1965-02-14 - Happy Valentine's Day, Thor
Summary: Aelsa, Queen of Alfheim, has a gift to collect and a need for someone to help her out. Who better than Thor?
Related: Arrows of Venus
Theme Song: None
thor rogue 

Asgard. Royal Quarter. Shopping District.

Asgard, with her many treasures and charms, sits like a jewel on the World Tree. How not to be delighted by the feast for the senses laid out in the richest sensory banquet? Under striped awnings bloom the finest flowers and behind force fields gleam the most beautiful jewels, cut to reveal their inner fire, laid on coiling metal settings befitting of royalty. Or those who aspire to nobility and have the wealth of a realm to back up their cares. None such pass without some degree of title or divine purview to their name, doubly so without a retinue to admire those trifles on display. For the more discerning purchaser, of course, personalized attention comes by way of masters in their third millennium of experience. Shops that create bespoke fashion, the only one of its kind in the Nine Realms, or devise up wonders through an ethereal blend of sorcery and forging or artisanry line every corridor.

Frankly, it makes Fifth Avenue look like a dirt, urine soaked lane for peasants in a backwater village.

No other place will do for finding something for one's beloved, or quenching one's tears for lacking a beloved, frankly. Shopping therapy applies across the Realms and races. Just ask the Collector. But whatever woes or fancies apply, one thing the marketplace of Asgard cannot possibly achieve — and it can achieve a hell of a lot — is a decision. What does one purchase for their beloved? The question echoed all around Midgard, at least in places that have St. Valentine bastardized to some commercial affair, and in a few select other Realms does not have an easy answer. Not even for the Elf Queen, Aelsa. She sits in a pile of diaphanous clothing on a bench, her perfectly sculpted chin cupped in an equally pristine palm. What wretched cares! Her presence is enough to send runners and couriers skittering, for it's not been often — or frankly at all, in the last six months — that the high lady of Alfheim bothered leaving her realm. For her to step through a portal clad so casually with a few bits of useless armour for show, all the rage there in elfland, isn't a diplomatic crisis. It is a mercantile crisis. Because she has lots and lots and lots of gold. And now she's sitting there looking put out, like a cat that can't decide how to deal with a mouse. But in very pretty elf terms.

"Norns grant me /someone/ who can help." She sighs. And sometimes? Urd listens.

Asgard is an oddity. It is a world that wants for nothing. What is it that Gods desire? What do they crave that they cannot have but for the asking? It has been millennia since Asgard reached that eclipse of the greatest of races, their magic and power projecting their will into the universe like a golden beam of light.

It baffles the merchants of the universe, many of whom save for a lifetime to bring their wares to Asgard's market district and manage to sell not one of the rarities that would command a startling price anywhere in the universe.

For the Gods desire that which they cannot make for themselves, and that is often those things which are baroque, strange, or simply valued for being unique.

It draws even the mighty down from their lofty perches, seeking that which cannot be had for love or money anywhere else in the universe. Among those seeking a certain ware is Thor himself, the God of Storms and Prince of the realm. He travels without a retinue, not even a bodyguard. Who would be foolish enough to strike at him in the heart of Asgard? What entourage is even his equal? He wears a tunic of navy blue, sleeveless and hemmed in intricate gold stitch; a leather baldric is slung around his hips, hammered silver decorating the material. He walks without hurry and pauses to examine the wares that are on display, merchants hawking furiously to show off their goods.

He spots the Queen of Alfheim, and his brows lift a little at the visible consternation on her fair, regal features. He steps forward into her line of sight, making no attempt to hide his approach.

"A fair morning, your Majesty," the Prince greets, bowing his head courteously. "You seem a little at odds over something. Is there anything I might do to ease your stay in Asgard?"

The wealth of lifetimes accumulated in vaults of the average middle class Asgardian, such as they exist, would pauper entire countries or worlds. Well, other than a certain shrouded country on Midgard wherein untold riches would make the dwarves of Nidavellir immediately salivate with uncontrolled power and yearning. Every rule exists to be broken somewhere in the crossroads of Yggdrasil, truth be told.

What cares has the queen over the brightest, highest of the Realms upon the tree? There cannot be a great many concerns for Aelsa Featherwine, secure in her power and understandably blessed by some of the happiest of subjects. At least compared to other war-torn lands, hers are unusually calm. Their duels and struggles so often take forms unusual to the warlike lower places. And for all their fluff, they're excellent diplomats. And so?

