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Who's the Fairest of Them All?

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“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” newly-named Queen Frigga asked of her trusted advisor of a mirror, stroking her not-yet-swollen belly absentmindedly. Adorned with gold and silver, silk and chains, she grinned while awaiting her mirror’s usual response.

And sure as ever, its deep voice spoke the reassuring words. “You, my Queen, are fairest of all.”

“And will my son be just as fair a prince as I a Queen? Will he be a striking image of his dear mother or take on the looks of his damned father?”

“Yes, my Queen, your son will indeed be as fair as you, with your golden hair and diamond eyes.”

Frigga tosses her head back, giving a haughty laugh, as she turns upon a pointed heel and makes her way to her throne, the intimidating clicking of her shoes warning all that she was coming.

 

~~

 

Far away from the grand palace, on the very edge of the kingdom near the Black Forest, a one -year-old baby sat upon the run-down orphanage, crying loud enough to drown out the howl of the wolves. His parents nowhere to be found, he was left with nothing but a note.

We give our son the only birthday gift we can – safety. Take care of him in case we do not return, we beg of you.

The child cried itself hoarse against the tattered black robes of his rescuer, who had a sinking feeling the child may never know his parents.

 

~~

 

Frigga’s rule was hard on the kingdom, keeping a strict rule, but after the birth of her healthy son, she sucked the very life out of her surroundings. The trees and flowers were wilting, caving in on their own frames, and the storm clouds were ever-present, making the grounds permanently brown and slick with mud. Once, a peasant man and woman were brought before her to be tried for treason when they tried to rally against her. When she came closer to inspect the man, he swiftly grabbed the knife hanging from her waist, and drove it deep into her belly, causing her to gasp not in pain, but in surprise, hunching over her wound. His wife screamed in horror at his actions, knowing that he would surely pay dearly. Waving a hand in the air to stop the guards from slaying the man and his wife, she very neatly straightened herself, dislodged the knife, and drove it deep into his chest. Laufey wailed at hearing her husband’s mighty screams finally died, watching his body slumped to the ground. Frigga knelt down to carve a ragged hole in Farbauti’s chest, and as if the knife were a fork, she tore his heart from his chest and sank her teeth into it, the hot blood splattering the front of her fine robes. When she was done, she cackled and turned to face Laufey with a wicked, blood-filled smile.

The next day, the sun rose seemingly without the intention to set again, and all those who tried to walk outside scorched their tender feet. Their minimal crops had instantly burnt to a crisp and the land became as black as a crow. Whispers travelled fast, and no one dared rally against her from that day forth and instead watched her years of reign slowly drain their glorious kingdom of its former magnificence.

 

~~

 

“Loki?” Anna whispered into the dimly moonlight- lit room where Loki slept.

“Hmm?” Loki hummed, eyes flittering open.

“Happy eighteenth birthday,” Anna whispered as Loki sat up to rub his eyes. He blinked at his pseudo-mother-who-was-old-enough-to-be-his-grandmother, straining to see her features in the dark. She had done this every year – make sure he was celebrated.

“Is it really?” He said, unaware of how he fell asleep in the first place, shifting so the book in his hands closed with a gentle thump.

“Just turned midnight, my dear,” she made her way silently to Loki’s bed, kissed him upon his brow with her slightly crinkled, but smooth lips. He was no longer in her care, but helping her now with the poor orphanage. Most of the children had been captured during Frigga’s raids and taken to places unknown, for purposes unknown, but by some miracle, children found a way onto their doorstep, and neither Anna nor Loki could ever send them away.

He smiled sheepishly, “Thank you, Anna.”

Reaching forward to embrace him, Anna murmured softly into his temple, “Anything for my child with skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as ebony. Anything for my snow prince.”

He smiled against her shoulder at the nickname the children had given him over time.

 

~~

 

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Queen Frigga asked, more irked than usual. She was impatient, and bored. She had brought the kingdom to its knees, reduced the civilians to mindless wanderers as she did with its neighbouring kingdom, but was not satisfied. She hungered for more, her bloodlust drove her to near insanity – and she needed to be satiated.

“You, my queen, are fair; it is true, but the one known as the Snow Prince is even fairer than you.”

The words hit the Queen in her ice cold heart as she shrieked, “The Snow Prince? I have been outdone by a prince?! I am a queen! A QUEEN!” Dozens of ravens flittered in their cages, frightened by her bellows. “Where is this snow prince? I will teach him to defy me!”

“He is but a boy of just eighteen, protected by the old nurse’s wards on the edge of the forest, my queen.”

Her frustration and anger rolled off of her in waves, her dark magic wreaking havoc in the room – mirrors shattered, ravens squawked, the ink from her desk spilled and splashed. The peasants in her courtyard scrambled for cover, knowing better than to make themselves visible during the Queen’s rage.

“Thor!” she bellowed, beckoning for her son to come to her as soon as he came back from his hunting.

“Mother?” he asked in his deep voice. “You seem distressed.” He wiped his hands along the sides of his hunting jacket, axe hanging from a thick leather belt.

“Of course I am distressed, child! I am… I am…” she feigned swaying uneasily, knowing her dear son would come to her aid.

Feeling his strong, muscular arms catch her, she batted her eyelashes while using a small voice to say “Oh I do not feel well, I do not feel well at all. There is a boy, threatening my kingdom - our kingdom. He must be stopped, he must … ooooh,” she went limp, hoping that her deadweight would increase Thor’s worry.

Sure enough, his thick brows furrowed further, “Mother, who is doing this to you? Who is making you so ail? Tell me, and I shall stop them from harming you any further!”

Making sure to keep her mask on, she whimpered, “Oh he is a fraud and a coward! He lives on the edge of palace by the treacherous woods, and he has the nerve to call himself a prince! My dear child, he means to replace you, he means to take over the wonderful kingdom that I have worked so hard to build and to give to you. Do not let him take what is yours! Ooooh,” she pinched her face in pain, clutching the upper arm of her sturdy son.

“Rest, mother, please. It hurts me to see you in so much pain. You know how I fair as a hunter; I will track down this trickster and bring you his bloody heart.” He carried her in his arms to the bed to lay her down.

 

“You are the apple of my eye, my son.” With that, she closed her eyes and pretended to sleep. As soon as she heard the squeaking of his boots disappear down the hall, a devious grin spread across her face.

Chapter Text

"FIRE!"

"EVERYONE OUT!"

"HURRY!"

Loki's eyelids fluttered open as he tried to make sense of the voices outside his door. Dozens of footsteps seemed to be trampling the squeaky floorboards of the orphanage and he quickly flung the blankets off, cursing them as they tangled around his long, slender legs.

Before he could even get to the door, it flung open, and he stared at Anna wide disbelief in his eyes. She leaned against the door frame, clutching at her left thigh where a stark black arrow protruded, its head buried deeply in her flesh. Her voice wavered dangerously as she said, "Loki, you must go. You must go. Now. You must..." Loki was already at her side, placing his hands on her wound to stop the bleeding. However, she plowed on with her warning, the wound seemed to be throwing her into delirium as her words and thoughts were inconsistent, scattered.

"Came for you... You... They're here... Hunting... You have to go... Snow Prince..." Her last words were mumbled as she, her weight sagging more and more into Loki's arms until she had no strength to even lean.

"Anna, no, no, no, I can't leave you here like this, I can't leave you. Anna, please, please stay with me," his eyes shone with tears of pleading, begging the gods to breathe life into the woman who had taken him in and given him a life. He swore under his breath as he tried to recall simple healing spells that the books from Anna taught him. The world seemed to melt away, the screams and footsteps no longer there as he sunk into a deep, dark abyss when Anna shook and shuddered with her last breath.

With tears pouring shamelessly, he held his surrogate mother close, whispered a string of apologies and promises before he stroked her face lovingly and closed her eyelids, his fingertips gently against the aged wrinkles of wisdom. The arrow melted into a thick, black puddle. This was dark magic, a magic forbidden, and a magic Loki had never seen before. Never before had they experienced something like this; their exterior was old and weak, a sign for everyone that passed by to show they weren't even worth raiding. That they had nothing to offer. Yet here they were stormed, smoke billowed out of rooms down the hall, flames peeking out underneath. He spared one more glance for the elder who had loved him as if he were her own, and dashed down the hallway, calling out for anyone still in their rooms before rounding them up outside.

The air was like heaven, refreshing down his throat, but the sight in front of him made him retch. The children were all being manhandled by thick looking thugs, squirming to get out of their clutches to no avail. And there Hansel, - sweet, innocent Hansel, who loved nothing more than to catch snowflakes on his tongue - laid on the ground, not even four years of age, with blood splattered upon his tiny body. His eyes haunting, and cold. Loki cursed. He let out a small prayer before closing the poor boy's eyes. How many more of his family would he lose today? Who came after them?

And he remembered Anna's words. Hunting... Snow Prince... With a sickening realization, he felt his stomach plummet. There wasn't any way around it, and with pent up fury he yelled "I'm here! I'm the one you want!"

It worked, much to Loki's delight and fear, and he could hear some children being tossed aware carelessly as the mysterious men grew closer to their target.

