Image Credit: Lynne C., Adrian, MI The author’s comments: Second edit, after I saw Thor 2 and had to modify my plot. Plus, it was a little sloppy in places. I was going to change the title, but I decided not to, ’cause I was afraid I would confuse people. Including myself. Merry Christmas! Consciousness? Never heard of it. Pain? Yes. I’m actually sick of it right about now. Image Credit: Lynne C., Adrian, MI The author’s comments: Second edit, after I saw Thor 2 and had to modify my plot. Plus, it was a little sloppy in places. I was going to change the title, but I decided not to, ’cause I was afraid I would confuse people. Including myself. Merry Christmas! Consciousness? Never heard of it. Pain? Yes. I’m actually sick of it right about now. I gave a little moan, clutching my torso with my right hand as I lay on my left side. I couldn’t tell if my left arm was injured–I had lost all feeling in it. Whether that was a bad sign or a good sign, I was too dazed to tell. I was almost afraid to open my eyes, partially because of the numbing cold that blanketed me. I almost went back to sleep. I was too tired, why should I move? There’s no need. I just need some more rest… Sigyn. A word, spoken in my subconscious and forgotten instantly. No, a name. An important one, important enough for me not to quit. One of my family? No…I didn’t care for them. It was coming back now, in shady bits and pieces. Why would the notion of my blockhead brother and distant father give me solace enough to carry on? I managed to open my eyes, to the lovely sight of a dead mastiff’s head in my face. It’s a good thing I wasn’t conscious enough to be revolted. The corpse being too close for comfort, I rolled over onto my back. A tingling relief swept through my left arm, a good sign that it was still attached. But even that miniscule task made my chest heave with effort. With my raised awareness, I felt a warm moistness on my hand where it lay on my gut. I lifted it up into my field of vision and beheld it covered in a sticky, brownish-red fluid. Blood, that’s what it’s called. That’s bad, right? Oh, yeah. Especially a lot of it. Problem number two in what would become a rather depressing list. I tried to get up, but I was soon so short of breath I could only manage sitting up. Breathing heavily, I looked around at the bleak desolation around me. The sky was gray, and odd white flakes were falling from it. Snow. I was covered in it, and unharmed…except for my lethal gut wound, of course. Nothing to fear. Why is it taking me so long to compute something I’ve always known? I know not. Something tells me that my sentience is above this current half-life. Another thing tells me that I don’t care. I moved my head to look around, found myself surrounded by unfamiliar corpses. Some were humanoid, some were animal. None were showing signs of life save I. I vaguely wondered why. Big mistake. My memory responded immediately and with a clarity I had not achieved in these past few seconds of existence. There was a great battle, an important one. I could not recall if I…if we were victorious or not. I do know that I had fought in it, and it was likely we won. But at what cost? The half-remembered images flashed before my eyes before my soggy mind could catch up; a towering figure smiting foes left and right with the greatest of ease; another, equally great but lesser in the eyes of the multitude, struggling in the fight; a valiant other, fighting with the ferocity of the former and the desperateness of the latter. Sigyn. There it was again. Here one moment to give me new strength and gone in a flash. What was that name? Who was she? Was she involved in whatever just happened? Oh, it’s a she. That’s good, I’m learning more. Around me was a great coastal plain, which ended in choppy seas in the far distance and coniferous woods behind me. My homing instinct told me that I should go to the trees, but it was about as useful as me at the moment because neither of us knew where to go from there. I decided to wait and gather my consciousness again so I could think. Another bit of me I was recalling. I was clever, and that fact had saved my life time and time again when other aspects of me had failed. More details on the battle came back to me. That ‘lesser’ figure, that was me. I saw him again in replenished grandeur, for once in his element in the midst of a bloodbath. He–I–had full armor on, gleaming gold in the light of infrequent lightning flashes, the horns on my helmet arcing into the black skies like beacons of strength. Strength to another, one that held me dear. One that I held dear. Sigyn. Who was that @*#& name? Wait, behind me. A huge dog–could it be the one that lay dead beside me?