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Lily's head came up from the table with a snort and she stared about the conference room until her gaze rested on Fury, sitting in a chair across the way, his arms folded. How long had she been asleep? She stretched, groaned as her muscles screamed in protest.
“I said you should have found a couch somewhere,” he shook his head, looked up to the ceiling, “What is it?”
“We're reading high electromagnetic activity in the atmosphere,” the disembodied voice replied. Fury was on his feet, followed closely by Lily.
“Whereabouts is this activity concentrated?”
“Ah, in the sky above us.”
Fury gestured to Lily as they headed for the conference room door, “I want agents on the heliopad now! We're on our way.”

The wind tore at the door in Fury's hand, making every effort to wrench it out of his grasp. Beyond him, Lily could see Tony Stark and Thor standing amid a circle of agents which parted as Fury strode forward. Lily was immediately apprehensive. It was obvious from the beginning that something was wrong in Asgard when neither the portals nor the bridge would work, now Lily was having a hard time fighting down sheer panic, forcing herself to stay in place instead of running to Thor, asking where her husband was.
When Stark spied her, he gave a wink and a smile. Under normal circumstances, she would have dismissed his actions but this time it gave her a measure of comfort. Maybe everything was alright after all, maybe there had been a glitch with the portals. It wasn't unheard of...
“Miss Lily,” Tony's voice cut through her thoughts, “Your husband says to tell you he's fine in case you were worried which of course you were. There now you look a little brighter, got a bit of color in your cheeks. He's waiting for you at...”
“Stark!” Fury bellowed, “What the FUCK is going on? Why have we been unable to contact Asgard for the past five goddamn days? Where the hell is agent Denehy? Why isn't he here with you?”
Stark held up his hands, “Keep your patch on, geez. Let's get inside out of this wind and then we'll tell you all we know, okay? I promise. No water boarding needed,” Stark offered his arm to Lily who gamely took it, “It's been a long time since I've had a pretty lady at my side. Don't tell Garick I said that, don't want him to take offense.”
Lily looked over her shoulder at Thor's grim countenance as they descended the steps into the lower hangar and the feeling of apprehension returned with a vengeance. What had happened while she was gone?

He took another long draught of wine, drew his robe tighter around him as he watched the scene in the south courtyard below. Countless times that morning he'd been compelled to turn away from the sight, forcing himself to remain, bear witness to the pain of separation. Already he could feel the wine twisting his mind, darkening his mood. In the courtyard, Eidra was lifting a crying Astrid up to Helgi in the wagon bed. Fen and Brenna sat upon the driver's seat, Cait between them. Gretten rose from his place beside Beth to extend his hand, pulling Eidra up into the back of the wagon.
In a moment of forgetfulness, he looked for Brynn's happy face, closed his eyes, a strangled cry escaping his lips. When he opened them again, Cait was gazing up at the balcony where he stood hidden in the shadows then Fen hit the reins and the wagon started forward, carrying all he cared about through the gates into the countryside. He stayed at the balcony for a long time, staring at the space where they had been until at last he bent down, picked up the ewer of wine at his feet and retreated into the darkness of his bedchamber.

Eidra buried her nose in Astrid's soft hair, trying to ignore the throbbing pain behind her eyes, hugging the sniffling child close beneath the fur robes.
“....but not even coming out to say goodbye?” Helgi whispered, “ 'Tis cruel..”
“He said his goodbyes last evening to avoid an upset this morn, and this is hardly the last time they shall see him in any case. The girls will visit him regularly with their sister and brother.”
Helgi frowned, cast a glance toward the retreating city, “No matter whether he was at the wagon or not, the children were still beside themselves. Better to shoulder his duties...”
“Helgi, please,” hearing Astrid whine, Eidra pulled  her closer.
“Very well,” Helgi patted Astrid's back, “So what are we to do now?”
“Why we will go back to the manor house. I will raise my children with Ingrid's help. You will  continue to enjoy your dotage while Gretten feeds our bellies,” she gave a gentle grin to Gretten who nodded, “Spring will come. We will plant our garden, tend our animals as we have always done.”
Helgi rubbed Eidra's hand, “You put on a brave face, that you do.”
“Life must continue. Nothing, not even death, can halt the relentless press of time. 'Tis far from bravery, trust me. 'Tis simply how it must be.”
The wagon bounced hard as it turned into the drive to the manor.
“That spot will be a job for the workers come spring,” she thought to herself as she rose to her knees to lean out over the side of the wagon. In the midday sunlight, a line of workmen were busy at the ravaged entrance to the house. Fires in low braziers blazed along the outer wall as the fieldstone and mortar came together, ready to create a new doorway.
What had been done was done. She would do what she must even if she must do it alone. As the  wagon rolled to a halt before the half finished doorway, she pursed her lips, squared her shoulders and hopped down to the ground.

