Loki’s heart pounded hard in his chest as he put his hands on Hod’s shoulders. The music, dancing, and revelry around them was drowned out by a maddening ringing in Loki’s ears. They stood in the shadows beneath a tree so they could avoid being seen. This was it. The Norn’s prophecy was finally being fulfilled. Balder would be shot by his blind brother Hod, tricked by Loki into thinking he was taking part in a bet. Could a blind man hit a broad tree with a bow and arrow? It did not matter. For Loki’s hand was prophesied to guide Hod’s arrow into Balder’s heart. With his death Fimbulwinter would begin and soon be followed by Ragnarok. Loki would lead the forces of chaos to war against the gods. Then Surtur, Lord of the Fire Giants, would burn the nine realms.
“Well,” Hod asked, “Am I ready?”
Loki looked toward Balder who was wearing his shimmering robes and looking back in return. The tall, muscular, blond god of beauty looked more scared than he ever had. He nodded to Loki. He knew his fate. He closed his eyes and waited for his death.
“Yes, Hod,” Loki said as he guided Hod’s aim and let go of the blind god, “Fire away.”
Loki backed away as Hod exhaled and let his arrow fly. It whistled through the air as Balder braced himself, tears streaming silently down his cheeks. The crowd gasped loudly as Balder fell to his knees, weeping. The gods of Asgard, filled with rage, began to search for Loki, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Loki leaned against a great stone pillar and drew shapes with his fingers on the stone. He stared into the distance and ran through it all in his mind for the nine hundredth time.
‘It can work,’ he thought to himself ‘I know it can work. There’s no reason to think it can’t. I just have to be careful. No different than usual.’
He ran his hands through his messy black hair and sighed to himself.
‘It’s all just lies on top of lies,’ he thought, ‘You’ve done it thousands of times before.’
He took a step away from the pillar and looked into Valhalla. Past the massive wooden doors, with walls of gold, the great hall of fallen warriors was bursting with cheers and songs. Loki peered inside, hoping to see Thor making his way outside.
‘Of course not,’ Loki thought, ‘there’s mead and women in there. Why would he ever be on time?’
Loki and Thor had been best friends for hundreds of years. At least that’s how Thor felt. Despite Loki’s frequent pranks and tricks Thor seemed to love the idea of Loki being his adventuring partner and drinking buddy. His love for the trickster never stopped him from being perpetually late however. Loki leaned back against the pillar and slid down until he was sitting. He placed his head on his knees and hugged them. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes tightly. He tuned out the cheering from the hall and concentrated on his thoughts.
‘It’s going to work,’ Loki chanted in his mind, trying desperately to build his confidence. ‘You’d think the god of trickery would feel more comfortable tricking people by now. They’re going to believe me. They have to believe me. Just keep your lies straight and it will all be fine. You know it will. You have to pull this off!’
Loki’s thoughts were interrupted by the sudden smell of sweat and smoke. Loki’s head shot up and he stood very suddenly. He looked toward Valhalla and saw Thor walking toward him. He walked very quickly with his arms swinging at his side, his frizzy beard bouncing with his wide, heavy steps. His somewhat short, stocky stature, bright red hair and beard made him look rather clownish. At least that was Loki’s opinion but he would never say that out loud and risk enraging Thor. Loki had been smashed by Thor’s hammer a few too many times to chance that.
‘Finally, you odious ginger brute,’ Loki thought. ‘Let’s get things started.’
“Thor!” Loki called out, walking toward the thunder god, “My greatest friend, how are you?”
“I am well,” bellowed Thor as he approached his short, wiry friend. “And yourself?”
“I wish I could say the same but I come bearing grave news,” Loki said as Thor reached him.
“Let us walk,” Thor said, slapping Loki on the back with his massive hand, nearly winding him. “We should enjoy this beautiful Asgardian day out in the sun.”
“Of course,” Loki said, wincing slightly from Thor’s slap. Loki’s small, thin frame was not made for the bear hugs and back slaps Thor was so fond of. “A splendid idea!”
‘Stinking brute nearly broke my back,’ Loki thought as they started walking. Thor crossed his arms as they walked and looked around them, taking in sunlight. Loki walked with his hands behind him with a straight back. He always tried to maintain an appearance of gracefulness when around others. Loki looked around the streets of Asgard and was careful about how loud he would speak. The polished, stone streets of the city were not busy but there were people around. There were citizens going about their daily business who loved to swoon and whisper when one of the gods walked by. Thor seemed to appreciate this constant attention despite the fact that it made serious discussions rather awkward.