Whatever gives cause for sorrow from her is enough to surround her in a pallor of attendant motes, wreathing her white-gold hair and settled into those vastly blue eyes, a shade not far off Thor's very fine garments. She manages a regal slope to her back if only because her posture might crease the wrapped diaphanous gown she wears, albeit something far from the fluffy, ridiculously wide affairs. It's slim and reveals very sensible leggings and greaves worked into her boots. The very stuff of a generation of fantasy writers and artists, later on.

His voice, the prince being known anywhere, brings her up. Immediately she pats her sides, just in case, asserting some vague level of decorum. Mostly, but the frustration strikes her as a thorn in one's side. If the thorn were made of uru. And put there by Loki. And possibly poisoned with an inflaming toxin that itches ever so badly. "Your Highness, fair winds and bright skies to you." Traditional ljosalf greeting. He is the god of thunder. The moment catches her, nose wrinkling slightly at herself. "Would we met in better stead. I am most thoroughly put out seeking something right."

Her fingers curl around themselves, twin bands on both ring fingers coloured by the very twilight, steeped vibrance for a dark rainbow. The only spot that isn't pale lilac or silver on her. "But our high holy day of Heartblessing is upon me, and I have not a thing to give. Not that serves remotely a purpose for my cherished heart." Her frustration becomes a thing of plaintive, mute beauty there, hand clenched to reinforce it. "What might be dismissed as unnecessary or foolish — and it has — matters. I know not what to do. I can't just give some flower or a box of gems. Solve the riddle, and you've a boon as a fast friend to Alfheim."

Thor grins at Aelsa's distress. Impolite for a courtier to do, of course, but the Prince of Asgard seems sympathetic to her plight. "The burdens of the crown are well known to me, despite my reputation," Thor tells Aelsa, with a wry sympathy. "The proper gift is often a conundrum for the kindly intentioned. For the peasants who labor the fields, a hearty meal and a night of deep rest is sufficient."

"Would you walk the wares of Asgard with me, then?" he invites, gesturing behind him vaguely with one hand. "Some company has a way of helping ideas flow, and I find it useful to stir the mind by putting the feet in motion. Perhaps between the two of us, we'll jostle some notion loose."

"For whom are you shopping, Majesty?" Thor inquires, walking with his hands loosely clasped behind his back. "Perhaps we can narrow this search somewhat."

Truly a blessing to have someone able to remotely concentrate himself with cares when others would never dare impinge on royal majesty or prove themselves incapable of seeing past her dazzle. An elf queen's tears might be enough to stop people in their tracks, if they were not wholly valuable as some kind of component. If denizens of the Realms can sell anything, royal tears are right up there with 'Thor's hair, slightly electric, blown free last Thursday.'

"Quite so," she breathes out a sigh of frustration and relief. Someone gets it, at least. Rising from the bench, she doesn't bother to shake out her clothes. They fall into place naturally as her lightly veiled hair. "Is that not the truth of it? For those nearest to us, we are most perplexed. How does one acquire something meaningful and sentimental when they either have all they require, or the gift feels an unnecessary blandishment without much sentiment at all? I could put together a meal under the vast starry skies of our north, or raise some adventure to pursue, but that feels to me more a spectacle than meaningful."

Trust an Asgardian to understand the difference, hopefully, whereas the elves might just blink and sigh at the romance behind it all. Or call a duel on who can perform the best service. So, why she is here. "Such an offer sounds splendid. Perhaps I need to view things in a different light. As for whom, I can say only a gentleman warrior. Bad luck to name the recipient before he receives the gift." Her dancing motes cluster around her shoulder, shining on the pauldron worked into the orchid pale gown. Who the heck designs these pieces of art and fashion? No one sensible. Of course, an elf. "A practical man, though not without appreciation for fine things. In short, you are the very person to suit. I was about to throw myself with a basket and call it a day."

"Were he of the temper of Asgardian man, I would say stout mead and rare meats," Thor says, with an easy laugh. "But practical is not a word I associate with your kin. Even the doughtiest of your warriors composes his poetry with a deliberation for how future generations will weep at the grandeur of his words."

He considers a few items that would finance a fleet of starships on any core world, and dismises them with a glance to move along. "A warrior is steadfast," he says, digging deep. It looks like it's hurting a little to put that much brainpower to the question. "Many of us prefer a similar quality in our gifts. Something which is light, and easy to carry, else it must serve some purpose that we cannot live without. A warrior always thinks of his next campaign, the next march or the long days from home. Something that adorns the mantle is lovely enough, but likely to not see much admiration if he labors overlong at his duties."

