Kari was miserable, clinging to Thor’s cape as he half dragged her through the palace. The adults had been discussing her for a while longer in the library, the general consensus not being anything she liked the sound of. Wait for this childhood to wear off or grow up. Neither was appealing by their indeterminable length. Thor had briefly discussed aging her forcibly at one point, an idea that made her heart leap in hope, but was turned down swiftly by Frigga and Loki jointly. There was a lack of guarantee with where she would end up age wise – possibly even an elderly woman or dust.
Right now, however, the god of thunder was taking her to see her grandfather. It was decided, by yet another conversation she was unwelcome to participate in, that for the time being at least she would have to be under the supervision of a parental figure until she stopped acting like a child as well as looking like one. Fandral had been the obvious answer but it would also not be an easy topic to get into and so Thor had declared he would take charge of the task being the other man’s closest friend.
“I’m tired.” Kari whined, tripping over her feet a couple of times before slipping onto her rear still clutching hold of the blondes cloak - which only meant he was now dragging her across the heavily polished floor giggling all the way.
“What mischief has you now, Fandralkin?” Thor paused, the tugging on his cloak getting too much for him to ignore and lifted her back onto her feet by the collar of her tunic. “You should say if you have fallen.”
“I said I was tired but you ignored me!”
“It is difficult to hear someone so far away.” He feigned ignorance based on their difference in height.
“I’ll start calling you uncle Thor.” She threatened.
“I am not your uncle.” He laughed at the suggestion.
“You and granddad are shield brothers.” She shrugged. “So that makes you great-uncle Thor.”
“This does not sound well reasoned.” He frowned in thought. “A midgardian concept?”
“Yea- GRANDDAD!” Kari went wide-eyed in giddy wonder as she caught a glimpse of her Robin Hood-esk kin walking at the opposite end of the corridor. “GRANDDAD!”
Fandral paused, hearing the term he was now rather accustomed too and gave a confused stare towards the child bobbing up and down waving her arms. He looked from left to right, then behind him to check if someone else was being indicated but he was alone spare a couple of guards standing stoically at their posts. Looking for a second time, as the girl called to him yet again and scampered towards him, Fandral froze realizing with dread his hallucination had been quite real. Astonished and agitated, he threw himself backwards until colliding with an expensive looking vase to make contact with the wall and stared on as his granddaughter finally reached him throwing her arms around him.
“Granddad!” Kari squeezed the swordsman as tight as she could as he continued to gape down at her utterly befuddled. “I told you I’m not a hawucination!”
“A Hawuci-what?” Fandral looked up at Thor as he came to stand with them chuckling all the while at his friends helpless expression. “What is this madness, friend?”
“The madness is of Loki.” The other blonde indicated the short nature of the once taller woman.
“This is Loki?”
“I am not Loki!” Kari jumped back pouting up at her grandfather and rather offended by his accusation. “I look nothing like that rat!”
“Kari? My dear?” Fandral leaned over, all the better to see her and began tugging on her chubby cheeks. “Is that truly you?”
“Granddad!” She pulled out of his reach, rubbing her cheeks with both hands to limit the pinching pain. “Of course it’s me! I tried to tell you before but you just rolled over and started canoodling with that naked woman.”
“Naked woman?” Thor was intrigued.
“I never kiss and tell my friend.” Fandral chuckled until kicked in the shin. “Ow! What was that for, my dear?”
“This is sewious!”
“Weally?” He replied mockingly.
“Don’t make fun of me!” Kari sniffled, ducking her head under Thor’s arm. “Uncle Thor, granddad is being mean!”
“A midgardian concept.” Thor waved off the explanation as unneeded with how bizarre the humans could be. “Come, we should withdraw to your rooms and discuss this matter further.”
Both adults nodded somewhat solemnly to one another; a difficult discussion to be sure awaited them. Upon returning to his rooms, Fandral went about readying something strong and alcoholic for the men to drink whilst a cup of water was handed to a scowling little girl sitting on a chair much too big for her. She could not believe this; just because she was short they were treating her like a child. It was discrimination and prejudice and all that other politically correct stuff that would not go by unchallenged if she were back in London.
