Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin’ stone,
But that’s not how it used to be.
The desert winds exploded with all their fury into a near gale as the world screamed out its anger and pain at any person, creature or thing that would stop and listen to it. Had any human been standing on those dunes, they would have been nothing more than tattered flesh hanging off of cracking bone. This world had been created with the sole purpose of punishment in mind - an endless waste destined to devour anything less than itself in a matter of days, if not hours.
The creature that was currently struggling to cross the sands might have considered himself lucky, then, not to have beenanything less than what he was. But it was hard to find joy in that when his very heritage made every step an utter nightmare - a Frost Giant, raised by Asgardians or no, was never intended to live in a desert.
Loki drew his hood ever closer to his face in a futile attempt to block out the grit that flew past at an ever increasing pace. His steps were slow, marred by the constantly shifting ground beneath his feet, and he was burdened with more than just the physical.
Inside his hood, close to his eyes, a green light flashed in annoyance and he bared his teeth at it in response.
# -re we -#
The feeble voice warbled slightly in his mind, like one of those “radio” things that woman Jane had been going on about before he’d watched her be cut down. Like all the others.
Jane, a mortal. They came and went so quickly that he couldn’t really be all that moved to care. When a mortal life span lasted simply the summer of the youth of a godling, Loki found it very hard to be moved to shed a tear or two when they passed.
But the others - his mother, with her soft hands and stupidly kind heart. Odin, the All Seeing Father. Even those infernal Warriors Three, the overbearing, moronic friends of his brother. Now, those deaths had left him reeling. Gods were not supposed to be snuffed out as if they were the last leaves on a tree before the winter’s coming. They were the winter. They were the seasons and the water in the ocean and the stars in the evening sky …
And they’d lasted what had to amounted to nanoseconds longer than the mortals had.
The green beside his face suddenly dimmed and Loki stumbled to a stop in shock. He raised a shaking hand towards it, felt it circle his fingers. The glow was warm and soft, even through his gloves, but the comfortable feeling only last seconds before it was replaced by a pressure that traveled through his physical being and into his power source.
He grunted but allowed it to continue until the wisp’s colors were bold and vibrant once more. Loki attempted to remove his hand but the greedy thing flared in irritation and attempted to draw even more power and life from him.
“Stop, Amora,” he warned quietly, “before you find yourself having to find a new donor in this wasteland.”
The tattered remains of the Enchantress hesitated and then reluctantly drew away, tucking herself further back into the recesses of Loki’s hood. They had long used each other for their own gains over their lifespans and he was grateful, as much as he could be, that he had been able to save what he could of Amora before her entire being had been blown to the far reaches of the universes.
He’d been wounded himself, though that had probably been his saving grace when the Elder Gods had torn his people apart. Wounded and hidden, he’d watched it all fall apart. But Amora had had the good luck to fall near his hiding place and so, not quite knowing why he’d done so because she certainly wouldn’t have returned him the favor, he’d reached out and gathered her shattering spirit to his chest.
With his magic and a few tricks up his sleeve, he’d bound those pieces together - and then bound her to him. Amora had been livid when she’d finally been able to communicate but not angry enough to demand that he free her. No, the chit wanted to live as much as Loki had wanted to do so and so they formed an uneasy truce - he would sustain her life forces until he could find her a suitable host. After which, she and her power would remain tied to him for years to come …
If, of course, Amora didn’t wiggle out of the deal. It also depended on the fact that their time might very well be limited to days, not years.
Satisfied that the witch wasn’t going to evaporate before they reached their goal (because while he will never admit it, even to himself, he would be lost without her. There are no burdens heavier than being the last), Loki tilted his head and stubbornly continued to trek into the heart of the storm.
The words were ripped out of his mouth by the wind; had Amora not been resting on his shoulder, she never would have heard him.
#What makes this particular dune any different from the others?# Despite her sarcastic words, Loki heard the underlying desire. She wanted him to be right. Even though she was no longer affected by the physical, her hold on life was tenuous at best. Amora wanted an end to the whole affair just as much, if not more, than he did.
They stood upon yet another hill of sand in a never ending sea of them and he gazed down with an expression that might have been a smile but was more of a grimace than anything else.
“Because, my dear, that is not a sand dune.”
