Meshigumee stepped out of the arch, her bare feet crunching the snow under her and sending a jolt of cold through her. “Blast you, you fiend,” she said, her words turning into a cloud in front of her. Her arch had appeared in the middle of a forest; she was surrounded by tall, narrow pine trees that formed an overlapping canopy above her, while smaller junipers and spruces were gathered close to the forest floor. Despite that, snow was falling from the grey sky. The snow had already accumulated heavily, with drifts almost as tall as she was.
“Bloody snow,” Meshigumee muttered. Why couldn’t Loki have picked a more hospitable location for her sphere?
Meshigumee stopped when she saw the saber cat blocking her path. The saber cat’s long teeth were yellowed and glinted in the moonlight, and its fur was grey with darker stripes, though the tips of its muzzle, ears and feet were almost black.
“Why hello there,” Meshigumee said, folding her hands in front of her. The saber cat was the largest Meshigumee had ever seen, with its shoulders reaching almost to Meshigumee’s chest. “Where’s your mother?”
The saber cat stared at Meshigumee with its unblinking blue eyes.
“I am Meshigumee, the All-Mother of the Great Waters of the World. I’m presuming that you’re, Sunjkothi the World Eater. I am wishing to speak with your mother, Loki Goodfellow.”
Sunjkothi’s breath fogged in front of her nostrils. Without a sound, she turned and began to walk away. After a few steps, she stopped and turned her head to look at Meshigumee. Meshigumee took several steps forward, and Sunjkothi kept walking, leading Meshigumee deeper and deeper into the forest. After several long minutes, Meshigumee saw a faint light ahead of them. As they drew closer, she saw that it was a fire underneath a massive ash tree that was at least two or three chains tall, and despite the season, it still had its leaves.
The fire had been built in a small clearing underneath the wide expanse of the ash tree’s leaves. Meshigumee saw that there were several bodies hanging from the lower branches. Their clothing was old and tattered, and each one had a bag pulled over their heads. She looked up, and sitting in the branches were scores–hundreds, maybe–of albino barn owls with feathers as white as snow and eyes as red as blood.
Djidwewin, messengers of Loki Goodfellow.
“I almost didn’t see you approaching,” a voice said from above.
Meshigumee looked up and saw a large, red eye staring down at her. She subconsciously smoothed out the folds of her robe; the fabric was white with pale silver scrollwork and runes stitched into it, while the tips of the long sleeves and the hem gathered around her feet were black. “Hello, Loki Goodfellow,” Meshigumee said. “It’s been too long since we’ve spoken. I wish to speak with you as an equal.”
“An equal, heh?” Loki asked. “How many millennia has it taken for you to admit that?”
Meshigumee bit her tongue to stop herself from trading barbs with Loki.
“You want something from me, don’t you? Heh, can’t be helped, I suppose.”
Loki jumped down from her perch somewhere in the tree and landed in front of Meshigumee. She was half a hand taller than Meshigumee, but was slender and willowy–almost as if a stiff breeze could know her over. One eye was red, while the other was hidden by an eye patch, which covered angry scar tissue. She dressed as a mortal would: leather jacket, plaid shirt, ripped jeans and heavy boots.
“Here we are, as equals,” Loki Goodfellow said, smirking. Sunjkothi walked around Loki and curled up next to the fire. “Have you come here to extend an apology to me?”
Meshigumee’s eyes narrowed. “An apology? What…” she stopped herself and shook her head. “What has happened has happened, and it cannot be changed.”
“Heh, convenient for you to say,” Loki said.
“I see you’ve been in the mortal realm,” Meshigumee said.
“They, at least, accept me for who I am.” Loki brushed some of her green hair behind her pointed ears. “Why did you come all the way here, Meshigumee? It’s not an easy trip from the highest spheres of the heavens all the way down here.”
“I wanted to see you,” Meshigumee said.
Loki barked laughter. “How many millennia has it been since you threw me out? How many millennia has it been since you last laid eyes upon me?”
“Our sisters still suspect me.”
“Our sisters? Our sisters? You speak to me of our sisters?”
Meshigumee looked down. Perhaps coming here had been a mistake.
Loki stood up and rubbed her hands together. “Out of all of them, you were the only one who ever gave me the time of day.”
“My sisters might feel differently, but I always thought you were one of us.”
Loki stared at the fire but didn’t say anything. Sunjkothi looked up at Meshigumee, regarding her with cold, blue eyes.
