The living room was lit by a few low lamps and the grey and dark blues of the décor exaggerated the angled shadows of the room.
“I’m back,” Godric announced as he slipped through the front door.
“You’re out of whiskey,” Loki drawled from the couch in the den. His long legs were splayed over the side arm and the backrest and his head propped up with several pillows. At least he’d had the courtesy to take off his boots. They were lined up neatly next to an empty bottle and glass.
“I wasn’t gone more than half an hour!” Godric replied in astonishment. “Can you still walk?”
Loki scoffed. “This mortal drink has little effect on me. Normally I wouldn’t touch the stuff. Asgardian mead tends to make me…fractious.”
“You? Fractious? I can’t imagine…”
Loki ignored him and continued crushing the television remote with his thumb, surfing rapidly through the channels without pausing. Although Godric was fairly surprised the god even figured out how to operate the entertainment system, he gently pried the control from his hand and shut the tv off. Loki glanced up at him.
“Well aren’t you rosy cheeked. How was supper?”
“Sweaty and rude.”
“Mmm. Someday I’d like to watch you take down your prey.”
“It is swift and painless. There’s nothing really to see.”
“Yes, but how to you pick them? Do they even see you coming?”
“A lesson for another day, Loki. We should begin your healing.”
The god pulled himself upright, planting his bare feet into the thick carpet. “I am your willing patient. What do I do?”
“You don’t bite me again, for starters. Your technique was abominable, never mind non-consensual.”
Loki harrumphed. Godric came around to the back of the couch. He lightly rested a hand on Loki’s shoulder. The god looked up at the vampire expectantly. Without warning, Godric’s fingers twisted into a thick lock of his raven hair and jerked, pinning his head against the couch.
“Do not bite me, do you hear me?”
Loki swallowed, his large Adam’s apple bouncing in the exposed column of his throat. “Loud and clear, Sheriff.” With a crunch, Godric tore a sizeable gash in his wrist and lowered it over the god’s mouth. His tongue darted out to catch the thick, sweet droplets and his cool hands automatically went to pull the arm closer. Godric kept a firm hold on the chunk of hair in his left hand. Loki moaned against his skin and sucked – lightly at first, then in deeper pulls. Unwittingly, his eyes rolled shut in pleasure.
It had been ages since Godric had given someone his blood. The sensation of feeding another took him by surprise. He heard himself gasp and his knees went weak. His hand found its way around Loki’s throat to better feel each and every swallow of his ancient blood and he buried his nose into the soft, black curtain of the god’s hair. Engulfed by his divine aroma, Godric’s fangs sprung loose. He was unable to stop himself and inhaled the scent deeply, letting its rich decadence roll over his senses. The slow, terrifying rhythm of the immortal’s heartbeat called to his basest instincts. He wanted to bury his fangs into that unnatural pulse, feel it gush obscenely into his mouth, filling him with power. Godric grazed his teeth over Loki’s throat with the lightest of touches, his vision running red…
From somewhere, someone called his name. “It healed,” the disembodied voice said. “Godric?” Loki pulled at his arm. The interruption just barely drew him out of the heady fog of bloodlust.
“Oh,” was all Godric could manage. He sucked at his aching fangs, swallowing down the saliva that had flooded his mouth. Coming to his senses, he stuck two clinical fingers down the collar of Loki’s tunic and felt the welts near his clavicle.
“Ow!” Loki yelped.
“That’s all I needed to know. One more round, then.” Mentally, he cursed himself. Godric had to get through this without incident. That his blood did not heal the god as effectively as a mortal was inconsequential. The blood tie gave him a fraction of control over Loki; it was the slightest tactical edge that he could not afford to lose. The last thing he needed was to screw up and form a mutual blood bond- if the god’s blood didn’t kill him, that was.
“I don’t need to remind you not to bite me, right?” Loki asked, one eyebrow crooked.
“Of course not.” Godric snapped. He consciously stopped breathing and bit meanly into his own wrist again, wanting the pain to help disrupt the inevitable intimacy of the exchange. Loki craned his neck to monitor Godric’s reaction this time while he slurped greedily at the wound. The vampire stared blankly ahead at the dark television screen.
