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~ Heathen Stories and New Myths ~

 

The King and the Jester

The young girl watched the sullen figure through wide, woeful, azure eyes. The ancient wood of the wooden archway framed the young man’s sorrow almost perfectly. His long slender fingers played with necklace around his neck, the necklace which consisted of a tiny fang, a lock of hair and emerald scale. She shuffled forwards twiddling her auburn hair, unsure whether to leave the man in his sorrow or not. She finally gathered up her courage. “Uncle Loki,” she said, her voice booming against the imposing silence. Unexpectedly, Loki exploded into a flurry of movement until he came to a standstill, the necklace gone from sight. “Thrud, my dear,” He said, looking a little relieved, “what can I help you with?”
Thrud looked at her feet, fighting back tears. “Have you seen my papa?”
There was a second of silence. “No I haven’t.” Loki said bluntly, as he turned to leave. The news hit Thrud and she started to sob uncontrollably. Loki was stopped by the sound, and feeling some sudden and primal instinct (or perhaps sheer guilt), felt the urge to comfort the child. He smiled gently and knelt beside Thrud; “there, there,” he cooed softly, “it’s alright. Tell me what is troubling you so.” Through short sharp breaths Thrud tried to explain what had happened but she never got very far before falling into fits of tears. Loki understood though. “Thor and Sif have been fighting again, haven’t they?” Thrud nodded.
“I haven’t seen papa since, you don’t think he left, do you?” she asked a little hysterically.
“Well, did he say goodbye to you?” Loki asked.
Thrud shook her head.
“Then I’m sure that Thor is here somewhere. After all, he never leaves Asgard without saying goodbye to you.” Loki said putting on his most uplifting smile.
“But where?” Thrud cried.
“Have you checked Valhalla?” Thrud nodded. “Breidablik?” again Thrud nodded. “Ydalir? Himinbjorg?-“
“Yes, yes, I’ve checked everywhere!” she wailed.
Loki paused and thought. “What about Valaskjalf?”
Thrud thought for a while, “Why would papa be there?”
Loki smiled, “Trust me; Thor will be there.” Thrud beamed, the sadness banished from her eyes. “Thank you Uncle Loki!” Thrud shouted ecstatically, as she raced towards the doorway.
“Hold up there li’le missy,” Loki called, putting on a phoney accent. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“To Valaskjalf?” Thrud said a little puzzled.
“On your own?”
“Yes.”
“And what kind of responsible adult would I be if I let an eight year old girl wonder the streets of Asgard on her own?” Loki enquired, rather condescendingly.
“First of all, am I nine not eight,” Thrud said, folding her arms, “and when in the history of Asgard are you known for being responsible?”
Loki smiled, amused, “You are so much like your mother it’s scary.” Thrud’s brow creased as she tried to figure out whether that was an insult or not. “But my point still stands; I’m coming with you.” Loki continued.
“Fine.” Thrud said bluntly but secretly she was glad for the company.

