Oh Mother, Where Art Thou?

Recorded: December 26, 2013
Characters: Balder, Heimdall (NPC), Loki, Kari (NPC), Thor
Location: Asgard - Palace Garden
Summary: It is up to the sons of Odin to find out what happened to the All-Mother.

The scene in the garden is unusual to say the least. At this hour, the rows of flower bushes should be resting in the cool darkness—Instead, they are bathed in the light of active lanterns held by busy guards. One pair of guards are hurrying along a crying maiden towards the palace interior, though the way they carry her roughly by the shoulders would confuse anyone just coming on the scene. An alarm should have been sounded long ago but at this hour and with what has transpired, the dazed assembly seem to see no point.

In the garden, the youngest son of Odin is kneeling on the ground, tears streaming down his face. He balls his hands into fists so tightly that his rather long nails draw blood. He smacks his palms onto the stone walkway, hanging his head and letting his long hair fall forward over his shoulders, obscuring his face. He grits his teeth again, sending out a mental shout to Thor, wherever he is. It sounds panicked, desperate and afraid, not like Loki at all.

"One of these days I will enter a room and you will not be bawling, whining, or throwing a tantrum of some sort. The seven realms will enter a new era of peace and prosperity when you learn what you are truly capable of." Thor growls from the darkness beyond the corridors. His massive form illuminates as he steps forward; flecks of jotunnblood marring his fair features. "What ails you?"

Loki takes a moment to catch his breath. "Mother…" he says at last. "A maiden allowed a Jotun to enter our realm. She betrayed us, and now mother is gone. She's GONE!" Loki sits back on his heels and balls his hands into fists, emitting a blood curdling scream of anger. "How could this HAPPEN? I should have been able to stop them! I failed and now mother is dead."

A serene moment blankets the space between the two as Thor slowly processes Loki's fractured summary. Words shed during the interrogation are weighed more heavily. "What do you mean dead?" Thor asks, muscles along his jaw beginning to twitch with the tension from his grinding teeth. "Where is her body? Where are the guards?!" He bellows, whirling back with a flutter of his cloak and howling into the halls. "Summon Heimdall!"

"Gone!" Loki exclaims. "She is gone! Disintegrated, obliterated, vaporized. GONE!" he pushes himself to his feet and brushes his hair back behind his ears. "Find out what Heimdall knows." Loki says in a dangerously low tone. "I'm going to the dungeon to interrogate our fair maiden of betrayal." and if Thor is in his way when he begins to move, he will throw a telekinetic shove at him to get him out of the way.

"We do this together!" Thor roars at Loki, thrusting a halting palm in the direction of his brother. "We have few souls with whom we can remove information; we must do so sensibly and without accusation. Hear Heimdall's words with me and, together, we can figure out what happened to mother!"

"Without Accusation??" Loki asks, glaring up at Thor. "You certainly wasted no time laying them upon ME. But I will hear Heimdall, and then we shall go to the dungeons. I, however, get to interrogate her first."

Just as Loki turns to take off, the Sentry of Asgard marches into the garden. He immediately drops to one knee and bows his head. "I came as soon as I was alerted," Heimdall grunts quickly, suppressing a fury he has felt since the guards told him what transpired under his watch.

"I know not where you acquired your information, Loki! We must be certain without a doubt in our mind before the princes of Asgard call any of her citizens a traitor!" Thor implores, turning to wave a hand towards Heimdall and indicate that he should rise. "Heimdall. We haven't the time for formalities. We must know what you know. What has happened and what has become of the Queen?"

"I watched her do it, Thor. She clasped something around mother's wrist and shortly after, she disappeared. I do not make accusations lightly, she betrayed Asgard in front of my own eyes."

Heimdall rises to his feet, but his gaze keeps to the stone walkway of the garden. "There are no words to describe my failure, prince Thor. Prince Loki." He looks between them with a grimace. "Body and soul, the All-Mother is nowhere to be seen."

