Physical strength is the most valued trait in the realm of Asgard. Prince Loki Odinson was stronger than most but enervated in comparison to other warriors. His powerful magic, battle skills with his dagger, incredible intelligence, and handsome face should have been respected, but some would best describe Loki as a second thought. A cruel statement, even for Loki's mischievous standards.

Perhaps if Loki was not the youngest child and his older brother was the embodiment of the perfect Asgardian, then he might have had more veneration and popularity. His own father doted over Thor more. In the training grounds when they were children, the All-Father was demonstrating the most effective battle techniques to Thor, while Loki struggled to keep up. The younger god did learn how to fight, but due to the long time it took for him to reach that skill, it was never celebrated.

Magic had a lengthy history in Asgardian culture. Frigga, Loki's mother, had taught him magic when he was three. She had seen Loki struggling with learning how to fight. Figuring that teaching the young boy magic would help him in battle, Frigga decided to spend more time with her younger son, balancing the acts of her husband. Loki was a true prodigy with sorcery, which made his mother proud. He was also remarkably smart, never once struggling with academics. That part of his life was praised, but it only lasted for eighteen. With tutoring over and a focus on fighting, Loki was no longer lionized.

At the age of 1,039, Loki met a new servant at the palace. She was a beautiful young woman, but she was not the age of most new servants. She was around his age, deciding a new career at the age was unheard of. Though they never spoke in their first meeting, Loki was surprised that he remembered her. Her curly dark blonde hair and light green eyes were wide in shape. She was much shorter than the average Asgardian, Loki inferred that he was a foot taller than her, but that did nothing to distract from her beauty.

It took another year for Loki to see her again. A complete accident, Loki stumbled upon the servant while she was in the palace gardens. Her name was Runa Brandtsdottir. He was finally able to have a conversation with her. Loki did not learn much about Runa, but she did mention having a tense relationship with her father. That comment enthralled Loki; he had never met anyone who also struggled with their father. Their talk ended abruptly, with a sudden kiss making Runa leave the gardens.

Two weeks later, Loki came across Runa, once again coincidental. Runa was hesitant to talk, as she was a servant and he was a prince, she believed they should start a romantic relationship. Even though they had not spoken much, Loki felt a connection with her. So, they began a conversation, where Runa confessed to enjoying the kiss but was scared of the consequences. Loki understood her fears and normally he would have agreed not to pursue a relationship. But his feelings for Runa were different than those from his past romances. Out of character, Loki stated that he did not care what others thought. He confessed to having developed feelings for her and wanted to start a romantic relationship.

Runa had never had amorous feelings for anyone, but her various meetings with Loki made her intuit romantic emotions. She had wondered why a prince was falling in love with but upon Loki's explanation of his feelings, it all made sense. He truly had genuine feelings for her, and it made Runa feel wanted.

After they finished talking, the two leaned into a kiss. A few minutes in, clothes were coming off and they each gave one another their constant. Passionate sex occurred in Loki's chambers that night.

Some point in the night, the love-making had stopped and Loki laid on his bed naked with Runa on top of him, their chests against one another. He was surprised it took him this long to notice how large her breasts were, as he could feel their warmth transferring to his sweaty body. The size and shape of her body weren't important, he thought. All that mattered was her mind and actions.

Stroking Loki's shoulder, Runa looked up into the god's deep green eyes.

"Please tell me this was not a one-night occurrence. I want to see you again. Maybe we can talk more and not have sex right away. Perhaps a walk around the kingdom, or a nice meal. Whatever you think will work."

Loki smiled as he stroked Runa's curly hair. He kissed her ruby lips before responding to her request.

"A date with you sounds lovely."

Other members of the royal family soon discovered Loki's relationship. Odin was initially upset and upon confronting Loki, he was surprised by how unashamed his youngest son was. The prince admitted that he was proud to be in love with Runa and how he did not care that she was a servant. It did not matter what his family thought of his love life, Loki had real feelings for Runa that he refused to let go of. It was that statement that made his family decide to respect his romantic relationship.

