If the guards in Valhalla knew anything, it was when to look straight ahead with perfect apathy. They were far too used to Thor’s rages and Loki’s antics to show too much interest in an Asgardian when he, or she in this case, was in a mood. The woman walking down the halls to Odin’s throne was never more grateful for the guards than on this day, when the last thing she needed were stares that made one paranoid. And she had reason enough to paranoid, certainly.
She had to actively fight the urge to turn around and return home, to come to Odin the next day and tell him she got lost but everything was alright and the message was delivered and no, no, sir, no one was hurt, no one at all -- but she was above such cowardice. She would tell him the truth… and she would accept the consequences sure to follow. She didn’t need the Allfather’s word to tell her she deserved his worst punishment. Finally she beat the urge to run into submission, and her gait elongated with her resolve. The quicker the better.
She had seen men walk to their executions many times before, and she couldn’t imagine that she looked much different than any one of them did. This was mainly what made her so grateful for apathetic guards. Any Asgardian that saw her would surely know what she did -- or at least what was about to happen to her -- from but a glance. She dreaded to think that Odin’s sons, or the “Warriors Three,” or any friends of her father might see her. They couldn’t know. She couldn’t let them know. Let Odin punish her in whatever way he chose, so long as no one else had to see the blood on her hands.
When the endless hall finally concluded in the doors to Odin’s throne room, she stopped and took a small moment to breath. Perhaps, she thought, if I don’t dwell too long on my fate, then it will be as if waking from a calm dream once my punishment is administered. Her next thought was simply to open the door, and then she was facing Odin.
Thor and Loki stood between her and her destination, arguing about some trivial political issue that Odin quickly waved away. Apologies were made, and then some idle conversation started up, and she could wait no longer lest her nerve dry up and leave her a coward.
“Excuse my interruption, Allfather,” she called, kneeling and laying her fist over her heart. She stood when he nodded and approached the throne as his sons stepped back and turned to see her. She looked only at Odin. “I wish to speak with you alone, sir.”
He nodded again but this time at his two sons, who both bowed, stared at their companion, and then left. “I trust my message was delivered safely,” Odin stated.
“Yes, sir,” she said, her voice quieter than his. She swallowed.
“And I trust that nothing went awry, Svala,” he said, raising a brow at her.
“I cannot… truthfully agree with that statement, Allfather,” she admitted.
Odin waited patiently for her to continue, though he had leaned forward in his throne as if ready to lash out at her as soon as she spoke a word he did not like.
She bowed her head. “Upon entering Jotunheim, three of its warriors approached me and asked of me my purpose in being there. I told them I had a message from the Allfather meant for Laufey’s ears only, and they scoffed at me but let me pass. Thinking the occurrence strange but nothing more than that, I continued on to Laufey and delivered your message. He accepted the news and I went back the way I came, but again the three Jotun warriors stood in my way.” She swallowed. “You know I am not naturally fearful, Allfather, but they had put me on edge, and when one of them moved a hair in my direction -- I was suddenly upon them. I… killed them, and then, before any more might come after me, I hurried through the Bifrost and came straight to you.”
Odin did not speak, but nor did he lash out at her or make any move towards her at all. Instead he sat back in his throne.
“I do not claim to have had a moment of madness, or to have been under some other influence, my king,” she said quietly. “I know what I did, and I know I only did it out of fear. Allfather, I’ve… caused death so many times before, but never… never like this. Never in cold blood.” She opened her mouth to apologize, but the words refused to come out. This had to be the last straw -- he knew how many men he’d lost, died so that he message might be delivered, and save the rest of them. He wouldn’t take another crime of hers. She closed her mouth again and waited for him to speak.
“If Laufey accepted the news, there would be no reason to send his warriors to block your path,” said Odin. “He must know that they were rogues bent on harassing whatever soul came their way, and so would not mourn their deaths. I cannot say your actions were noble, but nor were they particularly harmful. Put your concerns to rest.”
Svala turned her eyes to his in disbelief. “You… you won’t punish me?”
“I will not,” he said. “I’ve no reason to punish you for cautionary, though foolish, actions.”
She floundered for words for a moment, before deciding on, “But, Allfather, I have committed murder when you told me specifically to do naught but deliver your message. I have committed murder though my oath is to keep the peace in peace times. I have--”
He held up a hand to stop her speaking. “I understand your guilt, Svala, but it has no foundation now. I will tell you once more to put your concerns to rest.”
“My word is final!” he thundered. She listened to the room echo back his powerful voice, and set her jaw shut tight. “To beg for punishment is a form of weakness, daughter of Volund. You will leave, now.”
She knelt and laid her fist across her breast, before turning in a flutter of her scarf and leaving the throne room. The doors shut loudly behind her, and she stood staring into the hall for an interminable amount of time. Her guilt, coupled with a sense of incredulousness, swirled in her gut like a burning whirlpool. She knew she was right. She had murdered innocent beings. “Murdered,” she whispered to herself, feeling the consonants stab her insides like knives. She deserved so much worse.
It wasn’t until a minute of silence had passed that she realized there had been men’s voices down the hall, carrying on a small conversation while she had settled into her own head. Her eyes traveled upwards from the floor to find Odin’s boys staring at her in confusion.
Loki spoke first, turning his body towards her. “Are you all right, Svala? You look pale.”
She stood up straight from where she had been leaning on the doors behind her. She didn’t reply immediately, so Thor filled the silence with another question.
“Is father unhappy with you?” He gave half of an understanding smirk. “I’ve seen that look before…”
“No,” she choked out, and then cleared her throat as a means to settle her shaken nerves. “No, he’s perfectly content.” And before they could ask any more of her, she walked swiftly past them, back down the hall. She did not note her more confident gait, or her clenched fists, and she did not know where she intended to go -- all that mattered was that she was out of Odin’s home and breathing fresh air again. Out of the hallway and halfway to the gardens outside, Loki appeared suddenly beside her, walking in tandem with her steps.
“Thor may be thick enough not to make the distinction, but I can tell when things are not well with you,” he informed her. When she didn’t respond, he started smoothly, “It’s not really my place to ask--”
“Then please don’t, Loki,” she pleaded. Her intentions to sound threatening did not translate well in her subconscious, and he instantly picked up on the waver in her tone.
“Just tell me what troubles you,” he said.
She shook her head, and swung the doors to the gardens open once she reached them. He followed her still when she stopped and sat on a stone bench in the outer rows of trees and flowers. He took the spot next to her, his face outlined by the green plants behind him.
“I implore you to tell me, Svala,” he said, watching her closely.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“You think I don’t care about you, but you’re mistaken. It is important.”
