‘You actually told him that?’ Loki began to laugh then covered his mouth with his hand as they were in the library, in a little used section where they had never been disturbed. They sat in a cushioned window seat, each with a book open in their lap under the pretence they were researching sorcery. Sigyn had washed and changed after her bout with Hogun and was now wearing a golden yellow gown, her hair piled on top of her head. She was sitting crosslegged, most unladylike, but she was comfortable and Loki didn’t mind. He liked when she was relaxed enough to be herself.
‘I had to come up with something or I would be listening to him drone on about the mating habits of stallions, I don’t doubt. Not all of us have the silvertongue, God of Lies.’ She nudged him with her shoulder.
‘You are amazing, little Sig.’ He kissed her shoulder.
‘I am in trouble if he takes me up on it. There is no way I can beat him without sorcery. I may have just opened the door for no end of potential suitors to fight me before calling.’
‘I will find a way for us to be together before then.’
‘Before next week? Good luck, my prince.’ She shook her head.
‘Next week?’ He frowned at her.
‘At next week’s training. He is keen, as I said.’
‘Damn him.’ He laced his fingers with hers. ‘Did he agree to either of your stipulations?’
‘He said he would first allow me to use all my abilities, then take me up on one of my offers when I beat him. When, not if. He’s humouring me and I don’t like it.’
‘Unless he pins you to the ground in seconds you can beat him, sweet, but he is a sizeable fellow.’
‘And I am fast. I bested you physically in our first sparring bout.’ She reminded him.
‘Indeed you did.’ He kissed her hand and the memory faded once more, and her hand was being kissed by Thor instead.
‘You honour me with your company, Lady Sigyn.’ He said loudly as she shook her head, knowing he was doing so as Theoric was nearby.
‘You honour me with the invitation, my prince.’ She replied with a small curtsey before he tucked her hand over his arm and led her through the banquet hall, greeting as many people with as much gusto as he could. ‘Thor, you are drawing an unnatural amount of attention to us.’ She leant into him as they approached the royal table, Loki already seated with a tall, pretty raven haired woman by his side.
‘Merely making the point, dear Sigyn.’ He said warmly. ‘I wish to aid you by scaring off as many suitors as I can before you become too bruised and battered to fight back.’
‘Thank you for such faith in me.’ She rolled her eyes as Frigga got up to meet them, hugging first Thor then Sigyn.
‘How lovely to have you at our table again, Lady Sigyn.’ She smiled.
‘I am honoured by such friendships with both of your sons, my Queen.’ She curtseyed.
‘Indeed, they both seem to favour you.’ Odin said without getting up from the table.
‘Spring greetings, Allfather.’ She curtseyed to him. ‘I am blessed to have such good fortune when it comes to friends.’
‘And to you, Lady Sigyn.’
‘Brother.’ Loki got to his feet, embracing Thor before bowing to Sigyn, who curtseyed again, but she didn’t miss his eyes trail over her outfit, the gold dress fitting in all the right places, her shoulders bare with the off the shoulder style. ‘Lady Sigyn.’
Loki’s date for the night cleared her throat but she hadn’t got to her feet. ‘Brother, Lady Sigyn, may I introduce…’ He faltered, his memory of the woman’s name escaping him.
‘Hilde.’ She said angrily.
‘Hilde, of course. My apologies, you remind me such of precious flower in your gown I can think only of petals.’
Sigyn’s smile ticked as Hilde, who had far too much skin on show to be proper, got up from the table and laced her arm with Loki’s. ‘You can call me petal, my prince.’ She gushed and Sigyn gave raised eyebrows.
‘I could not be so familiar.’ Loki smiled at her as Sigyn dug her nails into Thor’s arm until he nudged her.
‘Please, be as familiar as you wish.’
‘Pardon me, I have quite the thirst.’ Sigyn remarked as she picked up the full glass from her place and drained it in one.
‘Please, be seated, my friend.’ Thor nudged her towards her chair, holding it as she sat before sitting beside her. ‘Are you well?’ He frowned as she refilled her glass.
‘Quite nauseated, actually. Where do you find these women?’ She hissed at him.
‘They tend to find me.’ He shrugged.
