my family, my father and mother, brothers, sisters. They must be inside the city. If you do not wish to come with me, it is your choice.”
“I never said we weren't coming with you, I said it wasn't going to be easy,” Simon held out his hand to Lelia, “Now we should rest until nightfall. It will be better to travel under cover of darkness.”
Upon searching the cottage, they found a trunk half full of blankets, spreading them out on the floor before the fireplace. Soon enough, Brenna was the only one awake. She listened to Simon, snoring, mumbling in his sleep about someone named Harmand. Whether Lelia was asleep or not, she couldn't be sure. She lay there, engulfed by the silence, sending silent prayers to the gods that she would find everyone safe and sound behind the palace walls.
lLOOKING TO COMMISSION ART,

I am a fantasy author  of a four book series with the subtitle " The Path" . The first book in the series is titled " Descent" and it is currently on  Kindle. I am looking for cover art for the second book titled "Ascension" as I am eager to get  it submitted to Kindle as well. My vision of the cover scene based on events in the story is as follows., a copse of trees in winter , in the center of the trees' a burial scaffold much like some Native American tribes use, a ragged piece of cloth hanging from it,  blowing in the wind. Full credit would be given to the artist. Descent and Ascension are also here on DA in rough draft if the artist is interested in gaining inspiration. Following is one sketch drawn by a fellow artist inspired by Descent. fav.me/d5lmaza. I hope to see Ascension on Kindle by the first of the new year.

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funygirl38
Deborah Austin
Artist | Hobbyist | Photography
United States
Current Residence: upstate new york
Favourite genre of music: most kinds
Favourite photographer: Carl Heilman, Mark Bowie
Operating System: windows xp
Shell of choice: Alaskan King crab
Skin of choice: golden O_o
Favourite cartoon character: GARFIELD, Peanuts
Personal Quote: "Where are we going and why am I in this handbasket?"
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:icononetruesai:
OneTrueSai Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thanks for the favorite! Heart 
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Valentine345 Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Hello!
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:iconfunygirl38:
funygirl38 Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Greetings!
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:iconvalentine345:
Valentine345 Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
How are you?
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:iconfunygirl38:
funygirl38 Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Oh I'm doing alright and yourself?
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Sillybilly60 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014   Digital Artist
Thank you so much for the fav! :hug:
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Ancha-Snow1 Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for +fav  Hug 
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AdmiralDeMoy Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
:wave: Thanks for the new Loki fave! :hug: 
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funygirl38 Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
My pleasure. Always great to see your work!
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AdmiralDeMoy Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
:aww: :XD: 
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