He pointed to the left and squinted his eyes, trying to see past the sand and the heat. The desert moved in unexpected ways and his eyes still had not grown used to trying to track anything beyond the sand immediately at his own feet. But after a few moments he was able to see it - the top of a building mostly buried in white sand.
#That is impossible! Where are we? I thought …#
“You thought wrong,” he snapped, hands clenched at his side. Loki’s anger wasn’t just directed at her but at himself because he’d been convinced they’d been transported to another planet as well. “Welcome, Amora, to the new Midgard.”
This bleak new world, this sand filled hell, was all that was left of the world of mortals.
Loki had always dreamed of regaining the throne of Asgard, of controlling the mortals that resided on the other end of the Bifrost. As one of the last survivors, he wondered if this was what victory tasted like - like ash from the heavens.
They made their way down towards the half hidden structure carefully, unwilling to trust that the sands wouldn’t open up beneath their feet and attempt to swallow them whole. Loki had been following his intuition these last few days, following an unknown beacon that he had hoped would lead him to the solution to this entire mess.
How he longed for the days, he thought sadly, when it was just his brother and himself matching wits and crossing swords. It had all been so much simpler in those days.
Before some fool in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s employ had gotten herself possessed by Chthon and it had used her powers to rip open a hole in the very foundation of Midgard. That had been the beginning of the downward spiral all the worlds had found themselves in. The creatures calling themselves Elder Gods had wanted to save the Bifrost for themselves but Heimdall had beaten them to the punch and had managed to destroy it himself before they could reach it.
It had but only delayed the end, not stopped it. Heimdall’s actions had been desperate but accurate, as well. Had the bridge fallen into their hands, the Elder Gods would have had instant access to numerous worlds - but by doing so, he had condemned those Asgardians who had been on other worlds, leaving them stranded with no way to escape back home. Looking back only served to show Loki how bittersweet hindsight was, considering the Elder Gods’ ultimate triumph in the end. No matter what world had they been on, be it Midgard or Asgard, the gods had all fallen.
All but him and the tattered remains of the Enchantress.
It took far longer than it should have but the pair finally reached the edge of a building that jutted out of the ground. He peered down and thought he could make out the edge of a window where the sands finally stopped. Crouching, he dug his fingers into the grit and pulled back only to see everything immediately flow back into place almost as soon as he had done so.
He tested the area but pushing anything back was a matter of willpower that he simply didn’t have. Not without his magic.
The magic would make things easier.
It would also make him a target. If the Elder Gods were aware that he alone had survived (for the most part, anyway), then there was the chance that they had left him be because they were not troubled by him. The only magics he had allowed himself to use had been simple ones, such as allowing Amora to feed off his energies. Always thinking, he had tamped down on his abilities and bundled them tight within himself so as not to have made himself a viable target. If Chthon or one of his brothers had spied him walking the remains of Midgard, they might have assumed some jester had escaped their wrath instead of a trickster.
Loki clenched his hands tight enough that he could hear his bones creak. The power in him was thrumming louder than it had been since he had started this foolish quest; he was where he needed to be, when he needed to be, and it would be here that he would end this farce of the Elder Gods.
And if he brought their wrath down upon his head? Well, that was a price he had to be willing to pay.
Standing, he shrugged off the hood of his cloak and bared his head to the harsh elements. The power inside him, long asleep, started to uncurl from his breastbone and seep their way into the rest of his body. Like a dying plant introduced to a sudden rainfall, he soaked it up and laughed with the wonder of it. The lines of power exploded in his minds eye and he could hear the Enchantress whining slightly in his mind as she was able to sense that well of magic but remained denied the ability to tap into it.
And then the planet around him roared in anger as his magic flaunted itself to the Elder Gods. In a stroke of good luck or good timing, he had picked a moment in time when they were all too far from the remains of earth to reach him but as they traveled there, skipping from shattered planet to shattered planet like a child skipping stone, they twisted the power they’d left on the planet. It had been directionless anger and power – except now it had a direction. It had a purpose.
Destroy Loki, God of Lies, and save his bones for the Elder Gods to feast upon.
Loki screamed as a wave of power sent him stumbling to his knees. The only reason he was still breathing was because his own magic was enough to keep him alive but if he didn’t get inside the building buried beneath him, nothing was going to save him.