"Leave him to me!" came a low growl. Loki turned to see a tall, thick man with dirt-matted hair clinging to his bronze face. Even in the darkening evening sunset, he made out icy blue eyes, so blue they looked almost misplaced on the rough, sun-kissed skin. His beard was unkempt, his chainmail and breastplate splattered with blood as red as the cloak he wore on top.Anna's blood. Hansel's blood. Who else? Loki could hardly contain the shaking within him. Those sapphire eyes swept across the scene in front of him, almost with a hint of confusion and the man growled, "I said do not kill!"

Now Loki blinked in confusion. No killing?

"Well ya wasn't being very clear, boss," said a thick, round-bellied man with manic red hair who carried a large axe. "We took it ya meant only th' l'il one."

The blonde man growled before ordering him, and the rest of the group to strap up the horses before turning his attention to Loki who was quite a deer caught in the headlights. He took one step closer to Loki, who immediately took three steps back, arms raised, incantations at his ready.

"Are you going to come quietly or do I have to force you," he threatened in a deep voice.

"You murdered my family, you insolent brute! I'd rather die than go anywhere with you!" Loki spat in retaliation.

"I told them not to kill."

"As if I'll believe that! What other lies are you going to feed me? That you walked through red paint?"

The man's eyes never left Loki as he peeled off his cloak, revealing his wounded shoulder.

"Dark Riders," he explained.

"Dark Ri-" Loki's mind was whirling with confusion now. "Aren't you a Dark Rider?"

"Do I look like I rampage through the forest in black scraps?"

Of course, the Dark Riders were notorious hunters, dwelling in the forests and raiding whatever cargo came out of the palace given an opportune time. Usually they were deeper, but their reputation was built on being brutal, merciless, and apathetic. Which is all Loki could see in this attack.

"You set the orphanage on fire while innocent children slept inside, you destroyed my home! You killed my loved ones!" Loki couldn't contain it any more, he released balls of icy blue energy, which the man barely dodged.

"You... You can use magic?" the man said bewildered.

"So what if I can? What right does that give you to rob me of everything!?" He released another ball of energy, singing the end of the man's red cape.

"And you are the reason my mother is weakening, you witch!"

Loki halted just long enough for the man to swing his hammer, connecting with Loki's temple, sending him tumbling into a deep, black pit of nightmares.

Chapter Text

Thor looked down at the prisoner he took, unsure of why he was even taken as a prisoner. The chains were solid on the delicate wrists and ankles and Thor found himself thumbing the smooth skin longer than necessary to shackle the unconscious man. After camping for the night, he had thrown the so-called prince onto a small pile of bedding, chaining him to a stake in the ground that held a corner of their tent in the ground. It was then that he really studied every detail about the sleeping beauty before him. His hair was black as night and draped like a curtain over his long, pale neck. His skin was flawless and pure, white as snow, and maybe -just maybe - he really was a prince from some far off land. Everything about him was so enticing, but Thor knew what had to be done. He peeled his eyes away before he could give himself a reason not to rip the man's heart out of his chest.

This was going to be a lot harder than he originally thought. He was completely unprepared for the breathtaking, ethereal beauty of this man.

He was completely unprepared for what was to happen next.

 

~~

 

When Loki came to, his head was throbbing and it was a sensation he had never, ever experienced before. As he recalled what happened, he felt a part inside him break. It was still dark, which meant that he had a loving family just a few hours ago. His heart ached at the thought of watching his home go up in flames.

He missed Anna's tender smile in the mornings as he helped her prepare breakfast for the children. He missed their warm laughs and smiles, teasing and pleading - oh how he missed Hansel's "But you're the Snow Prince! You have to come build a snowman with us!" every day.

Here, a gruff voice ordered him to eat or he'd have his skull bashed in. How lovely. Nonetheless, he was exhausted, his limbs protesting with every movement and his stomach was turning in on itself. He was at least sure there was no poison in his food, and that he was probably wanted alive otherwise they would've taken advantage of him during his little "nap".

"What do you want with me, vile hunstman? I won't use my magic to help you," he said firmly, completely ready to die if they threatened him any further. He knew that possessing magic was rare, and in the wrong hands, terribly dangerous. Anna told him he was the first magic-wielder she'd ever seen besides the Queen. He didn't know how to take it initially, scared that he could turn out like her, but right now he was thankful for the cursed gift.

"I'm no ordinary hunstman, and I'm not after your magic. My mother's the most powerful sorceress in the entire land," the man boasted.

Wait... Mother?

"Your mother... Is she...?" he let his question drift off, unsure of why he was conversing with the man who had destroyed his entire life.

"Queen Frigga, yes."

Loki fell into silence. Here sat the man who ripped his life apart, son of the woman who destroyed everything in her wake. He couldn't believe his luck. How did he even get into this madness?

"If it's not my magic, what is it that you want?"

"Your heart," the man responded bluntly.

"What?!" Loki cried in disbelief.

"I promised her your heart."

"What does your mother want with my heart?! How does she even know about me? I've never seen her in my life!" Loki shouted, his panic and fear colliding inside him.

There was a pause as Loki studied the man's face, eyebrows pinched together and his mouth set in a slight frown.

"You don't even know, do you?" he dared.

"It matters not. She is my mother, and it is because of you that she is weakening As her son, I must stop you."

"Then I will fight you with every ounce of strength I've got! Your mother is a terrible, cruel woman!" In an instant, he was pinned to the ground, a bear-like hand crushing his windpipe.

"How dare you speak of my mother like that!" the man spat. Conjuring a repelling spell, he flung the man off him.

"And how dare you slay MY mother like that!" Loki raged. "Your mother is the reason this land sulks in poverty, take a look around you! The forests have died, the animals have fled, and no man, woman, or child ever praises your damned mother!" the last words were bitter leaving his mouth, and he spat it out like poison. He dared the other man to pin him down again, eyes flashing with defiance, but his challenge wasn't taken.

"Thor."

"What?"

"My name is Thor."

Was this some kind of trap? "Why should I care?"

"I am crown prince of the land, next in line for the throne, which will make this land mine soon."

"Yeah? And are you proud of it? Do you like what you see? What your mother has prepared to give to you? A cold, desolate land of rotting life?"

There was a long drag of silence before the prince finally answered, "No."

Loki could feel his shoulders relaxing somewhat, only a small amount of relief setting in that he wasn't dealing with someone too far out of their senses.

"Then?" he asked, afraid of the answer.

"I still have to take you. I promised her. I have never let my mother down before."

Loki snorted at this and his words slipped off his tongue smoothly, "As if your dearest mother hasn't let you down?"

Thor's eyes burned with silent rage.

"Where is your father?" Loki asked, knowing the answer already. Anna had taught him much of the land's history - specifically that it had once flourished and prospered under Odin's gentle rule.

Thor blinked once before looking away.

"You don't know, do you?" he asked again.

"And how is it that you know so much about my life then?" Thor asked, angry at the sly man before him with his devilish green eyes and smirk. "How do know anything at all!"

"Because I chose not to be blind like you." His words were like venom, freezing every inch of Thor's body.

Still, the wily man pressed on, seeing his vantage point. "Because I have learned from the wisest, because I have read the history, because I have watched the grounds for years as death took hold of your beloved palace, and because I have seen the fear in children's eyes as they spoke of the horrors they have witnessed. I have heard their stories, and more importantly I have heard their cries in their sleep as their nightmares took hold of them. I have held those children during those times, I have wiped their tears, I have hushed them back to sleep, I have witnessed them grow stronger, day by day, until they could finally stop being afraid. And most importantly of all, I was one of those children."

Thor swallowed thickly as the other man poured out his story, an odd feeling of guilt settling into his stomach. He wanted to comfort the man, curled up in himself, wrapping his mile long legs under thin arms. His eyes were glossy, but the tears refused to spill, his hair was sleek but messily out of place.

"I'm sorry," he finally uttered.

Loki's eyes flicked upward at Thor a mix of anger and gratefulness. Truly, how dare this man tear his life apart and then have the nerve to apologize? Yet... it comforted him slightly that the man took no glee in it.

"Loki."

"What?"

"My name is Loki."

To his surprise, Thor actually smiled slightly at him before saying, "Thank you."

He tried to study Thor, learn everything about his captor before coming up with an escape plan, but his wandering eyes must've given the wrong impression. Thor was staring back with an amused look.

"I wasn't-"

"It's okay," Thor interrupted.

"No, I -"

"Really, it's alright. I don't mind." Thor's smile grew wider, and he couldn't help it. The faint pink that was creeping across those astounding cheekbones was devastating beautiful. It was like Thor was under some sort of spell, completely entranced and losing his own will.

Imbecile! I am NOT - Loki shook his own thoughts away, huffing at how preposterous the whole scenario was.

"If you must know, I was studying all the weak points of your armour in case you tried to kill me. So I could stab you a hundred times over," Loki said swiftly, leaving no room for Thor's smugness.

"Well I must say that's rather far from what I was hoping you were doing, but alright," Thor couldn't believe what he was saying - was he flirting with his prisoner? And liking it? Thor's head was swimming.

