“Sif, escort the human to her living space.” Odin said. “I have business to attend to.”
Although she was curious to discover what that business might be, Natasha followed Sif without saying anything. She wasn’t particularly surprised when a pair of men dressed similarly to Sif appeared and began walking with them.
“This is Fandral and Volstagg.” Sif said. “I can only assume that you are Natasha Romanoff. Thor told us about you.”
Natasha realised that she hadn't actually ever given her name. It would have been useful, she supposed, if no one had recognised her. That would mean that there would have been a chance for Loki to give himself away. Still, she couldn’t help but wonder what Thor had said. “Yes, I am. He told me about you three, as well.”
“He said that you could fight.” Fandral said, clearly amused by the concept until he caught Sif glaring at him coldly with her hand reaching for her spear.
Sadly, Illyria had transported Natasha here without giving her the time to bring anything. This meant that she only had a smattering of knives and a couple of guns secreted on her person, and she had no way of replacing her ammunition. She doubted that a gun would do all that much against an Asgardian, but it would certainly show them that she wasn’t some fragile maiden. Of course, she could play the weak damsel card – Loki would be the only one to suspect that she was acting – if only Thor hadn't told these people about her.
“Don’t mind him.” Sif said, still glaring at Fandral. “He’ll probably challenge you at some point. He’s had a little trouble adjusting to womenfolk besting him. He's still sore from that time that I bounced him off the walls.”
Fandral frowned. “I don’t recall that. Which time do you speak of?”
Sif smirked. “Any time we’ve ever sparred.”
Before Fandral could counter, Volstagg interjected. “I hear that there is a banquet later. Perhaps we could hurry up before it’s all eaten?”
Fandral clapped him on the shoulder. “Relax! It would take a legion of men such as yourself in order to devour a banquet thrown by Odin. There will be plenty of time for food for you.”
Odin walked alone to Heimdall’s post guarding the Bifrost. He grinned, remembering the day that he had forced Thor to shatter it. Of course, he had been wearing a different face in those days. Perhaps there could be a time when he could return to it, but Odin, previously known as Loki, couldn’t envisage a way in which that would ever be possible. So he kept Odin’s face at all times.
Despite this, he was always somewhat wary of visiting Heimdall. Heimdall’s senses were incredibly acute – if anyone was going to uncover his deception, it would be him. Certainly not that red-haired Midgardian wench. Still, he had need of those acute senses now. Hence the visit.
“How did she get here?” Loki said, without preamble. He didn’t bother to explain who he was talking about. He knew that there were ways to avoid Heimdall’s sight, but they were few and far between.
“It was very strange.” Heimdall replied. “It seemed as though there was a distortion, a rippling that echoed throughout space. I have never seen the like.”
“Yes, yes.” Loki said testily. “But I need to know how it was done. If someone can enter the throne room like that, then nowhere on Asgard is safe. What dark magic was employed?”
“I am fully aware of the implications to our security. I remember the Frost Giants that your adopted son smuggled past me.” Heimdall said blandly. “But I do not know how the transportation was effected. It would appear that the Midgardian was sent here by something known as an Old One.”
Loki blinked, as much as it was possible to do that with only one eye. “Surely it cannot-“
“No. She does not seem to be on the same order as them. But then I would not have supposed that she was capable of transporting someone in the way that she did, either. I will watch proceedings on Midgard, and inform you if I see anything conclusive.”
“Good. You do that.”
Odin left, leaving Heimdall to observe events back on Earth.
Willow stared at the space that, according to Dawn, had recently been filled by Natasha. “You’re sure that Illyria teleported her?”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “No. I could be mistaken. Come to think of it, there were a lot of blue people around that day – I guess I could’ve gotten them mixed up…”
“Very funny.” Willow said, frowning. She tentatively raised her hand, pushing it at the air in a half-hearted gesture before letting it drop back down to her side.
“What’s the problem?” Dawn said, seriously. She’d get in big trouble if it turned out that Illyria had sent Natasha to somewhere completely different.