“Of course it’s important, but it does not matter!”
His brow furrowed. “You’re not making sense, my friend.”
She laid her head in her hand. There was a contrast that she did not miss between the sweetness of the floral smells about her and the sickening whirling in her middle, between the beautiful bright daylight and the scene replaying itself over and over in her head -- the blood on her blade, on her hands, the mess of limbs at her feet, the stained snow. The images began to mix all together -- Loki’s face in her mind was turning blue and red -- and before she could stop herself, she was speaking. “I have done something terrible, Loki.” She could hear the red snow crunching in her head at the same time that she could hear her companion breathing normally beside her. He looked upon her with a concern that kept her speaking. “Something worthy of banishment.”
His eyes widened as he started. “Banishment? Svala, surely you are exaggerating--”
She shook her head and his voice stuck in his throat.
He cleared it after a long moment, and she turned her eyes to his. He seemed to read the deed in her expression, though she knew he had no idea. “There must be way to -- to make father reconsider. No deed could be worthy of such a punishment.”
She shook her head again, effectively keeping the tears from coming. “I know I deserve it, Loki.”
“No,” he said, incredulous. “No, I’ll speak to father--”
She grabbed the edges of his armor when he made to rise and kept him sitting next to her. “No, please just -- I shall speak to him myself. Tomorrow. After he’s had time to… to lose his anger, and rest.” She removed her hands from him. “I do not want you involved in this mess of mine. I never should have mentioned any of it.”
“Just,” she interrupted, “let me go and sleep. I will speak to him anew in the morning. Don’t you worry.”
He watched her warily, but nodded after a moment. She stood from the bench and sent him a parting glance, hoping that it would suffice.
He watched her go.
Midgard was a difficult realm to adapt to. There were written laws to follow -- hundreds of them -- and unwritten laws that seemed to draw even more attention when broken than the written ones. A small flounder in Asgard equated a large incident in Midgard, and what an Asgardian accepted as normal and amusing, Midgard deemed freakish and shocking. And that was only one of the unwritten laws.
It only took a few days to learn these things, regardless, and soon surviving amongst the mortals became a little simpler, once one simple rule had been introduced: do as the mortals do. But a few days was too long a line of incidents for certain peace-keeping groups to overlook. It seemed that as soon as Svala figured out how to blend in, they found her. And they took her. And they kept her in a small metal room until one of their leaders came to interrogate her.
They called themselves SHIELD -- quiet protectors of their realm who, though individually weak, were a force to be reckoned with all together. A man who called himself Agent Kirkland told her as much, as well as revealed that they were not necessarily warriors however, as she had assumed. “Protectors is the easiest way to put it,” he told her. They did not involve themselves in battles or wars unless special skills were needed -- which is why, he told her, the current world war was going by so slowly.
“But we both know I’m not here to introduce ourselves to you,” he said, bending at the middle to lean on the table she sat at.
He shook his head. “No, we’d rather you introduce yourself to us.”
She broke eye contact and did not answer. Even having left Asgard behind, she felt a sense of duty in not betraying anything about her people to these mortals that did not even believe they existed; not even that anything other than rocks and dust existed outside of their world. Whatever she thought of Odin, or of any of her Asgardian companions, she still couldn’t help but want to keep them safe in any way possible.
“Who are you?” asked Agent Kirkland, stooping further over the table as if to catch her eyes again.
She granted him eye contact but denied him a response once more.
He sighed slightly. “You need to understand that any individual who can disappear in a puff of smoke in the middle of a waffle house, or who wields a weapon that cuts through stone in one swing, or threatens a simple man’s well-being when he oggles her backside by twisting his arm behind his back, is an individual that poses a potential threat to other people and must be approached and contained. Do you understand?”
“I suppose,” she mumbled, attempting to just go along with whatever the man was saying.
“See, I don’t think you do,” he said. She sighed, making a note to keep working on being a Midgardian. “I don’t think you understand much at all.”
She leaned forward in her seat and tilted her head forward at the insult.
He laughed. “No, no, I’m sure your sharp as a needle,” he quipped, “but I said the word Germany a minute ago and you had no idea what I was talking about. That’s a little strange to me, you see. You speak better English than I do, and yet you haven’t a clue what Germany is? That right there says something’s not right.” He pointed at her for emphasis and then stood up straight to pace in front of her. “I was told that when we took you here in the car, you were staring at it as if it were some sort of alien technology. Not only that, but we have witnesses who report you to have worn some sort of strange, foreign armor when you first arrived here. It’d be easy enough to say that you’re just a foreigner, from a country so remote that Germany is never mentioned, but none of it adds up. So either you’re playing an extremely elaborate prank, or… what?”
She watched him pace.
He stopped, almost as if to spite her. “I’ll ask again: who are you?”
After a moment, she figured that her identity alone couldn’t possibly put Asgard in danger, and sighed. “My name is Svala, daughter of Volund,” she told him.
Agent Kirkland’s brow shot up. “Are you Norwegian? Icelandic? Swedish?”
She shook her head slowly, but did not correct him. Her realm was a myth to humans, but a myth that could be recognizable to any one of them. If Kirkland didn’t believe her and then start storming the gates of Valhalla, he might think her mad and cast her in a dungeon; neither situation was terribly appealing to her.
“You know, the army treats potential threats as immediate threats. They don’t interrogate. They just shoot the offending party,” he explained, crossing his arms across his chest. “I’d only need to send off a short message and make a few phone calls to get you transferred into their jurisdiction. Because the way I see it, if I can’t get your identity out of you, you’re as good as an immediate threat to the safety of society.”
“My heritage is damning,” she muttered. “Either you won’t believe me, or you’ll compromise my people.”
“I’m not going to attack your country simply because you tell me that’s where you’re from,” he chuckled.
“Fair enough,” she said, “but the other possibility isn’t much better.”
“Think of it this way,” he said. “There’s your option, where I don’t believe you and think you’re nuts and send you to the funny farm, or there’s my option, where you get shot by a soldier at point blank range.”
Could Asgard even be compromised by a mortal race? Now that she really thought about it, it seemed ridiculous. She took a moment to figure out whether she was being logical or just selfish, and then ultimately decided that the bare minimum couldn’t hurt. For them to even dream of storming Asgard, they’d need control of the Bifrost first -- the first disadvantage of a list of impossibilities she found piled against them. Yet, nevertheless, she would only give them the information they needed, and honor her home by keeping everything else secret. It seemed her best option.
