Published: February 9, 2013
Freya looked at her infant son, eyes clouded with love and grief.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" She asked, willing her husband to say no.
"It will be good for both of our nations. You must understand. This is hard on me too." Odin gently touched the infant's sleeping face. Freya held back tears and walked back to her chambers, wishing to process her pain alone. Her husband’s shoulders slumped, but he had made up his mind. I will send word to Laufey at once, he thought. The future of the nine realms rested in a pair of infants.
A magnificent feast was in store for the royal court. Roasted birds adorned with rare herbs sat in the center of every table. Deep red wine was poured into jeweled goblets, and the setting sun cast a beautiful light that filled the grand hall with golden tones. Fabric of deep purples and reds hung from the tables, and one shook slightly as a young boy sheltered underneath it. Frantic voices grew louder, and he could hear echoing footsteps. Two voices. His father’s, booming and angry, and his mother’s, fraught with worry. Thor, please come out. The ceremony will be starting soon. It was dark beneath the thick red shroud of the tablecloth, and Thor inched towards the center. He curled his body into a small ball, clutching the little silver figurine he had owned since he was born. He felt the significance of the day in a manner only a child can: the stiffness of the adults’ demeanors. To him, it was some boring celebration which required uncomfortable clothing and a lot of people looking at his family. He hadn't thought would mind if he skipped this one, and he had wrapped himself in his bed sheet and escaped to the banquet hall.
"Check under the tables," he heard Odin say, and he scowled. Soon, an elegant hand lifted up the tablecloth, and Freya placed her hand gently on her son’s shoulder.
"I don’t want to attend another dull ceremony," he said. "Please, can I stay here and play?"
"Thor," Freya chided, "this will be the most important ceremony of your life, aside from your naming. You need to attend. I promise, you can sleep through the next solstice celebration if you sit through this one.
"What’s the importance?" Thor began to pout. Odin came to kneel beside Freya then.
"Son, a long time ago a descision was made-" Odin started, the anger in his face fading into something Thor didn't recognize.
"A desision that you made," hissed Freya.
"To protect the best interests of our kingdom...." Odin trailed off. "I'll explain when you're older."
"Will I really get to skip the next solstice ceremony?" Odin and Freya breathed a collective sigh of relief.
"It will be the next solstice if we do not make haste." Freya pulled her son out from underneath the table. "Let's go change your garments."
The ceremony was as long and irritating as Thor had imagined. There was a lot of sitting and a lot of standing. When they stood, his legs were tired, and when they sat he grew restless. Thor felt bored and apprehensive. His eyes were beginning to glaze over during one of his father’s long speeches when he saw another child standing to the side of the hall, out of the view of the audience. The child looked like He couldn’t quite make out much ofthe child’s features, apart from pale skin and dark hair. Soon there was a fanfare, and Thor was guided to the front of the platform, flanked on either side by Odin and Freya. The other child was also led forward by two uncomfortable-looking men, until they stood near Thor. He forced himself to smile, but the pale child looked at the ground. Odin continued to talk, and Thor didn’t realize that he was asked a question until Freya whispered in his ear.
"Say I agree."
"I agree," Thor mumbled, having no idea what he was agreeing to.
"Are you in agreement, Loki?" Odin asked.
"I agree," the child said in a faltering voice.
"Now, we shall remember this day always as the feast of the betrothal of Thor, son of Odin, heir to the throne, and Loki-" Shocked gasps and murmurs came from the crowd, but Odin went on- "son of Laufey, heir to the throne, and the end of all war between the Asgardians and the Jotuns!" Thor had no idea what a betrothal was, but he figured that it must be a good thing, as another trumpet flourish sounded. The audience began to cheer unenthusiastically.
"How can we trust him?" A voice shouted from amidst the crowd. Odin grew bright red.
"It is done! Nobody is to question my decisions!" Odin roared.
"How can you allow a monster so near to the throne?" Another voice called out. Thor saw Loki wince. Odin was fuming.
"These are the only heirs to either throne! Our kingdoms will be united and war will cease!" Aside, to his guards, but loud enough for the audience to hear, "Seize anyone who protests."
"Shall we commence the feast?" Freya cut in.
Thor was seated between Odin and Freya at the high table, a goblet of juice in front of him. He knew he mustn’t speak, but his curiosity burned deep within. He didn’t taste the food as he ate, wondering why they couldn’t just serve everything all at once. He felt for his statue, deep within his pocket, and the familiar weight comforted him. The adults talked of adult things, of harvests and battles and of something called a Jotun. Thor poked at his meal. After what seemed like days, Odin made yet another speech and the company dispersed.
"May I play with my friends now?" He asked Freya as they left.
"Oh, Thor, nothing will ever be the same again."
"It is time for you to start growing up."
"I’m Loki," the young boy said quietly. Loki had been led by some guards to Thor's rooms.
"Hi Loki, I’m Thor. Do you like to play?" Thor asked. "I’m not allowed, but I intend to anyways."
"I love to play." Loki showed Thor something in his hand. It was a small golden child, and Thor grinned.
"I have one just like it." He showed Loki the small silver statue.
"He looks like me," said Loki.
