Now, they were often seen together: Loki and Baldr would go into the woods together, and stay there for longer periods of time. Some tried to follow them. The few who succeeded in coming as close to them as twenty paces, later would tell of peculiar gusts of wind that swept into the treetops; and whosoever gazed upon the air’s play with the leaves, would be suddenly beset by a dizziness so strong that they had to turn back where they had come from.
There was talk over many tankards of beer, and more than one thought ill of it. Nothing good could come off it, they said, if Baldr got himself involved with that dodgy Loki. Hadn’t each time this had happened been the cause of some calamity or other? Couldn’t each and everyone of them still feel the cruel old age in their very bones, everytime they thought of the day Idunn had been abducted from Asgard?
But Baldr resisted even the gloomiest prophecies and all their objections and pleas. He had a ring made from the heaviest, darkest gold, and Loki swore an oath on it.
There was one other who abstained from all meddling, although there was little that slipped his wakeful eye. Odin knew very well the state of his son and his no less beloved brother: in their unlikely friendship, he read all-too-clearly the latter’s unmistakeable hand. Loki did not spare either himself nor Odin, as his fate and Baldr’s, and that of Odin himself became ever more entwined.
“He is playing a dangerous game”, Frigga said.
“Yes, he is”, replied Odin, but neither of them knew if they meant the same one, or even which one of them they really meant.
And Frigga, who knows all fates, beheld the great tangle that had begun to form in the threads of her loved ones. Perhaps she saw it more clearly than even Odin, who liked to pull the strings himself. But she concealed from Odin that with each passing day, she herself became ever more entangled with that knot. And in all of Asgard, Frigga was the only one who could pull the wool over Odin’s eyes.
As far as Loki was concerned, at first he tried to evade Baldr. Whenever he would turn up, Loki would greet him with biting derision. But Baldr did not let off from seeking him out, and from bearing his sneer with a smile that he hid very well.
“I have never before seen you run away from something like this”, Sigyn spoke to Loki one day. “What is it that you fear?”
Nothing, Loki was about to respond angrily, nothing at all, but he thought better of it. Whether he admitted it or not, Sigyn would see right through him, and he knew it. But there was no simple answer to her question. And so something happened that was so rare even Sigyn could not quite remember when she had seen it: Loki was at a loss for words.
Try as he might, he was unable to speak. Sigyn took his head between her hands and kissed his forehead.
After that, Loki stopped evading Baldr, even though he still greeted him with a sneer. Baldr stopped hiding his smile, and the ease with which he brushed aside Loki’s halfheartedly donned mask both surprised and dismayed Loki. And as time went by, Loki learned to love Baldr. It was a terrible, desperate love that spared no one, and that Loki did not dare to give himself over to, but that still overtook him and consumed him without regard for his inevitable loss.
How far did that love go? It depends on whom you ask. Too far, many would say; not far enough, said one. And Loki said it went exactly as far as he could possibly bear, and not one whit less.
It happened on a cold morning in early summer.
Baldr came to see Loki, and sat down next to him. Without a word, he plucked the knife with which Loki had just been about to open an apple, from his hand. The apple was red.
Baldr took the knife without heed of Loki’s protest and glare, and set the blade to his own arm. But where a deep cut should have been, there was nothing but unmarred skin. Instead, the blade shattered into a dozen pieces, as if it was made from glass as thin as silk. It clinked, and for a moment it seemed as though the splinters hung suspended in mid-air, as if they could not decide what to do hin this situation. Then, they fell to the ground next to Loki’s feet.
Slowly, Loki stooped to pick up a splinter. It was so sharp that he cut his finger at the first touch.
Nobody spoke. Baldr bent down and reached deep into the hot, still glowing embers of Loki’s night fire. When he pulled out his hand, it was unhurt, but the embers had gone out. Then, Loki spat into them, and they didn’t even sizzle.
When Loki turned to face Baldr, his eyes were expressionless, but there was a hard line around his mouth. Baldr squirmed under his stare.
“How could you?” Loki hissed in his face, “you spoiled, selfish, ignorant child, how could you?” Fists curled in rage, Loki struck Baldr, and broke his fingers.
“Haven’t you understood anything at all?” Loki’s voice cracked, and he would certainly have broken all his bones, had Baldr, who was taller and stronger, not held him back.
“Do you not know what you have done?” whispered Loki tonelessly. “How much harder you have made everything? Do you not know that the deed weighs all the heavier, the greater the sacrifice is? Did you think you can run away?”
Baldr shook his head. “It wasn’t I who did this, but my mother. And for your sake, if I could, I would undo what she did a hundred times over.” For Baldr, too, had learned to love Loki and he knew they would thank him poorly.
But Loki would not be placated. “An impossible promise, worth less than the time it takes to utter such empty words”, he answered coldly, twisting out of Baldr’s grip. “If you seek my goodwill, then don’t tell anyone of this. See that it stay between you and me alone, and perhaps… perhaps…”
The words remained unsaid. They would have been untrue, and Loki had taken an oath to Baldr.
“Get out of my sight.”
It was then that Baldr realised that nothing he could say would accomplish anything. His heart heavy in his chest, he obeyed and left. Fear had finally caught up with him again.