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Ayla leaned back and propped up on her elbows causing her loose black sleeves to bunch up, while she stared into the moonless night sky. Ever since her father left almost a week ago, she'd taken to coming to the outskirts of Asgarn to watch the stars and to get away from the bustling city.

However, on this night, she was not alone.

"You know you're not supposed to be out here alone."

Ayla rolled her eyes and turned to look over her shoulder at the intruder.

"Alone? It seems like that's become a foreign concept lately. I've been surrounded by guards, maids, and the goblins for so long, I barely remember what it feels like. "

"Can you blame us for being cautious? You did almost die a few days ago."

"Yes, and you and Findral did a great job of ensuring that did not happen." She huffed and turned away from him.

A few moments later, she heard his light footsteps as he came closer, then she felt movement just behind her as two strong arms covered in a thin white fabric wrapped around her waist and pulled her closer until she was practically sitting in his lap. Luckily she was wearing trousers or this could have been a very problematic position to be in.

"I'm sorry." He mumbled into her back.

She jumped in surprise and turned in his arms until she was sitting sideways with her head facing him. "What're you apologizing for? It's not your fault I was attacked."

"... Yes, actually, it was. We finally got the would-be assassin talking and..."

"And?"

"It was a warning. It was her way of letting me know that she knew about you and she wasn't happy about my... Trespasses."

"What in Yggdrasil are you talking about? Who's warning you and what 'trespasses' are you talking about?"

Her eyes narrowed in consternation at the uncomfortable look on his face. She turned to fully face him and grabbed his head between her hands so she could look into his eyes. "Lokir, I won't be able to understand unless you explain it to me. "

He leaned into her hands and the uncomfortable look changed to one of sadness.

"Before we met, I was already engaged to someone else. She found out about you and sent the assassin as a warning to me. 'Stay faithful to your family's promise or else'... or something along those lines."

Ayla's face went blank as she attempted to process what Lokir told her. Eventually, she grew tired of sitting so close to Lokir, so she slid off his lap and sat on the ground beside him.

"Did you love her?" She whispered. Almost as if she were afraid of the answer.

"Gods no!" Lokir spun to fully face her. "I swear on my family's honor, Ayla. I wanted nothing- nothing to do with this engagement."

"Then why agree to it?"

"That's... It's complicated."

"Try me."

Lokir sighed and fell back onto his butt.

"My father made a deal with the Greakian king, Zeus the forty-second. To prevent a full-scale war between our peoples, I was to wed the youngest of Zeus's daughters to 'seal the deal', as it were."

"And it was this fiance of yours that sent the assassin?"

"Unfortunately." Lokir allowed a sardonic laugh to escape his lips which was echoed by Ayla only moments later.

"Ha... Why can't things just be simple, for once?" She sighed and pulled her knees into her chest.

"Who says they can't?" 

"Hmm?"   

"Simple, I mean. What if we left and didn't tell anyone where we were going or even that we were leaving."

"Don't be ridiculous, Lokir. We can't just up and leave. What would your parents say?... What would my father say?"

"Who cares what they'll say?" He got on his knees in front of her. "I was serious when I asked you to marry me, Ayla. I know you haven't fully made up your mind yet, but please, run away with me."

"Do you realize what you're saying?" She asked as she stood up and started walking away. "You'll be giving up your kingdom, your family, your-"

"But I'll have you." He gently grabbed her waist and turned her to face him. "And that's all I want."

"...You're set on not making this easy for me, aren't you?" 

His response was to roguishly grin and pull her closer to him. "Well, I am known to be quite vexing when I want to be."

"So I've noticed." She sighed and placed a hand on his chest to slightly push him away. "But you know this can't last forever."

"We don't have to run forever. Just until we're free to be together without all of this holding us back."

"And what if that never happens? What if this," She motioned to the two of them. " Isn't what fate has in store for us? What then?"

"Then we'll make our own fate. We'll decide our own destiny and to Hel with the fates!"