–tackled me, ripping a gash in my stomach before I could respond in time to save myself. I cried out in pain and fell with the huge dog on top of me. I winced at the remembered agony, partially because even now it wasn’t through with me yet. But there was that third figure from my first recollections, the one who fought like a mother for her cubs. Infuriated, she fell upon the mastiff to wreak her revenge. Pausing my mind to catch my breath, I looked down at the dog’s cold corpse. Cold, shredded, pummeled, utterly annihilated corpse. Sigyn. If I don’t remember this name, I’ll go crazy. This is where I fell to earth, being a little frail compared to others. Such as my brother. He yelled at me once to rise, before he carried on merrily bashing things. I had half a mind to respond, if I had the strength. But standing over me the entire time was the valiant one. Human, then lupine, than equine, and back again. Bucking, slashing, fighting for her life. For mine. “Sigyn.” Odin above. I rubbed my face in anguish, moaning to myself. Had she made it out alive? If she’d died, she would have perished at my side and it would be all my fault. Why couldn’t I be tougher, stronger, better? Why couldn’t I just realize what was important and work towards that instead of fiddling around with trivial magic? I was thinking like my brother, I knew. But, as much as I loathed him, I felt like I almost wouldn’t mind if I were a bit more like him, as long as it would keep her safe. I’d failed her. All those times, she’d been my saving grace, and now it was my turn and I’d let her down. I’d let her die. I almost didn’t feel the frozen, unforgiving earth as I let myself fall again. Now I knew why I found myself in this accursed situation. I had failed the test, and now I would pay the price. With Sigyn gone, how could I carry on knowing that my true love, my Sigyn, had perished because of my own petty inadequacy? It was all too avoidable. I almost convinced myself that she was alive, almost felt her hoofbeats thudding across the barren waste to save me from the depths of my despair. But it was I that was supposed to come riding to the rescue, except I didn’t. And I never would again. I was sick of failing everyone, sick of falling short of a mark that I couldn’t reach. Odin, Thor, I’d always let them down, and now I realized that wasn’t going to change. So I’d simply stop trying. The buck stops here. The end. Salty tears frosting on my face, my hands unclenched. A four-legged beat resounded across the solemn landscape, seemingly the only sign of life and the only accompaniment to the brown blur streaking across the morbid plain. The wind tousled her mane and whooshed in her ears, drowning out the pounding waves far off to her left. Her sapphiric eyes payed no heed to the hordes of dead that surrounded her, searching only for a specific body, a landmark even. Sweat darkening her brown pelt and heating her in the chill air, she slowed to a brisk trot, stepping neatly around the bodies that almost completely blanketed the world around her. She came up a hill, the only change in elevation for miles. Her panting breath visible in warm puffs, she looked around in vain for that beloved face that had been lost to her. Suddenly the horse was no longer a towering mare but a she-wolf, face impassive, though in her soul she howled agonizingly for Loki. Putting her nose just above the earth, she sifted through the thousands of separate identities, all the while ignoring the nigh-overwhelming smell of death. Asgardian scent, it had to be here. Loki had been right on top of this hill, and she should know–she had stood over him and kept the elves and their supporters at bay until the retreat had been called. Her own musk was all over the hill, and the corpses on it reeked of her. She had no idea she had killed so many, but it didn’t in the least apall her. All for the only cause that mattered to her anymore. Her ears pricked, nostrils flaring in victory. Here on this patch of rock, long-dried Asgardian blood. And not the heavy odor of Thor, either. She sprang off on its trail, muscles lithe under a thick double coat of brown fur and tail trailing like a banner waiting to be raised. Her eyes searched ahead of her as she loped gracefully, keen on her precious quarry, completely steadfast and unwavering. He was here, she knew it, and she would not return until she found him, the love of her life– “Loki.” Whispering the name as if not daring to believe it, the skinchanger stood frozen in her tracks. Stepping gingerly to his side, she kicked aside the mastiff that had wounded him so with a silent snarl of contempt. The cur, may the nameless Giant-supporter rot in Niflheim. She lay beside him, shuddering at the lifeless frigidity of his body. She put her head by his neck, cocking her ear against the jugular, waiting for a sound, the precious dull rhythm of lifeblood– Ga-gug. He lives. Oh, by the Nine Realms, he lives. Before she could stop herself, she licked his face about twenty times before she had the common sense to leave him alone. Though he merely groaned and did not wake, Sigyn turned into a horse again, taking his collar in her teeth. Bracing herself for impact, she swung him up and onto her back, snorting a little at the strained muscles in her neck. Though only he was only half-conscious, she felt Loki’s legs automatically shift into position for bareback riding, and she relished the feel of him in the saddle once more. She broke into a smooth canter, with none of the fervent urgency of before, content now that he had been found. But in the back of her mind, she couldn’t help but wonder if she hadn’t conjured that pulse out of her imagination. If she had, she didn’t know how she would cope with the loss. Though only a few months ago she hadn’t known who she was, let alone him, now she couldn’t imagine life without him. Even if he held on still, would he be able to recover when they got back to camp? Would he make the five-mile trip in the first place as he was? As she carried on, lost in her all-silencing fears, Sigyn didn’t notice Loki’s arms tighten around her neck.