"Son, I am sorry."
Odin had dismissed the guards from the throne room and took the opportunity to remove the ceremonial helmet he had been sweating under. On the floor below his younger son was walking back and forth the anxiety straining his shoulders and even Thor was looking up to him in expectation. He was their father and a king and could solve any problem. Nothing was beyond Odin Alfather's power.
He was particularly proud of the valkyrie corps. It inspired his humans to bravery, Asgard and Midgard both rang with the songs for the shieldmaidens, and it brought glory to his name. But it was not acceptable for a daughter of the Aesir to take up sword fighting and associate with mortal men, be they heroes or not. Valkyries did not marry sons of the Aesir or aspired to godhood. What a mess Loki made.
Odin understood Lady Syn wished to teach her daughter a lesson. Sif had disobeyed and possibly ruined her future aspects for a good marriage (no decent family would allow a daughter to wield a sword while there was a man able for it), and Asgard was alight with gossip of how Loki had sheared her hair. Frigg had had to lay out the spin on this one because Odin somehow had failed to comprehend how the accidental cutting of hair in mock battle secretly meant Loki was jealous of Thor's intimacy with Sif. Would it be too much to call down a lightning upon the idle heads that conceived these ludicrous stories?
"Then my life is over because of Heimdall the Brute," Loki said.
"Heimdall is hardly the Brute. He is the most collected man in all of Asgard," Thor replied.
"Then how did I manage to faze him?"
"You took his sword and sent him to Hel."
"Last year!" Heimdall had a long memory it was true.
"And now you cut his sister's hair."
"It will grow back."
"He accuses you of attacking a woman. The laws require you either face Heimdall in single combat or be banished for nithe." Thor's voice was sorrowful but Odin was proud. His heir was learning Asgard's laws like a proper king.
"It's not fair!" Loki yelled. "You fight with her all the time and she admitted it, why am I the only one to end up either dead or banished?"
Thor was lost for words yet the bitterness around Loki's mouth revealed he knew the answer: Thor was the future king.
"I will challenge Heimdall, brother, and by defeating him I will clear—"
"No you will not, Thor."
"It won't work brother. He will win and I'll have had your death on my head as well. If I have a head till the morrow."
Both his sons. Both his sons made him proud. Odin left the throne to sit on the steps next to Thor.
"Syn can by appeased. There are ways. The exile will not last long my boy. Once she stands down Heimdall will follow." He made sure to keep his voice steady.
Loki was resilient and had hidden strengths waiting to be explored. "Loki, I promise you. I will come for you before winter falls on Midgard." Not even the Norns could deprive Odin Alfather of his son.
The strain did not leave Loki's shoulders but he nodded. "Yes, father."
"Go to your mother and tell her this to ease her mind. I will meet you at the stables."
Loki left, his steps echoing in the silent hall. The tall golden doors that opened to let him out revealed a slight female form in purple behind them. Loki and the girl fell in each other's arms.
"Loki took the blame for both me and Sif. His punishment is unjust." Thor's voice had cracked five years ago and so the rawness in his voice was not a thing of his adolescence.
Odin rose to his feet. "When you are king you will understand you can't please everyone."
"When I am king, I will not care to please everyone as long as what I do is right."
He let Thor walk away. He was young, there was no point in telling him right became less clear as responsibility new. And Mimir had seen i it. Loki would return to Asgard and when the time came the truth would be revealed and Jotunheim would finally fall to Asgard.
It took Loki a whole minute before he managed to utter an intelligible sentence. "What are you doing here!"
Here was a flat wide Midgard grassland and to the west great mountains touched with clouds and snow. By the portal stood two megalithic obelisks twice as tall as Thor who most definitely should not have been standing there with Loki.
"I am going to join you in your exile."
"I must as I jumped in the ray after you and now I am here. Exiled. With you."
"Father will come after you."
"He may. In six months."
"Can you not be so condescending please? Look at this place!" A pair of russet wolves which no doubt belonged to a large and hungry pack was looking at them curiously.
"Wolves! Excellent! We need fur to keep us warm I think."
Loki sighed and promptly realised the chill air had numbed his nose. He shrugged and readied his bow.