A less experienced mortal would say that he was hiding. An outright foolish mortal would say that he was cowering.
Loki would say that he was using his resources.
He made a pathetic sight, currently in the form of a black cat with green eyes, thin and limping, with rainwater plastering his fur to his skin. His magic was too depleted for him to turn himself back – and he was likely still being followed anyway – so Loki huddled in the doorway of the Avengers' Mansion, knowing his brother would not be there to recognize him and that he could at least count on the resident Avengers to serve as meat-shields against his adversary of the moment.
As for the aforementioned adversary, they called him the Black Horseman.
It was a bit of a misnomer, really, since there was no horse and the “Horseman” was less of a man and more of a creature. Loki liked to blame Hela for this particular abomination, though he was equally to blame, really. He had miscalculated: a necromantic spell was bound to produce a different effect in Helheim, after all, and he should have considered that. But he hadn't, and piecing together the ashes of a mighty fire giant general in the land of the dead had had... unintended consequences.
Still, he blamed Hela for the creature, if only because it was more loyal to her.
And because it now seemed intent on sending Loki to Helheim the more traditional way.
Hela had named him – it – after one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse: Death, the man on a black horse. Technically, the black horseman was thought to represent Famine, but Hela did not take kindly to corrections. She had found Judeo-Christian texts amusing ever since the Christians had named their land of eternal suffering after her. Apparently, she thought she should return the favor.
The Horseman was like a favored pet to her, but Loki could not, for the life of him, remember when he had pissed her off enough for her to unleash the creature on him – and, less importantly, on Midgard in general.
Earlier that day...
This mortal was a strange one. Loki had thought it would be fun to toy with one of his brother's friends, but, really, he was not sure that all the chatter was worth it.
“Do you ever use those horns as a weapon? You know, like a ram, or something?”
Loki managed to roll his eyes as he dodged the blast from one of Iron Man's rockets.
“I don't know. Do you ever shut up?” Loki snapped.
Iron Man rocketed up and away from a fire ball aimed at his head.
“Sure I do,” he replied as he stabilized in the air, “under the right circumstances, if you know what I mean.” Loki had the impression that, under the mask, Tony Stark was favoring him with an exaggerated leer. The Trickster sighed and twirled a bit of magic around his fingers.
The battle was half-hearted at best, a hair more vicious than Loki's old sparring matches with Thor. Loki had no real interest in killing the mortal – and he suspected that the human had no interest in killing him, either – but even a god had to keep up appearances.
Tony noted Loki's pause and stilled as best he could midair, tilting his head to the side.
“You done yet? You know, I do have some business stuff to take care of.”
Loki scoffed and started twirling the strand of magic in the other direction. “By 'business', you mean that blonde trollop in your car.”
“Uh...” Tony paused. Loki envisioned his sheepish look under the red and gold mask. “Well, yes. Important business, you see.”
“Hey, you know, there are better ways to work up a sweat than throwing missiles at my head!” Again Loki could all but see Tony's leer through the eye holes of the metal suit. “You're welcome to join us, if you like.”
Cheeky bastard. Loki curled his lip in disgust. “You wish.”
Then Loki shot him in the chest with kinetic force. Iron Man grunted, whether from surprise, the impact, or both, and was propelled backward like a missile. Seconds later, there was a low boom in the distance.
Loki chuckled to himself. A strange human, but amusing, and as long as Loki was amused, he wouldn't go around destroying things out of boredom.
The fight was meant to be a diversion, and in the end it distracted him from the real threat.
There was a sound like a hiss of steam, stuttering and percussive like a snake's rattle. The sound, familiar but half-forgotten, sent a shiver up Loki's spine, and he turned to stare into the night. The shadows deepened where the distant glow of city lights could not reach, but Loki could just make out the curl of smoke as it coalesced into a vaguely humanoid form. The creature's hands and face were bone-white and sickly while the rest of him trailed off into wisps of black smoke.
The Black Horseman.
“What do you want?” Loki asked, keeping his face and voice even and impassive.
The creature did not speak – could not speak – but growled and pointed one long, bony finger Loki's way.
It was difficult to anticipate the attacks of a creature made of smoke. Loki stepped back and started to prepare a teleportation spell when a bone-white hand snared his wrist. Loki's skin reddened and bubbled under the touch, and he smelled burnt flesh before the pain could register. With the flash of searing pain came a pull on his soul, and Loki realized that this creature was siphoning off his magic. When the adjoining skin started to blacken and burn, Loki wrenched his wrist free with a shaky gasp.
The teleportation spell fell from his lips but did not nothing. His magic stirred weakly but would not respond, and Loki staggered back and away.
“Did Hela send you?” he asked, grimacing as he clutched his injured arm.
The Horseman followed him in silence. Loki tried to remember what he had done recently to piss off his daughter.
He did not have enough magic to fight or escape, so Loki instead called upon his natural ability to shape-shift. He thought of something small and quick, like a cat, and darted into the night.
The Horseman followed, but Loki quickly lost him in the darkness.