Spiders, Raccoons, and Bears, Oh My!
When camping, be prepared for the wildlife to visit you whenever and wherever~ Loki
"We'll buy you new crayons, spark," Loki soothed the agitated child. "In the meantime, Max will share, right, Max?"
"Yeah. I have the big box in my backpack," her brother pointed out.
"Dad, where's the bathroom in this place?" asked Serena.
Loki led them a few feet beyond where the tents were to three wooden port-a-potty structures with a crescent moon on the door. "They're similar to what construction workers use when they're working on a job site." He picked up a key on a bright blue string hanging beside the door and unlocked it.
As he pushed open the door and a small motion-sensor light came on, a disgusting odor wafted out.
Serena coughed. "Gross! What died?"
"Stay here," Loki ordered, though the smell was turning his stomach. He entered the tiny cubicle and saw to his dismay a dead mouse on the floor. "Nine Hells! Disgusting!"
"Dad, what is it?" Serena asked.
"A dead mouse," he replied.
"Eeeww!" Serena shrieked.
"What is it? What is it?" Lucy and Sam came rushing over.
"Calm down, girls! It's a dead mouse."
"Gross! I'm not peeing in there!" shrilled Lucy.
"Daddy, how did it die?" came Aleta's question.
"Who cares?" Sam cried in disgust. "Get it outta here!"
"Okay, relax!" Loki ordered. "All this fuss over a dead rodent!"
"I wonder how long it's been dead?" was Vince's question.
"Long enough to stink up this bathroom," Serena answered.
Loki waved a hand and the dead mouse was transported into the woods, where some animal would make a meal of it. "There! It's gone. Hunter, bring me the Lysol and gloves and the green bucket."
"Was that why you packed those cleaning supplies, Loki?" Thor asked, amused at his nieces' reaction to the dead mouse.
"That's exactly why. Because you never know how the last bunch of campers left this site." He took the bucket from Hunter and filled it with water, dumped in some Lysol lemon cleaner, pulled on gloves and took a soft rag and quickly washed the floor where the mouse had been, the small sink and the toilet. "Belle, bring a candle over here."
Belle summoned one of the small votives that smelled like strawberry fields and floated it over to her father. Loki lit it with a snap of a finger and placed it on the counter in the corner. "There! In two minutes you'll smell strawberries in here." He took the cleaning supplies outside and made sure there was toilet paper, paper towels, and soap in there as well. "Go on. It's safe to use." He gestured to it.
Serena looked doubtful. "Are you sure?"
Hunter rolled his eyes. "Oh for Godsake, Rena!" He walked inside. "I'll use it and then you'll see it's fine." He shut the door.
"All right, let's see how the rest of them are," Loki said.
None of the other ones had dead mice in them, but were dusty from disuse, and he turned to Vince and said, "This is your punishment for that inappropriate prank by the lamp post. You clean one and Nate cleans the other." He handed the boy his gloves, rag, and the bucket with Lysol.
Vince sighed. "Okay. But Dad—"
"You aren't going to get out of this," Loki interrupted.
"No, it's just . . . these bathrooms are like closets. . . you know how I get with small spaces . . ." His son reminded.
"Right." Loki nodded in understanding. "And none of these are equipped with handicapped facilities either."
"So what do we do?" Vince asked. "I can pee in the woods but Nate can't."
"Nobody is peeing in the woods," the magician said. "I'll fix it."
"Okay. Now what?"
"Stand back," Loki ordered, and concentrated.
The wooden structure suddenly doubled in size and bars appeared on the walls and the toilet raised slightly. The doorway became wider, as did the door, so Nate could wheel himself inside without worrying about hitting the wall.
"There! How's that?"
"Better," Nate said.
Loki handed him the cleaning supplies.
"All right. Put some paper towels, toilet paper, soap, and a candle in here too," instructed the Asgardian. "Vince, you do the same in the other bathroom."
Vince and Nate set to work and in about seven minutes the bathrooms were clean.
