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On the Eagle's Wings

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1

Loki Brother,

I thought of this today for the first time in years. Our secret runes, the ones you invented long ago so that we could write to each other and none should be able to read what we had written. I have no doubt you remember, if it has stayed with me, however deeply buried. I notice now what a clever device it is.

There is no reason to let it go to waste now, is there, brother?

Perhaps there is little that escapes the eye of Heimdall, but secrets speed on the eagle’s wings. And perhaps my words will find you. May they find you well.

--Thor

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4

Brother,

Much has occurred already in your absence. Not all is pleasant. There has been much discussion of the sort you were always so fond of turning on its head, much ceremony that made me wish for you beside me to prove its swollen solemnity foolish.

But I suffered through, however much I’d have welcomed your mischief. I have been assured that the worlds will go on.

Mother misses you.

--Thor

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11

Brother,

I am ill at ease today. I slept poorly this night, all the shadows of my chambers turning into unquiet dreams behind my eyes when at last I closed them. I dreamed of an endless plain of stars, all empty and silent, streaming past me until it seemed I couldn’t breathe, and each was a fragment of adamant, slicing at me until my blood froze out in the…

I’m sorry. I remember once you told me that it is self-indulgent to speak of one’s own dreams, which are of little interest to others (excepting the dreams of those with the gift of prophesy, of course, but that gift is not one of mine) and thus I beg your forgiveness.

I would eagerly listen to each word from you instead, of even the dullest news. If only I could.

--Thor

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13

Brother,

I have kept my promise; I will no longer speak only of myself in these missives. I have seen our friends--surely their tidings will help to thin out the concentration of mine, though I will be brief now, for my hand is unsteady and my head is spinning.

We drank, I drank perhaps too much.

But yes! Tidings of our friends. Sif is well. Volstagg’s young Hilde is a year older today. Fandral has fully healed from his injuries, and still credits your hand for the knife that saved him from a worse fate. We happened also to see Bragi, who claims to be composing verse celebrating your feats.

No one dishonors your name.

Forgive me, brother. I must lay aside the pen. The worlds are spinning.

--Thor

Brother did you know that the worlds are truly spinning? You must know that, spinning, spinning faster, and brother... brother...

I do not address these letters to you by name, do you know why I do not? it is the same reason that... I thought someone called your name in the corridor today and I turned so quickly but you were not there

worlds spinning more now.

it hurts

brother, my brother, my brother, my L—

If I said it, if I wrote it, would...

maybe if I did you would feel it and

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14

Brother,

There was a small bottle of elvish brandy hidden behind one of the trinkets that, as you always said, take the place of books on my shelves. I discovered it anew last night; I had forgotten I brought that gift for you after my last visit to that realm. I will replace it.

--Thor

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29

Brother,

Work has commenced to repair the Bifrost. I have put my hammer to better use in the task. Some of the others who toil at that labor look at me as if I am impatient to have it finished so that I can return to Midgard.

But it is because of me that the bridge is broken. It is fitting that I help to fix what I have caused.

Before I did it, you warned me that I would not see her again if I shattered it. But I could not see you become something I know you were not meant to be. What could anything else matter, in the face of that?

Mother and Father have told me of what they kept from the both of us while we grew together as brothers.

I wish I could believe that you never feared, even for one moment, what I would think when I discovered that truth.

--Thor

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42

Brother,

Tonight I will not write much.

Due to their profusion, I have taken to leaving these letters in your chambers, in the box beneath your bed. None enter there now; only Mother and I have been within those doors since you departed. (Father has stood in the doorway, but he was quickly overcome with weariness and came no further. These times have been trying for all our family.)

Nothing has been removed. Nothing has been taken from there. It pleases me to know that in that place, I can stand in the silence and see around me things that remind me of you and imagine that you will be there when I turn around, with a laugh that I would go to all this trouble. That I am such a slave to sentiment.

I will wait a few days before bringing this most recent batch of letters there, I think.

--Thor

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77

Brother,

Why did you let go?

--Thor

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96

Loki,

You tried to renounce brotherhood with me, just before… just before.

I remember also how we once promised that we would be kings together. You swore it, just as I did.

Both things cannot be true. Thus I name you a liar until you come and make me take back the words. Make me choke upon them, brother.