‘You’re welcome to them.’
A grin spread across his face. ‘You’re jealous.’
‘Of her?’ She whispered back. ‘I don’t think so.’
‘Of the attention Loki is giving her.’ He smiled knowingly, his back to his family.
‘I am not used to seeing him give other women attention.’
‘He is relatively better behaved, given the attention you get.’
‘He threatened to kill Theoric.’
‘Perhaps not.’ He shrugged.
‘Indeed, perhaps not. What was I thinking, agreeing to this ridiculous scheme of yours?’
‘You were thinking this will divert our father’s attention away from his suspicions. So far all you are doing is making him think you are bitter about not being with Loki and are grasping at the other prince.’
She glared at him. ‘This was a terrible idea, Thor. One of your worst!’
‘Come now,’ he laughed, ‘the night is still young!’
‘Oh good grief.’ She groaned.
The meal was uneventful, that is to say she kept her eyes on her plate and to Thor, who tried to keep her occupied, but she had already heard all of his stories more than once and every exaggeration in between. It was difficult to ignore what was going on at the other end of the table as Hilde had the most nasal laugh she had ever heard and even Odin seemed displeased by it.
She picked at her food, which did not go unnoticed by Frigga who asked if she was quite alright. She made the excuse of being tired and made more of an effort to look like she was enjoying herself, laughing at Thor’s old jokes while being on her best behaviour as she was at the royal table. Her father frowned at her, knowing something was going on but not what, so she toasted her glass to him.
The banquet finished and the gaming began, Thor escorting Sigyn through the many crowds of well wishers. She tried to concentrate on who they were talking to but in the background she could still hear the nasal laughter than went with the beautiful dark eyes and perfectly unfreckled skin hanging off Loki.
Sigyn remembered their deal, that she would have a dance with the prince, but it had been more than three songs and they still remained arm in arm, him smiling and her giggling, batting her eyelashes at him. It was nauseating.
‘Sigyn, would you dance with me?’ Thor asked as they left a table where Thor had tried his hand, and won, at arm wrestling.
‘I don’t think so, Thor.’ She shook her head.
‘Nonsense.’ He drew her towards the happy dancing people.
‘Not nonsense, I really do not feel like dancing tonight.’
‘Because it is I who is asking or because Loki seems to be enjoying himself?’
‘Because he is enjoying himself too much.’ She scowled.
‘And just think how relieved Father will be when he knows Loki still chooses you over this uneducated wench.’ Thor leant down to her.
She looked at him in surprise. ‘You planned this?’
‘Not all.’ He shrugged, smiling smugly. ‘However it is working out better than I could have imagined. Who knew you would get so jealous?’
‘What else am I supposed to do when they’re…where did they go?’ She glanced around, realising she had lost sight of them in the last few minutes.
‘Out onto the balcony, I believe.’ Thor tried to encourage her to dance but she resisted, planting her feet and glaring at him. ‘Sigyn, if you want Father to believe Loki’s choice in you was the best then you have to act as though you have moved on.’
She lowered her head and shook it. ‘You really think your father will fall for something this obvious? And what happened to the woman leaving after one dance?’
‘She must be enjoying herself.’ He shrugged. ‘Which is what you should be doing.’
‘I’d rather be drinking with our friends to the point I forget my own name.’
‘Loki still loves you, Sig. It is an act.’
‘He’s too good at it.’ She growled as he turned her to dance with him.
‘Isn’t he just.’ He tried very hard to keep her back to the balcony but she leant around to see the woman trailing her fingers from Loki’s cheek down his arm.
‘Honestly, Thor, I am truly having the worst time. Can we not go to our friends, or take a walk, or kill something?’
‘I do have an idea you might like.’ He suggested. ‘Go to the bar and wait for me there. We need three meads and a sweet wine.’
‘What are we going to do?’
‘Play a trick on Volstagg.’
She smiled at him. ‘Okay, that would be fun.’ She admitted.
‘Meet me there in five minutes.’ He grinned at her and set off towards the hall doors as she went in the opposite direction, hoping to procure what they needed.
She was awaiting the last two cups when her father clapped her on the shoulder, almost spilling the mead in front of her.
