It was the cry of a babe that drew Odin to the temple.
The rage of battle was still there in his veins; the smell of death and blood lingered in the air throughout the barren wasteland. Snow and ice covered the realm as it always did, and the Aesir warriors stepped cautiously around the abandoned battlefield. There were dead bodies everywhere—whether it was the Aesir or the opposing army. Both armies had sustained heavy casualties and the army native to the land had fallen back for the day. Even then, there were still many who had been wounded far too deep to retreat with their comrades.
Those were the ones who lay on the ground of the icy tundra, tears escaping their bloodred eyes and pressing a hand to their wounds in an attempt to stop the flow of blood. As Aesir drew near to them, they begged to die. Moved with pity, the Aesir commander, Týr, struck them through the heart and hoped for a quick death. It was not only the enemy that was lying on the ground, wishing for death. Some were Aesir, too far gone to even hope of living beyond the week, and some, the day. These too, Týr killed.
“All-Father,” Týr spoke, his voice carrying above the icy winds. “What is our next course of action?”
“Hush, Týr,” Odin commanded, raising his hand. “Do you not hear that?” He turned his eye on the temple that the army had fought in front of. “I believe it is coming from the temple.”
“All-Father, it may not be wise to—” Týr was cut off as Odin shot a stern look at him. Obeying his command, he obediently followed his king into the temple carved of ice and snow.
It still amazed Týr how beautiful this realm was. Though they literally had nothing but ice and snow at their disposal, the enemy had magnificent cities and temples carved from the land itself. On the first day they attacked, Týr silently mourned that these architectural wonders would have to fall. He still recalled the feeling that welled up in his breast when he saw it for the first time—if Asgard was the golden realm, then this was the one of glass and mirrors.
But now, the land was stained with blood, the cities burned with the fires of war, and Týr could almost imagine the ancestors of this realm walking around, forming their cities and palaces from the ice once more.
“I wonder why they defended this temple so?” Týr murmured in thought, looking around. It was a beautiful temple, to be sure, but it looked much like every other temple they had destroyed since the war had started. There was nothing and no one in it; it seemed to him that the enemy wanted to defend an abandoned monument.
Just then, he was proved wrong, for the All-Father approached the altar and lifted from it, a blue babe.
Before their eyes, the blue retreated from the babe’s skin and his red eyes faded to blue. Týr approached the babe cautiously, and it reached for his hand, gurgling and laughing cheerily. It was smaller than the average young of this realm, a runt.
“Týr,” Odin said sharply, “The Casket.”
Blinking, Týr realised that the legendary Casket of Ancient Winters was on the altar as well. He reached for it carefully, unsure of how it worked. He had no desire to die of frostbite like he knew those who drew their power from the Casket could cause. The Casket did not harm him, and as Týr cradled it in his hands, he looked at the babe. “All-Father, do you think…?”
“They were trying to protect the Casket.” Odin said, but then his eye roved over the babe. “Or the child. Perhaps both.”
“I had heard a rumor recently…” Týr began quietly, “…that Fárbauti was fighting on the front lines today after he had given birth to a son just last week.” His eyes met the All-Father’s and they both looked down at the babe in his arms. Fárbauti was the one of the most skilled mages in the nine realms and he alone took out a staggering amount of soldiers just today.
He was also the consort of the realm.
If this child was who they thought he was, then he could grow up to surpass Fárbauti’s skill in magicks and perhaps even bring peace to their two realms.
“We have what we came for,” Odin said quietly. “With the Casket in our possession, the war is ours.” He headed back out the temple, and Týr stumbled after his king, not noticing the smear of the blood on his clothes across the altar.
“Sire, what about the Prince?” Týr asked, and Odin whirled around at fixed him with a steely look.
“I would think you’d recognize your own son,” was all Odin said before he continued on. He held out the babe for Týr to take, exchanging the Casket with him, “What is his name again? I have forgotten, Týr.”
“Ah,” Týr’s mouth was dry. His son? How was he to raise a son when he had reached the coveted first commander position of his own legion only two years previous? He was a warrior; he knew nothing of children. Týr had heard one of the opposing generals shout out “Protect Loki!” before he had perished. “Loki, sire. His mother left him to my care before she died.”
“Very good, very good.” Odin said.
Before the Bifrost took them away, Týr looked once more around the barren wasteland, the homeland of his new son. The icy temples and cities were fallen and the smell of death lingered in the air. All in protection of this one child. “Your fathers loved you,” Týr mouthed silently against Loki’s smooth cheek. “You may be small, but an entire army defended you. Many died to protect you. Never forget your heritage, my son.”
Soon, this war would be over now that the Casket was Asgard’s. Týr could spend time raising the boy and do his best to atone for the loss of the glorious buildings and its prince. A lone figure dashed into the temple, and a cry that was not Loki’s was carried across the wind to Týr’s ears. It was a cry of anguish and heartbreak.
“Loki! My son!” came Laufey’s voice, “My heir!”
So they had been right. Týr looked down at Loki, who had fallen asleep in his arms. For a second, he considered running back to the temple and presenting their enemy’s king with his son. No man should have to endure the loss that the All-Father had demanded that Laufey and Fárbauti go through. But bright light whirled all around Odin, Týr, and the survivors of this bloody battle, and the Bifrost took them back to Asgard, away from Jötunheim and its mourning king.
Týr could not be blamed for loving his adopted son as his own. Though many knew that Loki was not fully Aesir, they did not know who his mother was. At the risk of his own reputation, Týr refused to breathe a word about Loki’s mother. There were exactly three people that knew that Loki was not related to Týr at all: the two who had discovered him and the boy himself. Loki did not know he was Jötun.
Even those who had been with the All-Father and Týr that fateful day in Jötunheim didn’t know. They assumed that Týr had had a forbidden romp with a Jötun maiden and that Loki was the product of their union, claimed that day because the mother had died in battle.
It was apparent from the first three years of Loki’s life that he was never meant to be a warrior like those of Asgard. As a toddler, Týr often caught the young boy’s fingers spewing multi-colored sparks, as if he was trying to cast spells even then. As Loki grew older, his lanky body seemed more fit to throw daggers and wield a staff than the broadswords and axes favored by Aesir warriors.
Even in looks, Loki was as different from the very archetype of a Aesir warrior such as the Crown Prince. His dark-green eyes were critical and sharp; nothing escaped his son’s notice. Black hair was rare in Asgard, but Loki had it. He was pale and thin where others were tanned and muscular. Where others were made of muscle, looking almost grotesque, Loki was lean and held a stately beauty that Týr had only seen women possess.
As Týr had suspected so many years ago, his son was indeed destined to become a great sorcerer. Loki was well-versed in magicks and Týr knew that the boy was always sneaking off to the palace library when possible to translate tomes and learn more. In battle, the boy preferred to use spells to incapacitate his opponent than a weapon.
Though the standards of Asgard judged Loki and found him wanting, Týr could not be more proud of his adopted son.
Loki was skilled with words, though most saw it as negative rather than positive. They called him Silvertongue and Liesmith. In one memorable excursion to Nidavellir, Loki had come back with golden thread sewing his lips shut. Týr had sighed, taking his son’s hand and leading him to sit by the fire as he picked the stitches out with tender care.
