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“You seem weary, Allfather,” the einherjar says.

Odin cannot recall the warrior’s name, if he ever knew it. “Weary, yes,” he murmurs. Frigga. Thor’s betrayal. And now, Loki has died as well. And Malekith – Odin felt the destruction of the Aether. Thor has found the strength of will to do what his father and grandfather never did: the threat is gone.

Turning from the einherjar, Odin summons the captain of the palace guard. “Release my son’s companions,” he orders. “When Thor returns, he is pardoned, as are they.”

“Yes, Allfather,” Tyr says, bowing as he leaves.

Odin glances at the einherjar. “Have you brought my son’s body back for honoring?”

The einherjar lowers his gaze. “Your son, Allfather? I saw only the corpse of a traitor and so I left it there for the scavengers.”

Odin glares, hefting Gungnir, preparing to punish the einherjar when the einherjar lifts his head, smirking.

“You should rest, Allfather,” Loki says gently, his seidr bearing down on Odin with a strength Odin knows he didn’t have before he fell. “You have not slept in so long - rest.”

Odin stumbles backward, slouching down onto the steps. He should call his guards, should defend, should – but he is so weary. Frigga is dead. Thor doesn’t trust him. And Loki… Loki –

Loki kneels beside him, still disguised as an einherjar but for his face. “I would ask you so many things, Allfather,” he whispers, fingers loosely wrapping around Gungnir, “but I cannot trust your answers. Know this, though, Odin, King of Asgardr – your realm will be in the best of hands.” He smiles. “On Midgardr, they have a practice called ‘controlled burning.’ Do you know it?”

“Loki, please, my son,” Odin mumbles, but Loki presses a fingertip to his lips.

“Shush, Allfather,” Loki says gently. “You are so weary. You must rest.” He smiles again, leaning down to whisper directly in Odin’s ear, “Mayhap, my king, you’ll never wake.” His smile broadens, showing all his teeth.

“Loki,” Odin tries again, but the Sleep is upon him and he sags into Loki’s arms.

.

Loki kneels on the steps beside the Allfather, staring down at the ás he could never please. He sends an illusion of the einherjar out, warning the guards that the Allfather did not want to be disturbed until Thor returned.

The Allfather slept deeply; clearly, he had not resumed his broken Sleep after Loki fell. Maybe Thor had been right, when he claimed they had mourned Loki.

No matter. Asgardr’s palace brimmed with traitors. Those outside the walls might grant Loki a chance but those inside were too like Thor’s oathbreaker companions. Like Heimdallr.

He, too, had been pardoned by Odin.

But Odin Sleeps now, and he is so old. So frail. So weary. He must have undisturbed quiet so that he can heal.

First the Void and then the Aether – Loki has no equal, now. Never has a seiðmenn had so much power.

Thanos is still coming for Asgardr. The vault is full of the greatest artifacts of all the realms. Loki Liesmith died a hero.

Loki has the throne of Asgardr.

He stares down at the mighty Allfather, reaches out to stroke a careworn cheek, and with all the love of a dutiful son, sends him to a cave deep in the heart of Muspelheimr’s oldest mountain. Odin will wake locked away from his seidr, from Heimdallr’s gaze, from any living thing. He will slowly starve, and be lost to madness, and he will scream for Loki’s mercy before he finally succumbs. And from Hliðskjálf, Loki will watch.

He is a monster, after all,

“Sleep well, Allfather,” he laughs, pulling on Odin’s form and slowly walking up the dais. He stares at Hliðskjálf for a long moment before calling Gungnir to his hand and making himself comfortable on the seat he had never been destined for.

No, he does not a want a throne, and never has. But he has no desire to live in a realm of barren and burnt out husks, either. He hates Asgardr, but he hates Thanos much more.

First, he must allow the aesir to rebuild what Odin’s folly destroyed. Then, he will begin to clean up the refuse, starting with Thor’s tag-alongs.

The realms are dangerous, and without Loki charming the natives, sooner or later the Warriors 3 and Sif will start a fight they are incapable of winning. Odin should have punished them – but, of course, crimes are not crimes if committed against Loki. Two kings, now, they have betrayed; by right, they should be executed.

But they are heroes. So they will die adventuring, bringing peace. Peace. Loki shakes his head in disgusted amusement. Warmongering savages. Why did he spend so long preserving their lives?

No more. No matter. He will watch from his throne as they die.

And Heimdallr… he is resuming his post. He is scouring the realms to see if Loki survived, for he will never trust in Loki’s death. If anyone could discern Loki’s true face beneath Odin’s mask, it would be Heimdallr.

And, quite honestly, Loki can’t bear the thought of Heimdallr breathing the same air as him.

The Aether roils through Loki’s blood and twice now, Heimdallr has betrayed Gungnir’s bearer, so Loki murmurs a command not used since Bor’s time, millennia ago.

By the end of the month, Heimdallr will be dead. Thor will have returned to his mortal. The Warriors 3 and Sif will be traveling through the realms again.

The first spark is lit.

Odin spends much time in the weapons’ vault. His people understand – he grieves his wife and his sons. He is solemn, now, and sad. Many residents of the palace and surrounding mansions are ill; the healers suppose it is the presence of the Aether and the Dark Elves. Only a few die, but Odin keeps panic from spreading.

Odin is beloved, and Thor more beloved still.

.

Loki sits on Hliðskjálf, Gungnir in hand, and watches his not-father beg for mercy, voice barely audible.

Let him beg. Odin’s mercy was tempered by Frigga, but Loki’s mercy died under Thanos, and he smiles as the life leaves Odin’s eye.

Loki turns his gaze to Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun, and Sif, in the midst of yet another battle. Thor is accompanying his woman to a conference on the Midgardian sciences. Thor’s human companions are enjoying a calm dinner.

Thanos is approaching and Loki has mastered all of the artifacts his not-father collected over the eons.

Loki has ruled for but a single year. Odin has never been more loved.

It is time, then, for Odin to die so that Loki can be discovered as a prisoner on some far-flung world just in time to save all the realms.

“I am weary, Tyr,” Odin confides in the captain of his guards. “I must sleep. Oh, but how I miss my wife!” He laughs sadly, clapping Tyr on the back. “She would have bade me Sleep long since hence.”

“Shall I send word to Thor?” Tyr asks at the door of Odin’s chamber.

“He will come out of honor and duty,” Odin says, “but I’ll not shackle my son to a throne he hates.” Odin sighs. “My wife’s sister-son is a good man; he will be regent while I rest.”

“Of course, Allfather,” Tyr says. “I’ll inform the counselors.”

.

Baldr is a good man. But he is not a good king. He is gentle and kind and freezes when hard decisions must be made. He undoes all of Odin’s work inside a month. But Odin fades away while sleeping and is mourned in all the realms.

A year after Baldr takes the throne, Loki is found in the aftermath of a battle on Múspellsheimr. He is barely alive. They rush him back to Asgardr because everyone knows what happened with Malekith, and Baldr sends word to Thor.

.

Thor weeps when he lays eyes on his brother.

Since Thor still refuses the throne, Baldr steps down in place of Loki.

Loki settles onto Hliðskjálf, Gungnir in his grasp, and watches Thanos. The Loki that landed at Thanos’ feet no longer exists and the wildfire is burning.

Everything has gone according to plan.