‘I had best keep my voice down,’ Loki thought, ‘I don’t want to send the people into a panic. The last thing we need is rumours spreading before they are ready to do so.’
“I took a trip a few nights ago,” Loki said, swallowing nervously.
‘And so the lies begin,’ he thought.
“I see,” Thor said, too loudly for Loki’s taste, “And what brought you to the land of Giants?”
‘You blustering oaf,’ Loki thought.
“Suspicion, mostly,” Loki said, quietly, “I have been seeing signs of spying outside of the city walls. Great footprints left on the forest floor. Unmistakably Jotun in origin.”
“Hmm,” Thor said, scratching his bushy, unkempt beard. Loki looked up at him, his heart pounding nervously.
‘He’s already suspicious,’ Loki thought.
“And so you snuck to their land to do some spying of your own?” Thor asked.
“Of course,” Loki said, “Sneaking and sleuthing is what I do best.”
“Lying and tricking are what you do best, Loki,” Thor said,”but do continue.”
Loki bit his lip and clenched his fists for a moment in frustration. He faked a laugh and sighed.
“I climbed the walls of lord Utgard-Loki’s hall and listened to his council,” Loki said, “It did not take long to hear them discussing plans to assassinate Frigg.”
“An assassination?” Thor asked, “Are they really as bold as that? To murder our queen in her sleep?”
“Apparently so,” Loki said, “And they’ve come a long ways in the plan. They spoke in great detail of how they hope to commit the act.”
Thor furrowed his brow for a moment. Loki looked up at him expectantly. This was one of the most important moments of this plan. The Thunderer didn’t even need to believe this first lie. He just needed to take the bait.
“Well then,” Thor said as he stopped walking and turned to face Loki, “I think it’s quite clear what must be done.”
“Is it?” Loki asked.
“Yes,” Thor said, smiling widely and slapping Loki on the shoulder, “We must do battle with the Giants! Immediately! We will show them we are not to be trifled with. Strike fear into their hearts!”
‘This is it,’ Loki thought, ‘It begins.’
“Of course,” Loki said, nodding, “We should strike first. No time to waste, after all.”
“It’s too bad you never join us for these raids, Loki. I think you would enjoy them!” Thor declared
“Actually,” Loki said, “I was thinking about that. I thought I might come along. Just this once! I, after all, have somewhat of an edge. I know more of the Giants’ dealings than anyone at the moment.”
“This is true,” Thor said, “You are welcome to join us if you wish! It will be fun to bring you along. Bashing Giant skulls with my oldest friend!”
“It will be a wonderful experience, I’m sure,” Loki said, smiling widely.
“I will gather the war council immediately,” Thor said, his smile growing wider by the second, “Meet me in my hall’s foyer at sunset. We will leave in the morning.”
Thor marched off laughing loudly to himself. Loki looked around and saw two citizens looking at him. They turned away and started whispering.
‘Of course,’ Loki thought, ‘that boisterous brute couldn’t whisper to save his life.’
Loki walked until he found an alley, and snuck off into the shadows. He checked to make sure no one could see him, let out a great sigh and laughed to himself. He punched the air and did a joyful little dance before stopping and gathering himself.
‘I should go prepare,’ he thought to himself, ‘there is no room for mistakes with this. I have to be ready.’
The sun set over the golden walls of the city of Asgard and created a beautiful pattern of light over the nearby forests. Loki stood on the walkway of the city walls and stared toward the sunset but payed no attention as he ran through the next stages of his plan over and over again.
‘Thor gave such an enthusiastic response,’ Loki thought, ‘I knew he would revel at the thought of battle, but one day isn’t much time.’
He sighed and looked down toward Thor’s hall Bilskirnir. He could see the gods of war making their way inside the massive stone entryway. Loki could hear two city guards standing down the wall from him, speaking quietly to each other as they watched Bilskirnir.
‘I guess it won’t be long before all nine realms hear of this battle,’ Loki said, ‘At least Thor is impatient enough to make this war catch up with the spreading rumours.’
Loki stared off into the distance for a few moments and sighed.
‘Time to get started,’ Loki thought. He slowly walked down to the hall hoping the discussions would go quickly. This wouldn’t be the first time Asgard went to war against the Giants. It should all be second nature by now.
