So it was that Odin Allfather rose from his sleep restored to his full power. And so he came to where Loki King sat upon Hliðskjálf. Loki beheld him and stood and descended to the step where Odin was standing.
There, he presented Gungnir to the Allfather, who accepted it gravely. As his hands left the staff, Loki, no longer King, descended to the step below the Allfather and looked up to face him, as was right.
They spoke for some time, and though Odin Allfather sees all in his Sleep, still, it is best to hear the words as well. So Loki, now Prince again, told him of the treason of Sif and Fandral and Hogun and Volstagg, of how they had ignored Odin King’s will and sought to circumvent his command regarding the fallen prince Thor’s banishment. Of how loyal Heimdall had reported their treachery to him. They now resided in the palace dungeons, awaiting the wisdom of the Allfather’s sentence against them. And Prince Loki, feigning sadness, told the Allfather that the fallen prince still dwelt among mortals, as powerless as any of them, having found a woman among them he favored, but no chance of heroism, while Mjolnir remained unclaimed, a curiosity to mortals, unmovable by any. And Odin knew all this to be true.
Then Odin said to the Prince, let us speak of these things, of Jotunheim and your birth and my choice of you as son. But Loki turned his gaze away, and then his back. And then walked away. And Odin King forgave his disrespect, summoned his councilors and attended to business.
For those past days Loki had thought much on what lay beneath his skin, and thought much on what he had seen from Hliðskjálf, and all of his thoughts made a chaos in his head until only one thought remained clear in his mind.
Odin, for his part, spent much time in discussion with his councilors to discuss Laufey King’s demand for reparations for the deaths Prince Thor had caused in his realm. By the time Odin King sent for his son to speak to him privately, the Prince had already been to the Vault and taken away with him two of its treasures. Loki then departed Asgard, and was no more seen there.
Then Loki, no longer King, no longer Prince, came to Midgard, to that place called Puente Antiguo, and there beheld his not-brother Thor, seated with his woman Jane before one of the screens which provide Midgardians with their sagas and their tidings. Wrath rose in Loki, and hate, and sorrow, and jealousy, for the woman had what he did not, and Thor had always had what he had not. And he thought also of how Thor, the fool, had stepped right into the trap Loki set for him and thus had led Loki into disaster, when Loki had only ever wanted to show all of Asgard Thor was no fit king. And so Loki had learned what he now so desperately wished to unlearn, and did not think at all that he had brought his own trouble upon himself.
So Loki thought to strike both Thor and his woman dead.
But then he took a closer look.
And what he saw was this:
Thor’s woman, looking away from him and away from the large screen, her attention entirely on a smaller screen on her lap. Her fingers flashed, filling the screen with the sorcerous runes by which she intended to build her own Bifrost. And Loki felt a brief flash of amusement at her effrontery, and then gave it further thought and decided Odin King might yet be surprised by these mortals.
And so he let Thor’s woman be.
And what he saw was also this:
Thor, his arm around his woman, his face turned toward the large screen. And what Loki saw on his face was discontent.
So Loki looked at the screen on which Thor’s attention was fixed and saw a Midgardian warrior, whose kenning was Iron Man, splendid in red and gold armor, in battle against many armored opponents who appeared to be like the Destroyer in that there was no living thing within the metal. He felled them all until they lay by the dozens at his feet.
The screen changed, and now here was the hero, dressed in black and white, handsome in his way with his intense brown eyes and his stylized beard, being feted by a crowd of his subjects.
When Loki looked back at his not-brother he saw on Thor’s face what he had never thought to see.
Loki was suddenly filled with pleasure at seeing Thor brought so low that he would be envious of a mortal, mighty warrior though he might be. But then his pleasure was stabbed through with some other twisting emotion; something that sickened and stole his joy and turned in to a harsh clawing feeling he could not name. He did not understand why he felt sorrow when he should delight in his not-brother’s downfall.
So he turned from the place called Puente Antiguo away from where Midgard’s star set on the horizon and began to walk. He walked for many days, through barren lands, changing his course to pass through forested mountains. And all the while he walked wrath and sorrow and the bitterest envy waged war for control of his mind. When wrath became dominant he lashed out and flames surged around him and a vast forest caught fire. He walked on, unheeding, and slowly the wrath died as he walked through grain-filled lands so flat no landmark on the horizon could be seen for many days. Envy died as he turned his steps further northward, avoiding the cities and towns and villages of mortals, and their roads as well, passing between them as something invisible and powerful and mutating.