Kari groaned as she sipped her water and slid lazily into the back of her chair as the adults talked. Fandral had laughed at first about her predicament, finding the ridiculous nature of its occurrence humorous but as soon as Thor had reached the part where he was to be responsible for a child that quickly switched. He had paled, pouring himself another cup of wine and downing it before he felt comfortable to continue the conversation. It was simply not doable, he was no mother nor did he have a wife to look after a young girl and what about his adventuring? She could not stay with him. It was not possible.
Neither man had been aware as the smaller creature slipped from her chair and crawled silently across the floor past them out the door. Tears were falling but she made no sound to signal their pass as she hurried through the palace on her way outside. It had not occurred to her that her grandfather would say such things. She had heard it from strangers during her childhood sure, but always assumed if only they were family nobody would be so rejecting. How had she been so wrong?
Tripping on the steps, Kari paused to wipe the tears from her eyes and yowl a hissing annoyance at a bump on her knee. Her legs were constantly tangling up underneath her, how had she ever survived being a child the first time around? She sniffled once, wiping her runny nose on a sleeve and got back onto her feet before skipping down the rest of the steps with a melancholic purpose. Who knew where she was going, even she did not know but ignorance was not going to prevent her from going there.
She ran through the streets of the city, twisting in and out of scary adults ways as many a goliath almost stepped on her. Being a child was really hard; again she wondered how she had survived the first time round. Would she really have to grow up again? All that awkward, pimple wielding, angry, confused, melodrama and school coming back to tease and torment her all over again – just after she had escaped it too. This could not be happening. Maybe it was all just a cheese-induced dream? Yeah, with her luck, no way.
Bumping, tumbling and finally finding herself outside the city, Kari ran full pelt once more into an open field lush with green grass and flowers. The perfect place to escape to and not be found by prying adults. She spun in circles, fell to the ground getting covered in grass stains and rolled down a hill until exhausted and left staring up at clouds. Ok, being a child again was not too bad when you could do stuff like that and not get funny looks. Kari chuckled at her own musing, tracing the shape of a cloud above with her forefinger and determining it to be a fluffy chicken.
Sitting up, the sounds of running water reached her ears and she looked around wildly for the source. Lifting herself, Kari began to follow the scent and ran further across the open space until what appeared to be a very deep looking river came into view. She ‘oohed’ at the dangerous quality of the racing wetness, clambering down onto the bank to get a closer inspection and finding herself on a short strip of stone and driftwood covered ground. Picking up a stone, she flung it into the water with a satisfying ‘plunk’ and giggled at the ridiculousness of what she was doing. Further along the bank she could see a group of other children playing some sort of game involving sticks and fighting. She turned back to her game of throwing stones only to find herself shouted at by a very boisterous sounding boy.
“Hey! Want to come play?”
“I dunno!” She shouted back, the group finding interest enough to start strolling over to her now.
“Why not?” The boy, a copper haired, smudge covered rascal looking type frowned at her balancing a stick on his shoulder one-handed.
“I dunno what you’re playing.”
“Just warriors and Jotun.”
“Is she stupid?” Another boy asked aloud as the rest of the group sniggered at her question.
“Shush you lot.” Smudge-covered-rascal, scolded as he stepped closer still unafraid of the strange looking girl wearing boys clothing. “Frost giants, you know, big scary blue monsters with red eyes that live in the snow.”
“Oh.” Kari feigned knowledge she did not have.
“I am Garthar Engarson.” Garther introduced himself as several others started shouting out their names as well in a jumble of syllables wishing to be known.
“Uh… I’m Kari… Fandralkin…” She inwardly cursed herself for using his name as her own but then again this was asgard and a bunch of asgardian children probably would not understand why her real last name was Motter.
“Like Fandral the dashing?” A mousy-faced fat boy, she thought might have been called Dagur or something, suddenly got very excited.
“Yeah, he’s my uh… grandfather.” She shrugged as if it were nothing to be proud of but by the loud wowed sounds coming from the group of boys it was apparently a very big deal.