The elf queen arches her immaculate eyebrow, amusement kindled in the heart of her eyes that overtakes the mantle of royal decorum. It goes transparent as the gossamer veil floating behind her edged ears to her golden hair, allowing the bellish laughter to show. "We make excellent mead, I shall have you know. Strong enough in some varieties to knock anyone but you off their feet, and keep them down, albeit they can appreciate the flavour the whole time. A great deal better than firewater or brandywine at its worst."

Rule for the ages there, she knows how to drink. "Something rare on the tongue would not be bad. Is it acceptable for a gift to be intended for one use? We have poetry and music for that purpose, though we treasure permanence. For a warrior, it is important to have these qualities — portability, reliability, usefulness — but what if it's only something you can have the one time? You present me with a conundrum, but a welcome one. Yes, all those sound true."

Great, she'll just have to buy a Volvo for her gift. Sweden, look out.

"It is not the use, but the memory that matters," Thor suggests, after another length bit of thinking. "A poem? A performance? Perhaps a troupe of actors," he offers, waving vaguely towards the Entertainment District. "A celebration of his feats and victories, retold by a bard and his attendants. I think any skald would consider it the ambition of a lifetime to regale Alfeim's queen with the stories of a dear ally, and it would honor him in the meanwhile," Thor offers. "Unless he is of a modest and retiring nature; I know not his temperment," Thor concedes. "He might find it a foppish display of sentimentality."

Aelsa draws up against one of the shopfronts in their walk, glancing over the contents though she probably already did so. "Modest?" That leaves her stifling a laugh behind the unassailable dignity of station. "No. And when our holy days celebrate the affection we hold and our feelings, I should not think it appropriate to hold back. I could bring down the stars for an evening for a memorable miracle, but all that effort may not strike the right chord. As you say, something useful. He is not modest, nor any sort of fop. Somewhat closer to the Asgardian or Vanir standpoint upon that, if it would not offend you to hear so." Ooh, who is this mystery person? She ain't saying. "I know how dreary 'tis to sit before a lengthy procession singing my accomplishments, and we are not children of four hundred eager for our parents to anoint our exploits with their favour. /I/ could, privately, bestow such a favour. But then, it comes down to how? I give a breastplate woven with enchantments? Throw a space shark at him and say 'Hurrah, now you slay that great beast for me?'"

Cue a pause. She looks up at Thor. Who doesn't? "Something hard to acquire that's useful for your position. That would be meaningful, no? A fur that repels the very chill of space or the heights of Jotunheim, say." Oh dear. This is Going Places.

Thor walks on, focuses on a spot twenty feet ahead of their path. One might take him for pensive if they were to drop into the conversation midway, and he bites at the edge of his thumbnail in modest irrtation as he tries to sort out the Mystery of the Perfect Gift.

"What— what if," he says, slowly, holding a hand out. "What of this 'space shark'?" he inquires. "What better gift is there for a warrior than to test his mettle and prove his worth? Is there some grand quest he could be set upon?" Thor inquires, brows lifting at her. "Some ancient trinket lost to time? A beast from antiquity that savages the distant reaches of your realm? Mayhaps modest though he is, he would welcome a chance to test himself against some terrible threat, or right some vast injustice. In all the settled worlds in the constellation around Yggdrasil, /surely/ there is some adversity that only a warrior with a quick and ready sword can slay."

If the Norns put him in this place, Thor presumably has the right answer. Or a direction other than throwing explosive Volvos, which is taking up a good portion of the possible gift column.

Her laughter sparks bright again, and hard not to be impacted, for the talents of the ljosalfar to quite literally buoy up the spirits of those round them is sometimes profoundly recalled in stories. And, in others, they're simply unknowable spirits of light and brilliance fleeing from polluted mortals. She dips her head in a nod, following Thor's line of thought without much difficulty. "I believe we have it there. Some dread trouble to be vanquished, whereby he does the realm good. And modest he is not, your Highness, a charge I could never lay at his feet any more than I might yours. Certain men are forged of a mettle that would be antithetical to the very notion of modesty. You are the suns in the sky, meant to burn. Denying that light by eclipsing it for even a moment shall do no justice and, I believe, leave only great unhappiness. You cannot put the sun to yoke and hope for positive results when making it the quiet shadows, any more than kindling someone of retiring nature at the forefront of court ever turns out well. Yes, there surely must be adversities. The God Eater, the lost arrows of Venus, the Narthaqal Blight that devours all hopes." Her far from serene gaze scours the colourful assortment of roofs and spires before them. "I may hazard a guess of them. The space sharks trouble less of Alfheim than the regular visits to the triple jointed elves," her expression is mildly clouded, "causes no end of requests for a permanent portal to their villages, which shall not pass. But they are persistent enough. Lord Dawnfire warned they were last spotted near Rigel, bedevilling the trade routes through there. I confess it rather lies beyond my purview at the nonce." She puts a hand to her midsection, eyes thinning in amusement. "And what boon would you wish for such fine ideas? For we are fond of our friends in Asgard, and though you may not celebrate this holy day the same as we, I would not have it said I am unfair or unappreciative. Or shall we go seize some wretched trial by the horns and do away with it so I have a lovely new rug?"

