Chapter Four: Halfway There

Aniki sat bolt upright, breathing hard. She felt like she had just been punched in the stomach.

"Aniki, what is it?" Loki asked. He was nervous—she looked terrified.

"Just—just a dream... I think..." She was still breathing heavily, but beginning to calm down.

"Nightmare?" he asked sympathetically. He had plenty of experience in that area.


Another voice joined in, and Aniki stiffened.

It's her.

A light flared up, half-blinding the two companions, and when it faded away a magnificent woman had materialized in front of their fireplace. Aniki jumped to her feet, Loki quickly following her example as he stared at the newcomer in awe.

"I appeared to Aniki in her dreams, and I'm afraid I gave her quite a fright. I suppose it would be a shock. My apologies."

At this she inclined her head toward Aniki, a motion that would be called a nod if any other creature had made it, but this woman was so graceful that such language seemed beneath her.

Turning to Loki, the woman continued.

"I am Syf, leader of the Valkyries. Greetings, Loki. The Aesir have high hopes for you."

Loki was struck dumb, gaping at Syf with his mouth open.

"Of course, you must both prove yourself. No one may become an Aesir before first proving themselves worthy of the honor. I have been asked to help speed the process."

"By Thor?" Aniki's voice was strained.

"By your father, yes. My husband is impatient as a rule, and he feels that sixteen years is too long to wait anyway. Of course, he could never have dreamed that you would have inherited this much power, and so much of it from your mother in particular."

"Who is my mother?"

"She was Astrid, queen of the Norsken [roughly translated into northern light] elves. Thor fell in love with her and you were the result. She died very shortly after you were born, but no one knows why. Thor was heartbroken, and left you on Midgard, where Astrid loved to wander. I suppose I could be considered your step-mother—but this is a subject that should be saved for later.

"For now, simply focus on the task ahead. If you return to the cliff where Aniki first flew and remain there for ten days, a trial will come that should be enough to qualify both of you as new Aesir. In the meantime, I suggest that you"—she motioned towards Loki— "begin to teach her how to control her magic. It's dangerous to keep so much magic bottled up and then let it out all of a sudden."

Loki nodded, still unable to speak.

Syf smiled.

"I am glad to finally meet you, Thor's daughter. And you, Loki—I hope to one day greet you in Asgard. Good luck to you both."

With that, she disappeared.

A dead silence hung in the air, resounding shock ringing through the two friends as they stood staring at the space Syf had just occupied.

Loki was the first to snap out of it, turning to Aniki and guiding her to the fire, helping her sit down.

"Well... that was unexpected."

Aniki could only nod, staring into the embers of the dying fire.

As Loki sat next to her, something suddenly dawned on him.

"Ha! I was right, after all! Thor is your father!"

He put one elbow on his knee, leaning his head on his fist as he grinned triumphantly at Aniki.

That broke her out of her reverie.

She turned and punched him lightly on the shoulder.

"And what's that got to do with anything? So he's my father—it's not that big of a deal. It doesn't look like I got anything other than my hair from him, anyway."

Loki rolled his eyes.

"And more magic than I've ever seen before. You can't think all of that came from your mother. I mean, elves are powerful, they're just—not that powerful. If your mother was a Norsken queen, that means that she had power over the northlights, which explains why your magic has such a unique look. But I bet you got all the real power, like flying, from Thor. I'm willing to bet you're best at storms and big things like that."

Aniki shrugged.

"Who knows, honestly? I'm just saying this from what I've seen so far."

"And what about your talent with weapons? Elves aren't really known for extolling violence. They're not normally very strong, either, and you're stronger than almost anyone I've ever met before. No, you definitely didn't get anything from Thor except red hair."

"Alright, fine. You're probably right. Happy now?"

"Happy enough to go to sleep. If we're going to be roughing it for another ten days, I want as much sleep as I can get."


"Hey, not everyone enjoys camping as much as you do."

"Well, that's their problem, isn't it?"

The next day they retraced their steps. As they walked, Loki explained the basic rules of magic to Aniki, teaching her how to control it and resist the pull that it had over anyone who used too much magic in a short period of time.

"So, basically, what you're saying is that if I'm not careful I can get addicted to magic?"

"Yeah. Whether you've used hundreds of tiny spell or one huge one, you could go crazy and go through the Turn... like the Ice giants did."

Aniki stopped and stared at Loki. He was determinedly looking anywhere but at her.

"So all this time they've just been insane? That's why they were driven off?"

Loki sighed.