“I’m not so sure that your weapons can kill me, Agent Kirkland,” she said. When he raised his brow, she continued. “But as I’d rather not test my own statement, I’ll… tell you what I can. Just trust me when I say I’m perfectly sane.”
He smirked and nodded, then took the seat across from her.
“I come from Asgard.”
“Yes. The realm eternal. Under the Allfather’s rule.”
“The Allfather -- meaning… Odin.”
“Yes, father of--”
“--Thor, god of thunder?”
“…Yes. I assume you know enough about it all that I won’t have to tell you much.”
He swallowed and stared at her incredulously. “You mean to tell me that you’re some goddess from Norse mythology come down from Asgard, the, uh, Norse heaven.”
“In a way, yes,” she told him.
“‘In a way’?”
“It’s real. I assure you it’s not mythology, but I’m aware that Midgard has been under that impression for some time now.”
“…Right.” He leaned back, not quite believing but certainly not thinking her insane. “Fair enough. Then… tell me why you’re here. On Midgard.”
“I…” she started. The words didn’t want to come out, but she forced them anyway. “I was banished here by the Allfather.”
She hung her head and focused on pushing the images out. “I committed a crime that he found unacceptable. It… was a misunderstanding of sorts, but a terrible crime all the same.”
“A misunderstanding, huh?”
She smiled slightly. “I assure you, Agent Kirkland, that it is not a crime I intend to commit again, especially not while I am stuck here. I have your race’s interests in mind, as you phrased it earlier.”
“…You know that I will relay all of this to my superiors,” he said. She nodded. “And you understand that if you really are some foreign race from another realm that we can’t simply let you roam the streets of Manhattan -- that we’d have to keep you under our custody.”
She nodded, hesitantly this time, but spoke. “I will do whatever needs to be done.”
He nodded back and stood. “We’ll see about that.”
It was only once they were a mile out of their destination that Svala -- or Sarah Volson, which was decided to be her Midgardian name -- decided to break the silence she had so thoroughly enjoyed the last hundred miles. She knew that she needed to be on good terms with her new supervisor and that failing to acknowledge his existence was a bad way to go about doing so. So she turned to Agent Coulson. “Have you ever seen a mission like this before, Agent?”
“Uh, no,” he replied after a moment. He had been staring out at the New Mexico dirt, and it took a minute for his eyes to adjust from the sunlight to the darkened inside of the van. “Have you?”
“Kind of,” she allowed.
He regarded her with a mild smirk that she’d seen him use before. “Fury did tell me that you were… ‘specially equipped’ for this situation. Didn’t say how, though.”
“Hm,” she said, but knew it wouldn’t suffice without rousing suspicion, and wasn’t sure what Fury wanted the agent to know. “I’m well acquainted with certain aspects of the situation -- the… science part, I suppose. The situation itself, I’ll admit, is a bit newer to me.”
“I’d hope so,” said Coulson. “It’s not exactly a normal occurrence for men to rain from the sky during a thunderstorm.”
She laughed. “No, it’s certainly not.”
The conversation continued on, turning from the mission itself to strange missions they had seen in the past, until they arrived at the crater. The van pulled up behind the other SHIELD car, which was parked some yards from the crater. Dozens of local men had also come to marvel at the mysterious metal hammer stuck into the ground at the center. According to SHIELD’s data, the hammer had fallen during the same thunderstorm the man had fallen through, though he was a bit harder to find.
They spent the day eradicating the locals and setting up a site around the hammer to figure out what it was and what it was doing there, why it was stuck and why it was giving off strange levels of electric energy. Upon hearing about the local scientists studying odd weather patterns, Coulson and a few of the other agents went to confiscate their research on Fury’s orders. Agent Volson kept a post at the crater site, supervising the scientists and filling Fury (or his assistants) in over the phone about what they found.
And though she presented herself as merely another interested agent doing what she was told, on the inside it was all she could do not to panic or run away or look for the hammer’s owner herself. Even after seventy years of estrangement from her home, she couldn’t forget Mjolnir. Nor could she forget the man she knew must have come down with it.
The very man that infiltrated their base that night.
She knew as soon as the alarm started that Thor had come for what rightfully belonged to him. He picked his way through their best fighters, and when she wasn’t given any order to fight him herself, she removed herself from the battlefield and waited to see what the others would do. She saw Clint Barton poised to strike on the lift when Thor had supposedly reached his destination, and immediately called Coulson on her headset.
“Wait!” she told him firmly. “Tell Barton to wait. Let’s see what he does.”
“You sure that’s a good idea?” came his voice through the set.
“He only wants to get to the hammer. What harm could he do to it? Just hold off.”
She saw Barton pull his arrow further back. Then Coulson’s voice came through. “Fine,” he said, and Barton waited.
After a moment, she heard Thor’s anguished cry and wondered at the fact that even Mjolnir’s owner couldn’t pull it free. It must have been Odin’s doing -- all of it. But why? Barton stood down, and she heard Coulson order the mystery man into custody somewhere across the camp. Thor didn’t fight back now.
They sat him in a glass room for interrogation, a parallel, she thought, to what they had done upon finding her. The only differences being that her room had been metal, and she hadn’t just broken into a government-powered investigative base and fought through a dozen of their strongest men. As Coulson questioned him and received not a single answer for his efforts, she phoned Nick Fury and filled him in once more.
“I’ve already been sent the tapes,” he told her. She could make out the irritation in his voice. “And I’m already sure you must know something about all of this.”
She thought for a moment and decided again on the bare minimum. “He is from my realm,” she started. “He’s the son of the Allfather. And despite what his accomplices -- if he has any -- will probably tell you, his name is Thor. The hammer belongs to him, but I assume something happened to infuriate Odin because now he can’t wield it, and without it, he’s as stuck here as I am.”
“Is he dangerous?” asked Fury.
“The only thing really important to him is himself, so he works on his own agenda,” she said with a wry smile. “But beyond that, no.”
“Sounds dangerous enough to me.”
“Look, I’d rather not have to face him, or else he’d recognize me, but if he needs to be stopped then you have my word that I will be the one to do it.”
“Good. Did he come alone?”
“As far as I know.”
“Make that a definitive answer. And while you’re at it, find out what the hell he’s doing here.”
He hung up on her then, but she nodded anyways and put the phone away. She knew from his actions tonight that he wasn’t there for her, and probably had no idea she was on Midgard in the first place, but nevertheless his presence made her uneasy. What if more Asgardians came looking for him? If Odin had banished him, as it very well appeared, then surely his brother and his companions would be making every effort to bring him back.