‘Here she is, the most beautiful woman in the nine realms, my little girl.’
‘Father, please.’ She blushed as she shook her head.
‘You are too modest.’ He squeezed her shoulders. ‘If you spent less time in the arena and more time embroidering you would be wed by now, do you not agree, Sir Theoric?’
Her eyes went wide as she realised who her father was obscuring and she turned slowly to see the man in his formal armour, his hair loose and shining. ‘Good evening, Sir Theoric.’
‘Lady Sigyn.’ He bowed his head to her. ‘How is your evening with our prince fairing?’
‘Well, thank you.’ She smiled politely. ‘And yours?’
‘Good.’ He nodded. ‘Is our prince here?’ He looked around for him.
‘A small errand, he shall return shortly.’
Her father scoffed. ‘No man should leave his lady unattended, even if said lady could beat the living Hel out of you, eh?’ He clapped Theoric on the arm. ‘A sure way to tell Thor has no intentions towards my daughter.’
‘He does not?’ Theoric quirked his head curiously.
‘Father,’ Sigyn tried but was ignored.
‘Of course not! He considers her a little sister. He has no claim to her.’ He turned back to Sigyn. ‘Daughter, invite Theoric to join us tomorrow for our noonday meal.’ Then immediately turned back to the guard. ‘Sir Theoric, would you honour us for our noonday meal tomorrow?’
‘Father, I have plans!’ She said quickly as Theoric replied; ‘I would love to, thank you.’
‘Cancel them!’ Her father hissed none too subtly. ‘Now, I must go and see who I can beat at arm wrestling next.’
She watched him barrel away and hoped he would be able to remember where they lived. ‘I apologise for my father, he cannot hold his liquor like he used to. Do not feel obliged to join us, he truly will not remember come the morning.’
‘I do not feel obliged, it would be an honour.’ He smiled, moving into the space her father had left. ‘Can I carry those for you?’
‘It’s quite alright, Thor said he would meet me here.’
‘Then allow me to keep you company while you wait.’
Loki’s face was aching from keeping an amused smile on his face while Heidi, or Hanna, or whatever her name was, pawed him like a dog with a piece of meat. It was for a good cause, he knew that, but she had been reluctant to give him up after one dance and now he found himself all but cornered on the balcony, trying to be polite.
‘I’ve never spent the night with a prince.’ She cooed at him as he removed her hand from his arm and lowered it. She had definitely drunk more than her fill of wine and was leaning towards him quite heavily.
‘I can give you the evening, but not the night.’ He said kindly as she traced her finger around the stitching of his tunic.
‘Call me petal again.’ She grinned inanely as his eyes darted around the room, hoping to find someone, anyone, who might help him escape from her clutches. Perhaps Fandral would assist, but his eyes fell on Sigyn at the bar, her golden gown shining in the firelight, and standing beside her was that oaf, Theoric. He ground his teeth as Theoric touched his Sigyn’s hair, showing her something he had taken from it, before fluttering it to the floor. She nodded her head, obviously in gratitude and something inside him snapped. He turned to the woman before him and gave her full eye contact, calling on his sorcery.
‘You find me quite boring, you have had the most dreadful time and could not wait to leave. There are many men here who desire you much more than I, go find one.’
She seemed to shake her head as the idea took hold and she looked up at Loki in surprise before excusing herself and walking away. Loki sighed in relief and began across the room towards the bar, noticing Thor now walking towards Sigyn, only he was much closer. He greeted Theoric, who bowed his head, and Thor collected the drinks Sigyn had before her, asking her to follow him, but before she could Theoric took her hand and kissed it, giving her some serious eye contact to go with it. Jealousy raged within Loki and on impulse he sent power at Theoric with a flick of his wrist. The man would become very unwell in the next half an hour and it would serve him right. Sigyn bobbed her head to him and followed Thor across the room. They seemed to be heading towards their friends so he adjusted his destination to meet them there. It was a much better option as it made it less obvious it was Sigyn he was seeking out. He reached the group before them and took a seat beside Fandral who clapped him on the shoulder.
‘How are you enjoying your evening with Hilde?’
‘Oh she is quite the firebrand.’ Loki gave him raised eyebrows which made him laugh.