When his arm healed, Godric pulled away and roughly shoved the sleeve of his sweater back down. Loki was short of breathe and licking his lips. “By the Nine, Godric. I didn’t think blood could taste so good -”
“Shut up!” Godric shouted at him, rattled. There was no easy way to describe the blood tie that had bloomed over the last twenty minutes. Loki felt unusually loud in his head, almost like the bond he shared with his child when he opened it fully. Godric struggled to quell it. The god was excited and pleased and eager. He also wanted more of his blood.
“Shh!” he hissed. The tie flipped and retracted slightly. Godric closed his eyes as he mentally wrestled with it, compacting it and putting it into a more manageable place in his mind. “There,” he sighed.
Loki was watching him curiously. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, fine. You’re very noisy in my head. I’ll get used to it.” A devious smile threaded its way across Godric’s face. Loki’s face was smeared in crimson. “You eat like a piglet. Go wash up.”
The god touched his sticky chin in realization. “That way?” he pointed. Godric nodded and Loki stalked off to the bathroom.
“Oh, and Loki?” Godric called after him.
“Hmm?” He spun on his heels.
“You are mine now.”
Loki froze in the unlit hallway. “Come again?”
“From now on, on this realm, you are mine.”
The god did not make a sound.
“You don’t know anything about our laws, do you? You have taken my blood willingly and I invoke my right to a blood claim on you. No one may lay a finger on you without bringing the full wrath of my justice upon their head, be they supernatural or otherwise. Understand?”
Loki, too stunned to answer, slowly nodded and disappeared down the hall.
While he was in the bathroom, Godric quickly packed a suitcase with enough donor blood to supply him for several months. In a real pinch, he could make it stretch for half a year or more, as he really required very little these days. In another valise, he tucked his short gladius sword and taped quite a few other weapons into the liner, then filled it with clothing.
“You can’t wear that on Asgard,” Loki remarked from the doorway.
“What do you propose?” Godric asked, staring at the stack of cashmere sweaters he had selected.
Loki bit his lip and then concentrating, dumped a pile of clothing onto Godric’s large bed.
“Good god. What else do you keep in that magic closet of yours?” the vampire said with a laugh.
Loki gave a wry smile and began picking through the mess. He culled everything green and tossed it aside. Apparently he wasn’t willing to share his signature color. Godric discovered a slinky emerald dress with cap sleeves and held it up with a quirked eyebrow.
“It’s a long story,” Loki said and snatched the gown.
Godric sat on the edge of the mattress. “I believe I have time.”
“I was a bridesmaid,” he explained.
“Who was the lucky lady?”
The god gave him an exasperated look. “Thor.”
The vampire howled and slapped his knee. Although Loki seemed more than determined to keep a straight face, even he started laughing.
“Here. Try these.” Loki flung several black tunics at him. Godric fumbled for a moment with the complicated buckles before he figured out how the garment unclasped and slipped it over his own clothing. He inspected himself in a full length mirror by his wardrobe.
“I look like an idiot,” he declared.
“You could try the dress, if you prefer” Loki teased. “It’s just long and a bit roomy in the shoulders. I can fix it.” Unleashing thin tendrils of magic from his hands, Loki knelt at the vampire’s side and began to tailor the shirt by pulling at its edges. He hummed a little song while he worked. He similarly fashioned the other tunic before moving on to a pair of pants. He folded the cuffs inside several times and zapped them with more magic, then pinched the waist in the same way. “There. That will do for now,” he announced with an air of satisfaction.
Godric emerged from his walk-in closet having changed into the full Asgardian ensemble. He twisted and turned, flexing his knees and shoulders. Despite appearing to be made of leather and metal and being quite form fitting, the fabric was remarkably forgiving and light. Loki draped a black hooded cloak over Godric’s shoulders as a finishing touch. They both looked thoughtfully at the vampire’s reflection in the mirror.
“Why hello, Col.” Loki gave a toothy grin.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” he replied with a deep bow. With a clap, Loki changed into equally dark clothing and the mess on the bed disappeared. Godric folded up the extra tunic and placed it into the suitcase. He gestured to the other one full of blood bags. “That needs to be refrigerated as soon as possible at a stable temperature just above freezing. Can that be managed?”