Loki turned to see Max standing behind him, looking upset. "Come with me, scamp."
He led his youngest to a small flat rock near what looked like a firepit and said, "Sit here. You're in time out for four minutes."
Max obeyed, looking woebegone.
Loki shook his head. He disliked punishing his children, but knew it was necessary, and he turned away and began timing Max with his watch.
Aleta came up with her backpack and Minx and asked, "Daddy, why is Max in time out?"
"Because he did something on the way here he shouldn't have," Loki replied.
"Like what?" his too curious-daughter demanded.
"That is between me and your brothers," her father said. "Now go and play over there," he waved at the picnic table. "Max will be able to join you soon."
Aleta huffed and then walked over to the picnic table and took out her art supplies.
Loki's watch beeped and he said, "Okay, Max!" He hugged his small son and said, "Next time don't listen to your brothers when they tell you to do something like that."
"'Kay," then he ran over to his sister and said, "Aleta, didja find the crayons in my backpack?"
"Yes. But why were you in trouble?"
"Cause I did something I shouldn't have that Nate and Vince told me to. Well, Vince told me to and Nate just watched."
"What did you do?" his sister asked.
"A bad thing," was all her brother would say.
Thor tapped Loki on the shoulder. "Will you at least tell me what the Hel went on?"
Loki whispered in his ear, "Vince bet Max he couldn't pee on the lamp post at the rest stop. And Max did it, and Nate and Vince just watched. I saw and made sure nobody else did."
Thor started laughing.
Loki rolled his eyes. "Sure, go ahead and laugh. But you wouldn't have been laughing if some cop had seen and slapped me with a fine for letting my son expose himself and pee in public."
"They'd fine a kid for that?"
"Not him—me," Loki corrected.
"If they did that in Asgard, every drunk coming home from a tavern would be fined and broke," Thor snickered.
Loki made a face. "Here they're more civilized, brother. Okay, let's start unpacking the van."
He enlisted the help of his seven older children to do so, and soon all their bags, suitcases, and boxes were unpacked and lay in piles all over the campsite.
"Dad, who put these tents up?" Belle wanted to know.
"The people who own this campsite did," Loki explained. "They're permanent tents so we don't have to pitch our own. Saves us time and money."
Serena and Lucy unzipped a tent and walked inside.
Suddenly blood curdling screams erupted from the tent.
"Holy crap!" Hunter cried in alarm. "Who's being murdered?"
Five seconds later both girls raced from the tent, still screaming.
"What in Hel happened?" Loki cried.
"There's . . . animals and dirt and bugs in there!" Serena yelled. "Some kind of brown thing with yellow eyes growled at me!"
Lucy ran and nearly climbed up Loki, half-incoherent with terror. "D-dad . . . spiders . . .!"
Loki immediately picked her up and held her. "Valkyrie, it's okay, baby!"
Lucy buried her face in his shoulder, quivering with terror. "Spiders . . . everywhere . . ."
"There's no spiders here, darling," Loki soothed, stroking her golden hair.
Thor gaped at them. "Loki, why is she so scared of little bugs?"
Loki didn't answer for a few moments, he was too busy comforting his daughter. Then he said quietly, "It might seem silly to you, Thor, but when Lucy lived at the orphanage, the matron in charge of the girls on her floor used to lock her in the basement as punishment. In the dark for hours."
"That's crazy! Why?"
"For stupid things. Talking too loud, and having nightmares and the Norns know what else. And in that basement were hundreds of spiders . . . and they crawled all over her in the dark . . .and she would scream herself hoarse and nobody would come to let her out," Loki declared grimly.
"She f-forgot me and I was there all night," Lucy whimpered, still clinging to Loki.
"Wicked evil woman!" Loki growled. "I ought to have cursed her for it, but she was gone by the time I came and adopted Lucy."
"Was she fired?" Thor wanted to know.
"No. She left and found another job," Lucy replied.
"I'd have made sure she never was allowed near children again," Thor said angrily.