He was stronger than this, he told himself, plunging his hands deep into the burning sand until his forearms disappeared. Gritting his teeth against the onslaught, Loki focused his own power and sent it streaming beneath him. He sought to move sand or to build himself something to keep it back long enough to gain access to that window he could almost make out. Once inside, he would be that much closer to the goal that his instincts had forced himself to seek out. It was a simple matter, really, and his powers were up to the task …
If only the power of the Elder Gods weren’t working against him.
For every solution he found, they unraveled it. For every inch of ground that he claimed, they took back another foot. They were tormenting him and playing with him until their masters could arrive, he realized, nose and throat full of sand. The creatures labeling themselves as Gods weren’t even there and they were making him to look like the fool. That was not how this was supposed to go. He played others and used their foolishness for his own doing, not the other way around.
Something snapped inside Loki and he threw his head back and screamed
His power surged and pushed back against the weight of the corrupted weight that battered against Loki; it blasted out of him in a brilliant radius, blasting invisible, grabby hands away from himself. He collapsed on his side from the effort and laid there for a moment, panting into the crook of his arm as he struggled to regain a more stable sense of self. Losing control of his powers like that had been stupid but he realized as he tried to swallow, it had worked.
The sand surrounding the entire one side of the building had been blasted away and it left him in a small crater with the glass from the window blown clean out. Loki spared a glance above him where the winds were sluggishly moving about - they were sulking, unsure if they should attack him again. He’d bought himself some time and he could scarcely waste any of it and so he left his dignity in the dirt and crawled into the waiting darkness below.
What remained of the old diner that used to house the mortals that Thor had been so fond of held nothing more than faint smells of days gone past, charred bones and old memories. Loki cared about as much for the place now as he had back then and, fixed upon his goal, he strode forward into the center of the room. Bones crunched under his feet but he cared not for who they might have been, especially not when he spotted it.
An oddly shaped chunk of crystal protruded from the center of the room; the color was of burnt orange and it was giving off a dull pulse of light as every few seconds ticked away. Loki realized as he approached that the light pulses were almost like the passing of breaths.
Pressing his hand against the crystal, a mockery he knew of the chamber in which Odin would have taken his rest, he looked through the murkiness within and said hello to his brother.
“I never did like Midgard,” Loki said, stepping over where Mjolnir had been discarded like so much trash. He couldn’t help but feel vindicated that none amongst the Elder Gods had been able to wield the mighty hammer. “Noisy, foul smelling and the mortals, brother, were a complete and utter bore.” He paused. “I take that back. I rather liked coffee. And that “pizza” creation.”
He turned back to Thor and once again laid his hands upon the tomb. “I know you can hear me,” he murmured, resting his forehead against the smooth surface. “I have been searching for you for what feels like forever. Did you know this place is where I held Mother’s crumbling body in my hands? Odin forsake the rest but I could not even hold her together.”
In his weaker moments, Loki sometimes wished he’d been able to piece back his mother instead of the Enchantress. His mother would have been a comfort in this new and forsaken world.
But Amora was an asset, a tool. Far more useful to him than a mother’s comfort – but he did so miss her, even if she would have been of no use to him.
In the back of his mind, he felt something stirring and he pushed harder to awaken it.
#go away, brother# Thor’s voice was soft and tinny, weakened by his enforced capture.
“When have I ever listened to anything you have ever had to say? I was always the one with the brains, brother, and you the one with the luck.” He chuckled softly. “Well, perhaps not this time.”
#all is gone, let me be#
Loki staggered back and almost fell over the hammer as memories from the last few moments that Thor remembered washed over him. He could smell taste feel Jane’s exploding body; feel his soul ripped out and shredded to pieces only to be stuffed back into his body and into this crystal coffin by those who couldn’t unmake him despite their desire. He saw the world break apart only to reform to how the Elder Gods wished it to be – not a place for those from Midgard, Asgard or any of the other worlds would have wanted it.
