Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.
But what's puzzling you, is the nature of my game.
The Rolling Stones.
All Loki heard that morning was the distant sound of thunder. It rolled across the sky in a thick cloud of hollow sound, rumbling ominously like a forgotten worry in the back of the mind. The trickster sniffed and ignored it, returning to the play he was reading without even bothering to surrender a curious glance out of the window at the otherwise oblivious sunlight. He figured it was merely the hungry vanguard of a storm, and nothing more - despite the fact that it seemed to have snuck up on the fine day rather briskly and without any prior warning. Besides, it was Loki's opinion that if a storm was agile enough to have fooled the Asgardians into thinking that they were in for another glorious day to go about their dull business, then he had nothing but praise for it. Loki liked crafty things; he liked them even better when they could engineer foul luck for his prison city. As it was, he looked forward to a change in temperature - anything to make his confinement less tedious. The climate of Asgard rarely deviated from its sunny, cheerful disposition and that monotonous temperature, teamed with the endless days spent in a room so barren of anything him, Loki feared he would go mad well before the Allfather came up with a better way to punish him.
But once he'd returned in chains from Midgard - muzzled, cowed and at the full mercy of his brother; once he'd been imprisoned and deprived of his magic and then left alone for a curiously lengthy stretch of time, Loki had begun to question whether his surrogate father actually was conjuring any further disciplinary action. To date, the worst that Odin had done was to strip him of his powers and simply cage him in the penthouses of the prison wing - in the apartments above ground that were designed for war criminals of rank or in cases where dungeons simply would not do (the security remained just as tight, but the food was better and the rats fewer). Then, possibly to save him clawing the walls in a frantic attempt to set his busy mind to something, Frigga had supplied him with boxes of scrolls and manuscripts to read; an extensive collection of theatre transcripts and poems that were about as purile and asinine as any she could find. Loki was somewhat reminded of how the Midgardian with the eyepatch had offered him a magazine in the jar of a cell SHIELD had provided, and he wondered if the periodicals full of human mediocrity's would be any less painful to read than the overblown, pompous epics Asgard's finest stuffed shirts had penned about their fictional (and sometimes non-fictional) heroes. He devoured them anyway - hoping to find at least one elementary magic text hidden within the numerous scroll bindings, but as it was, he'd been completely out of luck.
Sighing, Loki blew a stray strand of dark hair out of his eyes, rolling the stiffness out of his shoulders. Death by boredom? Yes, surely the worst punishment Odin had ever conceived. Loki almost wished the Allfather had lopped his head off, that fate he would have appreciated far more than being left to bask in the uncomfortable silence that was his house arrest. If he hadn't been struggling to swallow the vast chunk of humiliation and regret that was lodged in his throat, he might have been wary. Or angry; angrier, anyway. But his rage had fizzled out quickly to bitterness and resentment when he realized he had no real outlet for it. He could spit in Odin's face, call Frigga a whore and renounce his brother as the dull fool he was all he liked, it didn't seem to make any difference. The Allfather seemed to have decided that he would simply sit on his ornery son's abuse until he gotten bored of dishing it out - rather like waiting for a child to finish a tantrum. It was up to his boy as to whether he would seethe into a sour pile of insolence without his magic to sugar his contempt, or just simply let it go. It was not incarceration per say, as much as it was babying and that fact only made Loki even more spiteful.
He was, however, smart enough to accept that his frustration did little to help him. When his magic had run cleanly through his veins - tainted by his anger like some sick elixir - he'd been able to think quickly, deliberate quickly and efficiently and kill without fear. Losing his powers, losing that funnel which magnified his acrimony into something useful, he just felt heavy. Clumsy. Clouded - his silver tongue tarnished, for he had no one to sharpen it on. He recieved no visitors and his guards knew better than to be tricked into his games. He'd thrown a chair out the window, as well as several sets of cutlery and crockery, but when we started receiving his dinner straight on the tray without even a stick to attempt to at it with, he decided to reign it in. Better to comply than become a mockery of himself. He still had his pride, let them remember that! If Odin was letting him cool down, so be it! He'd cool down... He'd become colder than they'd ever known him to be. After all, coldness was his true nature.