Loki walked slowly and quietly through the massive doorway into Thor’s hall, listening intently to the war council’s discussion. Odin slouched in a large chair at the head of a long table, scratching the ear of one of his pet wolves, Freki, as he listened to Thor discuss his plans. He seemed to struggle to keep his one eye open. The next seat down from Odin was occupied by Tyr, a long, black haired god of war and arguably Asgard’s greatest general. He had only one hand but still managed to be a great swordsman.
‘Two great Asgardian leaders, half of their bits are missing’ thought Loki, ‘The Giants sure have their work cut out for them.’
Across from Tyr sat Brunhilde. A stern looking woman with short blonde hair and a well worn suit of armour. She was a fascinating person. A human warrior who managed to impress Odin to such a degree that she became the general of the Valkyries. She was fiercely loyal to Odin and a great strategist. One seat down from her was Thor, followed by an array of warriors. There was one guest, however, who’s presence was a surprise to Loki. Standing back from the rest and across the room from Loki was Fulla, handmaiden to Frigg who was Odin’s wife and queen of the gods. Fulla was short with short black hair and wearing a long black hooded cloak. She almost never spoke unless it was to Frigg.
‘Frigg must have heard about the plans for her murder,’ Loki thought, peering over at Fulla, ‘If only Thor would keep his mouth shut. Too many minds worrying about this plan already.’
Loki kept an eye on Fulla but stayed back and listened. He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall, observing from a distance. There were plates of food and barrels of mead set out for the council to enjoy while they held their discussion. Loki had no appetite. His nerves were preventing him from feeling much of anything.
“I think it’s a simple enough plan,” Thor bellowed, letting out a belch and taking swig of mead, “we’ve done this plenty of times before. I don’t see why this time will be any different.”
“It’s too simple,” Brunhilde said while staring intently forward and speaking through tented fingers.
“Too simple,” Thor said, laughing loudly, “Too simple for Giants? They’re idiots! Brutes! How complex does our battle plan have to be?”
“They are smarter than you have ever given them credit for,” said Brunhilde. She placed her hands on the table and looked toward Thor. “Utgard-Loki is a well learned mage and illusionist as you have encountered first hand.”
“Yes, but the rest of them are fools,” Thor said. He swigged more mead and slammed his mug on the table, slopping drink all over. “One Giant who’s read books and nine thousand who can’t tell their ass from a hole in the ground.”
“You do not know that,” Brunhilde said, shaking her head and looking down.
“What was that?” Thor asked with an offended tone, turning to Brunhilde and leaning on the table. He gave her a stare with a patronizing grin. “What do I not know?”
Brunhilde paused looking frustrated. She tented her fingers again and sighed. Debating with Thor was much like having a screaming match against thunder.
‘Glad to see someone else has to deal with him as well,’ Loki thought, smirking to himself.
“You assume the Giants are stupid,” Brunhilde said, maintaining her intense forward stare, refusing to make eye contact with Thor. “But have you ever spoken to them? How do you know?”
“I’m usually too busy smashing their big, bumpy skulls in with my hammer,” Thor proclaimed. “I don’t have much time to ask them if they’ve gone to school!”
“If we are to believe Loki,” Brunhilde said, breaking her concentration for a moment to give Loki a menacing stare, “the Giants are smart enough to spy on us. They are keeping secrets. Your plan is to break down the door and start fighting. What if they have thought of that? What if they are ready for us?”
“I somehow doubt it,” Thor laughed.
Odin cleared his throat, and the whole room turned to him. Brunhilde put her hands down and looked at Odin intently. His face was somewhat wrinkled and old looking but his body was still muscular and toned. His skin was worn with battle scars and his hair was an ashy grey. He coughed to dislodge the last of the phlegm from his throat.
“Hmmmm,” Odin let out a long, thoughtful grunt, “Thor, my boy, I’m afraid I have to agree with Brunhilde. The Jotuns may not be the brightest flames in the nine realms but they have taken the time to think something through, whatever that may be. We should at least catch them by surprise.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Brunhilde said with a wide grin.
Odin grunted and waved his hand at her dismissively. She turned her gaze back to the table and rolled her eyes.
‘A brown noser and an arrogant old man,’ Loki thought. ’I guess I should count myself lucky at the sorry state of this council.’
“All right then,” Thor said in a defeated tone, “How should we approach this?”
The room was quiet for a moment as everyone thought.
