The Day Before

© 2000 by Sofía 'Toffee' Francisco

This page was last modified: 2000/10/10


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Cyd:

The mellow sound of the harp drifted across the room, wisps of notes that flickered in the air like crackling flames of song. At the centre of the ample room, a table was set elegantly, strewn with silver cutlery and gold-rimmed porcelain plates. Too luxurious and overloaded to be of my taste; of anybody's taste. I peeled my gaze from the dinner table with an inward sigh and concentrated on the music.

Mime.

Calm and beautiful, a pale firelit ghost beside the hearth, pulling the cords of his harp in blissful oblivion. I stared at him, admiring his detachment and envying his flawless composure. Try though she would, my mother never managed to smooth out the roughness in my personality. I preferred long walks over studies, and hunts over balls and dances. She had the warrior yet could not find the gentleman within. But Mime, so untouchable in his liquid grace, was perhaps a mockery of his mother's last wishes. Such an example, save for the strange look in his vermilion eyes. Ah... this one was a gentleman indeed, but only Odin knew what monsters lurked behind the cool stare.

* * *

"Please, let us be seated," Lady Hilda's voice, cold and uncaring, as she moved towards her chair; wraithlike with her trailing blue-grey hair and silvery robes. I shuddered involuntarily, fearing the change in her, the sudden freezing over her heart had suffered.

And then, close behind her; the maybe lover but certainly devotee appeared. Brave, powerful Siegfried, tall and mighty yet gravely worried too.

Your princess too cold?

I smiled ironically and sat down. Siegfried made a point of ignoring me, though I could tell by the set of his jaw that he had seen my smile.

A few minutes later Alberich strode in, walking like a proud demon, and sitting down close to the lady. His emerald eyes glinted cruelly, as he gave us all a mocking look of superiority. Thol ignored all of us, his pale gaze was fixed on Hilda, and a sadness seemed to have crept into him, making him slump his bulky shoulders.

What was going on?

The lady had summoned us, but instead of finding ourselves at the service of our sweet and wise leader, a cold cynical creature seemed to have usurped her place. And the lady Freya was just as upset as the rest of us, perhaps more. She sat beside her sister, with her fianceé on the other side, holding his hand under the table. Her already pale face was white like snow, and her eyes had that soft lustre that indicated that she had been crying. All of a sudden her gaze fell in Siegfried, and he in turn, looked away angrily, a troubled look staining his otherwise calm demeanour.

Interesting...

Mime resumed his song after a few minutes, still seated beside the fire.

"Will you not join us, Mime?" Hilda inquired softly, her voice a deceptively sweet sound. The harpist did not pause his music, just smiled and replied calmly.

"I would much rather play my harp, Lady. I am not hungry," he replied, smooth voice completely unaffected.

Hilda shrugged and picked up her wineglass, taking a dainty sip in a relaxed fashion. A golden ring glinted on one of her fingers. Strange. The lady very rarely used gold, it was unanimous that she looked much better in silver finery.

Hagen gazed around the table and blinked, eyeing the empty seat near the farthest corner. "Where is Fenrir?" All eyes fell on the vacant spot. Just then the small yellow eyed youth came in, flanked by two wolves that stared at the people around in a darkly grudging fashion. He walked up to his chair and flopped onto it most unceremoniously.

Mother would have fainted at such a savage display.

After a few minutes of awkward silence we began to eat. Lady Freya's eyes did not leave Siegfried's though, and this called for further investigation.

* * *

Hagen:

Freya gripped my hand under the table, her fingers cold and tight over my palm, seeking a reassurance I was unable to give. Her soft golden hair fell like waves of sunlight over her shoulders and down her back. I stared at her, enthralled by her simple ethereal beauty as I always was, and bound to her every move. She bit her lip and locked her eyes on Siegfried, who looked away in shame.

I squeezed her hand tighter, not understanding that last exchange. Few were the secrets she kept from me, yet here and now, in the unreadable look, there was more mystery than in anything she had ever done. What had trespassed between Hilda's guardian and my Lady, that so shamed him and made her shudder?