A knock at the door broke the closed silence of the room, and Loki frowned as he eased up off his bed. It was far too early for lunch - he'd only just eaten the pittance he'd been supplied for breakfast (Turnips. That was most likely Frigga's idea - he hated turnips) and he certainly didn't care for any more. As he crossed the plain, woven carpet to inform his guards that they could shove the taproots up their arses for all he cared, the pair of them pushed their way into the room and stood before him, glowering with a menace he didn't often see on the face of an Asgardian prison lackey. As a third lumbered slowly in through the open doorway he took note that they weren't dressed in the garb of their service either; they wore dark armour, battered and dulled with use, and their thick, matted hair was strung into dreadlocks - nothing like any Asgardian style he was familiar with. If Odin was outsourcing recruits to the city guard, he'd certainly scraped the bottom of the barrel when it came to looks. And smell. Yet by the way in which they stared him down, Loki quickly gathered that this particular set of muscle wasn't providing room service. And by the vicious-looking weapons they gripped in their hands - or paws, he wasn't too sure on that detail- they probably weren't on lunch duty either.
One of them, slightly shorter, though just as hairy and ugly as the others, padded forward and sniffed at him. Small, porcine eyes travelled over Loki's confused expression, down his silk-clad chest to rest on his hands that swung listlessly by his sides. The creature seemed to notice the bands of runes encircling his wrists, trapping his magic in their weaving patterns, and gave a snort.
"Mornin', sah," it rumbled, curling its lip at the formality. "We're to exscort you to the frone room. Your dad wants to see you."
"I don't think so." Loki hissed, automatically, shrugging away the man's hands that were descending on his arms. "Tell him to come here, if he must speak with me. I'm not moving. Certainly not with you."
"You can come wif us now," the guard continued, motioning to his partners to surround the bewildered God. "Or we hack your legs off. An' then we drag you. An' then you don't got no legs."
The other two chuckled thuggishly at that. Loki narrowed his eyes, dangerously.
"You dare!" he began, instinct sending his hand behind his back to grip one of his non-existent daggers. Then he snarled to himself - realizing he'd completely forgotten he had neither his magic nor his knives in his current arsenal. The best he could do would be to assault them with his porridge bowl, or try to lasso them with the curtains - both options, he figured, were probably a little too far-fetched to pull off. The piggy one leaned in, conspiratorially, and gave a brief, bubbling chortle before he thrust the barb of a particularly vicious-looking pole axe under Loki's jaw.
"Wanna try it on, lad? I wouldn't if I was you. Save yus bleedin' all the way down an' makin' a mess an' all."
"Who are you?"
"Aw, we're not s'posed to say. You'll find out soon enough if you get a move on. Chop chop." The guard grinned. "S'cuse the expression."
Sagging in compliance - though his brow was set in stony displeasure, Loki let the other two grip his shoulders and roughly escort him out of the room, out of the prison wing and toward the main hall. Although the young prince had immediately considered an insurgence of some sort of hairy, ugly enemy (weren't they always?), he found the idea a little unbelievable on the palate. It wasn't as though he was completely new to the idea of hostile takeovers - not only had he tried (and succeeded, briefly) to usurp the throne of Asgard from his brother, he'd also staged a war of his own against Midgard, almost two months prior. Both times he'd learned that, as that flowery tongued Midgardian with the scientific armour had put it, he shouldn't go around taking other people's stuff.
Besides, Asgard - home of the warrior Aesir- had ever been magnificent, magnanimous and veritably impregnable by its enemies (unless, of course, they'd had a helping hand to unlock the door). It was a sheer fortified relic of sound righteousness - nothing could blemish it. No one could best it. But as he crossed the palace grounds, he noticed a strange and uneasy silence had slithered over the normally bustling court of Odin. The yards were desolate. The amphitheatre, barren. Now that the stillness had really started to bother him, he dragged his feet, hoping to stall his escort in order to get a better look around; to get his bearings on the situation.
"Keep walkin'," The piggy-eyed soldier with the pole axe told him, surprisingly cognizant of his intent. "Don't wanna keep yer old man waiting, do ya?"
Loki narrowed his eyes and said nothing. Perhaps his father had finally found a fitting penance for his son; maybe he meant for Loki to leave with these creatures and serve them as some sort of ward. It seemed unlikely, however, as upon his return to his homeland, few things had gone as he imagined. He'd expected nothing less than a public stoning by his countrymen, yet he'd had his judgement awarded by his surrogate father and mother in a quiet cell, alone. He'd figured Thor would be all over him, trying to cheer him up, or coax him into some sort of tedious brotherly reconciliation; he'd neither seen, nor heard from his brother the entire time he'd been back. Even Thor's idiot friends hadn't come by to jeer at him. He'd almost hoped they would in order to provide him with someone else to insult.