And what happened when they found her? Would they leave her be if she convinced them she was content on Earth, or would they drag her back to a realm she couldn’t bear to dwell in? Would they understand why she left if she told them what she had done? Would they want her to remain in exile then? It wasn’t even that she was still blinded by her deed, because she wasn’t -- she knew why Odin hadn’t felt the need to punish her for it -- but Jotun or not, there was still blood on her hands, and until she felt that she had paid her debt for that, she wanted nothing to do with Asgard.
If Thor was followed by more of their kind and they found her, then she would turn them away. She would do whatever it took to get them out of Midgard and away from her.
Coulson came out of the interrogation room then, wearing an air of apathy.
“Did he tell you anything?” she asked.
“Nope,” he said. “But he will soon enough.”
She scoffed when he was out of earshot and turned to watch Thor, thinking he looked very much like a sort of fallen angel. She remembered him in Asgard, strong, proud, glorious, and confident; and she saw him now, defeated, broken, dirtied, and confused. Even the hair that she remembered as gold seemed lined with a silver shade that didn’t belong on him. Then she really looked at him. He was talking to thin air, brow crossed, saying some small sentence she couldn’t make out. Then he was still as stone, staring at something six feet tall or so. He shook his head, said something else, and then a tear fell down his muddy face and he leaned back in what looked like solemn defeat.
She could tell that whatever, or whoever, he saw had left when he cast his eyes back at the ground where they had been before.
She watched the door open and shut by itself.
Two years later, an Asgardian artifact that SHIELD had kept to themselves suddenly became very important. With the information that Erik Selvig, one of Thor’s Midgardian companions, gave them and the Stark family’s research, it became obvious rather quickly that they should have been paying attention to the thing years ago. They knew from the events of World War II that it was a source of inexhaustible energy as well as a killing energy, but it was only now that the world had the technology to harness it without fault. And coincidentally enough, the artifact chose now to start acting up and giving off strange readings.
As for Agent Volson’s specialized knowledge, she knew no more about it than they did. The only thing she was able to offer was confirming that it was called the Tesseract, it was Asgardian, and it was a dangerous item to possess -- and, as they would soon find out, a rather coveted and sought-after item in the universe. She warned Fury that if any other race in any other realm found out that they possessed it, there could be trouble. He believed her, but there was nothing they could do.
The problems started the day they found out that the Tesseract also acted as a portal -- which, unfortunately, they found out the hard way.
After the Puente Antiguo Incident, most SHIELD members had been debriefed on a mysterious Asgardian force named Loki. As far as Selvig told them, he was no more than Thor’s jealous brother who had sought to destroy Thor after he’d been banished. Thor had returned to Asgard, supposedly defeated Loki, and then closed the Bifrost for good. That was the last the world had heard of the Asgardians, until now.
She hadn't been at the facility that held the Tesseract, but she saw the tapes. Loki had come to Midgard. After watching the destruction he caused, watching him run away with the Tesseract and Clint Barton and Erik Selvig under some sort of magic hypnotism, Fury turned to her and demanded answers.
"You're one of them, Volson -- you can't tell me you don't know anything about this freak," he said firmly.
"I grew up with Loki," she said. The security tapes still played in front of her and she couldn't tear her eyes away. This wasn't the Loki she remembered. Something was up with the scepter he carried now. "But this... this is new to me."
"Our success in protecting the Earth from this man is hinged on the information we can gather on him," said Fury. "Anything you have on him is something we might be able to use."
So she told him all that she could; that he lived in Thor's shadow all his life, that he was actually Jotun rather than Asgardian, that he was a master sorcerer and a skilled warrior. As for what he planned to do with the Tesseract, she couldn't say for sure, but she could only assume that this new side of him had sprung from his withheld heritage, and perhaps a vendetta against Thor.
What she didn't tell him is that she knew Loki wouldn't stop until he had tasted power and was satisfied with it. He wouldn't stop until he had proved himself better than Thor and better than an entire race. And what she didn't tell him is that she still wanted him safe.
When she had told him all he needed to know, Fury left. He returned the next day with his file on the Avengers Initiative and shoved it under her nose. She looked it through, wondering why it was in her hands, but nothing about it had changed from the first time she'd read it. All the same faces and names were there. She looked up at him questioningly.
"Agent Romanov is currently collecting Bruce Banner," he said. "Tony Stark and Steve Rogers have been contacted."
"What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to help them in any way you can."
She had meant the file itself, but now she listened more intently. “How do you mean?”
He took the file back. “I’ll give you more specific orders when need be,” he explained. “This is just a heads-up that you’ll be sticking close to them until all this is over.”
By the time she thought to ask “Why me?” Fury was already gone. What she possibly had to offer the Avengers that they didn’t already have, she wasn’t sure -- the only thing she had on any of the people in the file was that she was a demi-god like Loki. Maybe that was it. She didn’t have much time to mull over it though, as later that afternoon her first Avengers-related order was given -- they knew where Loki would crop up next, and they were going to fly in and stop him.
She boarded the flying vehicle less than half an hour later, where she met Black Widow (who she knew better as Agent Natasha Romanov) and Captain America (or Steve Rogers, as he introduced himself.) It took off almost immediately, and she didn’t miss the sense of urgency and awkwardness among the passengers.
“So, Agent Volson,” said Steve. “You both work for SHIELD?”
“Yes,” she said.
“How long have you been here?”
She thought a moment, cut the actual years in half, then again, considered the figure, and then realized she was taking too long to answer. “A long time,” she replied. “At least a decade, if I’m not mistaken.”
He nodded after a moment, glancing about the cabin. “What do you… do?”
She thought again. “Research. Guard duty. Supervising,” she listed, and wondered if it sounded strange. “Mostly a lot of standing around.”
Steve smiled but didn’t laugh, thinking to himself. “And -- not to be rude -- but what are you doing here?”
“I’m just an extra hand, I suppose,” she said, and felt distinctly the need to end the conversation. She said nothing more and opted instead to look out the window. Steve did the same.
The rest of the afternoon passed in silence, and when night had fallen they arrived in Germany. Agent Romanov was taking them to Loki’s location in Stuttgart, where Captain America would dismount to bring him in. She saw the crowd before she spotted Loki, standing before them imperiously, decked with his new armor and scepter. The Captain got down there just in time to spare a brave old man from standing up to Loki’s wrath, and she watched the fight ensue from up in the heliplane.
Iron Man Tony Stark arrived with his typical flourish, and together they managed to take Loki down, separate him from the scepter, and get him in the heliplane. She made a point to man the door with her full attention, to the point that she faced away from the new passengers. When Loki was seated and the door was lifted, she stood at the door’s window and did naught but look out of it for the ensuing flight. She wasn’t sure what would happen if he were to recognize her, but she ultimately didn’t want to know, and did not consider turning and finding out if it was a worthy risk.
