That… is a good question. [Laughing softly, he gently kisses the top of her head and rests his chin.] What dost thee want us to be?
I… I do not wish to impose, or be presumptuous, my lord… [Almost tenderly, she glances away, her cheeks reddening.]
She had heard it among the crowds, within the streets of the golden city of Asgard, laid to waste of battle, pillaging, mayhem, and death. The body was found, seemingly dead for days. Before the trickster god released the Wolf. Before Ragnarok. A spear laced on mistletoe had pierced his heart, and he had died instantaneously. He died… Died… Died…
Balder was dead.
It was strange. The Lady Nanna of Asgard should have known it had happened. The god of light’s death always marked the coming of Ragnarok. But she never thought of it; it had never occurred to her. Had the attack on Asgard made her forget of a death forever written in stone? Or was it love that had blinded her? They had just confessed their love for one another, a love that the Lady Nanna had once thought unrequited. They spoke with affection unbridled—and now he was dead. Her beloved Balder, another corpse that was in need of a pyre. She did not learn of it until she was in the midst of Ragnarok.
The Lady Nanna had been out, fighting alongside her sisters, her fellow Valkyries. She had been called to arms, and so she would fight. But seeing that the grand and golden city was being savaged and worrying for safety of her queen, the lady had departed from the field of battle in order to make certain that the All-Mother was well. Running through the streets, Nanna had fought and killed along the way, stopping to heal those she had found wounded or upon the point of death.
Truth be told, when Nanna was chosen to follow the footsteps of her mother and become a Valkyrie of the Valkyrior, she was conflicted. Though she had idolized her mother in the past, their relationship had grown strained and becoming a Valkyrie would not forge her own path but follow one chosen by Freya. She was content with her work as a healer. She did not seek glory nor did she seek valor, and she felt she was honored enough to be a one of the All-Mother’s selected handmaidens. And all Nanna had wanted was to help those in need. But being a Valkyrie was an honor above honors, and denying oneself the passage would have been an insult at best. And so, she followed a path preordained—her mother’s path and not her own, moving forward but always looking back at the past. If she had stayed a healer, she could have avoided bloodshed.
And if she had not been away, perhaps she could have saved him.
When she had heard the rumors of Balder’s death, she was in the middle of healing wounded children in the city streets. And all time seemed to cease. Her arms stiffened, her heart slowed, and all noise vanished in thin air. All that remained were the words repeating in her head endlessly, mockingly, devastatingly. Perhaps, the children called out to her to see if she was well. If they had, she couldn’t hear them. Her thoughts were consumed and her body was frozen. Balder… Balder… Balder…
“No,” came the faintest of whispers. ”No…”
Balder was dead, and she remained among the living. What worse punishment was there than that? If only she had been there—if only she could have saved him! If only… If only… She finished the last of the children, healing their wounds and setting them on their path. ”Run. Hide. And whatever you do, don’t turn back. Asgard shall have need of thy strength one day, but now is not that day. Run!” Those children… They would die whether they ran and hid or not. But Nanna wanted to believe they would live. Why, she wanted to believe that with all her heart. For all those that she healed. For everyone. Yes, she had been content with healing, with helping, with saving. Why had she turned from this path—why?
And then, she felt it. Steel entering her from her back, skin split open and blood and flesh exposed. Air shoved out from her lungs and her voice had transformed to the meekest of startled breaths. The Lady Nanna should have noticed the enemy coming behind her sooner. She should have reached for her blade— But the lives of others always came before her own. That was what it meant to be a healer of Asgard. That was what it meant when she had forged her own path.
Her body connected to the ground almost instantaneously, a pool of blood drenching her skin. She did not die an awe-inspiring or noble death in battle. She did not die defending another life. All that had happened was carelessness and bad timing.
Perhaps, if she had stayed in battle, she would have lived. Or perhaps, she would have died faster.
But all things ended in death at Ragnarok. Balder’s death. Asgard’s death.
And the death of the Lady Nanna.
I- [He laughs.] Nay, nay. ‘Twas a very good thing. I just-
[She smiles and kisses him back before pulling him into an embrace.] My lord, I… What art we now, exactly…?
Then I shall not finish it. But art thy sisters available, lady?
Goodbye, my lord.
I… [The gods smiles a bit sheepishly, a soft laugh escaping from his lips.] That ‘twas… certainly not what I hath expected.
[She blinks, wide-eyed.] … Was it a good thing or a bad thing? I shan’t do it again if it was bad.
It is when the nature of thy heart may include my brother.
[Raises his hands] Fine, fair enough. I’ll badger thee no longer. Thy sisters, on the other hand…
—If thou dost value thy life, thou shalt not finish that sentence, sir.
I have a brother who is fond of thee, a brother to whom I hold as dear as to myself. And I have made judgement, hasty or otherwise, to believe that thou art also fond of him as well.
So,wouldst thou be interested in courting the pure-hearted Balder, Lady Nanna?
[Nanna is speechless for a moment. She had thought the foolish Lord Hermod nearly meant himself until the words “brother” and “Balder” were mentioned. Swallowing, she glances away. She has no need of others deciding her heart.]
The nature of my heart is no concern of thine, my lord.