Climbing the stairs to the great hall, still confounded by the odd way in which the morning was progressing, Loki simply steeled himself for the worst - deciding that it was better to be over-prepared, than horribly surprised.
"Ah, here he is. Good morning, little agent of chaos - how do you fare?"
A woman spoke. At least, Loki thought it was a woman, judging by her voice - the rest he couldn't really work out at a glance. If it was a woman, then she was probably one of the least womanly-looking creatures Loki had ever seen - bar some of the female Frost Giants on Jotunheim. Standing at least a head and shoulders taller than his brother, her muscular frame was dripping in heavy, crude armor - all spikes, unfiled rivets and bits of bone- though she moved effortlessly down a few steps toward him, as though she was wearing little more than light robes. A thicket of coarse, dark hair hung down her back and her skin was the colour of volcanic ash. Black eyes regarded him almost jovially, and he caught his reflection in them, relaying his growing unease. Behind her, Odin sat on his throne - his face a mask of displeasure. Several families of the court stood in audience, though they were pressed against the walls of the hall while swarms of guards, similarly attired, forced them into a stunned hush.
So it was an invasion? Loki raised a brow. Well they were certainly quiet about it.
"I asked you a question, boy." The woman spoke again, gesturing lazily toward him. "It would be polite of a prince to answer."
"That would depend on who is asking." Loki answered, evenly. Though she seemed to have caused his father a discomfort of some kind, he didn't actually find her too threatening - not up against some of the other creatures he'd dealt with in the past. She spoke with a fluid tongue - obviously versed in the language of Asgard- but the rest of her was just a base, brutish show. Uninteresting.
She laughed - the sound of it tumbled down her throat like fat bubbles, and scratched idly at a pointed ear, weighted with plain, heavy rings.
"I am asking." She replied. "As one God to another."
"You're a God?" Loki stifled a laugh, looking her over. Giant, perhaps - possibly a demon of some sort, not that he'd tangled with demons very often (they were mostly Midgardian superstition but not a God. Not the way she was acting - she was far too casual. "You expect me to believe that?"
"Are you truly as plain as you look? We are Aesir - we are warriors. Generally when we receive visitors from other realms, they tend to be a little less... pointy." Loki nodded toward her men. "Friendly or otherwise, it is customary to send a forward guard - your generals, perhaps- to negotiate..." He looked her over, curling his lip a little. "... whatever reason might have obliged you to quarrel with us. "
"My generals?" The woman's eyes glinted with amusement, and Loki was reminded similarly of the way the light cut its toes on the edges of his daggers. "My dear child, would you truly think an army like this..." She made a sweeping gesture to the motley rabble below, all of whom glared silently up at the pair. "...even has generals? This haphazard collaboration?"
"So you threaten Asgard with nothing more than a band of brigands?" Loki tried hard not to laugh. He glanced over at his father, his expression lightening - though he did not understand why Odin seemed to have nothing to say. "You would that hoodlums take the throne from my fa- from... from the Allfather?" He choked out the latter part of the sentence awkwardly and cloaked the verbal judderbar that was Odin's paternal kinship with a shaky laugh. He couldn't say it, he hadn't been able to for awhile. "Some God indeed! Have you had your head in the sand for the past thousand or so years, madam, that you are so blithely unaware of the many victories Odin Allfather has won over armies ten times the size of yours?"
"Oh most certainly." She descended a few more steps, standing below him so that they were now face to face - not that Loki was particularly fond of the reposition, even if it did allow him a better look at her. She wasn't hideous in a repulsive sense, but she certainly wasn't very fair on the eyes. Her face was long and squared off at the jaw, accentuating the size of her stern chin. She had a large, straight nose that jutted out from a heavy, creased brow and her deep-set eyes, black - like orbs of polished obsidian- held his gaze easily. When she smiled, which she seemed to do a lot - as if she were constantly riding the climax of a joke- she revealed a mouthful of far too many teeth. Sharp teeth, to boot. "Don't assume I don't know what I'm dealing with, little prince - after all, were I so horrifically unprepared, wouldn't your father have bested me within minutes of my even setting foot on the palace grounds?"
