Loki knows what it’s like to be broken.
Once, a fearsome giant challenged all of Asgard with his might, promising to build an impenetrable wall around the home of the Aesir gods in exchange for the hand of fair Freyja.
Loki had never liked Freyja. She was one of the preferred – one of the tall blond children who had mocked him during play for being strange and withdrawn, for preferring books to battle and quiet stables to quaffing parties.
Later she outgrew her ways and even courted his presence at her grand spring banquets. Freyja was mostly good-natured, if careless with her blunt words. But Loki has never been good at releasing grudges. Perhaps it was his greatest weakness. He urged the gods to take the giant up on his bet – if only to teach the brute some humility. His silver tongue did its trick; the Aesir agreed.
It turned out the brute was cleverer than he looked. His secret: the mighty, indefatigable stallion Svadilfari, four-legged builder of cities.
Within a fortnight the wall was half complete.
By the second moon, there was no chance of the giant losing. Or a fair goddess escaping marriage.
Loki and Freyja’s childhood rivalry leapt back to life with a fury. Everyone loved Freyja; and so she won. And Loki was threatened with a painful demise if he did not stop the wall from successfully encircling Asgard.
As always, he did the expected.
He made himself a beautiful mare.
The great Svadilfari stood no chance of resisting the exquisite female, with her pale silvery coat, lush man and musk-laced signals dripping from every pore. Her graceful canter and melodic whinnying lured the stallion through the depths of Mirkwood and across the plains of Alfheim, far from its mission in Asgard. Finally, when they had wandered far enough, Loki stopped to change back and weave a spell-trap for the stallion.
But not fast enough.
Before he could morph, the unstoppable Svadilfari leapt on top of him, crushing almost half the bones in his mare-frame and impaling him with its impressive phallus. It rode Loki with a terrible passion, further shattering his ribs, his chest, his hipbones. Loki screamed. All that emerged was a shrill neighing.
Again, and again, he was subject to Svadilfari’s burgeoning male instinct. He should have known this was no ordinary horse. Why had he not at least conjured a suit of armour for his mare-form? Damn it all to Nilfheim.
Red-hot. Pain. Punishment. Rape. A clever ploy turned disastrous. A voice that was not his own.
In the end he stopped fighting. It was better that way.
Long after his screams had turned to whimpers, the stallion’s seed was finally spent. Svadilfari wandered off to goodness knows where as Loki the mare lay panting, broken – and impregnated.
For eleven months (the gestation period for a horse) Loki would wander the plains and villages in animal form. Strangely enough, he found a strange, simple, almost bovine peace. He did not like it at first. But it was little use fighting; a horse’s mind is stubborn, strong, and it constantly overwhelmed his being until it seemed he could have spent the next ten years as a mare and lived content.
Then his child arrived.
Loki knew the build of a horse. He did not know (aside from basic bodily functions) how it actually worked. And he lacked a female instinct that might otherwise have aided him. So he fought the contractions, the swelling pain, until finally he could bear it no longer and wandered half-blind with panic into a breeder’s farm and into the owner’s skilled, merciful hands.
Labour was long and painful. The emerging of the foal – as strong and large as its sire – broke again the hipbones that had healed months ago. There was blood; surely more blood than was possible. Loki tried to calm himself. I am not really a beast, he reminded himself. I am not a beast. I am me – Loki Liesmith, Loki Silvertongue, mischief-maker – ahh – why was this so hard?
The pain flowed over the silver-maned mare. Her child burst out and nearly kicked her insides into ruin. There was warmth. There was wetness. There was something resembling…pride.
And love. Fierce, irrational love.
Then exhaustion swallowed everything.
Waking up in a stable on fresh hay – No.
NO. No waking up.
Limbs still; eyes closed; no. No NO NO. Wake up, trickster, wake up.
Where did memories end and present begin?
Memories of shape-shifting. Of pain. Of a simple animal’s mind.
Where was his mind now?
Airless. Can’t breathe. Wait; no need to breathe. He wasn’t really alive, anyway. Merely suspended.
Better to have died, no?
Glass; ice; thick; unbreakable.
Behind lids frozen close, carmine-red eyes briefly struggled like panicked butterflies to open. To see.
What did I do? What have I done?
Then there was a shrill white noise that drowned out all thought, all hope, and he slipped blissfully back into silence.