But then came the year Loki came of age, and then Týr noticed the glances that his son often cast upon the prince. It had not bothered him before then, because while Loki had always looked at the prince, Týr had never seen the prince look back. He prayed often that the prince would never look back, because of all the men and women in Asgard, Loki was the one that Thor was forbidden to touch.
Thor could seek all the pretty maids he desired and all the men as well. If a pretty maid was beget with child, she would not have the desire to claim right of throne for her son—the lavish lifestyle Odin heaped upon his bastard grandchildren by his second son gave their mothers enough joy. It was the not way of Aesir men to grow round with a child, and thus, Thor could have all the men he wanted.
But Loki was not Aesir.
Both the All-Father and Týr knew very well that Jötun were capable of bearing children no matter their gender—Loki’s birth parents were fact enough. They had heard, when Loki was still young, that Laufey and Fárbauti had another son to replace their lost one, and another one added to their family only a few years before.
Loki was intelligent. He was cunning and sly and though he could not explain it properly to Týr, he knew instinctively that he was meant to be King. Týr knew that if Thor lay with his son and Loki gave birth to a son, his son would have the drive and the cunning to place his child on the throne of Asgard.
Týr lived in fear that his beautiful, wonderful, darling little boy would one day grow up and catch the eye of the Crown Prince. He knew of Loki’s attraction to the older boy long before he considered the consequences of it. Týr feared the day would come when his son would attempt to seize the throne, and he would have to fight him. He feared that one day Thor would see Loki for the magnificent and powerful man that he was.
Týr saw the men and women that Thor took to bed and hoped fervently that they would be enough for the prince. But then the year Loki came of age, he saw Thor look back at his son, and his heart fell.
Týr knew that he was not the only person that saw the romance blossoming between the pair.
It was at the feast that Sif and Queen Frigga saw, as well.
The great hall was crowded with people feasting and drinking. There were drunkards everywhere and the Warriors Three were lavished praise for their bravery against the White Bear. Lady Sif, who had been part of the party that went up against the monster, was silent and left alone. She was quiet throughout the entire feast, her eyes on the prince and a look on her face that told Týr immediately that she was suspicious of something. A quick glance at the Queen Mother told him the same thing.
Both of them were staring quite openly at Thor, who, in turn, spent his time watching Loki. Of the five of them, Loki was the only one who had no idea what was unfolding before him. He ate innocently, and when he rose to retire to his chambers, Thor’s eyes followed him out of the hall.
A few seconds passed, and Thor rose to follow Loki out into the corridor. Týr watched silently from across Lady Sif, sipping at his mead, as Thor walked past Sif. The warrior woman blinked suddenly, realising where Thor was going. Her hand shot out to grip Thor’s arm. “Thor,” She warned quietly, though there was no need. Everyone around them was drunk and boisterous. “Of all the laws of Asgard, this is the one you must not break.”
“It is not against the law to admire a pretty face.” Thor shot back, his eyes on the door.
“But it goes against your father’s wishes to admire that pretty face.” Sif hissed. Týr knew that the only reason Odin gave for his disapproval of such a union between Thor and Loki was that he considered Loki a bastard child, unworthy of his son’s attentions in any way other than platonic. The reason for Sif’s disapproval was that Loki was her closest friend and Thor was her commander in battle. She had no desire for either of them to be involved with one another.
“Father need not know.” Thor shook her hand off of her and continued on after Loki.
Týr watched as Sif rose and joined Frigga by the door. He too, rose to join the two of them. As the three watched, they saw Thor call after Loki.
“What is it, your highness?” Loki sounded bored, sarcastic even, but Týr knew he was anything but. The expression on his face betrayed no emotions, but the lightning-quick quirk of Loki’s eyebrows alerted Týr that the man was more than happy to put off sleep if Thor wanted to speak with him.
“All I wanted to say was that we had not spoken in a while,” Thor said innocently, as he walked up. One of his hands closed over Loki’s wrist briefly, and Týr saw his son’s eyes flicker from Thor’s wrist to his bright-blue eyes. The other hand came up to cup Loki’s cheek through his horned helmet.
“Indeed,” Loki replied slowly, licking his bottom lip languidly as his eyes watched Thor’s follow the movement of his tongue. “Well, your highness, what would you like to speak of?”
“Whatever it is, it can wait until morning, can it not?” Týr asked coolly, coming up from behind Thor and clapping a hand on Loki’s shoulder. “After all, it is late, and I should hate for my son—and your majesty—to be fatigued. It was a long journey, Prince Thor,” Týr said, “You must be tired.” Without waiting for a reply from either the prince or his son, Týr marched down the corridor, pushing Loki along.
“Father, you know it was nothing wrong; we were just standing and talking.” Loki complained.
“I have told you time and time again, son; stay away from the prince.” Týr’s face was thunderous. “You know the All-Father would blame you should your affair with him be discovered.”
“There would have to be an affair for one to be discovered, Father.” Loki remarked dryly.
“You better hope there never is one,” Týr snapped, “Or you and I will be lost to one another forever. He will banish you, Loki, and though you are not mine by blood, I love you too much to see you banished like a traitor.”
“I don’t understand what the All-Father has against me,” Loki frowned. “It cannot be my gender, for the Prince has taken male lovers before.”
“The All-Father admires your skill and tenacity in the magical arts,” Týr said. He sighed, releasing his grip on Loki’s shoulder, “I suppose it is time you know. The All-Father does not wish for you to be involved with Thor because in the race you come from, males can also bear children without the aid of magic.”
“Well, that’s unexpected.” Loki blinked and followed after Týr. “So what, I can never be with the man I love?”
“You foolish boy,” Týr said sadly, shaking his head, “You know that anyone Thor marries will most likely be to secure an alliance.”
“If only I were some realm or the other’s crown prince,” Loki murmured, “Then he and I could be together.”
“Never say that.” Týr started, his eyes wide as he whirled around and took hold of Loki’s shoulders. “You are my son and a son of Asgard. I know your parents loved you very much, my son, and it is for your own protection that I keep you here instead of breaking the vow I made to the All-Father in order to return you to them. Should I return you to the realm from whence you came, the All-Father would kill you without a second thought.”
“I know I am a spoil of war, Father,” Loki said, his normally uncaring façade crumbling under the verbal onslaught by his adopted father. “Surely though, Odin would not be so callous as to strike me down?”
“You are my son.” Týr said, repeating the words he had spoken to Loki since he was very young. “Someday, we will see you returned to your rightful realm and I pray that you do not forget me, nor the few friends that you have in this realm.” Týr closed his eyes, remembering the former glory of Jötunheim. “You will restore your realm to glory.”
“I can never do that unless you tell me which artifact in the vault belongs to my people, Father,” Loki sighed, smiling indulgently. He knew that Týr loved to believe that Loki would leave someday and bring some fallen realm back to its former glory, but Loki didn’t believe it was meant to be. He did like seeing Týr happy though, so he indulged that belief a little.
“I will tell you when you are in need of it,” Týr promised, clapping Loki on the back, “Now, to bed with you, boy!”
