Hello hello, and welcome to the short story of the week, which was written for the Mythological March Event on The Writer’s Mess. This piece is for Week 3, Norse Myths, where the goal is to take one of the Norse Myths and re-imagine it. I took “The Death of Baldur” and re-imagined it as a sci-fi story, told from the perspective of Loki.
Baldur was an ass.
Okay, so Baldur was good looking, smart, and incredibly kind, which I must admit irritated me to no end.
Everyone on The Asgard absolutely loved Baldur, and they all knew him. While The Asgard, name ship of the Asgard fleet, lead ship of the Yggdrasil alliance was large, it could feel very small to those living on it. There were a lot of people on the ship who could get away with fading into the background, becoming the invisible force that kept the ship moving forward, but neither Baldur, nor myself, Loki, were among them.
I was, after all, not just the a captain’s son, but third son of the Allfather, who ran the ship, the fleet, and ultimately ruled over the entire alliance. I grew up with the same level of scrutiny as one of my samples in the lab, continuously observed, tested, and in my case providing sub-optimal results.
Everyone had known since the day Thor was born that he was to replace Odin as Allfather when the time came, as first born, it was his duty to do so. Personally, I had my doubts on how well that would go, as Thor could outfight just about anyone, in or out of the cockpit, but he has this earnest quality, a naivete about him that was sure to spell trouble for him when he took the helm. There was plenty of time for that to change though, and I feel I continue to do my part to help subdue Thor’s overly trusting nature.
Baldur was second son, my half brother, and somehow, almost impossibly, he was even more trusting and earnest than Thor. Baldur was a pacifist, a position which I could never bring myself to support, and worked as a diplomat, spreading peace where Thor would choose to fight.
I would have thought that my parents would try and dissuade him from his ridiculous notions, but instead they indulged him, in a way that I was never indulged. Everyone loved Baldur, from his friends, e to his enemies, and well with Baldur no one stayed the latter for long.
Where Baldur could do no wrong, I could do no right. I was fair with a weapon, but not like Thor, had a silver tongue, but could never broker peace like Baldur, and my gifts instead laid in the fields of science, and technology. Oh the things I could do with holo-projections were unparalleled, and while I was penalised for the prank later, I once convinced Thor that he was speaking to our mother, when in fact, it was one of my works. Was I congratulated on my success? No, I was confined to quarters because Thor hadn’t the brains not to paint the hull pink, the idiot.
My talents didn’t end with holo-projections though and I could use plants, and crystals to heal the most lethal of wounds, and when I fought, a little of the right tincture on my blade made me far more lethal than my dear brother.
I, however, was dismissed as a trickster, a child, and no matter how glorious my creations, I could not get my father to see me for what I was, gifted. Watching the same man who told me that I could not trick my way out of a fair fight without being branded a coward, turn around and praise Baldur for refusing the same fight was infuriating, and I watched it happen again and again, day after day.
While Baldur was never anything but kind to me, and wasn’t that the worst, having someone you hated being nice to you, ugh, I did not feel the same way in return.
I could ignore them treating Thor differently, as Thor would one day be responsible for all of us, but then there was Baldur. It was like my parents had their heir, their spare, and then got saddled with me. I decided to make myself useful, and where I worked on Thor’s gullibility, with Baldur I worked on his pacifism. Sure he had guards, but there were so many dangers out there that the guards could not defend him from.
I mean, when I helped that delegate smuggle in that blaster, I didn’t expect him to actually SHOOT at Baldur, you know, just be armed. Father was livid with me after that incident, but not for my actual role, the delegate died before he had a chance to reveal my hand in it. No, Father was livid as he believed I should have been able to disarm the attacker prior to the shot, despite being half a room away, and unable to see what was going on.
It did inspire action though, not from Baldur of course, but from my dear mother, who insisted Baldur be kept safe. Thus began the “great upgrade” where over three years the fleet’s security system was revolutionised to detect and disable threats.
The cost was astronomical, and the sheer marketing of it all, spinning the colossal waste of funds into something that would “keep us all safe” was absolutely disgusting, as there was no way that the endeavour could succeed. I told Father as much, that there would always be a way around such a system, a novelty, an oversight, and my Father, arrogant as he was, issued the challenge for me to get around it.
Well, not in so many words, he said that I was acting childish as I could not think of way around it, and I knew that he meant it as a challenge. The biggest weakness in the system, as far as I could tell, was in the detection of poisons, where things such as amounts and species changed all the variables.
The science teams were aware of it though, and my own healing research was incorporated into the system, though the extensiveness was glossed over rather than praised, and I did GOOD work. One by one. All departments’ research was uploaded, and then came the plants.