“Dōbārā bāriśa hō rahī hai.”
With herculean effort Noni raised her head from the pillow. After the anesthesiologist had finished the epidural and started the drip, the contractions had faded to a dull ache. She had soon after fallen into a dreamless sleep only to be awakened by the return of her parents from the hospital cafeteria.
“Maa, speak English,” she groaned, casting her eyes toward her fiance, Daniel, “I told you. It's like hiding what you are saying.”
“Very well,” her mother smiled woodenly at Daniel before turning her attention to the scene outside the hospital window, “I said it is raining again.”
“Pretend you're in Mumbai,” Noni lay her head back to the pillow, watched the monitor beside her as it registered another contraction until her eyes drifted shut for a moment.
“Mmm, I have always said we traded one patch of mud for another.”
“What could I do, Tārā?,” her father cried, “Find another job? You have always had everything you want, so has Noni...!”
“Baabaa, not now, please?” she rubbed her belly, feeling the muscles taut beneath her fingers, Daniel's hand on her forehead.
“I am only stating a fact, Noni....,”
There came the sound of running water in the sink outside the bathroom as the nurse called into the room, “How are we doing so far?”
“Better than I was, thank you,” Noni turned her head toward the nurse who was now drying her hands with a wad of paper towels. She walked over to the monitor and nodded, pressing a couple buttons on the IV delivery unit, “You're going to start feeling contractions again.Getting pretty close. Going to be time to push pretty soon,” the nurse smiled at Daniel, “Bet Daddy's ready to see the new addition to the family.”
Why correct her? It didn't really matter if she was talking to the wrong man, “Yes he is. I know I'm ready.”
“So are we,” her mother piped up, “I told her we could have this baby at home but she insisted upon coming to the hospital so that she could have drugs.”
Noni rolled her eyes to the nurse, “Maa, you make me sound like an addict. I'm not good with pain.”
“Oh I know. When she lost her first tooth she cried and cried...”
Noni closed her eyes again, listening to her mother's lilting voice, not really paying attention to the words, letting her mind drift back to the day she'd decided to tell Colin the news, stopping at his house after looking up the address from his grandad's files at the rest home,  hoping he would answer the door. She had been invited inside by his father, brought to sit at the careworn kitchen table where she was told Colin would not be coming back to Helen's Bay. In typical fashion she'd broken down, telling him she was pregnant, expecting at any moment  to be shown the exit, instead he'd fallen to weeping himself, wiped his eyes with a handkerchief while he told her of Colin's assignment in Asgard.
“He never told me where he was going. It was a big secret. I never imagined he'd be involved in something like that. It's been all over the news in the past few weeks.”
“Doesn't matter now does it? He's beyond secrets, lies,” Colin's father had rasped, “Wait here.”
She'd heard Colin's father trot up the stairs in the other room, trudge about overhead until at last he re-appeared with something in his hand which he pressed into her palm. It was a fine gold coin with strange letters around the edge and the likeness of a bearded man with long hair molded into in the center.
“Take this. Take it for yer little one and keep it as a memento of me boy.”
She'd held the coin in her hand, a shaft of sunlight coming through the kitchen window glinting off its dulled surface as the baby wiggled about in her belly. Before she left, she'd promised him she would keep him informed about the baby's progress, had in fact called the house two days ago, telling him they were inducing her labor because the baby refused to leave its comfortable flat. He was thrilled, asked if he and his wife could come see the baby after it was born. Of course she'd answered yes most emphatically. She carried the coin with her everywhere she went now. She'd had a sliver holder made for it so she could wear it as a necklace though now it sat in her purse because they'd made her remove all jewelry when they hooked her up to the Pitocin.
“Ohhaa, Maa, I feel like I need to push!” Noni flopped over to her back, “Call the nursssee!”
All at once, her mother was out of her chair by the hospital window, hands in the air, chattering excitedly in Hindi as she hurried out of the room.
“Should have had you do it...,” she looked at Daniel, “Hnnnn!”
“What do I do? Tell me!”
She shook her head. The excruciating ache had returned only slightly dulled now that the nurse had lowered the IV drip.
“The obstetrician is on his way. He was just down the hall checking on another patient,” the nurse sailed into the room, fresh sheets and a tray in her hands, “Okay everyone who's supposed to be here is present, right? Daddy, grandmother, grandfather?”
“All here,” Daniel nodded and Noni looked up into his soft brown eyes, “All accounted for.”
From then on everything seemed surreal, dreamlike, all focus brought to one bright point as she curled into herself, every muscle in her body bent on delivering the child from her womb. There were shouts of encouragement but they sounded muffled, her heartbeat louder in her ears than any voice. Another deep breath, another count of ten, her hand like a vise around Daniel's fingers. The gurgling cry as the nurse encouraged her to give one more good push and suddenly she felt woefully empty.
“A girl! It's a little girl!” the nurse patted Noni's leg, “Congratulations, Mama!”
A girl, a daughter. She lifted her head off the pillow to see Daniel's eyes brimful with tears, smiling down at the flailing newborn as he murmured, “Colleen it is then.”

The desk clerk eyed the stately woman, straining to meet the eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, “Where did you say you was from now?”
“Trondheim....Lars, come here. Stop pestering the young lady.....Lars!”
The boy who'd walked into the hotel foyer hand in hand with the woman had been immediately drawn away by a young lady sitting with her service dog in the waiting area off to the left of the entrance. When called, he seemed not to hear her until she raised her voice. Typical kid.
“Trondheim? That'll be Norway then.”
“What? Oh, yes. Norway.”
“I am sorry, mother. I only wished to pet the dog,” the boy sidled up to her, peering over the edge of the desk at the clerk who guessed the boy to be seven, maybe eight and a bit too precocious. Downright creepy as well. The clerk couldn't quite figure out why, only knew he wanted to get this pair out of the foyer and to their rooms as quickly as he could.
“Right, then. One room for three nights comes to two hundred forty quid. Will that be cash or card?”
“Cash,” the woman set her purse on the counter and lifted the flap. The thing was embroidered all over with strange symbols, odd markings and it looked big enough to hide a small family inside.....or a large gun. He flinched when she drew out a smaller drawstring pouch and set it on the counter, slipping her glasses off her face before working at the drawstrings. All at once, he was hoping she would stay standing at his counter for the rest of his shift. She was hauntingly lovely even though she looked to be a bit too old for him. Then again age had never mattered before. It all translated to more experience.
She drew a wad of bills out of the drawstring pouch and as she lifted them up to count out the money for the room, there was a metallic clink on the desk. A coin had dropped from between the folds. She reached for it, rather nonchalantly dropping it back into the pouch where it clinked again, joining its companions at the bottom. He stared at the spot where the coin had been. It too had been covered with strange markings and unless he'd been mistaken, it looked to be gold. If anyone else had stood there unrolling a handful of bills to give to him, he'd have thought the piece had to be gold plated, a souvenir from some odd museum but somehow he knew it was the real deal. As she placed the bills in his hand, however, he shrugged. Money was money and it was none of his business how it was come by.
“Very good, madam. Welcome to the Jury's Inn, Sheffield 'Ere's your entry card. You'll be in one eighty six. The maids is just finishing cleaning that room if you'll 'ave a seat in the waiting area, I'll fetch you when they're done. Enjoy your stay..”
The woman flashed the clerk a toothy smile he was of a mind would have looked at home on a wolf, lifted her purse to her shoulder and herded her boy over to one of the couches in the waiting area.