The days grew shorter and colder and snow began to fall around him and then the land was nothing but ice. And sorrow died as well, and he felt nothing at all as he walked ever further on. And now Midgard’s star was up for only a short time each day and the darkness came swiftly again, and he became aware that his skin had turned purest white. Then, the slightest tinge of blue crept in.
No longer caring, he let it happen. By the meager light of each brief day he saw the blue ghost across his skin, darker and darker each day, and then the lines followed, Laufey’s lines, his unknown heritage. And the world had turned into different shades and colors and he knew he now beheld the land through crimson eyes.
Finally he came to a place as blank and white as all the rest of the land he had traversed in the past many days and yet it was here he stopped.
For he had remembered something he had seen in but a casual glance from when he had sat upon Hliðskjálf, seen and passed on as unimportant, but now the faintest curiosity intruded through the ice surrounding his mind, and he realized it was here his footsteps had been leading him.
Below him, he knew, lay the broken remains of a Midgardian airship. And inside it…
He slipped through the ice as easily as he slipped between realms. He passed through the broken metal skin of the tomb as if it were not there, and at last came upon what he had not realized he sought.
A warrior lay in repose, easily taken for dead for there was no breath in him. With him was a great circular shield, of red and white and blue, with a five-pointed star at its very center.
Loki looked upon the warrior, upon the pale hair and ice-white skin, of the finely cut features visible though the rime of ice which covered him like a shroud, and saw his beauty and knew his valor.
Loki knelt beside him and rested one hand on the warrior’s face, clearing the ice away so he could gaze upon the handsome features. The ice melted and reformed between them, and when his black-nailed hand touched the stone-hard skin he sensed the mind within, still and silent, sleeping a sleep so deep and profound there was no room even for dreams.
And something in him yearned toward the perfection of this man, this being, for he was and was not like the other mortals here. And he did not say to himself, I desired Thor in such a way. But he did know, suddenly, he desired this man, whose flesh was as cold as his own.
He told himself instead, this was a powerful and valiant warrior, and he could find some use for him.
The memory came to him of an old tale, one common to all the realms, of those who wait sleeping for a Prince to awaken them. So he formed a dream of his own, that he would be known and welcomed, and sent it through his fingertips down into the stillness and silence, then withdrew his hand.
He then bent his head forward and pressed his icy lips to the warrior’s frozen ones.
Waited. Leaned back. Not one of the finely defined eyelashes fluttered, not one wisp of breath passed through the warrior’s nostrils. The body lay hard and cold as a statue, and Loki, disappointed and oddly relieved, stood.
He spent a moment longer gazing at the warrior’s face. Then Loki opened a portal and slipped through a pathway to where he knew he must inevitably go.
And there, on Jotunheim, shielding his deeds from Heimdall’s gaze, he strode into Laufey’s ruined palace, and there he made challenge to Laufey King as his son and rightful heir. He did this in the old way and the old words, for out of all the books in Asgard’s library that none but he had read in centuries, the book on Jotunheim customs now proved to have been quite useful.
All of Laufey’s councilors gathered around and laughed at the effrontery of the tiny giant and mocked and insulted his voice, so much higher than their own deep rumbles, and made many threats.
But he had made legal challenge and Laufey King accepted it, lest he lose face.
Laufey was already dead, though he did not yet know it, and though it made no difference at all, it was still unwise for Laufey King to say to the son of his body, “Ah, the bastard son. I thought Odin had killed you. That's what I would have done. He's as weak as you are.”
Then Loki pulled out from the space between worlds one of the two treasures he had taken from Odin’s Vault, and as Laufey King formed his great ice sword Loki wielded Surtr of Muspelheim’s great flaming sword and sliced clear through his father’s body.
Laufey fell dead to the ground.
Most certainly there was shouting and threats and outrage and hands forming ice spears but Laufey’s councilors fell silent as Loki pulled out the second treasure and displayed the Casket of Ancient Winters to all present.
They looked upon its shimmering splendor and went still and silent, then all fell to their knees.
Thus Loki became King again.