Years later, Týr would look back on this conversation and weep. If only Loki had listened to him, then they would not have been separated. He had known all along that his son would leave someday, but he had expected it to be of Loki’s own free will. He never thought that one day, he would be forced to watch his son be torn from Thor’s arms and banished without a second thought.
Týr saw the subtle glances, the smoldering looks, and the way Thor followed around his son like a well-trained pet. He saw the way Loki looked at Thor with the utmost tenderness, the way he always wanted more but forced himself away, for Týr’s sake. He saw Thor’s love for his son grow day by day, though he knew that Loki was a good boy, and would not move past the boundaries of propriety even for his one true love.
Týr saw the heartbreak both of them faced, the way Thor’s eyes lingered on Loki at dinner, the way Thor was gentle with Loki during a spar. He saw Thor followed Loki into the library to spend time with him, though the prince was no scholar. He saw Loki smile at a necklace, a tome, a spell ingredient that neither Týr nor he had procured.
He saw the kiss that Thor stole once, two years after Týr had warned Loki of the dangers in engaging in a such relationship with Thor.
Týr saw, and he looked the other way.
Heimdall did not.
Loki was in his rooms, his head bent over a book, when Heimdall made the first move.
It was a new tome that Thor had managed to bring back for him from the older man’s last excursion into Alfheim. The pages were the dried pelts of Midgardian animals and written in the blood of the enemies of the sorcerer whom this had been taken from. It detailed magical items that were legendary amongst the nine realms and their usages. Loki had just begun to read about the Casket of Ancient Winters when the Einherjar guard came in.
“Loki Týrson, Heimdall demands your presence,” The guard announced and waited patiently as Loki carefully slid a bookmark to mark the page he had been at when they barged into his chambers.
“What does he wish to see me for?” Loki asked, but the guard did not answer.
As he was led to the Bifrost, Loki realised that he had not been exactly subtle recently in his practice of elemental magic. Perhaps Heimdall had turned his gaze to Loki and had seen him form a miniature castle out of ice that he had called from the air. All the elements responded well to him thus far in his studies, but ice seemed to be the most receptive. He supposed that Heimdall was going to lecture him about the delicate balance of elements and how one should not mess with it and blah blah blah, Loki had heard this all before.
To his surprise, the Gatekeeper did not speak to him about this. After the guard was dismissed, it was just he and Loki in the Bifrost. They were both silent for a very long time, and Loki croaked, “Heimdall. Why have you summoned me?”
“You know what for, Loki Týrson.” Heimdall said stoically. He was not facing the other man, instead choosing to stare at the golden wall above Loki’s head. “I turned my gaze upon you weeks ago in Asgard, but I could not see you. You were shielded from my sight.”
That was when Loki had first begun to learn elemental magic. Fearful that Heimdall would catch him at it, he had shrouded himself from the Gatekeeper’s sight. “I…”
“I checked back in the weeks to come, but every night for hours, I would not see you.” Heimdall continued, “And when I did, you were tired and fell asleep almost immediately. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, assuring myself that perhaps you had a reason other than the one I had in mind for your secrecy.” His eyes flashed, and his voice grew hard.
“Perhaps it was a mistake,” Loki laughed weakly. “Perhaps you just caught me at a bad time—“
“Or perhaps someone has found a way to hide that which he does not wish me to see.” Heimdall said and though he was quiet, the room was still, and his voice rang out.
“I—” Loki was cut off.
“You did not shield yourself when the prince kissed you in the gardens yesterday,” Heimdall accused. “He gave you a tome from Alfheim. A token of love, perhaps?”
“You think Thor and I…?” Loki’s green eyes went wide as he tried to extricate himself from this accusation. He knew very well what the consequences would be if he did not clear himself of any suspicion. “No, Heimdall, it’s not what you think; I was practicing elemental spells!”
“I am honour-bound to report anything between you and Prince Thor to the All-Father,” was all Heimdall said, though it was evident even to Loki that Heimdall was reluctant to do so for what he saw as a harmless little kiss.
“Heimdall, no.” Loki pleaded.
“You have three days, at best,” Heimdall said before a little sigh escaped him, “Unless you swear to dissolve the friendship you currently maintain with Thor.”
“I…” Loki shook. If he wanted to stay with Týr, with Thor, then he had to. But then that meant that he would never be able to speak to Thor again. He would have to look at him and see him, but never, never speak a word. “I…” He would have his father and Sif, but Thor would be lost to him forever. But if he were banished, then he would have no one, but he wouldn’t have to bear with the pain of seeing Thor every day. “…I can’t.”
“Three days.” Heimdall said, as he gestured for Loki to go.
Loki burst into Týr’s chambers, a frantic look on his normally expressionless face and his eyes wide with fear. “Father, Heimdall…he’s given me three days!”
“What?” Týr asked sharply, standing from where he was seated at his desk strategizing. He cradled his son close as Loki collapsed into his arms, sobbing. “Oh my son,” He smoothed Loki’s hair, “What have you done?”
“I have done nothing!” Loki protested, lifting his head to look Týr in the eyes. “I have been practicing elemental magic in the past few weeks and thought it best Heimdall not know, so I shielded myself from his gaze but he saw Thor kiss me when he gave me the tome from Alfheim and he jumped to conclusions and he says he’s honour-bound to tell the All-Father and…Father, I have done nothing!”
Týr held his son close, his tears joining those of the boy he had raised to manhood. “It’s time then.”
Loki bit his lip and cast his magic to shield them both from Heimdall’s view as covertly as possible. “Father?”
“The artifact that you must retrieve is the All-Father’s most treasured war spoil—the Casket of Ancient Winters.” Týr said in a rush. They had to finish this before Heimdall decided to cast his gaze upon Loki again. “You must take it before the All-Father banishes you. He cannot take your powers because they are part of you, so when he banishes you, find a way to Jötunheim.”
“The Casket…?” Loki inhaled sharply. Jötunheim…? When Týr had told him he was a foundling, he never thought he was belong to the race that was their worst enemy…! But it made sense. In Loki’s youth, whenever Týr had come across someone that called the Frost Giants monsters or the inferior race, his father always set them straight, defending the enemy and elaborating on how beautiful the realm had been. “Father…”
“Go Loki!” Týr demanded, kissing him briefly on both cheeks. He chose his words carefully, knowing that Loki was about to let Heimdall see them again. “No matter what happens, you will always be my son.”
Loki nodded and slipped from his father’s chambers.
It was the dead of night and Loki shielded himself from Heimdall’s gaze once more. Let the Gatekeeper believe that he was practicing his elemental spells or spreading his legs for Thor. It mattered not now anyway, when he was only three days away from his banishment.
As he neared the vault, he whispered the words that would make him nigh undetectable. He was essentially a shadow. The guards did not see him; Heimdall did not see him. He carefully bypassed all the wards and spells that were set up by the most skilled sorcerers in Asgard. For one such as powerful as Loki, it was mere child’s play. He approached the stand where the Casket lay, and after inspecting it carefully, wove an identical replica as he spoke ancient Elvish. It had the same basic functions as the actual Casket, though that was all it could do. No matter, the Casket would only perform its basest functions for everyone but the Jötnar.