“Mother. Might I now pet the dog?”
Sif regarded the woman sitting in the love seat by the large windows with a book in her lap. Laying on the floor at her feet was a dog with a flaxen coat and eager golden eyes. Upon his back was a halter which read in large black letters “SERVICE DOG”.
“I would rather you stayed close by.”
“I will be but a few steps away, Mother,” Lorioi whined, “The dog is gentle, I promise you.”
“No,” Sif answered a bit firmer than she meant to, setting her purse atop the one piece of luggage which contained all they owned at the moment.
When Lorioi dropped down to the couch beside her, crestfallen, her tone softened and she leaned closer to him, “When we have found who we are looking for, when we are in a safer place we might find a companion for you.”
“A dog?” Lorioi sat forward, clapped his hands together, “Father would never let me have one in the palace. He said they were too messy, too wild for the nursery.”
Sif looked about at the woman, the desk clerk but neither of them seemed to notice Lorioi's prattle.
“My son,” she whispered, taking his hand and holding it tightly, “Have we not spoken upon this. We are not to mention our lives elsewhere lest we draw attention to ourselves. Do you wish to see me back in the cells? Yourself in the nursery like a babe in arms?”
“No, Mother. Oh no! I like this adventure we are on, I do not wish to return...home.”
“I thought not,” Sif lifted his hand to her lips and bussed it, “And do not call the oaf Father. Your father is dead, do you ken?”
Lorioi glanced once more at the dog then to Sif, “Yes, Mother......tell me again who we are going to see?”
Sif looked once more at the clerk but he was at the other end of the reception area, “We are going to see a man named Piritus.”
“He was once an Asgardian?” Lorioi slid up to her side to whisper in her ear.
“Yes but he was banished for his allegiance to your father, Magnus. Your true father. We may count him as an ally and so I will ask him for asylum until we might locate others whom Asgard has discarded.”
Lorioi nodded, “Then perhaps we might get a dog?”
Sif kissed the top of his head, murmured “All this and much more, my love. One day I will give you a kingdom.”
“Miss? Your room is ready,” The clerk called to her, “Right this way.”
Sif gave the clerk a nod and another bright smile as they followed him toward the elevator. Once inside, she gazed down at her son as he watched the numbers change on the panel by the floor buttons. She would find Piritus and soon. He had been loyal to her as well as Magnus and there were others back on Asgard who would follow them were they to return. She ruffled Lorioi's hair comforted as he leaned back against her, her thoughts on his future.
“One day, you shall be king.”
Divided Chapter 100
An ending among beginnings EDIT: When i started the epilogue with the end stories in mind, I realized there were some i wanted more to focus on in that section and so i put these here. Hope I didn't throw you....
From the opposite end of the corridor, Eidra could see people gathered before the open doors of the Great Hall and she stopped. The guardsman, realizing she was no longer keeping pace with him, paused to look at her, “Milady?”
The group milled about, casting silhouettes against the torchlight. Among them, she spied at least one Jotunn but the guard had told her Loki was restored. She started forward again, a bit slower this time, clasping her trembling hands tight together.
One of the figures had broken away and was now rushing toward her, the rest turned to watch their exchange.
“Oh Mama! It is ended!” Brenna flew into her arms, “Come see. Papa is home safe again!”
Eidra clutched Brenna to her tightly before taking her by the arms and giving her a shake, “Are you mad? Running off with Mister Stark to the gods know where!”
“In my defense, I tried to make her stay here but she wouldn't listen,” Stark was beside her now, guiding her toward the group.
“A bit of firmness would have stayed her feet, Mister Stark.”
“That's your area, Milady.”
As they drew closer to the group, Eidra could make out faces. Velos, looking grim as he stood talking with Simon whose arm was ensnared by a beautiful red-headed woman, Fen hovering close to the open doorway, staring into the room, an anxious look upon his face. Still more, Midardian agents, clustered into their own group, milling about, their heads together talking in hushed tones.
She stopped, keeping her eyes averted from the open doorway and at once, she was surrounded. Fen had leaped to her side and was pulling her forward, urging her on into the Great Hall. Velos,  bowing deeply as did Simon. Behind them, she could see Silas, helmet in hand, his eyes seeming to search the air, his countenance deadly serious.
“Where is Colin?” Eidra scanned the faces, “Is he in the Great Hall?”
Brenna's hands flew to her mouth as Stark cleared his throat, “No, Ma'am. He...ah.. he never made it out of Jotunheim.”
“Whatever do you mean?” Eidra reached out her hand, found Brenna's arm, “Was he not with you?”
Stark shook his head, “He left for Jotunheim to find your husband and take the casket back and that's just what he did.”
“Mama, he was the Protector,” Brenna murmured, “He saved Papa, he saved Asgard.”
Thor burst through the doorway with a growl, “He will not listen to me, Hel and be damned!”
“Uncle! My mother is here!” Fen called to him.
Thor's scowl softened until at last he nodded to Eidra with a gesture toward the Great Hall,  “Yours is a most difficult road, Milady.”
Eidra pulled herself upright, took a shuddering breath and let go of Brenna's arm, “Nevertheless, the path is mine to tread. Silas, do close the doors after I am inside.”
“Yes, Milady,” Silas rasped with a bow.
Staring straight ahead, she stepped through the doorway into the Great hall, listening to the groan of hinges as the doors closed. She could see Loki sitting upon the opposite end of the long feast table, hunched forward, his feet in the chair before him from which hung an all too familiar cloak, the hood dangling over the edge by a few threads and she felt her heart a hammer against her ribs. The urge to turn and run from the room was all consuming but she forced her feet into motion, assessing him as she approached. He hung his head, a linen cloth pressed to his lip. Had the gray streak in his hair lightened in so short a time apart? His arms were a mass of scratches, an angry purple bruise bloomed across his ribcage.
She paused a few feet away, waiting for him to acknowledge her presence, a breath away from bolting out of the room knowing if she did not speak soon, she would lose all courage.
“We thought you were dead.”
“Hmmph.....,” he grunted, “Therein are you most unfortunate.”
When she said no more, he looked up at her, “And so 'tis the truth. It should be me lying beneath the ice of Jotunheim not....Colin.”
“Say it is not so!” screamed the voice inside her head, “Welcome him home!”
But she could not...her silence breaking his calm demeanor at last.
“Were it possible I could turn back time, I would. Then you could drive the dagger home to finish the job you started!” he cried, stepping down from the table, “Would you then be happy?”
She shook her head, her throat tight with anguish, “Too much....death...too much.” The scene coalesced in her mind of that terrifying morning, her holding the knife he'd placed in her hand, pressing the tip over his heart. The gods alone knew how close she'd come to impaling him, running for her life. She bit back a strangled sob.
“This has been entirely my doing,” he threw his hands about him, “The secret I kept from you has undone us.”
“What...secret?” she sobbed, “If I did not give voice to that which I knew must be so, does it then mean I did not know what you were? 'Twas the biggest unkept secret in the realm! The whispered gossip from the kitchen doorways, carried upon the air through the palace halls. Gods, do you still think me a weak, frightened young servant with no thought save the ones given me by my master? I did promise myself I would not talk of your heritage until the time came when 'twas necessary but whether it was known to one or many, it would have made no difference upon what has come to pass.”
He shook his head, “No, you do not ken. The secret alone is not to blame but what it made me into which has poisoned our union. I am now looked upon as a traitor to the realm for my actions, whether they be deliberate or forced upon me. I have cost my friend his life, I have brought destruction and death to Asgard by my compliance, I have lain with another woman....gods forgive me! Gods forgive me!”
“Where is the whore?” Edira croaked, “Did you leave her to freeze or have you hidden her away in the palace even now?”
“Colin charged her with delivering me back to Asgard but when we arrived in the city she was taken,” he dropped into a chair, face in his hands, “Torn from us by the people. We were powerless to stop them.”
“A pity she could not be made to suffer longer...”
He rubbed his eyes, sat back in the chair to stare at her. She cast her eyes to the floor, unable to meet his gaze.
“And now we are left with the broken pieces of our life together.”
She felt for one of the chairs beside her, pulled herself down to sit, arms folded across her stomach.
“I will not leave you destitute.”
There it was. She looked down the table at him, the divide between them nearly a palpable thing. Her chest felt tight, her heart crumbling to dust as she studied the lines of the face she'd woken to each morning for sixteen seasons until tears began to blur her vision.
“Brenna told me of the damage to the manor. Thor has promised to dispatch workmen this very day to affect repairs. He has sworn to maintain the household in the manner in which you are accustomed to. The...children,” he faltered, paused, “The children will want for nothing.”
“Save their father,” the voice in her head was but a whisper now.
“What of the children? They have lost so much. What would you have me tell them when we leave you behind?”
“Tell them what you will. Tell them there is nothing left of their father in the man I am now.”
Eidra put a hand to her mouth, “You wish me to lie to them? Break their hearts as well?”
Loki slammed a hand down upon the table, “'Tis nobler to lie than to subject my family to the stain of treason, tell them I am a traitor to Asgard, then it will be the truth if it please you.”
“What of you then? What will you do?”
A grim smile played about his lips, “I have resigned my post as adviser to the king against his wishes but were Thor to attempt to retain me, the people would rebel and rightly so. What shall I do? I do not know but come what may I know  my family will be cared for.”
“We must tend to Brynn.”
Loki closed his eyes, “My brave boy. So many lives I would trade for my own. We will see to him at once.”
He rose, picked up the cloak, draped it over his arm and started toward the doors to the Great hall, only pausing beside her chair when she whispered, “Would it make a difference were I to say I forgive you?”
“It eases my heart but it will not change my decision,” he reached out a hand to touch her shoulder, drew it back, “Because I cannot forgive myself.”
She listened to his boots tapping out the measured steps she knew by heart as he retreated, heard the doors of the Great hall open and shut with a dull thud. Only then did she curl in upon herself, rocking back and forth while her grief echoed through the rafters high overhead.