The more time they spent together, the more Loki learned about Runa. She was a year and a half away from turning one thousand. Her father was a warrior with strict values and beliefs. He had wanted to have a son, but his first-born was a daughter. He and his wife had tried for decades to have another child, but Runa remained an only child. Part of the reason was that her father believed men to be superior to women and he wanted a warrior to continue his legacy. The other reason, well, Runa never told anyone, not even Loki.

Her mother had a hidden ability as a skriver, the power to read any language by looking at a simple sentence and can even speak it after reading or hearing it for a bit. Asgard had some in its beginning, but it was thought that they went extinct after they were targeted by other nations. Only women inherited this ability from their mothers. Runa's mother had wanted to end the power of skrivers, but her daughter contradicted that plan. Fearing that Loki would report her or regret her love, Runa kept her ability a secret. Even if Loki was a very accepting and understanding lover, she could not take the risk.

Besides her hidden talents, Runa was very open with Loki about her past. Her parents and other members of her family became colder to her as she got older. She was very short for an Asgardian and although she had the race's signature physical strength, she was weak compared to others. Focusing on what she was good at, Runa was a model student when she was young and enjoyed literature. Originally thinking that her intelligence would make her family proud, she was sadly mistaken when they cast their disappointed looks upon her.

After hundreds of years of neglect, Runa planned to run away. For years she hid her plan from her family, knowing that despite their dislike of her, they would find a way to stop her. The only way she could successfully leave was to work and live somewhere far away from her current home. Furthermore, she needed a place where it would be difficult to locate her. She would have to lie about her age since most workplaces only accepted Asgardians of a young age. Falsehoods about her family life were also required, as others could trace her back to her soldier of her father and make her return.

Runa finally decided to work as a servant at the palace. She knew how to clean well and would be well-hidden among the hundreds of other servants. So, after years of faking documents and training for the job, she ran away from home. While her parents were not at their house, she escaped during the night with no hints of where she was going and not one note of why she left. The hate she received from her family made Runa decide to not tell them anything afterward. They did not deserve it.

It was the similarities in their situations that furthered the connection between Loki and Runa. Both had issues with their fathers. Though Loki still cared about his father and wanted his adulation, they were still problems with neglect. Runa comforted her lover whenever there were fights with his family. She was very patient and said whatever Loki wanted to hear. However, as she became more comfortable with his presence, she became more honest with him. Loki did not like it when someone was brutally honest with him, but he valued Runa's opinion and knew she was only saying it to make him a better person.

The couple's relationship had been going incredibly smooth for the past six months. Runa had become friends with those of Loki's. She was close to Sif, as the latter was happy to have another female friend to complain about men, and Runa was pleased to listen and offer some of her own tales. Thor was also kind to Runa and often asked her how Loki was doing. The God of Thunder cared about his brother's wellbeing and wanted to make sure he was treating her well. Loki and Runa continued to go on dates; they walked around outdoors at night, ate meals brought to the prince's room, occasional sex after they drank too much.

The last example would later lead to a problem.

Runa knew she was not the healthiest of Asgardians, but she should not have been as sick as she was. For the past two weeks, she felt hot and dizzy constantly, even though it was rather cool weather in Asgard as of late. She found it best to sit as often as she could and wear slightly less clothing, though not too revealing as she was a servant and needed to maintain a certain appearance. She ate more, which did not make sense to Runa; she was, in Midgardian measurements, five feet and two inches, her body did not need the average amount of Asgardian food servings, she even ate more than average. The servant already had large breasts, but they somehow grew bigger and felt tender. Runa did not know what was ailing her until she realized one thing: her period was late. For Asgardian women, their menstruation cycle occurred every other month, and Runa was a month late.

After being finished with her servant duties for the day, Runa went to the healers for treatment of her condition. As she told the healers about her symptoms and aches, she thought they would be able to determine what was wrong with her. She thought to herself how she could not be pregnant. Sure, she and Loki had sex, but they had only been dating for a few months. It takes most people years to conceive a child and are usually together for the same amount of time. Additionally, they were both too young. In Midgardian terms, Loki and Runa were approximately eighteen years old. They were not married either; having a child now would cause many problems.

I am sure that I cannot be pregnant, thought Runa. My body is not that strong, so I'm probably sick. That has to be it: I am simply iller than usual. It will pass and I will be fine afterward.

"Congratulations, you are two and a half months pregnant."