Loki just couldn't stand the nonchalantness! He had just threatened to stab him a hundred times!

"Why are you not worried?"

"I'm not sure. There's just... something about you that I trust." Trust? thought Thor. He just threatened to kill me! And I trust him? What? No! He could feel his will slipping through his fingers, his mind becoming more and more light like a pleasant buzzing as if he were drinking mead.

"That's it. We have to go," he stated, grabbing hold of Loki's thin arm.

"WH-mmrf!" Loki's cries were smothered by Thor's massive hand.

"Sh. I'm going to unlock these cuffs on one condition." he waited for Loki's nod, which was slow and cautious. "Come with me into Nornheim. There is a chance I'll let you go, if you accompany me without struggle." He let his fingers linger a little longer than necessary against Loki's face, marvelling at how soft it was.

"Nornheim?"

"A small inn."

"Why?"

"There is someone I seek. Someone with answers."

"And why would you let me go?"

"I said a chance. I will ask if it would be wise to let you go, if she agrees, I shall."

"Do you realize how wild your whole story sounds?"

"I'm aware, but you either stay locked up or come out for a refreshing ride and then get locked back up. Or run free. Your choice."

"How do I know to trust this woman you seek?"

"You don't. Nobody does."

"Don't you?"

"Yes."

Loki could feel his headache coming back already so he shut up and agreed. If for nothing, he at least got a chance to rub at the rawness around his wrists and ankles. Thor placed him on the horse first, and settled his large frame behind him. His arms weaved themselves around Loki's slender waist and took the reigns. He covered the entirety of Loki's back with his chest, making it bearable warm against the chilly wind as they raced off in the night, leaving the quiet camp site and Thor's thugs behind, which Loki was very grateful for.

"Who are we seeing?"

"Someone I rescued a long time ago."

Loki was sure he wasn't going to get much more out of Thor. He shut his mouth as to not capture any pests, and rode on silently, surprisingly okay in Thor's arms.

As they reached their destination, Loki was less than impressed. Despite it being in the middle of the night, ogrish bearded men peered curiously at them, their eyes hungry and needy. It made Loki's skin crawl. Nornheim was a shack, really. The windows were boarded up and the sign was so faded from erosion you could hardly make out the name. Clearly, Thor had visited countless times, as he led the way confidently. The surrounding buildings were in toughly the same shape, this part of the kingdom clearly long forgotten.

As he pushed the heavy wooden door open, there was a small jangle of dull bells. Loki stayed close, not liking the way the men's eyes were following. Thor either didn't notice or didn't care.

"Karnilla! I shall have words with you!" Thor bellowed into the room. Loki thought he'd made a mistake in assuming Thor wasn't crazy because he was shouting into an empty, dark room in a voice much too loud. Then he felt a tingle dance across his bare forearms, like if the winds were tickling him. He jumped back in alarm and proceeded to gape as the air in front of them twirled into a miniature hurricane. When it settled, a woman stood, tall and proud with her head held high. She was dressed in all brown, her long black hair falling to her waist, her eyes black as coal.

"My prince, you bring a guest this time." It was a clear statement, but her question did not go unnoticed.

"I am Loki," he said for himself.

Her eyebrows arched delicately, "Yes, the Snow Prince of Jotunheim. I know who you are."

How did she know what the children called me? How did she know the orphanage's name?

"I am a sorceress. I am a seer. I am a queen, banished for my birthright. I am power. I am knowledge."

Loki felt the need for a small bow, bending slightly at the waist. "It is a privilege to meet you. I've never met another magic-wielder." He was humbled by her appearance, how menacing she looked, and the slight softness he could see in her eyes.

"The pleasure is mine," she responded, shocking Loki into stillness, gaping. "Tell me, Thor, what is it you seek this time?"

"Karnilla, I experienced a most strange sensation... It was though I was losing my will, and I needed to know what it was. It was... chilling. I did not like it one bit."

"It is the power of love," she answered.

"I don't understand..." Thor said, confused. Then again, he should have known. Karnilla was a bit of mystic, never revealing too much, answering with as little words possible.

"You will." Of course. Thor grumbled.

She glanced between the two men. "And you have more questions?"

"Yes, but I still need answers to the first," Thor protested.

"It has already been answered. Ask your second or leave."

Thor gave in. "I need to know if I should keep Loki by my side."

"Yes."

Loki's heart sank.

"And shall I take him to my mother alive?"

"No."

Loki's heart sank further.

Chapter Text

"You will not take him to your mother at all."

Both Thor and Loki looked at the former queen in confusion, though Loki visibly relieved.

"What do you mean, Karnilla?" Thor demanded, anxious. "Why would I disobey my mother? What use does she have for him?"

Karnilla paid him no attention, but chose to rest her eyes upon on Loki. "I can feel a fire inside you, young one. What question burns you so?"

Loki's lips trembled slightly, but knew he was in front of a great power. "It's just that... you are an all-powerful seer, an all-knower... I thought perhaps you could... tell me about my... parents."

"They gave up much for you."

Loki couldn't decide if that was what he wanted to hear. For years he had dreamed of perhaps one day meeting them again, of being held by them, or to hear them tell him they loved him. His heart ached for something to fill the hollow feeling in his chest for being abandoned.

"Do they still live?" he asked tentatively, somehow knowing the answer.

"No."

Loki bit his lip, trying desperately to stop the tears from flowing to no avail.

"Who?" was all he could manage between his shaky breathes, but he knew Karnilla would understand what he meant. He needed to know, he needed closure, he needed to hear the name of his parents' slayers.

"The Queen Frigga."

Somehow it struck him harder than it should have. This woman was every part of his undoing, his home, his family, his second home, his second family, and he could feel the twist of the knife in his heart as he heard those words come out of Karnilla's mouth. He wept, defeated.

There was a pause, silence broken by Loki's soft sobbing, before Karnilla addressed him once more, "Child, your beauty and innocence is overwhelming. With skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as ebony, you are the only one who Frigga fears."

With that, she vanished in her tornado as she had come, leaving the pair of men gaping.

"How... how did she.. that's what... how?" Loki's eyes were wide with fear as he turned to Thor, who gave him a questioning look. "It's... it's what Anna used to tell me. She used those exact words to describe me." He fought the new wave of tears that stung his eyes at the though of Anna, bleeding out in his arms.

"I am truly sorry. I did not wish anyone harm..." Thor's voice was sincere, but Loki shot the apology down anyway.

"A pretty thing like you don't belong around here," a deep, gruff voice drawled.

They spun to face a rather large man who had dirt smeared all over his clothing as if he hadn't bathed in a week. He had two cronies behind him, equally dirty. The open door emitted dim light from the sun, still rising, into the window-less, dark room.

"Mind your business, men," Thor said, stepping in front of Loki. Loki stared at the back of Thor's head, slightly alarmed that the man would try to... protect him. He was mildly offended that Thor thought he needed protection in the first place, but he supposed he should be grateful for the sentiment. Peeking from behind him, he saw the men advancing.

"Thor..." he whispered.

"Do not worry, I will protect you."

Was this man serious?

Turns out, he was. Loki was stunned as he watched Thor dropped his red cloak and reached back for his axe in its sheath while swinging himself forward, dispersing the enemies. He moved with an odd grace for someone his size, moves coordinated and limbs strategically striking. Still, he was outnumbered, and soon was caught in the back of the knee by a blow of a hammer. He roared like a lion before falling forward. Loki's brain kicked into action as he pulled from the elements around him. The weather was chilly that night, and he drew that into his palms into neat little ice daggers. Two at a time, wedged between his fingers in a closed fist, he released them with an elegant flick of his arm. The first target fell with a cry, clutching his thighs in pain. One by one they fell with Loki's daggers embedded into their thighs.

Quickly, he rushed to them and whispered soft words, putting them into a mild delirium close to slumber as he bandaged their wounds.

"Why are you helping them?" Thor asked, rather harshly.

"I can't just let them die!" Loki returned. "I didn't aim to kill them, just maim them... The sun is rising, people will discover them soon and give them further medical attention, so this should hold for now..."

Thor looked on incredulously, feeling an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach as he watched the man bandage up the last fallen attacker. How could he be so compassionate? And then he remembered Karnilla's words. Innocence is overwhelming.... only one Frigga fears....

"What did Karnilla mean when she said you were the only person my mother fears?"

"She's your mystic," Loki said simply with a shrug. "Can't you call her back and ask?"

"Karnilla is..." Thor searched, but couldn't find the right words. "We have agreements, but she does me no more than the simple favour of answering - and only when she wants to. When she is done for the night, she is done. I fear I may not speak with her again too soon."

Loki considered this. "If my home hadn't been burnt down, I would have researched this palace's history."

Thor physically winced at the bitter tone. "Again, I apologize. I truly regret what my comrades-in-arms have done." He shuffled closer until the men were no more than a foot apart. He looked down upon Loki's flawless face, etching every detail of it in his mind. He had a sinking feeling, reflecting on Karnilla's explanation. Love, she had said. Love? For a man I barely know? Though, as Thor stood peering down, he was willing to give up any thread of logic so long as he could stare into the other man's face for eternities to come.