The only answer I got from Freya was a small smile, and then she went back to gazing at her sister, the same anguished worry passing over her features, giving her a surreal pallor that unsettled me.

I wanted to kiss her, and tell her it would all be fine, but Hilda was bent upon a war none of us had called for... and yet, there was sense in her words. Did we not deserve a better place?

We, the faithful ones who cared so for this planet?

Surely there was truth in that reasoning, or else Hilda would have never even thought about it. I glanced at Siegfried, trying to read what he was feeling in his pale blue gaze, but nothing appeared there. All I could see in his eyes was the smoky reflection of Lady Hilda as she gazed around the table. I followed her eyes, and found that there was someone absent.

"Where is Fenrir?" Everyone stared at the empty seat a bit uncomfortably.

The creak of the old wooden door opening diverted our attention, as the wolf trainer strode in, his sly golden eyes going over us in the same unfriendly fashion as the wolves'. He sat down with no sense of propriety, and glared at all of us daringly.

Hilda picked up her service and started eating, soon we all followed. A while passed before the silence was broken again, but Hilda emptied her wineglass all to easily and frowned at the unfilled cup.

"Mnemosyne," she called, lifting her glass. "Bring more wine."

The name was not familiar to me, but then, servants changed often of the late; as soon as one angered the lady her place was open for another. So it was not entirely strange that I did not know this particular girl, strange as her name was.

* * *

Alberich:

Hilda drank her wine quickly, seemingly uncaring of the deep concern her new attitude was creating among her followers. Little did they know. The golden ring that shone with a hard light upon her finger would not let go, and locked in that circle of demonic power lay the Lady. It was her own stupid faith in Odin that had brought her here, to a point where she could be manipulated like a rag doll because of her refusal to give into force. Weak.

And it was this blessed weakness that would aide my plans. Let her drink and dream of conquering warmer lands, caught by the malevolence of a power not her own, or her God's. I would profit from this later, when the war ended the useless lives of her guardians, and her blood was spilled. When her weak heart stopped beating, cut open by my sword.

The world would bow to me then.

She called for a servant to bring more wine, smiling in an almost lusty fashion, and I saw Siegfried wince as she lifted her glass, unladylike and far too seductive for his taste. I would have gone on looking at them, but something else caught my gaze: a flicker of silver.

I turned to the direction it had come from to find myself staring at the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes upon. The servant glided up to Hilda and poured the blood red wine into her glass, bowing as she retreated and started refilling the cups all over the table. I stared at her, spellbound by her strange loveliness.

Her hair was tied into a long loose braid, a few strands falling forward to curl around her face. But the colour... it was like silver. Not grey, but a moon white shade that shone like hard polished silver where the candle light struck her. She was not tall or athletic, but there was an appealing firmness in her rounded body, so well hidden under thick layers of purple silks and white furs, the clothes of a well behaved servant.

I gave her a curious look as she filled my glass, and her eyes fell on me. I was frozen then, struck numb by the power held behind those amethyst orbs. Amethysts.. like my power. That young yet amazingly ancient look seemed to twist me inside out for her to see.

I desired this girl...

Well, I could have whatever I wanted when I ruled the world, so I let her pass by with a small smile.

* * *

Siegfried:

Freya looked at me again, her eyes clouded with pain and worry, and a resentment I could not bear to look at, so I avoided her gaze feeling my cheeks burn with shame. If only I could help her, give into her request and follow her advice; that sounded thoroughly correct and sane even in my own ears. But I could not... no matter how I wished I was not responsible for the pain in her eyes tonight, added to the heavy sorrow that already rode her gaze since Hilda had changed.

Hilda...

My sweet Lady, for whom I would do anything. To whom I had sworn absolute loyalty. So when Freya came to me, and pulled my arm until we were hidden among the many halls of the castle, I knew she was going to ask something I was not going to be able to do. The fact that Hagen was not with her, and that she had deliberately avoided Hilda warned me of her intentions. And I was not mistaken; she asked me, in that sweet voice of hers, to help her. To stop Hilda's mad plan to conquer the lands beyond Asgard. Her aquamarine eyes had lit up with hope, glimmering under the pale light of the torches on the walls.