“Really? Is that why you are wearing boys’ clothes? Are you training to be a swordsman like Fandral the dashing too?”
“My grandfather is a horrible, alcoholic, philanderer with no morals and even less scruples about dumping his children to continue his nihilistic ways.” Kari ground out, arms folded as the group of children cocked their heads at her little rant.
“What is a philanderer?” Dagur looked to the others for answers.
“I think it is a type of lizard.” Another boy answered followed by several ‘oh’s’ from the crowd.
“So you want to play or not?” Garthar tried to get them all back to their very important task for the day.
“Uh… sure ok.” She shrugged as several of the boys grinned and cheered holding their sticks aloft.
“You can be the captured maiden that we have to rescues from the evil Jotun!”
“What? Why do I have to be the hapless woman?”
“Because,” Garthar shrugged his shoulders feebly, “you are a girl and only boys are warriors.”
“Sif is a warrior and she’s not a boy.”
“True that.” Garthar chuckled. “Fine you can be my second and help us rescue the maiden Dagur.”
“Ow, I hate being the girl!” Dagur complained.
The children split up into Jotuns and asgardian warriors, Dagur at the back of the Jotun group’s camp sitting arms folded and pouting on a rock pretending to be a prisoner of war. Just his luck, when they finally get a girl to play with them he still has to be the damsel in distress. Garthar disappeared for a moment, returning with a second stick for his new friend and then things had started to get very noisy as each side began wailing battle cries and childish threats at one another. Apparently even asgardians had ‘yo mama’ insults which greatly amused Kari; her ribs began hurting from laughing so hard.
When the battle finally started, it was mostly a lot of wailing, vocal sound effects of explosions and hitting each other’s sticks clumsily. The mess of the scenario did not take away from the lunacy of fun. It raged on for a few hours, Garthar managing to lift Dagur onto his back and run him back to the asgardian camp twice only to have the hapless would-be-woman get stolen by a Jotun each time. It was glorious mayhem and Kari even found herself having a lot more fun than she remembered occurring when she was really ten.
All good things come too an end, however, as several parents appeared above the riverbank calling to their wayward sons to follow them home for dinner. They soon lacked the manpower to effectively continue their game, Garthar and Dagur being the last two not to leave her alone. They were throwing stones into the river now, Garthar trying to skim flatter rocks across the surface of the water in several jumps as Dagur pestered her for stories about her grandfather. She had very little to say on the subject, which he found aggravating thinking she was hiding juicy knowledge from his ears. As a consolation, Kari tried to teach them some of the sword stances Fandral had been teaching her; both boys copying her movements with an extreme level of concentration. It was serious business to learn skills in weaponry for future warriors.
Finally, parents appeared for the last two boys as they scampered away waving farewell from the top of the bank before disappearing from view. Kari sighed, dropping down onto a half buried boulder and groaned at the river in front of her. This was an all too familiar scene, a lone child waiting to be found and yet nobody had ever come to collect her except maybe a social worker to take her to the next foster home or boarding house. Even with a second chance, things never changed, not really.
She wept, streams of tears cascading down her cheeks and soaking her sleeves as she tried desperately to control the flood with closed fists. Shaking, pained noises and internal muscle strain overwhelmed her enough to make her deaf and blind to the world. She did not care anymore, only felt a deep-rooted sadness she was no longer able to reasonably manage with the lesser emotional control of a child’s mind.
There was a thud somewhere behind her that neither distracted her from her task nor seemed important. She covered her ears when she thought she heard her name, hallucinations did not have names. Head shaking from side to side over and over again only stopped when she felt the need to gasp at the pressure of a hand gripping her shoulder. She hiccoughed, sniffled and wiped further snot onto her sleeve before turning and looking up with too big eyes.
“Kari, my dear.” Fandral sighed in a mixture of relief, worry and exacerbation; children were tiring and elusive beasts.
“Granddad.” She hiccoughed again, leaping up to standing and flinging herself against him in one solid bound.
He was startled at first, unsure hands wrapping themselves around the smaller figure with several pats on the head. She could not believe he had come for her. Someone had finally come for her.