Thor’s voice was still in his head, no matter how weak he’d become. #it was written that they would come and that they would unwrite the world. and so they have done so#
No. Loki spat out a mouthful of bile before he screamed at his brother. “Do you know how many prophecies I rewrote when I was but a child? How many of the sacred texts I tweaked here and there, changing their meaning to fit my mood and desire? PROPHECY IS FOR THE WEAK, BROTHER! We are still Gods! The fact that you remain, alive and whole, proves that! Open your eyes, Thor, and look at me! It was fortold that they would unmake every Asgardian – and yet we two remain! I saw them – I saw your body thrown to the winds mercy and yet I look upon you know and you are whole. They cannot unmake us, they can only imprison us!”
There was no response.
There was no response when he hit the crystal with his fists, when he threw magic at it, when Amara attempted to worm her way in. Thor’s eyes never opened.
Panting with exhaustion, Loki could feel the Elder Gods begin their approach. They would make him suffer for his transgressions, they would kill him and then they would put him painstakingly back together just so that they could imprison him.
The hammer lay at his feet and he pointed at it. “These beings cannot even lift your hammer. They cannot call down the power that you controlled. Does that not stir you in the least? You always were so protective of the bloody thing, never even let me touch it when we were growing up …” Suddenly feeling petty, Loki couldn’t resist reaching for Mjolnir. “What say you now, Thor, that your lying, deceitful brother …”
The hammer was as light as a feather as he lifted it and the unexpectedness of it had him stumbling back, tripping over his own feet and cloak only to fall backwards in an awkward sitting position. The smell of ozone crowded his noise and it tasted like he had just swallowed some copper but over it all, he suddenly could not even comprehend – it felt like home. It was the best of Asgard, of the sun filled pastures, of his rooms where he had studied the art of magic, of the years before mischief had turned into something darker.
He had never known that ambrosia would turn out to be bittersweet. The taste and memories of the home that no longer existed burned in his throat and he was torn between swallowing and gagging upon it.
When he opened his eyes again, Loki found himself staring into the opened blue eyes of Thor.
“That got your attention, I see.” His voice was raspy from screaming and dull from shock. Somehow he found the strength to stand. “Is this world so truly lost that Mjolnir would allow such as I to lift it? The burden you held for years, brother, does not seem so heavy now.”
There was no response from Thor but Loki could feel his brother’s full attention on him now. He leaned against the crystal and whispered, “Shall I have all the fun? Shall I go up alone against the destroyers of worlds – I can see it now, Thor, as I return things to where they need to be. Such glory and praise that I shall have. Or shall I let you in on the fun?” His voice dropped even further. “I can bring her back, Thor. Your little mortal. They very least I can do.” He glanced up at the ball of light that was Amora. “Even if we do not win and cannot bring the others back, her I can. I have just enough energy stored away.”
One life for another. Of course, Amora would protest – and of course Thor would have no idea that his beloved Jane would host the reincarnated soul of the Enchantress. He felt the hammer vibrate and he looked at it in alarm but it did not drop from his hand. “When there are no heroes left in the world, it will fall to the villains to carry the burden, eh?”
That was enough of a yes for him.
“Oh, how I have wanted to do this for years!”
Mjolnir’s song as it swung through the air sang of vengeance and retribution. It hit the coffin so hard that it rebounded almost out of Loki’s hand – the crystal hummed from the impact and one tiny, minute fracture appeared. Grinning like a man possessed, Loki swung again and again, imbued with the power that had always been denied to him. His hands were sweaty, yet the hammer never slipped. He swung countless times over, yet his muscles never tired.
The crystal was determined not to give but a small hole the size of a fist finally appeared. Loki switched the hammer to the other hand, unwilling to drop it lest he not be allowed to pick it up again, and stared up at his brother’s face.
“You and I, Thor, will rewrite what was written.”
He jammed his hand through the opening and cried out at the sensation. The inside was not hard like the external shell had been but, instead, it was like a thick sap that clung to his hand and threatened to suck him into the abyss. It wanted to trap him and keep him – awake and aware – for all eternity. And it would get the chance because he could not go forward and he could not retreat.
Green eyes stared into blue. Asgardian and child of the Frost Giants. Hero, villain; younger and older brother; friends and foes forever.
#what, brother, are we waiting for?#
Thor’s hand grasped at Loki’s and the God of Tricks and Lies, the current master of mighty Mjolnir, pulled.