Actions

Work Header

Laufey's Mate/ Ice Maiden/ Laufey's Bride (It wound up with three titles)

Chapter Text

“Run home Princess.”

And so it began. The son of Odin and his friends, fighting for their lives against every Jotun who could be summoned. His hammer spinning in a deadly arc over and over. Laufey stood back and watched it happen. Watched as the son of Odin pushed his people further toward another war.

Then it happened. Right there, in front of Laufey’s eyes. The younger son, Loki the dark haired liar, was grabbed by one of Laufey’s fighters. Laufey leaned forward slightly where he sat, watching with delight as the man’s armour fell away, waiting for the scream of pain as the frostbite hit.

There was no scream, before his eyes he saw the man’s skin turn blue at the wrist. Loki and his opponent stared at his arm in shock before the Prince recovered and stabbed out, killing the Frost Giant. For a moment Laufey was frozen in surprise, before the realisation came over him. He rose from his throne and ran down toward the battle.

He skirted around to the side, watching as one of Thor’s companions was skewered by spikes of ice. Loki was distracted by the yell and threw a knife at the charging attacker with deadly accuracy. But that gave Laufey his opening. As Thor’s other companions pulled their friend from the ice, Laufey appeared behind Loki and grabbed him tightly, pinning his arms. He spun with the surprised Prince in his arms and ran as fast as he could back toward the relative safety of the castle.

“Thor!” Loki shouted as Laufey raced through the ice. He responded by clamping a hand over Loki’s mouth, pressing tightly against skin that was rapidly turning blue. Loki struggled in his arms but was unable to free himself. The Princes clothing had frozen between them, bits of it cracking and falling from his body as they moved.

Laufey reached the castle and sped through the corridors, twisting and turning through the wide passageways. He didn’t have long, Thor seemed caught up in the battle and his friends were mostly focussed on each other, but he couldn’t take the chance. With a savage growl of triumph he reached his destination, the king’s bedroom was the only room in the castle with its wards still intact.

He threw Loki down onto the fur covered ice that was Laufey’s bed. The Prince’s skin immediately began to change back to pink. His eyes widened in alarm as he scrambled back away from Laufey’s grip. His breath was coming in gasps as he tried to evade the King but Laufey was too fast. He gripped Loki’s arms tightly and pushed him back against the bed. One hand reached down and grabbed a handful of fabric. As second later it was gone, torn from Loki’s body. His skin had turned back to blue under Laufey’s hands. He twisted and struggled, crying out in protest and fear as Laufey grabbed his legs and forced them open.

“Stop! Stop!” Loki screamed, staring up at Laufey in fear. “Don’t, please, don’t!”

Laufey ignored it, he didn’t have much time. He pulled Loki’s arms above his head and pinned them there with one hand, the other he pressed between the man’s legs. Loki’s expression changed when he hit the point just behind his balls. It was a small, hidden hole. Laufey wondered briefly if Loki had even known it was there, or if the spell on him made it disappear when he was in Asgard form. It didn’t matter, what mattered was the spell, the binding. He pushed inwards, ignoring the scream that came from Loki’s throat as his fingers breached the entrance. Loki choked on a sob and tried to twist away but Laufey held him too tightly. He allowed only a few seconds for Loki to adjust to his fingers before pulling out and replacing them with his cock. Loki stilled as Laufey breached him, whimpering in fear and pain as the King’s cock pressed deeper and deeper inside of him. His breath was shallow pants, already fast and growing faster as Laufey began to move.

Laufey had no time for gentleness, he had to finish this as fast as possible, had to come inside Loki to complete the binding. He set a brutal rhythm, thrusting in and out of the Prince’s body as quickly as he dared. It was clear in the first few thrusts that Loki had not had anyone else. His seal broke as Laufey’s cock slammed through it. He was crying, sobbing in pain, twisting his head and arms in an effort to escape his torment. Laufey pushed harder, faster, desperately trying to finish this before the Allfather arrived to take back his sons. Loki’s body jerked under his, unable to withstand his strength. Blue blood began to appear on Laufey’s cock. He was so close, so close. He slid in and out more easily now, with a grunt of effort he pushed harder, ignoring the sounds of distress coming from beneath him.

At last he felt his release coming; his rhythm became uneven and jerky. With a final grunt of effort he released his icy seed into Loki’s body. Loki let out a cry at the sensation, surprise warring with the fear and pain already displayed on his delicate features.