"Thor, take a broom or something and go into the tent and get rid of all the spiders and critters inside," Loki said. "They're probably squirrels and raccoons that made a home in there."
"But what if they come back, Dad?" Lucy shivered.
"They won't. I'll make sure of it," Loki murmured and continued to hold and rock his arachnophobic daughter.
Thor took a large broom and then called Vince, Hunter, and Sam, told them to get sticks, then follow him inside the tent the girls had been in.
"Are we going to chase whatever's inside out?" Hunter wanted to know.
"Yes, nephew. So let's get going!"
The four charged into the tent and began evicting the small animals which had taken up residence. As Loki had predicted, there were mice, raccoons, and squirrels. Debris and dropping littered the floor once they had chased the animals away. The spiders they killed.
"Let's sweep all this out," Thor suggested.
So that was what they did.
The other two tents were treated the same way, then Loki and Thor went into the woods and found some pine trees and cut off branches and wove them into mats which they put on the floor of the tents. "This will make your sleeping bags softer and also smell nice," Loki explained. "I cast insect repellent spells on the tents so you don't need to worry about ants and spiders crawling into your bed or your clothes. But you will need to be careful about crumbs, so don't eat in the tents. That will bring wild animals, like mice and birds and squirrels to see what they can eat. Also, no leaving trash around the campsite. Any garbage goes in those big bins. Who knows why?"
Vince, Belle, Sam, Nate, and Hunter all raised their hands.
"Tell me, Nate."
"Cause garbage brings bears. They like to eat our food."
"And people!" added Serena.
"No, bears don't eat people," argued Vince. "Right, Dad?"
"True. Bears don't seek out people to eat," Loki affirmed. "But they will attack a person if threatened or if they are sick or starving. Which is why you don't ever leave food around." He indicated the nets high in some large oak trees. "See those? We will put our food coolers and boxes in them, so bears won't be able to get to them and eat everything while we're away from camp."
"Will we see a bear, Dad?" Lucy wanted to know.
"Possibly. But they're shy. They usually won't come where people are. Just like the deer and raccoons and other wild creatures. However, if you do see a wild animal remember three things-stop, watch, and above all be quiet. Don't scream, don't try and touch the animal, and never ever run away. That will scare them, and a scared animal can attack you. Remember, this is their home, kids, and we are only guests in it. So please be respectful."
"Uncle Thor said he was gonna shoot Bambi!" Aleta said crossly.
Thor held up his hands. "Whoa, spark! I was kidding! I don't even have a rifle. Or a bow. Just Mjolnir, and that's just in case I need it to protect you."
"We aren't here to hunt," Loki said. "But if we were, we would only hunt for food. Neither of us believe in sport hunting. That's wrong. You hunt for food, or you don't hunt at all. But we'll be doing other fun things, like going on hikes and nature walks and canoeing and horseback riding."
"Where's the horses?" asked Vince.
"There's a stable down the road from here and they do trail rides," Loki explained. "We can do that one day. Won't that be fun?"
All the kids nodded, though Max said, "Dad, we don't know how to ride."
"I'll teach you," Loki said. "Both your uncle and I ride well."
"Your father rides like a centaur," Thor told them. "He's the best rider out of me and your Uncle Balder."
"How come?" asked Nate.
"Because I love horses," answered Loki. "I can also shift into one, so that helps me understand the way a horse reacts and thinks, so when I ride I can anticipate the way the horse feels and understands. But I'll explain more when we go riding."
"And fishing, and canoeing," added Vince.
"Your uncle here is the fisherman," Loki pointed out. "And we'll speak to someone about renting canoes and taking them out on the river. But right now we need to unpack the rest of our stuff and build a fire then get ready for bed."
The older Laufeysons helped the younger ones unpack and put things inside their tents. Loki had purchased lanterns that were battery operated and hung them inside each tent's pole. He also built a fire and lit it with magic.
They divided the tents into girls and boys, with Samantha opting to sleep with her sisters. The last tent was one that Loki and Thor shared.