Thor grins at the high praise, but does not contend the point that Queen Aelsa offers, laughing merrily. "If he is a warrior as I, then he desires only to show his mettle and test it against foes. Warriors are not known for our strength," he tells her. "We are remembered for the foes we test ourselves against. And even if we fall, it serves only to feed the legend of our inheritors. To slay a monster than laid low some great monster inspires only greater legends, raising a new generation of aspirants up to lustrous adoration by the masses. "

"As for a boon," Thor says, turning and look to Aelsa. "We are kindred, though separated by formality and the span of aeons; we dwell on the Great Tree and our threads are woven all by the Norns. A boon is a favor for a service performed, but I think among nobles, there needs not be a currency or coinage for aiding one another. Consider it a gift; I think it nothing but my duty as Prince to offer you what comforts I might, clumsy though my consel might be at times!"

"I shall be glad for it. Though one can say I should proffer a gift, then, in exchange. It is, after all, a festival where one may share and strengthen our connections is nothing to be overlooked." Aelsa raises her hand, and the motes fly to her palm, gathering in a small ball of light. They rotate in eager motions, spun on their axis, while the faintest scent of magic starts to fill the air. She lends the hint of night-flowering camellia and jasmine, mingled subtly enough not to strafe anyone with too heavy a perfume. Spice weaves around it, and the elven magic spills into a link of sorts. At least it looks like a very short set of links, polished into a hardened silvery finish that would imply a strong alloy. "Clip this to your bracer or vambrace," she says, "and it will guide you direct to a great threat that you cannot see, but must face. We are, sometimes, called upon to defend our lands or our causes, but the path is unclear. I am all too familiar with hearing the stories of troubled places overcome by trouble that would have been halted earlier, had only someone identified the source of the risk. The arrow will point you true."

She thinks a little longer on it, and one of the bits of light sticks to the bottom of the chain. "It will meld flat in a design when applied, so you are not clanking about like that wretched suit of armour they designed last season. Such noise, all those ends. This, then, may it be a source of extending your legend and your happiness. For what warrior is not content when he has vanquished an enemy?"

"A gift fit for a warrior. My thanks, your Majesty," Thor tells Aelsa, gratefully. He clips the links to his belt so they will not slip loose, with a careful reverence for the powerful bit of magic so effortlessly spun from her fingertips.

"Anything that helps seek out worthy foes is a welcome gift. Though I must concede, it will be strange to seek them out in silence," he says, grinning at himself. "When I can find no one to challenge me, I stand upon a high point and beat my breast, throwing my challenge into the teeth of the storm itself. Quite often, some skulking beast lurches from the night thinking to make a swift snack of me."

Happy Valentine's Day, Thor! Some child somewhere writes that on a card in uneven hand. The Queen of Alfheim might do the same, but she writes things in a prettier hand and worries about the cost to herself later. There shall be a proper need for glutting herself on a proper amount of fruit wines and having a nap in the sunshine, like a cat.

"Truly, standing there draws them to you as a magnet," Aelsa laughs, in better spirits, for all that her thoughts still turn to matters broad and fair. "What perilous night for that beast who learns the lightning awaits him or her upon that peak. I hope your evening be not so bedraggled and soaked awaiting such an outcome. If nothing else, there are always the nefarious influences so named prior. Or you may worry for the realm of humans, stumbling as it does through one troubled care to another. Sinuous shadows ever coil around that realm like arms of a vine, and no amount of hacking them back of late has ceased the growth."

A last bit of thought, as she gestures to the rest of the market. "Now, let's see I can locate the appropriate weapon for such an endeavour as I am about to set someone out on."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License