Loki frowned and licked his lips, thoughtfully. She had a point there.
"This menagerie here is little more than just window dressing," She explained. "I just like to have a few fellows about to, well... fill up the space. Absorb the sounds, I suppose. You know... of the screams and whatnot. They're large brutes, they're good for that." She silenced him before he could interject. "Of course whether there is screaming or not is entirely up to whether your dad decides to play ball. Which he isn't, currently - hence the need for your visit."
"He's not my "dad", as you put it." Loki said, automatically, to which Odin gave a slight twitch - the crease in his brow deepening.
"Oh yes, I heard about your little... unveiling - shall we say?" The woman gave a brief snort of amusement, which her army mimicked, and a brief wave of grunting and cawing sailed through the cavernous hall. Loki visibly steamed - were no secrets sacred? Had Odin told her of his heritage out of spite? Insults lined the back of his teeth as his rage began to boil, but the foreigner merely slid close enough that they were nose to nose and narrowed her eyes. "I'd keep a lid on it if I were you, child." She said in a voice so low it was barely above a whisper. "Your secret is safe with me for the time being. But know this: The Winter King Laufey was a friend of mine and I don't take kindly to my friends being obliterated into tiny, charred pieces. Especially not when they owe me a favour."
"A friend of Now Loki was genuinely surprised. Apart from the occasional romp on Midgard from time to time in the past, he hadn't known the Frost Giants to have allies anywhere else in the Nine - except possibly Niflheim, but those Frost giants were of a different family altogether. His true father didn't seem the type to have... friends. Especially not someone like her, if she was indeed what she claimed to be. "Who are you?"
"My name," she said, stepping back a little to engage a small, mocking bow. "... is Navaar. I suspect you have not heard of me. Few have, of course - I like to keep it that way. I'm not a household familiarity like your old man, and that's precisely as I like it. But I am a God, nonetheless, and being a God as I am - as old and established as I am- I get to make sure the young 'uns like your Asgardian lot here doesn't go and stand on other people's toes when they decide to throw their weight around. Understand?"
"Not entirely," Loki replied. "Though it appears you are trying to imply that you have the power to marshall other Gods"
"If the shoe fits..." Navaar cocked a brow. "Yes, I suppose that is what I do. Not all the time, mind, usually I don't get too much bother from the other realms - if they have disagreements, they solve them with wars or treaties, or marriages or what have you. If they stay within the confines of their own universes, then that's dandy. However, if one dog decides to shit on the other dog's lawn... well... that's where things get messy..."
"Oh... that." Loki rolled his eyes. "You're talking about Midgard, aren't you? A little human city gets a bit battered, and suddenly Asgard is inundated by some sort of beastial coup? Is this farce truly necessary?"
"I thought they called you silver-tongued." Navaar hissed at him, her contempt suddenly spiking. "A pity you don't seem to know when to clasp it. The trouble with your 'Midgard' as you call it, is that it stands present at the hub of many other secondary worlds that do not spin within the confines of your given 'Nine'. Which means, in essence, when you fuck with it, you fuck with a whole alphabet of Gods and assorted deities, who would really rather you didn't."
"Certainly not. I have no reason to. If you'd continued destroying Jotunheim, sure, you wouldn't have had too much trouble - despite my tolerance of the Frost Giants. Muspelheim, no one would have blinked; Niflheim - go nuts! But Earth, no. It was bad enough your father ignored the rules and cast his idiot boy out to go and romp with the mortals; when you turned up and declared war, multiworlds went up in arms about it.
"So this is my fault." Loki replied, shortly. He glanced at his foster parents, his jaw tightening. "I should have guessed. Then why not just punish me, if that's what you must do? Why involve Asgard? My actions were obviously not their affair."
"Goodness, where did this sudden virtuosity bloom from?" Navaar snickered. "I'm surprised, Loki! And here I thought you only cared about yourself!"
"Perhaps I don't like to broadcast my failures and reprobation any louder than they already have been." The trickster replied through cemented teeth. "Especially if it they lend to the outbreak of war." Again, he added to himself, acidly.
"Oh come now, I never said I was here for war!" Navaar corrected him. "That's a little much effort, and you're hardly worth it. Nor have I come here to punish you directly, little peacebreaker - that's simply thumbing a bruise already long bloomed. No, it is the Tesseract that I want. That little mystical rubix cube that is the stem of so many problems."
