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  • Writer's pictureDom Whit

Valkyrie Fallen, Chapter 16

I sat outside longer than I really should have. There was work to be done, preparing the meal, helping with Astrid, anything to keep Signe off her broken ankle.

But the interior of the spacious longhouse felt too crowded to me right now. After being mostly alone for a millennium, I just needed space from time to time.

The wet dress was still bundled in my hands and I was just staring into space, lost in my thoughts, when I heard the animals.

The pigs made a racket of startled oinks, along with the deep, annoyed brays of the oxen and aggravated clucking from the chickens.

Abandoning my dress on the side of the tub, I stood and walked around the corner of the house to investigate.

Standing there, cooing at the horse, who looked as he was considering biting his tormentor, was Loki.

My first emotion was absolute terror that Bjorn would come out and see him here, blowing my secret wide open.

My next was annoyance at his nerve. Hadn’t he helped Odin trick me and cart me back to Asgard, only to disappear as soon as we arrived?

“What the hell are you doing here?” I snarled, marching up to the god of questionable loyalty.
“I wanted to see how you were doing. Aren’t you happy to see me?” The hideous half-giant grinned at me smarmily.

“No, I’m not. I’m pissed that you helped Odin capture and dump me here, actually. Then you slipped off as soon as we got to Asgard, so I couldn’t call on you for help. Are you here to gloat?”

“Not at all. In fact, I feel bad about this whole thing. I didn’t want to help Odin, but he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I agreed to do it. However, I didn’t agree not to help you as well.” 

Well, that changed things. “Help me how?” I leveled my best suspicious glare at Loki’s bulging brow and waited.

“I’ve brought you a present. Would you like to see it?” He indicated a roughly woven sack at his feet that I hadn’t noticed in the tall grasses.

“Depends on what it is,” I hedged.

“It’s something you want very, very, badly. Something Odin took from you, and has kept under lock and key for over a millennium. Something I could only sneak down and steal when everyone in Asgard was distracted by Odin parading you through the great hall.”

My heart leapt. Surely I was dreaming. I tried to keep my excitement down.

“Loki, is this real? Not a trick? Did you really get it?”

“Maybe… you’ll have to tell me you want it first, before you can know for sure.” His eyes glinted mischievously.

“I want it,” I breathed. “Please Loki, may I have the gift you’ve brought me?”

He pretended to consider it, then reached down and grabbed the bag. “Okay, here you go.”

I snatched the bag with eager fingers and peeked inside. Sure enough, it was my armor.

Tears stung my eyes when I looked back up at his hideous face. “Thank you, Loki. I can’t thank you enough. I don’t know how you kept it hidden this entire time from Odin and his servants.”

“You forget, Brenna, time flows differently on Midgard than on Asgard now that Odin likes to play with it. On Asgard, Odin had just returned to the great hall from sending you here when I visited Heimdall.”

“I-” my response stuck in my throat. Odin had said as much. I just didn’t think about it. Which meant that the several days I’d just spent on Midgard Odin hadn’t even been watching, because he wasn’t even back to the great hall yet. This felt important. It could definitely be something I used to my advantage. I just needed to keep it in mind.

“Never mind. Thank you, Loki. It’s been a very long time since I had my armor.”

Loki shrugged. “I thought it was unfair of him to take it from you in the first place. I know how you valkyries get without your armor. I can imagine it was difficult for you the first time. It seemed unnecessarily cruel to make you go through that again.”

I stifled a giggle. Loki could be so kind, even profound, when he wanted to be.

He could also be a downright dirty asshole if it suited his needs. I just needed to remember that before I started getting all soft about him.

“Is that the only reason you’re doing this? Because it seemed unfair? Or was there something you wanted from me for doing this favor?”

Loki gave me his best benevolent grin. “I told you, Odin made me an offer I couldn’t refuse… I literally didn’t have a choice. So consider this a repercussion for him that benefits you as well.

“Deal.” If this was not really for my benefit, then I didn’t owe him anything, and that was exactly how I liked it.

“Brenna!” Bjorn’s baritone voice sent a flutter of nerves through my gut.

“You’d better go, and I need to find a place to hide this before he comes looking for me.”

“You don’t want to introduce me to your friend?” Loki feigned a hurt expression. “After all we’ve been through, Brenna, I’m crushed.”

“Ugh, get over yourself. Thank you for the armor, now pull a Loki and disappear!”

Grinning, Loki darted around the side of the longhouse where he’d be out of view if Bjorn came looking for me. I imagined he’d wait until we were inside to summon the Bifrost.

I stashed the bag behind a pile of hay near the horse paddock and scampered back to the door to the longhouse. Bjorn was standing in the doorway, glaring out into the darkness.

“Where’d you go?”

“The animals were making noise like they were startled. I went to check on them and calm them down.” That was actually true. After retrieving my damp dress from the washtub, I followed Bjorn inside, ignoring his suspicious expression.

Once again, everyone was at the table and waiting for me. I quickly draped my dress over a wooden rack and set it near the fire to dry, then claimed my seat, heart positively thrumming with excitement.

I’d have to wait until everyone was asleep, but hopefully, then I could sneak out and slip on my armor with no witnesses. The idea of reconnecting with a piece of my soul I’d thought lost forever was making adrenaline course through my system uncontrollably. My face flushed, heat dappling over my skin at just the idea of wearing it again.

My heart was soaring, and soon I would be, too.

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