Loki carefully lifted the actual Casket, twisting it so that it shrunk down and fit in the inside pocket of his robes. He watched with fascination as his hand and part of his forearm slowly faded back to the pink that they were before he had touched the Casket.
“What am I?” He breathed, teleporting back into his chambers to slip into bed and letting the enchantment surrounding him to lift so that Heimdall could see him again.
He hadn’t turned fully blue, just blue enough for him to believe his father. But as soon as the Casket was tucked away and he wasn’t touching it directly anymore, his hand reverted to the Aesir paleness that he was used to seeing. All the books he had ever read on Frost Giants had told him that the average height for a Jötun would be about fifteen feet; Loki was six foot four. What a strange Jötun he made. Was he perhaps a half-breed? No Jötun he had read about was that small, but the runts were—oh, blast it all.
Loki was a runt of a Jötun.
Well, this day was turning out better and better.
The next day after dinner, Loki approached Thor. Though the other man jested at first about how Loki was the one to approach instead of being approached this time, the expression on Loki’s face told Thor that he was in no mood for jest.
“I had to see you,” Loki said quietly. It was hard for him to say good bye, but he knew he would rather have Thor know that he loved him before he was banished than to hear lies told by others.
The smile on Thor’s face faded and his blue eyes met Loki’s. He swallowed thickly and managed to say, “What’s happened?”
“I expect to be banished by tomorrow evening,” Loki began, averting his gaze. “And I would prefer you heard it from me.”
“Banishment?” Thor’s voice sounded incredulous, “For what?”
“Apparently, we’ve been at it like animals.” Loki said dryly. “And though that’s not true, Heimdall saw the kiss. He gave me three days.”
“Let me explain to Father—” Thor was cut off by an upset Loki.
“Then what?” Loki shook his head. He knew that it was only a matter of time. Nothing they said could absolve them of the crime that Odin was sure to think they committed. When he spoke again, his voice was hard. “There’s nothing you can do.”
“Yes, there is.” Thor’s eyes met Loki’s. The determination in his blue eyes made Loki pause briefly. Though he still didn’t think that he had a chance, something he saw in Thor’s set jaw, his hard expression, gave him just a little bit of hope. If Thor was this against his banishment, was it friendship or dare he hope it was love? “And even if it doesn’t help, then I will simply lift your banishment when I am king.”
“And when will that be?” Loki murmured, turning around, “You are still far too rash, Thor. You are governed by your emotions. You are not ready to be King.”
“For you, I would do anything,” Thor said in response. “Whatever it takes, I will do it if it would mean I could become King sooner and bring you back.” His lips quirked into a small smile. “And anyway, Father deemed me worthy enough to crown me King last week.”
“Ah yes,” Loki teased, his old charm returning for the moment. It was always Thor that made him forget about his troubles and brought him happiness in their golden world that shunned the dark mage. “The coronation that never happened because Frost Giants decided to attempt to steal back their Casket.” He was suddenly reminded of the Casket tucked away next to his heart. Who had let the Frost Giants in? It hadn’t been him, but they made it far. Loki had prevented another war with Jötunheim when he convinced Thor that stealing into Jötunheim to challenge their king would not convince the All-Father that he was ready to be king.
“You needn’t worry,” Thor pushed at Loki’s shoulder in a joking manner. “When I am King, I will rid the nine realms of Jötunheim forever.”
Loki’s smile faltered for a brief moment before he plastered it back onto his face. Where it had been genuine a moment ago, it was forced. The corners of his lips twitched from the effort, when all he wanted to do was ask Thor if he would rid the nine realms of Loki too. “I—”
Thor cut him off, gesturing for Loki to follow him as he headed towards the vault where Loki had been to less than a day ago. “Come, Father will be taking inventory this time of day, and we can speak to him there.”
Loki scrambled to catch up with Thor and when he did, he was practically running to keep up with the other man’s long strides. “Thor, you cannot think that this will help our cause.”
“It will.” Thor was still Thor, self-same and confident in the belief that his father would let the cuckoo stay in the nest.
Within minutes, they were at the vaults. They looked around everywhere but there was no sign of Odin. As they passed the area where the Casket of Ancient Winters was held, Loki noticed with satisfaction that his duplicate was still there. It was only when they started heading back up did they see their king.
“Father, what’s this I hear about you banishing Loki?” Thor asked, jumping straight into the topic.
Odin, diplomatic as always, looked from son to ward and raised an eyebrow. “I have not yet made my decision, but you have broken the one rule I have ordered you to keep, Thor, and unfortunately, it is Loki that will be punished for it.”
“There is nothing sordid or clandestine about our relationship!” Thor protested, “We have done nothing!”
“But who is to say you will never do anything?” Odin challenged. “You are both immortal, and eternity is a long time.”
“That is no reason to banish Loki!” Thor shouted, his voice ringing in the stairway. “Just because I love him is not a reason to banish him! Father—”
“But what of Loki?” Odin asked, turning his gaze to the man in question. “Let him speak in defense of himself. He is no child; he can defend himself.”
“I love Thor,” Loki said quietly. He looked met the All-Father’s gaze, as if challenging him to dismiss his words.
Suddenly, it seemed as if Odin had suddenly become enraged. “You are unworthy!”
“No!” Thor cut into their conversation, angered. “If anything, it is I who am unworthy of Loki! He is a much better man than I, wiser, more inclined to diplomatic skills, and he would be a better king than I!” He inhaled sharply, “The old ways are done; as King of Asgard—”
“But you’re not King!” Odin’s voice rang out and echoed all around them. His gaze was furious and his face was red with anger. He took a deep breath, and when he spoke again, he sounded much calmer. “Not yet.”
The look on Thor’s face was utterly heartbreaking. Both he and Loki knew now that Odin would keep the crown from him for at least another century for this outburst. It would be years before they could set eyes on one another again. Instead of helping, Thor had made it worse. There was no changing his father’s mind. The calmness in Odin’s voice made Thor grow even angrier. “You are an old man and a fool!”
“No, my son.” Odin said sadly, his hand shaking as he tapped Gungnir on the floor once. “I was a fool.”
Loki’s eyes widened as the guards marched through the door. No, it was too soon. His things, his tomes…Thor, Týr, Sif…his best friend; he hadn’t had a chance to tell Sif yet. “All-Father, please—”
“I, Odin All-Father,” The King began, heedless of Loki’s pleas and his son’s cry of anguish as Thor pulled Loki close to him. He ignored the guards shuffling to break their embrace, to pull Loki out the door, “cast you out!”
“No!” Thor cried, reaching for Loki even as his love was marched out like a common thief towards the Bifrost. “Loki!”
Loki twisted his head to look at Thor. His eyes were pained, but they told Thor that he was resigned to his fate. Thor couldn’t hear what Loki said over the pounding in his ears, but he saw the sad smile, the movement of his lips that seemed to say, “I love you.”
Thor sunk to his knees and stared as Odin marched out after them, unable to follow because of the spell that held him in place.