Laufey withdrew, releasing Loki’s hands and reaching for his loincloth. It was done, the spell should have taken effect, although there was no way of knowing for sure until it was tested. He rose from the bed and ran as fast as he could toward the Bifrost site, where Thor’s companions had retreated and where Thor himself was now heading.

He arrived just in time for the Bifrost to open and the Allfather to appear. Laufey did his best to appear calm and King-like, rather than flustered and out of breath.

“Father, let us finish them together!” Thor yelled. Laufey realised that the Prince had no idea that his younger brother was missing. The Allfather was a different story.

“Where is Loki?” He asked, his face was calm but Laufey knew better, Odin loved his sons.

“The dark haired one yes?” He said, feigning nonchalance. “I believe he went for a tumble down a cliff face, it took two of my men to do it so you must be proud.”

Thor jerked then, forehead crinkling in confusion as he realised at last that his brother wasn’t with him. Odin had paled under his beard. Laufey walked closer to him, still trying to keep his breath under control.

“What your boy has done here today is an act of war.” He said. Odin’s eyes snapped on to him from wherever they’d gone at the news of his son’s death.

“Then treat these actions as such, the actions of a boy.” He said, his voice sounded strong, but Laufey liked to think he could see the pain under them.

“I will consider it. You have lost a great deal to this folly. Perhaps it will teach your boy not to be so foolish.”

Odin looked over at his son, Thor looked horrified. Laufey couldn’t help but rub it in.

“If we find the body, I’ll let you know.” He said and turned away, as though Odin was of no importance. He had to force himself not to break into a run. Behind him he heard the sound of the Bifrost opening. It was done, they had left and Laufey had his mate.

He went back to the castle as fast as he could while remaining dignified. He knew his generals would come to question his decision not to declare war, but he had a greater prize than another bloodbath.

Loki had crawled from the bed and pulled what was left of his coat around him. But he had not yet managed to leave the King’s rooms. His eyes widened with fear when Laufey appeared in the doorway. Laufey noted that he had turned pink again, a curse of Odin’s, no doubt. It didn’t matter, Loki was his now. He strode forward and seized Loki’s arm.

“Come.” He said briskly, pulling his mate after him as he made his way back to the throne room. Loki pulled back, but he may as well have weighed nothing as Laufey pulled him down the cold corridors.

They reached the throne room, it was packed with Frost Giant warriors. Loki gasped as all their eyes turned to him.

“You said he tumbled off a cliff.” One of them called out. “Now we find you have a hostage, we will demand the Casket back!”

There was a cheer that accompanied this announcement. Laufey smiled and pulled Loki in front of him, holding him there by his shoulders. Loki was too sore to struggle much, his legs were trembling slightly and Laufey knew that he probably wouldn’t make it far if he tried to run.

“What I have is better than a hostage.” He announced. The room grew quiet. “At the end of the war, Odin took the Casket of Ancient Winters from us! But he also took something else, something I thought he had killed, something that would end the line of Jotun Kings!”

He reached up and pressed his hand to Loki’s face, gripping his narrow chin. Beneath Laufey’s hand, Loki’s skin changed to blue.

“He took my betrothed.” Laufey said clearly as the Frost Giants gasped and stared at Loki’s appearance. “He took my chance to have children, an heir to avenge us, an heir to win back the Casket. But I have taken him back!”

The cheer was deafening. Loki gasped against Laufey’s hand as the news sunk in. Laufey turned him so that they were face to face.

“My mate.” He breathed into Loki’s face. Chilling him to the core in a way that had nothing to do with ice.

Chapter Text

Loki lay on Laufey’s bed. He hurt, so much. He was pink again and bundled in furs, but he still felt cold. He was Laufey’s betrothed, Laufey. King of the Jotun. Laufey. That Laufey. King of the monsters, and Loki was one of them.

He stared at the ceiling. He wanted to go home and talk to his father. It couldn’t be true, he couldn’t be a Jotun, not that. It was a trick, a spell. Someone had cursed him and now Laufey thought he was his long dead betrothed.

Except that Laufey had touched him in a way that was obviously familiar to the Jotun. Loki had never found any reference to another hole in male Asgard. He’d never even found it during his own teenage exploration, and his explorations had been extremely thorough.

What if he were a Jotun? Laufey’s betrothed and not Thor’s brother? Was he supposed to have grown up in this place? Where were his real parents?