“Shut the door! Stick any rabble tries to break through it!” Perth's voice cut through the haze of agony and Eris tried to smile though her effort was cut short as Perth navigated the maze of tables in the tavern and her broken body protested at the movement.
“Sigur! Bring your pallet 'ere beside the fire. Fetch fresh linen. She's bleedin' heavy!”
The smell of roast venison reached her nostrils forcing its way through the blood flowing from her broken nose making her retch, cry out as broken bones ground together. At last she was laid down upon a straw mattress, too weak to shiver with the cold that seemed to be creeping up her limbs toward her torso.
“There now. You're safe with Perth. How many times did I tell ya, never let your reach exceed your grasp? Foolish girl.”
She forced her eyes open to look up at Perth's round face “Bad..”
A thunderous banging rang out from the tavern door and Caleb hurried back into the kitchen, “They've threatened to fetch the royal guards, what should we do?”
“Let 'em call the Allfather down  from Valhalla for all I care,” Perth took a coverlet from Sigur's arms, laid it over Eris, “Here now, I've known many a bad sort and you wasn't one of 'em, no more than was Neve, no more than Willa. Misguided is all.”
She could only smile at him. She was so tired.
“You rest now. I'm going ta take care of the crowds outside.”
Perth stood up, striding out into the tavern as Sigur and Cabel hovered in the kitchen doorway watching him. Eris looked toward the fire and her heart began to race. Squatting beside her pallet, grinning, her sharp teeth brilliant white against her coal black skin, was Neve.
“I've missed ya's.”
Eris turned her head, looked at Sigur and Cabel then back to Neve who was now standing. She  was so very tired.
“Come on,” Neve giggled, her hand out to Eris, “To your feets. We has a long way to go.”
It took a gargantuan effort but Eris raised her arm from the pallet and grasped Neve's hand. All at once, she felt fine. She rose to her feet, a bit unsteady at first until Neve tugged at her hand, “This way. Out the back door.”
Eris stared ahead of them at the rear kitchen door, open to the waning afternoon light, “I have to thank Perth for saving me.”
“Ah, he already knows his good deed. Hurry, they're waiting for you.”
With a final glance over her shoulder at Sigur and Cabel, she allowed herself to be led through the doorway and out into the snow by her dear friend.