They were outside in a matter of minutes. It was cold for an afternoon, with pale light crawling through a mist of brooding grey clouds. Loki had known his friend long enough to know what this meant; it meant that Thor was troubled. It was a little unknown fact amongst the gods that Thor’s mood affected the weather; in fact Thor threatened to break Loki’s neck if he shared, Loki did not share and his neck was left in one piece. “I think it’s going to rain later.” Loki said wistfully. But Thrud was in a hurry and did not care what the weather was doing. “Hurry up.” Thrud said as she dashed passed him. Loki smiled “Perhaps your more like your father after all.”
“Why are you looking for Thor anyway?” Loki questioned. Immediately Thrud became moody and tense. “I told you; mama and papa have been arguing, I want to make sure he’s still in Asgard.”
“But we’ve established that Thor is, so why are you so determined to see him?”
“So I need a reason to want to see my papa?” Thrud demanded.
“Of course not, but judging by your demeanour there’s something more going on here.” Loki stated.
“What does “demeanour” mean?” Thrud asked. Loki did not answer, he just simply smiled. He’d forgotten he was dealing with a child. a second or two passed until Thrud said:
“I just want papa and mama to stop fighting.” Thrud looked up at her uncle. It was true that he wasn’t really her uncle, but he was her godfather and her grandpa’s brother and, despite her mother being dead against it, Loki had helped raise Thrud. As long as Thrud could remember her mother, Sif, had hated Loki. For whatever reason was still remained a mystery to her and, she guessed, always will be.
Thrud smiled to herself. “What are you smirking about?” enquired Loki.
“Something mama said.” She said.
Loki tilted his head to one side, “oh?”
“She said I’d better stay away from you today, she said you’d be grumpy, but she was wrong. Your fine.”
“Ah.” It was clear to Thrud that Loki knew exactly what her mother was talking about, it was also clear that she had struck a nerve. His muddy yellow eyes shifted to a melancholy grey colour. And even though he smiled there was no warmth behind it, just a sense of unsettling sadness. Thrud quickly changed subject. “My feet hurt.” She said.
“I’m not surprised if you’ve been running around Asgard all morning.” Loki replied.
“They still hurt.” Thrud said.
“Is this you subtle way of asking for a piggy-back ride?” Loki said with a smirk.
“Yes it is.”
Loki chuckled. “Alright,” He said, as he crouched down, “climb on.” Thrud smiled her thanks, and wrapped her arms around Loki’s neck. Loki stood up and started to walk, Thrud enjoyed the ride.
“Hey Uncle Loki, you know you love me?” Thrud said as persuadably as possible.
“Uh-oh, this sounds dangerous.” Loki said teasingly.
“Tell me a story.”
“Aren’t you too old for that, after all you are nine.” Loki jested. Thrud attempted to kick him but couldn’t move her legs very far, instead she tried to reason with Loki; “It’s a really long walk to Valaskjalf, it’s practically on the other side of Asgard, a story will make the time go much faster.” Loki chuckled again. “Okay, just for that, I’ll tell you a story.”
He paused to think. “Have I told you the story of the king and the jester?” Thrud shook her head. “Okay then. Once in a prosperous kingdom a king ruled with absolute power. The people did not complain for, in their eyes, the king was fair and just. One day a young boy with a talent for pulling pranks and making mischief found himself standing in the king’s court. The lords and ladies of the land wanted to banish the boy so that whatever mischief he caused would not affect them but the king thought that he could use the boy and offered him a job as jester. The boy, naïve of the king’s plans for him, except the job. Years passed and the boy grew up. He’d spent the years entertaining the very lords and ladies who wanted to see him gone. But playing the fool was not the young man’s only job; the king used the lad’s cunning and sharp tongue to hinder and hurt the surrounding kingdoms so that none could ever challenge the might of the king’s empire.” Loki paused. “This went on for years until the jester met a beautiful maiden. It was love at first sight and it wasn’t long before the jester wanted nothing more than to settle down and start a family but he knew the king would never let this happen. So the jester tried to juggle his new found family and the life he would never get away from. The court did not care when the jester disappeared for months at a time and his new wife knew he really was. There was no lying to her; she was just as cunning and sharp as the jester’s.” once again Loki paused. “They had three beautiful children, two boys and a little girl. Know these children were no angles, but are any children? They loved their parents, and they loved each other.” Loki broke off again. Thrud grew impatient. “What were they like?” she asked.
“The eldest was a typical boy; he loved to play ruff, run off exploring, he was very excitable but he took very good care of his baby brother and sister. The youngest boy was not as out-going as his brother, he preferred to read than to chase imaginary goblins, but he wasn’t shy and he certainly wouldn’t say no to pulling a prank with his brother. The youngest was a little girl, she had a scar on the right-side of her face which made her painfully shy, she barely spent time with other girls her age but she rather spend time with brothers-“