Light green eyes bulged after the healer's statement. Runa looked at the floor and ignored all sounds around her. The focus was only on her thoughts.

She did not feel ready for this. Being a parent was a huge responsibility, and Runa did not know if she was equipped for raising a child. She was too young and so was her child's father. And Loki, would he be prepared for parenting? Did he even want to be a parent? Runa could not be a parent alone; she needed Loki.

Maybe she could get rid of the child. Abort it before Loki knows and never give any hints of the child's existence. But someone would tell the royal family. She was aware that people within the palace walls knew about her romantic relationship with Loki. Perhaps one of the healers would tell, but the royal family might agree with the decision to abort.

But Loki cared about Runa, although he was a selfish creature. There was a heedless nature in his eyes, but Runa saw something different when he looked at her. An egocentric gleam was replaced with selflessness. If Loki cared about Runa, then he would care about their child.

Runa would keep the child and raise it with Loki.

Everything had changed in their lives so fast.

Just hours ago, Runa was living in the servants' quarters and discovered that she was pregnant. The previous night, she had told Loki about her condition and revealed the news to his parents early the next day. Now, with respect to the order she was given to reside in the royal chambers, she was looking out Loki's window as he prepared for bed. Relieved of her servant duties for an indefinite amount of time, Runa was enjoined to sleep in Loki's room for the remainder of her pregnancy. It had only been a simple day, but Runa felt as if everything was different.

It was strange for Loki as well. Washing his face in the washroom, Loki reflected upon his day. He thought the day was going normally until he found Runa crying in his rooms. Frightened by what was upsetting her, Loki comforted Runa and questioned what was wrong. The last thing he expected was for Runa to tell him that she was pregnant with his child. She continued to appear scared after she told him and when pondering about what was further distressing her, Runa asked if he wanted the child and if they were ready to be parents. A response did not arrive immediately, as Loki was thinking about an answer.

They were young and in a new relationship, certainly not the time to have a baby. If they welcomed the idea of accepting the child, others may not. Loki's family would be disappointed, but the filtering of their dismay would be different. Frigga would be elated at the concept of becoming a grandmother. Thor definitely would not be disappointed, probably feting the idea of being a warm and fun uncle. The person whose disappointment had the possibility of never disappearing was Odin. He had a stone-like face, not expressing much emotion when conversing with his people, and sometimes his own family. The All-Father might forever be dissatisfied with his youngest son, never giving him the opportunity to rule the Nine Realms.

But there was no strong reason to not raise the child. So what if a feeling of disappointment rose in his family? Even though it had only been a few months, Loki felt that Runa was becoming his family. A child would be a confirmation of their loving relationship and a welcome extension. Raising the baby might make his father finally proud of him. If Loki could overcome the obstacles of parenting and successfully nurture the child, then he might finally escape from Thor's shadow by demonstrating the maturity he had achieved, the maturity needed to be king.

So Loki comforted Runa by telling her that he would be involved in the child's life. He would be a father.

He figured it would be the best idea to tell his parents the news in the morning. Runa was already two and a half months pregnant, her belly would be growing soon, there was no use in hiding. That morning he told Runa to stay in his room until he returned. Loki was not surprised when Frigga requested to meet Runa. The All-Mother seemed dismayed initially, but supportive of her son's decision to be a father. What was surprising was Odin's quick acceptance. Just minutes after receiving the news, Odin met Runa herself and took quite a liking to her, he decided she was a good match for his son.

Loki exited the washroom and saw Runa leaning on the rail to the window, completely lost in thought. There was a confused expression on her face, she appeared afraid and tired. He walked up to her, putting his hand on her shoulder. In response, Runa shook her head to evade her mind. She looked up at Loki, wondering what he wanted.

"Why don't you join me in bed?" Loki asked. "You look tired. I think some rest would be best for both of us right now."

Runa nodded as Loki led her to his bed. She laid down, pulling the covers over her petite body. Loki could tell how tired she was based on the quick speed when Runa's head hit the pillow. Her hands grasped the fabric of the sheets.

"Everything feels so different," Runa said in a hushed voice. "I feel as if my life has been transformed in one day."