They led him to the Bifrost, and the All-Father didn’t speak at all. He simply plunged Gungnir into the mechanism that started the Bifrost, and watched silently as it powered up.
The only comfort that Loki could take was from the Casket. He wondered if his parents would be pleased to find him alive. Týr had told him that they loved him very much, but what if it was a lie to make him feel better? What if they couldn’t care less about the Jötun runt they had lost twenty-three years ago? Loki took a deep breath as he was surrounded by bright light.
He was about to find out.
The first thing that Loki noticed was that it was freezing in Jötunheim. The second thing was that there were a group of four Jotunar surrounding him, staring at him in a mixture of disgust and curiosity.
“Hello.” Loki greeted cautiously.
“Why have you come here, Asgardian?” One of them asked. Loki wasn’t sure but he didn’t seem to be too old, perhaps eighteen or nineteen years of age. “You know this breaks our treaty.”
“I’ve been banished,” Loki replied, “I suppose that I have been sent here to die.”
“Banished, eh?” The Frost Giant grinned, his mouth full of sharp teeth and he turned to his companions, “What say we bring him to Father?” The others roared their approval, and somehow, Loki was led to march towards the shadowy tower of ice that seemed to serve as the palace. As they approached what appeared to be a tower of ice, Loki realised it was a throne when the Frost Giant that spoke to him addressed it, “Father, we have found a lost little Asgardian. He says he was banished.”
“Well, well,” Red eyes fixed onto Loki’s green ones, and he felt a sudden chill crawl up his spine. “You have come a long way to die, Asgardian.”
“I think that was the idea,” Loki quipped, deducing that it was King Laufey from the way the group of Frost Giants had bowed before him. “But surely, you wouldn’t kill me?”
“Oh, and why is that?” A slow, shark-like grin spread over the Jötun king’s face, “Who are you that the All-Father would send you to your death in Jötunheim?”
“I am Loki, the Liesmith of the Nine Realms, the dreaded Silvertongue.” Loki answered with a self-same smile of his own. It faltered when Laufey, who had been reclining on his throne in a passive manner, suddenly stood up, his face thunderous.
“I have heard of the Liesmith and I am well aware he hails from Asgard, but you spin more lies when you say that your name is Loki,” Laufey hissed angrily. His eyes narrowed and his voice was frosty. “Give me one good reason why I should not strike you down where you stand for telling me such falsehoods.”
Loki didn’t understand what it was about his name that had angered Laufey so. From the response of the other Frost Giants, he could see that they were aware of the grave error he had just committed, but he had no idea. What was so wrong about his name? For once, he was at a loss for what to say.
His lack of a response angered Laufey, and the King snarled before he waved a hand, “Kill him.” But then as his men moved to do so, he held up a hand and the shark-like grin returned. “Not so painless; bring out Fárbauti’s pet.”
No sooner had he spoken these words did a savage roar sound from Loki’s left. The Jötnar scattered to observe the impending fight from a safe distance. As Loki turned, the ice wall cracked and a monstrous beast that looked to be composed of ice surged through it.
“Well,” Loki said as the beast roared in his face. “That was unexpected.”
He reached into his cloak for his daggers, leaping away as the beast swiped a paw at the air where he had been only seconds ago. Chanting as he darted away, dozens of Lokis appeared around the beast, identical to the original and taunting it. The original Loki in question was infusing his daggers with his magic while his copies distracted the beast. It bit and swung at the copies, roaring when they disappeared and it realised that they were not real. Soon enough, all the copies had vanished and the beast closed in on the mage.
It was too late.
Loki threw his daggers at it, and the magic they were coated with made the creature howl in anguish. Before it could respond, Loki leapt onto its back, and before the disbelieving eyes of the Frost Giants, formed a blade of fire and stabbed the beast, its blade turning to ice and staying embedded into its back. He repeated the motion several times until its back was littered with dozens of these ice swords and with a final groan, it staggered and fell face forward onto the icy ground. It moved no more.
Loki slid from its back, sneering at its carcass. “Pathetic.” He walked around it to retrieve his daggers, wiping them of the monster’s blood.
A snarl came from behind Loki and a Frost Giant extended his arm, spikes of ice emerging from it as he neared Loki. As Loki stabbed him through the stomach, the Frost Giant grabbed at his arm, both hands reverting to normal in his shock. They both expected Loki’s arm to turn black with frostbite. The Frost Giant froze when blue that was the same shade as his own skin began to creep up Loki’s arm instead. His hesitation cost him his life, for Loki stabbed him through the heart with his other hand.
Loki stared at his arm, the color retreating as it had done after the Casket was no longer in contact with his skin when he had stolen it.
The other Frost Giants roared at the fall of their comrade and as dozens began to rush towards Loki, he dropped his dagger. With wide eyes and acting on instinct, he pulled out the Casket and willed it to work, freezing all of them in their tracks.
“Stop!” Laufey’s voice rang out as others grew restless. His eyes roved over Loki, who had turned entirely blue now. Ceremonial markings were carved into his skin—carvings that Laufey himself had made more than two decades prior. The red of Loki’s eyes were the shade that only the Jötnar royal family had; same as Laufey’s. “You hold the Casket of our people; you wield it in the way only one of us can.” His eyes narrowed. “And you are small for our kind. Tell me, Liesmith—and I want no lies—what is your name?”
“I told you, but it only served as an excuse for you to sic your consort’s pet on me!” Loki snarled. Closing his eyes and exhaling, he shoved the Casket back inside his cloak and his skin faded back to Aesir. “It is Loki. Loki Týrson.”
“Father, he lies!” The Frost Giant that had led Loki here; Helblindi, Loki presumed, for he called Laufey father. “You told me yourself that the All-Father left nothing at the altar but the blood of your firstborn!”
“Perhaps I was mistaken. There was, after all, no body.” Laufey said quietly; his eyes were only for Loki. “This Týr, he is your blood father?”
“I am a foundling that he raised as his own,” Loki answered. His heart quickened; what Helblindi had said…Was he perhaps the Frost Giant prince’s brother? When he had wished for himself to be the crown prince of a realm two years ago, he never imagined…! “My father has always been honest to be about how he came to raise me.”
“And you are twenty-four years of age, yes?” Laufey smiled when Loki gave a hesitant nod. It was strange to see him smile in a manner that wasn’t sarcastic or predatory. “Summon Fárbauti.”
“There is no need,” A cage of fire sprang up around Loki, and just outside the bars, a Frost Giant rose from the ice next to it. “I see you’ve had another one of my pets killed, husband.” He said as he looked sadly at the fallen beast. His voice was laden with disapproval as he looked at Laufey, “Really, if you wanted them gone, all you had to do was…ask,” he purred at Laufey with a sultry smile.
“And would you have cast it out at my request?” Laufey’s smile was just as seductive as Fárbauti’s, and Loki saw from inside his cage of fire that Helblindi was making a face that clearly showed how uncomfortable he was at his fathers’ flirting. From beside him, a younger Frost Giant was making the same face; the second prince, Býleistr, perhaps?
