Loki ran. He wasn’t ashamed to be running, like he was, from a tiny human girl. She terrified him. So it was a full bore, mad dash, hounds of hell on your heels, all-out sprint. He swerved and dodged around the humans and other obstacles on the sidewalk, only slowing his pace when his lungs began to burn and he felt like he would collapse otherwise.
When he finally decided he’d lost the girl (though he really could not be certain if she had actually given chase or not) he turned into a small alley-way where he could be alone to recover his breath and his senses. Taking in greedy gulps of air he managed to compose himself enough to peek out and around the building. He didn’t see her.
Of course! Now that he was thinking clearly he deduced, and rightly so, that no human girl-child of her age and size would have been able to overtake him. It was past time to go home.
Loki undid his magic as soon as his shoes touched the marble floors of the castle, he wavered in his steps as exhaustion and hunger warred within him. His stomach grumbled loudly. Right then, food first. And then… research.
Did she see me? The question screeched in his brain. Yes, she had seen him. She had waved at him. How had she seen him? He knew his magic had still been in place. Maybe she had magic too. Maybe she wasn’t even human.
He stopped by the banquet hall and found his family already sitting down to supper. His questions would have to wait.
“Brother!” Thor was the first to greet him. Loki frowned at seeing the food falling from him brothers mouth. If he wasn’t so hungry he might have returned to his room, his appetite waning, but not enough.
“Mother, Father” Loki greeted each of his parents with a nod of his head before turning to Thor. “and brother. How are all of you this evening?”
He made his way to seat next to his mother, ignoring Thor’s disappointed look at his choosing to sit by Frigga. He didn’t feel like wearing his brother’s crumbs today. A servant appeared with a tankard and platter of mouthwatering foods.
“So, tell me brother.” Thor had swallowed his food and grinned as he spoke. “What mischief did cause today instead of training with me?” Three pairs of eyes are on him now.
“I went for a walk.” He stated simply; not lying but not telling everything either. Odin took a slow drink of his wine before clearing his throat and addressing Loki.
“I want you to begin your training with Thor tomorrow, at dawn.” Loki began to object, but Odin was prepared for it and interjected before he could say a word, “While it is true that your gift of magic is unparalleled, you still need to be able to defend yourself. Should you ever happen to find yourself without it, self defense is, therefore, compulsory. Even for you Loki.” The reprimand in Odin’s voice was softened by the smile in his father’s eyes. And Loki could not deny his father’s wisdom so in silence he nods his head and his family resumes their meal.
Odin begin to discuss the principles and politics of ruling with Thor, but Thor is barely an adult and his only thirst for knowledge is for that of battle tactics and strategy. He’s young, strong and much too impatient, so their discussion turns loud and contentious. Which suits Loki just fine tonight.
Frigga glances at Loki several times. Her face has the look that says her motherly instincts are in high gear tonight and she senses her youngest son is up to something.
Loki finishes his meal without getting sucked into Odin and Thor’s argument, uh… discussion, kisses his mother quickly on the cheek and politely excuses himself from the table before anyone has a chance to comment. With quick steps he heads toward his chambers. No doubt Odin plans for him to spend the entire day locked in mortal combat with Thor and his instructors. Any research he hoped to do would have to be done tonight. So much for sleep.
Loki glanced outside the window of the library, he’d lost track of the time once the sun had set. He’d gone through every book he could think of. Was there a spell that could negate his invisibility? Perhaps there was a creature whose eyes could pierce his magic? But he found nothing. If Heimdall, the one who sees everything in the Nine Realms, could not find Loki when he chose to be invisible how could that slip of a mortal girl see him?
Loki noted that she didn’t seem to be able to see him right away. It was only after a few minutes of looking, but still, she appeared to be “looking” before she really focused on him. That had to mean something. But what?
From what he learned of the inhabitants of Midgard they weren’t gifted with powers like his family, nor did they have access to real magic, like he did. He tossed the last book onto a table. This was getting him nowhere.
Perhaps he could ask his parents… But that would require him telling them about sneaking out to another realm. Without permission. And without the use of the Bifrost.
Loki was about to leave the library when he remembered the human books from his trip and pulled them out of the satchel. One book stood out from the others, “The Ugly Duckling”. The cover was colorful, portraying a sad-looking, grey feathered creature, perhaps he would read it once he returned to his room. With his new books in his arms, he waved a hand to extinguish the candles in the room and stepped out into the silent hallway.
He wasn’t expecting to run into anyone, especially not his mother, who reached out a hand to steady herself.
“Loki, my child, are you only now off to bed?” She glanced at him with worry. He quickly guarded the books in his arms before answering.
“I guess I got lost in my studies, Mother.” Frigga cupped his face lovingly and kissed his forehead. “Sleep well, my son. You have a long day ahead of you.” He growled a little in annoyance. But he kissed her cheek as he said his “Goodnight” and set off toward his chambers.
She chuckled softly. Her sons. They were as night and day, dark and light. Yet she loved them both dearly.