Perhaps he had forgotten Svala, or missed her, or because she was Asgardian was angry with her by default. But she felt his eyes on her back all the same, felt when they left her and returned to her, and felt too when Tony Stark became aware of her because of it all.
“And you are?” he asked her. He’d already introduced himself to the Captain by now.
She turned her head to him on the side that Loki did not occupy, and disguised her accent with one similar to Tony’s. “Agent Sarah Volson,” she answered. “Here to help guard the prisoner.”
Tony glanced at said prisoner and then at Steve’s slightly beat up uniform. “Can you hold yourself in a fight?”
She smiled at him. “Well enough.”
Tony nodded, and she heard Loki sigh -- the type of his that she knew meant he was resisting the urge to scoff. She let this go and turned back to the window, watching as the clouds in the night began to form together. A thunderstorm grew too quickly for her liking, and she placed her hand on the window.
“Afraid of a little lightning?” Tony asked, and she knew he was speaking to Loki, who had taken on a wary aura.
“I’m not overly fond of what follows,” he replied unsteadily.
She knew as well as he did what that was. One side of the heliplane jerked downwards and she turned her head to see it -- Thor had landed on the wing. Instinctively she backed into a corner of the plane, still careful to shield her face from Loki and now the incoming Thor, and laid her hand on the hilt of the sword at her back. The door opened with another jerk, Thor flew in, and as quick as the thunder clapped outside, he grabbed Loki by the neck and left with him in tow.
She leaned out of the opened door but couldn’t see them no matter how she squinted. Soon Iron Man and Captain America followed the two demi-gods to retrieve their prisoner. After much deliberation, she called Fury instead of following the boys while Agent Romanov kept the heliplane circling the area they had supposedly landed in, among a crop of trees.
Once Fury had been updated on the situation and had yelled quite thoroughly into her ear, all they could do was wait. She hoped Thor would either listen to reason and come with them to base, or at least find some way to just take Loki back to Asgard and thus fix all of SHIELD’s problems. The former seemed the only plausible option, however, as she was sure that Odin wanted the Tesseract back in their possession above all else; knowing the Allfather, retrieving Loki would be secondary.
Eventually, the four men were back in the heliplane. First Stark flew in carrying the Captain, and then Thor carrying Loki. Upon sighting them, she went to tell Romanov to continue on their planned path, and then found herself stuck in the pilots’ cabin lest she reveal her face by turning to go back into the passengers’ cabin. After an hour or so of hanging out there, Steve leaned in.
“Wouldn’t it be best for you to keep an eye on our prisoner?” he muttered. She could hear a mild suspicion in his voice that she knew was borne from her strange behavior. It came to her then that he had even witnessed her changing her accent from what they knew as British to her understanding of American.
She sighed. “Right,” she muttered back, and then hesitantly turned around to face the other cabin. Much to her pleasure, the brothers weren’t paying attention to her, but rather brooding to themselves. She crossed in front of them to occupy the opposite corner of the plane and situated herself there, staring at some metal tile near Loki’s feet.
After a successful flight (for all parties involved), she was the first one to exit the plane and the last one to enter the base after a group of military men had escorted Loki to his cage inside. She managed to avoid any confrontation until Nick Fury came back from his interrogation with Loki and found her in the research wing.
“I want you to interrogate him in an hour,” he said to her as he passed.
She blanched and immediately chased after him. “To interrogate Loki, you mean?”
“Yes,” he said. It didn’t take much to read his tone of who-else-could-I-possibly-mean and then understand he was serious about the order.
“Sir, I don’t believe that to be a very good idea--”
“And why not?” said Fury, glancing back at her as he lead her towards the main control room. “Because you’re avoiding your Asgardian friends? Or because you’re scared of facing Loki? Or both?”
She took a deep breath, resisting the urge to recoil from the blow. “I just can’t imagine he’d give me much more than he gave you, sir. We haven’t talked in over seven decades.”
“And I’d only met the guy two days ago, when he broke into my facility and stole the most powerful and dangerous source of energy in the universe,” he snapped. “Orders are orders, agent.”
She stopped walking when they reached the control room. “Yes, sir,” she said. The Avengers had gone off to different corners of the room after the first interrogation, but they would surely tune in again when she went in herself -- or, at least, Fury would make them. Her long-time cover would be over, and Fury knew that. He also knew that it was more important they get information than it was for one agent to stay low-key.
It seemed a good idea to go ahead and wander down towards his cage, away from all the noise so she could focus on an interrogation strategy. She knew Loki, and she knew everything Asgardian. That was her best front, if not her only front. But he had changed so much that it was possible it wouldn’t matter, that he would scoff at her new mortal disguise and think her an idiot trying to change a world in which she didn’t belong. And it was possible that he would try to reverse her front and use his relation with her to destroy her from the inside. It was impossible to know what he would do or what he would say.
She feared how he would be.
Her phone rang once when the hour was up, Fury’s way of reminding her. The door to his cage was in front of her already. With a steadying sigh, she opened the door and went in.
Loki’s back was to her when she entered, and he didn’t turn even though she knew he heard her approach. She came to stand a foot from the glass, and then waited for him to acknowledge her.
He didn’t make her wait long. “You’re not as quick to speak as the others,” he said. “Have you come to ask of your companions, or merely to annoy me?”
“I wish only to speak with you,” she told him calmly. She could almost feel the cameras on her -- the entire control room watching. It took great effort to tune out the thought.
Slowly, he turned. Once he faced her, once he looked her in the eyes, she saw a portion of his new hardened exterior fall away. The moment of recognition was so genuine that it hurt -- seventy years without a word, no one in Asgard knowing where she’d gone -- and she wondered how much he’d missed her, if at all. She couldn’t read it in his face, but the way that he seemed to be inside of her mind when he looked at her was familiar, and this of all things consoled her. It took him another moment to finally speak.
“Svala,” he whispered. “…Midgard, of all places?”
“Seems to be the favored realm,” she said.
“Indeed,” he drawled. The initial shock was gone and the new Loki was back in an instant, eyes distant and calculating. “Favored… or damned.”
Her mouth twisted. She wasn’t sure which it was either, really. But she hadn’t been ordered to discuss philosophy with him; she was expected to be all business. “We both know why I’m here,” she said. “But what about you?”
He raised his brows. “On the contrary, my friend,” he said. “If I recall correctly, I was told next to nothing of your exile. We spoke in a garden, and the next morning you had vanished.” He smirked bitterly. “You missed a rather fun time, too. It wasn’t long after you were gone that Thor was banished as well.”