"And let me guess," Loki sighed. "My dear supplementary father won't give it to you."
"Because he fears you're insane and will use it for you own ill ends to open gateways over universes and generally make a mess of things."
"I wouldn't doubt it."
"Yet you seem to think anything I'd say would change his mind?" Loki brayed a sudden, vindictive laugh. "You really don't understand us at all, Navaar of... of..." He made an exasperated gesture and gave up. "You say you are aware of my fate, and yet you don't seem to take into account that I am also a criminal? That you have roused me from a tenuous stint in prison? I killed over a hundred mortals in the space of less than a week - mortals that my keeper seems to adorn with more love than he ever showed me-"
"Loki!" Odin roared all of a sudden, almost snapping into life from the ricochet of his errant son's words. "Do not make this worse!"
"Worse? How can I possibly?" The trickster shook his head, bemused. "What could I honestly say to convince you to-"
Loki stopped short as he was interrupted a second time, and not by another gruff reprimand by his father, nor a jeering comment from the foreigner. This time the God of Mischief was silenced by the cold press of a small, wicked dagger sidling up snugly against his adam's apple. Navaar stood behind him, pressing the blade against his neck and whispered casually:
"Who said you were doing any of the convincing, Laufeyson? All I need for you to do is stand and bleed until your father reveals the location as to where the tesseract is hidden."
"Once again, your ability to underestimate astounds me." Loki rasped back, tightly. "Odin will watch me bleed dry before he'll divulge where that little bauble is. Why, he has even hidden it from his own sorcerers - lest they be tempted to harness its abilities for themselves. Or even worse he cracked a thin, wry smile. "I managed to convince them to do so for me."
"You talk big, liesmith," Navaar purred. "But really, you're just like your brother used to be. Thick as snot with arrogance - you lack humility to humble your pride. Shut up" She pressed the blade in harder when he made to retort. "We no longer require your subtitling the situation. Stand and watch, prince... Learn just how badly you have misjudged everything about everything." Looking up at the Allfather, not once breaking the trajectory of her grin, the foreigner nodded in acknowledgement - almost as though she was tagging him in. "What say you, Odin? Would you like to see what colour your son is on the inside?"
As if on cue, Odin rose from his throne, watched by a particularly nervous-looking Frigga. Well-reigned umbrage sat like a mask over his archaic features and when he spoke, his booming voice was tense and controlled - more so than Loki had ever heard it to be.
"You would that I surrender the tesseract to you?" He said, not yet looking at his son. "To what end? Humor me, Elder God - you have already brought yourself here by your own means, you have managed to magick away half my court-"
"I turned them into gusts of wind," Navaar supplied, almost proudly. "They'll pop back though - it's not an easy spell to keep up for a long period. Let us hope none decide to sail over a cliff or something."
"Therefore, what would you do with a dimensional gateway? It is obvious you are matched in power."
"So are you. And yet here we are." Navaar laughed. "You're naiive, Allfather - I think you've been sitting here at peace in your golden realm too long. Even those scuffles with the Frost Giants haven't done much to stop your blades dulling. I could trade the tesseract. Sell it. Hell, I could gift it to someone, if they proved mischievous enough. The point is not what I would use it for, only that you wouldn't have it. "
"That is simply petty."
"Petty?" She spat. "I'll show you petty!" Without warning, she swiped the dagger away from Loki's throat and brought it down hard on the flesh of his thigh - twisting her fist in the back of his shirt as he screamed in both surprise and pain. In one movement, she'd kicked his feet out from under him and had him thrust backwards against her knees - balancing awkwardly and painfully on the steps. Now, rather than the dagger - which remained lodged in Loki's leg- she held a dark sword against his throat; a long, handsome sabre of a strange, oily black steel. She was fast - he'd barely heard her draw it- and Loki huffed hard against the discomfort, feeling the edge of the blade perpendicular to his trachea. He could smell blood along with the perfume of metal and ozone that the sword seemed to radiate. Lots of blood. Old blood - not just his own, spilled by Navaar's dagger. It was as if the blade had been stained with it and the residue had never truly been wiped away.
"Would it be petty to kill your boy, Allfather? Do you think that might hammer in my point a little more clearly?"
"You wish to ransom Loki for the tesseract?" Odin answered, finally casting his gaze to his adopted child. "You think that I would make that trade? My wicked son?"