It is truly a testament to his consistent trials and required diplomacy on Midgard that Thor is the level head of the pair. His heavy gaze shifts with a heavy nod at Heimdall's words. "Then our first task is to determine what the woman interacted with. For everything we know; with everything I have heard from the jotunn downstairs, we are being herded into a carefully set trap. The last thing Asgard needs to do is stand apart in the face of a jotuun incursion." Thor explains to his brother, extending his outstretched hand towards Heimdall. "This, for example, is the best news we can have at this moment. If Heimdall's distant sight cannot see mother's soul; what does that tell you, Loki?"

Loki has been in such turmoil lately that he was just pushed over the edge by this. "Heimdall cannot see the hidden pathways between the realms. Only I can. If he cannot see mother's body or soul that means she has been obliterated entirely, her soul consumed or absorbed by someone else."

Heimdall's celestial gaze dims in a narrow-eyed glare at Loki's implication before he offers Thor another salute. "If you have no more need of me, Thor, I will return to my post and continue my search."

"As you feel necessary." Thor dismisses, releasing Heimdall to the sentry's duty then striding towards Loki. "Once again, your arrogance blinds you to possibilities. You may be the most skilled sorcerer in Asgard; but, you only bear the mantle because mother wasn't born a man. If Heimdall cannot see mother at either end results that means one of two things. Either somebody has somehow stolen mother's soul or, what we must believe, she is still, somewhere, alive." Thor explains, lips creasing into a sneer. "I spent a lot of time hunting you through the realms Loki. A lot of time. In that time I learned many things; among them, I learned that there are ways to hide that which you wish to remain hidden. You know this well."

The Lord of Thunder raises a calloused palm to rub at the back of his neck while he scours the area. "Loki. If we are going to do this well we're going to have to do this together. You are now the greatest mage in our court. You have a keen intellect. I need to to divorce yourself from that rage like you would, in times past, have had me do. Together, and only together, we will figure this out. I need to know that you can do this."

Loki stands there seething for several moments, letting his eyes close for a moment. The wind blows his hair around, and he just takes a second to feel it upon his face, remembering back when he was training sorcery with Frigga as a child. "You do not need to remind me who is the greatest sorceress in the realm, brother. I am acutely aware of it, and I hold nothing against her because she is a woman. She taught me everything that led to me knowing what I know today."

Opening his eyes, he turns to Thor. "We will work together. I still intend to interrogate Kari first. This particular situation requires a bit of trickery to get answers."

"With the state of the jotunn I just spoke with, I tend to agree. You should interrogate the woman. Be cautious though; she may be an unwitting agent of another force." Thor remarks, mirth distinctively absent from his face. His form dips into a crouch as he runs a thumbnail along the floor. "We need to find any possible tools that can be used to create a breach between realms. An artifact of some sort; I would suggest that item you saw the woman clutch. This area; if you haven't already, try and scan it for traces of magic. I know you can scent it like a hound. There is a very strong possibility that the source is from either Jotunheim or Svartalfheim." He says, rising back to his feet and pitching a glare at the gathered guards. "Double the guard on the dungeon and add another contingent to the containment details on both the maiden and the jotunn. Have a runner inform the Warrior's three that I need them to range the vicinity around the castle then the boundaries near troll territory for anything out of the ordinary. Another runner to the Allfather with a summary of what has transpired. Tell him Loki and I will inform him of the situation completely after we determine what has happened." He barks out the commands, prying Mjolnir from his belt and storming towards the hall.

"Summon Prince Balder to the dungeons guard checkpoint. A final runner will instruct Skurge to ready his axe and don his armor. Loki will have work for him soon."

Loki stands watching Thor with a distant look in his eye as the blonde prince speaks. Once he is finished, however, he shifts into his leather armor and begins striding back toward the palace. Once he's a short distance away, he disappears to reappear in the dungeons. He wants a bit of a head start in intimidating the woman by staring at her through the window.