How I wished I could have said yes... but I could not.

I had given an oath of loyalty to Hilda, and that meant trusting her even when she seemed to be in the wrong. But... it was more than that, wasn't it? Freya's eyes had pooled over with tears when I refused her, even when she gripped my arm with her small white hands and pleaded for me to help her, to refuse her sister's wishes. Yet my answer did not change. Loyalty would perhaps mean helping her sister and going against her wishes when she was obviously doing something stupid, but I simply couldn't refuse her.

Hagen gave me a strange look, but I did not look at him, feeling that shameful blush creep up my cheeks again. He did not know how lucky he was... Freya was one of the Princesses, but not a Priestess. Her life was not devoted entirely to Odin, and thus their engagement might have a happy ending. I knew they loved each other more than they had been willing to confess up to now, and that Hagen would do anything for the sweet and dainty Lady that held his hand so firmly now. But Hilda... Hilda was dedicated not only to her duties as ruler, but also as religious leader. I was but a pawn on her chessboard, and though I loved her madly I knew I couldn't aspire to anything else. I was her guardian, that had been my mission from the day I was born.

I loved my Lady more than I could explain, and more than was proper for a mere warrior. Even if she grew to feel the same for me, she deserved something better than a war-hardened soldier with stained hands. All I could do was protect her... so I had to remain by her side even when she was defying the right paths, to shelter her from whatever dangers arose. I could only hope that someday she would realise she was wrong, and rethink her decision. But in the meantime, all I could do was stand beside her.

And she would never know how I loved her, for it would only bring her more pain.

Hilda gave me a lustful smile and raised a brow, and I saw Freya look away and tighten her grip on Hagen's hand. She was wrong, I knew it...

But I couldn't say no... not when she looked at me with her grey eyes and asked me to help her. I was trapped... and my love would be our damnation.

Forgive me Hilda...

I loved her too much to oppose her.

* * *

Fenrir:

There was a uncomfortable tension on the table, and my wolves shifted irritably, smelling fear in the air. I sighed heavily and crossed my arms, not in the least bit hungry or willing to eat with there humans. Much less eager to be laughed at, since I knew nothing of their ridiculously fancy table manners. Later on, I would go out and hunt something... I would kill some stray deer and taste its warm flesh. Not this spiced up rubbish they pretended to pass of as food. How could they bear it? To eat their food so cooked up and coated in strange sauces that hide the sheer beauty of its taste.

One of the wolves sniffed and wagged its tail once, I understood the message.

:boring. leave?:

Wolves were so much easier to manage than humans. No nuances and twists of speech, not betrayals or hidden meanings. You liked or disliked. You killed or you lived. You stayed with your pack. Simple rules, simple lives... none of this double edged gazing I saw all over the table. They could fool each other, but they could not fool me: they were afraid. My wolves and I could smell their unease and knew we were at an advantage.

A servant with pale hair crept up behind me and poured wine into my glass. Her violet gaze studying me oddly, as if she could see something there that bothered her. And then she slumped visibly, almost like some deep pain had had been remembered, or sensed. She retreated and continued filling the cups around the table, but I did not let her out of my sight. My wolves stared at her, and one licked its muzzle and flicked an ear, gazing back up at me.

:strange. smell/look?:

I nodded, knowing that they recognised some of my human body language, and both trotted off to her, and stood in her path. I gazed in interest as they took in her scent and wagged their tails in approval. No fear or menace in this one.

"Fenrir, your wolves are disturbing my servant," Hilda spoke up, her voice sounding slightly annoyed at me even though we could all see the servant petting one of my friends on the head, quite at ease with them.

"She looks happy enough to me," I stated, taking the wineglass and gingerly tasting the red liquid. I winced as the bitter taste hit my tongue. It looked like blood but it came nowhere close. I set the glass down in front of my untouched meal.