“Yes, I know,” she said.
“Of course.” Loki stepped closer to the glass. “Your new friends love their petty knowledge -- their fragile understanding of the universe. I’m sure they told you everything, didn’t they?”
“As it was the only way to find out anything about my home and my loved ones, I did ask that they fill me in, yes,” she said. “It’s not like I had you or your brother here to tell me what happened.”
“My brother,” he laughed. “How many times I’ve heard that word lately, as if it were the truth. Or did they omit that little detail when they ‘filled you in’?”
She held his gaze. “Jotun blood or not, Loki, he is still your brother in bond,” she muttered.
“And who told you that?”
She did not answer, but instead let him make the right conclusion on his own.
He read it in her face before he analyzed the lack of response. He stilled. “You’ve known all along.”
“Odin told me when I became his messenger,” she admitted. She wondered whether it was hurt that she saw in his eyes or disgust. “I had to frequent Jotunheim. It was inevitable that I find out merely from the messages I delivered.”
Loki did not speak, but she knew what he was thinking.
“I had no choice but to lie to you, or else I would have been banished centuries ago,” she said. “But you’re missing something very important, Loki.”
He raised his brows and tilted his head slightly upward. “And what is that?”
“I knew you were Jotun since we began to fight together,” she said quietly, “and yet I still opted to remain your close friend. I still wanted to be around you, and to speak with you -- I even saved your life a few times, if you remember.”
“Are you appealing to me?”
“I’m only telling you the truth.” Their eyes stayed locked as she moved closer to the glass. “Has it been so sparse that you don’t want to hear it anymore?”
He did not speak. For several long moments they stared at each other in silence.
She sent him an apologetic look before she spoke. “I need to know where the Tesseract is.”
“I don’t know,” he said, voice natural, backing away from the glass to sit on his meager bed.
“Then you know where it’s going.”
“Why are you here?”
“Haven’t you been paying attention, Svala?” he said. His eyes seemed to burn, even from so far away. “I want the world to kneel at my feet.”
“And you have an army to accomplish it.”
“An army of what?”
He smiled again, and shook his head.
Svala sighed and touched her fingers to the glass. She knew what she wanted to tell him, but she also knew that he wouldn’t listen in this state of mind. Her fingers left the cold glass pane one by one. “I don’t think that this is a war you want to start, Loki,” she said instead.
“As if you know war,” he spat.
“And you think you do?” she asked of him. To this he did not respond, so she turned away from him and walked to the door.
He watched her go.
The war started at home. They were attacked, Loki escaped, and then, after a day of recuperation, they went after him with everything they had. She watched the Avengers fly off in a heliplane, and when she saw it go down on the screens, hit by Loki’s pouring army, she went after them herself.
Even though she was practically disowned from Asgard, her armor came to her when she called for it, a familiar mix of unbreakable metal and black woven cloth. The scarf she’d opted for in lieu of the standard cape held the scabbard for her blade over her back. It fit her like a glove, and she didn’t know how much she’d missed it until she was wearing it again.
What happened to the Avenger’s plane nearly happened to her, but in dodging the Chitauri flying towards her, she steered herself into the base of a building. She climbed out luckily uninjured and ran into the street decked in rubble and overturned cars. She saw Iron Man off in the distance and decided to run towards him, at a loss of where to start, but almost immediately ran into Agent Barton.
Their first instincts were to point their weapons at each other, but he lowered his at the familiar face. “What are you doing here?” he shouted. His eyes were back to normal -- he was no longer under Loki’s control.
She leapt at the Chitauri that had been approaching behind him, felling the creature by slicing off its legs through its armor. “Helping,” she said and shrugged. He nodded at her and took a shot at another approaching soldier. “Where is Loki?”
“Stark Tower,” he responded. “Thor should be there already. Our priority right now, however, is closing that portal.” He gestured to the source of the streaming Chitauri and then disappeared around the corner.
Loki would be close to the source of the portal, she knew, so she used the portal to direct her to Stark Tower. Loki’s army was everywhere at once, flying overhead, storming the ground, climbing the buildings that towered above her. It was all she could do to simply keep them off of her, because any goal to put a dent in their numbers was impossible while the portal to their realm continually replenished the supply.
She needed to get to Loki. Knowing the elevators would most likely be out (or simply dangerous to use,) she looked for a way to hijack one of the Chitauri’s flying mechanisms. With a turn of her hand, she applied her Asgardian magic and became invisible, then climbed as high as she could go on a large slab of rubble and waited, perched, for one to fly by. One came in under a minute, and, still under the cloak of sorcery, she leapt onto the attacker at the back, threw him off, sliced through the driver, and took control of the thing as best she could. It floundered about in the air for a moment, before she got it to ascend the tower in a spiral. She couldn’t imagine what it must look like from the ground, to see the unmanned machine swirling about Tony Stark’s building as graceful as a fish.
Loki was alone on the balcony of the tower, but dirtied and breathing heavily. She assumed Thor had indeed been up there, but he was nowhere to be seen now, and she could only hope Loki hadn’t felled him. The machine crashed into one end of the balcony and she landed nearby in a lackluster roll. She remained invisible, however, and Loki was left to shake his head exasperatedly at the crashed Chitauri machine and then go back to his viewing of the destruction.
The magic wore off before she could put herself behind him, but seven feet was close enough, she figured. Loki turned at the sudden shadow in his peripheral and sneered when he faced her.
“Can you all see it now, the power I’m capable of?” he shouted, seeming to pick up a conversation interrupted, gesturing widely at the war waging on below. The sounds of destruction played around them like broken notes. “Keep coming -- Asgardian, Midgardian, immortal, human -- it will never be enough!” His arms fell to his sides, the scepter gleaming in his right hand. “This realm is fated to fall, and I was made to rule over its remains. No band of sniffling, lost beasts can stop it now, no matter how strong their desperation. Can’t you see it? Look around you, my dear.” The scepter pointed lazily in the direction of the fight. She kept her eyes, and her blade, trained on him. “Tell me what you see.”
“I see a man trying to prove himself an emperor,” she said. She pointed her blade at the scepter, and then gestured to the war in general. “You don’t need all this. This change in you, this war -- it’s just a vendetta that will lead you nowhere.”
He smiled. “Oh, but it’s more than just revenge.”
She raised her sword. “Yes,” she sighed. “I know.”
