Chapter 1: Lord of Lies
You came into this world bloody, naked and screaming. Remember it? It happened. Slick with your mother’s blood, tied to her insides by a rope of flesh, you were banished from her body to scream and writhe in the hands of strangers.
Do you remember it? I do.
I saw. That’s all I can do.
You won’t have seen me, but I saw you. I saw your birth, and I will see your death. I’ve seen you, your friends, your family, every single person you have ever met.
And now it’s your turn to see me.
Take a good look.
Have you ever told a lie?
Of course you have. Everybody lies sometimes. And everybody is found out. They call me the Master of Mischief, the Lord of Lies, and even I am often caught.
Do you remember your lies? How they were unravelled?
How were you punished?
Liars are always punished. Even me. Especially me. See these marks around my mouth? See the scars?
They held me down as the needle was pushed through my lips. I tried to scream, but screaming is hard with your mouth sewn shut.
When I fled to tear the stitches out, they laughed.
Once, I thought this place was beautiful. Look around you, look at it. To your left, it opens up to sea and sky. Even I can see through to the rolling ocean. Sometimes, when I don’t watch you, I watch the sunset instead.
And to your right, the wonders of the earth itself: columns of stone glistening with damp, stalactites reaching their great spines down, and stalagmites reaching their points up.
Do you think it’s beautiful?
I did, once, thousands of years ago, when coming here was my choice. But now its beauty is nothing to me.
Nothing at all.
I’m a murderer.
That’s why I’m here, in this cave, naked, bloody and bound – like a newborn. That’s why I’m trapped here, to stay here until the end of days, with a snake spitting poison down at my face and only a shallow bowl keeping that venom from my eyes.
It’s my punishment.
I’m here because I killed someone. I killed him twice, actually, if we’re going to get technical about it. And as my penance, I have been here ever since. For over a thousand years, in fact. Just left to rot.
Do you think my punishment is just?
Some say that I’m not capable of love, but that’s not true. The lovely lady who attends to me, my wife, is proof of that. She has been with me all this time, trying to protect me.
And that has taken its toll. I can see it – in the silver that shines in her hair, the pale translucency of her skin, the lines around her eyes, and the frailty in her arms. In her aging.
Some say that I’m not capable of love, but if that were true, would I worry for her as I do?
Is that not love?
They murdered my sons. My strong, brave sons. My boys.
I saw their bodies.
Dead and cold.
The snow was dark red.
The elder, cursed into wolf shape, the froth on his muzzle stained with his brother’s blood, and his skull shattered by a hammer. And the younger... his throat was torn out, steaming in the cold, and his belly slit open and empty.
They stole his guts to tie me up. It’s his blood on my skin. Yes, good friend, the ropes they bound me with are the entrails of my own son.
And they wonder why I hate them.
Imagine the worst pain that you have felt in your life. Remember it. Let the memory fill you.
Now multiply that by a thousand and you might get an idea of a fraction of the agony I face every time that venom touches my face. Torment, suffering, agony, torture: it’s all of these, and yet none of those words comes close. There are no words strong enough to describe what I suffer, what I’ve endured for so long.
If my arms were free, I would have torn my eyes out by now.
It’s a wonder that I haven’t gone mad.
Good people are never as good as they’re painted. Not even the golden child. They thought that he would never come back, but he does. He comes back to watch me suffer.
Every. Single. Time.
I can feel him there, inside the eyes of the snake, mocking me, knowing he’ll have the last laugh.
That’s when I stop regretting what I did, if only for a moment. That’s when I would tear his head off with my bare hands if I could only get to him.
But I can’t. And afterwards, the anger fades.
The regret always comes back again.
Once upon a time, I dreamt of the end of days. I longed for the day when I would be freed, and I and my children would destroy those who wronged me. The thought of their deaths brought me nothing but joy. I thirsted for their blood, and my revenge.
Now, I dream of nothing but oblivion. I do not long for the end of days; its beauty has long since faded. Revenge is an empty word, devoid of feeling.
There is only so long that anyone can be like this before despairing.
All I want now is to die.
We’re not so different, you and I, are we?
Look at us both: naked, impotent, pathetic. You may not realize it, you may not see it, but it’s true all the same. You’ve been like it since you were born and you’ll be like it until the day you die. So will I.
(I’ve been waiting for that day for so long.)
Yes, we’re not so different. After all, you came into this world bloody, naked, screaming and bound, and you’ll leave this world exactly the same way.
Exactly like me.
Just think about that.
Can you see it now?