“Consider it done.” With a twist of his hands, each of the stainless steel carry-ons vanished as well.
“How do we time the departure to arrive at night?”
“I’ve pondered the issue. Asgard is a small realm but it rotates slowly. If we leave just after sunrise here, it should put us there with most of the evening to make our way to the palace.”
Godric bit his lip. “And the ride in between? In space?”
Loki tugged playfully at his cloak. “I’ll make sure you’re safe. Even the most ancient of Yggdrasil’s pathways are nearly instantaneous. The ride just happens to be a bit…rough.”
The two waited until dawn. Godric had Loki rehash the plan multiple times and explain some of the finer points of Asgardian etiquette, while Loki grilled the vampire in his native tongue – a dialect of Old Norse peppered with inflections from the Asgardian court. He corrected his pronunciation more than a few times, but Godric quickly latched on to the subtle differences.
When the rising sun began to pull at Godric, he fixed himself a blood to stay alert. Just as the star that ruled his eternal days and nights slipped over the horizon, he opened the bond with his child and pushed all of his love and affection at Eric. He felt Eric’s sudden surprise and happiness, then the connection flat lined into a soft buzz as the Viking collapsed into his day rest. Loki studied Godric as he concentrated.
“What was that? What are you doing?” he demanded.
“Just saying goodbye.”
Loki’s eyes narrowed. “If you’re done with your sentiment, shall we go?”
The sorcerer and the vampire pulled their hoods over their heads and Loki tucked Godric into the folds of his cloak, covering him completely. “Hang on tight,” he reminded the shorter man. Godric locked his arms around the god’s waist in a vice-like grip. In an instant, the world suddenly felt woozy and with a whoosh and a thick explosion of smoke, they were off.
The speed was incalculable – far faster than Godric had ever flown. They suddenly slammed to a jarring stop and were floating. Loki peeled back the fabric covering Godric’s faced and nudged him to look. Godric, fearful that he might be burned, nestled further into the safety of the cloak. Loki poked him again, harder, and he ventured a peek. His mouth promptly fell open. They were suspended somewhere in the universe, dense clouds of illuminated gases in every riot of color, distant stars shimmering in the eternal expansion of space. They seemed to be drifting towards a dark spot in the sky where light bent and disappeared into nothingness. Godric spun around to see where they had come from. A similar wormhole lay behind them. He turned back to try to memorize the vision surrounding them when the immense suction that he’d first felt began forcefully drawing them forward. Loki quickly covered him up and doubled down on his hold around the vampire before they were sucked onwards.
The next tunnel was different. It was just as fast, but they banged and bounced around. Godric could feel himself bruising without having any clear sense of hitting anything. There was a sudden drop and Godric thought surely he would vomit the blood he’d drunk, then they bottomed out in a gut-wrenching stop and shot straight up with a force that, for a brief second, Godric thought he could withstand.
Alas, he could not and darkness overtook him.
Godric awoke with his head bouncing on his chest and a vaguely familiar rocking motion between his thighs.
“Whattt the…” he slurred.
The G-force of the trip must have knocked him out cold. He strained to open his eyes. His hand felt around to the pommel of a saddle. He was on horseback and there was someone behind him. A thin arm steadied him.
“Shhh,” a woman hissed. “There are ravens nearby,” she warned. A long sword in her free hand bounced against their thighs. Godric quickly tried to take stock of where he was. He inhaled over his shoulder. The woman was Loki, no doubt, in someone else’s form, and they were riding across a narrow trail on a mountainside. The hollow laugh of a raven cackled in the distance. Vaguely he remembered something about ravens acting as Odin’s spies. He squirmed in the saddle and pulled his cloak tightly around his shoulders.
Overhead, the stars put on a show that rivaled what he had glimpsed earlier. “Asgard,” he breathed and closed his eyes. Every scent, every sound, was utterly new. Something new – after two millennia of the same. His mind strained to absorb the onslaught of information. Thousands upon thousands of plant species he’d never before smelled delighted his nose. Just as many strange chirping and creaking creatures filled his ears with a lyrical evening symphony he’d never before heard. “Gods,” he gasped, feeling blood tears well up in his eyes. He touched the warm neck of the horse to ensure it was real.