“She's in here! Quit your shovin' afore I knock your helmet off your head!” Perth grunted as he strode through the kitchen doorway with three royal guards on his tail, scattering Sigur and Cabel to either side.
“Look at 'er. She's no harm to anyone,” Perth knelt beside the pallet, “She needs ta recover....hey now, get your filthy hands off'n 'er!”
One of the royal guardsmen had squatted down beside Eris and was now pressing his fingers to her neck. He put his hand before her nose and with a grunt, hauled himself to stand again, “She is dead. Recovery is far beyond her grasp.”
Perth stared at Eris' body for a moment, lifted her hand and patted it, “Poor thing, poor, poor thing. She'd not a chance from the beginning.”
“She would have received far worse had she survived to stand before the High Council,” The guardsman gestured to his fellow guards, “Bring her.”
Perth watched them lift Eris' limp body upon the pallet and carry it out of the kitchen through the tavern. Before he followed them out, the guardsman eyed Perth, “We will report this indiscretion to the High Council.”
“Hang yourself....,” Perth ignored Cabel's stare, sniffed as the guardsman strode from the kitchen, “Sigur! Get out there behind that bar! We're gonna be full soon's I open that door, Hel and be damned!”
“Milady, will you not reconsider?” Tamarin pleaded.
Eidra shook her head, ignoring the cluck of Frigga's tongue. She threw her cloak about her shoulders, willing her fingers to stop trembling as she fastened the enclosure at her throat. She was beyond anguished now, she was furious, angrier than she'd been in recent memory. In the space of one half a fortnight, she'd lost more than she could bear and now her eldest child had disappeared along with Chase and Mister Stark, could even now be lying injured at the encampment? The alternative was too horrific to consider.
“Do you not see what is going on outside the walls? It is far too dangerous to leave the protection of the city. Let me send a contingent of guards to the Midgardian camp...”
“Your Majesty, with all respect, I refuse to send someone in my stead to fetch my daughter. The fighting has all but ceased. The guards and the Jotunn troops from Muspelheim have claimed victory. Bruna is watching the girls, Fen is with the King. I will return long ere dusk settles on this day.”
She curtsied, turned and strode from Frigga's bedchamber. When at last she had reached the royal stable in search of Brenna, she'd found the answer in a young stable hand who confessed, while he was running along the parapets on an errand, to have seen the trio, Stark, Chase and Brenna, hurrying away from the city toward the woodlands to the east. There could be no doubt as to where they were headed though why they had gone on foot perplexed her. Why had she not simply used the Uruz?

“Oh no!” Brenna curled her hand around the broken pieces of the Uruz Loki had placed in her hand as they followed along behind the group, “How did this happen?”
“I confess I do not know. I was not in full possession of my senses the entire time. I only know Colin gave it to me to return to you. He said to tell you he was sorry...for all that has happened.”
Brenna closed her hand, pressed her fist to her lips, “What had he to be sorry for? He did nothing wrong, good gods.”
Loki looked away, “His reasons were his own, he did not elaborate upon them. There was not time.”
“He deserves to be remembered for what he has done for Asgard...”
“Nay, for the whole of the nine realms,” Loki stared ahead at the group, saw Stark turn his head slightly toward them, “And it shall be so when I relate what has happened.”
“We have much to do when all is settled.”
Loki closed his eyes, his thoughts immediately upon Brynn, “Indeed.”
“I think we know the score of the game now,” Stark called back to them, “Big Red one, Big Blue zip.”
They topped a rise in the road and stopped to gaze at the scene before them where it was quite apparent Jotunheim had lost the battle. Some of their ilk knelt about the grounds outside the city walls, tending to their wounded, others were being herded away from the scene flanked by their fur clad adversaries. Upon the parapets of the city walls stood what looked to be the whole of the population watching the action far below them.
Loki drew his cloak over his head and scanned the walls, looking for Thor as they started down the hill toward the city gates. They'd not gotten very far when a voice boomed out to their right, “Simon! As I live and breathe! Velos, look!”
Surtr was striding toward them, his son Velos not far behind. Loki hung his head, eager to be ignored though Brenna rushed forward to greet them along with Simon.
“I told you I would bring help,” Velos extended a great hand to Simon who shook it as best he could, “When I told my father the situation, he calls for the servants to open the vault and bring out the royal armor though you wouldn't know it for all the furs we wear.”
“How do you stand such terrible cold?” Surtr cried, “Brutal. The quicker we end this affair, the faster we may return home. Let us clear a path for you to the gates.”
As they ushered the group forward, however, Velos leaned down, “Loki?”
Loki peered up at Velos from beneath his hood though he said nothing.
“Father! 'Tis Prince Loki!”
Velos knelt to the ground beside him, “My friend, whatever are you doing out here?”
Loki looked about, caught Brenna's worried stare before he was engulfed by guardsmen and Muspelheimr alike, clamoring to reach him and for the first time in many seasons, he felt afraid.