"They will notice us gone soon, I should think," Loki said with his voice steady and his breath travelling and grazing Thor's cheek, leaving a trail of coolness behind. It made Thor shudder.

He had forgotten this detail, and scrambled to offer a plan. "I promised my mother your heart... but I fear she has broken it a long time ago." Loki laughed bitterly. Thor pressed on, "But I am not my mother, regardless of blood. I do not wish to hurt you any further, I seek to amend the wrongs that have been bestowed upon you."

Loki studied him, but felt compelled to think he was speaking the truth. "What... What do you mean to do then?"

"I will you to hide. Somewhere safe while I speak with my mother. And then, I promise I will return for you... But," Thor paused.

"But?"

"But I do not know where to go from there...I admit, I cannot promise you much, but I can promise that I shall succeed or die trying in protecting you."

"Why are you doing this?" Loki couldn't fathom why the man who he had so sourly hated moments before would offer him help, though he was eager for his life to be spared.

"I... I cannot say. You are key to an important force, that much I know. Karnilla is said to be the twister of fate itself, and I know that she intends for you to help this kingdom. I wish I could offer more of an explanation, but I am at a loss."

Loki looked at him as if he grew three heads. "You would disobey your own mother?" His eyes were like pools, soft and wondering, and Thor was drowning hopelessly.

"For you... Yes." Thor looked away as quickly as possible, cursing the burning blush he could feel settling in.

"Why for me, though? And do not say for Karnilla and her control of the fates, you had plenty of time to kill me, but here I stand. Why?" Loki bluffed, his voice a lot stronger than he felt.

Thor turned back, and their eyes locked. It was like a sparking sensation in Loki's stomach, and he fought to keep a straight face as the feeling seemed to flare inside of him.

"I have already said I cannot say... It is just.... a feeling."

"Then what are you going to do?"

They let the silence fall around them as they continued to study each other, before Thor spoke his mind. Loki listened, wary and worried. He was doubtful, but it was his only chance. Together, they set off to find a boar.

 

~~

 

"Remember to watch your step in these woods. They are thick, and dense, nobody should find you, but the paths are dangerous." Thor made Loki memorize all the plants and herbs of the forest and their functions as they walked through them, which was easy since Loki remembered most from his readings anyway. Except for one.

"These are Black Caps," he said, kneeling beside an awful looking black mushroom with red spores, no doubt another dark mark of the queen. "The spores they release are intoxicating - you will see things that are not truly there, and hear whispers from Death herself, some say. Though it is hard to believe them because such a high dose of the spores should have killed them instead."

Loki gulped at this, not understanding how Thor was so nonchalant about this. Soon enough, they found a herd of wild boar and Loki looked on rather amused as Thor made a big show about wrestling one into submission before mercifully cutting its throat. He carefully carved out its heart, wrapping it in spare cloth before setting it in a side pouch upon his stallion.

"Do not fear. I give you my word that I shall return in a few days time," he said as he saw the fear in Loki's eyes. He received only a curt nod. Thor unclasped his cloak and swung it around the other man's shoulders, tying it firmly underneath Loki's chin before placing the crook of his finger underneath and tilting Loki's head to meet his wondrous eyes. "Keep safe," he whispered into the other's brow before placing a light kiss on the man's forehead before his sense took over again. Pretending to ignore the contrasting flush upon Loki's pale cheeks, he rode off back to the camp site where the others had no doubt already risen.

After quite some time had passed, Loki felt the fatigue set in again. His life had been completely tossed upside down and the exhaustion was catching up to him. He was strained, physically and mentally, from the events of the passed days, and before long, he felt himself nodding off. He gripped the cloak around him tightly, trying to ignore the comforting feeling he got from its warmth and scent.

 

~

 

"WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!" was the greeting Thor received, which was not all that unexpected.

"No worries, men, I was taking care of business," he drew the packaged heart from his pouch and unwrapped it, showing the boar's heart to his company before they all nodded with agreement and headed back to the castle. He had fooled his comrades, but could he fool his mother?

The stark black castle was no longer a comforting sight to him, and he fought the uncomfortable feeling. He had grown up within these walls, where his mother had made everything perfect for him, where she taught him how to rule, where he first-handedly witnessed her exert her power. The first time was a vague memory, he was young and wandering the castle before hearing screams. He peeked through the keyhole of the grand throne room to see a knife wedged deep in his mother's belly. He had thought about rushing in, not that he would know what to do, but then his mother stood up straight as if nothing happened, and took the knife out without so much as shedding a tear. What came next horrified the young Thor - his mother had used the weapon to slay the man in front of her, and he fell like a ragdoll. Thor looked away as his mother bent over the fallen man, and when he looked back her mouth was red, blood dripping from her chin onto the front of her dress. She moved on to his wife, still wailing and sobbing, pleading for her life, insisting she had to get back to her child, but it was no use. He remembered that the next day burned, and he wasn't allowed outside but noticed that his mother shone, and smiled pleasantly all day.

The second time he heard Karnilla's screams, and raced to see her on her knees in front of his mother. Flashbacks from his childhood had rushed back, and he barged into the room, intending to plea for Karnilla's life. Instead, the distraction from the doors flying open was all Karnilla needed. Frigga had taken her eyes off her for a second too long, and she had escaped using her magic, and Thor remembered his mother punishing him severely. That day, the sun had set at three o' clock, and disappeared for an entire day. When the natural eclipse came, almost a year later, Karnilla had appeared in Thor's chambers as an astral projection, to offer her services as a repayment of her debt. To this day, she has kept true to her word.

Shaking himself out of his past thoughts, he gripped the heart in his hands as he entered through those doors once again. He knew that Loki, whoever he may be, prince or not, held a great power, and it scared Thor how easily his loyalties had changed. Or perhaps, he had always secretly hoped his mother would start doing things differently. Perhaps he had wished this ever since the day he helped Karnilla escape.

"My son," Frigga greeted with a brilliant smile that Thor had always strived to put on her face, but now seemed wicked.

"Mother, I have done what you have asked." Thor's hands were trembling slightly as he presented the wrapped package to her.

"I always knew you would make your mother proud," she boasted before giving him a slight nod, dismissing him. Relieved, Thor retreated.

As Frigga unwrapped the bloody cloth, she salivated at the thought of devouring the false prince's heart. Unbelievably, the heart was still slightly warm as she held it in her hands, the blood hot as it splashed across her face when she sank her teeth in. She tore it to pieces with her sharp teeth, relishing in the sweetness of it. She smacked her lips, sighed in delight and lapped the blood from her fingers, satisfied that she was once again the fairest in all the land.

 

~

 

When Loki stirred slightly, he could feel the heat upon his eyelids from the sun directly ahead, but froze at the sound of voices. Straining to hear, he heard odd tones, at least three of them, surrounding him.

"I think she's awake..."

"That's a man, you idiot!"

"Should we hide? Please tell me we can hide!"

"We've got to help him... What if he's hurt?"

"Cap, you would help a fire-breathing dragon if it looked hurt. What if this guy's dangerous?"

"Achoo!"

"Cliiiiiiiiiiiiiint!" came several voices.

"I'm awake, you know," Loki said, and several gasps and yelps were heard. "I'm going to open my eyes and sit up, so don't be alarmed, okay?" He did just that, and blinked several times at the sight in front of him. Seven people stood before him in a line, all wearing different expressions were staring at him like he was an oddity. Which he supposed he was, since none of them would go past his waist if he were standing. He was content to pull his legs in to sit cross-legged to remain eye-level with them.

"Wow, you're pretty," said one with a huge grin.

"Tony!" said the voice who showed concern for his well-being earlier. He was blonde, with a fair complexion and eyes as light as the sky.

"Who are you and what are you doing sleeping in our forest?" This one had an eye patch, was darker than the rest, and obviously very grumpy.

"I'm... Loki," he said simply. He didn't feel the need to hide anything, doubting they would even know who he was.

"I'm Steve," the concerned one said, extending his short arm for a shake, which Loki gladly accepted with a smile, making Steve blush before clasping his hands behind his back and nudging the dirt underneath his boot.

"Tony. And you're still very pretty," added the grinning one with dark hair and a messy goatee as he too reached for his hand - but placed a kiss on top of it instead. Loki giggled, which earned him another wide smile from the flirtatious one.

"I'm Clint - achoo!- and this is Natasha," said the one donned in purple as he gestured to the redhead leaning on him, snoring contently.

"I'm Phil!" came an excited cry from what looked to be the happiest of the bunch, smile wider than any Loki had seen. He introduced the one-eyed man as Fury, apologizing for his rudeness as well.

"I'm Bruce," said the last one, studying Loki over the rim of his black-rimmed glasses muttering to himself. Loki caught the words "interesting" and "fascinating".

"Well?" Fury demanded.

Mental note, do not anger this one, Loki thought. "I am Loki... of Jotunheim. And... it's a bit of a long story," he offered with a long sigh.

"Well come tell it inside, it's cold out here!" Tony suggested. Phil beamed (did he ever stop?). "We'd love to have you, right?"

"Achoo!"