"Mnemosyne is good with animals, but she's not here to pet your companions. She is serving the wine," Hilda replied. I rolled my eyes, disliking the whole 'servant' concept. Why on earth did they have such an interesting human serving their foul drink? Much better to study her.

Both wolves returned and huffed, shifting a little and cocking their heads.

:good-strange:

Both seemed to agree, though one pawed the marble floor and huffed again.

:eat/hunt?:

I nodded again, and got up from my chair without even bothering to excuse myself, as they always did. Alberich gave me a hostile look before going back to studying Mnemosyne. I understood his interest, but I did not like gleam in his eyes as he sized her up. One of the wolves followed my gaze, and fixed it on him. It shook its fur and flicked an ear twice, before leaving. I smiled at the judgement it passed, agreeing fully.

:uncomfortable/bad:

Indeed.

"Where are you going Fenrir?" Cyd asked, lowering his fork slightly as he regarded me critically. I huffed in discontentment and cocked my head to one side, knowing how the more wolfish I acted the more uncomfortable they grew.

"I am going to get something decent to eat," at my answer the Lady Freya visibly shuddered, knowing all to well I meant to go and hunt something.

"Don't forget to wash your teeth afterwards," Alberich sneered. I didn't let him bother me, though I saw the fur on my wolf's back stand on end, sensing the meaning of the comment due to the voice levels.

I simply walked out and closed the door behind me. I looked down at my companions and smiled sadly, scraping the floor with my boots. Eat/hunt.

Both wolves wagged their tails approvingly and followed me out. After all, I was only here because Hilda would allow me to fight and kill... it was always useful to learn how to kill different game.

* * *

Mime:

I did not stop playing, even as Fenrir stormed out of the room and Hilda sighed explosively, widely displeased with all of us. I had learned more patience than they gave me credit for. My father's beatings and constant reproach had taught me to close off the world around me, and analyse everything with cool detachment. I knew Cyd kept an eye on me, whether he was mystified or curious I did not know, but I stayed alert when he was around.

The tranquil music of my harp served to soothe the atmosphere slightly, and blended me into the background. Few even recalled it was I who played the harp, so unaware of my presence had they become. I simply smiled and kept on, taking a strange nostalgic delight in each thrumming echo as I pulled the strings with practised ease.

My father had hated this in me, the calmness and stability that had nothing to do with his fiery nature, but of course, how could I be like him when he was not of my own blood? He was nothing but a murderer, a great image with nothing behind. How he was revered by the whole country, the brave warrior who fought for our land. No one knew the truth beneath, no one knew his vicious hatred and clouded attitude. There was no gentleness in him to be given, and no heart to mourn after his death. How many harps did he break under the worn heels of his boot? Surely more than ten.

Always trying to kill that in me, mistaking my coolness for weakness. Well, I was stronger than him, and I did not bother to hide behind false legend like him. He had been a hoax, but I was authentic. Perhaps it was this that bothered the people around me; that I could be so cold and calm inside as well as out. It made everyone uncomfortable that the tranquillity in my eyes was no lie, that I was indeed as cold as I behaved.

The violet eyed servant carried a glass of wine up to me, in case I was thirsty. I looked up at her, and saw how tired and defeated she looked. As if being in this room with us brought her more pain than any wound. What lay behind those deep orbs of purple fire?

I shook my head at the offered glass, since I would have to pause in order to take a drink from it. She set it down beside me and smiled. A sad resigned smile, as if she were the sole witness to some great disaster, and could do nothing to stop it. Nothing at all.

I kept on playing, even after they had finished eating and started to get up. No one noticed the sad strained look Mnemosyne gave us all, and no one - save for Hilda who knew for sure - noticed the strange shadows that had observed Cyd during the whole meal. I had seen that shadow before, and I had sensed the strange similarity between its aura and Cyd's. But no one noticed, and it left soon after Cyd walked out the door, giving me a strange almost envious look. Alberich strode up to the servant girl, but she pulled away and refused to go with him.

Smart girl.

But that strange look of hers turned stranger still as she watched him retreat. A smiled curved her lips and it was, for a moment, a cruel smirk. Whatever knowledge she carried of him seemed to satisfy her, just as it made her sad for the others. It was a puzzle I could not disentangle.