They made tea over the fire and drank it along with roasting marshmallows.
Then Vince wanted to tell ghost stories, but Max and Aleta were afraid, so Loki took them into his tent to read them a story about a bear and a honey tree, while the rest of the kids scared each other silly around the fire.
Once Loki got his two youngest to sleep, he came back and rejoined them, telling a story of The Drowned Maiden's Hair, which made everyone shiver.
"Okay, it's bedtime for the rest of you," Loki announced.
The kids groaned, but obeyed because they knew they would be getting up early tomorrow to go hiking and feed the swans on the lake—which was why the camp grounds were called Mystic Swan Lake.
"I wonder if they'll go to sleep?" Thor speculated.
"Not right away. They're probably too scared from those creepy stories," Loki chuckled.
The two stayed up for two more hours, Loki drinking tea, and Thor drinking the mead he brought with him. The mead casks were beside their tent.
As the moon rose, Loki eyed the pale orb and said, "I need to go and fly, Thor. The night is calling."
His brother smirked, made sleepy with mead. "Go on then, Loki. Just don't get lost out there."
The shifter snorted. "I won't. I always know my way back home." He shut his eyes, breathed out once, twice, thrice then blurred into the form of a brown barn owl with a white heart shaped face and a cream-colored breast. He spread his wings and glided up into the night sky like a spirit. He gave a soft hoot then flew off through the trees, leaving Thor beside the fire sipping his fourth cup of mead.
Loki let the night wind caress his feathers, enjoying the way it rustled his pinions as he flew through the trees. The night was alive with sounds, and with his acute hearing he heard every one of them as he glided through the air. The soft croak of the frogs down near the lake, the whisper of the wind through the trees, the leaves rustling as a fox stalked prey. The soft chirrup of a raccoon as she led her babies down to drink at the river.
The barn owl also heard the heartbeat of a field mouse crouched beneath a fern. The mouse was sniffing the air, trying to determine if it was safe to venture out of the fern's shadow.
Swiveling his head, Loki allowed the owl instincts to rise to the fore and as the mouse crept from hiding he swooped silently down and snatched it in his talons. "A midnight snack!" he hooted, and then flew up to an oak tree to eat, making short work of the mouse in minutes. Once he had cleaned his talons, Loki went to investigate the river.
He found a low hanging cottonwood right beside the river and landed on the branch. He watched as the mama raccoon he heard earlier supervised her youngsters as they fished in the river for crawfish. The small coons grabbed the red crawfish with their clever hand-like paws and bit them to kill them and then washed the crustaceans before they ate them.
Loki observed the charming domestic scene serenely from the cottonwood, thinking how similar the coon family was to his own human one.
Suddenly two of the three coon kits began to quarrel over a crayfish, growling, trilling, and pulling the crayfish back and forth between them.
Mama Coon was washing her own dinner and looked up and gave a warning growl.
The two kits continued to fight over the crayfish, their quarrel escalating into biting. They tumbled over each other, the crayfish forgotten in their eagerness to hurt the other.
Their sibling picked up the discarded crayfish and ate it.
On the branch, Loki chirruped in amusement at that.
Uh oh. Here comes Mama. And she's not happy, he thought as he watched the angry mama coon come over and grab the two battling kits and pull them off each other with her paws. She growled angrily at them, shook them, and then gave them a swat on the rump with her paw.
The kits yelped and cringed.
Ouch! That'll teach you not to listen when your mama says stop fighting.
Then Mama Coon trilled and licked her naughty offspring, then made an odd little call and her other kit came and fell into line with his siblings and they followed their mother back into the forest.
The barn owl watched the river for a while, finding the water flowing over the rocks soothing. The river glistened like molten silver and small fish leaped in and out of the water. The sound of cicadas filled the night, and Loki let the peaceful noises sweep through him, releasing the stress he had developed on the car ride up here. He half-closed his eyes, listening yet at the same time in a state of utter calm, similar to when he meditated.
He remained that way until the moon began to set, then he flew in silent wings back to the campsite.
