“Tin roof! Rusted!”

Hans watched as Seidr stirred a pickle in her bowl and pulled it out covered in cream. She munched on it in obvious pleasure.

“I’ve heard of pregnant women wanting pickles and ice cream before, but I really don’t see how you can eat that stuff.”

“Pregnant? This has nothing to do with my being pregnant. I’ve always loved pickles and cream.”

≪Ffft. A perfect waste of cream, in my opinion.≫

“So you are pregnant.”

Seidr had another pickle and nodded. “Mmm Hmm. I’m sorry, My Darling, it’s proper form among aelfkin, light and dark, to ask consent before conceiving, but I’m afraid I was purposefully vague.”

Seidr looked down as she stirred another pickle. “Just before Gná took you I was going to tell you everything. The truth is, I didn’t have the best of intentions when I saved you from Jormungand. I watched that snake beat and crush you and did nothing while I tried to decide if you would suit my purposes. I was almost too late.”

Hans nodded knowingly. “Gná implied as much. She says it was something you did that kept her from pulling me out.”

Seidr scowled. “That was a particularly powerful portal she used to get you there. It had to be to bring you from Midgard and get past Loki’s wards. That’s what got my attention in the first place. I’ve underestimated her recently, but I still can’t believe she would have had the power left to open a portal going across a room, much less retrieve you. Not so soon. But, then, her magics differ from my own. So, I shouldn’t judge.”

Hans crossed his arms and leaned back. “So you saved me from the wurm so that I could give you a child?”

Seidr reached out to him, pulling gently on his arms. “It’s why I saved you, yes. The child I carry will be powerful. Perhaps even strong enough to slay the giant, Thiassi, that holds my people in thrall. That’s why I wanted you.

“But to get what I wanted, you had to live. So I used a spell to steal vitality from a lover and reversed it upon myself. For it to work, you had to love me.”

She sighed, “I’d heard those words many times, even from the fool that tried using the same spell to steal my own life-force. But you looked at me and truly loved me. And I was changed.”

She let go and looked down. “I can’t undo any of that, and if it meant spending one less moment in your arms, I wouldn’t want to. I saved your life. I’ve been loved by you. And I carry your son. Now that you know the truth, if you don’t love me anymore, I would understand.”

Looking him in the eye, she said, “But I swear to you, I’ll love you for all my life. I will be a good mother to your son, and his destiny will be his own choosing.”

Hans nodded knowingly, again. “I see only one problem.”

She looked at him through her lashes and asked, demurely, “Only one?”

Hans offered a half-shrug, palms up. “You’re going to have to stop making excuses to yourself for doing the right thing.”

≪I’m starting to like him.≫

Seidr sulked, arms crossed. “Oh? Now you’re teasing me.”

Hans’ eyebrow twitched suggestively. “I plan to tease you more, soon as I find a feather.”

≪Scratch that.≫

“Ooh. Sounds like fun.” Seidr clapped her hands together.

“Hey you two, get a room.” Jinsoku entered the room grinning.

“I have a room, but someone else was using it,” Hans teased back.

Jinsoku blushed, for the first time in Hans’ memory.

“That would, um, be the bedchamber that was closest to the bathhouse?”

“Yes.” Hans drew his reply out, nodding slowly.

“Sorry, Dude. Heat of the moment and all. Y’know?”

Jinsoku cleared his throat. “You, uh, wanna introduce us?” he asked, tilting his head toward Seidr.

“Hasaki, this is Seidr, the woman I love. Seidr, this is my, ahem, oldest friend, Hasaki.”

Jinsoku took Seidr’s hand. “It is a pleasure to be introduced to one so lovely.”

“I’m pleased to meet you as well,” said Seidr.

Her eyes widened as Jinsoku kissed her hand. She yanked it back.

≪You still got it, girl!≫

Hans explained, “Hasaki hasn’t quite caught onto the fact that this isn’t the Age of Chivalry. It’s a sign of respect.”

Seidr rubbed her hand as if stung. “Ah, that custom. I thought it was no longer practiced. Thank you, Friend Hasaki, but among aelfkind that is a proposition.”

Jinsoku gaped. “So that explains . . .”

He shook his head and sat down. “Not quite the homecoming I was expecting. Introducing my two best friends to war wasn’t what I had in mind at all. How are you holding up, Madison?”

Hans’ shoulders rose and fell as his head dipped to one side and back up. “I’m doing better. Especially after my bath. A good night’s sleep should do me wonders.”

Seidr chimed, “If I let you get any.”

Jinsoku sighed. “I came here to see if there was anything to eat. Hey, is that pickles and cream?”