"That's settled then!"

Fury gave him some cut-eye, but nonetheless allowed Loki to follow them to the largest tree Loki had ever seen, with a makeshift board as a door, disguised and covered with thick vines. The branches and roots were massive, thicker than most tree trunks in fact, and nailed upon the door was a neatly cross-stitched sign that said "Yggdrasil".

Marvelling at how they transformed the hollow of this giant tree into a humble home, Loki gushed about how he adored them all already, which earned him plenty of positive responses - and another beaming smile from Phil.

He noticed that someone in the group was an avid cross-stitcher as he noted that all the doors had a similar plaque to the one on the outside door with everyone's names, signalling who shared rooms with who. He wondered why Tony was the one who slept alone, and when asked, Tony responded "I don't sleep. Ever." Then he waggled his thick eyebrows and hobbled to the kitchen to help prepare dinner.

What an odd bunch, Loki thought. Then, he decided he liked it.

 

~

 

Feeling satisfied with her feast, Frigga finally stood. Cackling wickedly, she made her way to her chambers to clean and change, but caved into her need to hear of praise.

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

“You, my queen, are fair; it is true, but the one known as the Snow Prince is even fairer than you.”

The blackest of storm clouds appeared from seemingly nowhere and the peasants outside took cover from the deafening thunder and crackling lightning as Frigga held her fists so tightly her nails drew blood from her palms, mingling with the boar's blood still warm in her hands.

Chapter Text

The dwarves stared at their new housemate, asleep across the kitchen table because it was the only thing that accommodated his size. Tony was overtly infatuated with the ethereal beauty, Bruce a lot more shy about it, and nobody could tell with Phil because he smiled regardless. Fury thinks he's hidden his growing fondness for the prince, but everyone knows he's the one who leaves flowers on the table in the morning before they head to the mines.

Tony sighed heavily with a goofy grin on his face as the breath escaping Loki's slightly opened mouth make a loose lock of hair flutter like a butterfly. Steve shyly brushed the lock back, running his hand through the smooth hair before backing away quickly and looking at the floor to hide his blush.

"Let's go or we gonna be late." Fury ordered in a stern voice. Enchanted mines wait for no one.

Their job was simple: keep the beast in the cave. When the land had been ruled by Odin, his first move had been to calm all quarrels - including the ones of the forests of his kingdom, where men would hunt for food. He gave life to a magical being - a great purple dragon who spurted flames of blue, and named him Thanos. As guardian of the forest, he brought balance, and the wildlife flourished under his watch - but when Frigga came to rule, the beast thrashed out in anger when his owner had been poisoned by the mad queen. Her magic soon took over Odin's, rotting the animal's heart to the very core, and with his last bit of strength, Odin imprisoned the very being he created in a cavern so he would not be used as Frigga's weapon.

Each day, the dwarves would go to the mine to feed this beast, satisfying it so it did not lash out against the weakened magical barrier. They feared that Thanos would grow tired of this soon, and one day he would break free, so they swore to protect the life in the forest and the lives of the kingdom for as long as possible, but they would need a powerful magic-wielder and the only was they knew of was Frigga. It seemed hopeless, but they held onto their hope.

When Loki awoke to the scent of fresh daffodils, he smiled for the first time in a long while. His back was a little sore from sleeping on the table, but he was grateful he did not have to sleep outside again. He glanced around the home, tsking at the dust and crookedness of their belongings. He inspected everything around before pulling for his magic to help straighten their place out. Not wanting anything to out of place, he merely swept away the dust, washed the dishes and cleared out the garbage they kept swept up in the corners. After that was done, he opted to see if there was any dust or garbage to get rid of in their rooms, and did a thorough sweep, careful not to misplace their personal belongings. Bruce's room didn't even need the sweep, even though he shared with Phil and Nick, and Tony's room was by far the worst. Loki huffed at the sight, a pile of scraps in the corner from floor to ceiling and his bed was the only one that looked like it had been involved in a war. He tucked in the sheets like did with the others and started preparing supper for his strange little friends.

Returning home, tired from the hunt and climbing, the dwarves were instantly jolted awake by the aroma wafting through Yggdrasil.

"Oh please tell me I'm not dreaming," Tony sang as he pranced his way over to Loki, who was swaying his hips as he swished back and forth between the cooler, sink and stove top, spatulas whirling in the air like batons.

"Oh welcome back, my friends!" he chirped, spinning around to face them all, but their eyes wandered all over the newly cleaned home.

"Wow!" Phil exclaimed as he ran around to wipe his finger on everything, amazed when his finger came away clean. The others were in awe as well, and even Natasha had woken up to inspect her new room, bed made properly and pillow fluffed.

"Thanks, Loki," Steve said as he carried his fresh shirts in his arms. They smelled of fresh water and soap. A chorus of thank you's and a very ecstatic "Can we keep you?" from Tony followed right after, and Loki laughed kindly at their show of gratitude. They ate together, and Loki asked them how their day was. Upon hearing of their full-time occupation, Loki's brow furrowed.

"What kind of magic is it that's keeping it in place?"

Mostly people shrugged, but Bruce was convinced it was dark, soul-stealing magic. "I think she manipulates the life around her, which is why the trees and flowers have all wilted around the palace. Odin was really, really powerful, I think the monster has the last of Odin's powers and she's feeding off of him now?"

"It's the best theory we've got, anyhow. Nobody knows of Frigga's magic, and ever since she captured Karnilla, all hope was lost. She was the only other magic-wielder left."

Loki swallowed thickly. He remembered how Anna tried to desperately to save him, afraid they had come for his magic, and suddenly realized that the fear was not irrational.

"Actually, Karnilla is no longer under the Queen's watch," he said carefully, bracing himself for the questions. Murmurs broke out around the table as Fury asked, "How do you know?"

"I've... I've spoken to her."

Clearing his throat at the silent audience, he continued telling his tale from the very beginning, feeling himself in need of a steady hand when he was shaking from his thoughts of Anna and the children at Jotunheim, how Thor had protected him and hid him away, turning against his own mother.

"Thor, we've seen him hunting before," Natasha said sleepily. "S'big guy."

"Achoo!"

"More importantly," Tony butted in. "What did Karnilla say to you? She seemed real interested in you, maybe she gave you hints about Frigga's magic?" Bruce nodded vigorously so that his glasses slipped to the end of his nose.

"Well... Um, I think she said something about me being the only one Frigga feared?" he squeaked out the last part, uncomfortable with the scrutiny.

Bruce's eyes were comically wide behind his thick glasses. "Maybe you'e the one destined to save us from Frigga!"

"Achoo!"

The table erupted into shouts of various tones - some encouraging this fact, some shooting the idea down - but Loki shrank away, leaning as far back in his chair as he could. Quietly, he repeated Karnilla's words, "Your beauty and innocence is overwhelming. With skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as ebony, you are the only one who Frigga fears. Those were her exact words before she vanished."

Bruce was already scribbling onto a white board with ink, trying to come up with theories on the spot, but Loki answered for him. "I can use magic."

The silence that followed was unnerving as all eyes were upon him, Natasha's wide and showing no signs of sleep.

"You can...."

Loki squeezed his eyes shut and opened his palms, placing them above the table for everyone to see. Muttering at incantation he summoned spheres of fire, water, ice, wind, and rock. When he let the elements die, he waited for a response as he gingerly opened his eyes again.

"THAT'S AMAZING!" Tony exclaimed and Loki was startled as the dwarves all rushed to hug him and tell him how fantastic it was. As he looked down, he saw something that ignited something inside him, something he hadn't seen in too long of a time: hope.

Chapter Text

As the evening filled with mostly Loki showing the dwarves some extent of his magic and Bruce and Tony coming up with theories and trying to pinpoint the magic to a science, Loki grew more and more confident in his abilities and friends. They chatted excitedly into the night, and before long all fell asleep in the common room, curled up against each other with Bruce's papers scattered around them. Fury woke them all up abruptly at sunrise to tend to their daily task. Loki saw them off, planting a light kiss on everyone's forehead or cheek - even Fury who pretended to dodge it. He packed them sandwiches in a basket, which he handed to Steve, who swelled with pride at being trusted with the task. He waved goodbye to them before turning to clean up the house once again.

Before long, there was a sharp rap on the door, which startled Loki. He opened it a crack to reveal an old-looking woman, hunched over a walking stick with a fraying weaved basket in one arm. Her hooded cloak was tattered and torn, and her shoes were missing straps and pieces of their soles. Her dark, tanned skin was ridden with wrinkles, and caked in grime.

"Oh my! Can I help you?" Loki said, shocked at the state this elderly woman was in, offering his arm in assistance to help her inside.

"Thank you, dear, thank you," the woman gasped for air as if she had been trekking for a while.

"What were you doing out here all alone! It's dangerous!" Loki said worriedly, grabbing for a cloth to wipe off some of the dirt along the woman's wrinkles. He also offered her a glass of water, which she took eagerly.

"I needed to pick apples to sell, but the sweetest ones are deepest in the forest. I use these to make my special pies, which are a best seller in town!" she chuckled, her voice raspy and croaky.