Eidra pressed herself against the corridor wall as two royal guardsman sprinted past her, followed by two servants and a palace herald who called an apology as he passed by. They turned the corner to their right at the end of the hall and were gone. She slowed her pace as shouts of  “Where is the King?!” echoed through the hall.
Two young servants went racing up the corridor with the palace herald now in tow, mumbling to himself.
“Herald!” Eidra cried, “Whatever is happened? Why do you search for His Majesty?”
Andon stopped short, looked up at Eidra as if at last realizing who she was, “Milady! Milady oh come with us, quickly!”
One of the servants, a young girl, had taken her hand and was now propelling her down the corridor with them.
“What is wrong, for Valhalla's sake, Andon?”
“The Midgardians, your daughter Brenna They have returned from the encampment and your husband is among them! Hurry! They are being taken to the Throne room. We must find the King!”
The strength left her legs, tumbling her to the floor. The servant girl was beside her at once, “Milady! Milady! Are you well?”
She felt like she had been punched in the stomach, full force. Loki was here? Alive? She wanted to ask Andon if he knew who she was, if he'd mistaken her for someone else but she couldn't form the words, complete a thought. Frigga had claimed Jotunheim was destroyed, the mark of the casket iced across the Bifrost doors.
“Is he captured?” she rasped.
Andon pranced about, waving a hand in her direction, “Captured? No, he walks into the city of his own accord. He is freed from the Jotunns influence. Do please hurry!”
As she rose unsteadily to her feet, rage hit her, hard as stone urging her forward as they started again down the corridor, grim determination darkening her face.

When the main gates into the city rumbled open, time seemed to stand still. The city streets were bustling with people helping the wounded guardsmen as they returned from the field, standing outside their dwellings, shops, still more rushing past the group through the gates to the outside. Flanked as they were by Surtr, Velos and a party of guards, they couldn't help but draw attention which increased the closer they drew to the main square. Loki felt Brenna's arm slip into his, her grip tight, body tense as a murmur rippled through the throng gathering about them, following them into the square, joining the sea of bodies hurrying to find out what was drawing so much scrutiny.
“Make way!” bellowed the guards ahead of them, “Make way!”
Loki kept his head down as much as possible, leaving the hood of his cloak to hide his face as they inched forward, their progress slowing until they came to a standstill.
“Why are they not moving?” Brenna hissed.
“Make way by order of the King!” one of the guards shouted only to be elbowed aside by a great hulk of a man dressed in a fur robe tied with a rope belt, his wild blond hair dancing as he struggled through the throng toward the group.
“Look!, 'tis the sorceress who stood at Menyir's side. I knew soon's I saw her!”
“Shit,” Chase muttered, moving forward to stand in front of Brenna, “Put your head down and try to blend into the crowd. Head to the palace.”
“I will do no such thing!” Brenna poked him hard in the back, “I will stay at my father's side.”
“You will get as far from me as you can,” Loki growled, “Heed his advice, move to the rear and reach the palace or I shall have you carried off.”
“You might want to listen, kid,” came Stark's reply a few feet ahead of them, “This is going to get ugly fast.”
As if upon cue, Eris screamed. The blond behemoth had grabbed her arm and was now endeavoring to drag her away from Kenworth and Nichol's grasp. Another shout rose from the crowd.
“Traitor! Traitor!”
Loki shoved Brenna into Chase's arms, “Do not let her go! Do you ken?”
Before Chase could reply, hands snaked between them, clutching at Loki's hood, drawing it away from him face as voices cried out, “The Dark Prince has returned! Jotunn scum! Bring him to the walls!”
He had to break free, had to draw the mob's anger away from Brenna and Chase, Stark, Simon before they were made to suffer Asgard's wrath. He surged forward, breaking free, his hood ripping as he stumbled, caught himself, found an opening and began to put distance between himself and the group.
“Hold him!”
Loki glanced over his shoulder, could not find Brenna at first, spied her a moment later, Velos herding them through the crowd toward the palace steps. There came a earsplitting shriek, a stream of obscenities off to his left which swiftly turned to pleading as more people surrounded Eris.
“Let me fucking go you cocksucking bastards...please, God please let me go! Pleeaasseeee!
“Catch him!” came a high pitched howl in his ear, fingernails raking his cheek, a fist a glancing blow across his lip as he staggered, his mind numb with panic.
“Fetch my rope!”
Another fist driven hard into his ribcage brought him nearly to his knees. Only by sheer force of will was he able to keep his feet knowing if he fell, he would be trampled either by accident or design.
He twisted about. The palace doors were open. Had Brenna made it inside?
Hands entangled in his hair yanked him backward into the waiting crowd, a cry of triumph rising into the air as a noose dangled before his eyes, brushing his bleeding cheek, its coarse fibers tickling his skin like a lovers touch as it lowered about his neck only to be yanked away with the blat of horns. A muscled arm snaked about his neck, drawing him upward to stand, another wrapped about his back as Thor's roar reverberated in his ears.
“He is the traitor!” a man cried, his sentiment rippling through the throng, “He is a Jotunn! He stood with the enemy! Traitor!!!”
“He was spellbound. The fault lies not with him and he is still a prince of Asgard, so decreed by Odin! Do you dare defy the Allfather's word?!”
One by one the people fell silent until Loki slumped against Thor's chest and was borne upward by his embrace.
“Clear a path!” Thor bellowed, “Make way!”
“Make way for the King!” the guards repeated, waving their shields as Loki tried to keep his balance.
“She is inside, hush.”
They climbed the steps into the palace, the door shutting out the excited murmur of the crowds with a resounding thud.

