As the wife of the All Father and Queen of the eternal city of Asgard, Frigga found her time was very much in demand. Granted, a lot of the hours in the day were usually taken up with Royal duties - both alongside her King as well as on her own - but there was also the question of being the one who Seneschal would come to regarding matters of the Palace - such as menus, guests, décor and so on. It all meant that she found her time with her children was made all the more precious because it was invariably eroded by last minute requests of her to be off doing something in her capacity as Queen, and so she usually tried to make sure that the time she did have with them was of the best quality she could manage. This would mean all kinds of activities, such as making crafts, taking walks in the Palace grounds, reading exciting books or even taking a lovely afternoon nap with her face buried in the soft hair of her beloved boys. It was only in the last few weeks while Thor had been away with Odin that she had been reluctant to spend all this time away from the nursery simply because she felt Loki needed more emotional support in the absence of his older brother.
Today, however, had been a mad rush from the minute she finished her breakfast and she had reluctantly left Loki and Fulla alone all day. It was a half-day for the school, with only the morning taken up by lessons and she had rather hoped that they could have spent some time together, but Odin’s absence meant that she was expected to carry out some of his duties while he was away at the Royal Training grounds and she had found herself being dragged from appointment to appointment with no reprieve. It had seemed to take forever for the evening to arrive, but eventually the Herald announced the close of business and she leaned back in her throne with great fatigue. How did Odin do this day after day? She looked around the giant Throne Room and watched as servants arrived to clean it now that the public had departed. It was an amazing space, designed to engender awe and respect in those who arrived in supplication, but it also – in her eyes – seemed to represent a huge gilded prison for the one who was expected to sit in residence for all their subjects to have at their disposal.
A polite cough brought her out of her thoughts and she smiled at Seneschal, who was regarding her from a few steps below the stage upon which the thrones sat. His face could not disguise the relief he felt as she rose from her throne to begin to make her way down from the heights they occupied and Frigga realised she felt exactly the same way.
“My thanks to you, Seneschal. I do not think I could have managed to get through the day without you.” She gratefully accepted the man’s proffered arm and they made their way to the end of the long room to the corridor outside.
“It is my absolute pleasure, my Queen,” replied Seneschal, “and I would be honoured if you would allow me to escort you to the Royal suites?”
“Of course, Seneschal. I believe I could do with your arm this evening. I am quite exhausted by all the cases I have had to listen to today. I do hope Loki has not supped yet; I would very much like to take my evening meal with him. The poor thing has been without his Móðir all day!”
“I should imagine he is very much looking forward to seeing you, my Queen,” said Seneschal. It was well known that the Queen was a most attentive mother and that all her children adored her. It was not a surprise of course; the same kindness and consideration was bestowed on her subjects and it could easily be stated that there were very few people who did not love Odin’s beautiful wife. “Perhaps it would be nice to take him a small gift? Something just to lighten up his day and for him to have to hand when you are not there.”
“As ever, Seneschal, you have had a wonderful idea!” Said Frigga brightly, “Shall we make a little detour to the garden? I have been meaning to get Loki there more often so he can learn all about plants but I simply do not have the time at present.” The two of them turned down a corridor which led in the direction of the gardens where Frigga had her own private area, “It will not take long and as you say, it will hopefully cheer him up after having suffered my absence all day.”
