White Tree and Rainbow Bridge
„I don’t think we’re in Asgard anymore.”
Loki rolled his eyes, but silently had to agree with his brother. Sure, this seemed to be a royal palace with impressive pillars and statues, but it certainly wasn’t asgardian. It looked way to puny for that.
„Where in the name of the Norns are we?”
Sigyn turned into every direction, staring at the painted ceiling in one moment, and at the blue and white stones of the floor in the next.
„Calm down everyone,” Odin’s voice echoed through the marble hall.
I am calm, Loki thought with disdain.
„Heimdall must have accidentally opened the Bifrost and sent us to another realm.”
Loki’s eyes narrowed at that. He never had trusted the gatekeeper. Well, actually ever since he had reported to Odin how Loki had tried to turn the Bifrost into an ice rink as a five-year-old. And it had been very suspicious how he hadn’t even blinked at Loki during the inauguration of the new Bifrost. It simply couldn’t be that he had just forgiven Loki for freezing him and letting frost-giants enter into Asgard. No punishment, no exile, no re-building of the rainbow bridge could do that. At least not in Loki’s eyes.
Accidentally, my blue ass.
“Excuse me, are you waiting for an audience with Lord Denethor?”
Everyone turned as a fair-haired, young man entered the room through a well-hidden side door. He smiled at them, as if it was very common for strangers to wait in this hall.
“My boy, we are lost and are in need of assistance. What is this place called? Are we in Midgard?” Odin asked with a diplomatic face.
“Midgard? You certainly mean Middle Earth. Although you would have to come from very far away indeed to not know on what continent you are. But let me introduce myself.”
The young man bowed deeply and gracefully.
“I am Faramir, son of Denethor. You’re standing in the entrance hall of the royal palace of king Elessar. In Minas Tirth. Gondor.”
His frown grew deeper and deeper as he watched the strangers’ blank faces at his mentioning of his name and their location. They looked like ordinary men, albeit their clothes had a slight exotic touch. And then he saw the woman.
“Good heavens, you’re blue!”
Faramir cringed when he heard his brother’s voice proclaim loudly and impolitely what he had thought.
“And this is my brother Boromir,” he added with a forced smile.
Sigyn blushed deeply, Thor laughed out loud, Odin’s face was a poker-face, and Loki looked as if he was about to ram the horns of his helmet into the newcomer’s stomach.
Faramir was alarmed at the latter and quickly tried to interfere.
“Uuh, please tell us whither you come, so we can help you.”
“We are from Asgard,” Odin answered, while taking a slight step to the left to stand in front of Loki.
Boromir stared at the strangers in open wonder.
“I have never heard of such a place. Is it in the Shire? But no, you’re too tall for that!”
Thor, who hadn’t said anything yet, stepped forward, fiddling impatiently with his hammer. He had planned to try to the new Bifrost first and finally get back to Jane. Besides he didn’t like the laughter of this Boromir guy.
“Listen, you’d better take us to your king, so we can sort this out as quickly as possible. We do not wish to linger here.”
Faramir shot his brother a careful look and swiftly strode forwards to open a richly ornamented portal. Without further remarks the group of Asgardians followed him and entered an every greater hall with a majestic throne at the far end.
Coming nearer, they could make out an old man sitting on a chair placed next to the throne. He was bent over something on his lap and didn’t look up when they had reached him.
Faramir and Boromir changed a worried look, before the former spoke up.
“Father, we have guests from far away who wish to speak to you.”
Either he hadn’t heard him or chose to ignore his son; either way he still didn’t look up.
“Father,” Boromir said with a mixture of tenderness and exasperation. “You know I told you not to grieve about that anymore.”
The old man finally raised his gaze and shot an accusing look at everyone (he paused for a moment on Sigyn), apparently trying to find out who was responsible for the broken horn in his hands.
“It has been handed down from father to son ever since Vorondil the Hunter. This is no small matter. It was a black day for Gondor when your brother brought this home.”
He had been talking to Boromir, but looked hard at Faramit at the last sentence, as if he was to blame for everything that ever went wrong.
Loki didn’t like the way this crazy, old man was looking at Faramir and Sigyn saw it in how he shifted his weight and how his left eyebrow twitched.
“I know, father.”
Boromir stepped in front of his brother, trying to regain his father’s attention.
“It was my fault. And I said I would find someone who could mend it. But now there are other matters at hand.”
Denethor reluctantly let his eyes wander over the group of strangers once more, until his mistrusting eyes came to rest on Odin.
“I made bad experiences with white-bearded, old men. What do you want?”
Odin opened his mouth, but before he could utter a syllable, a door in the wall behind the throne opened noisily and a young woman rushed into the room confidently.
She hugged her blushing fiancé and smiled good-naturedly at Boromir who was laughing at his little brother’s embarrassment.