"I understand," responded Loki. "I did not expect you to be pregnant, and I don't think you did either. But it's alright. We are going to be parents in about six months. We have time to prepare for the baby."

"I just feel scared. I do not know how to raise a child. I fear we might ruin something."

"We will not, Runa. We will learn, as all parents do. There will be difficulties, but I know we can do this. I know you are capable of being a great mother. Our child will be loved. If it makes you feel any better, I'm frightened as well. Even as I am encouraging, there is still some doubt. All I am certain of is that I will never leave you or the baby."

"Did you promise?"

Loki laid down on his own pillow, stroking Runa's blushy cheek.

"I do. I love you both too much to leave."

Runa smiled and snuggled closer to Loki.

"I love you too. And your speech did make me feel better."

Anyone who knew Loki's true identity as a Frost Giant could predict that Runa would have a rough pregnancy. The first half-Jotun and half-Asgardian child would be arriving soon, but the parents-to-be were clueless to the truth. A female Asgardian like Runa would struggle to handle the cold temperature the baby needed to survive. The baby had to create an icy atmosphere itself safe, so it had to take energy from its mother.

Fainting, dizziness, and cold flashes began occurring when Runa was four months pregnant. The first time she fainted, Loki was able to catch her before any damage could be done to the baby. Runa believed it was her petite body and lack of a strong build made it different to carry a child. Loki explained to her that some pregnancies were more difficult than others, a fact that was confirmed by the healers. Both had eventually convinced themselves of a lie.

Pessimistic behavior was a part of Loki's nature, but he had taken a slightly more positive attitude to lighten Runa's mood. It was not the most noticeable change, as Loki knew a larger swift in his personality would bother his lover. Being more joyful was not a challenge for him, for discovering that Runa was carrying a little girl elevated Loki's mood. In all honesty, the sex of his child did not matter but learning that he was going to have a daughter gave Loki many jocular emotions.

Staying close to Runa became a natural instinct for Loki. He became overly protective, feeling that it was his duty to evade her and their unborn daughter from any harm. He spent most of his free time with Runa, though his job as a prince occasionally sent him away to another realm.

"Hel, even these formal missions are exhausting," Loki said to himself as he returned to his chambers. "It was only a day and yet here I am: annoyed at others' ignorance."

Although he was probably the smartest man in Asgard, Loki had trouble keeping an even temper. His friends kept his anger under control so the mission would be a success. Luckily, being calm made the ordeal end quicker, letting Loki go home to his lover, despite it being rather late into the night.

The air hit Loki as he entered his chamber. The breeze was of a moderate temperature, fitting for the time of year. A window near the corner of the room was open, letting some fresh air invade the room while not fully changing the climate. Runa laid on their bed, the end of the covers above her breasts. One hand was above the sheets, while the other rested on her swollen stomach.

Loki walked over to the bed and laid his hand on Runa's belly. At five months pregnant, her midsection was slightly bigger than average. Their daughter began kicking when she felt her father's touch, causing her mother to stir.

"You have given your mother quite a hard time," quipped Loki as he knelt down. "It would be best to not wake up your mother. Better give her a good night's rest. I feel guilty for doing this to her, so don't bother her further."

The expecting mother soon settled, not awoken by the baby's sudden kicking. Loki rubbed her stomach, feeling the movements of his unborn daughter.

"I love you such much, even though you are not born yet. I have never been both elated and frightened at the same time. Not to offend you, but I never planned to have children this soon in my life. Yet I'm happy that you are here, especially since you are a girl. I told myself early on that I didn't care about your sex, but I feel better knowing that you are a female. Perhaps I wanted a daughter all along. Most royals want their firstborn to be a boy, but I think there are too many. A princess is just what this nation needs.

"Others may antagonize you for being illegitimate, which is not your fault, that should be blamed on your mother and mine. But you should not fret, I won't let anyone attack you. You will have the protection of trained guards, warriors, and gods to protect you. Judging by your kicks, you might be quite powerful yourself."

Loki stood up and entered the washroom, cleaning himself and changing his clothing before he went to bed. It did not take him long, so he soon lifted the blanket on his bed and laid down. He rested his head on a pillow and closed his eyes, wanting sleep to consume him after a long day.

"You don't have to feel guilty for impregnating me."