That was the question. In terms of magic, Willow was very, very good at the practical aspect, but not so much with the sensing. She guessed that she was like Buffy in that regard – even amongst Slayers, Buffy was a good fighter, but she very rarely if ever sensed demons when they were around. If Willow focused, she could normally feel a slight tingling sensation on her skin if magic had been done in the vicinity. Here, she couldn’t feel anything. “Have you asked Illyria what she did?”
“Do I really
have to roll my eyes and say something sarcastic again, Will? Of course I asked her, but you know Blue. It’s like getting a massage from the First.”
Willow blinked, thrown by the unusual analogy. “Well, whatever she did, it wasn’t magic. I can figure out where Illyria sent her… probably… but I don’t know how
she did it. Maybe you could try asking her again?”
“Maybe if I left her in a room alone with Andrew and promised to let her out if she told me…” Dawn said thoughtfully.
Willow grinned. “I think she’d probably use Andrew as a battering ram to break out before she would say anything.”
Dawn waved a hand at the empty space. “Go ahead. Do your thing. See if you can figure out where the Black Widow ended up.”
Willow hesitated. She was fairly sure that she could work out where Natasha had gone, but it was darker magic than she liked using these days. It wasn’t out and out black magic, but it was definitely on the darker shade of grey. On the other hand, it wouldn’t actually hurt anyone, so…
Willow held out her palm, and a little disc that seemed to be made out of light appeared on it. It always irritated her that spells on the darker side of the scale were so easy to cast, whilst white magic meant that she had to memorise chants and hand gestures. It didn’t seem fair.
The disc floated gently towards the spot where Natasha had stood. As it did so, it became distorted, its shape being warped by the eddies of the disturbance that was undetectable to Willow’s magical sense.
Then it disappeared, and Willow hunched over as though she had been punched in the gut. This was because that was more or less how she felt.
Dawn instinctively reached out towards her, only to recoil as she felt the sheer cold that Willow was suddenly radiating. Water was condensing out of the air and freezing in Willow’s hair, and her lips were turning blue and her teeth were chattering. She looked like someone who had been out wondering through the Arctic tundra for days. Willow, for her part, didn’t even seem to have noticed. Her eyes were focused on something that Dawn couldn’t see.
Then, suddenly, she blinked, and the cold stopped. Willow straightened, hand going to her hair, coming away wet. “Wh-what happened? Why is it suddenly freezing?”
Dawn shrugged. “I don’t know. Your little disc thing vanished, and then boom, instant ice age.”
Willow frowned. She guessed that the cold was an unintended side effect of the spell. Well, she certainly wouldn’t be using it again. She shivered. She was a Californian girl. She didn’t do well with cold.
“Anyway, what did you see?” Dawn said curiously.
Willow shrugged. “Vikings. You know, horny helmets, drinking from horns, feasting, that kind of thing.”
Dawn grinned. “Certainly sounds like a lot of horns.”
Willow groaned. Dawn had definitely been spending too much time with Faith.
Natasha was being led to the banquet hall after having been shown her rooms when there was a slight earthquake, barely enough to rattle a tea cup. Natasha didn’t pay it any mind – she’d been in worse – but her companions paused.
“I do not like these tremors.” Volstagg muttered.
you get here, anyway?” Sif said suddenly. She’d been so preoccupied with Natasha’s theory that Loki was still alive that she hadn't given any mind to how
Natasha had managed to get to Asgard to give that theory.
Natasha blinked. They'd been discussing what Loki might be up to, and the sudden shift was a little disorientating. On top of that, it had seemed like there was a link between the earthquake and her arrival, at least in Sif’s mind. “Was there a quake when I got here? I thought that was just me.”
Sif nodded. “Asgard does not have quakes.” She stumbled a little over the unfamiliar word. “But there was one when you appeared.”
Natasha thought about that a bit. She wondered if Illyria had caused some kind of shift on Asgard by transporting her here. She also wondered about the geology of Asgard, if it didn’t get earthquakes. Or asgardquakes, she supposed. Stark probably had a legion of geologists that would kill to find out.
Still, there was nothing she could do about that. She didn’t even know for sure what was causing the quakes. For all she knew, Loki could be behind it. She should just get on with the task at hand.