Odin raised his staff high above his head, the weak blue glow that Jotunheim gave off reflecting on the polished but bloodstained metal as he towered over Laufey. The battle had come to a stand still, the ground littered with the corpses of both armies, frost giants blending into the frozen land and Asgardians rapidly freezing over until they looked just as natural. Everyone left standing was watching their altercation.
"This can end now Laufey, it can end now with no more bloodshed, or it can go on until we have destroyed Jotunheim and everyone upon it."
"Neither of us wants any more deaths," Laufey said with a small sigh. He took Odin's hand and allowed the Allfather to help him to his feet.
"Why do we not settle this in the ways of old? I understand you have a child not much younger than my own Thor."
"Loki? He is a runt, he will not survive his first month without constant care and attention. He will never be strong or tall. Also there is the issue of his not being a princess," he finished with a slight sneer.
Odin waved away the comment with a sweeping gesture from the staff he still clutched in his hand. "It matters not his gender, I was given to understand your males were capable of baring children."
"That they are, but his stature may prevent him from surviving such an ordeal."
"We have the finest medics in the nine realms in Asgard, it would be no problem for them to assist in a difficult pregnancy. As for the matter of his stature, well, I am sure you would agree that someone of nearer Asgardian height would be more appropriate for my son."
Laufey regarded him with cold, indifferent eyes and for a moment Odin was glad of his partially Jotun blood preventing his veins from freezing as he stood. "Very well. We shall have a treaty until he is an adult in the eyes of both our laws. Then you may return for Loki and we will discuss terms for a more permanent solution. Before the years are up, you will not set foot on Jotunheim."
"I agree to your conditions. I presume you will give us time to mourn our fallen before you banish us."
"You have one day."
Laufey returned to what remained of his palace, trying to ignore the blood and various body parts, some more recognisable than others, strewn around the wasteland that had been his home less than two days prior. Only a few of the inner rooms remained and it was within one of these he found his firstborn with the travelling wise woman who had sought refuge when the first horns sounded.
"He has a bright future ahead of him, your son. Not so bright as the man you have just betrothed him to however."
He was tempted to strike the woman and send her away, he had no time for those who claimed to be able to see the future, only the Norns could do that, and they spoke so deeply in riddles that it was almost impossible to understand the future when they told it to you.
"What do you mean by that?" He asked instead, watching her carefully.
"He will be rich and well looked after, but he will not be loved, he will be feared and despised, everyone will know his name and none but the king of Asgard and Jotunheim will be able to control him."
Laufey paused to watch his young son struggle in the blankets he was encased in. "Thor would rule Jotunheim? That is not something I would willingly agree to."
"If your first born marries him there is no way to oppose it, unless you plan to fight Asgard again."
"I can not. We may be strong as individuals, but they have far larger armies and can pull reserves from all over the nine realms. No. Loki can not be allowed to marry Odin's son, with Jotunheim and Asgard under his rule, he could conquer the whole nine realms. There must be a way to stop it."
Silence fell for several minutes, broken only by the groans of a few unfortunate souls not yet succumbed to death's charms, but too far gone to be saved.
"What of Midgard?" He asked, turning to gauge her reaction and found her gone, as though vanished into the frozen air. Had she ever been there in the first place? Or was she just a hallucination brought about by one too many bangs to the head and exhaustion? No matter, real or not, she had given him a solution, and it was with no regret that he wrote Loki across the baby's tiny chest and tucked him back into his blankets, leaving him in the branches of Yggdrasil.
"Remember this Loki, Odin is the only reason you are alive right now, if you didn't have political use, you would have been left to the elements. None of the nine realms are kind, Midgard least of all." He didn't stay to watch the tree whisk away his firstborn.
Eternities later, or perhaps only a few mortal years, a small thunderstorm in London brought with it a young boy, unkempt and mute, a blanket wrapped around his hips and his name written on his chest. He sat down upon the steps of St. Michael's orphanage and waited.