Denethor did not seem to like this open display of affection and intrusion.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I see you’re having guests.”
She turned to welcome the strangers and was baffled by their outlandish look. Her words were heartfelt nevertheless.
“Welcome to Minas Tirith, my lords and lady.”
“Thank you, my lady.”
Thor bowed deeply and kissed her hand nonchalantly. Loki was about to roll his eyes once more, but Sigyn nudged him with her elbow.
“We accept your hospitality gratefully and thank you. But we came here by mistake and wish to return to our home as soon as possible. Is there anyone gifted in the art of magic we could ask for help?”
It seemed that Odin was eager to get back too.
Denethor just snorted at the word.
“You should probably go and speak to Gandalf. You’re lucky, because he doesn’t come to visit here very often, but he just arrived yesterday.” Faramir helped out.
He led them to another beautifully furnished hall, with a lot of chairs and a table full of fruits and water jugs. Thor made a face, but didn’t say anything.
“I’ll go and see if I can find him. He usually takes a walk outside with the king.”
Coming back, Faramir was alarmed by shouting and grunting (?) noises, but when he opened the door he didn’t encounter any orcs, as he had half-expected.
Between a landscape of fallen chairs and squished grapes, Boromir and Thor were arm-wrestling at the desperately jarring table.
The moment he entered, Thor pushed down Boromir’s arm with a triumphant cry.
“That was not fair!” Boromir protested at once.
“Faramir distracted me!”
“But this is the third time, mortal!”
Relieved that everyone was still alive, Faramir looked around for the other guests, while giving his brother a friendly pat on the back. Loki was sitting in a corner, pretending to read a book, but from the way he stared fixedly at one point it was obvious that his attention lay elsewhere. Sigyn and Éowyn were seated comfortably on a bench at the other end of the room, chatting happily and seemingly undisturbed by the re-enactment of the battle at the Pelennor Fields. Apparently they were both used to this sort of behaviour.
“…and then he and the goat just pulled at the string and it was the weirdest thing I ever saw. I was about halfway to cut him loose and rip his head off, when he just jumped and landed on Skadi’s lap.”
Faramir didn’t know what Sigyn was talking about, but judging from the look of embarrassment and horror on her face, he wasn’t sure he’d really want to know. Éowyn on the other hand seemed to think it highly amusing, seeing that she was almost falling off the bench, laughing.
“Well, at least he saved Asgard from one hell of an angry giant. But maybe he could have thought of something else.”
“Oh sweet Valar, I will never get that image out of my head!” Éowyn wiped away tears from the corner of her eyes.
“But I have good story about Faramir, too. He told me that, once, when he was still a boy, he accidentally set fire to his plush-oliphant, while trying to play a track on his brother and…”
Faramir intervened quickly, before she could tell the rest of the story. Who knew what they had been talking about before! He smiled nervously.
“I found Gandalf, but he wanted a word with Denethor first. Pray tell, where did the old man, errr, Odin go?”
Éowyn’s eyes twinkled at him full of mischief, but the rest of her face was perfectly serious.
“I think he went back to the throne room to wait there.”
Faramir sighed, deciding that he really didn’t have to interrupt the council of old men that must be going on at this moment.
He said down next to Loki, partly being intrigued by his eccentric behaviour and partly feeling sorry for him. Even though he hardly knew these strangers, Faramir could guess that Loki was Thor’s younger brother from the looks he had thrown him.
“So, uh, you’re interested in elves?”
He pointed to the cover of the book Loki was holding – it read “Sindarin Grammar” in big, elvish letters.
Loki looked up slowly, as if being distracted from his reading was a truly painful experience for him.
“It depends. More than in mortals, at any rate.”
“But your elves seem to be a bit different from those in Alfheim. Well, and VERY different from those in Svartalfheim, of course. The same fashion style, though,” he added while turning a page and encountering a picture of elven dress.
Although he felt that Loki was doing his best to thwart him off by being aloof and arrogant, Faramir couldn’t help but be curious about these other elves and the world that Loki came from.
“What do the elves of Svartalfheim look like?” He burst out.
Loki seemed to be mildly surprised by his enthusiasm.
“Well, they’re essentially similar to light-elves, you know, the pointy ears, above all. But then, they’re just sort of…deformed. Maybe because they live in constant darkness.”
“You mean like…orcs?”
The way the asgardian cocked his left eyebrow clearly spoke of how indignant he was of hearing such an ugly word.
“Orc?” He repeated with obvious disgust.
“Nevermind,” Faramir decided to change the topic, fearing that he may have insulted his guest.
“Are you a prince, where you come from?” He asked instead.
Apparently this wasn’t a better thing to talk about, though. If not worse, judging from the ice-cold look Loki bored into his skull.
“I was,” he simply stated after some seconds of awkward silence.
Faramir didn’t know what to reply to that (or what it meant, really), but the sadness he had caught a glimpse of, made him want to say something reassuring.