Eidra stared at the new prince cradled in Jane's arms, his mouth working an imaginary nipple and for a fleeting moment she hated them both. Hated them for their happiness, their contentment then the moment was gone as Jane reached over to pat her hand.
“Thor will be back soon, he has to be, geez. It's been at least an hour.”
“But why did he bid me stay here?” she gestured about the royal bedchamber.
“Because,” Jane grunted, rising from the bed to set the sleeping prince into his cradle, ignoring the servant girls who rushed to her side to assist, “He wanted you safe. He said there could be an uprising when the people found Loki returned.”
“Wanted me safe. Oh Jane you do not know how strange such concern sounds coming from the King.”
Jane nodded, eased herself back down to sit beside Eidra, “Yeah I do actually. Thor's told me a lot. What are you going to do now?”
Eidra knew full well the meaning of Jane's question but she could not bring herself to reply because she didn't know the answer.
There was a loud rap on the doors and they swung open to allow one of the royal guards inside. Giving a deep bow, he nodded to Eidra, “Milady, please come with me.”
Stark and Chase had herded her behind an outcropping of rocks, urging her further beneath the granite boulders as they perched at the opening, watching. She'd lost sight of the others when they separated into the woods along the access road. Now she knelt in the snow trying to catch her breath, hoping the pain that raged inside her skull would not be the last thing she felt in this lifetime. Though she'd managed to heal the wound, her shoulder still throbbed.
The Jotunns stomped between the trees, trampling the underbrush and shaking the snow down from the branches as they searched for their prisoners. Even from this distance they could hear the crackle snap of the longhouse as it burned itself out. If the Jotunns found them they would likely be killed for their part in the sabotage. She smiled at the thought of what must be going through their minds, how they themselves would suffer for their failure to protect the longhouses.
“How are we going to get out of here?” Chase whispered, “They look long enough they're bound to find us.”
“I don't know but if we keep talking I know three ducks they're going to find right quick. Shut up!” Stark growled.
All at once a cry went up from the encampment. The Jotunn closest to them roared a response, crashing through the trees to the access road. Stark eased himself up from behind the boulder, ducking back down as a great clang rang out, followed by shouts and then all was chaos. They rose to their feet, stepping out from behind the boulder to stare at the scene glimpsed through the trees.
It seemed as if the Jotunns were fighting great fur covered beasts, swarming into what was left of the encampment from the north but Brenna laughed clapping her hands, “Surtr's people! They have come to help us!”
“Velos' clan!,” she shook Stark's arm, “From Muspelheim!”
They trudged through the snow to the access road, finding Simon, Kenworth and Nichols already standing there waiting for them. From further down the access road came Vincent, Burns and Fritz, his hands clasped together as if in prayer.
“Velos did it!” Simon cried, “He actually did it!”
“Then come on, leave them to it and let's get out of here,” Stark began to herd them away from the scene toward the main road, “Nothing says the good guys are going to win so lets not wait for them to lose. We have to head for the city.”

Loki kept looking up at the plume of black smoke billowing into the air. The access road wasn't much further. Carried upon the air were the distant sounds of battle, quickening his pace. Surely the Midgardians who remained at the encampment could not have decided fighting was far more desirable than slaving under the yoke of their enemies? If so, it would be a pitifully short skirmish. However, were the Jotunn guards to see him, even in his present state, they might leave off fighting upon his command, unaware of his fall from Menyir's graces as they must be.
“Why are we going toward the big explosion?” Eris shouted, far behind him.
His reply would hardly matter, she wouldn't understand his reasoning anyway, as wrapped up in herself as she ever was.
“Stay here....I am going to help..”
“Help who!” she cried and with satisfaction he realized her voice sounded further away.
With any luck, he would lose her entirely.

Brenna held her arm tight to her body as they hurried toward the main road away from the fighting. Though she had taken care of the wound, it was a minimal attempt and her shoulder was still throbbing along with her head. She'd shaken off Chase's arm around her waist. It was hard enough to walk in the uneven roadbed let alone trying to match steps with someone else.
“Velos' people must be at the city too,” Simon mused, “He saw the Jotunns' attack when we first returned to Asgard.”
“Let's hope so,” Tony glanced at him, “Because at this point, we are zero help to them...hey, would you look at that!”
The group turned their attention to where Stark was pointing into the tall trees. Waving her arms at them, slogging through the snow with a dozen people behind her was Agent Carter-Boylan.
“Well no shit. I thought they were out of the game completely.”
Agent Carter-Boylan broke through the snow into the access road, her hand outstretched to Kenworth who took it in a hearty shake, “We didn't think you were going to make it. Those bastards were right behind you.”
“I was thinking the same thing, I couldn't even stop to take the detonator out of my pack. We were ready to turn and fight when we heard what sounded like elephants crashing through the forest ahead of us. We broke ranks then, ran for whatever cover we could find and watched as more giants broke through the brush. Dressed like polar bears they were. I made my peace with God and waited, certain they were there to relieve the Jotunns but they started to take them out. That's when we ran...”
“They are Fire Jotunns, Muspelheimr. They are our friends,” Brenna interjected
“What about Benlaw and his group?”Agent Carter-Boylan glanced over her shoulder down the access road, “We never saw what happened to them. We were too busy saving our own lives...”
Nichols shook his head, “They didn't make it far. We saw them fighting at the edge of the encampment, some of them were being herded back toward the longhouse.”
Stark scratched his head, “So if neither Simon nor Agent C-B didn't set off the C4 and Benlaw certainly couldn't, who did?”
Brenna held her hand out to Stark, looking down at the ground. In the palm of her hand was one of the detonators, “Forgive me Agent Kenworth. I needed insurance...just like Mister Stark's plan B.”
“Ok that wasn't fair,” Kenworth cried, “I was concentrating on my work when you came to the tent. I was distracted...”
“It doesn't matter, Kenworth,” Stark patted Brenna's hand, “The job is done in any case. Now can we please head for the city?”

