“Oh fuck.” It was twenty minutes to closing and the place was deserted, except for the bartender. She snapped her fingers and the sign flipped from open to closed. “I told you to stay out of here.”
“Relax, Sigyn,” said Sif. “He’s with us.” Sif shook her hair loose from her cloak, and four beer steins sprang onto the bar. “What ‘s on tap?”
Sigyn stared at the mugs for a few seconds. “The Sam Adams isn’t bad.” She regarded Loki with lowered eyebrows, while he looked at everything in the room except his wife. She turned to Sif. “Why would it matter who he came in here with? The Allfather himself could bring him, and I wouldn’t want him back.”
Loki turned and walked to the door. “You see?” he said to Thor. “I told you, she’s not ready.”
“Sit down and tell me what you’re doing here.” Sigyn curled her hand into a fist and pulled her husband into a chair without moving near him. Then she filled the steins and carried them to the table. She nodded to Thor and Sif. “Sit,” she told them.
Loki said, “I have spoken with Fenrir. He is the last…”
“I do not wish to hear about your other children. Your living children.”
Behind the bar, a dog whined. More wolf than hound, it padded up behind Loki and nudged his hand. He looked down and slowly stroked its soft fur. Sigyn glared, but did not speak. Loki got out of his chair and knelt stroking the animal’s back and finally holding its face so their eyes met. “Is there any of you left in there Valí?” The dog whined and tugged its face away.
Sigyn said, “Some. He knows you anyway.”
“And at least like this he doesn’t blame me.”
“And if he did, at least he’d be alive to do it.” Sigyn took a long pull of beer.
Thor said, “Enough. You are angry. We will be brief.”
“How long did I sit beside you?” Sigyn half rose. “How many years did I hold that basin above my head and listen to you scream when the venom struck you because the basin was full and wanted for emptying?”
Loki rubbed one scarred cheek, but didn’t answer.
“Only for you to rise up and join with others who were not your wife. We will meet on the battlefield, Loki, and I will…”
“Enough,” Thor repeated. “Loki, speak your mission.”
Loki rose and then sat back in his chair. From under the table, he produced a duffel. He said, “I have Narfi’s head, body, and soul. Every one of those others gave me something. Hel collected his essence for me. Fenrir got me his bones, and Jörmungandr found his sinews. They did this because I am their father, and because I was their father before I ever met you.
“The others, the ones I went to after I was freed, they did not cooperate for love alone. The stallion gave me Narfi’s skin and I paid for it by becoming a mare and bearing his daughter. That daughter is Sleipinir, and because I am her mother, she drew out Narfi’s hair from the earth where it was buried. The troll for whom I was a milkmaid found me his two eyes and rendered them whole again. If I have betrayed you, I am sorry. But I am carrying our second son in this bag. He may yet wake to blame his father.”
While Loki spoke, the others drained their beer, and Sigyn went to the bar to draw them more. She didn’t return to the table. She stood at the tap shaking her head. “Narfi?” she said, “In that bag?”
Under the table, the dog whined again, then got up and went to the door. It reared up on both legs and opened the door. Loki said, “Stay Valí. You aren’t at fault. You were made to kill him, and it is my guilt to bear until Ragnarök.” Valí dropped back down on all fours and padded outside, closing the door with a rear foot. Loki shook his head. “I need his guts, Sigyn. I need Narfi’s guts. Will you give them to me?”
Outside, Valí barked sharply, and something crashed against the outside wall. Sigyn ran to the door, and when she opened it, Valí came back in, a broken-necked raven clutched in his jaw. He dropped it at Sigyn’s feet.
She spun on her heel and waved Loki under the table. He seized the duffel and dove out of the way. Thor took Loki’s beer for himself and Sif flicked her hand so that one of the other three steins vanished behind the bar, leaving only two foaming drinks waiting for Sigyn to carry them back to the table.
The raven jerked its neck back into alignment with its body, then jumped to its feet, and Sigyn scooped it up. It struggled in her grip, but she did not let go. She turned and held it high in the room. Sif and Thor both nodded to it as its gaze swept over the table. Sigyn turned the bird to face her. “See?” she told it. “My brother-in-law and his wife have come to down beer with me on the anniversary. Go back and tell the Allfather there is nothing to see in my bar.” She flung it out the door. Valí thumped his tail against the wall. “Good boy,” she said.
Loki came out from under the table and took his seat once more.
“Must it be tonight?” Sigyn asked.
“Tonight or this night next year, or the one after that, or…”
“The anniversary of his death, then.”
“You will guard the doors?” Sigyn looked to Thor and Sif, who nooded. “And you,” she looked to Valí, “will try not to eat him this time?” The wolf dog whined. Sigyn turned to Loki. “Then come,” she said. “The guts are downstairs. But I have not forgiven you. And I will not. Not until Ragnarök.
I gave Michael this prompt: The narrow world exploded with colors.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.