The prince opened his eyes and saw his pregnant girlfriend looking at him.

"You heard all of that?"

"Of course. As soon as you enter the room, she starts kicking uncontrollably. No matter what time of day it is, she is very excited to see you. She was also kicking my bladder, which she always does, so it was difficult to fall back asleep. You were very open to our daughter ."

Loki sighed and scratched his hair. "It's just hard to tell people how I feel, sometimes even with you. Never in my life have I ever told others about my fears, it makes me feel vulnerable and weak. Venting my thoughts to our daughter surprisingly made me feel better."

Runa turned her head to look at her boyfriend. "I know a lot has happened in the past few months. Being confused and afraid right now makes sense. If anyone understands how you feel, it's me. I love you, Loki. I want you to be well when our daughter arrives."

The god nodded. "I never thought I would be this pleased to discover that I will be a parent. Finding out that we're having a little girl, feeling her kick inside you, deciding her name will be Eira, it has made me experience joys I have never felt. But there is this small terror building up inside me. First starting when you fainted, I felt guilty for doing this to do. We created life, but I did one thing while you do most of the work: carrying our child despite the obstacles. Then, as we get closer and closer to her birth, I don't know if I will be a good parent. I will love our daughter, but I worry I might ruin something. As the youngest child, I have no experience with children."

"And I'm an only child, so you are not alone in that area. When I found out I was pregnant, I was the most afraid I have ever been. I was concerned about your reaction and those of others. We are so young, not the average age to begin having children. To be honest, I considered aborting the baby, but then I thought about you. Putting my fears aside, I realized that you truly cared about me, therefore you would care about our child. What prevented me from getting rid of the child was realizing that you would be a good father. When you were excited about me telling you about the pregnancy, your elation when we discovered I was carrying a girl, I was glad to know I was right."

At some point during her statement, Runa had turned her body to get a full look at her lover. She rubbed his shoulder, and Loki stroked a strand of her curly hair in return. "You really think I will be a good father?"

Runa responded with a nod. "Without a doubt. And your daughter agrees with me."

Loki pulled a hand from under the covers and rested it on Runa's stomach. His daughter continued kicking, though she moved where her kicks were aimed at the palm of her father.

"Her kicks are quite strong," said the god as his thumb rubbed her stomach while the rest of his hand remained still.

"I know, Loki," sighed Runa. "I can feel her kicks better than you."

Loki laughed. Runa huffed out a laugh and shifted her head to rest on his chest.

"Will you rub my back when I throw up in the morning?"

"Of course," Loki said after he chuckled.

The couple fell asleep in that position

It all felt fast and slow at the same time. A couple of conversations lead to sex, a few dates created a baby. In the course of a few months, the relationship between Loki and Runa was swift, but it eventually felt normal. Loki could not imagine his life without Runa and the anticipating birth of his daughter. Half a year ago Runa was cleaning corners of the palace, now she spent many hours of her day resting in her lover's chambers as she carried his child.

The creation of their child caused a realization in the couple's mind: the feats that multiple relationships take years or even decades to accomplish was reached by Loki and Runa within months. A decision was made by the two. It was best for the remainder of their relationship to grow at a steady pace. They would have the baby and focus on raising her while balancing their romance. While some encouraged them to marry before the baby's birth, their closest friends and allies thought it would be best to wait a few years before considering engagement.

Loki and Runa agreed, but sometimes people change.

Many women approached Loki with dreams of romance and occasionally he reciprocated those advances - and he would be lying if he did not have similar feelings toward some men. But there were several who deserved courting him because of his royal status. When he fell in love with Runa, he could tell that her statements were not a fabrication; she armored Loki for the man he was.

On an uneventful day, Loki returned to his chambers after a sparring match. He asked Runa how her day was. The woman was initially dodging the question, confessing that she spent the day not doing anything noteworthy. Once Loki noted that she was reading a new book, Runa became annoyed, telling him that the ending of the book was terrible and unsatisfying. Loki, a man with a lifelong fascination with literature, was interested in her opinions. During the complaints, Loki realized the number of things he had in common with Runa and how he was truly enchanted by every word she said.