The dungeon is no place for one such as Kari. A recent wife and mother, returning to her prestigious role as one of Frigga's personal servants, never once dreamed that she would set foot in the palace dungeon to even visit a prisoner, let alone be relegated to it for crimes against her people. She's been in tears since the moment took place and continues to sob even now, filling the dank halls with the woeful sound of her despair. When Loki's visage becomes apparent through the window of her cell, Kari pushes herself back into a corner and pushes against the unforgiving stone wall. "Mercy, my prince… Please…"

"Mercy is not in my nature." Loki says, narrowing his eyes. "I suggest you begin speaking now," and suddenly he's on the inside of the cell. "or you will find out firsthand how very merciless I can be. Make your choice, woman. This is your only chance."

Kari's weeping begins anew, accompanied by the sorrowful clench of her tear-stained face. "It was not supposed to be this way… This was not supposed to be… The All-Mother… I have killed her…" She pulls at her own hair which has already come undone from the regal style of all the palace maidens.

Loki approaches in a few swift strides and grabs her by the front of her top, hauling her to her feet. "Speak, woman. Where did you meet the Jotun? What way was it SUPPOSED to be?" he pushes her back against the wall, grinding his teeth.

The rapid transition gives Loki just enough of a lead to rub the dagger into Kari's conscience before Thor rushes on scene. His fair brow seems darkened by a severe scowl. "Seal it behind me." He tells one of the guards outside the cell, letting himself in with a heavy grinding upon the rough lock. "Temperance." He warns, studying the woman while he moves to the other side of the room.

Kari lets out a frightened gasp at Loki's manhandling. When Thor enters the room, she immediately cries out to him, "Mercy, my prince! Mercy! I did not mean to be the engine of my queen's demise!"

"SPEAK!" Loki growls. "I will not ask you again! Where did you meet the Jotun and what was supposed to happen? Do not look to Thor for mercy. It is only because of him that your blood remains inside your veins."

Balder was announced by crack of sound and a point of light near a wall. He teleported in while striding, as if he'd simply walked through a door. One hand was hidden behind his back while the other rested on the hilt of his sword. He stopped short of the scene and just watched Loki, the corner of his lips pursed and eyes narrowed in the shadow of his helm.

"Take a moment to consider what we spoke of." Thor growls to Loki, turning back towards Kari and inhaling deeply. "I gave your husband my congratulations upon your new blood. He is a fine and stout warrior; as dedicated in his service to the crown as you have been to the queen. Please, Kari. Explain what has happened in your own words. Speak slow. Be thorough. Take your time."

Now the maiden finds herself cornered by three of Frigga's sons, and it is all she can do not to go into complete hysterics. Thor's words help to bring the frightened woman down to a communicable level, though she continues to cry as she speaks. "Mercy, my prince, I beg of you…. I would give my life for my queen, but the creature… she threatened Jary Stenson and my husband is away at battle." Kari takes another breath. "She promised me that it would not harm the queen… I should have known that it was a falsehood, but my son… He has only just begun to draw breath…"

"How did she know you had a son? Why did you not call for someone to hide your son away? Why betray the entire realm when the Jotun did not even know who or where your son was located? Where did you meet the Jotun? Why did you speak to her at all? Why did you not let her kill you for refusing to cooperate with her plans?"

Balder shifted on his feet and turned his fist around the hilt of his sword. "Loki, brother. Calm yourself and let the woman speak." Balder takes a step forward. Normally, it would just be a step, but this time it was more imposing, cementing his point. He was eager to get to the center of this conspiracy, surely, but as subtly as possible.

"These truly are things we need to know, Kari. Loki may be swift in his demands, but he is true in them. I understand that you were acting out of the fear that you may lose your child; you need to understand that we act out of the loss of our mother." Thor patiently explains, stepping back to avoid looming her into horrified silence. "We must also hear, with your attentions firmly planted upon detail, what you were told to do and what items you interacted with."