‘She is that. Did you lose her?’
‘Deliberately so.’ His eyes drifted to Sigyn for a moment as she approached and Fandral noticed, but said nothing. He was already suspicious they were more than just friends but he could keep their secret.
‘Was she not fun?’
‘Too much for me.’
‘Funny, she didn’t look too much. She looked just right.’ Sigyn commented, taking the seat beside Sif furthest from him despite the seat beside him being empty.
‘Perhaps for some. I believe my taste to be much better.’
‘So did I.’ She smiled but it was unhappy. She was definitely angry and he was unsure why, it was she who had been flirting with Theoric at the bar.
‘Volstagg, I have a challenge for you!’ Thor announced, dropping the tray down on the table in front of their rotund friend.
‘Four cups is hardly a challenge.’ Volstagg peered over the small tray.
‘The number is not the challenge.’ Thor explained as Sigyn shook her head. Thor had placed a large quantity of cinnamon in the glass of wine. ‘The challenge is to drink the three meads then tell me what vintage of wine it is. You always claim to be such an expert, prove yourself.’
‘Please, Thor,’ Fandral laughed, ‘he could not tell the vintage if the barrel rolled over him.’
‘Challenge accepted, and you will be laughing on the other side of your face.’ Volstagg pointed at Fandral before throwing the flagon he held into the fireplace. ‘How long do I have?’
‘Just as quickly as you can, my friend, all in one, no rest between.’
‘Easy.’ Volstagg picked up the first mug and guzzled it quickly as they all watched, cheering for each empty cup, but Loki noticed Sigyn barely smiled, her eyes unfocused. He wanted to ask her what was wrong, to tell her how lovely she looked, and how she really should not be encouraging Theoric, but he did not know how to do so without drawing attention to them.
Finally Volstagg reached the wine glass, and swallowed its contents in one…his eyes going wide as his throat and nose burned. He tried to swallow but his throat contracted and he sprayed the liquid everywhere, everyone jumping to their feet and out of range, and Sigyn used the commotion to slip out of the nearest side door unnoticed, or so she thought. It took Loki a moment to realise she was missing, and the closing of a servants door showed him just where she had gone.
Trotting down the small staircase that led to the kitchens Sigyn realised she was being followed halfway down and ducked off the main staircase into an alcove, waiting with her back pressed against the wall, and as whoever it was passed she stuck her foot out, tripping them. It was only the flash of gold and green that passed that let her know it was Loki, the yelp he let out startled and high pitched, but she turned and ran back up the stairs, into the main hall, past their friends without a word and out the main doors.
‘Sigyn!’ She heard him call her but she ignored him, speeding up her pace until she was at a near run, turning up the nearest staircase but knowing he would easily catch her, so she stopped.
Loki wasn’t expecting a shoe to be thrown at him, and it caught him on the temple. The second one he ducked however. ‘Gods, Sig, will you stop!’
‘Not until you stop following me!’ She said exasperatedly.
‘Why would I do that?’
‘Because I told you to! Just go back to the hall with your beautiful partner and leave me alone!’
‘Are you jealous?’ He smirked at her but it just made the rage in her build all the more.
‘Do not try and make this about me, you and she would make such beautiful babies, with all that dark hair. She seems more than willing!’
He took a step up towards her. ‘I don’t want little dark haired babies running around, I want little blue eyed, red haired ones.’
‘Well, go back to the hall, there’s plenty of those for you to choose from too!’ She yelled, waving her arm towards the general direction of the hall.
‘You are jealous.’ He walked up another step, putting him close enough that Sigyn raised her foot, trying to kick him in the chest and back down the stairs but he was ready for another attack and he grabbed her leg behind the knee, pulling her off the step and towards him until he held her around the waist, feet off the floor, her leg still captive over his hip. ‘Why exactly are you jealous, when I have seen you flirting with that dolt Theoric?’
‘Flirting?’ She growled, pushing at his chest. ‘Put me down, now, Odinson, or I swear you will never sire any children!’
‘Such a threat. With what are you going to harm me?’ He teased, then wished he hadn’t when she head-butted him in the nose. He saw stars for a moment and his grip on her loosened enough for her to break it and she was running up the stairs before his vision cleared.