"And I look like yours." The small golden figure had the same short hair, the same long legs and shortarms. Thor’s silver statue resembled Loki perfectly, a thin, tallstature with neatly combed hair.
"I got mine soon after I was born. It changes sometimes."
"Mine does as well! I think it’s magical."
"Here, put this on your head." Loki handed Thor a small pillow. Thor complied, and soon Loki dropped his statue.
"It burns my hand!" He exclaimed. When the boys looked again at the statue, it had a small pillow on its head.
"It is magic!" The boys were soon putting ridiculous things on themselves, watching the statues glow and change. They didn’t notice Freya enter the chamber through all of their laughter. She cleared her throat, and the boys froze. Thor was wearing a blanket, a pair of trousers on his head, and a slipper on his hand. Loki was wrapped in a fur rug, the preserved head of some great beast sliding over his face. They looked at each other, and then sheepishly up at Freya. Loki quietly returned the rug to the floor and shrank back, but Thor chattered to Freya.
"We are magic statues, Mother! Like my hat?"
"Magic statues. I see you two are getting along quite well, but it’s bedtime for you both. Thor groaned. Do we have to bathe? I don’t want to. He stripped down to his shorts and jumped into bed, pretending to snore. Loki studied his feet. Freya sighed.
"Only if you bathe tomorrow. Loki, you had better sleep in here tonight. I have no idea where your chambers are." He walked noiselessly around to the opposite side of the bed, and climbed under the blankets and furs fully clothed. Freya put out the fires in the sconces, leaving only the warm glow from the hearth. Thor’s fake snoring ceased, and was replaced by real snoring. Loki listened, his chin quivering. He was so very far from home, and from his parents. He liked Thor well enough, but he missed his old playmates. He didn’t like being stuffed into this little white skin, and missed his icy blue form. The fire illuminated Thor’s sleeping face, and his eyelashes fluttered as he dreamt. Deep within the palace, a dog barked. The night dragged on, and he was unable to sleep. Finally, he walked to the fire and looked at it. How strange, he thought. Fire usually goes out in my presence. He inched closer, enjoying the eerie warmth emanating from the flames. He sat down close to the flame, and finally slept, its glow comforting him.
"You lost! Your turn to tell a secret."
"You can't tell anyone."
"Of course not." The boys were sitting in the baths, trying to ease their muscles after a day of battle training. However, they had soon grown bored of just soaking, and Loki devised a game in which both held their breath as long as possible and the one who came up for air first had to tell something that he had never told anyone.
"I have a crush on the chambermaid who washes our bedclothes." Loki giggled, and Thor splashed him. "Don't laugh!"
"I bet you have a crush on someone."
"I don't have to tell unless I lose this round."
"Well, let's see."
"You'll never win." Thor watched Loki through the water, not daring to come up for air even as his lungs burned. Finally, Loki gave in. Rushing to the surface, he gasped for air, followed shortly thereafter by Thor.
"Ha! Now you have to tell me who you like!" Loki glared at him.
"You boys need to come with me." They jumped.
"Father- I didn't see you there."
"Get some robes and come on."
"Your parents sure have a way of sneaking up on us," whispered Loki to Thor.
"Are we in trouble, Father?" There was no answer. Odin led them through the palace and into his own bedchambers.
"Freya?" Odin called. She seemed to materialize beside him.
"We have to explain to them what a betrothal is."
"Oh, no. You must explain alone. This was your decision." The boys had never seen such coldness from her, and braced themselves.
"As you know already, Loki is not from here.... Loki, how much do you know about the land from which you came?"
"It's cold. Very cold, and dark. I was a prince, and my fathers ruled.... There was no sunshine."
"Your land, Jotunheim, has long been at war with the land of my rule. Most here blame the Jotuns, and most there blame us. History has forgotten the origional quarrel, and it is often easy to blame the other side. I inherited the war, and I intend to be the last one burdened by its troubles."
"But, Father, what does that have to do with us?" Thor asked. Loki was already beginning to get an idea.
"Although I and Laufey, Loki's father, the ruler of the Jotuns, are weary of the war, young warriors with a thirst for blood ignite old wounds and we have no choice but to retaliate. Sometimes I think that it is Laufey and I against our armies."
"So you decided to unite the kingdoms and spare the battles." Loki whispered, shock etched into his slight features. Thor looked confused.
"Two heirs were born within a year of each other. Loki first, and then you, Thor. In the olden days, kingdoms were often united by marraige, and much blood was spared. Laufey and I came to an agreement...." Loki stared at him.
"I still don't get it." Thor looked at his father.
"We're to be married." Loki whispered to him.
"Why tell us now?" Loki demanded. "Why not tell us from the beginning?"
"We thought you knew."
"And we get no choice in the matter?"
"I decided to tell you because I heard you discussing your crushes. I have to tell you that you must marry each other, for the welfare of everyone in the nine realms." The boys fell into a stunned silence. Freya, watching from the other end of the chamber, came beside them now, with a hand on each boy's shoulder.
"Please do not hate your father. He'd rather you be friends than confront, and ultimately kill, one another in battle." Loki and Thor looked at each other, and walked away without answering her.