Loki slowed to a stop. The access road was within sight but he could see movement between the trees. Whatever or whoever it was would be at the main road in moments. He stumbled to the side of the road, pushing through the knee deep snow to the nearest tree, leaning his back against it. He'd left Asgard a traitor, it only stood to reason public opinion hadn't changed yet.
“Jesus, how can you stand the cold now?”
Loki closed his eyes as Eris stopped at the edge of the road to stare at him. He was dangerously close to smothering her in the snowbank if she didn't shut up and hide herself.
“I have ever been inured to the cold, is it not obvious?” he hissed, pointing up the road, “Now if you wish to keep your freedom, find a tree, do whatever it is you do only do not let them see you!”  
“Okay, alright, wow!”
He opened his eyes to glare at her but she had disappeared and he leaned forward to see a group of people emerge from the access road and turn in his direction. He eased back behind the tree trunk to wait until they passed. A loud roar echoed through the trees from the encampment. He'd heard such sounds before. They were cries of victory. From whom he did not know.
“Fuck!” came Eris's voice close to his ear and he clamped his hand over his mouth to stifle a yelp.
“That's Stark,” she whispered, “And Simon along with a whole passel of agents, I'll bet.”
Loki strained to hear the voices as the group neared, picking out Stark's banter, Agent Kenworth's response but his heart liked to have stopped altogether as another voice chimed in, a lilting sing song seared into his soul.
They were nearly even with the tree now, close enough to hear Brenna groan along with Stark's reply, “You sure you don't want me to call you a cab, kid?”
“Mister Stark, were it possible I would gladly take your offer.”
He slipped around the trunk as they passed, watching them a minute longer before he took a deep breath and stepped out from the snow into the road.
She stumbled to a halt, pivoting about with the others to stare down the road before she broke through the group, clasping her hands to her chest.
He wanted to shake his head. He would never again think of himself as “Papa”, not after what he had done. Instead he held out his hand to her, staggering as she hit him full force, her arms wrapped around his neck as she cried, “OH PAPA!”
He enfolded her in his arms, crushing his firstborn to him, burying his face in her hair.
“Papa! I knew you were going to come home! I saw you in my dream! Colin said he would rescue you and bring the casket of the Jotunns back to Asgard and he did it all! He truly was the Protector! Where is he?”
Loki found he could not respond only shook his head, clutched her tighter, feeling her body respond as she let out a sob, “No! No! Papa no, please tell me he is alive.”
“I would were it true,” he murmured, “He stayed behind in Jotunheim to destroy the casket so that we would be saved.”
Loki looked up to see all eyes on them and he eased Brenna away from him, felt the wetness at her shoulder, “The Gods wept, you are hurt!”
“I am okay. I promise you,” Brenna rubbed her palm across her cheek to stem the flow of tears as Chase stepped up to stand beside her.
“Holy shit!” Stark yelled.
At the corner of his vision, Loki saw Eris step into the road.
“Why the actual hell did you bring her back here with you?” Stark pointed at Eris, “She's the whole reason for this fucking mess!”
Before Loki could respond, Brenna had pushed him aside and was on top of Eris, screaming at her with her hands wrapped around Eris's throat, kneeling astride her in the icy slush of the roadway, “You bitch! Filthy whore! Traitor to Midgard, enemy of Asgard!! You sought to steal my father away from us, destroy the realms. Because of you my brother Brynn, Hal and Colin are dead and it is only fitting you join him for your penaceeee...nooooo!”
Loki had wrapped his arms around Brenna's waist and now hefted her to her feet as Eris rolled over to her side, gagging in the snow.
“Papa, how can you defend her? Let me send her to Hel!” Brenna shrieked, struggling to wrench herself from his grasp. If he let her loose, she would most definitely finish what she'd started, was even now reaching for her dagger as he shook her hard.
“Brenna. I do not defend, only defer. She helped us escape from Jotunheim, stole back the casket and for this, Colin asked me to deliver her to freedom. This I did for him, warned her to flee though she refused. Now she must answer for her deeds but not to us alone.”
“,” Eris spat onto the snow, “She nearly broke my damn ne...eck!”
“I'd call that getting off lucky,” Kenworth bent down along with Nichols to haul Eris to her feet,  “For the time being.”
“Let us head for the city then,” Brenna started forward, “There are many who would be most eager to do the chore for me. Come Papa. Mama needs you.”
She was wrong. Eidra did not need him, nor did the children, Frigga, Thor, Asgard itself but he let Brenna steer him toward the group, wanting only to kiss her cheek and allow them to continue their journey. Instead he followed along, bringing up the rear. A few paces ahead, Simon walked, his head hanging down, lips moving silently. He felt Brenna's hand slip into his, give it a squeeze and he peered at her, his heart near to breaking, divided between fight or flight.
Tiffany 1 by funygirl38
Tiffany 1
Kaleidoscope made from the Tiffany stained glass windows in St. Paul's Episcopal church, Troy, NY.
First off I'd like to apologize for the lack of chapter updates on my story Divided. The holidays and writer's block have taken my feet out from beneath me. I've been suffering from a flare up of fibromyalgia which weakens my body and fogs my brain...what's different now, you ask? Nothing only my determination to finish what I started.  On that note I am also going to find an artist to commission for the cover of Ascension. I've been sitting on this for well over a year now and as my New Year's resolution Ascension will be on Kindle by summer....I'm also going to work to get Divided done...thank you to all of my readers still with me....I'll figure this thing out soon enough...
  • Mood: Optimism


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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palefire73 Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the fave! Hug 
birthdays Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2015

:woohoo: :party: :iconcakelickplz: !!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!! :iconcakelickplz: :party: :woohoo: 

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Happy birthday! :D
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Happy Birthday! I hope you have a great day today!
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Happy Birthday too you........
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Thank you so much! 47 this year
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