Now, if Loki were not such a rascal she probably wouldn’t think too much about the books he was trying to screen from her. The great library down the hall held no such books. She knew he could have only gotten them from Midgard. As she headed to her bed-chambers she considered whether or not she should speak to Loki before mentioning the books to her husband.
Raine was quiet when she came home, saying nothing about the boy who seemed to appeared from thin air and then ran away. Maybe it was her mind playing tricks on her. She wanted a friend. Maybe she imagined a friend. Maybe not…
She practiced her dancing to keep her mind occupied. This was her “Raine Time” and her mom wouldn’t bother her unless it was an emergency. So it wasn’t until dinner time and the smell of tomatoes and garlic bread drew her from her room. Mmm spaghetti…
John her step-father of five years was lounging on the couch, still in his work clothes. Raine doesn’t know exactly what he does for his job. Whenever she asked her parents they danced around the subject. Apparently he works in some security related thing. That made sense because he seemed very protective her mom and her. But they never really told her so she wondered.
“Hey, how was work?” Raine asked while plopping down on the couch beside John. He rubbed at his eyes before running calloused fingers though his short dark hair. He had some grey hair at his temples now. “Slow and quiet. As usual. How about you?”
She opened her mouth and almost went into an account of her trip to the park but caught herself in time and shook her head.
“Saturday?” she droned in an exaggerated way, which earned her a smile. “I uh, practiced my dance rehearsal. I think I’ve pretty much gotten the hang of it now. That’s about it though.”
John stared her down for a moment, looking her over before smiling and patting her shoulder.
“Dinner’s ready!” Called mom from the kitchen. “Raine, come set the table please?”
“Coming.” Raine as she got up from the couch and headed to the kitchen, John followed behind her. As she went about setting the table, John stepped up and wrapped his arms around Ellen. “Smells great Ell, what would I do without you, hmm?”
She laughed and kissed his cheek. “Probably live off ramen and TV dinners.” Dinner was served and everyone dived in.
“So sweetie, did you meet any kids today?” Raine’s mom asked with a hopeful look on her face. She almost asked her the same thing nearly every night. Raine shrugged her shoulders as she idly pushed a meatball across the plate with her fork.
“Hmm? I saw a new kid at the park who seemed okay.” The comment was so vague and nondescript that Raine was surprised she didn’t get any follow-up questions so she quickly added, “Friends take time mom, we’ve only been here, like, a few months.”
Her family had moved to Northern California from Florida because of John’s job. Which honestly, she didn’t mind, as she prefers the mountains and the trees. The only downside was they lived in up in the Sierra foothills, an hour or so away from Sacramento.
“We’ve been here seven months, Raine. More than enough time to make a few friends.” Her mom commented.
“Well, I have made a few friends. But really, I’m kind of busy with school and dance.”
John remained silent on that subject as he finished his dinner and got up from the table, “Well, I’m going to do some work on the computer, you ladies behave yourselves.” After he left, Ellen reached out to tuck a stray curl behind Raine’s ear. “Maybe you could invite one of your friends to dinner… or even a snack after school?” Raine didn’t argue, simply nodded her head.
“We’ll see, mom. I’m gonna take a shower. Maybe read some books? Goodnight.” Why did she feel like she needed to apologize for not making any friends today?
The weather was warm and pleasant the next day and Raine couldn’t help but feel that California just needed to “make up it’s mind!” when it came to the weather. She had woken up on her own this time, John must be off work and spending time with her mom. It was the only time Raine wasn’t woken up early. They would try to spend as much time together as possible and Raine didn’t mind at all.
Not even bothering to wrestle with her curly hair she left it hang loose in all its muddled glory. Her outfit for the day consisted of jeans, a t-shirt and purple converse sneakers. She threw her homework in a backpack, slung it over her shoulders and headed to the kitchen. Ellen and John were cuddled on the couch, speaking hushed words which stopped when she came into the room.
“’Morning. You look all dressed and ready to go. What’s up?” John asked. Raine pointed to her bag. “Gonna do some homework.” She disappeared into the kitchen for minute, returning with two pop tarts in hand. Ellen raised a eyebrow giving her daughter a look. “I mean, ‘May I go out and do homework?” she corrected herself and her mom nodded.
“Sure, sweetie, be back before dinner. Remember, no strangers, no drugs-“
“-and no boys.” Raine finished for her and laughed. “No worries! Love you both!”
Whenever Raine needed peace and quiet she would go to her secret spot. Thirty minutes of steady walking lead her to a secluded area in a dense section of woods. Of course, the whole town was surrounded by woods, but a while back Raine had found this little piece of forest that instantly felt special to her. It wasn’t on private property so no fear of being run off by the owners. She supposed there might be mountain lions or other creatures that she probably didn’t want to run into, but she loved the place so much she was more than willing to chance it.
She had found a sizeable, and sturdy tree, with branches low enough that she could easily climb up. It was cool and quiet and she loved it. Once she was sitting comfortably in the branches of her tree she pulled out her iPod, plugged in her headphones, pulled out a Pop Tart and started on her homework.