They entered the walled gardens through a wrought iron gate and Frigga went straight to a wonderful greenhouse which was constructed of intricately carved hardwood frames inset with clear glass. The designs which were stained into the wood were such that it seemed to be formed from living boughs and vines and it meant that the rather large building blended in with its surroundings rather than being an ugly utilitarian affair. Inside, Frigga usually raised delicate seedlings, grew winter salads and sheltered things like bulbs, corms and those plants which were not quite hardy enough for outdoors in the winter. Loki had been in here a few times to help her bring tools in or to take out those seedlings ready for transplantation into a bed outside, and Frigga had given him his own little corner in which he was allowed to choose which plants he would like to grow. As children all over the Nine were perhaps helped with as their first things to grow, she had given him some tomato seeds and some marigold seeds to germinate, since they were some of the easiest and most satisfying plants to tend, and these were just starting to pop their first signs of leaves through the rich soil of the nursery bed he now had charge of. Yet there was something else he had shown interest in within the glazed haven of his mother’s greenhouse. Back in the furthest corner there was an area where there were items clearly of an older nature and it was not a particularly tidy part of the greenhouse. Old vases and ancient tools were stored there; partly inherited with the greenhouse and partly brought here by Frigga from her ancestral home. Some of the tools were family heirlooms and she could not bear to part with them, even though some of them did not quite do their intended job anymore. One of these neglected items had caught Loki’s attention the very first time she had brought him here and he had looked at it out of the corner of his eye at least a dozen times while he was raking his little patch of soil before he finally asked her what it was.
“Móðir, what is that pointy thing with a stone at its centre?”
“Why, my darling… it is a sun dial. It is a special one, too – you can take it with you wherever you are in the garden and as long as you know where the true Celestial North is, you can tell the time from the shadow cast by Sól. Is it not wonderful?”
“Yes, Móðir. May I touch it?”
“Of course… would you like to know how it got here?”
“Ohh, yes! Where did it come from? Is it from the forges of Ivaldi?”
“Haha! No, my son, although that is a very good guess. No, this is from a distant and magical realm, brought here by your father. Many centuries ago, he was adventuring on a world called Krynn and he came across a group of Dwarves who were master craftsmen. They were eager to show off their skills and – in return for a gift from your father – they forged this sun dial to help him in his travels. It never fails to accurately tell the time no matter where in the Nine you are!”
“That is a remarkable story, Móðir and this is such a beautiful souvenir. Fadir is very lucky to have it.”
It was the sun dial Frigga had now come here for. It was very old and had been crafted on another realm called Krynn, which was not truly of the Nine itself, but of a parallel dimension which overlapped with Midgard. It was a treasure obtained during an adventuring spree hundreds of years ago when the Gods were much younger and were not as settled as they were now. She took it from where it was resting and examined it.
About four feet in height, it was a metal stave which could be firmly planted in the ground wherever one was working in a garden or on a farm or perhaps even travelling. The thick pole was topped with a horizontal disc about seven inches in diameter and although this was partly corroded and caked in years of muck and spider’s webs, it was possible to see that there were divisions and numbers etched into its surface. In the centre was what looked like an emerald, only it was of an intensely deep and dark shade of green – almost black – and it was rounded, not a traditional “emerald cut” stone. It, too, was very dirty and it was not actually clear whether it really was an emerald or simply dark green glass. Over this central stone, a vertical wafer-thin fin of metal was attached along the line which led to the Northern point. It was punched out in a filigree pattern and was very delicate-looking. This was of course the gnomon and its shadow was what could be used to indicate the time as long as it was aligned with the Northern Star.
Frigga decided it could become a project for Loki over the next few days, during which she already had a very heavy programme of appointments lined up for her. He could get the dial cleaned up under the guidance of Fulla and then he would be able to read it and look forward to the time his Mother would be returning from her Royal duties to come home to see him. She picked up a can of cleaner which was specially formulated for metals and Seneschal accompanied her back to the Royal suites, where he bade her good evening and told her he would let the kitchens know to send up their supper. Hearing voices from inside the nursery, Frigga quietly pushed open the door and leaned in a bit to see what was going on. However, it seemed her days of sneaking around were coming to an end. Even though she had been as quiet as an Asgardian Owl’s feathers on the night air, and considering he had been facing away from the door, Loki had turned around and was looking to see who was there. His little face lit up once he saw it was her and he scrambled to his feet to run to her. He was already in his pyjamas, but he was wide awake as he leapt into her arms and gave her a huge hug. Frigga laughed with joy at this wonderful welcome after a long and arduous day and she carried him over to where he had been having a story read to him by Fulla. She lifted him down, careful not to snag him with the sundial and his big blue eyes immediately settled on it.
