Shalendra smiled then sat back in her chair. “Good. With that settled, we need to figure out what’s going on and why you were unable to leave the Shadow Lands.”
“That’s not the only problem we’re facing,” Freyja added. “Hel, tell them what’s happening in Helheimr and the other death realms.”
“The spirits have disappeared. Gone, as if they had never been there.” She met Émilien’s confused gaze. “The River Sliðr has gone silent as well.”
Emilien’s brows rose. “Well, that’s not good. Has the Well of Hvergelmir melted?”
Hel shook her head. “My realm is still frozen, thank the gods.”
Shalendra’s gaze moved from one to the other, confusion on her face. “I don’t understand. What does a melting river have to do with anything?”
“The melting ice from the frozen well signifies the beginning of Ragnarök, among other signs, of course,” Freyja said. “From what I can tell, this is not that, but who truly knows?”
“You can ask Heimdall. He seems to know everything,” Émilien said.
Freyja drummed her burgundy fingernails on the arm rest of her chair, the staccatoticksannoying in the silent room. “I mentioned it in passing when Hel told me about the dead disappearing from the death realms, but he hasn’t seen anything. Now that he knows there’s a problem, he will keep his sight turned outward, looking for even the tiniest of clues. If anyone can find something, it’s Heimdall.”
She turned her amethyst gaze on Hel. “Of course, your brother would know if Ragnarök was about to begin.”
Hel’s eyebrows rose. “My brother?”
A droll expression covered Freyja’s face. “You know, Fenrir? The giant black wolf living in the caves just northeast of here?”
Hel shook her head, fear stabbing her heart. No one was supposed to know he was here... “You’re mistaken. Fenrir has been imprisoned for millennia—”
Freyja laid her hand over Hel’s. “I’ve known since you released him, my friend. I am the reason no one else has discovered him missing. I created a doppelgänger who is imprisoned as Fenrir was.”
“How? Why?” Hel pressed her fist to the center of her chest where an icy sensation ached.
“I, too, have a brother I love very much. Fenrir is innocent of what Óðinn accused him of and needlessly persecuted him. Time stops for no one, and no one can stop Ragnarök. Fenrir deserves to be free to live his own life, no matter what the Fates have decreed. I placed an enchantment over the place he was cast into. As long as my magic stays strong, Fenrir will remain safe. Also, no god can enter your realm and, even if they did, they would be doomed, unable to leave. It’s a good insurance policy, don’t you think?”
In an unexpected burst of emotion, Hel wrapped her arms around Freyja’s neck and held tight. This amazing, wonderful goddess continued to surprise her with unfaltering loyalty. “Thank you, Freyja. Fenrir is everything to me.”
Freyja patted her back. “I know. I just wish I could permanently set him free.”
“I owe you my sanity and my soul, goddess, and will never be able to thank you,” a deep gravelly voice said behind them.
Freyja and Hel turned to see Fenrir sitting behind them. A strange shimmer moved along her brother’s shaggy body. Hel was surprised to discover her brother could astral project. It was either that or someone in her realm was helping him.
“Fenrir, are you alone?” Hel asked, worry slipping into her tone.
“I am, sister.”
She scowled. “Then why didn’t I know you could astral project?”
He shrugged. “Because I never told you?”
Shalendra chuckled. Rising from her seat, she moved to stand in front of Fenrir. “It is very nice to meet you, Uncle Fenrir.”
His black lips rose in a wolfy smile. “Little Shalendra, it has been a long time. You have grown into a beautiful woman.”
She tilted her head to one side. “We’ve met before?”
He nodded. “When you were just a little thing, you used to come to my cave and climb all over me, giggling the entire time. You especially liked it when I would try to shake you off my back.”
Her eyes widened. She turned her head, first to Émilien then Hel before glancing back at her uncle. “I remember that...” She frowned. “Why don’t I remember anything else though?”
“That would be my fault,” Freyja said in a quiet voice. “To completely hide you from Loki, I erased your memories once you left for Midgard. As you meet those you knew or see places you have been, your memory will return.”