“Of course,” Fárbauti replied, making a sweeping bow as he lowered his head. When he rose and turned to Loki, he could see that the Frost Giant was dressed in mage’s robes, loose curls flowing around his face. Circlets of silver and gold adorned his head; emeralds and golden threads were woven into his long braid. His horns were decorated with fine rings of gold and rubies. He was clearly Laufey’s consort. He leaned so close to the bars of fire that Loki marveled that he did not fear his fine fur mantle catching on fire. “Hello there, Týrson.” The one thing that shocked Loki the most was how much of a resemblance he bore to this Frost Giant, down to his height. “Are you my firstborn?”
Loki’s eyes narrowed. He was being challenged. It was unspoken, but he could sense the challenge that Fárbauti had issued, Free yourself. If you are indeed my firstborn, then prove it. Prove yourself worthy of being the son of one of the most skilled mages in all of the nine realms.
Pressing his hands together, Loki’s eyes flashed red for a moment as he whispered to the fire. The cage flickered, and suddenly, all of the fire that composed it curled around Loki’s arm like a snake. Then, as Loki met Fárbauti’s eyes, the fire turned into water and Loki sent it into the cold ground beneath their feet. “What do you think?”
It was silent for the longest time, but then Fárbauti smiled gently at Loki and tugged him into an embrace that was equally gentle as his smile. “I had always hoped that you lived.”
When they drew apart, Loki was surprised to see that all the other Frost Giants, save Laufey, were on their knees with their heads bowed before him. Even the ones who had been poised to attack him minutes ago were prostrate on the floor. Helblindi, the brother who had accused him of lying only moments before, was on the ground as well.
“Loki Laufeyson, what am I to do with you?” Laufey murmured in Loki’s ear as he pulled his eldest into his arms. “You are my firstborn, ‘tis true, but these past nineteen years, I have been raising Helblindi as my heir; it would not be fair to him otherwise.”
“He can learn, Father!” Helblindi said, dismissing the other Frost Giants as he rose and stepped forward. Unlike Loki, Helblindi had obviously taken after Laufey in the height department—he towered over his elder brother by several feet. “I have never seen so much raw power! Surely, he is a great sorcerer!”
“He is good,” Fárbauti’s lips quirked, as if he were fighting not to smile. “He is untrained by a seasoned mage—it is obvious from his style—but he surpasses Helblindi by far. I sensed this when he was born and you know I have always said that had he lived, he would have been more powerful than I, someday.”
“It is unfair to Helblindi,” Laufey protested. “I am happy to have Loki back, but his brother has believed himself to be my heir for years!”
“Ah, if I may?” Loki inquired, holding up a palm. When all three pairs of red eyes turned to him, he continued. “I agree with Laufey—ah, Father—for Helblindi has been heir apparent for nineteen years. Why not have him remain as such for the time being, while I train under…Fárbauti—Father?” Loki trailed off, unsure how to distinguish between the two.
Helblindi flushed purple. “Ah, we call him Papa.”
“Thank you, Helblindi.” Loki nodded. “While I train under Papa as a mage? Make your decision later—it may be beneficial in the future when Jötunheim flourishes again to marry me off.”
Laufey brushed a lock of stray hair behind Loki’s ear, and it seemed to the young mage that there was a stray tear of his father’s cheek. “My son, it’d be many years before we’d do that—already too many have lost.”
“It must have been a shock to find the Casket gone.” Loki said. Týr had often told him how the artifact that belonged to his people and Loki had been found in the same place, and how he was sure that the army they had fought to get to the Casket had been guarding him first and foremost. He wondered if it was true. He wondered if his fathers had mourned the loss of the Casket more or the loss of him more.
“It was nothing compared to the pain I felt when I thought you had died.” Laufey bowed his head. “There was blood on the altar, and there was no sign of you. Your father and I grieved for many years, and had we not needed the army, I would have slayed everyone that had survived that battle. They were meant to protect you—and they failed. ”
“Papa, if this is my big brother and Helblindi’s big brother, then why is he smaller than Helblindi?” Býleistr questioned, stepping out from behind Helblindi. He was very young, but he was almost Loki’s height. He didn’t wait for an answer, bombarding Loki was questions. “Why do you look like an Asgardian? Did you live there for very long? Do you have friends there? Do they miss you?”
“Býleistr is only five.” Fárbauti explained with a small smile. It was clear to both Fárbauti and Loki that soon, Býleistr would surpass them both in height.
“I was five once,” Loki smiled at his brother, but then it slipped when he realised his last question. “I don’t know.”
“Please, my Lady Queen!” Sif practically shouted, “You must go to the All-Father and convince him to change his mind!”
“Do you think I have not already been to see him?” Frigga asked, turning to face Sif. The other woman could see that the Queen’s eyes were brimming with tears. Frigga had known Loki since he was brought to Asgard, and she adored him. He, in turn, had adored her as well, and when Loki was growing up, they spent much time together. “Loki is like another son to me; moreso, even, for my sons have never spent as much time with me as he has.”
Sif’s dark eyes were sad and she was desperate. Loki was her best friend; he never discouraged her for wanting to be a warrior of Asgard just as she never judged him for preferring the use of magic. They understood one another in ways that no one else did. “But my Lady—!”
“Enough, Lady Sif!” Frigga said firmly before she walked out of the room.
Sif stalked out into the room where feasts were usually held. Glaring at the Warriors Three, who were seated around a table, and Thor, who was sitting on the steps with his head cradled between his palms, she hissed, “He is gone and there is nothing I can do.” Running a hand through her dark hair, she fixed her gaze on Fandral. “Why was I not informed, dunce? Why was I alone kept in the dark about my greatest comrade’s banishment?” Her voice climbed higher. “Why was he banished?! No one will tell me.”
“It is my fault,” Thor said in the softest voice that Sif had ever heard her friend speak in. He sounded much younger than his twenty-seven years. She knew the depth of his feelings for Loki and vice versa. She alone knew that his devotion to her friend. “I should not have challenged Father. It was foolish of me, and Loki paid the price.”
“Well, there must be something we can do!” Sif insisted, throwing her hands up in the air.
“Shush, Sif,” Volstagg looked at Sif with paranoia coating his voice. He even stopped eating for the moment, “Heimdall might be watching.”
Sif growled and Fandral opened his mouth to make a joke before she glowered at him and he thought better of it. She turned her attention back to Volstagg. “Then let him watch!”
“Sif, you don’t mean that.” Volstagg blanched. He turned his gaze to the wall and spoke quietly, “Forgive her Heimdall; she is hurt.”
“I am disappointed.” The dark-haired beauty glared at all of them, but her gaze rested on Thor for the longest amount of time. The room was so silent that one could hear a pin drop. Abruptly, she whirled around and stomped out of the room towards Loki’s room. As soon as she crossed out into the corridor, her steps quickened until she was running.
Her vision blurred as tears filled her eyes. When she reached Loki’s room, she pushed open the door and stepped in, leaning against the closed door. The curtains were still open, and the daylight bathed everything in light. A bitter sob escaped as Sif looked around. It was as Loki had left it last; she could almost see him walk through the door to peck her on the cheek.
“Oh, my dear friend,” Sif murmured quietly, sliding down until she was seated on the ground. She buried her face in her hands, crying freely. Had it really only been two days since Loki had gone? It felt like so much longer.