"Yes and no. They did go insane, but not entirely by accident. They knew the risks they were taking, but they liked magic too much to really care. I bet they thought they could control it. That's usually why people Turn. Ymir was the only god to Turn intentionally, and that was so he could use himself to create Midgard. He wasn't alive long enough afterward to hurt anyone."

Aniki began walking again, gazing at the ground below in wonder.

"So I'm standing on the First Being right now?"

"Yep. Nice to know he cared that much."

"Yeah... I guess... But I could think of better ways to care."

Loki tried to keep a straight face, but gave up and burst out laughing. After a moment of considering what she had just said, Aniki joined in.

Eventually their hilarity subsided to low chuckles, and Aniki stopped briefly to kneel and touch the ground, saying, "I meant no disrespect, great one. I do appreciate your gift."

Then she got up, dusted off the knees of her breeches, and continued walking.

That evening, they caught sight of the cliff and picked up their pace, hurrying to reach their old campsite before night fell. That night, sitting by the fire Loki had lit to demonstrate how to use a tiny amount of magic instead of going all out for a simple task, he continued instructing Aniki in the use of her power.

The next day was spent hunting and practicing small spells until late in the afternoon, when Aniki halted abruptly on her way back from the latrine they had dug earlier.

Loki, hearing her stop, looked around. She was standing very erect, tilting her head to one side as her violet eyes slowly turned to a wary gray-green.

"Do you hear that, Loki?"

Loki sat still, listening for anything unusual. At first, he heard nothing, but then he felt a sudden jolt in the ground. A moment, another one ran through him.

"Not hear, exactly, but I think I know what you're talking about," he said quietly, walking to his pack and retrieving his sword as quickly as he could without making any noise.

Aniki's sword was already drawn.

Soon they could actually hear a quiet thud, thud, thud that they promptly realized were footsteps—and they were headed directly for the camp.

"Reckon the trial's come a bit early?" Loki asked.

"Don't know, but I don't like it."

Suddenly Loki had an idea.

"Quick, change your eyes back to purple."

Aniki recognized what he wanted to do, but scowled at him.

"How am I supposed to do that? I've never done it before."

"Anything you can. Just do it fast. I'll turn your hair blonde for you."

As he started a spell to change her hair to a very elven white-blond, she concentrated as hard as she could on the color purple, willing it to stay that way.

When she looked up, Loki could see that her eyes were purple once again.

As she tucked her newly blond hair behind her pointed ears, a large head appeared over a nearby hill.

Aniki had to clap her hand over her mouth to keep from shrieking. She had never seen a giant before, let alone an Ice giant. Neither had she ever wanted to, and she certainly didn't want to see one now. She had been hoping for something big and stupid, which Ice giants weren't.

This particular giant, as he approached, was not as ugly as she had expected. In fact, as she looked from the Ice giant to Loki, she could see a distinct resemblance. His long, stringy hair was as dark as Loki's, his eyes a similar shade of blue, his skin just as pale, but more bluish than any mortal.

He stopped twenty feet from them and Aniki realized that he wasn't really giant. He stood only ten feet tall at the most, and as she and Loki watched, he began to grow shorter, eventually stopping at seven feet. He then began to approach them again, but Aniki raised Lynrusa warningly.

"Not another step, Jotunn. You are not wanted here."

The giant stopped, grinning innocently as he raised his hands in surrender.

"What grudge have you got against me, elf?"

It worked! He thinks I'm just a normal elf.

Now Loki chimed in.

"Do either of us need one, Njor? Your presence always brings disaster."

Aniki was surprised that Loki knew the giant by name, but did not twitch.

It makes sense. He is half giant, after all. It stands to reason he knows his father's kin.

Njor, still grinning, took a step forward, staring impudently at Aniki.

"How well can you use that sword, elfchild? Why should I fear a weak little elf?"

Aniki almost went for him, but managed to stop herself. Realizing that her eyes were probably going to change soon, she made a front of trying not to look scared as she concentrated on keeping her eyes purple.

Njor laughed scathingly.

"I thought so. I can't believe the company you keep these days, brother."

"Don't call me that," Loki snapped. "I left years ago."

"Oh, and you've been doing so well, I see. That's why I've come, actually. Father wants to see you."

Loki stiffened, much like Aniki had done when Syf appeared.


The giant laughed, but his tone was mocking.

"He's concerned that certain family members are planning to turn on him and take the throne, and he wants as many people that he knows he can trust around as possible. He's asked me to bring you home."

Loki was shocked.

"He... wants me back?"