“Fadir’s Sun Dial…” he said and looked up to her, “From the green house! But why have you brought it?” Frigga could tell he still coveted it and she knew this would be a great gift for the young Prince.
“It was lonely,” she said, holding it up for them both to look at, “It was lying amongst old broken tools, yet it is not useless.” She looked at Loki with a serious expression, “It merely needs attention. It needs to be cleaned up and cared for, yet…” she sighed.
“Yet what?” Asked Loki, his face growing concerned.
“Yet I simply do not have the time. I am so busy with all the extra duties while the King is away and I hardly have enough time to see you…” she ruffled his brown hair affectionately, “let alone start to clean up and care for such a beautiful object as this.”
“I will do it!” Piped up Loki eagerly, “I will do it for Fadir! I will make it as if it is brand new!”
Frigga hesitated, drawing out the moment and allowing his enthusiasm to grow, “Will you, Loki? Would you do that for me?” She lowered the dial so it was easier for him to see, “It needs very special care to restore properly. You would have to be patient…”
“I will! I promise!” He reached out his small hands hopefully, “I will make it like new… for you both, Móðir.”
Frigga relinquished the long metal sundial to her son and smiled, “Thor is abroad. My only concerns are for you. Until Odin returns, the sun dial is yours. Make your father proud, my Prince.”
Time ran away with the Queen of Asgard after that evening and it was about three days later that she returned to the nursery very late again, only to find a guard standing outside the door. As she approached he stepped forward, blocking the door, and saluted her in the Asgardian fashion, “My Queen.”
“Good evening,” said Frigga, “may I enter?” She raised a quizzical eyebrow as the guard shook his head.
“Your Highness, I have been instructed by the Prince to announce your arrival this evening. Please wait here until you are summoned.”
Frigga smiled in surprise, but nodded graciously, “Very well. Please would you announce my arrival to the Prince and tell him I politely request the pleasure of an audience?”
“Yes, Your Highness. One moment, Your Highness.” The Guard could not keep the humour from his voice, but he coughed politely and straightened his back before knocking on the door and entering the Royal suites. A few seconds later, Frigga heard her presence being announced and smiled to herself as Loki gave the guard permission to escort her in.
The Queen looked around in wonder as she arrived at the nursery and was led inside by the guard. It was beautifully lit with warm coloured candles and there was a hint of Jasmine incense in the air. A very pleasant melody was being played softly by a couple of musicians over near the large hearth in which a cosy fire was burning and Fulla appeared to take her to the sofas facing it, where she was encouraged to kick off her shoes and sit down to relax. A cup of sweet hot chocolate was placed in her hand and a small tray with light finger foods was brought to a table next to her. Fulla sat down beside her with her own cup of hot chocolate and Frigga wondered at all this pampering before almost jumping out of her skin as Loki appeared. As had been usual over the last few nights, he was already in his pyjamas, but tonight he was clearly holding something behind his back as he stood there in front of her. He smiled lovingly, “Welcome home, Móðir. I hope your day was not too bad. Do you like how welcoming we made the room for you?” Frigga answered quickly, for he seemed to be struggling with whatever he was concealing.
“Yes, it is beautiful Loki and much needed after a long day at court. Thank you both so much!” She took a large sip of her drink and smiled, “This is absolutely delicious!”