In the midst of Runa's statement, Loki discerned that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

Runa's as she apologized for being upset at something so daft, but it did not register with Loki as he realized his full love for her. As she complained about her pregnancy hormones making her increasingly irritable, the god hugged her and stated that her anger did not matter, he still loved her.

Loki decided that he wanted to marry Runa, though not any time soon. He even approached Runa about the topic, asking her if she wanted to wed him at some point during the future. Initially shocked by the sudden question, Runa had difficulty processing what Loki said to her. But soon after, Runa thought about the last few months and her relationship with Loki. She loved and she knew he loved her. So, she agreed to marry him sometime after their daughter was born.

The engagement was kept a secret, as the couple figured that if people knew, then they would attempt to make the wedding happen sooner. There were no objects or tokens to confirm they were now engaged. It was a complete secret.

An attempt to confirm their engagement had to be made, at least that was what Loki thought. Just something between the two of them that represented their love.

One night Loki requested to Runa that they should leave the palace and walk around the shops and fields of Asgard as a date. He did not know the last time his fiance had actually left the premises of the castle. His theory was that leaving the palace for a few hours might clear her mind and relieve some of her stress. Originally thinking Runa would reject the notion, he was surprised by how quickly she agreed. Runa had plenty of alone time with Loki but the idea of vacating the confines of the palace was appealing.

A few days later they decamped for their date. Loki disguised himself as a normal citizen, while Runa kept her usual appearance. They walked around the outdoor markets of Asgard, separating at one point for their own purchases. One acquisition by Loki was a surprise for Runa: he did not wish for her to see it.

Runa tasked herself with baby-shopping. A toy vendor was selling stuffed animals representing famous animals from Asgardian tales. The toy version of Hati - the black wolf who chased the moon and foil of his brother Skoll, who chased the sun - caught Runa's eye. Hati was joined by small strips of fabrics, which Runa would eventually use to sew and create blankets and clothes for her daughter.

An hour of shopping was followed by a visit to a field outside the walls of the palace. Assisting her up a small slope of a hill, Loki invited Runa to sit underneath the leaves and branches of a horse-chestnut tree. Curiosity filled the woman's eyes, quizzical of his intentions. The couple settled onto the shadows of the tree. Loki wrapped his arm around Runa's shoulder, while she leaned her head against his own.

"There is a motivation behind this date tonight, isn't there?" probed Runa. "Most nights you prefer to settle in your chambers, but you have been rather persistent about leaving the castle for a few hours."

"You are very observational," Loki noted as he reached for an item in his pocket. "I figured that you may have wanted to leave the castle for a bit, do something amusing without my family or the guards pestering and watching us. I also wanted to get you something."

Loki removed the object from his pocket. The item was a common romantic token, generally described as a smooth chain material composed of a metal, the more exquisite ones were made of materials like gold or silver. The centerpiece of the necklace was usually comprised of a jewel framed by a metal component. It was an engagement necklace, the Asgardian version of a Midgardian engagement ring.

The necklace Loki bought was held together by a silver chain, almost as thin as a piece of string, but thick enough for one to notice the details and engravings it contained. The rim of the ring was silver as well, but a majority of the ring was made of a teal gemstone. The interior of the ring had engravings: words translating to love and passion from the language of Old Norse.

"Loki," breathed Runa. "When did you… Where-" Shock prevented her from finishing.

"Although we agreed to hide our engagement from others for an indefinite amount of time, I thought we should have some type of object to confirm it, just for both of us."

Runa slowly grasped the necklace from Loki's hand. Her fingers felt the textures of the materials, staring deeply into the teal stone engraved throughout the ring. Her facial expression was neutral and Loki had difficulty determining her thoughts.

"If you don't like it, it is perfectly understandable. I do not wish for you to be further stressed, so you are free to-"

Loki's statement was interrupted by a kiss from Runa.

"It's perfect, Loki," said Runa after she ended the kiss. "I love you, so much."

Runa pulled the chain of the necklace over her head, letting it settle on her neck and hiding the ring under the upper part of her shirt, continuing to keep the secret of her engagement with Loki.

The average Asgardian pregnancy lasts the same as pregnancy from Midgard: nine months. Since the biology of the Jotnar was mostly unspecified, the healers were clueless about the length of Runa's pregnancy. Whether the pregnancies of Jotuns were the same length as Asgardians or not was unknown. The pregnancy could be shorter than the regular nine months or be longer.