‘Sigyn!’ He yelled again as he followed her, figuring she was heading back to her rooms, but he didn’t realise she had ducked into another alcove, waiting for him to pass by before she snuck back out again and down, grabbing her shoes as she passed and running through the main hallway until she reached the door to the library. It was completely dark inside, and she called a small globe of light to her hand as she climbed the stairs to the second floor, walking among the quiet shelves until she reached the large, circular window that overlooked the gardens. She threw her shoes to the floor then climbed up onto the cushions and took a moment to catch her breath. How could he accuse her of flirting with Theoric? He knew she was avoiding him, like he carried some rare disease, but it hurt that Loki thought she would do that, let alone how he had been draped all over Thor’s favour all night. It was an insult. She tapped her nail on her teeth as she thought. She could hide out here for some time, assuming Loki had gone to her room, all night if she needed to. She should have realised she wouldn’t be so lucky.
‘The thing with having power is once you use it anyone who knows you well enough can trace you.’ Loki’s voice came from the lower floor and she got to her knees, leaning to see him coming through the shelves.
‘Go away!’ She called.
‘Not going to work, love.’
‘Well, it should.’ She narrowed her eyes and used her power to pull a particularly large book out of a high shelf, dropping it on him.
‘Ouch! Could you please stop throwing things at me?’
‘If you turn around and leave, yes!’ She yelled.
‘You are being unreasonable.’
‘I’m being unreasonable?’
‘I’m glad you agree.’ She threw three more books at him. ‘Well, Sig, you leave me no other option.’ He waved his hand and two doubles of himself were suddenly either side of her, grabbing her wrists. She fought against them but it was no use and by the time he reached her she had about stilled, her breathing coming heavily from her efforts. ‘Now, about the matter of this Theoric.’
‘There is no matter of Theoric. I did nothing but be polite. You on the other hand…’
‘I what?’ He pushed her back into the seat and his doubles disappeared as he took her wrists in his hands. ‘I tolerated the most dull woman I have ever had the misfortune to lay eyes on in the hope my brother would keep you away from Theoric’s wandering hands? That did not work out so well, did it?’
‘You’re an idiot!’ She struggled against him but knew it was useless. She had bested him once but he hadn’t been expecting it. Now he had her fully pinned from his hips down.
‘You do seem to prefer men that way.’ He growled at her.
‘How would you know what I prefer? You don’t even know how to express love, let alone…’ He cut her off with his lips on hers in a forceful kiss that she didn’t know whether to fight or give in.
Charles pulled back from the memory with a sudden breath and Maia covered her face with her hands.
‘Oh yeah, we had really angry sex in the library.’
‘A few times.’ Loki chuckled as she blushed.
‘I really do not need more information than that.’ Charles said.
‘Thank goodness.’ Maia sighed.
Charles looked at his watch. It was almost five. ‘Perhaps we should call it a day? I can arrange to come another day later in the week, if you wish?’
‘I think so, if you don’t mind?’ Maia asked.
‘Not at all. It is a good way for me to understand and clarify things, although the two of you do seem to be particularly physical.’
‘It is definitely one of the highlights of our relationship.’ Loki commented as Maia glared at him. ‘You can't deny it, sunbeam.’
‘Doesn’t mean I want it brought up in front of my friend and mentor.’
‘I will let you know when I can be here next.’ Charles said as he moved his chair away from the table.
‘Thank you, Charles. This is actually helping a lot.’
‘You’re quite welcome. Any further thoughts on what you would prefer to be called?’
She glanced at Loki, knowing he was territorial over the name but, all the same, ‘I think Sigyn.’
‘Let me know if you change your mind, Sigyn.’ Charles took her hand and patted it.
‘I will.’ She smiled, the word sounding strange on his lips.
He left and Loki rested his hands on her hips, pressing himself against her back and murmuring into her hair. ‘Weren’t we about to have really angry sex, Sig?’
‘In the conference room? Really?’ She glanced up at him.
‘The door locks.’ He shrugged, waving his hand and the door bolted itself. ‘And I have a good many years still to make up for.’