Movement. Sound where there shouldn’t be sound. Fenris lifted his head as best he could and stared at the mouth of the cave. Save for seagulls and crabs he hadn’t had a visitor in quite some time.
Mayhap, finally, his father had found the one to free him. He prayed for the day when a stranger would walk in and utter the words his father had taught him, changing the Norse he’d grown up with to match the modern Norwegian language. He couldn’t remember the last time his father had been to his lonely prison, but Loki had promised him that soon, soon he would be free.
If Odin entered the cave, then only pain would be his lot this day. Odin’s visits were few and far between, but Fen had learned that when Odin came, Fen had a truly bad time. However long Odin chose to stay, the results were the same; more agony than Fen had once thought it possible to survive. As near as Fen could tell Odin would stay for days before his need to inflict pain was spent.
Time tended to blend when you were chained alone in a dark cave.
Pain was his companion every day, but Fen had almost grown used to the agony of the sword through his jaws. Barely able to eat, only the water dripping from the cave walls easing his thirst, if he hadn’t been born of Loki he’d have been long since dead. But he healed over and over and over again, his body trying to repair the damage the sword and bindings and unending hunger did to him every day.
Fen wished he could place his betrayers in his place. Let them feel the icy burn of the sword, the unending pressure-pain of Gleipnir around their limbs.
Fen growled. He recognized that most hated of voices. Perhaps he’d come to lose another hand?
“Wow. It stinks in here.”
A light, female voice with a touch of power behind it. Fen cringed. Had his foster-father brought a witch? To what purpose?
“Jayzus, Travis. You sure know the great vacation spots, doncha?”
Everything in Fen stilled. That voice… Something about that voice made body parts throb that hadn’t in centuries. But oh, it was such a good hurt!
Three figures stepped into the cave. One was all too recognizable, the powerful light surrounding him doing nothing to hide his warrior’s build. One was a slender female with flaming, curly hair and a glow similar to Tyr’s. Another Vanir then, one of the Lios Alfar. Which one, Fen didn’t know. He didn’t recognize that bright head of red, riotous curls or the vivid, radiant green eyes.
But the third figure did not glow. He was all human.
Fen kept his gaze locked on Tyr, but all of his senses were focused on the flame-haired man who approached him, hands at his sides, palms open to show he held no weapon.
“Jeff? What are you doing?”
Fen knew the words. His father had spoken to him in English often enough for Fen to ken their meaning. Even Odin had taken to English when visiting Fen in his cage. Jeff must be the flame-haired man’s name.
Gods, he smelled good. He smelled sweet, like cinnamon, and Fen had a powerful sweet tooth.
The man smiled, and Fen felt his heart lurch. “Jeg er din forlovede, behage spiser ikke meg. Og spiser ikke Tyr, den ville ergre din ny moder.”
Fen whined. Did the man just say what he thought he did? Fen tilted his head, ignoring the pain any movement inflicted on his jaws, and sniffed the man once more. If he could have grinned he would have. Yes. Yes, he did, and Fen was going to hold him to it. His father had done it, done the impossible.
He’d found Fen’s mate, and soon Fen would be free.
Tyr choked, and the man lowered his arms. Fen allowed him close, listening to the mutters and curses that flew from his mate’s mouth. “He’s got sores all over him, Travis.” His mate sounded angry, his hands moving over the bindings with a confidence that pleased Fen. Fen whimpered, the best he could do with the sword through his jaws. His healing ability constantly dealt with the damage inflicted every second by that sword. The sores were a result, his body unable to cope with even minor infections. Still he lived, though at times he had wished it weren’t so.
No longer. His mate had come, and Fen would follow him to Helheim itself if he so desired. He longed to lick Jeff, taste his skin, see if he was as delicious as he smelled. It soothed Fen, that scent, made the agony bearable.
“Travis, we have to get the sword out.”
Travis must be the name Tyr went by in the human world. Loki had told him all about moving among humans as one of them. His father had even taken a human name—Logan Saeter. His lover, Baldur, had slid into the name Kiran Tate, and together they’d made a life for themselves.