"You really should have someone accompany you, don't you know how treacherous this place is?" Loki asked softly, finishing his job.

"I do now. Thank you for all of your help, I'm afraid I haven't anything to return for your hospitality though," she said rather sadly.

"Oh! Please, don't worry about it. I'm more than glad to have helped. Do you need me to walk you to the edge of the forest?"

"Nonsense! You have done quite enough. Pray, child, what is your name?"

"My name is Loki," he answered automatically.

"Loki, my child, you have helped more than enough. Please, take this apple as a gift, its juices are sweeter than any other you've tasted, I can guarantee it!"

"Oh, well that's very kind of you," Loki ushered, taking the offered apple in his hand. Something felt wrong about it. It weighed heavily in his hand, and it was... warm. Almost tingling. He couldn't place what it was, but he wasn't comfortable with it. He hesitated biting into it, and the old woman laughed easily in her raspy chuckle.

"They are quite something, these ones. Feel odd, don't they? S'just heavier with juices, nothing to worry about it. Look!" she pulled out a small paring knife, and sliced through the apple, juices indeed flowing. She took a quick bite out of one half, letting the sweet liquid dribble down her chin before lapping it up with her tongue. She hummed in satisfaction and waved the unbitten half for Loki to take again. He accepted it, and bit down. No sooner had he savoured the sweetness did he drop the floor, his body paralyzed while his eyes remained open and staring at the ceiling. He cursed himself for not realizing that the uncertainty was a hint of magic, and falling for the trick. He would've screamed if he had the ability to as the old lady shifted right in front of him, and towering over him was the flawless face of Queen Frigga. Her blood-red lips parted to reveal two rows of pearl white teeth.

"White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony wood! The dwarves shall never awaken you," she cackled as she turned and vanished into thin air while blackness was pulling at Loki's consciousness. Soon, his eyelids drooped, and he took his last breath.

Chapter Text

"Darling, I'm hooooo-oooome!" Tony sang as they reached the door of Yggdrasil. Like any other day, they were worn our and dirty and looked forward to a lovely meal that Loki would have no doubt fixed by now. Strangely enough, there weren't any enticing aromas wafting through the air or the usual humming or soft singing of Loki's enchanting voice. Nick Fury was the first one in the door as he always was, but he stopped dead in his tracks.

The others were trying to peak over his shoulder, or nudged him to move forward.

"Achoo! Nick?" Clint pestered, prodding at his back with a stick.

Nick Fury promptly turned on his heels and stomped away, swearing loudly to himself. The others were finally able to get a look inside, and they were all dumbstruck.

Clint immediately went into a sneezing frenzy, and without Loki there to hand him tissues, he wiped at his nose with Natasha's sleeves, since she was alseep on his arm. Tony and Steve immediately rushed to his side, Tony trying to fan him, Steve trying to find his pulse. Bruce was gathering his stethoscope and med kit.

"Loki! Loki, wake up!"

"I... I don't feel a pulse," Steve sobbed.

"And I can't hear a heartbeat either," Bruce added sadly.

"No! No! No!" Tony cried, now shaking at Loki's arm.

Natasha woke from Tony's screaming but was immediately curled up against Loki. "He's jus'sleeping," she assured them as she wrapped one of his arms around her.

Bruce leaned down to Loki's slightly parted lips to listen for a breath. Nothing. When he went to shake his head, his eyes caught the apple on the floor which had rolled under the fridge.

"There's something there," he pointed. Using a broomstick, they retrieved the half-an-apple with a small bite missing.

"Do you think..." Tony started.

"It has to be. There's no other explanation."

"How are we gonna know? We can't just go ask Frigga herself!"

"But you can ask her son." All heads whipped around to see Fury walking behind a tall, broad man. "'Cause look at who I found wand'ring the forest."

"I am Thor, and I believe you have my friend here," he said with authority.

"Nuh-uh! You're not getting anywhere near him!" Tony said defiantly, pointing at Thor accusingly with a pudgy finger. "He's already gone through enough with your family!"

Thor's face looked crestfallen. "I know. He has told me all about it. I was to bring my mother his heart, but I could not go through with it. I fear that I have... a fondness for the snow prince. Please, I wish to see him."

They looked at each other with mixed facial expressions, but Steve was the one to break the silence.

"Excuse me, sir, but... I... We have some bad news."

As if on cue, the drawves all stepped away, parting on either side of the room to reveal Loki, laying peacefully on the floor.

Thor's eyes widened in horror, "No... No, how can this be!" He immediately rushed over and dropped to his knees.

Bruce handed him the apple half. "Poison. Strong poison."

"Mother," Thor spat, his voice drenched in venom.

"Do you know of a cure? You could help us!" Steve said with hope.

The tears gathering in Thor's eyes said it all. "My mother never leaves a possible cure for her work." The words hung in the air like storm clouds as they mourned the loss of such beauty. Almost unwilling to move him, they crowded around in their grief before Steve suggested that they hold a proper goodbye for their beloved friend.

"We can't bury him! We can't!" Tony protested. "He's.. He's too..."

"Beautiful," Thor finished for him. "Such beauty should not be forgotten."

They all agreed on this fact. With Thor's help, they constructed a beautiful resting place - a shrine - with a coffin made of glass so they could admire him still.

They each said their goodbyes, most of them were short speeches about how much light Loki had brought to their lives. Tony pecked him on the cheek after his eulogy, and the rest had laid flowers upon his chest.

Thor was the last to go, tears in his eyes.

"I was a fool... I tore apart everything you knew for this, and I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry I brought you into all of this. This was all my fault, and I... I could n-never forgive my-myself." He was sobbing, completely torn as he looked into the peaceful look of Loki's face. Karnilla had been right, he had been dizzied by love and now it was too late. "I'm so sorry," he croaked one last time before placing a soft, gentle kiss on the cool lips. He turned to walk away from the coffin when he heard the dwarves gasp in disbelief and point to the platform.

Thor quickly looked over this shoulder to see Loki's eyelids fluttering open, slowly.

"Thor?" he called out quietly, his voice so sweet and innocent.

"Loki!" Thor panted harshly, his beartbeat out of control at the turn of events. "You're awake!"

"How long have I been asleep?"

"You... You weren't breathing. We thought you... gone," Thor gulped. "My mother must've poisoned you, but we didn't know there was a cure!"

"Well what did you do to wake me?"

Thor blushed furiously, "I... kissed you."

They stared at each other for a long moment before Loki finally smiled. "It is a shame I cannot remember it."

Thor grinned, "Let me fix that." He lifted Loki out of the coffin and planted his lips upon Loki's once again, savouring every moment of the kiss, every touch of their flesh. The dwarves were all whooping loudly around them - even Tony - and they both felt their hearts soar.

"My mother cannot rule any longer," Thor said, determined. "She has brought too much harm to the people of this kingdom!"

"Hear hear!" the dwavres shouted.

"We must defeat her," Loki joined. "But I will need your help, all of you. Are you ready to fight for your land?"

"Aye!"

"Are you ready to stand beside me in battle and put an end to her evil reign?"

"Aye!"

"Then let us start planning!"

 

~

 

Loki's scheming was positively mischievous, all meticulous and calculated.

"Are you sure you will be alright?" Thor asked worriedly.

"Yes, I'll be fine. I'm confident I've got the magic for this."

"Beware, Loki. Thanos is easily angered."

"Fear not, Nicholas. Now good luck, all of you. Go."

The orders were given, stations assigned. They would go into this not knowing whether or not they'd live to see the victory - because failure was not an option.

Thor led them along the lower trenches and shaded spots, cautiously crawling along the castle's edge. With his strength, he wrenched a sewer gate open and interlocked his fingers to offer each dwarve a boost.

"Ugh, I can't believe we're doing this!" Tony said, scrunching up his nose. Nonetheless, they infiltrated the castle and soon, their plan was set in motion.

Chapter Text

The deeper Loki tread into the heart of the forest, the more tense he became, his senses going into overdrive. Every inch of his skin was crawling with foreign magic, his own responding within his skin. It seemed like tendrils would crawl up his arms and legs, causing his blood to twitch underneath, his limbs jerking involuntarily, his heart pounding out of rhythm. Sometimes he felt himself shaking in sweat, hot and cold.

The cave was impossible to miss. It was a tremendous jagged rock, black with soot and dirt, the entrance standing as tall as some of the towers in the palace, and as wide as the iron gates. The atmosphere changed as Loki approached, his blood calming in his veins, the steady warmth returning to his fingertips as he pulled for his natural magic. His chest felt lighter and all at once he could feel the difference in the magical signature. Around the cavern was the last bit of fading green grass in all the forest, and the rumbling deep beneath reverberated in his chest.

"Thanos," he whispered into the air. The dwarves had told him all that they knew when they reiterated their knowledge of the old ways and magic, but it wasn't much. Just the name and origin, yet Loki already felt like he knew so much more. The magical signature was weak, but it was still pure, and strong, as if made of gold if magic were to have colours.

The low growl that greeted him would've scared most, but Loki walked closer still.

"Thanos," he repeated. "I want.. to help you."