The woman nudged the animal forward and quickened its pace to a jaunty canter. The trail descended quickly and it wasn’t long before they rounded the base of the mountain. The landscape opened into a rolling valley which was cleft by a wide river. The river spread out to the edge of the world and tumbled over rocks where it was met by the sea. Overlooking these stunning falls was the most magnificent citadel Godric had ever beheld. Its twinkling lights lit the hills for miles. At the city’s limit lay the soaring gilt towers of the imperial palace. Godric could only shake his head in awe.
The woman urged their mount on through the lowland forest that thinly embroidered the outskirts of the valley. Once in the city, she guided them through abandoned alleyways and backstreet paths. Only occasionally did they pass an armored soldier. No one took notice of them and they moved quickly and undetected.
At a bridge, they crossed the river and were met by a set of high gates. Two guards sat chatting at a checkpoint station. One of the men stood as they approached.
“Lady Sif! I did not see you leave after tonight’s feast.”
“Likely because you were drunk,” the woman behind Godric growled.
The soldier straightened. “No, my lady, on my honor…”
“I jest, Hjalmar. Let us pass. I was sent to retrieve a new servant.”
The guard bowed and the other man hurried to open the gate.
“Any chance you want to get into the cups with me later then?” he dared, waggling his eyebrows as they passed. His flirtation was met with a razor sharp blade underneath his chin.
“Maybe I ought to give you a close shave first?” she hissed meanly, then released him from the edge of her sword. She clucked at the horse and they trotted forward over the remaining length of the bridge toward the palace. At a side door, she dismounted and threw the reins at a servant who had been fast asleep in a chair. Godric slipped off and scuttled after her, careful to keep his hood over his eyes. She walked briskly, snapping at various guards and giving curt orders. They were allowed past a series of service rooms and into the great castle itself.
Once inside, they turned down a massive hall flanked on either side by enormous golden columns. The woman pulled him through the shadows, avoiding the hanging brass basins where enchanted fires floated in mid-air. Sounds of a party echoed down the long chamber and the air was heavy with the scent of the oil lamps, incense, and roasted, spiced meat. She pulled them to a halt against a wall, listening. One voice boomed from the feast above all others.
“…And that is when Volstagg and Hogan were bested by the beast! Only I remained to defeat it!” a man bellowed.
The woman rolled her eyes and motioned for Godric to follow. They slipped up a winding set of stairs that spiraled upwards for several floors. Pausing at a door, she waited for the sounds of heavy, clanking footsteps to pass. The patrol guard safely down another corridor, she tugged at Godric’s hand and pulled him to an alcove barred by two wooden doors. She rested a tentative hand over the ornate handle. It was an iron sigil in the shape of a hammer. Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the door and they hurried inside.
The room was draped in long crimson curtains that billowed in open windows. Heavy chandeliers held candles that caught the glint of the gold that seemed to cover every surface and piece of furniture. Godric dreaded to think precisely whose rooms they had barged into, but he was certain he already knew. It smelled of mead and sex and armor. These were the private quarters of the crown prince himself.
“What are we doing?!” Godric whispered.
The woman held up a hand to silence him. He pursued her at a near jog through several more doors and nested rooms until they reached an empty smallish chamber. It was a dead end – or so Godric thought. The lady heaved back a thick tapestry depicting two children on a stag hunt. A small door lay tucked in the wall. The woman uttered a few words and there was a clunk. It creaked open.
On the other side lay a room of nearly identical proportions, except that it was lined with shelves that reached the ceiling. Each shelf was crammed with jars and jugs and bags and bundles. Godric started to inspect their contents of powders and dried flowers in the herb pantry, only to be dragged by his sleeve from the storeroom and into the antechamber and subsequently to the main room. The air was musty and it was nearly pitch black. Behind him he heard the sound of a magnesium block striking against steel and an oil lamp filled the hall with light. Godric turned to the woman.
Lady Sif smiled, the lines of her frame shimmered, and Loki reappeared in her place.
“Welcome to Asgard,” he purred.