Óðinn sat upon his majestic throne, from which he surveys all Nine Worlds. The wolves Geri and Freki were lounging at his feet and on either shoulder were perched the rather large ravens Huginn and Muninn. Flanking him were Thor and Óðr, looking even more intimidating than usual.
A table had been brought into Ásgarðr’s throne-room. At one end sat Freyja in her falcon cloak, eyes narrowed and hand on the hilt of a long-knife. At the other end was a Jötunn prince and his retainers, his stony bulk barely fitting into the large chair. Also seated at the table were Frigg and Loki, about as happy to be there as Freyja was. Notably absent was her brother and father.
“I told you she was feisty,” Óðinn chuckled and the Mountain Giant’s grin broadened to reveal large, jagged teeth and fetid breath. “I’ll have no trouble breaking and training her up properly.” Pikoloüs spread his immense hands and said, “Do we have a deal?“
There was a nearly imperceptible twitch under Óðinn’s good eye. That thing dared speak to one of the Goddesses of the realm, his mistress even, in such an impudent fashion, and in his very own Hall?
But too much was at stake, so he swallowed down his rage.
All in due time.
Óðr had a harder time of it, but was loyal to his Chieftain and so remained statue still.
“Just so we understand,” Loki interjected. “In addition to manpower when the War comes, you’re going to give us mining rights in the Neutral Zone so that we may fortify Ásgarðr and her defenders.”
Freyja gave Loki a withering glare, for he had brokered this deal.
“And what say you, O Seabright?”
“Don’t you use my Vanic name here, under these circumstances.”
“Alright… Freyja. Do you consent to the deal?”
Even though she was aware it was a ruse, Frigga shook her head in disapproval. There had to be a better way than this, even if they with their combined divinity, wisdom and experience had not yet thought of it.
Freyja purposefully avoided glancing Óðr’s way as, voice trembling, she agreed.
“The soldiers, the mining rights in the Neutral Zone and all the rest are yours,” Pikoloüs said, rising to his considerable feet and grabbing Freyja’s delicate hand in his. He yanked her to her feet and dragged her out of Óðinn’s Hall without anything further said.
Óðinn grunted, “Dismissed,” and Óðr and Thor departed by separate corridors. Óðr was fuming the whole way back to his quarters where he laid out all of his weapons, deciding which would be most effective against this particular tribe of Jötnar.
Alone in the Hall Frigga addressed her husband, “I hope that your plan succeeds.”
Óðinn gave a serpent’s grin, “It will … unless you know something you’re not telling me, my dear wife?”
Frigga wrapped her arms around her husband and kissed his rough cheek. “Would I do that, husband of mine?”
“Yes. So what is it?”
“Have you factored in the variable of Óðr?”
“He’s also in love.”
“The worst sort of madness. Still, he is immensely talented at killing and will not act impetuously. He is practically my right hand.”
“You should end the game, and give your blessing. You don’t need to hold that over his head to keep Óðr by your side. He considers you as much his father as Njörðr.”
“But perhaps I don’t want to give up access to Freyja just yet. She has certainly brightened things since coming to stay with us. Besides, what about her well-being? If they don’t return to Ásgarðr who knows where Óðr might carry her off to? Probably some cave in the middle of nowhere.”
“I don’t really care.” Frigga’s voice was cold as the ice at the beginning of things.
“If everything is going to plan Óðr is about to disobey his orders and rush off in pursuit of the newlyweds. By the time he returns with the dripping head of Pikoloüs we should have our Dverger occupying the mines and released the Jötunn who can testify that the transaction went through. Everything legal and above board, just how you like it.”
“And you couldn’t have told this plan of yours to them? I’m certain they would have gone along with it.”
“They would have. But then they would not have forged so strong a love-bond, and that is unacceptable to me.”
“So, you big softy, you do want them together?”
“You know me better than that, Frigg.”
She rolled her eyes and poured herself another drink.
“Their marriage serves my interests; at least they need to be together long enough to conceive their fourth child. And if it doesn’t work out, I have another mate in mind for him.”
“Aren’t you treading into my territory?”
“Perhaps,” Óðinn laughed, and pulled her into a deep kiss.
By the time Óðr reached the edge of the forest near the dwelling of Pikoloüs he had the shape of a creature that was half-man and half-wolf or -bear. (It was Máni’s night off and thus difficult to tell.) In each hand he bore a spear, and belted at his waist was a sword and dagger. He’d have brought more weapons, but figured that might be overkill.
Óðr was so focused on tracking his foe that he did not notice the fox racing through the brush a safe distance behind him. The fox is one of Loki’s favorite animals.