“I guess I was something of a prince as the steward’s son, before the king came back.” He shot Loki a look, hesitating.
“My father never had much faith in me and favours my elder brother. He told me so himself. But I wouldn’t know what to do without Boromir, he’s my best friend.”
He threw a glance at the table, where the two elder brothers were comparing their weapons and discussed whether to break logs outside.
When he turned back, he found Loki studying him with an unreadable expression. Faramir was about to get up and leave him to his own thoughts, when he finally spoke.
“So you’re not jealous?”
“Of course I’m jealous. But that’s not my brother’s fault, is it? Just as much as it isn’t my fault that my father doesn’t approve of my talents, inclinations, character, or whatever it is. The point is, that even though we’re quite different from one another;” he cast another look at the now singing warriors, “we’re still brothers. Not just by blood, but by love. I know that he would never let me down.”
“What if you let him down?”
Faramir didn’t stop to wonder about the reasons for this question, but simply smiled and answered:
“He’d forgive me.”
Just in that moment, the door opened and Gandalf entered the room in his usual dramatic way.
“Fools of Tooks, both of them!” He muttered, although it was audible for everyone.
“What’s the matter, Mithrandir?” Éowyn inquired.
“The pig-headedness and pride of old men, that’s the matter!” He replied rather harshly.
No one dared to remind him that he was the eldest of all. Well, Faramir didn’t know how old Odin exactly was, of course.
They all decided to get back to the throne-room to see what was going on - they found Denethor and Odin sitting on two equally uncomfortable looking chairs (Denethor didn’t look like he had changed his position for the last two hours. No one knew where the chair Odin was sitting on had come from, actually. Maybe Gandalf had somehow conjured it.); not only in complete silence, but also without even looking at each other. If Thor hadn’t been so desperate to get back home, he would have laughed out loud at this. Boromir did, while Éowyn snorted, tried to cover it up with a cough and ended up choking.
“Father,” Thor started in a serious tone. “Have you found a way to bring us back to Asgard?”
Odin looked as calm as if he had just smoked a big pipe of Old Toby.
“Apparently there exists no method of transport in this realm that allows one to travel this far. But if there’s a way in, there has to be one out. It’s just a matter of time.”
“I shall have to converse with Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel about this,” Gandalf added in an attempt to not make it sound so hopeless.
There was a moment of silence, when everyone wondered what to do now, but then Sigyn seemed to have been struck with enlightenment.
“Loki! Can’t you get us out of here? You said you knew other ways than the Bifrost of travelling from realm to realm. Can’t your magic help us?”
Loki looked dumbstruck for a second, while everyone turned to him. He didn’t seem to like this amount of attention.
“I…don’t know if it will work here. I have no idea where this realm lies in relation to Asgard and how far it is. It could be dangerous.”
“But brother! There’s no other way!”
Thor seemed to be supporting the proposition, judging by the way he swung around Mjollnir.
“What kind of magic are you talking about?”
Gandalf fixed Loki with new interest.
“I’d simply try to create a connection between two places and let it grow into a tunnel. But as I said, since I don’t know where I have to look for Asgard, we may end up somewhere else instead.”
“Hmm. I never heard of such magic before. I should like to discuss this more closely.”
But Thor was losing his patience by now.
“Heimdall, for Yggdrasil’s sake, just open the damn Bifrost!” He whined in frustration.
To everyone’s surprise (and most to Thor’s), a blinding light appeared in the middle of the hall and stabilised to a multi-coloured light beam.
Odin got up (still as calm as ever) and looked as if he had just spent a very entertaining day with little children.
“Now, get ready to leave. I hope this time we end up at our planned destination.”
He turned towards Faramir in a gesture of farewell, rather than Denethor.
“We thank you for your hospitality. It is good to know there reside good men, even in the furthest corners of the realms.”
Sigyn grinned at Éowyn and hugged her.
“It was wonderful to get to know you. I shall enquire about this realm back in Asgard, maybe I can find something in the library and we can visit again. What was it called, you said?”
“Minas Tirith, in the land of Gondor, in Middle Earth. But Rohan would be fine too.”
“Or Emyn Arnen,” Faramir proposed.
Meanwhile Boromir and Thor seemed to be wrestling with each other, but it might have been a very elaborate man-hug as well.
“I’d be honoured if we ever were to fight side by side, son of Gondor!”
“Likewise, prince of Asgard!”
And the wrestling ensued.
“Well, I hope you arrive home safely,” Faramir addressed Loki, who was more convinced about Heimdall having secretly planned all of this than ever.
“I’m sure we will. It was…interesting talking to you.”
Maybe it was just his imagination, but Faramir thought he saw a ghost of a once heart-warming smile appear on Loki’s pale face.
After everyone had spoken their goodbyes, the four visitors stepped into the ray of light and vanished for no one knew how long.