He shook his head, and winced as even that movement caused him pain. It didn’t matter. What mattered was getting home, back to where he belonged. He didn’t care if he was a Jotun, he could hide that. Odin had done it for him for years. Loki could do it forever.

He heard a noise at the doorway and lifted his head fearfully. Laufey was standing there, holding something in his hand. Loki shrank back into his furs as Laufey walked over to the bed and climbed next to him. Loki’s eyes grew wide. He could feel his heart hammering as he tried not to whimper at the memory of Laufey’s hands and cock.

“Hush.” Laufey murmured. “I’m not going to hurt you.” He peeled back the fur coverings, revealing Loki trembling at the centre. Whether from fear, cold or a combination of both he didn’t know. Laufey opened the jar he’d brought with him. ‘This will numb the pain.” He scooped up some of the ointment and reached between Loki’s legs. Loki yelped and tried to move away, but the pain flared across his abdomen, making him freeze in place. Laufey took advantage of his stillness to slide his fingers across Loki’s entrance, gently pressing against the swollen hole. Loki stayed frozen, the pain did lesson as Laufey rubbed, but he was afraid to move in case it inspired the King to go further.

Finally Laufey retreated, moving from the bed and placing the jar on the table. He walked back to Loki whose skin was once again changing back to pink. It only stayed blue when he was touched. Laufey preferred his true colouring. He was beautiful like that. Laufey reached over and wrapped Loki back up in his furs.

“We’ll find a way to break Odin’s curse, then you won’t have to be so covered.” His words didn’t seem to sooth his mate. Loki if anything looked more alarmed at the thought. Laufey had to remind himself that Loki had grown up thinking he was Asgard. It would take him time to adjust. It didn’t help that their first mate had been so violent. It would not have been the way he would have chosen to go about it, but he couldn’t let Loki get away, even now Odin could still come back. It had only been a few hours and all it would take would be for Heimdall to break his silence about Loki not being dead.

Laufey reached out and stroked Loki’s hair. “You are beautiful.” He said. “Rest and heal, when you are recovered I will show you your home.”

 

Odin had turned to Heimdall the second they had arrived back in Asgard.

“Where is Loki’s body?” He asked. Thor stood behind him, looking guilty.

“Loki is not dead.” Heimdall said. “Laufey has his betrothed in the castle tower.”

“Betrothed!” Thor exclaimed, which saved Odin from having to do it. He’d found Loki marked with Laufey’s house and assumed it must have been his son, but if Loki was Laufey’s betrothed then Odin had been wrong, horribly wrong. If Loki had not been abandoned as Odin had assumed then removing him was a grave insult, and now Laufey had taken him back.

“Is he alright?” Odin asked softly, not daring to put into words the thought that had crossed his mind.

“He is injured, but he will heal.”

Odin turned to the Sif and the Warriors 3. “Take him to the healers.” He said, gesturing to Fandral. The second they were out of earshot Odin turned back to Heimdall. “Are his injuries from the battle?” He said, eyes burning.

“No. He has been taken by Laufey. He is now the King’s mate.” Heimdall said solemnly.

“No!” Thor yelled. “Father we have to go back, we have to rescue him!”

Odin turned to stare at his eldest son. “To go back now is to declare war. If Loki was betrothed to Laufey then we have no right to remove him.”

“What?! No! Father that is insane! Loki doesn’t belong there!”

“Why” Odin said slowly, “Do you think I forbid you both from ever going? Do you think that maybe he would have been safer here? He didn’t even know he was Jotun, now he is lost to us!” His voice had steadily risen as he spoke, revealing the depth of his fear. Thor shank back beneath his father’s wrath.

“This is my fault.” He said at last. “There has to be a way to fix this.”

Odin stared at him for a long moment. Why did his older son have to learn humility at the expense of his younger? “I will try to think of something, but Thor, Laufey knows Loki is precious to us, he may be unmovable.”

“There has to be a way.” Thor said softly. “We have to bring Loki home.”

 

Loki lay still in the darkness. He couldn’t sleep, he was too afraid. The hours had crept on and Odin had not returned. Loki didn’t want to think about what that meant. Maybe he was gathering his forces, raising the army. Maybe the first wave would arrive tomorrow. Or maybe they weren’t coming, maybe peace was more important. Loki knew it was, he just didn’t want to think about it. One prince wasn’t worth a war. He would have to escape on his own.