Chapter 2: Why So Serious?
So you came back. Fancy that. I honestly didn't expect it, you know. I would have thought that coming across a bloody, half-mad naked man tied to a rock with his son's entrails, a snake dripping venom hanging above his face and a gorgeous woman holding a bowl to catch it in, might put you off a bit. Still, there's no accounting for some humans, is there?
Well this is rather awkward. I'm not much cut out to be the host. I prefer to be one getting drunk and dancing on the table. It's much more fun than being obligated to keep others entertained, don't you think?
Still, I suppose I could dig up some tall tale of my exploits. Not that time that Mjollnir was stolen and Thor ended up in a dress, I've told that story about a million times, but there has to be some story I could tell you...
What's that? Oh, the mouth scars? Sure, why not? It's a pretty fun tale.
It all started I met these dwarves – oh wait, no, my mistake, it all started when Thor – well actually, it started at a party, if you would believe that.
Well okay, it was more of a feast than a party, but you get the idea.
So anyway, here we are at this feast. Everyone's had too much to drink, of course, and passed out, and I'm taking a... well-deserved rest in a corner when Thor's wife, Sif, comes staggering over, pickled as a newt. Never could hold her mead, that one. Anyway, so she comes over, drops down by me, and starts kissing me. And one thing leads to another, of course, and we end up making our own personal Ragnorak if you know what I mean.
In my defence, we were both very, very drunk and she came on to me. I swear.
Anyway, I wake the next morning, still rather drunk, to find her lying next to me completely naked. And I get this idea.
You know how when you're drunk, the first person to pass out normally ends up with cartoon phalluses drawn on his face in permanent marker? And it all seems like a great idea at the time because you're hilariously drunk? Yeah, it was one of those ideas.
And see, Sif was known for having this lovely golden hair. Best hair in the world. She wasn't all that beautiful – trust me, she looks good to you, but I've seen better – but her hair was beyond compare.
So I shaved it off.
Yes, yes, I know, it was stupid, especially as I'd just slept with her as well, but you have to remember that I was drunk.
So Thor, of course, finds something objectionable about me fucking his wife and shaving her head, and threatens to tear me limb from limb unless I do something to fix it. And we may not die from ageing – though Odin only knows I want to sometimes – but whoever you are, getting torn limb from limb means dead. Also pain. And I don't know about you, but I'm not big on pain.
And that was when I met these dwarves.
Now, you can't listen to what those bastards say because they lie their arses off: this is what really happened.
I decided to trick them into helping by making comments along the lines of how they'd never make a golden headpiece that could rival Sif's luxurious locks (or something like that, I don't know), and they argued that they bloody well could and more besides. So we made a bet. You'd think I'd know better than to do that by this point, what with the last bet ending up with me a pregnant horse, but you know me, don't you?
Anyway, the best was this: if they could make six gifts for the Gods in six days, including the hair piece, they would win my head. By which I meant the weight of my head in gold. And they knew that I meant that, the bastards, I swear.
But anyway, they pull it off. Sif gets her hair; Odin gets a spear and a ring; Freyr gets a ship and a boar; and Thor got his hammer. And what did I get, for all my hard work? A bunch of blood-thirsty dwarves trying to decapitate me. Charming.
Of course I didn't lose my head. What are you, stupid? I'm the King of Loopholes! After all, they couldn't take my head without damaging my neck. And my neck was not part of the deal. Damn I was proud of that one. One of my finest moments.
Until the dwarves demanded some sort of reparation and my charming fellow Gods decided to sew my mouth shut instead.
Have you ever had your mouth sewn up? Wait, don't answer that, stupid question. You obviously haven't. You've gone rather pale at the thought, though, I must say. And you should see your face! Wish I could have a picture of it.
Anyway, Thor and Odin held me down, and Sif and Freyja got to sew my mouth up. And you could tell that Freyja particularly enjoyed it, the bitch.
And I couldn't even scream.
As soon as they let me up, I fled. It's hard to think clearly in that much pain. All I wanted to do was get away from it. And from the laughter. Oh how funny, that big-mouthed Loki has finally had his trap shut, isn't it hilarious?
It took a year for these scarred lips to heal. A year before I could speak again. And a year is plenty of time for a seed of hatred to take root and begin to grow.
It started with drunk sex at a party; it escalated to mutilation and hate; and it ended with murder.
No. No it didn't. It ended with me here.
Okay, this party is officially over. Pack your shit and leave, kid. You've outstayed your welcome.
Just get out and leave me alone.