He comes to her in a waking dream. There is no small talk this time, no enquires of her health and the state of Helheim. The silver tongue is stilled, and she sees the shadow of a gag against his lips.
“Punish them,” he croons in her ear, all paternal. “I want them to hurt.”
She says nothing, stays silent, but he reads something that is not there.
“Break their minds, my daughter,” he commands. “Let them confront their dead and forgotten pasts. Let their mourning cries ring out through your halls, and let their bitter tears awash away a touch of my pain. I want them to suffer as I suffer in the All-Fathers prison. Bring their souls to Helheim, dear daughter. Break them.”
Hel stays silent, as silent as the empty tomb, but the madness that lies behind her fathers eyes sees acquiescence where none lies.
“Good,” he hisses, before the dream dissolves and she is alone once more. What it cost him to send his shade a-walking through dreams, she does not know. She does know that he will not soon return to see the fruits of his scheme. He trusts her filial devotion.
But although she loves her father, she knows his madness. Why should she torment those who may yet be responsible for returning the papa of her childhood?
Here in the Halls of the Dead, she is the Ruler. She is Mercy. She is Justice. And she does not like obligations hanging over her head.
She will call the Avengers to Helheim, but for her own reasons, not those of her father.
She seeks out Thor first. While it is easy for her to call mortal souls, for Asgardians she must gain permission. While there may be few in her halls that Thor would wish to speak to, perhaps he would simply be happy to spend time with his niece.
Mortals have shaped her path and so she ascends through fire and smoke and drifting ash, an insubstantial wraith.
Her uncle is not hard to find, his Asgardian soul blindingly bright among the Midgardians. She touches it briefly, a warming gesture, before she materialises at his side.
To his credit, Thor does not flinch at her, nor does he shy away from her appearance. Instead, he engulfs her in a bear hug, arms tight, his chin resting on her hair. After a few seconds he realises her, pushes her back, and studies her.
“You look hale,” he states.
Its a kind thing for him to say, but Hel knows that he means it.
“So what brings my favourite niece to Midgard?” he asks.
“Your only niece,” she replies hoarsely and dryly. “My father visited me, and made certain demands. I am here to fulfil them, in my own way.”
She watches as the wariness clouds his expression but can still see traces of the pained love he bears for Loki beneath.
“He wanted me to show his conquerors those in my realm who would cause them pain. He seeks to break them, uncle.”
She does not look to Mjolnir as she continues, pretending not to see the way her uncles fingers reach for it. For all his family feelings, Hel suspects that if she truly meant harm to those called the Avengers, Thor would strike her down.
“But how can I be cruel to those who saved my father from grievous error? Those who prevented his madness tinged alliance from bearing dreadful fruit. I would thank them in my poor way.”
“Noble Hel,” Thor says quietly, and rests his hand on her shoulder. “And I shall come and sit beside you, tell you more tales of Asgard, and your fathers younger days.”
“If it please you, uncle,” she replies.
“It is always a pleasure to spend time with you,” and his tone is clearly affectionate. He touches her ruined cheek with one hand, and takes her fair hand with the other.
Her realm may be cheerless, but Thor brightens it immeasurably, if only for a short while.
While he settles himself, she reaches out and tugs. She fells the connection straight away, and slowly, gently, draws the soul to her. Once she is satisfied that it is moving, Hel focuses back on Thor.
“Tell me, Hel, if you know, where might I find one Phil Coulson? I would talk with him also, while I am here.”
The name is unfamiliar to her, and she frowns.
“The Soul of Coul stood against my brother during the attack. He died not a moons turn ago.”
“There is no Son of Coul in these halls, uncle. Nor would there be if he fell in glorious combat. The Valkyries would have him in Valhalla.”
“He was indeed a most courageous warrior,” Thor agreed.
Hel smiled. “You will not find him in Valhalla though, Thor. His name is not inscribed in the book of the dead. The Son of Coul you seek still yet lives.”
The chill air of her home crackles now with the ozone of Thor’s emotions, as he frowns.
“I would not question your words, Hel, but the leader above stated that Loki felled the warrior Coulson. And yet he does not abide here?”
“No,” Hel says. She does not take umbrage at Thor’s words. “The leader you spoke of may not know the truth himself. You can bear the glad tidings yourself.”
“Aye, and see if his deceit extends even unto this!”
Hel wonders if a new name would soon be written in her tome.
As Thor grumbles quietly to himself, Hel feels the approaching soul grow near. It is time.