The roar that rushed out of the cave nearly knocked Loki backwards with its force, leaving him to land roughly on his back. He winced, but sat up nonetheless, refusing to give up.

"I want to free you from Frigga."

This time there was no violent response, but the earth shook as each dull thud, thud. Loki gulped and his eyes widened in anticipation, though he refused to show fear. A large red eye with pupils as black as coal glimmered in the shadows of the cave. They stared at each other in silence before Thanos snorted.

"My name is Loki," he said quietly at last, not breaking eye contact. He lifted his palm slowly, and summoned a small fire. The beast's pupil immediately shrank into a narrow slit as he snarled and flung himself toward the entrance, only to be repelled backward by the ward, and Loki could feel the magic shifting around him, weakening further. He let the fire slip away as Thanos's thrashing became more and more frenzied by the sight of magic again.

"Jeg er ikke her for å skade deg," Loki tried again. I am not here to hurt you. The words flowed freely from his mouth, and Thanos stopped his violent attempt at escape. Instead he gave a low growl, softer and more inquisitive.

Let me help you."La meg hjelpe deg," Loki said, and paused before slowly picking himself off the floor and took a step closer to the mighty dragon.

Thanos huffed, smoke billowed out of the crevasse, and his massive eye was flitting back and forth. Loki had gotten close enough to feel the physical strain of the barrier, weighing his body down as if gravity had intensified a hundred times over. The efforts didn't deter him as he placed his hands up and took in the magic almost greedily. The mixing of their magic shredded Loki's insides apart, raking up his arms and slicing through his muscles. He opened his mouth in a soundless scream as the two sets of magic fought inside him, twisting and turning around each other. Thanos gave the shield a small headbutt as if to test it, and seeing that it cracked from being weakened he roared in victory, rearing on its hind legs to claw at it. With scaled talons, he lashed out and the effort shattered the shield completely, letting the loose shards of magic shoot straight into Loki's body. It felt like daggers piercing through him as he fell to his knees, but he took it all, blinking the pain back.

He warily raised a hand out in time to see Thanos poking his large head out from the cavern for the first time in what seemed like centuries. He stepped out gingerly and Loki's breath caught in his throat at the sight. Thanos unfurled his large wings that spanned almost the entire castle wall as he knocked down several trees in the process. His deep purple scales caught in the sunlight as he shifted from leg to leg to stretch his limbs, beyond aching from disuse. The screech that came from his mouth was sad and pained. He looked down at Loki, merely a speck in the ground compared to the large dragon, and peered at him with curious eyes.

'Hvorfor gjorde dere hjelpe meg? Why did you help me?'

Loki's eyes widened in shock as the words in both languages rang in his head, the voice deep and gruff, aged and angered. He opened his mouth to speak before testing his theory.

'I want to end this reign of terror, and you didn't deserve to be trapped. The land is dying, and I am the last hope. I must try.'

The mind-link that Loki had yet to figure out was apparently working both ways when Thanos answered him. 'Your magic is pure where Frigga's is dark, but Frigga's is also evil and strong, nurtured by use and abuse.'

'Am I not powerful enough to defeat her, then? Is that what you are telling me?' Loki's heart sunk. This was his absolute worst fear - that he had given those he loved false hope.

'You are no longer alone, young one.' Thanos dipped his head to meet Loki's gaze and blinked his reptilian lids once before nudging the man's arm gently. From the pits of his stomach, Loki's heart soared at Thanos's suggestion, which was the best possible scenario. He gently put a hand on Thanos's muscled sides, feeling the ripples of enormous muscle beneath his hands as the beast lowered itself.

'Will this hurt you at all?'

'Do not worry, I am much stronger than I look.'

'What a terrifying thought.' Loki thought as he swiftly clambered up the makeshift stepping stool of Thanos's front leg.

A snort-like sound paired with black smoke came from the giant snout as Thanos took a few fumbling steps before launching off, snapping the trees as if they were nothing with his take off. The steady fwoosh, fwoosh of his powerful wings and the howling of the air in Loki's ears made him surge with determination, fear, and hope all at once. This was it. He only hoped that they were ready for him as he mentally explained his plans to Thanos.

 

~

 

Back at the castle.

"Mother, may I have a word with you?" Thor asked nervously as he faced Frigga in the throne room. The dwarves had each been stationed elsewhere, Thor masking them stealthily through the halls he had grown up in.

"Ah, Thor," she said venomously, letting him know that she was upset with him. "What could you possible wish from me?"

"I.. I'm sorry, mother. I was a fool, and I know I have gone against your orders," Thor mumbled, fidgeting with his hands. "I am sorry to have disappointed you, is all."

If Frigga felt any emotion, she didn't let it show. Instead, she walked up to Thor and placed a cold hand on his shoulder. "Tell me, my son... Do you have another act of treason planned?"

"Of course not, mother!" Thor exclaimed.

"Good. Come now, be a darling and feast with your mother," she said as she led him back to her throne, where a smaller one sat beside it. The table in front of them was of bloodied rare steaks and fresh fruit. Thor's stomach flipped when he saw the crisp, blood red apples before him. Carefully avoiding them, as well as the bloodied meat, he took bits of figs and nuts. Frigga, of course, noticed Thor's peculiar eating habits.

"My dear child, do share this delicious gift of fruit with me," she said in a testing voice, curling her long fingers around an apple. Thor felt a sickening feeling rise in his stomach, but he had to stall the queen for as long as possible, and he would not let Loki down again.

She sliced the apple perfectly in half, offering both halves to Thor, letting him choose. He knew it was a trick, to make him believe that both were safe, but he had no choice now. He chose the left, and gingerly took it from her palm. She bit into her half, savouring the juices before setting it down on the table again - the sight of a missing bite from the half gave Thor flashbacks of Loki, of the dwarves handing him the apple they had found, of the dread he felt when they built his glass coffin. Frigga watched him expectedly, so he took a bite. He waited for the poison to hit him, to drag him into a dark, dark place where he might never wake - but the feeling didn't come. Instead, it tasted perfectly normal to him and he took another small bite before setting it down as well.

Frigga merely patted her son's arm tenderly with a small smirk.

I've got you now, my son.

As she watched the blue of his eyes grow so very slightly darker a shade, she smiled in satisfaction, beaming proudly at her work. Before she could truly enjoy herself, a loud roar broke through the sky, a thunderous, steady pace of flapping noises and the screams of her guard in every direction.

She immediately grabbed Thor's arm and travelled to the very top of the central watch tower and her eyes widened in horror.

"This can't be..." she whispered in fearful awe. "How... how..." Her eyes narrowed as she turned to Thor, who was staring back at her blankly. Another instant and they appeared in her bedroom.

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?"

"You, my queen, are fair; it is true, but the one known as the Snow Prince is even fairer than you.” Black smoke was billowing from her fingertips as her rage and anger flooded through her body.

"AGAIN?! HOW DARE HE, HOW DARE HE!" Her tantrums were deadly and uncontrolled, she lashed out at everything around her before calming herself to face the trouble at hand. Thanos was coming, and Frigga was certain that Loki would either be with the foul creature or close behind.

She looked back at Thor, scrutinizing him. His eyes were surpassing navy, almost black now, and Frigga knew her control would be complete any minute now, though she tested it anyway.

"Kneel."

"Yes, my queen." To her delight, he dropped to one knee, murmured in a monotone voice, void of all emotion and thought. There - his eyes, completely stark black as if the night sky swallowed his eyes.

"Rise."

"Yes, my queen." Soon, the shade faded slowly, returning Thor's eyes to its normal colour, slowly.

Still, it was not enough - it just simply wasn't enough. She had tried to kill him. Twice, now. And yet each time he always came back, more determined, and it was just unacceptable. No, she wouldn't just try to kill him this time - she would break him first, so much so that even if he managed to escape death's clutches again he would be no more than an empty shell of a former man.

She whispered a sweet command into her son's ears, and smiled pleasantly at the baby blue irises that stared back, blank, willing, and dead.

"Yes, my queen."

~

 

'We will never get close enough to the castle with their defense weapons so precise.'

'My friends are working on it as we speak, I am sure of it.'

'You have much faith, young one. Let us circle and await your friends, then.'

The catapults on the castle wall were firing at a rapid pace, and two rows of archers behind them let their volley of arrows fly toward them. Thanos was more than eager to disintegrate them with his fire with Loki's assistance.Nonetheless, if they continued at this pace, they would tire before encountering the queen, which was no doubt her plan. The longer they dragged this on, the longer he feared for Thor - surely Frigga would know of their presence by now.

'Go, I will handle these puny humans. Your business is with the queen.'

Loki felt his heart being torn in half - he wanted to stay, to help Thanos because he was worried for the wise creature, but on the other hand, he knew that Thanos was right.

'Remember that you are not alone.'

With a small thank you, Loki murmured a protection spell for Thanos, unwilling to leave him vulnerable.

'Remember that you are not alone either, friend.'