"That's impossible." She pushed him away and turned away from him. "No-one can deny their fate, Lokir. Not my father... not my grandmother... Not my biological parents." She whispered with a hitch in her voice. She took a few deep breaths to calm down and started walking away.   

"Ayla, wait!"

"Don't touch me!" 

Lokir jerked his hand back as if he'd been burned. 

"Sorry I... I just need to be alone for a little while. I'll meet you back at the castle later, okay?"

Lokir's mouth opened and closed several times while he tried, and failed to come up with something-anything to say, to stop her. 

"Okay." 


 "Okay"

"You idiot." Torga whispered from his position high above them.

He'd managed to teleport, after an ungodly amount of failures, to the last place he'd remembered seeing before his departure. But, after arriving and spotting Ayla and Lokir on this grassy knoll halfway between the city and the surrounding forest, he'd decided to stop and say 'Hi'.

And what a colossal mistake that was. Now he was stuck floating above the two while his instincts pulled him in two different directions; on one hand, Torga could sympathize with the prince. He understood the prince's feelings and the truth behind his words because not long after he and Sarah started dating did he say such words to her. But, on the other hand, this was his daughter the prince was pursuing and he wanted to protect her.

But is that truly the right thing to do? 

Before his 're-awakening' and his memories returning, he would have emphatically said 'yes'. However, now that his human memories had returned and the monstrous hunger he'd been just barely able to suppress was gone. He was able to think clearly. And for the first time since his reincarnation, Torga could see the effects his actions had—had on the two mortals. Which meant there was only one thing he could do... Nothing. 

He decided then and there, that the best course of action was to simply let the two handle this on their own and whatever came of this would be entirely of their own making. Gods had interfered in their lives for far too long as it was and it was time they had someone in their corner.

"No, Ayla, it is possible to forge your own fate." Torga slowly shifted into a six-foot-long pale green snake with miniature suns for eyes. "And this old father of yours is going to make sure that no god interferes with your ability to do so." He whispered just before teleporting away from the area in a flash of pale-green light.   


Ayla didn't return to the Asgarn castle until just before dawn the next morning. After passing through the gate-house and somberly greeting the guards stationed there, she made her way through the overly opulent halls of the castle to her room.

However, just before she could open the door and enter, she heard a loud crash and several bangs coming from inside. 

"Jormy!" She threw open the door and rushed inside... Only to stop short at the sight of the ten-foot-long Jormungandal squirming and thrashing about as he floated just above the floor.

"Mom! Help me, please!" Jormy hissed.

"Oh, stop whining brat! You're the one that jumped me in the first place."

"Wait, Dad!?" Ayla yelled after recognizing the voice and spotting the six-foot-long serpent lounging across her bed. 

"Howdy." 

"You're back!?"

"Nope, I'm dad."

How!? Since when!?"

"Well, when a mommy snake and a daddy snake love each other very much, they-"

She stared at him in confusion until his surprise appearance finally wore off and his words clicked inside her head. "Oh, ha ha ha, very funny! Can I please just get a serious answer from you, for once!?"

It was hard to tell given his lack of lips, but Ayla just knew he was grinning at her.

"I finished my trip and since this morning. I figured I'd wait for you in here, but the brat over there decided to jump me when I flew in through the window."

"It's not my fault, mom! Grandpa scared me and I just... reacted."

"So he says." Torga huffed and laid his head back down on Ayla's pillow. "Ohh~" He moaned. "You have no idea how much I missed this feeling."

"Um, Hello! Can you please explain what the hell happened while you were gone!?"

Torga let out a deep sigh and painstakingly lifted his head off the pillow. "I'll be back for you later." He whispered to himself. He moved to the end of the bed and slowly blinked his eerie orange eyes at her. "Alright, Ayla. You should order two cups of coffee, pull up a chair, and sit down because this is going to take a while."

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Kenaren

  • The insane snake handler

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