They were sensitive, as so many had applications in healing that could also harm, so Frigg herself added the information in, on each plant, the uses, the doses, etc., and I watched in disgust as critical research went untended in favour of the system that should never have been.
It was going to make us lazy, slow, and when the time came that we encountered an enemy that was not so slow, our guard would be down, and I had to make them see that. Pandering to Baldur’s whims could end up coming back to hurt us all.
The system appeared perfect, and dozens tried to bypass it when it first went up, throwing things at Baldur, trying to hurt him, and laughing at the system holding them back. I knew then that Baldur was in far more danger than Thor, someone would eventually be successful, and Baldur was learning to stand in front of blasters instead of duck, this would not do. I hated him, but having him dead, it seemed a step too far.
It took me eight months to find a flaw in the system, and I waited another year to allow the security system to become old hat, for the slowness of complacency to creep over the fleet before I enacted my plan.
When I searched the database, I had found that Frigg had not been nearly as thorough as she may have thought, and there was a loophole, a missing plant, and a missing evaluation, mistletoe.
Obviously I wouldn’t be able to get him to just eat it, and really, it wasn’t typically lethal in this manner, so it would be a poor test indeed. Instead I would capitalise on Baldur’s daily tradition, of tea with friends, and add some mistletoe to the next batch of new tea strains that were being tried. It would be their own fault, having the service being prepared entirely by Hod, a blind man, without any prior identification of plants being added. They were just asking or it.
At worst it wouldn’t taste good, they would take a few sips and feel some nausea, and at best, they would all drink a cup, and get some terrible cramps, then I could reveal that in a higher dosage it could have been lethal. I would prove that the guards were still needed, and that the security system was flawed.
I had no sooner switched out this days dried berries for mistletoe,. than I was summoned to the Allfather’s chambers. I admit, at first I assumed that the security system was far more sophisticated than I had expected, but alas I was disappointed to learn that I once again was being sent on a mission that someone with half my credentials could have completed. I was never allowed on any of the good projects, unless I started them myself, and even then they were sometimes given to another.
I was gone three whole days, and the thought that kept me going was the look that would be on Father’s face when he realised that the oh so vaulted security system-that he would not let me assist in designing, but I wasn’t bitter at that, I did not think it could work-had failed so badly as to allow for the mild poisoning of Baldur the perfect. It would be glorious.
That there was no one at the shuttle to greet me was surprising, I expected at the least that Father would send someone to request my immediate contribution to the security system, or my recommendations, given my prior dismissal of it, but there was no one.
The halls were near empty, the mood visibly low, and when I read my messages in my quarters, I sat heavily on my bed as my knees went weak. Baldur, second son, ambassador of the Yggdrasil alliance was dead.
It was being hailed as an accident, Hod, had added the lethal mistletoe berries to a new tea blend in error, and they were not recognized by the security system as poisonous due to an oversight in programming. It seemed that a brief border scuffle had cancelled the tea gathering of the day, and so enamoured by the new flavour, Baldur had drank the entire pot alone during an overnight meditation, and been found dead the following morning. An investigation hadn’t revealed how the poisonous berries had ended up in Hod’s hands, but it was being assumed that it was a mix-up on one of the greenhouse ships with tragic consequences.
It would be days before I received my accolades, for being right about the security system’s flaws. The Allfather had Frigg add mistletoe, and redesign all the modules relating to plant’s toxins. I was summarily ignored, as usual, as apparently despite being correct I was still not good enough to help reprogram the system.
I was watched far more carefully after that, and while the guard all claimed it was because I was now second son, I knew otherwise. For no reason at all, Odin suspected me, and it hurt to have my motivations questioned.
The biggest downside of it all, was the time I now was forced to spend with Thor, to help smooth over his rough edges when taking on diplomacy. Listening to him fumble another greeting I missed Baldur a little, for his buffer had let me keep to the laboratory and skip most of these silly meetings.
I looked over at Thor, who was basking in the attention of an ambassador who would take advantage, and realised I was going to have to up my game with hi,. Thor could not take over the alliance with an attitude such as this, and he was going to have to improve, or I would have to do something about it.
I will admit, this was partially inspired by the myth, and partially inspired by David’s Tea, that has a few tea blends with mistletoe, which I question heavily due to the fact it’s poisonous. It was the first day in an advent calendar I gave from there once, and my friend asked if I was trying to kill them… I also worked to add in the unreliable narrator aspect, so make sure to drop by and comment if it worked. Thanks!