Thanos let out a mighty roar, a challenge for those who dared to face him now, and Loki launched himself off of Thanos's back, weaving the spell around him to shrink and extend his newly-formed wings. He dodged the onslaught of arrows with ease - and to his relief, could begin to see the dwarves at work having seen him arriving upon Thanos's back. Clint released an arrow from a stolen bow with every sneeze - which was quite impressive. Tony and Bruce were wielding weapons that looked odd - no doubt their own inventions, while Natasha and Nick Fury seemed to be expertly knocking out those in control of the catapults with large stones - and slingshots. Phil eagerly knocked out the knees of the archers with a club, Clint providing him with cover. Loki instantly felt more relieved, trusting that combined, they would help Thanos bring down the castle's defense, but could not resist casting protection spells upon them too. It was a simple ward, designed to keep them out of harm's way, and yet even then it was not always guaranteed.

Loki darted past them, vowing to see each and every single one of them after this battle. The castle was intricate in design, the halls made to confuse anyone who didn't roam them often, and Loki felt panicked. He cast his thoughts out to encounter dozens upon dozens of guards, but could not detect Frigga or Thor. He let himself flutter to the ground to shift forms, the sensation still new to him, and found that walking on all fours was disorientating. He wobbled slightly on his long legs as he sniffed the ground, half-surprised when the scents exploded in his mind, each one different. Thor. Thor's was among the smells, but weak. Turning back from where he came, he followed the trail to a large set of doors that he couldn't nudge open no matter how strongly he pushed. Defeated, he reluctantly grew back into a man, and rested his hand upon the door. He could sense Thor inside, which spurred him on, and he wrenched the doors open to face Frigga. Thor.

He sat upon one of the thrones, now equal in size, next to Frigga, and his face showed no recognition or emotion, which immediately made Loki panic again. What has she done to him?

'What is going on inside?'

He had almost forgotten the mental connection the small weight of it not enough to distract him, but found he was quite relieved to hear Thanos in his mind.

'I can't be sure. He has either a tremendous deal of acting abilities or some sort of curse placed upon him. I will be in touch.

Frigga's eyes were taunting, but Loki obliged, taking his first step toward her.

Two. She tilted her head at his advance.

Three. "Is this bravery?" she asked.

Four. "Or is it a fool's love?" she snarled at the last word, baring her teeth.

Five. They locked eyes, both filled with resentment and bitterness.

Six. "What have you done to him?" he spat.

Seven. She laughed mockingly, "I haven't done anything, dear boy!"

Eight. "Did you truly think that he was in love with you? Were you that naive? Show him your true feelings, Thor."

Nine. In a blur, Thor threw himself at Loki, tackling them both backwards as they fumbled and rolled.

"Thor! Stop!" Loki pleaded, gasping when one of Thor's hands clasped around his neck. He was slammed into a wall, his vision bursting with a hot white flash. "Thor..." he whimpered.

He gasped when Thor's teeth bit into his flesh, drawing blood into red streams flowing down his collar bone. He threw forth the tiniest bit of magic, not wanting to hurt Thor, but found his hands shackled above his head.

"Now, now, little snow prince. Isn't this what you wanted? To be with him? I am merely giving you what you want."

"Not like this!" he spat poisonously. His magic was weakened somehow through the cuffs, and he cursed her, the fire from his fingertips flickering from the lack of power.

"How could you do this! How could you be so cruel!" he yelped at Thor pawed at his clothing, ripping most of his tunic off. "Thor, please, stop this. This is madness!"

Thor looked at him, and his heart sank. Thor's eyes were uncharacteristically dull, no longer shining and wide. They were half-lidded and gloomy despite their brilliant colour, and Loki knew pleading was no use, but felt compelled to try.

"Truly, is this not what you want?"

"NO!" he screamed at her.

"Very well then," she said calmly. "Thor, come here for me darling. Take off your shirt."

"Yes, my queen." The words made Loki's stomach twist in a knot.

Smiling wickedly, she conjured up an evil thing - a black whip, braided with sharp, thorns that went as long as the room. She wielded it with expertise, lashing out once against Thor's back, sending the blood flying across the walls and ceiling. Loki thought he was going to be sick, and hurriedly pleaded her to stop.

"Oh, but you said you didn't want to be with him," Frigga replied coldly. "This is the only other option for him, I'm afraid." She lashed out with the whip again, marking a deep, bloodied X across his bronze skin.

"NO! NO! STOP!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. "I... I do want it. I want to be with him. More than anything."

"Thor, be a dear and attend your consort, won't you?"

"Yes, my queen."

Loki froze upon Thor's contact again, his body going rigid against the blazing hot touch, and he screwed his eyes shut to try and stop the shame rolling through him.

"It seems to me that you are lying, dear prince," Frigga whipped at Thor again, leaving a deep gash in his upper left arm, as well as nicking Loki in the side as well - and Loki gasped at how painful the small encounter was, sickened by thinking how much it must've hurt Thor. The wound in his side burned like wild fire, and he felt his connection with Thanos break. No. No, no, no.

"Thor," he said gently as large hands shook clumsily undoing the simple breeches they both had on. They paused for a moment for Thor to look up - small sliver of Thor's old self present in those eyes. "It's okay, Thor."

It was like watching an internal war, Thor struggling against Frigga's spell but not being able to break out of it. The roar outside told Loki that Thanos too discovered their loss of contact, and could only hope that help would arrive soon enough.

"It's okay," Loki repeated softly to Thor.

"You'll have to do better than that," Frigga warned, raising her whip again.

"Thor!" he said urgently. "Please, I.. I want this. I want you."

Spurred on, the irrational part of Thor tugged at their remaining clothes, leaving them naked. He inhaled sharply as Thor began to palm his flaccid cock, caught between arousal and shame. He did want it, but not like this. This wasn't supposed to be their first time. Still, he felt his body respond to Thor's touch despite his best efforts to discourage them.

"I'm not convinced," Frigga said in a sing-song voice that was delighted by seeing Loki's guilty lust. "Beg for it, you shameless creature."

Loki spared her a loathsome glance before turning his eyes back to Thor. "Please, Thor. I want this," he said so quietly it was almost completely drowned out by the roars outside.

And even though it wasn't convincing in the slightest, Thor pressed him flush against Loki, every inch of their flesh crawling with pleasure when they touched despite their circumstances. Thor lifted Loki's legs easily, the metal cuffs pinched his wrists when he momentarily lost contact with the ground but found that Thor cradled him, supporting him. Their erections rubbed together almost painfully.

"Please, Thor." The words slipped from his mouth, as he started to let go of some of his shame. No matter what magic was put in place, he never doubted his love for him, and came to terms with the fact that he was doing this for their lives.

He bent his head forehead to touch Thor's, which caused the other man to look up. With one last look into those blue eyes, Loki tilted his head to kiss him, coaxing the chapped lips to part. Their kiss was long, soft, and beautiful, much to Frigga's despair.

"Thor, break him," she commanded.

"No," he muttered when their lips parted. Loki looked in disbelief as Thor stared back at him lovingly, eyes shining and bright, wide and alert. He let Loki's legs go before grasping the manacles above in his strong hands and completely dislodging from the wall. Loki fell to his knees as his limbs trembled with the rush of magic returning to him. He dressed them both quickly before facing down Frigga, who looked on incredulously.

Their magic flared and flew past each other.

"Thor, you need to help them outside. Tell Thanos that I'm okay."

"But Loki-"

"Please, Thor!" he barely dodged the knife that Frigga threw at him. In bursts of white and black they exchanged blows, Loki feeling Odin's presence in their fight. It was reassuring and better yet, it infuriated Frigga.

"Why have you done all this!" Loki asked again, releasing as many streams of fire as he could. She batted them away furiously with swishes of her arm.

"My husband was weak! He was a fool! I was made to rule!" she screeched as released a hurricane of power at him.

In that moment, it truly felt like his whole life flashed before his eyes - the people he cared most for all stared back at him, Anna covered with blood, the children - and oh, Hansel with his haunting dead eyes, the dwarves, Thanos, Thor. His sorrow and rage lent him the strength to rise above and deflect Frigga's power, breaking her will.

"How... how," she mumbled as she shivered. The doors behind Loki flew open, and as everyone entered, he felt relief - he felt the bittersweet victory, the pained tears and trembling smile. Thanos took his part by digging his talons into the roof the room and ripping it off completely to expose them to the sunlight above. He threw his head back to roar in pride and victory, as well as happiness to see Loki alive.

Thor walked to his mother to embrace her once, whisper an apology and return to Loki's side, letting him conjure the strongest magical bindings he could for her. He knew it saddened Thor to see his mother so corrupt and lost, but he swore to Thor to try and help, to let her live in the palace still while being sentenced for her crimes - something that Thor was ever so grateful for.

"Friends... I cannot thank you enough," he said, turning to embrace them all in a blood-matted, grime-infested group hug. He felt tears of relief and joy, thanking fate that they were all still alive, though some injuries were grave. Thanos himself had a large tear in one of his wings but Loki tended to all of them in the next days while he and Thor tried to rally the people. Little did they know that the villagers were already on their side, fed up with their treatment from the Queen. It was a kingdom ready to be placed under a kind ruler, a land ready for life again, and slowly, the two princes reconstructed everything that Frigga destroyed.