“Give it up, Princess!”
“Use a real man’s weapon, you poncy prat!”
“Daggers, still, Your Highness? Surely you must be ready to move on by now.”
“FOUL! He did not stand like a man to take the blow, he steps away like a woman!”
Beyond the fence that defined the field, half-hidden by a pile of broken shields and discarded targets, Sif’s shoulders stiffened, as she braced to receive an imaginary blow. Like a man. Like a WARRIOR. It burned, in every fiber of her being. Burned every time the pampered prince stepped away from a lesson in which she would have begged to partake.
Loki did not like the sword. Loki did not like the spear. Loki did not use a shield, as men did. Loki kept his precious white hands clean, whenever possible. He fought with the daggers she had mastered on her father’s estate as a girl. With the staff, like a peasant, when pressed. With his precious, womanly seidr, which few had ever possessed.
Sif fumed to herself. The Valkyrie were no more, and shield-maidens had fallen out of fashion. The field was not technically forbidden to her, but no one ever seemed to have time teach a woman.
Later, Lady Sif.
Not now, Lady Sif.
Don’t you have better things to do, Lady Sif?
But they always had time for him. He, who scorned the weapons of a true warrior, and kept to his princely self the instructors who could have been teaching her. Could she be blamed then, for imagining a pale, gamin face on the broken targets she was allowed?
A shadow fell over her arm.
“You are distracted, Lady Sif.”
Thor’s voice always seemed to echo just a bit lately. A faint rumble of distant thunder even when he spoke quietly.
“What troubles you?”
“What has my brother done to earn your ire?”
“This time,” was implied though not spoken.
“Nothing,” she ground out between clenched teeth, as she began the rhythmic attack-and-parry sequence against the training dummy again.
“NOTHING!” She threw the sword, piercing the already-broken practice dummy halfway through with the force of her anger.
“Nothing! He takes for granted all the gifts offered on this field. He scorns and walks away from the ways of a true warrior. The Allfather comes to observe us train, and you! You earn his praise, you sweat for it, your bones have broken for it, you bleed for it, but Loki? He gives nothing. He earns no praise because he gives nothing. And then he dares to pout, to look after your father with sad eyes, as though he has earned something. But he is nothing!!!”
Thor looked at Sif with a measured calm not often seen on his mobile face.
“I overlook the insult to my brother and my house, Lady Sif,”
Her breath caught as she realized the full import of what she had said, and to whom.
“…because I think that when you said ‘you,’ you meant ‘I.’ I believe it is you who have sweated, bled, and cried for the Allfather’s approval, and you who have not been given the recognition that you crave.”
Laid bare beneath the eyes of the Crown Prince, Sif swallowed nervously. The Destroyer had been called forth for lesser insult to the Royal House than she had just offered.
“If we speak of nothing, it is the world who sees nothing of Loki. He is not nothing. He has never BEEN nothing. And he excels in ways you cannot begin to understand, seeing only what you have of him. “
Sif ducked her head, ashamed. Her jaw clenched against the flush she could feel climbing her cheeks.
“But you. You are not nothing either. And you deserve to try your hand at the skills you crave. You are a woman, but if anyone says you cannot wield a sword, I shall refer them to your victim here.”
Sif’s head jerked up in shock, as Thor nodded with a sly smile toward the target in which her sword was stuck fast. Surely he did not mean….
“After all,” a huge arm dropped around Sif’s shoulder companionably, as Thor began to steer her towards the main practice field, and to the instructors that would not dismiss her when she arrived at Thor’s side, “not all things must be alike in form to be worthy in their function.”