The fire still crackled and danced in the firepit and Thor still sat before it, his snores rattling the netting with the food above his head.
Norns! Do I really have to sleep with that? Loki thought, then flew down and screeched right in his brother's ear.
Thor sputtered. "Huh? Wuzzat?"
Loki flew around to the other side and screeched again.
"Wut the Hel!" Thor cried, and woke, rubbing his eyes blearily.
Loki flew up into a tree branch.
"Daddy, something's screaming!" cried Aleta, and she ran to the front of the tent and unzipped it.
Thor peered at his little niece. "S'okay, Leta. Jus' an owl."
"Where's Daddy?" the child asked, coming beside him.
"Uh, he went walking," Thor answered. "Aren't you tired?"
She shook her head. "The owl waked me. I gotta go potty."
"Yeah. Me too. C'mon." He took her little hand and they walked over to where the outhouses were.
Aleta ran inside one and Thor went in the other.
When the little girl emerged from the outhouse, Loki was sitting beside the fire in his normal shape. "Daddy! It was dark n' a owl waked me up!"
Loki held out his arms and she ran and climbed on his lap. "It did? Were you scared, sweetheart?"
"No. I wanna see it," she replied frankly.
"Well . . . the owl is probably sleeping," Loki teased. "Like you should be."
Thor came out of the bathroom, saw Loki and said, "Oh you're back. Good because I was asleep by the fire and this owl kept screaming in my ear."
Loki raised an eyebrow. "Really? Screaming in your ear?"
"Uh . . . well it was loud . . ." Thor yawned. "Woke up the little spark too."
"Uncle Thor, I wanna see the owl," Aleta said from her father's arms.
"Maybe tomorrow night. Right now the owl is tired and went home to bed."
"Aww!" she pouted. "I wanna pet it!"
"It would bite you," Thor said.
She looked up at Loki. "Would it?"
"Yes, a wild one would," Loki confirmed. "They aren't like your pets, Aleta."
"But I wanna see one!" she insisted stubbornly.
"If I show you an owl, will you go to sleep?" Loki coaxed.
"Uh huh!" she agreed eagerly. "Where is he?"
"He is right here," her father said, and set his daughter on the ground and shifted into the barn owl.
He whirled his head around in a circle, until his head was facing backwards, and Aleta clapped her hands. Then he blinked slowly.
"Oooh!" she squealed. "Can I pet you, Daddy?"
Loki trilled gently, and walked near enough for his daughter to gently stroke his back and chest.
Aleta's gray eyes were wide with wonder. "Soft! Like velvet!" She petted the sleek feathers again. Loki allowed her to rub his head, then he backed away and spread his wings.
"Fly!" Aleta cried, and Thor hushed her.
Loki launched himself into the air and flew about the fire, slow enough that his daughter could see him. He made two circuits and then glided down for a landing. He shifted back, saying, "Okay, spark. Now you got to see and pet an owl. It's bedtime for little girls."
This time Aleta came into his arms and snuggled there, falling asleep a few moments later. Rather than attempt to put her back in her sleeping bag and wake up her sisters, Loki opted to take her into his tent, and put her on his sleeping bag. He quickly undressed into his pajamas and went and curled up beside his daughter, falling asleep almost immediately.
Thor joined him soon after, falling asleep as soon as his head hit the air mattress. He had the mattress because they didn't make a sleeping bag large enough for him.
While everyone was sleeping, Hunter, Vince, and Belle woke up. They crept outside where the fire had died down to embers and Hunter whispered, "You think they're asleep?"
Belle nodded. "Don't you hear Uncle Thor snoring? It sounds like rocks falling down a mountain."
"Or thunder grumbling," Vince added. "What about Dad?"
Belle concentrated. "He's asleep too," she assured them, feeling through the spirit link that Loki was slumbering. "So the coast is clear."
Hunter pulled a rope and a small pully out of his backpack and Belle had a bucket which she conjured some water in. Hunter tied the rope to the handle and then they crept into the tent and with Vince standing on Hunter's shoulders, they tied the bucket to the pole above Thor's head. Then they went and tied the remainder of the rope around his wrist.
