“Mama, watch me!!” A sturdy blonde haired boy frowned intently at his closed hand, then opened it to reveal a slightly wilted daisy inside.
Frigga smiled and clapped as though it was the first time she had ever seen a flower summoned.
“Excellent work, my son! Loki, look at what Thor summoned for us!”
Wide green eyes peered in awe over his mother’s elbow. Frigga kissed the smooth pale forehead of the gangly toddler in her lap and continued,
“Just look how beautiful it is - I think this one must be from Eir’s garden, yes?”
“Just as you said Mama!” a proud young Thor beamed, “I make the picture in my mind, and reach with my glow-hand, and pulled it to me for you!”
In Frigga’s arms, young Loki listened with interest as his big brother described the process of using his seidr. He frowned briefly, then squinted his eyes closed, tightened his own tiny fists. With an almost-visible ripple, the dainty white and yellow disappeared from Thor’s hand, and reappeared in Frigga’s fingers.
Everyone blinked. Thor looked to Frigga, who shook her head. She had not moved the blossom. No one else was near. That left only….
After a moment of shocked silence, the air was broken with Thor’s triumphant crow. “Look what my brother can do!!! Mama look! Loki has magic too!”
A fine sheen of sweat broke out over Loki’s face as he stared intently at the surface of the table. A white mist, scarcely visible at first, coalesced in front of him, pulsing slightly in time with his heart. Slowly, with exquisite detail, the form of a bird condensed from the mist. Transparent as fine crystal, articulated as a living bird would be in every joint and feather, detail upon detail appeared until Loki sat straight up and clapped his hands to end the Working. The tiny sparrow tilted its head to the side, chirped, and flew up to settle on Loki’s shoulder with a satisfied flutter.
“Fine work, my son. Now see if you can use your bond to the construct to complete these tasks.” Frigga laid a small sheet of parchment beside her youngest, caressing his hair fondly as she looked at his tiny, perfect bird. Loki’s work was beautiful. Clean, elegant, wasting no energy nor sparing any where it should be spent. His workings were both intricate and lovely in their construction, advanced far beyond the years he had actually spent in learning. Frustrated to tears when a spell did not work as he thought it should, elated beyond words when he finally found the way. Her beautiful, sensitive boy was born with seidr in his very marrow, Frigga sometimes thought.
At the next table, Thor frowned mightily at his own cloud of mist. “This is ridiculous!” he muttered to himself, not as subtly as he likely thought. “No one can master this conjuring without using anima of *some* kind,” and his hand snuck subtly towards his head, to pluck a single hair with which to help the spell along.
“Owww!!!!” Thor rubbed his hand ruefully. “Mother, I was not….”
“Tell it to someone less observant, my son.” Frigga smiled wryly, the rebuke somewhat softened by the twinkle in her eyes. “ You must draw on your magical essence, not your physical body, for this conjuring. Nothing else is necessary, and anything in excess would flaw the result.”
With good-natured grumbles, Thor turned back to his task. A few laborious minutes later, a rough-hewn glassy raven stood staring back at him, rustling it’s cloudy wings indignantly.
“Ha! Is that meant to be Huginn or Muninn you have there, brother? It appears to be an ill-favored cousin of theirs. No, I have it! ’Tis a vulture, to clean up the messes you make!” Loki teased his brother, while his tiny sparrow hovered curiously just out of reach of the raven’s strong beak.
Thor pulled back in offense for a moment, then looked at the two birds together. With a helpless shrug, he conceded the point, then laughed cheerfully “Indeed, he is an ill-favored brute is he not?” The brothers grinned at each other. “But he shall serve, I think. Mother?” Thor turned towards Frigga, his earlier frustration washed away in the gleam of good-humor from his brother’s teasing.
“He will, Thor. Perhaps not as elegantly as your brother’s bird, but not all things must be alike in form to be worthy in their function. Let us see how he manages his tasks.”
And Frigga smiled, watching the two heads of her sons, dark and bright, bent together over their parchments.
“Well struck, brother!” Loki grinned in manic glee, dancing away from the blow which had just shattered his staff. Now, surely, they could be done.
“Hah!” Thor laughed exultantly. He lowered his sword and put his hands to his knees, breathing heavily. “You made me work for that one, little brother! But I have not showed you all I have learned, yet! Wait until you see what Heimdall has shown me may be done with a hammer!”
Loki’s good-natured smile froze. There… was going to be more?! Of this miserable sweaty work guised as training that had already lasted half the day? Oh joy.
Recently returned from a six-month of training under Frigga’s tutors in Vanheim, Loki had the sudden realization that his brother’s definition of fun and his own might have diverged. While his magical training had been rigorous and had included many lessons on physical balance and grace, it had not prepared him for this. He had learned fine movements and control, to dance and weave, not to keep pace with a brother who had clearly used the warrior’s practice field to alleviate his boredom.
“Can you continue brother?” Thor eyed Loki with some concern. His brother’s ribs were heaving like the bellows on the kitchen fire. He was always thin, but now he looked….drawn. Thor realized belatedly that it was probable that Loki had not, in fact, been training every day as he had, with sword and shield and spear and hammer. The new breadth of thew Thor had been so eager to boast of suddenly seemed brash. Overdone.
With a wheezing laugh, Loki interrupted Thor’s increasingly dejected thoughts.
“Peace, Thor! Give me but a moment to breathe, you barbarian! Then we shall compare our conjurations, and it will be I who shall school you!”
Thor’s eyes brightened. Loki was himself, still! He smiled, a response to the challenge ready on his lips, when the shadow of a memory touched his mind.
Odin’s face, dour and annoyed, as Thor made his tankard vanish, and reappear with a splash of spilled drink in Volstagg’s hand. “At least when Loki does it, he does not waste the mead,” a rumble of paternal disapproval.
A flash of a smile on the Allfather’s face when Thor finally mastered the toss of Odin’s hunting spears, melting into a frown when Loki tried, and tried and tried again but always failed to throw the spear almost as heavy as himself.
The tight smile, the narrowed eyes seen through a crack in the door to Odin’s private chambers. “Loki may go. Ygaddrisil knows, he learns nothing here,” when Frigga petitioned her husband to allow her sons to go and learn from her own teachers in magic. “But Thor stays. One of them at least I may shape into a proper son of Asgard.”
Odin’s words were ugly, Thor reflected. Ugly, and a plain reflection of court and people of Asgard. He looked at his brother - his tired, beautiful, brilliant brother, who had just barely kept up with a light afternoon’s sparring. Regret at his own public bravado washed through him. Loki had acknowledged him the victor in this, given up the high ground in a battle he had not even known he was fighting. Would he have yielded, had he known he was being tested in this way?
Thor dragged his hand over his face, stalling. How to re-level this ground? Perhaps the only way out was through. With a broad smile that looked only a little forced, he pulled Loki up and into his arms.
“I doubt it not, brother! I am willing that we should try, but we both know your spellwork will always outshine mine. Come! You have seen what passes for my new skills. Let us bathe and dine, and you shall tell me of your time on Vanaheim!”
Rolling his eyes at Thor’s exaggerated volume and ridiculous airs of lordliness, Loki disengaged himself from his brother’s supportive arms, straightened, and sighed in fond bemusement. Thor would never change. What an oddly comforting thought.