Seidr pulled her bowl away. “I’m sorry my lord, but us sharing food from the same bowl would be unseemly. I’m sure there’s plenty in the kitchen if you don’t mind waiting. It would be my pleasure to get you some.”

“Really? About sharing I mean.”

“Very much so. I can only share with my true love.” Seidr offered a pickle to Hans. “It’s of course a great insult to refuse.”

Hans muttered, “I’m going to use two feathers,” and ate the pickle with a grimace, which changed to surprise. “OK. Not as bad as I expected, but I reserve the right to run if peanut butter ever gets involved.”

They were all laughing when Kiet poked her head in the door.

“My apologies for the intrusion. Friend Hasaki, My Lady bids you join her in her chambers. She would speak with you.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Seidr handed Jinsoku her bowl. “Forget propriety. You’re going to need the energy.”

Jinsoku bowed. “I guess this is good night. Pleasant dreams.” Then he left.

Seidr turned to Hans, “So, do we head for your chamber or scandalize the kitchen staff?”

≪Yes, get it out of your system, please.≫

Hans checked the stability of the chair he was sitting in and shook his head.

“Let ’em go take a number . . .”

* * *

Kiet lead Jinsoku into Gná’s chamber, taking his bowl before she left. It was a simple enough room, but with a good size bed. He hoped that wasn’t why he’d been invited. Za held all his interest.

Gná sat in a chair at one end of a table. Pieces of a broken mirror were laid out on it as though they were a jigsaw puzzle.

“You wished to speak with me, my Queen.”

Gná stood and walked to Jinsoku, taking his hands in hers. “We are alone, Friend Hasaki. You may dispense with the formality and call me Gná,” she said, as she led him to the chair at the table.

“It would be my pleasure, Gná.”

Gná smiled. “Much better. Please sit.”

Jinsoku figured he’d get the hang of protocol here sooner or later. He wasn’t used to sitting before a lady, but made himself comfortable. She sat too.

“Hasaki, do you know your aelf name?”

Jinsoku shook his head. “No. No, I don’t.”

Gná offered a sympathetic frown. “Sadly, I fear it may never be known. Those records were lost many years ago.”

Jinsoku shrugged. “Hasaki has been my name all my life. It honors those I called Father and Mother. So I will never regret carrying it.”

Gná smiled slightly. “I am glad then, that you are content. But this is not the reason I called for you. You have met Madison’s dark paramor?”

Jinsoku replied, half in protest, “She seemed a pleasant and charming woman.”

Gná placed her hands on the table, one over the other, and heaved a sigh. “Charming describes her quite well.

“Though each denies it, I remain concerned that she has set some enchantment upon your friend. She is Dökkálfar, and foreign to this realm. We cannot completely trust her, simply because we can never understand her.”

Jinsoku didn’t show the frown he felt. “I’ve heard such arguments before, My Lady.”

Gná leaned forward and looked him intensely in the eye. “Consider this, Hasaki. Seidr is one of few to know the hidden ways to my hall’s vale. The very morning after I retrieved Lord Madison from her clutches, when no one else of this realm could make a portal, my domain was invaded. No sooner are we fled and settled here, than she appears, with no concern for any save her Madison. She loves him I believe, but I worry for any that come between him and her.”

Jinsoku felt transfixed by her gaze. “Is it not possible that Gordon and I are at fault, due to the portal we caused?”

She continued to hold his eye. “That was my consideration, but I am versed in these matters and I am certain it did not reveal our location. That leaves chance, betrayal by one of my own, or dear Seidr. You would do yourself and your friends a service to watch her closely. If she is our friend, then it can do her no harm, but if not, you would at least not have your back to her.”

Jinsoku nodded, as if accepting her argument. “I learned long ago the art of keeping my back to the wall, My Queen.”

Gná brightened. She stood and led him back to the door. “I am glad you understand, Hasaki. Now, let us bid each other good evening. We are still unsettled and I will have many tasks that I will ask of you and Lord Madison tomorrow.”

Jinsoku stood and almost bowed. “Good night, My Lady.”

Gná smiled. He wasn’t sure why that scared him.

“Good night, Friend Hasaki.”

Jinsoku stepped out of Gná’s chamber. After the door closed he sank against the wall. “I understand all too well, My Lady.”

* * *

Hans and Seidr lay in bed together in the darkness.

Seidr nuzzled up to Hans’ ear and whispered, “I have something important to tell you.”

“Oh?”

“I, now possess, THE FEATHER!”

≪Oh, good grief.≫

The noise woke Dave, and the elf with number 12, who got her turn that night after all.

Next: CHAPTER 19–REFRESHMENT

http://www.tmi-comic.com/web-novels/aelfheim/
Copyright AndyOH! (Andrew F. Odendhal)
Not for redistribution. All rights reserved. 
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.