Belle moved over to Loki and took out a roll of toilet paper and wound it around her father as he slept, winding it about him like a mummy. Too late she saw Aleta inside the sleeping bag next to Loki and thought, Oops! Sorry, little sister! She made sure that the toilet paper wasn't around Aleta's face, though she carefully wound it about her dad until only his eyes and tip of his nose showed.
Then they crept out of the tent.
They gave each other high fives and whispered, "Mischief Managed!"
The next morning, everyone slept until the sun rose, and Hunter and Vince woke up and remained lying in their sleeping bags, allowing Nate and Max to go outside and use the outhouse first. In the girls' tent, Samantha, Belle, and Lucy woke up and Lucy asked, "Where's Aleta?"
Belle shrugged. "Probably with Dad. She probably got scared during the night and went to sleep with him."
Samantha went and shook awake Serena. "C'mon sleepy head! Get up! Before we leave you here for the bears."
Serena groaned. "Let 'em eat me, Manthy!"
Her sister grinned. "You want me waking you up, or Dad?"
"I hate you," her sister growled, then reluctantly crawled out of her sleeping bag.
Belle got dressed, keeping an ear out for any stirring in the tent where her dad and Thor were. "I'll go and fill up the coffee pot," she offered, and took the large metal pot to where the large four gallon bottle of water was and ran the water into the coffee pot.
As she did so, Max, Vince, and Hunter ran over by Loki's tent and began to sing the Laufeyson wake up song at the top of their lungs.
Belle winced and covered her ears because of Hunter.
Thor groaned. "What the Hel animal is dying? Someone needs to put it outta its misery!"
"I think cats are mating," Loki muttered, then realized he couldn't move. "By the Nine!"
Aleta woke up and cried, "Daddy, what's this stuff all over me?" Then she turned to Loki and screamed. "Ahhh! It's a mummy!"
She tried to get away, but the toilet paper wrapping held her trapped in the sleeping bag.
"Aleta, it's me!" Loki tried to say, but the wrapping over his face muffled his words and they came out all strange and garbled.
"Help! Uncle Thor!" Aleta wailed.
Thor sat up and stared at Loki wrapped up and began laughing. "Hang on, spark! I'm coming—ahhh!" he yelled as his wrist pulled the bucket of cold water down onto his head.
Meanwhile, the boys were still singing, and then Hunter poked his head into the tent and said, "Thought you were gonna get up early?"
Loki made muffled laughing noises.
Thor scowled. "Did you do this, Hunter?"
Max walked in and cried, "Whoa! Uncle Thor, who gave ya a Frost Giant Freeze?"
"That's how Dad wakes up Serena," hooted Vince. "Well . . . if she won't wake up with the song."
"You could wake dead people with that song," Thor grunted. He wiped his face with his T-shirt.
The girls came in and everyone started laughing at the mummy Loki and the soaking wet Thor.
"Admit it—we got you two good!" laughed Samantha.
"You did this, Samantha?" Thor frowned.
"Nope, but it's hilarious!"
Until Aleta whimpered, "I gotta go potty!"
"Nine Hells!" Loki cried, and then he used his magic to vanish the wrappings. "Hang on!" he said, and scooped up his youngest and 'ported to the outhouse.
He set Aleta down inside. "You need help, sweetie?"
"No," she cried and shut the door.
Loki breathed a sigh of relief. While he had to admit the prank was funny, he was sure glad he hadn't woken up to being peed on. Not that it hadn't happened to him before. When younger, Aleta had often fallen asleep and wet the bed, and once she had been sleeping next to him in his bed . . .and he had never been so grateful he had magic until then.
Aleta appeared in the doorway of the outhouse. "Who did that to you, Daddy?"
"One of your brothers or sisters. Probably more than one," he said, his emerald eyes dancing.
"I almost had a accident!" Aleta said indignantly. "Cause I couldn't get up!"
