‘No fucking way.’ Darcy said. ‘He betrothed you to someone else?’
Sigyn nodded, her throat tight. ‘My father thought Theoric and I a good match. He saw a strong pair of arms to protect his daughter. I saw more brawn than brain. And he wasn’t Loki.’
Sif stroked Sigyn’s hair, knowing first hand how upset she had been at the betrothal. ‘I found her, in the woods, completely exhausted, out of tears and all emotions. She was like a blank slate, in a state of shock. She told me everything, confirmed she and Loki had been together for some time, that Frigga knew and supported them, as did Thor, and that she had been to wed Loki, once Frigga cleared it with Odin. She didn’t get the chance.’
‘One of the worst days of either of my lives.’ She admitted.
‘But you did marry, eventually.’ Jane reminded her, but she was hesitant.
‘We did, but it was a long road. Another year.’
‘What happened in that year?’ Nat asked.
‘I tried to find a way out of the contract while rebutting Theoric’s constant attention. He began dining with us every night and it was harder for me to sneak out to see Loki because he stayed so late drinking with my father. We had to go on walks together, be seen, attend feasts, at which he would not leave me with my friends.’
‘Try as I might he would not relinquish her. He even began to interfere in her training, finding excuses for her miss bouts and it quickly became clear that while he claimed not to care of her status as a warrior and sorceress it was merely her presence he required, showing her like cattle to his friends.’
‘And he was so boring.’ Sigyn rolled her head back. ‘I don’t mind discussing battle tactics but he just wanted me to listen, not have an opinion and certainly not have it be better than his. Loki and I even tried to run away together, but Thor caught us and stopped us. He told us we knew we couldn’t do it, either to ourselves or Frigga. He promised us the marriage to Theoric would never go ahead, but neither of us could see how.’
‘She’s talking all proper like an Asgardian lady, it’s awesome.’ Darcy said as Sigyn realised what she was doing.
‘Sorry, it’s hard not to.’
‘No, it’s amazing. You like, embody both things. It’s pretty cool. But get with the rest of the story.’
Sigyn laughed softly and got up, refilling her glass. ‘It was the summer when Theoric asked for my hand. Loki, obviously, was broken hearted too. We kept seeing one another secretly, with his mother’s blessing, and she helped us realise that we would find a way, that we shouldn’t give up, but it was hard work. By the spring the date had been set for the coming summer and I was getting desperate. I had had to move the bracelet Loki gave me to my ankle so it wasn’t seen, but I still wore it. He knew it was there too, so it helped us both. Theoric however tried to shower me with gifts in the hope of getting some sort of…’ she looked at Sif for help.
‘She would not even kiss him.’ She smiled. ‘She was beautiful yet austere, immovable. I was so very proud.’
‘He definitely tried to be physical. Repeatedly.’ Sigyn shivered at the memory of how many times she had had to quickly leave tables because of his wandering hands.
‘In the end that was his downfall.’ Sif explained.
Sigyn had been allowed into the training area simply because Theoric was off with her father, binging on ale or something equally as ridiculous. They had more in common than he and Sigyn and she mused at Loki’s joke that her father should marry Theoric himself. Speaking of, the prince sidled up to her at the fence where she leant, watching Sif fighting.
‘You are sad, my lady.’ He said quietly.
‘Desperation of a broken heart, my prince.’ She sighed without looking at him.
‘Is there anything I can do?’
‘Would you take a contracted murder?’
‘It may be considered.’
She looked up at him, knowing they had discussed it, but she couldn’t bring herself to agree to killing someone just for her own selfish gains. ‘Perhaps when all else fails.’
‘When all else fails, murder.’ He nodded, his hands coming up on the fence, one so close to hers just the movement of his finger made them touch and it was electric. ‘Would you spar with me, Lady Sigyn? It has been a long time since we have fought and I believe it would do you good.’
‘It is not you I wish to beat to a soggy puddle, Prince.’
‘All the same, allow me this?’
She looked up at him beside her, her lips turning up just slightly. ‘Alright. Thank you.’
‘Anything, to see you smile.’
‘Sig’n!’ She heard her name being called and she screwed up her face as Loki sighed. The voice was that of her inebriated fiancé. More than once he had found himself worse for wear and Loki had had to keep himself from beating the dolt senseless for the inelegant way he handled his sunbeam.
‘Yes, Sir Theoric?’ She turned to see him staggering towards them.
‘What are you wearing?’ He waved his hand at her.
‘Leathers, for sparring.’ She said as though it were not obvious.
‘You don’t get to spar. That’s men’s work. Come.’ He took her elbow and tried to pull her away.
‘I have promised Prince Loki a bout.’
‘Prince Loki.’ He seemed to recognise him and bowed clumsily.
‘Sir Theoric.’ Loki said with barely contained contempt, his eyes lingering on the hold he had on Sigyn. ‘Lady Sigyn is correct. We have the next bout promised.’