“Loki,” Thor said, catching Loki off guard, “What about you? Sneaking and sleuthing are what you do best, after all.”
Thor’s comment was followed by laughter from all in the room.
‘Good to know I will be taken seriously,’ Loki thought. He pushed himself off of the wall, stepped forward and leaned on the table with his hands. His gaze didn’t meet anyone’s eyes. He stared into the distance and smiled as he made his suggestion.
“I think the most clear and obvious solution is magic,” Loki said.
This comment was met with more laughter.
“Is that all, old friend?” Thor said between chuckles.
“I don’t think much more needs to be added,” Loki said, “We are, after all, Gods of the nine realms. Odin is the master of the 18 runes. Thor wields a magical hammer. You all seem to forget that I am not only the god of trickery and lies, but also of magic and fire. I can create illusions better than any mage.”
“Better than Utgard-Loki?” Brunhilde asked. Loki scoffed.
“As you suggested he may be brighter than we give him credit for,” Loki said stepping back from the table and looking Brunhilde in the eye, “But no Jotun brute is a match for my magic.”
Loki waved his hand in front of him and created a streak of dancing blue flames that floated for a few moments before disappearing. Odin straightened his back and gave Loki a long stare.
“I somehow feel we need a bit more to go off of than that,” Odin said, sternly, “Please, elaborate.”
“Of course, your highness,” Loki said, giving a small bow. “You’ve never taken me along with you on one of these raids. You’ve never had my magic on your side before. If the Giants are becoming smarter they may be able to gain an advantage. Let’s crush that advantage with an unexpected guest. Even if Utgard-Loki is a better illusionist than I we will still catch them off guard.”
Odin sat for a moment and thought. “It should still be simple enough,” Odin said, stroking his beard. “If your magic can keep us well hidden then we should be able take them well enough by surprise. Thor, we will use the plans you made earlier along with the aid of Loki’s illusions.”
“Fair enough,” Thor said, followed by a booming laugh, “This should be fun! I look forward to smashing Giants with a magical twist.”
“Yes, my dearest friend,” Loki said, smiling widely, “It will be a wonderful time.”
The discussion went on for a little while longer as Thor worked out the details with the others. It was more of a chance for Thor to get himself excited than it was of any actual strategic value. Loki looked around, growing bored, and noticed that Fulla had disappeared at some point during the discussion. He wondered why she had left so suddenly but soon went back to pondering the battle.
‘Even if the Giants were spying on us they still wouldn’t stand a chance,’ Loki thought. ‘They’ve never really been able to handle Thor’s firepower. Or Brunhilde’s warriors. I guess all that really matters is keeping the Giants distracted while I sneak off to Utgard-Loki’s tower. I’ll have to pass that off as an attempt to distract him and keep him from the battle.’
As the discussion came to a close Brunhilde turned to Loki and glared. He pretended not to notice and started to make his way out of the hall with the rest of the council.
“Loki!” Brunhilde called out, chasing after him. Loki paused and turned back. Brunhilde reached Loki and stared down at him with a scowl. She waited for the rest of the council to leave. It was just the two of them.
“Explain yourself,” She said, as she clenched her fists and caused her knuckles to crack loudly.
‘Of course,’ Loki thought, ‘It could never be this easy.’
“Whatever do you mean, my dear?” Loki asked.
“Do not act naive,” Bruhnilde said through gritted teeth, leaning in very close to Loki’s face. “I am not stupid. I know how you are. What tricks do you have up your sleeve, God of Lies?”
“No tricks you need to worry about,” Loki said, turning to leave. Brunhilde grabbed his shoulder but he didn’t turn back to her.
“But there are tricks,” Bruhilde said. “There always are. At who’s expense are they this time?”
Loki paused and stared into the distance once again.
‘I wish I could say,’ Loki thought.
“Tricks at the expense of Giants,” he said, “that’s all you need worry about. The opportunity to trick a kingdom full of Giants appeals to me far more than a kingdom of gods these days.”
Brunhilde let Loki’s shoulder go. He looked back at her for a moment. She glared and then sighed, relaxing her stance.
“You had better be telling the truth, Loki,” Brunhilde said. “Or I will find a way to punish you.”
Loki bit his lip and paused. He looked Brunhilde in the eye and opened his mouth slightly, as though to speak. He closed his lips and looked down. He turned and made his way out of the hall. He had nothing more to say.
‘I had better get some rest,’ Loki thought. ‘I have plenty more lies to tell tomorrow.’