I waited until all had left before ending the song, setting the harp beside me and reaching for the cup.

"Should I bring you food?" Mnemosyne stood in front of me, holding the silver jar from which she poured wine.

"No, I am not hungry," I answered, and saw her nod vaguely. "And you?"

"I ate before them," was her calm reply. We stared in silence at each other, and I frowned, seeing that sad look come over her features again. And she looked down.

"I wish you wouldn't look at us like that," Mnemosyne's head snapped up.

"I can't do it in any other way."

"Why?" I inquired softly. She sighed and tightened her hold on the jar.

"It's not something I can answer," and this reply confused me all the more.

"What do you know..." I phrased my thought out carefully. "That makes you pity us so?"

"I cannot answer that anymore. I no longer sell futures."

The answer was so strange, and so completely unfathomable that I could only stare at her in wonder. She smiled vaguely and raised a brow, looking at my cup. Then she looked at me a long while and said:

"Fate is not for me to give, not now. All I have is stories to tell, someday. But if you want wine, or flowers even; that I can give you."

"Why not your knowledge?" I asked, straightening my back.

"Because you will know what I know, in time," she stated, eyes fixed on mine almost tenderly.

"Then... I will settle for wine," I told her, and raised my cup. She refilled it and smiled after that, bowing before walking out the door.

And I was left alone.

* * *

Freya:

"Hagen..." I gripped his arm and forced him to look at me. "You would do anything for me, right?"

His clear blue eyes shone lovingly, as he took me into his arms and nodded. "For you, anything."

"I need you to do something then... though it might upset you," I saw him frown, and press his forehead against mine. It felt too good to be in his arms.

"What is it?"

"I need you to protect Hilda, and to make sure she is safe and sound above all things. Even me," he jerked as I spoke, but I put my arms around his waist to reassure him. "I can only hope she realises..."

But I stopped, Hagen did not need to know what I thought of my sister's plans. All he needed was to understand she must be protected. He choices would bring strong enemies upon her, and whatever she did she was still my sister, and I loved her.

"Realises what?" I waved his question off, and kissed him softly, feeling his arms tighten.

"Nothing, Just remember that I love you, and that Hilda is the most important thing for now... just... keep her safe and never betray her..."

He nodded and left, having things to tend outside. As I watched his strong back I prayed that this would not turn for the worst.

"He loves you... and would do anything... you are very lucky, Lady Freya."

Mnemosyne, the newest servant, walked up to me smiling sadly. I smiled too, seeing the sweet envy in her eyes. "Yes..."

"Keep him to yourself, Lady. You never know when wars take more than just land away from us," her advice made my heart skip a beat. The very thought of Hagen dying made my whole body jerk in fear.

"One can only hope not. All I want now is to avoid a confrontation... and a bloodshed. I..." I tried to explain my fear to her... of seeing all those whom I loved strewn across our land, dead. But how could I? She was only a servant girl after all. "I... I just hate blood."

It was the best I could come up with. She blinked as if taken by surprise, and then shook her head laughing softly. I did not understand, but I smiled so as not to discomfort her. She took a few deep breaths and smiled back at me, her violet eyes glimmering with unshed tears, that confused me even more. But nothing of this prepared me for her answer.

"I used to think that, too... but in the end... I loved Blood." And then, as if what she had said was something utterly unbelievable, she laughed again. "Forgive me Lady, I have things to do."

The next day word arrived to me that a spy had been captured, presumably one of Athena's saints. I rushed to see him, leaving in secret so Hilda would not suspect. I left hoping that Hagen would keep his promise to stand by my sister, no matter what. In the end he did, because he loved me too much.

It was my promise that killed him.

The End


Author's Note:

Toffee: This was fun to write, even though I'm not particularly fond of the Asgard chapter... the one thing I couldn't do was bring myself to write about the Asgard-Hulk, too boring! Sorry! This is dedicated to Romain, to whom I had promised a dinner-scene fic! Luv ya lots!


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