‘You don’t have to pretend to be nice to her.’ Theoric whispered loud enough to draw even Sif’s attention, and she called a halt to her match to approach. ‘She’s a woman. She should be in the home.’
‘That is the most ridiculous notion I have ever heard.’ Sif said. ‘We come from a proud tradition of women fighting alongside their men, of protecting our homes while the men are at war. We would not have survived long without our fighting ability and Sigyn is one of the best among us.’
‘No, she used to be. Now she is my bride-to-be. Come.’ He tried again but Sigyn resisted.
‘We need to talk, Theoric.’ She said firmly, dropping his title entirely and he glared at her, but she glared right back. ‘Now.’
Loki and Sif shared a look, wondering just what she was going to say, but Theoric sneered. ‘We do.’ And he dragged her away from the training ground. He led her to the stables, most of the horses out on exercise, and he shoved her into a stall none too gently.
‘This has to stop.’ She said firmly, turning on him.
‘It does. You shouldn’t talk to me like that in front of people.’ He said, his words slurring. ‘I will be your husband and you will respect me.’
‘When you give me something to respect you for you will get it.’ She said, angrily folding her arms. ‘All you are doing is embarrassing yourself with your archaic attitude. You are no further thinking than a Midgardian.’
He was across the stall with his hand around her throat before she realised it and he lifted her off the ground, pinning her to the wall. ‘You find me archaic? You should be seen and not heard. That little mouth of yours is good for nothing, frigid bitch!’ He growled as he grabbed a leather rein from the side of the stall and released her throat but grabbed her hands, binding them as she fought against him, kicking at his knees, anything she could reach, trying to head-butt him, but he was so much stronger than her.
‘I swear if you do this, Theoric, if you even try, I will kill you!’ She screamed as he shoved her across the stall again, this time hard enough she lost her footing, ploughing face first into the wooden post. Her head spun for a moment as he grabbed her hair and pulled her back up, then out of the stall. He dragged her to the wall where they hung the tack and lifted her, attaching the rein to a hook in the ceiling so she hung, turning, unable to do anything but struggle. ‘Let me down, you brute!’
‘You need to learn to respect me.’ He snarled and as she turned on the hook she saw him remove a flail from the wall and her eyes went wide.
‘Don’t you dare!’ She yelled as he drew it back, striking her with it across the thighs. The leather of her armour took some of the sting out but it still hurt, and blood ran in her eye from whatever she had done hitting the post. He drew back again and she screamed in frustration as the flail struck her back. She swung her legs up, trying to gain herself some momentum and on the back swing she caught him in the shoulder with her feet. He yelled something unintelligible and rushed back towards her but she had turned to face him and she planted one foot in his chest before kicking him repeatedly in the face with the other until he staggered back and she drew her legs up, looping them around the beam she hung from and releasing her hands from the hook before dropping heavily to the floor on her back, winding herself in the process.
He was on her in seconds, his fists crashing into her as she raised her hands to defend herself, calling up her sorcery for aid, knowing she had to stop this. And she did. She launched him with a burst of power across the stable as she fought to breathe. He hit the wall at the far end as the door beside it was flung open, revealing Loki and Sif, who had followed them, concerned for what Theoric might do, and with good reason.
Rage rose in Loki as he saw his Sigyn prone on the floor, gasping for air, her hands bound and face bruised and bleeding. For anyone to do that much damage to an Asgardian showed how hard he had hit her. He turned on Theoric as Sif ran to Sigyn, pulling the bonds off her as she helped her sit up.
Loki grabbed Theoric, undoubtably the heavier man, and hauled him to his feet, shoving him hard enough against a pillar it broke at his back. ‘You do not touch her! You never touch her!’ He drew back his hand, calling power as he did but Sigyn’s voice halted him.
‘Loki, don’t.’ She said simply and he stopped, turning to see Sif helping her to her feet. She was unstable and injured and he dropped the man responsible, rushing to her as she wiped blood from the corner of her mouth.
‘He can’t do this, love.’ He said quietly, taking her from Sif who went and dragged Theoric back to his feet. ‘If he does this once, he will do this again.’
She nodded. ‘He won’t. We take him to The Allfather. I can’t marry a beast.’
He stroked her cheek tenderly. ‘Father has to see the damage he caused one of our best warriors. He is unstable and cannot get away with this.’
‘I agree.’ She closed her eyes at his touch and Theoric tried to lunge at them, despite Sif’s grip on him.
‘I knew it! I knew she was fucking someone! But the prince? You whore!’ Sif back handed him for his words.
‘Speak to her again, of anything, and I will take your tongue.’ She growled into his face. ‘And nothing would make me happier.’
He seemed to take her threat seriously and quieted. Sif dragged him from the stables then Loki began to carefully lead Sigyn to the doors. She made no sound but her movement was laboured and pained, each step hurting a different wound.
‘Hold onto me, Sig.’ He said quietly as he lifted her into his arms, and finally she gasped in pain. ‘I’ll never let you go again.’ She nodded, resting her head on his shoulder, knowing he meant every word.