None of this information was disclosed to either Loki or Runa. Neither knew about Loki's true identity as a Jotun prince, the forgotten son of Laufey, the dishonorable runt. Runa did not know she was carrying the first child in history that was half-Aesir, half-Jotnar. She had faced some effects of the pregnancy so far - dizziness, fatigue, a cold body temperature - and assumed that her pregnancy was simply more difficult than average. The healers hypnotized that the toils from carrying a halfling were causing stress upon her body.

Runa was barely eight months pregnant when she felt contractions for the first time. Originally thinking it was just the baby kicking her rather unpliable, she tried to go about her morning normally. Discomfort was the first feeling, but as the time between each contraction became closer and closer, Runa felt as if someone was tormenting her. Attempting to hide her pain from Loki became fruitless, as he immediately noticed her wincing. He panicked when she told him that their daughter was ready to see the world a bit earlier than expected. A false sense of tranquility enveloped Loki as he left to ask aid from the healers, he did not want Runa to feel as unnerved as he was. During her wait, a wet, pop-like noise was released by Runa's body. With it, a thick, mucus-like liquid containing red streaks was distributed among the tiles of the chamber floor. The kicks were harder, angrier; the child attempting to be free of the confinements of her mother's womb.

In the process of the thirteen-hour labor, Loki was separated from Runa. The healers wiped the sweat from her forehead, allowed her to squeeze their hands to numb the pain, gave her a bed to rest between each bout of pain. She still felt lonely, however. The presence of the love of her life was empty, the healers failing to mimic his methods of comfort. But she was not sure if anyone could numb the endless pain. Pushing out the child felt like she was being split in two, the power of her body diminishing.

All the pain was erased in seconds, the deafening cries of her infant daughter breaking reality. Suddenly there was no affliction, replaced by the material desire to soothe her child's first cries. Ignoring the pain of the afterbirth, Runa watched as her daughter was carried out of the room. Perhaps her sense of reality was slipping, as she thought she could see a small, pale blue hand peeking out of the blanket. Seconds later, her daughter returned to the room, this time a patchy red foot sneaking out of the blanket's confinements.

The tears of the child reduced once she was placed in the arms of her exhausted mother. The little girl settled her head against her mother's breast, enervated from her first few minutes of life. Her rest did not last for long, her rising hunger becoming a bother. While most babies struggled to feed for the first time, Runa's daughter learned quickly.

"You are such an impatient little girl," Runa whispered to her daughter as she quenched her thirst. "So much like her father."

The mother and daughter pair were alone, the healers were in another room, cleaning their materials. Someone was sent to deliver the news of his daughter's birth to Loki. The baby had finished her first meal, releasing a yawn as Runa adjusted her dress. The girl had fallen asleep and Runa wished she could do the same. But she wanted to see Loki before she rested. She had a need for her little family to be together for the first time.

The first time they would be a complete family. Loki, Runa, and their daughter.

Their little Eira.

While she was pregnant with Eira, Runa imagined what she would look like, if her looks would fit her name. She knew her daughter would have a head full of her father's sable locks. Eira had black hair, but she lacked her mother's traits. Her nose was as pointy as Loki's and Runa had the feeling that when her eyes finally settled to their definite color, Eira would have jade irises. Her chin was round and face shaped like a diamond, just like her mother.

Runa stroked her daughter's clenched fists, waiting for Loki to appear. It was a struggle to stay awake, the inside of her body felt sore and weak, which she assumed was an effect of labor. Before giving birth, she was told it was normal to experience perineal tears, abdominal pain, and constipation, but those were supposed to occur a few days after, not right away. Something felt wrong, but Runa did not know what. She wanted to get the attention of the healers, tell them that her body was not behaving correctly.

But she needed to see Loki. She needed to see him meet his daughter for the first time.

She would stay awake, let Loki hold Eira, watch their first interactions, and then she would rest. After a half a day of labor, she deserved to drowse, but waking up was not in her destiny.

Runa heard footsteps from the hallway, recognizing them as Loki's. She smiled, excited to see the prince, and be a family for the first and last time.