"I don't think they knew you were there, spark," Loki said ruffling her hair. "C'mon, let's go and have breakfast."
He showed Samantha and Belle how to make cinnamon flapjacks in a cast iron skillet over the fire and bacon. He also brewed coffee. While they all ate breakfast, he pulled out the Dutch oven and put water, beans, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, and barbecue sauce into it, stirred it, and added chunks of cut up ham. Then he heated it up with his magic and shoved it over the fire on a metal grate.
"What's that, Dad?" asked his eldest.
"Ham and baked beans. Or it will be tonight, when it finishes cooking. I'll do cornbread in another pot."
He showed her how to mix the cornbread with some honey, put it in a second smaller Dutch oven and shove it into the fire. "It will cook slowly until it's done sometime tonight."
"How will you know?"
"Trust me, butterfly. I always know how long fire burns. That's one of my Aspect powers," her father explained.
Once everything was washed up and put away, Thor got out his fishing gear and asked who wanted to come fishing. Hunter, Nate, Serena, and Samantha volunteered.
The rest of the children wanted to go with Loki and hike up to the river and see what kinds of animals, birds, and different leaves and trees they could spot. Belle had several small laminated guides to flora and fauna, and she brought them along with binoculars. Loki packed some snacks in his backpack, saying that if Thor caught some trout they could have a fish fry for lunch.
Before they left, they all headed over to the lake with some cereal and bread in their pockets to feed the swans that were swimming there.
The swans were haughty and proud, but they allowed the kids and the two Asgardians to feed them, accepting their offerings in a dignified fashion. Loki took several pictures on his phone of them. "All right. Does everyone have their amulets? Yes? Good! Keep them on. Belle, Lucy, Vince, Max, and Aleta follow me."
For this excursion, Loki wore his black jeans, hiking boots, green and gold shirt and black leather jacket. He carried his green backpack over his shoulder, and wore his daggers in a belt about his waist.
His children all wore jeans, long sleeved shirts, sneakers or boots, and light jackets. They all had water and granola bars in their messenger bags. He had made them all rub on sunscreen and spray on some insect repellent so they didn't get fleas or ticks on them.
"Before we go into the woods, I want to show you how to walk the right way," Loki told them. "If you want to see animals on this hike, you need to be quiet and watch closely. You also need to walk very softly. Like this."
He demonstrated, walking so lightly across the grass he made no sound. "Now you try."
His little ones picked it up right away, they were so light they barely made noise walking normally. Vince and Belle got it after a few false tries, because they were used to sneaking about and then Loki beckoned them into the woods. "If you see an animal, make this sound—shhhh! And then point to it."
They walked quietly for a time, with Loki pointing out the different trees and collecting samples of their leaves to make a leaf collage later. Max found an unusual green rock and put it in his bag. Lucy found a feather from what looked like a bluejay and put it in her pack. Belle and Aleta found some wildflowers and picked some to press into bookmarks.
Loki led them down the same trail he had flown over last night, and then paused and whispered, "Shhhh!" And pointed at a baby rabbit feeding on a patch of clover.
Aleta opened her mouth to squeal and Loki put his hand over her mouth and put his finger to his lips. She nodded and he took his hand away. They all watched the tiny bunny nibbling the clover, frozen still as statues so as not to startle the little thing.
But after a few minutes, the rabbit hopped away, and they continued down the trail. A few feet further on, Belle pointed to a mockingbird in a tree and gave the signal. They all took turns looking through the binoculars at him.
They saw several other birds, a goldfinch, a cardinal, and some sparrows. Then Vince spotted a skunk walking slowly through the ferns, and they all halted to let it cross the trail.
"Flower!" whispered Aleta.
Loki smirked. "He looks a bit like a cat, doesn't he?"
"Uh huh, but he's got a fluffier tail than our kitty."
The skunk quickly vanished into the underbrush. Max asked, "How come he didn't smell? I thought all skunks smelled bad."
"Only when they spray," Vince told him.