Somewhere, deep in the recesses of Loki's heart, something sank. He knew what Odin's answer would be before he'd said the words, but he'd hoped... Part of him that still tried to win his father's favour - the part that still recalled fond memories of games and battles with his brother, that smiled when his mother tried gently to calm his anger, that remembered the warmth of his father's embrace- had hoped that perhaps Odin would do something, anything to stop this woman's madness without getting him involved. Yet he knew better. He had no right to even consider he was worth more than the tesseract, or the trouble it would cause, being out of Odin's stern keep. This was just the perfect opportunity for the Allfather to stage an execution, without really having to bloody his hands. He couldn't have even considered something more convenient. It was perfect... Loki almost had to laugh.
"Yep. Pretty much."
"Then Navaar... Elder God. Traveller. Usurper..." Odin strode forward a few steps, descending until he was but a few feet from the pair. Now, as he looked down at his captive son, there was nothing but sadness in his expression. Loki swallowed hard, preparing for the strike. "It is yours. You may take it."
Wait. What? Loki felt confusion scatter goose pimples over his skin and his heart pounded hard in his chest. Had... Had Odin just said what he thought he'd said; had he really spoken in his son's favour?
"Is that so? You'd really trade something so powerful, for a disappointing, unworthy little brat who is probably going to end up being more than a mere thorn in your paw, Allfather?" The sword was already pulling back from Loki's throat, but Navaar's words cut just as sharply. "He sought to rule Midgard. He made to kill his brother. He staged two invasions, Odin, are we not seeing a pattern yet?"
"They were foolish choices," Odin agreed, sagely. "But not of a fool. Loki is smart, but his emotions rule him and it is my own fault that I haven't seen to guide him as well as I should. I am Aesir, through and through - I have more in common with his brother and that is why it seems that I favour Thor." There was a lightening in his tone, suddenly, though his expression remained granite. "Loki is something I cannot understand as easily - even his magic differs to mine. He has done wrong, I admit, and he will pay for his crimes. But not with his life."
"How fair of you." Navaar replied, snidely.
"Yes," Odin nodded. "I only regret that it will take me so long to find a fitting punishment. Something that will help to smother some of his anger. But for now, I beg you. Let him go. I will lead you to the tesseract and you may do as you wish with it."
The woman said nothing else, but removed her sword, letting Loki stagger to his feet - his eyes locked on his surrogate father. It was all so... so fair. So unimagined. Odin's wrath had been terrible when Thor had merely disobeyed him; Loki was a traitor, a criminal - a killer, to all intents and purposes- and yet Odin still spared him? Forgetting the wound in his leg and the pain that radiated from it, Loki gazed up - finding a weight so heavy in his heart, it caused his eyes to water and his nose prickle terribly. He wet his lips and made to speak, yet he could barely utter a sound, apart from a thin wisp of a word:
"Because you are my son." Odin answered. "Because I have misunderstood you and it has caused you ill."
"I thought you had," Loki admitted. "I said... I mean... He shook his head, fisting the front of his shirt in his hand, like a child. Thor had told him that all the misgivings he'd listed against his family were imagined... had he been right all along?
"I love you, Loki." Odin reached out a hand to help his son climb to his side. With trembling fingers, his breath coming hard against dry lips, Loki took it, moving slowly to the next step as though he was wading through snow. "That is all that matters."
"Father..." Loki began, then halted abruptly - the rest of his sentence curtailed by a sudden shocked gasp as Navaar's sword punched through his body abruptly, piercing him right through from back to front. His body tensed against the pain that had not quite arrived and he froze - his hand still in his fathers slowly rolling his eyes down to see the blood smeared point of the sabre poking out of his belly, a few inches shy of his navel.
"My, that was so terribly endearing," Navaar cooed, twisting the blade just enough to force another scream from the ailing God. "Honestly, Will himself couldn't have played the heartstrings better. But I'm going to have to stop you there. You see, I already know where the tesseract is, Allfather - I just wanted to see how precious it was to you. Now that I've had a bit of light entertainment, I'm starting to get bored." She smirked as Odin made to secure his son - his wide hands grasping at Loki's long shirtsleeves- and laughed again, ruthlessly yanking the sword from the trickster's body. Loki tumbled backward, crashing down the stairs to crumple in a broken heap on the floor below - a splattered trail of blood marking his descent. Roaring in utter, blind rage, Odin descended upon the woman, only to find himself thrust backwards as she swung the blade at him, shearing a good chunk off his beard and breastplate and consequently shocking him into silence.