--Thor

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101

Brother,

I wish you could tell me why you could not forgive me. Was I so terrible to you? Had I hurt you that deeply? And if it was so, why did you say nothing to me when I could have still been forgiven?

Why did you wait so long to wound me in return? I would have bled freely.

But I know you, brother. I ask these questions but I already know; I am not the blind ogre you believe me to be, even if it takes me longer to find the words, even if I have chewed apart several quills for this letter. I have known you since you were small enough to crave company when the thunder tore apart the blackened sky. I have known you since before jealousy drove you to take the shear of a blade to Sif’s blonde hair. I have known you since the time when you still smiled more for the sake of your own joy than for the benefit of those who saw its sharp, cruel, perfect gleam.

You did not let me win your forgiveness because you did not want to give it, because you liked the feel of the hurt when it was given.

But you must know I would still bleed if you asked.

--Thor

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152

Brother,

Secrets speed on the wings of eagles. Ratatosk will deliver these to the serpent’s drumskin ears, there to be taken far underground and buried, with all the other pale corpses.

Had Father not had ahold of me, I would have plunged after you into the abyss, for the chance that the last thing I might feel would be your hand in mine.

I love you, brother.

If an otter catches a fish in the lake and tears the cold innards out with its long brown claws before it consumes the flesh, the fish would not feel as hollow as I feel now.

If I had you here with me, I would not be able to resist kissing you, embracing you until you gave in.

--Thor

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157

Brother,

You are beyond Heimdall’s sight. I have asked Mother if she has seen aught of you in her weavings. I have begged Father to let me seek you, even if you are in the realm of Hel.

Wherever you are, I will find you. Give me time, brother. They will give in sooner or later. One will tell me where to begin, or I will go further afield to find answers.

--Thor

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164

Brother,

I have sought the Norns. I wish you had been there with me.

The mark has healed over now. It is a pale pattern on my chest, another on my back just beneath one shoulder blade, a projection from the heart to its shadow, as if I’d been shot through.

One of them laughed at me. (Don’t you think he would have returned to you on his own, if he wanted you? Don’t you think he would have held on for dear life if the sight of your face above him did not snag in his heart like a fishhook, tearing out everything tender and good and leaving nothing but dark bile? Don’t you think he left you for a reason?)

One wept. (Don’t you think he is happier dead? You told him you loved him, but not so near as often as you showed him otherwise. Let him go. Let him go. He is gone where you can’t touch him. He is cold and alone and naked in a plain of sharp and cutting glass, and eventually he will heal. Without you.)

One bared teeth like a wolf’s and extended her withered hand to carve her message in me. (So you’d have him back, willful child? Would you? Would you drag him back into the worlds, for your benefit, so you can hold him again? Well, if he will return to you, let him have you. It’s not our business to keep you creatures from reaching out your hands into the flames.)

I bled for you, brother.

I study the intricate marks in the mirror, for I am uncertain if they shift or if I simply cannot see them clearly. The one on my chest feels strange under my fingers. On my back it is in the one spot I cannot quite touch.

I sat all day today upon the bed, wrapped in a fur cloak I found among your belongings. I hope you do not mind.

There is a chill in my bones.

--Thor

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175

Brother,

The healers tell me I have been delirious for over a week. Without success, I have looked about for any scraps of paper I might have left with messages for you, for it is now such a habit I cannot imagine I allowed a day to pass without even a word to you. Of course no one else could read them if they were found. But I would like to have them all there for you, well-ordered and prepared, when you return. I know how you dislike untidiness in your own things, just as much as you enjoy creating chaos in the affairs of others.

I have just noticed one of the healer women watching me strangely. They believe this is some madness in me.

Brother, I think I will smile at her, and explain that I know how I seem. I will beg her indulgence; I will charm her, for am I not the brother of Loki, and have I not watched you at work often enough to know how to put a sheen of silver on my words, when I am pressed to do it? In the end she will nod and find it touching, this loyalty between brothers. She will smile and keep my secret.

And secrets speed on the eagle’s wings.

--Thor

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183

Brother,

Still I wait. I know the marks will burn when it is time to seek you, and I will follow, I will be pulled closer by the flare of pain.

Some days I feel nearly as if nothing has happened, as if you might stroll around the corner, engrossed in some unimportant thought, and barely notice my look of surprise.

Some days I wonder if I haven’t been mistaken all this time.