 

It took Loki three days to recover enough to move about easily. Laufey continued to apply the numbing ointment, and the Jotun healers came to examine him after the first night. They told Laufey off in front of him, apparently he’d been too rough for a first mate, he’d ‘torn the seal’ with far more force than necessary and caused excessive bruising. Loki lay still while they scolded the King, he fully expected Laufey to order their deaths. Instead Laufey softly stated that he had limited time before Loki’s brother tried to rescue him and that he would be more careful in future. Loki bit his lip at the mention of the future, not if he could help it, he was going to get out of here.

The way he saw it, if he could escape long enough to get to the Bifrost site then Heimdall would bring him home. His illusion magic could help there. He just needed to stay curled up, too ‘sore’ to move.

It worked, he slipped from the castle surrounded by shadow and fled, still limping slightly, to the Bifrost site.

“Heimdall. Heimdall, bring me home, please!” He called as loudly as he dared. Surely Heimdall would be keeping an eye on him. “Heimdall!” he hissed, glancing over his shoulder at the castle lights in the distance.

His surroundings lit up, the Bifrost pulled him upward. He almost sobbed with relief as he felt himself fly upwards-

-and into Laufey’s lap.

Laufey hadn’t even known Loki was up. He was as tricky as his reputation, but the binding spell had held. Loki couldn’t go too far from Laufey without being teleported straight to his mate’s side.

Loki stared at Laufey, he had frozen in shock. Laufey suppressed a smile, he didn’t think it would have the right effect.

“You are bound to me, Loki.” He said softly. “We will never be parted.”

Loki pulled back, but Laufey held onto him. Refusing to let go as Loki struggled harder and harder. He wrapped both arms tightly around him. Loki started to scream, in anger, frustration and fear. He kicked and jerked, tried to slam his head back against Laufey's nose, he reached back and tried to claw his eyes out.

It didn’t work, Laufey was too strong, it was like fighting a statue. Laufey held him until he was forced to stop through sheer exhaustion. Chest heaving, Loki finally stopped struggling.

Laufey was impressed. Loki had fought for the better part of an hour. His strength was a good sign. He would carry strong children, and hopefully many of them. They should have been married years ago, centuries. They could have had half a dozen children by now. He leaned down and nipped Loki lightly on the earlobe. Loki stiffened in his arms. He tried weakly to begin struggling again but he had fought away his strength. Laufey slid a hand down Loki’s flank, sparking an exhausted cry from his mate. He slid his hand under Loki’s coverings, stroking his thighs and letting his hand wander upwards. Loki whimpered in his arms. He twisted, trying to prevent Laufey’s hand from getting any higher. Laufey continued to nip at Loki’s ears and neck, his skin was soft, as ice maidens’ tended to be. He was a beauty, a true prize. Laufey lifted Loki up and carried him back to the royal bedroom.

Loki whimpered in fear as Laufey laid him down.

“Don’t.” He pleaded. “Don’t do this, don’t hurt me.”

Laufey leaned down and nipped again at the skin of Loki’s neck. “I don’t want to hurt you.” He murmured. “I want to mate with you.”

Loki renewed his struggles at the words, and Laufey realised that, to Loki, hurt and mate meant the same thing. Their first encounter was not the way to start a marriage.

“This will feel much better than the first time.” Laufey said, sliding his hands up the length of Loki’s body. “Mates are enjoyable, relax now, I will be careful, I have time to be careful now.”

His words did not work. Loki fought him at every turn, every touch, every nip. When he finally slipped his fingers into Loki’s entrance Loki responded by sobbing. He persisted. Loki’s body was designed to find mates enjoyable, he just had to be taught.

When Loki saw Laufey’s cock he let out a cry. Last time he had been unable to see it before it was buried inside of him. It was huge, no wonder it had hurt, he wasn’t built for this, he was half Laufey’s size.

“No, no, no, please no, I can’t, it’s too big, I can’t!” His voice rose in desperation as Laufey settled between his legs.

“You can, you are an ice maiden, you are the most fertile type of Jotun. You are built for this.” Laufey assured him. “You are utterly beautiful.” He said, pressing into Loki’s body.

Loki whimpered and stilled as he had last time. It was instinctual, Laufey knew, harkening back to a time when the Jotun had to catch their mates. It allowed him a few seconds in which to be properly buried inside, a position which made it a lot harder to interrupt a mate. He moved slowly this time, rolling his hips and grinding into Loki’s body. Loki was crying, tears trickling down the sides of his face as Laufey moved. He ignored it. Loki would come around, he was born for this. Laufey could feel the wetness growing, it wasn’t blood this time, Loki’s body was responding to his presence, making it easier to move. Loki’s eyes were huge, his breath was soft and slow, the complete opposite of their first time. His cock slowly rose as Laufey moved. He moaned softly, helplessly.