“You’re familiar with Captain Stormalong, aren’t you?” Loki asked.
Meshigumee nodded her head.
“On his first voyage on his clipper, the Courser, the ship was attacked by a kraken. Captain Stormalong, being the giant he was, fought the kraken, and eventually defeated it by tying its tentacles together. Rather than killing the creature, he took pity on it and let it live, but he trapped it in Davy Jones’ Locker.
“Sometime later, Captain Stormalong was enlisted by President Lincoln to capture Confederate blockade runners. Desperately short on ships and men, Captain Stormalong decided that he needed help from former enemies such as the kraken. So Captain Stormalong released the kraken from Davy Jones’ Locker with the understanding that the kraken would attack Confederate blockade runners. But the kraken had spent years in that watery prison, smarting at what Captain Stormalong had done to him, so when he was released, he grappled with Captain Stormalong and drug him to the ocean’s depth, where the two of them remain to this day.”
“That’s not a very funny joke,” Meshigumee said.
“It wasn’t meant to be a joke,” Loki said. She started towards Meshigumee, who flinched and took a step back. Loki laughed. “It’s just a story, presumable one you’re familiar with.”
Meshigumee took a few moments to compose herself. “Yes, I’m quite familiar with the tales of Captain Stormalong.”
Loki looked about to say something, but she stopped. She looked up at the branches of the ash tree and remained silent. The bodies hanging from the branches swayed back and forth as a light breeze blew through the forest. Snow had accumulated on their shoulders and hooded heads. Not even Chilhowee paraded the corpses of the dead and the damned in her sphere.
“They’re me,” Loki said, still staring up at the branches. “Forms and shapes I’ve taken in my life.”
“An odd way of storing them.”
“It’s convenient and they’re always in reach.”
“I suppose they would be.” Meshigumee reached into one of her sleeves and pulled out a small package wrapped in wax paper. “I brought an offering, of sorts.”
Loki looked down and raised an eyebrow. “An offering?”
“Apple fritters, made from the apples picked from the groves of Hissipaska,” Meshigumee said.
Loki took the package and opened it. Inside were a dozen apple fritters, still warm from the hot oil. “Did she know you were taking the apples to give to me?”
“What Hissipaska doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” Meshigumee shrugged.
Loki took one of the fritters and bit into it. Steam and heat was rising from the fried dough in the cold air.
“Well…?” Meshigumee asked.
“What are you asking for?” Loki asked.
“Meshigumee, the All-Mother of the Great Waters of the World, would not come to my lowly sphere to ply me with fried dough simply because she wanted to chit chat,” Loki said. She finished the fritter and licked the grease from her fingers. “As much as I appreciate the offering, I sense that there’s some ulterior motive behind it.”
Loki turned around and knelt down next to a pack that was leaning against the tree. She placed the package inside the pack, and Meshigumee remained silent.
“Well?” Loki asked, looking over her shoulder at Meshigumee.
“I want you to remember who stood up for you.”
“A little late, don’t you think?”
“I’m sorry for the delay, but it is difficult for me to get away.”
“I’m sure it is,” Loki said. She stood up and slung the pack across her shoulders. “I hold no ill will or spite in my heart for you or your sisters, nor do I hold any particular love. It is what it is.” She took several long steps towards Meshigumee, standing chest to chest with her. Meshigumee wasn’t used to be looking down upon as Tekamthi was her only sister taller than she was. “What is done is done, and what will come will come. There is nothing any of us can do to stop that.”
“We’re gods,” Meshigumee said.
“But as with the mortals below us, we are bound to the whims and wills of Fate.” Loki leaned down and whispered into Meshigumee’s ear. “You know my place in things as well as I do, and I would encourage you to not anger Fate. She is quite a fickle woman.”
“You would be an expert in such things,” Meshigumee said.
Loki’s laugh was loud and warm in Meshigumee’s ear. “Yes, I believe I would.” Loki stepped back, grinning. “Take care, Meshigumee. I don’t know when our paths will cross again, but I do hope that it will be soon.”
Loki walked around Meshigumee and into the shadows of the trees. Sunjkothi stood up and walked after Loki, giving Meshigumee one last look with her blue eyes. The two of them disappeared into the forest, leaving Meshigumee alone. She raised her eyes and saw the scores of albino owls above her. Loki’s eyes and ears…and messengers.
Meshigumee shook her head and held in a sigh. Loki Goodfellow would come around, eventually.