Loki moved first, swinging his scepter in the direction of her head. She ducked and dodged again when he swung it back around, but this time sprung forward and aimed her sword at his leg. He blocked it with the staff and pushed back, and when she went in for a second strike, he managed to knock her sword away so that it flew back over her head. In a split second she saw his next move and crossed her arms across her chest in an X and was not disappointed when his foot immediately connected in the center. She flew back much in the same fashion as her blade, and landed barely a foot from it.
Her arms ached from his blow, but she was up and relentlessly fighting again in a second. He shot at her with the scepter but she dodged it easily and swung horizontally with her sword. As he jumped back to avoid an injury, she managed to put a clean cut through the black lapel of his jacket. With the thrill of at least some sort of progress she kept up the front, though he dodged the rest of her swings, until one of his counter-swings caught her in her left elbow. She could feel the bone break and the joint slip and she shouted in pain. Loki only smirked.
“You will kneel!” he shouted, and, so saying, aimed his next blow at her knee. She jumped back in enough time to avoid it, but now had to split her focus between him and the searing pain in her arm. If he landed another blow like that, she didn’t know how she’d keep going. She knew no magic that could dull the pain, and so relied on adrenaline and a superb attempt at ignorance to keep her going.
At the thought, she remembered her first upper hand, and turned the hand that held her sword, activating her invisibility once again. It was a move that Thor would have called cowardly, but in a match against such a sorcerer as Loki, she felt no shame whatsoever in using it. He smirked at her move and readied himself, listening intently for sounds of her footsteps and watching for movements in the dust. This time she was able to get behind him, and in the same moment that she undid the spell, she latched herself onto Loki from the back, laying her sword at his throat and pulling the arm with the scepter back into a locked position.
He laughed. “What are you going to do now?” he asked. “Kill me? Hold me like this until one of the big boys comes?”
“You’ll stop this war, Loki,” she said through gritted teeth. “You’ll stop it now, or I swear I will--”
“You won’t kill me,” he spat. “I know your heart, and you don’t have it in you. Even if you did, you’re smart enough not to -- think of what would happen with the Chitauri without me to stop or command them.”
“You’ve no power over them, only over the portal that brings them here,” she said. “So close it.”
“And you’ve no power over me to make me do it,” he growled, attempting to wrench his arm free and earning a nick near his jugular.
“No,” she said. “But he does.”
The Hulk landed on the balcony in a spray of rubble, and through Loki’s surprise she was able to force the scepter out of his hand and send it flying before pushing Loki away into the penthouse of the tower. The Hulk stalked after him menacingly, but she sheathed her sword and turned away from the action to pick up the scepter.
She activated the headset, hoping the rest of the Avengers could hear her. “I have Loki’s staff,” she said firmly. She heard crashing behind her but ignored it.
Captain America’s voice came in. “And Loki?”
“I think Hulk took care of him for now.”
Black Widow spoke this time. “I have an idea to close the portal. Stay where you are.”
“Right,” she said, and looked back. The Hulk was heading for the edge of the balcony, looking pleased with himself in his own way, and she glimpsed Loki lying in a crater in the floor the perfect shape of his body. He might have been relaxing, had his body not looked so obviously beat up and his face so obviously shocked.
Even she couldn’t contain a small chuckle.
The war was won when the portal closed, after incapacitating Loki and keeping him captured once again. As the Tesseract was a gateway between realms, Thor would use it to take him and Loki home. And just for good measure, the Avengers stayed to see them off -- as did Svala herself.
Loki, who now sported a sort of metallic muzzle to keep him from using his manipulative charms (and as a humiliating punishment in general,) eyed her as he stood next to Thor. A question danced in his eyes, and hesitantly she stepped forward. Thor watched them both and quickly understood the silent conversation.
“Svala,” he said, gaining her attention. “Surely if father knew what you’ve done here on Midgard, for this race, for the past seventy years… he would forgive you and allow you to return with us.”
She smiled a bit sheepishly. “I’m positive that he already has.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, brows furrowed. Loki’s eyes seemed to ask the same question.
“Odin never banished me.”
There was silence all around, and she watched as the comprehension of what she’d just said dawned on her old friends’ faces.
Before they could even ask, she answered their next question. “I did commit a horrible crime, yes,” she explained. “One worse than I’d ever done before. But Odin knew that it wouldn’t harm either Asgard or Jotunheim, that it had been caused by three disloyal rogues, and so he forgave me the moment I told him. I was so consumed by guilt, though, that I -- well… banished myself.”
After a long moment, Thor spoke again for the two of them. “Will you come home now, then? To Asgard?”
Svala smiled. “…After all this time, I feel that I have repaid my debt,” she muttered. She turned to Nick Fury. “But it depends. Think I could have some time off, sir?”
Fury nodded, his expression serious but his eyes glinting with amusement.
She nodded back at him and turned to approach her fellow Asgardians. Thor clapped a hand on her shoulder with a grin and held it there. Then he held out the device containing the Tesseract towards Loki for him to grab on to the offered side. She touched Loki’s forearm gently and, with a glance at her, he grabbed on to the Tesseract.
Thor activated the device, and they were home.
Like everything in Asgard, the lower levels of the palace were gilded and magnificent. The dungeon, which in any other realm would have been dark and rank, matched the rest of Odin’s home, though it still wasn’t the the loveliest of places. In all her years, Svala had never visited the dungeon until quite recently, and she was taken aback by it. Even the cell grating was made of gold.
Loki was hardly ever awake when she visited him -- or, at least, he pretended to be asleep. And even when his eyes were open, he did not look at her. It seemed that if he was to be muzzled, then he felt he had nothing to communicate with anyone -- if he couldn’t speak, he wouldn’t try. She understood the mentality even though it saddened her to no end. Everything that Loki possessed was hinged on his ability to weave words together, to fit them together in such a way that he not only communicated but had fun while doing it. His voice was everything to him, and it didn’t take more than a few days before his silence drove her insane.
She appealed to Odin and explained to him how unfair it was -- even when the Allfather had punished Thor, he hadn’t taken away his freedom so extremely. Yes, Loki had done far worse than Thor had, but in no just rule was it right to take away such a basic priveledge. Loki had not been himself, she told him, and could be helped back into the light if only they tried.
It took a day of consideration, but Odin approved her wish, as well as granted her a burden: she would be Loki’s guard, to watch over him in his cell. If she failed to keep him there for the rest of his sentence -- if Loki ever escaped or was granted something Odin did not allow -- the muzzle would go to her. She did not tell him that she was actually pleased with the verdict in its entirety.
She walked down into the dungeon, her armor on and her sword sheathed at her back. Loki was awake this time and sat upright in the middle of his cell, but his eyes still did not meet hers. She kept her hands behind her back.