Kari can't seem to fix her mouth to answer Loki's barrage of questions. "She came into my home… I know not how she got there…" She looks between Balder and Thor with a rapid nod of her head. "She wanted me to place the bracelet on the queen's arm. She said it would only provide them with a means of observing her every move. I was to do it in secret, but when that moment did not present itself, she forced me to be her accomplice in the garden tonight." More tears threaten to wash her cheeks but she collects herself. "I wanted to warn the queen. My princes, I had prepared something to try and warn her!"

Loki lets her go, tossing her into the corner and walking away, a hand massaging his forehead. "She is lying. She made no attempt to warn anyone even when she was in close range to both myself and mother. She was a willing accomplice with the Jotun even after I rescued her from the beast. She could have run, she could have done a number of things and let mother and I handle the Jotun but she ensured we could not fight her off by killing the queen."

Balder produced the hand from behind his back. He pointed a finger at Loki, as if to scold him, "I said to let her speak. I care not for your emotional opinions right now, brother." He stepped near Kari and offered her his hand, "Besides… Even if she's lying, there's always a grain of truth in a liar's words." He doesn't exactly imply that he agrees with Loki, but he allows the possibility to remain. "Please, offer a defense for yourself," he told her.

Kari hesitates, but takes the hand that is offered to her. She rises to her feet and makes a subconscious effort to smooth her hair out of her face. "At my home, prince Balder. I have hidden an imprint of the bracelet in my cupboard. I wanted to scribe a message to the queen and present it to her, but this moment came before I could do so."

As the maiden explains herself further, a guard opens the door and offers a quick salute to the three brothers. "Prince Thor. Heimdall has sent word for you to see him at once. He says he has located… fragments, of the All-Mother's soul."

"Next time you summon us do not pass the contents of the message within earshot of prisoners." Thor growls with a tired sigh. A glare skims towards Loki as he heads for the door. "Stretch your legs with us this time." He calls, tone of voice indicating that it is less of a request. "Kari. While we are sorting this issue out you will need to remain here. While Sten is performing his duties we have already ensured that your son will be in the care of your mother."

Loki narrows his eyes at Balder. "Back off, brother. You are never here, and thus you have no idea what has transpired. " he storms up to Balder to bitch at him further when that guard comes in. He looks between the other Odinsons and whirls around, shifting back into his cloth armor. "Then what are we waiting for? Let's go."

Balder turned to Loki after he helped Kari. He stepped into Loki to cut his stride short. A stone wall. "I am only here, brother. I am only within these walls, I am only in Asgard. If only you were here more often, instead of traipsing about in Midgard." He spoke his words without hesitation, without a flounder. His voice was hard, eyes narrowed at his brother from beneath his helm. Even when the guard enters, he did not look away from Loki.

Kari nods sadly in response to Thor. "Thank you, my prince," she mutters as she slides down into her corner. Although it will pain her to be without her child, his safety will be assured, and in the end that is all that matters. The guard dips a bow of apology before turning to rush out of the room. He nearly stumbles as he overhears the words of one brother to another but quickly recovers and continues his return to Heimdall's post.

"Enough." Thor warns, voice dipping dangerously as he shoulders a path out the door. "We will listen to Heimdall's words once more. In the mean time, I'll have a runner retrieve the imprint and return it to your quarters, Loki." Thor explains, nodding to a guard as he passes to do as he just described. A quick salute and the man is marching towards another corridor.

Loki spins around and tries to back Balder into the wall, shoving the heels of his palms against his chest. "Where were YOU when I was killed to save our realm? Where were you when I was reborn? Where were you when mother was attacked? If you believe in this woman's innocence so much, maybe you should…should…GRAH!" he pounds his fist into Balder's chest and walks away, flicking a hand downward to port himself to the observatory. So much for stretching his legs with them.

"Balder. Is there anything else you can provide on the security leak? I understand that we have our quarry; I want to know how this happened and how we can prevent it from happening again."