"And they only do that when they're frightened and cornered," Loki said. "They will run away first. They only spray if they have no other choice. Because they only have enough for five or six times before they need to produce more and that takes over a week to do so."
"What would be dumb enough to attack a skunk?" asked Lucy.
"Odin would," Vince said. "And great horned owls. They eat them."
"An owl eats Flower?" Aleta cried. "That's mean!"
"No, sweetie. That's his food. Like we eat meat and vegetables," Loki explained.
"But he kills Flower!" objected his toddler.
"I know but all animals that eat meat—like us—kill another animal to live."
"We don't! You get meat at the grocery store."
"Hon, that meat was once a cow. Or a chicken. But when we buy it, it's all cut up and packaged."
"What's bacon from?" asked Max.
"A pig," Belle answered.
"I wanna see Bambi," Aleta stated.
"Well, maybe we will. But you have to play the quiet game," Loki reminded. "No yelling."
They walked on, and soon reached the river, which burbled and foamed in the sunshine. Loki had them halt beside the large cottonwood he had perched in last night as an owl and watched raccoons.
"Wow! The river sure is fast," Vince said.
"This is actually mild compared to the rapids," Loki told him. "But we'll be fine as long as we wear our life vests and the canoe doesn't flip over."
"Can it do that?" Lucy asked worriedly.
"Yes, but only in certain cases," Loki reassured her.
Max was watching the river and he saw something amazing. He pulled on Loki's jacket sleeve. "Daddy! Shhhhh! A bear!"
Everyone turned to gape at the large black bear coming through the trees to fish at the stream. She was trailed by two cubs, and the cubs splashed and played in the water while mama bear fished upstream.
The children and Loki all felt a sense of awe and delight at seeing this rare sight, something they had only watched on Animal Planet. The cubs were rolly polly fuzzy little critters, with bright eyes and adorable black noses. They seemed to enjoy jumping on each other and chasing each other into the water. But they didn't go in far, just enough to get wet, then they would run and slide on the grass on the river bank.
Meanwhile the mother bear was happily scooping three large trout out of the river and throwing them on the bank.
The cubs saw and ran over to the flopping fish and pounced on them and began to eat.
Mama lumbered out of the water and took the fish left and ate it rapidly.
Then she gave a kind of huff once she saw her cubs were done and they followed her as she walked back into the woods.
As soon as they were gone, the kids burst out with exclamations.
"Did you see the babies?" Lucy squealed. "They were so cute!"
"Dad, there were three bears like in the story!" Max pointed out.
"I can't believe we saw a mom and two babies!" Vince was over the moon. "I hope you took a picture, Dad."
"I did, son." Loki held out his phone so they could all see the pictures he had snapped.
As they were looking at the pictures, a loud explosion roared through the trees.
Aleta, Max, and Lucy screamed in terror.
Loki shoved the phone in his pocket and grabbed his children and shoved them behind him. "Down, kids! On the ground!" he snapped. He drew both daggers and held them read to throw, all his instincts going into battle mode.
"Dad! That sounded like a gunshot!" Belle gasped.
"It was, little raven. One that was too close for my liking. Stay still! I'm going to see if I can find where it came from."
"Daddy! Don't go!" wailed Aleta.
"Hush, spark! I'll be back soon. Now stay here and be quiet! Pretend you're a little kitten hiding from a big nasty dog," Loki whispered. Then he stalked into the trees upstream from where the bears were fishing.
This was not hunting season, which meant whoever had fired that shot was a scummy poacher, illegally hunting some poor animal. Loki clenched his jaw, his eyes a lethal viridian shade. Those fools had frightened his children to death and worse meant harm to the wildlife here. Loki meant to teach them the error of their ways—with a lesson they would never forget.
A/N: Thanks everyone for all your lovely reviews! I really appreciate it!
There's a new little one shot up in this verse-called Bubble Trouble A Getting Away With Mischief Lost Tale-a funny tale featuring baby Thor and Loki! Check it out on my story page!