“So what happened to them?” Thrud asked, growing impatient. Valaskjalf wasn’t too far away now and Thrud was desperate to know how the story ended before they got there. “One day a soothsayer demanded to speak to the king. She said that she had a warning for him. The king allowed her to speak her warning. She said that the jester’s children were one day going to destroy the kingdom and kill the king. The lords and ladies were alarmed. They didn’t even know that the jester had a family, but the king knew. He always knew.” Loki’s voice grew dark with anger. “The king decided that the only way to keep his kingdom, and his own skin, safe was to kill the jester’s children.”
“What?!” Thrud cried in utter dismay, “He can’t do that!” There was a moment of silence. Above the skyline of the squat buildings that surrounded the pair, Thrud could see the majestic spires of Valaskjalf. “What happened next?” Thrud asked. When Loki spoke his voice was quiet and wrathful, “The king sent his best men to kidnap the jester’s children and bring them to the court of the king. The jester threw himself at the mercy of his king. He begged the king to spare his children, but the king did not listen. The jester then planned a way to save his children but it was discovered and he was thrown into a cell in a dungeon. The jester grew desperate and threatened the king and his precious kingdom. He promised the king that if he slayed his children then he would personally see that the kingdom would fall and the king would die. The king listened. He couldn’t kill the children and he wouldn’t see them run free either. He decided to imprison the children.” Loki drew in a sharp breath as if an old wound had salt rubbed into it. His voice once again changed; it was still quiet but was frail. “The king banished the young girl into the land of mist and darkness to live out her life alone. The youngest boy was placed in a boat and cast out to sea; it would be a miracle if he survived. The eldest was lured into a cave, tethered and bound so he could scarcely move and left there under the kingdom. His father had just as tight of a leash and was forced to work of the “fair and just” king for the rest of his life.”
By now the pair had made their way to Valaskjalf. A servant saw them coming and opened the magnificent and deeply decorated doors for them. “What happened next?” Thrud asked.
“That’s the end of the tale, my dear.” Loki murmured.
“But that can’t be!” Thrud howled. “Every story has to have a happy ending, that doesn’t have a happy ending.” Loki began to argue but lost the words.
“So how should it end?” Loki enquired.
“The jester should rescue the children and take them far far away from the king so no one will ever bother them again.” Thrud said, happy with the new ending. But before the Trickster could argue with how impossible the ending was, Thrud saw her father and lost interest. She wiggled free from Loki’s piggy-back and made a mad dash towards Thor. She was greeted with open arms. “Hello there, sweetie.” Thor said in a deep but heartening voice. Thrud borrowed her face into her father’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?” Thor asked, worried.
“You shouldn’t worry a little lady like that, Thor.” Loki said in his usual silky voice. Thor’s brow creased as he tried to figure out what on Midgard Loki was talking about.
“Don’t leave.” Thrud demanded, “Please don’t leave, papa.”
Thor looked towards his friend, presuming looking for help. “I’m sorry, sweet heart,” Thor said as he put Thrud down, “but I’ve got to go. It’s just for a few days, you won’t even know that I’m gone.” He gave Thrud the most comforting smile he could muster.
Before Thrud could argue Odin, king of Asgard, walked into the room. The mood change almost instantly. The torches of fire which lined the walls and lit the room, burn intensely blue. The Trickster’s eyes narrowed as they settled on his brother, the king. “You’re still here?” Odin asked, oblivious to the mood in the room.
“Yeah, I’m still here until tomorrow.” Thor said, as he watched Loki and Odin cautiously.
“Grandpa, tell papa to stay!” Thrud demanded as she stamped her feet. Odin’s withered face smiled; he couldn’t help but find her amusing.
“Now, now my dear you know you father has important work to do.” He said condescendingly, Thrud pulled a face. “And you?” Odin said, addressing Loki.
“I’m not catching your drift.” Loki said tonelessly.
“Well, I just didn’t expect to see you here today.”
“And we all know why that is.” Loki said maliciously. Odin said something in a cruel tone and a foreign tongue. Whatever was said did nothing to cool the Trickster’s fury. He responded in the same tongue but in a more searing tone. Odin chuckled, “maybe if they weren’t monsters-“
“They weren’t!” The Trickster shrieked. The torches exploded in a fury of blue flames. Thrud hid behind Thor and Thor held his breathe. Neither of them had ever seen Loki so mad. Thrud hadn’t even heard Loki shout before. Odin cast a rune and the flames died down, leaving a series of diminutive smoking stumps. The two brothers stood staring at each other; Odin planning his next move, Loki waiting for the next blow. “That’s enough!” The Thunderer’s voice echoed down the hall and the lightning tore the sky apart outside. The Trickster cast his eyes to the outside window then with a smile he turned to Thrud and said gently “I told you it would rain later.” Then he left.

© Sir Hattington       ~sir-hattington on DeviantArt

 

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