Balder gave Loki no ground. "Staying out of trouble," he answered simply. He gave no attention to the guard, but he certainly did to Thor. Balder let Loki go without another word. He left with Thor and began filling him in, "A tall woman that no one recognized is the only usable clue I could uncover. I believe this may have been our quarry in disguise." He put his right hand behind his back again, and his left on the hilt of his sword.

With the All-Mother's whereabouts in full question, travel to the Bifrost Bridge is swift. Heimdall eagerly awaits the arrival of the princes but he keeps his gaze out into the universe, his eyes moving rapidly with some unseen object.

"We came as swiftly as we could." Thor calls across the observatory to the distant Heimdall. His gruff voice carries across the hall into a hollow echo. Sounds in the chamber always seemed to annoy him. "What have you found?"

Loki waits a bit down the Bifrost for the others, not having gone up to Heimdall just yet. He paces back and forth, hands behind his back, uncertain. The trickster is usually so confident and elusive. Today he is just a basketcase, perhaps proving that he truly is the 'little' brother. When Thor turns up, he falls into step beside them, eager to hear Heimdall's answer.
Balder stepped into the chamber with his brothers. He faded off to one sides and kept quiet while Thor spoke. There was nothing for the Asgardian warrior to do at the moment.

"I am still uncertain if the queen lives, but her soul has been made known to me again." Heimdall's eyes continue their focused tracing and he squints on occasion, peering intently into the vastness of space. "It was scattered in pieces, but those pieces are gathering themselves in a specific location." The Sentry turns and looks at the three brothers. "A storm on Jotunheim."

"How is this possible?" Thor asks of Loki while he remains transfixed upon Heimdall. "If they scattered her soul into a storm, can I gather and control it so we can be sure it does not fade?"

"The bangle," Loki says after thinking a moment. "The Jotun bitch must have taken it from somewhere knowing not what its true function was, and somehow fragmented mother's lifeforce. Going to Jotunheim directly and controlling a storm is a surefire way to ensure we will not recover her. We must use extreme caution, and stealth."

Balder cut his eyes to Loki as he spoke, but he remained on the edge of the group. "Perhaps that is why Thor wanted you to go study it, Loki." His eyes remained on the brother. "How much caution would you intend? Perhaps you could interrogate some Frost Giants, or maybe pound your tiny fists against the storm cloud?" His brow bounced as if to punctuate his little jab at Loki.

Heimdall holds up a hand to gain their attention. "Her soul was once scattered, but it is converging in the eye of the storm. The storm itself is unnatural and my gaze cannot penetrate it. Your power will not control this anomaly. It is of some other creation." He turns back to his post. "If you wish to investigate, I shall open the gate for you now. Her soul is almost completely gathered and the storm's power wanes."

"I would question the giantess not knowing the bangle would do this. She, in some way, knew something bad would happen. Rare is the day the jotunn wish to secretly gift us with a boon." Thor muses, moving towards the portal and waving a dismissive hand towards Loki. "If this is forming now we have no choice because we have no time. I won't have mother reappear with the hordes of Jotunheim ready to pounce. Enough of this bickering; we need to launch an assault." He states, reaching across his chest to tighten and inspect the straps on his armor. "Balder. Return to the throne and begin defensive preparations along our perimeter."

Balder pulls his arm behind his back again, left hand falling his hilt. He strides to the portal as if he hadn't heard a word Thor said. He offered him a wide, toothy smile and went through.

Loki glares at Balder, hissing as he speaks to Thor "I would suggest taking one of the hidden passages so the Bifrost is not seen or detected. If we take a skiff we can be there quickly. Have care how you speak, Balder, or have you forgotten that I too am a frost giant?"

Heimdall salutes the brothers and returns to his post. He will keep his eyes and ears on their actions, ready to bring them home whenever the signal is sounded. The gateway is open and will drop them all on the edge of the storm, where the next part of their journey awaits.

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