Laufey reached down and stroked Loki’s cock, trying to coax a greater response. Loki moaned again, he was still trying weakly to get away but his body had other ideas. Laufey gripped Loki’s cock in a tighter grip and stroked, making Loki thrust upwards in response. Loki let out a loud cry at the sensation that pulsed through him. He pushed his hands up, trying to get Laufey to stop, the pleasure sending shivers through his body was at odds with the desire of his mind to be as far away as possible. He shuddered under Laufey’s attentions, moaning with a mixture of confused emotions.

Laufey increased his speed slowly, building up to a steady, firm rhythm. Loki’s hips were rolling upwards, matching his movements even as he moaned for Laufey to stop. Laufey kept going, Loki needed to experience a proper mate, and that meant he needed to climax. It wouldn’t be too much longer, his body was showing all the signs of peaking. Laufey pushed a little harder, a little faster. Beneath him, Loki stiffened and let out a cry, his eyes rolled back as his climax overtook him. Laufey leaned down and nipped at Loki’s neck. The climax would last about ten minutes, in which Loki would be completely helpless as his body tried to release a single seed. Laufey moved with him, working himself up to his own climax. He released with a cry, spilling his cold seed inside of Loki’s body.

Laufey rolled over onto his back and pulled Loki with him. Loki was still caught up, gasping softly as his body worked its way through to completion. A few minutes later he slumped against Laufey’s body, exhausted. Laufey nuzzled into Loki’s hair, enjoying the feel of it against his lips. Loki made a murmur that may have been a protest but it was too soft to be sure. Moments later he was asleep, the first proper sleep he’d had since the day he’d come to Jotunheim to back up his brother.

Chapter Text

Loki was woken by the sound of footsteps. He was pressed into Laufey’s side. The Jotun King’s arms were wrapped tightly around him. Laufey stirred sleepily and smiled down at him.

“Good morning.” He said softly.

Loki wanted to bite him, he might have risked it, had Laufey’s earlier attentions not involved a lighter form of exactly that. There was no telling how it would be interpreted.

The footsteps belonged to two Jotuns. They entered the room without knocking and began to lay food out on the small (comparatively speaking) table at the far side of the room.

Laufey sat up and pulled back the furs. With a tug to keep Loki with him he swung his feet onto the floor and made for a door in the corner of the room.

While most of the rooms in the King’s chambers had either furniture or items placed throughout them, this small (again, relatively) room had nothing. Loki tried to pry himself from Laufey’s side without success.

The Jotuns had finished laying out the food, through the doorway Loki saw them pick up a bundle of fur and approach them.

In addition to the fur they held large brushes. Without ceremony one of them began to brush Laufey’s flanks. The other reached out and began to do the same to Loki.

The brush was coarse, but not painful. It was kind of like having a whole body scratch. With each stroke small flakes of dirt and ice fell from their bodies.

Loki held himself rigid as his hair was brushed, then his chest, arms and back. But when the Jotun reached toward his buttocks he yelped and tried to pull away. Laufey reached around without effort and held Loki in place, facing him. The Jotun brushed firmly over his buttocks and legs, even reaching his inner thighs. Loki squirmed and tried to stop him. Laufey just held him tighter and said nothing.

Finally it was over, the Jotuns put their brushes down and reached instead for the furs. They were loincloths. They wrapped one each around Laufey and Loki’s waists and fastened them in place with decorative clasps. Under normal circumstances Loki would find the patterns beautiful. They were coiled, with delicate detailing, unlike the jewellery normally favoured in Asgard. Right now he’d do anything to see something familiar instead, even if it was ugly.

The last thing the Jotuns did was lay out two more furs on the ground. They looked up at Loki, clearly expecting him to do something.

“Step on them.” Laufey said.

Loki jumped slightly at the sound of his voice, then carefully complied.

They reached forward and tied the furs to his feet, making a pair of rough slippers. Loki understood. So far all the Jotuns he’d seen went barefoot, but if he changed back to Asgard form without protection his warm pink feet would stick painfully to the icy floor. If he could pull them free it would only be by leaving behind several layers of skin.

They were done. The Jotuns bowed to Laufey then Loki, which startled him, before leaving them alone.