You are merely gone. You let go. You looked into my eyes and let go.

You died.

You are nowhere that I can seek you, and nowhere from which you can return.

I have chosen not to accept it. I have chosen to believe you could survive such a fall. I have chosen to believe I will see you again.

Perhaps neither of us is wise.

--Thor

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222

Brother,

Father spoke to me today. He told me what he intends. When I have finished mourning you and call myself ready, I will be King.

His ravens made raven noises as Father told me this. Tapping and tokking and cackling to each other, the pair of them, as I stood there alone before the dais, as if I should have ever stood there alone.

My face felt hot and my hands felt cold as ice.

--Thor

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223

Brother,

I spoke to Father again.

I will explain some other day.

--Thor

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319

Brother,

Tonight I slept under the stars, avoiding nightmares. Line curled by my bed, shining hooks cleaned, the folded net still wet and clinging with silvery-blue scales.

We were just here when, so long ago, we spent that night that we never again spoke of. We were far too old to lie so entwined and have it mean nothing more than childish affection. But your hand curled below my ear, your thumb against my neck. Your knee across my legs. My arm around your shoulders, my fingers in your hair.

You whispered the names of all the stars above us. Each shape they made. You told me stories, tales I have never forgotten. The three sisters and the spear. The gem inside the head of the living toad that turns to lead when it is extracted with an ounce of pain. The changeling child.

Before dawn came, in the moment of the deepest chill, I felt your breath so warm at the edge of my mouth that I can barely think of it now without disgracing myself.

And there is no one here to see.

--Thor

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354

Brother,

I have been thinking of your knives. I know all the places you hide them on your body. I know that the one I had made for you, the one with the curled snake upon its hilt, its eyes flecks of emerald, has its home in the warm slot between arm and chest, tight against you in its hilt. The quickest to your hand in the worst case, bowled over, thrown, pinned down and flailing against fang and claw and massive force. The one that might save you in direst need.

I know how sharp you keep it.

Before I gave it to you, I tested it upon myself. See, this thin white scar here.

In my dreams, you trace your fingers along the pale line of it as we lie together. As you press atop me, smiling the true smile that is no less cruel for that. I don’t care; if you wanted to make new cuts to prove it, to taste my regret and the depth of loss I’ve felt without you, I would welcome it. Sometimes, in my dreams, you do.

I know, brother. It is self-indulgent to speak of things I’ve dreamed.

--Thor

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365

Brother,

Lifetimes have passed.

Please come home.

I would do anything.

--Thor

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Loki sits on the cold stone of his floor, surrounded by folded pieces of paper. His mouth is sore from the gag only recently removed. His wrists are chafed red from the chains. He plucks envelope after envelope out of the box, choosing at random. His eyes scan through each selection, rapid, motions jerky and forceful and violent, before hurling them aside.

He only stops when Thor bursts through the doors, eyes wide in an expression of horror, shame sinking him under the waters of a frozen sea. He has been caught, exposed. Worse: he had never truly believed that Loki would read those letters. Loki watches something in him die at the realization. But Thor doesn’t turn away, nor try to hide his face in his hands or quash his low gasp as Loki’s eyes meet his. He seems determined to face whatever comes.

Loki beckons him, and as Thor approaches he brings out the blade Thor once gave him, emerald eyes gleaming in the firelight.

Thor’s head is low, and he lets Loki pull him to his knees.

Loki cuts away the cloth from his shoulders, his back. Kneels behind him. Traces his fingers along the shadow-marked skin.

Thor’s blood smears across Loki’s chest as he wraps his arms around him from behind. He touches the most recent puncture he put there, and he can almost feel the sting of it. He traces the old white scar, rubs across the tangled darkness. Wound upon wound upon wound. All still fresh.

He likes the feel of the hurt as it is given. As it washes through them both.

“I never told you how the tale of the changeling child ended, brother,” he whispers, hoarse from far too long without words, and he feels Thor stop breathing in his embrace.

They are alone in this place. The sole center of light in all the realms, stars spinning and falling away around them. Everything else is darkness. He shuts his eyes and sighs with it.

His fingertips press against his brother’s sternum, to feel the flesh knitting together again as if it had never been torn apart.

He feels the thrum of Thor’s heart as he puts his lips to the pulse of it in his neck.

“He flew home upon the eagle’s wings.”