Aside from her excursions into other realms with Thor and the Warriors Three, Sif rarely went a day without seeing the talented sorcerer and hearing his dry wit. She would be the first to admit that she was tired of the company of most other Aesir. The females were insipid and could not hold a conversation that did not consist of dresses or silly flattery of men while the men made passes at Sif or belittled her for her chosen path as a warrior of Asgard; Loki was not like that. He always treated her with respect, but at the same time, trusted her with things that he didn’t trust other with. They shared many of the same opinions and genuinely enjoyed one another’s company. Loki was her greatest friend, and now, he was gone.
It seemed as if no one cared but she.
Suddenly, the door creaked open and Sif fell backwards into the corridor. She scrambled to sit up straight and she was flustered when she realised that it was Týr who had opened the door.
Týr too, seemed startled to see Sif in his son’s rooms. He closed the door behind him and sat down on the floor next to her, “Lady Sif, what are you doing here?”
She hastily wiped away her tears, “Ah, I have only heard of Loki’s banishment two days ago, and I wanted to remember him.” She bowed as far as she could while sitting and tried to keep her voice from wobbling, “I am sorry for your loss, Týr.”
“As am I for yours,” Týr flashed a small, sad smile at her. “I know that you and my son were close.”
“He was my closest friend,” Sif admitted, “Sometimes I feel as if he was my only friend.”
Týr looked on uncomfortably. “I believe that my son felt the same of you, Lady Sif.” As he rose to leave, he hesitated at the door. “Of all the realms I have ever been to, Jötunheim was the most beautiful one. In its past, it was magnificent, but in the years since the war, it has fallen into a kind of ruin. I still hold the hope that someday, Jötunheim will desire peace and be brought back to its former beauty.” He fixed her with a stare. “It is cold on the outside, but if one looks close enough, it is still beautiful.”
Sif’s eyebrows furrowed in concentration, “Týr, what—”
“One day, when the treaty is more stable, I believe you should go to Jötunheim to see its beauty for yourself, Lady Sif,” Týr said quietly, “It may surprise you what you would find there.”
Father told me that my mother’s people are a fallen race, that someday, I will grow and bring it back to glory.
Loki’s words from so long ago reminded her of what Týr had just told her now. From what she knew, she inferred that Loki could be half-Jötun. As for the visiting Jötunheim part, Týr knew something she didn’t, but had obviously didn’t want to tell her for fear of Heimdall’s eye upon them. But what was it that Týr wanted to relay to her?
Was Loki in Jötunheim?
“Papa, what would be the point of this exercise?” Loki questioned as they sat on the floor of the throne room to meditate.
In the past two weeks, he had learned a brief history of Jötunheim, down to the last twenty-four years. It was radically different than the way the Aesir painted the war; Jötunheim wanted Midgard because Jötunheim had grown too small to sustain their population. It was over-population that drove them to expand. Now, they had no desire to rule over Midgard; the war had taken care of the over-population for them. But alas, without the Casket of Ancient Winters, they could not rebuild their city. No one had the power to without it. Even Fárbauti could only save so many buildings.
After the history lessons had concluded and the palace had been rebuilt using the Casket, Loki began his training with Fárbauti.
“It is to calm your mind,” Fárbauti explained, “Magic should never be used in anger; it can consume you from the inside out and warp you into insanity. Laufey forbade me to use my magic for nearly a month after the last battle, for he feared in my grief, I would destroy everything, myself included.” He opened an eye and a brief smile appeared, “One should always be able to consider the situation with a critical eye and objectively use magic. Magic can be used for selfish gain and petty purposes without overwhelming the user; it is only when it is done with anger welling up that magic can hurt the one who wields it.”
“I see,” Loki replied, closing his eyes in response and attempting to clear his mind. Fárbauti’s words made sense, for he could easily imagine trying to kill the All-Father in response to his banishment and find himself consumed with power and driven to madness by his actions. Even when he used it with minor annoyance, he could hear the magic speaking to him, He deserved it, but it was not enough. Next time, something more deserving shall be his fate, young Loki.
They were silent for another couple of hours before Fárbauti had declared their allotted meditation time had come to an end. As he rose and brushed off flakes of ice from his robe, he smiled at his eldest. “You are suited to green, my son.”
For reasons unknown, Loki’s body was fond of maintaining an Aesir form unless he came into contact with a Jötun. But still, just because he appeared Aesir didn’t mean that they kept him in the clothes he had arrived with. They had put him in fine robes similar to Fárbauti’s, though they were not as decorated. Likewise, his hair was not long enough to braid, nor was it long enough to drip with emeralds and gold like his father’s. They settled for weaving as four or five ropes of leather with emeralds and gold plates attached, as well as placing thin circlets of silver and gold around his crown.
Of course, he was attired entirely in green, gold, and black.
“Thank you, Papa,” Loki returned the smile, his cheeks flushed from the compliment. Back in Asgard, he had never been considered very handsome by the others; only Thor and Sif ever saw him as such. It wasn’t that he wasn’t attractive; Asgard just had different standards of beauty than the other realms did. Loki, being pale, trim, and dark-haired, instead of muscular, tanned, and fair, did not fit into them. He tilted his head to the side in thought, “Papa, if Jötunheim had a chance to make peace with Asgard, would Father take the initiative?”
Fárbauti considered the question carefully. His husband was nine centuries old, nine thousand years old in Midgardian years, and for many of his years, had been at war. The times when Jötunheim were not at war were few and far in between, but they did exist. Oftentimes, it hadn’t even been Jötunheim that initiated the war; they only went to war when the population grew too much for their singular realm to handle, and thus, sought to expand.
“I believe he would,” Fárbauti said thoughtfully, “But it would depend on the situation and the circumstances.” He knew of Loki’s attraction to the Crown Prince of Asgard, of course. Even if it hadn’t been his magical signature detecting the difference in Loki’s whenever he spoke of the prince, he could see that the young sorcerer spoke of him with more fondness than he spoke of the others, aside from his adopted father and his warrior friend. “A marriage with the Prince may not be in your cards too soon, Loki. Remember that you have been banished.”
Loki did not ask how Fárbauti knew; instead, he frowned at the ground with a far-away look in his eyes.
Fárbauti wondered if he was thinking of the Aesir Prince. He had never seen the boy himself, but if Loki loved him, then he had to be worthy of him. In the two weeks he had known his son, Fárbauti thought that Loki was much like himself; he did not have many friends, but the ones he did have were loyal and steadfast. Likewise, he did not love easily, but whomever he did love was worthy of it. He stepped forward and placed a hand over his son’s cloaked shoulder. “Loki,” He said lightly, attempting to take his mind off of things, “Come; I will teach you the art of weaving a spell that will maintain itself until you direct it otherwise. I know you already know how to do so, but from what I have observed, it never holds for more than a few hours. We will work on strengthening it indefinitely.”
