"It really wasn't as big of a deal as you're trying to make it out to be," you say defensively.
"_____, please. Spare me your feigned innocence." Njord tosses aside the scroll he'd been reading. The noonday suns blaze outside, dimly illuminating the ambassadors' chambers that you have been summoned to. You stand stiffly in a heavy Asgardian gown, your hair dry and pinned loosely to your head. "You were seen running around the palace dripping wet, in your nightclothes, no less. What would your father say?"
"Leave. My father. Out of this," you say slowly, your voice hardened steel.
"You are betrothed. You are to marry a prince -A PRINCE!- of Alfheim and you are running about like some brazen heathen without a thought for Vanaheim's reputation. You are deliberately insulting the Alfheim Ambassador, and your father would be ashamed, even if you are not."
You stand there, hands clenching and unclenching, trying not to say something you'll regret. Njord looks up, notes your angered expression, then nonchalantly proceeds to examine his fingernails before continuing. "Nimirel did mention that you showed immediate opposition to marrying the Alfheim prince. I would have thought she raised you to understand the duties of royalty."
"Lady Nimirel," you hiss.
"She is my Lady Nimirel to you."
Njord rolls his eyes. "Must you be so petty?"
"Forgive me, but which of us was delivering lectures on proper ettiquete not a minute ago? It seems as though Asfrid took more care in teaching you my duties than your own." You turn to leave.
"If you offend Alfheim further, there will be a price to pay." You halt, inches from the blessed freedom of the corridor. Njord continues. "I cannot stop you from doing as you please, but I will not allow you to wreck an alliance I crafted myself. You will marry the prince Glordaer. Whether you have any honor left by the time of your wedding is up to you, so I suggest you behave properly. Unless, that is, you are intending to make a mockery of the family name."
You take little notice of your footsteps as you storm through the empty corridors, instead entertaining thoughts of the various ways you could sentence Njord to death if you were Lady of Eryncelon. You're only briefly able to ponder the perks of immolation, however, before a small set of stairs trips you and sends you crashing into a metallic statue of some ancient king holding a horn aloft. Your face slams into the steely chest, and you feel your lip bust. Fantastic. Blinking, you realize that you've never seen this statue before. And I'm lost. You try to turn around, but the fabric of your gown has somehow managed to snag in the intricate metalwork of the statue, right at the shoulder. You tug the fabric, then try to wiggle it loose, then abandon all intention of saving the embroidery and yank at it, all to no avail. With a sigh, you let your forehead rest upon the metal, enjoying the soothing chill upon your flushed skin. Things could be worse, I suppose. I'm still in Asgard; Njord hasn't threatened to summon Asfrid. And Lyssa isn't around to jest abou-
"Well now." A silken voice interrupts your thoughts. Never mind. Lyssa is not a worst-case scenario. "I know Vanaheim is renowned for uncontrolled romancing, but I always assumed that your people restricted love to, well, living things?" You half-turn to see Loki leaning against the corner pillar, a book tucked underneath his crossed arms. The smirk slides from his face and is replaced with furrowed brows when he sees your lip. As the Norns would have it, your dress chooses this moment to detangle itself, distracting you for a second. When you look back around, Loki is before you, the book gone from his hands and his leather tunic slapping softly against his knees in the sudden movement. "Tsk tsk. It seems that your advances towards King Borr were unwanted. That brazen personality will get you in trouble sooner or later," he says as he carefully places a finger on either side of your mouth. His touch is light, and he turns your face to each side, examining your lip.
"You undoubtedly think me a graceless oaf," you say, pulling back instinctively. "I do believe your architecture is plotting to kill me."
"Shh," he reprimands, reaching out for your face again. "Don't talk. You're getting blood everywhere." This time he cups your face in his hands, with a thumb on either side of the injured lip. With a look of intense concentration he leans forward, pulling your face towards his. For a brief, hope-filled moment you think he's about to kiss you, but then he stops, his lips mere centimeters from yours, and gently blows onto the wound. A tingling spreads from where his thumbs touch you, buzzing through your lip towards the cut. He holds you like this for a few seconds: eyes focused, a single lock of hair -the one that you severed- hanging determinedly out of place, and his lips parted ever so slightly, breathing a steady stream of cool air.
After a moment he stops and leans back, observing his handiwork. "Oh yes. Quite the improvement." His thumb slowly caresses the edge of your mouth, making no move to withdraw from the intimacy of the embrace. Deep green eyes dart from your lips, down your figure, then up to your face. "I see the ladies of the court have disguised you well. You look almost civilized."
"Excellent. Then I'm already more presentable than you."
"Not a chance. A mere look upon my manner of dress is enough to drive Midgardians to make daily offerings in my name." His eyes glimmer.
"Is that so?"
"I don't believe you."
"You don't? Pity. I suppose I could show you."
"Could you, now? Have you even been to Midgard before?"
"Have you not?" His tone is incredulous.
"Others at Eryncelon have, but we were too young to go with Father, Mother doesn't travel, and Edwechon always said that keeping Lyssa and me out of trouble would hinder his diplomatic abilities and likely result in an inter-realm war."
Loki snorts. "Would you like to see it?"
"I wasn't aware we were speaking of anyplace else."
"Now? Isn't there some sort of ceremonial dinner tonight?"
"That's not until well into the evening. Why, do you have some sort of prior arrangement?" His hands gently slide down your cheeks to your neck. "Someone you're meeting, perhaps?" The hands slink to your shoulders. "Is there a warrior who needs seducing?" He moves from your shoulders to the sleeves of your gown, tracing ever downwards. "A lordling, maybe? Worthy of being a potential match for someone with rather...sensuous needs?" His hands have found yours, and he wraps his fingers around your wrists. "If you aren't available, do say so. I'll be gone in an instant."
"No," you say, your voice breathy but surprisingly steady. "I would love to see Midgard before-" the wedding "before I return to Vanaheim."
Loki pulls your hands up and holds them to his chest, mock-bowing over them. "Then I would be delighted to show it to you." He interlaces his fingers with yours, turns, and takes off down the corridor, pulling you along.
You throw away all thought of Njord, of Lyssa's plan, of the steely King Borr, until there seems to be nothing but Loki leading you through hall after hall, his hand in yours.