“Loki,” she greeted. He did not stir. “You’re awake.”
His eyes wandered over the stone tiles before him, studying the patterns they made.
“The Allfather still cares about you,” she said, quieter than before. Loki breathed a little deeper, and she knew he was listening. “I know you don’t believe it… but today I have proof.”
His eyes moved to study the golden grating that caged him.
She moved her arms out from behind her back, watching him carefully as he stilled, and she flattened out her palm. He looked at her hand -- in it was a silver key, the same shade as the muzzle over his mouth. He made the connection instantly and it showed in his eyes, but before he let his hope get ahead of him, he squinted at the small key in suspicion as if it were her eyes.
She knelt before the cell, and laid her hand on one of the horizontal bars. The spaces in between the gold were twice the size of their heads, so she could see him quite clearly. “Please,” she said, “look at me, Loki. So that I may speak to you instead of to the crown of your head.”
It took him a moment, but he did as she asked. His green eyes shown in the combined light from the torches around them, and she knew the question he wanted to ask, though he refused to let even his eyes ask it.
“I can’t bear your silence,” she told him, voice low. “I spoke to Odin and begged that he remove the muzzle, and he agreed. …Your punishment is still imprisonment, but I can return to you your voice, Loki.”
He watched her carefully, and she watched his thoughts swim across his face. They weren’t obvious, but the changes were there, and when he settled on contentment he nodded. She gestured for him to approach her and he obliged willingly. They both stood, and he leaned back on the bars, exposing the back of the muzzle to her.
She inserted the key and turned it, and the muzzle dissolved through her fingers along with the key. His mouth was freed.
There was a long moment where he stood as still as a statue, but then turned to face her, eyes wide. He grasped the bars and cleared his throat. “I…” he said, then started again. “Svala. Thank you.”
She smiled and placed her hands near his without touching them. “It’s good to hear your voice again.”
He didn’t comment, but rather licked his lips. “What did you tell Odin for him to agree to this?”
“I told him how unfair it was to take away such a basic right,” she said.
“Of course he knows it’s unfair,” he replied, bitterness tingeing his voice. “That’s never hindered him before. Surely there must have been some exchange.”
“Not to your expense,” she said.
He read what she didn’t say. “To yours?”
“He ordered that I be your guard until your sentence is ended,” she said. Her fingers moved absently over the grating. “But, technically, it’s not to my expense either.”
He scoffed. “Don’t try to comfort me. You’re now as imprisoned here as I am.”
They watched each other. “I did not lie, Loki,” she said. “It’s not really punishment to me.”
“Are you implying that you want to be here?” When she didn’t answer, the bitterness left his face and was replaced by confusion. “…Your choices have never been sound, Svala, but this is…”
She stared at him. “You think I don’t care about you, Loki, but you’re mistaken,” she said.
The words seemed to echo in his mind, and his hands slid down the bars until they rested at the crosses. He understood the statement all at once and laid his forehead on the bars as his eyes closed. He breathed in deeply and then exhaled. His eyes opened again. “You put too much faith in me. After all I’ve done -- I’ve given you no reason to be so… trusting. You think that you can change me, but it’s far too late for that.”
“It has nothing to do with faith,” she said. “And maybe I hope that you can be redeemed, but that’s hardly too much to ask. I know you crave forgiveness as much as you crave independence. …I’m content to be here not because I think I can turn you back to how you used to be, but because I simply want to be here with you.”
“You think mere acceptance will do any good--”
“And still you think my intentions ill!” she exclaimed, and turned to walk away.
He grasped her arm before she could, and she turned back. “I don’t,” he said, though he wasn’t apologizing. “You’re correct that I… want redemption. But that will come -- if it ever comes -- of its own accord.”
She touched the hand that held her. “Do you still want to rule?”
He gave a short chuckle. “I never wanted to rule.”
She nodded and stepped back to the cell so that their faces were inches away. He removed his forehead from the bar and still did not break eye contact with her. “Then you’re right -- forgiveness will come,” she said. She took the hand she touched into her own and was mildly surprised when he did not pull away. “But first, I think, you must repay your debt to those you have hurt.”
“Like you did?”
The words were biting, but she did not take offense to it. It did bid her pause, though. It had taken her so long to feel her guilt leave her, but as much as Loki had done worse than her, he did not feel the same amount of guilt as she. He was smart -- he knew why he did everything that he did and felt peace enough at that. She only hoped that it wouldn’t take as long for his debt to be paid in Odin’s eyes.
She let the question hang unanswered, and he sighed. “Why do you put so much trust in me?”
She held his hand tighter, and answered honestly. “I don’t know.”
He chuckled. “It’s not going to end well for us,” he said. “Our demise will come from the fruits of our own creation. That much is inevitable.” His eyes moved away from hers at last, to watched their joined hands.
She studied him carefully now, noting his tall stature and intimidating build. He was a fearful thing to behold, even behind bars, and she couldn’t deny that she felt so small beside him, so weak. He was too far above her to even reach, and she felt too pathetic to try. But regardless, his hand was comforting, and his eyes were soothing. All at once she felt she knew him too well.
His eyes returned to hers. Words hung in his mouth, but he didn’t let them go. The crease in his brow and the tenseness of his lips told her enough, however. Now she stared at their hands.
There was a gold bracelet on her wrist that hadn’t been there before. Before she even had time to interpret it, he spoke.
“It won’t be long before they let me out,” he said, “not because I’ll deserve it, but because they’ll need me. I will go willingly, I will help, but I won’t be one of them.”
“You mean the Avengers?”
He shrugged. “Their war will never end, and as we’ve yet to meet the demise I spoke of, we’ll have to play our parts.”
“How do you know?”
He smiled, and brought her hand to his lips. The wordsmith let her go and retreated back into his cell.
Svala didn’t need him to answer, though. She knew what he meant. None of this was over, and for the foreseeable future it still wouldn’t end. That was the point of the Avengers -- they would avenge the world when they failed to save it, even if that meant only a part of it, no matter how long it took. Thus, it couldn’t end. Not until everything ended all together. And she knew without a doubt that, until then, Asgard would join them in their war.
She wrapped her fingers around the bracelet, knowing that he watched her do it. It was the only promise Loki would ever give her, and so she held onto it tenaciously.
She wouldn’t find the inscription on the inside until the day Thor proved him correct, bursting into the dungeon with the name Thanos on his lips. It read:
Chivalry does borne a fickle weed
Bad deeds turn sourest the tallest friend
Chaos courts a stronger steed
Mischief yields the better end.