“I have something for you!” Said Loki and he came to stand before her, “I hope you like it.” He moved around and frowned as he struggled slightly with his burden, but then he smiled and managed to bring it out from behind him. Frigga placed her cup on the table and reached out in amazement. It was the sun dial, but what a transformation it had undergone! “He has worked incredibly hard on this.” Whispered Fulla from beside her and Frigga nodded as she examined the beautiful object. Loki clearly had worked very hard. From the tip of the gnomon to the end of the stave, the sun dial gleamed in the firelight as the burnished wrought iron reflected the flames in its richly textured and beaten surface. She brought it round to look at the dial and almost gasped when she saw the crisply picked out letters and numbers – they looked almost new! But it was nothing in comparison to the stone set in the centre just underneath the tip of the gnomon. Gone was the crusted non-descript green gem and in its place was the most mesmerising stone she had ever seen. It was a smooth circular dome and it was possible that it was green, but it was so saturated with colour and so dark that it almost looked black. Yet, as one looked closer, one could see tiny golden stars within it, swimming around as if it was a liquid inside with their golden surfaces reflecting the firelight and Frigga was overcome with the beauty of it.
“It… it… it is breathtaking!” she whispered, quite unable to take her eyes off the leisurely dance the stars were doing inside their miniature universe.
“Is it not just wonderful?” Fulla patted the sofa and Loki climbed between the two women, leaning against Frigga’s side as she turned the beautiful object around in her hands. “Loki has a tale to tell you about it. When he managed to get all the grime off it, he became curious about the gem in the centre of the dial, so I took him to the library and we set about trying to find out what it was.” She tapped the shoulder of the little boy, who was already showing signs of becoming really sleepy, “Why don’t you tell your Mother what you found out before you go to bed, my Prince?”
Loki perked up a little at the request and his small hands joined Frigga’s as she traced her fingers over the surface of the strange gemstone.
“It is an Alt… alteress…erm. It is an Altsee… ender.” He looked at Fulla for help. It was not an easy word to remember, but he had done very well to get this far with its pronunciation.
“An ‘Altseende Øyet’, Loki.” She said slowly and clearly, and Loki broke into a huge grin as he remembered.
“Yes, Móðir, an Altseende Øyet. It means ‘All-seeing…
“…seeing Eye.” Frigga finished.
“Yes! How do you know that?” Asked Loki, “Have you seen one before?”
“No, my son. But I do know they are quite rare – especially the really good ones – and I also know they usually belong to a Mother Stone, which is a large orb of the same material.” She paused as she tried to remember what she had learned about them, but it had been some time ago. “Did you find anything else out about them?”
“Yes!” Said Loki eagerly, “They come from the Gemfather Mines in Anviltop. There are races of Dwarves there who specialise in rare and beautiful gems and this is an example of the rarest and most coveted of the Anviltop Emeralds. It is mined from so deep a mine that there are enchantments upon them from ancient remains of Dragons and other strange creatures which have given them their powers.” The little boy took a deep breath after his lengthy recitation of the book he had read in the library and looked expectantly at his mother for her reaction. “They must be the Dwarves Fadir met.” He squeezed his eyes shut with a wide smile on his face as she hugged him.
“What a wonderful tale, Loki. It makes your father’s adventures sound all the more exciting! Perhaps we should investigate how they are used. How about I make time in my calendar to spend an afternoon in the library to discover how they could be of use to us? Would that not be interesting?”
“Oh yes, Móðir! I should very much like to do that and we can tell Fadir all about it.” Grinned Loki, and then he yawned widely.
“Ohhh… I do believe it is time for someone to go to bed!” Laughed Frigga and kissed the young Prince on the top of his head. She placed the sun dial carefully to one side and spent the next half an hour or so helping him to get his teeth brushed and his face washed, then curled up beside him on his bed to swap tales of adventures in Dwarven mines as he settled down and eventually fell asleep.
Loki got a really good night’s sleep that night, with many dreams of black and green gems with stars swimming around in their centre, and although he did not yet know who they were, the girl he dreamt of with red hair who rode on a chestnut mare and another whose blonde locks fell in pretty curls down her back as she polished a mirror in the King’s suite would, one day, become a part of his life and he would stay in contact with them through stones mined from the very seam of Dwarven Emerald that the gem in the sun dial had come from.