Loki followed Fárbauti to the library obediently. (Surprisingly, Jötunheim had many spellbooks and ancient scrolls. Far more than Asgard. Loki suspected it was Fárbauti’s personal collection.) Then, his whisper reached Fárbauti’s ear, “How did you come to marry Father? From what I heard—”
“That he and I once hated one another with the passion we love one another now?” Fárbauti accidentally let loose a snort of laughter at the look on Loki’s face.
His son shrugged, his lips turned up into a sheepish smile. “…yes?”
Fárbauti rolled his eyes as his face split into a huge grin. It was a memory that he still laughed at, though at the time, he had been furious and enraged that either of them had let such a thing happened. “I’ve known your father ever since we were younglings; he used to poke fun of me for being the smallest of all the Jötnar and sneer that I should have been left out to die, and I would have, if my mother had not seen the Norns, who told her that killing me would be a mistake,” he began, and Fárbauti leaned towards Loki with a sentimental smile, “It is that I saw so much of myself in you at your birth that I could not bear to let you die. The Jötnar remembered how powerful I was for one that was so much smaller than them, and they loved you fiercely, believing you to lead them into glory when you grew older,” Fárbauti closed his eyes, lost in the memories, “Laufey and I could not stand one another, but I suppose after six centuries of hatred, it begins to reverse itself somehow and turned into hatred that bordered on passion. I say this because that was how we married; too many drinks one night at a seedy bar in the north and Laufey thought himself pregnant.” His lips quirked, “Of course, we were immediately married, and I hated him for trapping me into a marriage with him, but…” His red eyes opened, and Loki could see the underlying sadness beneath.
“Papa…?” Loki prompted.
“On a hunting excursion that your father insisted on leading, we were attacked by the prey, and I thought him dead for weeks. Everyone searched for him, but no one searched harder than I.” Fárbauti twiddled his fingers thoughtlessly. It was a habit that he had ever since he was young, and it persisted nearly nine centuries later. “I realised I loved him then, and he realised the same thing when I found him. By the time I had healed him, it became certain that he was not pregnant.”
Loki almost didn’t want to ask, “Did Father lose the child?”
“No.” Fárbauti let out a small chuckle. “There was no child at all. We were mistaken, and I was not so familiar at the time with body magicks that I could have told if he was pregnant or not.” Fárbauti raised an eyebrow at Loki, “If two people that were as unhappily suited as your father and I were managed to find happiness, then I believe that you will marry your Aesir Prince, my Loki.” His red eyes flashed, “If it is what you want, I will make it happen.”
“Papa, I…” Loki shook his head. “It is meaningless unless he wants it too.”
“If he wants it, and the world opposes it, I will move Yggdrasil itself to unite the two of you.” Fárbauti promised. “Twenty-four years I have been helpless to do anything for you, but I have never stopped loving you; if you want him and the only things standing in your way are the All-Father and my husband, I will make it happen.”
“Thor, I feel it in my heart that he is in Jötunheim,” Sif pleaded.
“You are sure, Sif?” Thor asked quietly, “For if you are wrong, then you know we risk war with the Jötun.”
“If I say yes, are you willing to march into Jötunheim with me?” The warrior woman asked of the Prince.
Their eyes met and for the longest time, they were silent. Then, Thor turned to Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg, “Prepare yourselves; we are going to Jötunheim.”
It was no easy feat to get into the icy realm. They had convinced Heimdall that it was for a quest, and that at all cost, they would avoid contact with the Jötun. The gatekeeper was skeptical, but he allowed them to pass through.
It led to this.
“Who are you, Asgardian?” Laufey hissed as Thor, the Warriors Three and Sif stared up at him.
“I am Thor Odinson,” Thor announced, Mjölnir ringing as he readied himself for battle, “I have come for Loki Týrson.”
“Stop!” Loki’s voice rang out as he marched onto the battlefield. “Thor, are you insane? I have been banished! You know I cannot return to Asgard with you!”
“Loki,” Thor breathed, and no one moved when Thor ran forward to sweep his love into a giant embrace. “Loki, I will convince my father; your father misses you and—“
“Thor, did no one tell you?” Loki asked quietly, his green eyes meeting Thor’s bright blue ones, “I am Prince here. King Laufey and Fárbauti are my birth parents.”
Thor’s mouth dropped open, but before he could speak, the Bifrost opened and Odin came into view on his eight-legged steed, Sleipnir. His father’s face was thunderous, but Laufey’s was even more furious. First Thor and his band of warriors, now the All-Father himself? It was ridiculous. All Laufey wanted to do was rebuild Jötunheim.
“Why have you come here?” Laufey snarled at Odin.
“Heimdall told me that you were rebuilding, but I thought that that surely couldn’t be true, for how could you without the Casket?” Odin asked, “But when I went to the vault, I found a fake in its place. I have come to reclaim the Casket.”
“You cannot reclaim what was never rightly yours, All-Father.” Laufey glared at the other man. “Luckily for you, we have no desire to break the treaty and end this in warfare; all we ask is that we be allowed to keep our treaty, rebuild our kingdom, and that—”
“…our eldest be joined with yours in holy matrimony,” came Fárbauti’s deceptively sweet voice from behind Laufey. He laid a hand on his husband’s shoulder. “After all, there is no better way to celebrate a treaty than with a marriage, no? Provided that you lift his banishment, of course.”
“Fárbauti, what are you doing?” Laufey focused his glare to the man beside him. “We have only just gotten back our son; you cannot be serious!”
“Loki knows how to walk the shadow paths.” Fárbauti said quietly. “He will visit well and often; his training is not yet complete.”
Laufey stared long and hard at Fárbauti, then at Odin. He exhaled. “Very well. Those are the conditions for the treaty this time around.”
Odin looked from Laufey, to Fárbauti. Then, he looked down to see Thor and Loki huddled together, staring up at him. When he spoke, it was to Laufey, “I accept.” To Thor, he turned and said over his shoulder, “Thor, we must return. I lift Loki’s banishment.”
It was night when they returned to Asgard.
Thor attempted to speak with his father as Sif led Loki to his old rooms, “Father, I do not understand; what led you to change your mind about Loki? I thought you did not like him!”
“I never disliked Loki,” Odin looked at him with a small smile. “I distrusted him, thinking that he would connive to take the throne should he become pregnant with your child out of wedlock. But now that the marriage is to cement a treaty, I have nothing against it.” He chuckled lightly, “Besides, Loki is what you are not. You’ll make a wise king with him by your side.”
“Father?” Thor asked. Could Odin be saying what he thought he was saying? He hadn’t dared to hope. This morning, almost two months after Loki had been banished, was nothing like he expected. He left to Jötunheim with nothing but love and the desire to see Loki again; he returned with a betrothed and his father’s approval of the match.
“A month seems like a good time for the coronation.” Odin said, leaving him on the balcony to contemplate.
When Thor and Loki stood side-by-side weeks later, they turned around to a hall full of Aesir and Jötnar alike. Their families and friends were at the front of the crowd, cheering. Fárbauti and Laufey were off to the side with Týr and Sif, with small smiles and sentimental tears. Helblindi and Býleistr greeted their brother with a kiss on the cheek.
Then, as Asgard and Jötunheim watched, the two kissed, and Odin proclaimed, “The new King of Asgard and his Consort!”