Fen didn’t resent them. He should, but he didn’t. His father had cried over his bound form too many times for Fen not to know how much his imprisonment hurt him. Even Baldur had shed a tear or two for him, but not even the golden one could free him.
Fen couldn’t be released until Ragnarrok.
“And this!” Strong, lean fingers stroked Gleipnir. “Explain it to me again. This thing is tissue-thin. Even I should be able to tear it.” Jeff stood and faced Tyr, his hands on his hips, his tone demanding. Fen stood, ready to defend his mate, hobbled though he was.
But Tyr sighed, his expression one of regret. “It’s Gleipnir.”
There was silence. Even the female was looking at Tyr in exasperation.
“Well. That cleared that right up. Not. How about a more detailed explanation, you secretive ass-hat?”
Fen coughed, caught between laughter and fear. Jeff sounded like a handful. If he kept taunting Tyr, the god would attack him and Fen would have no choice. He’d place himself between Tyr and Jeff, take any blow meant for the smaller man.
No one would touch his mate and live.
Tyr merely grinned. For some absurd reason the god looked pleased. “Gleipnir is made from the sound of a cat’s footfall, a woman’s beard, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish and the spit of a bird.”
“Ew.” Jeff wiped his hands on his pants. “Bird spit, huh?”
Tyr laughed, bringing painful memories to the surface, memories when Tyr was his foster-father and all was right with his world. “The dwarves made it so that tugging on it only makes it stronger. Legend has it that Gleipnir will hold Fenris until Ragnarrok, when he’ll be freed to devour…” Tyr suddenly looked uncomfortable.
“It’s all right. I might carry his blood, but he’s not my family. Not anymore.” The strength of a warrior flowed through Jeff’s voice. “How can we break him free?”
Tyr shrugged. “Hothead’s been trying for centuries. Did he give you a clue?”
Jeff shook his head. He turned back to Fen, and Fen saw that his eyes were the most beautiful shade of hazel. Fen bet they changed color with the man’s mood. Right now, the brown was predominant, his mate thinking hard over a puzzle that had stymied even the Trickster God himself.
“Wait. It gets stronger when you tug?”
Jeff exchanged a glance with the female who’d spoken. “It’s worth a shot.”
“Don’t pull the sword until you’re sure he won’t hurt you. Logan didn’t say what his temperament was like.”
Fen snarled. He’d never hurt his mate. Never.
He stopped mid-snarl. Tyr had spoken to his father? Since when? The two hated one another.
“Shh.” A strong hand stroked his head, and Fen leaned into it, tamed instantly by Jeff’s touch. Jeff’s fingers stroked near where the blade exited his jaw. “I’m going to get this thing out of you. Don’t bite me, ’kay?” Jeff lifted his hand and shook it out. “Blech. Dog drool.”
Fen wouldn’t bite. Not yet. It wasn’t time. He’d bite when he claimed Jeff, not before.
He wanted to howl his agony when Jeff ripped the sword from his jaws, but he held still, only the shudder of his body and a single whine betraying his pain. Jeff threw the sword away from him and stroked Fen’s head once more.
Fen’s quick healing took over, closing over the wounds, leaving behind not a trace of pain. Even if Gleipnir never came off Fen would be forever grateful that the sword, at least, had been removed.
He stared over at Tyr, who was watching Jeff way too closely for Fen’s comfort.
“What?” Jeff’s attention was now on the bindings, his clever fingers stroking over them once more.
“Logan told me neither Kir nor he were ever able to move the sword.”
Of course not. They weren’t his mate.
“Maybe it needed to be someone of Grimm’s blood?”
Fen shook his head. No, Kir was of Grimm’s blood, and he hadn’t been able to budge it.
“Nope. Kir is Grimm’s son, remember?”
“True.” Fen felt something move on his leg. “Ah. I think I’ve got it.”
The fetters were gone. Gleipnir lay in a pile at his feet.
He was free.
Fen stood for the first time in centuries on all four legs and let loose his song. Fenrisùlfr was free!
His legs shaky, he placed himself between Tyr and Jeff, rubbing himself up against the delicious man who’d declared himself Fen’s by both word and deed. Never again would Fen be alone, left in darkness and anguish.
He was free.