"Try that again and I won't think twice about seeking out your other boy to have him run through as well." She warned. "I regret misleading you, yet I'm afraid I've been paid very well by an anonymous benefactor who wished to have Loki suffer for ruining a very old and very established mystic area of New York. There were relics underneath that city that had lasted for thousands of years - temples of worship and glades where certain types of spells could only ever be successfully performed, and they were all ruined by a bloody great Chitauri sky beast crushing them! Millennia of tribute and knowledge were lost- Mages were spitting sparks left, right and center! Be glad Loki's life is all they asked for!" She made a cursory wave at a few of her men, and drew her sword back, sheathing it smoothly without even bothering to shake the blood from the blade. "Dump the body outside - let the birds take care of it. A pyre is not for him."
"You cannot!" Frigga cried, angrily. "He must-"
"As for you Navaar interrupted the Queen, jabbing a clawed finger at Odin. "Come, guide me to the tesseract anyway - I want you to hand it to me. Nice to be official and whatnot, don't you think?"
Odin might have said something to that, but Loki did not hear it. As the stinking, hairy monsters took his arms and dragged him from the throne room, Loki knew very little else but the sensation of the smooth, cold marble against his back and the red warmth of the blood leaving his body. By the time they'd left him, unceremoniously dumped out the back of the palace along with the filth and the rubbish, Loki was finding that his fingertips could no longer hold any sensation and his thoughts were filled with an unwanted buzzing that hindered his mind as he forced the cogs to turn, to pull out some kind of escape plan - even it were his last. Gasping, he managed to pull himself up and, cursing his shaking limbs, slowly rose to his feet. From the waist down, he was nothing but a barrage of pain - yet he could still move, and that was definitely something. He was wounded, badly - and without help soon, without healing stones or suchlike, he would find himself in a very undesirable position indeed. But he was also a God, and it wasn't as if he didn't have a few deep battle scars of his own. He'd managed to drag himself to safety from the field before; this was no different.
Wobbling, weak and gasping with each tormented step, Loki managed to force himself into a unique gait that was part tottering, part falling into the surrounding walls of the refuse yard until he'd managed to make his way out of the palace grounds through a tiny service gate that led to the rocky outcrops beneath the city. Thor wasn't on Asgard - that much he knew. If he had been, Navaar probably would have threatened him instead - much to the amusement of all. It was a shame, Mjolnir would have definitely enjoyed cracking the skulls of that ugly lot, but it was possibly better this way. Loki counted on his brother to be somewhere in which he could contact him - far enough that Navaar would not realize he still lived. Then, if he appealed to Thor's better nature perhaps, they could devise some sort of plan to eradicate Asgard's unwanted visitor, and reclaim the tesseract for Odin. Loki knew it wasn't really like him to act so valiantly - the idea that he might rely on Thor to aid him certainly chafed- but he had few choices. He'd die without help, and he didn't want to so justyet. Besides, Odin had granted him favour in light of all his mistakes, and that was something the Allfather never did. He had to honour that.
Staggering along a narrow goat track, Loki stopped suddenly in front of a narrow cave and glanced about, warily. It was true that Asgard had been hindered by the loss of the bifrost, but Loki had always known the other secret ways in and out of his world to the others. Some had to be opened by his own magic, some - the older, less reliable ones- merely needed the right words to be spoken before the portal, for they remained open, always, and retained a magic of their own. Loki was not quite sure why and he'd never been quite brave enough to ask, fearing that case someone might decide to close them, and shut off his secret pathways and hiding places forever. However, he was still fairly sure Heimdall might have seen them from time to time, and as he stood before the shallow opening - his face ashen and his tunic stained with blood- it was all he could to look over toward the guard house at the hub of the splintered bifrost and offer his watcher a faint smile.
"Hide your eyes, Guardian," He whispered, not really knowing if Heimdall even stood at his post, or if he too had become a zephyr like the rest of Asgard. "Do not see me go. For if you do, she will too, I am sure of it. I will find my brother - I promise. I will fix this."
Then he murmured a few words and disappeared into the darkness with nothing but the click like the fine gears of a clock as one world connected and collected from the other.