Laufey pulled him to the table and lifted Loki onto one of the chairs. The Jotun servants had laid a fur across it for him to sit on, which was needed as the second Laufey let go of him his skin flushed with pink.

Laufey sat in the other chair and began to eat.

Loki had debated on a hunger strike while still recovering from his injuries. He’d discarded the idea, especially as he was stuck here until the binding spell was broken, he needed to maintain his strength.

He picked up a piece of food and carefully put it in his mouth.

It was frozen, for a second it fused to his tongue before the heat of his mouth caused the outside frost to melt. The rest of it was still frozen solid though, and his first attempt to bite it nearly broke a tooth.

Then there was the other matter of the cold. It was seeping into him, he could feel it rising from his chair through the fur, and the air, while thankfully still was nevertheless slowly drawing the heat out of him.

He began to shiver.

He looked up at Laufey only to find the King was watching him intently. Laufey’s eyes travelled over his skin, which had begun to pimple with cold. He muttered something in a tone that made it clear he was cursing (Loki thought he heard the name ‘Odin’ in there somewhere) before reaching across and pulling Loki into his lap. He moved Loki’s plate closer and started eating again.

With the back of his legs resting against Laufey’s thighs Loki found himself blue again very quickly. The cold receded and the piece of frozen food still in his mouth suddenly developed a flavour. He cautiously chewed again and found his Jotun teeth crunched through it easily. He tried another piece.

Laufey resisted the urge to stroke Loki’s hair. The fact that he was sitting, unheld, in his lap was progress. Eating was another good sign and Laufey didn’t want to wreck it. Instead he cast about for something to talk about.

“Why don’t you like being brushed?” He asked. “It doesn’t hurt.”

Loki had stiffened when he’d spoken, for a second Laufey wondered if he should have said anything at all. Perhaps he should have waited a few mornings for Loki to adjust to simply being in his lap.

For a long moment Loki didn’t say anything, then finally he murmured.

“I’ve never been brushed before.”

Laufey stared at the back of his head, he knew the Asgard were dirty but he didn’t think they were that bad.

“How do the Asgard keep clean?” He blurted, unable to keep the incredulous tone out of his voice. Loki glanced up at the sound. He looked startled, but not in a fearful way.

“We, uh, bathe. In water. With scented oils and cloths to wipe away the dirt.”

“You immerse yourself in water?”

“Yes?”

“And this is pleasant?”

“Yes?”

Laufey stared at Loki with an unmistakable look of disbelief. Then his eyes narrowed.

“These immersion bowls, are they big, oval and lined with gold?”

“Big and oval yes, the palace ones are lined with gold.” Loki said carefully.

Laufey grinned at him, causing Loki to lean back uncertainly.

“My men and I wondered what those things in Odin’s palace were for, back before the war. For the life of us we couldn’t work it out.”

Loki’s mouth twitched. Just a little, tiny involuntary twitch. Laufey deliberately ignored it. Small steps were what was needed, that was enough for today, and he had always wondered about the oval bowls.

 

After breakfast Laufey deposited Loki on the bed, causing him no small amount of fear. But Laufey just wrapped him firmly in furs before reaching out and stroking his cheek.

“I do the work of the realm in the mornings. I will be back later, in the meantime I will send someone with some books for you to look at.”

Loki watched him leave. A tiny piece of tension uncurled in his chest. He was finally alone. He hadn’t been sure if that would even happen. But if he only had the morning then there was no time to lose.

He took a deep, freezing breath and tried to calm himself.

Magic was all about focus. There were people who believed that magic was some kind of reservoir, that once emptied would need time to replenish. This was untrue. Magic was always there, it never needed recharging. Just as a warrior did not physically lose his muscles while fighting, a sorcerer’s magic did not diminish through use. But, as with the warrior, fatigue, injury or illness could prevent a sorcerer from using what he had. This was the reason Loki had dismissed the idea of a hunger strike, he needed his strength to help him focus. He had spent the last few days recovering, now he was able to concentrate.

He reached out with his magic and tried to detect the binding spell around him. His body stilled, his breathing grew soft and his muscles relaxed slowly. He searched for a trace of something foreign, something on his skin, or in his heart. He searched every part of his body, trying to find something as delicate as a spider web.

The noise in the room jolted him back to awareness. A Jotun stood in the doorway, holding a book.

He bowed, and stepped forward.

“I am Thrym, Laufey’s brother and General of his armies.” He announced.

Loki watched him warily.

“I have fought the Asgard, Trolls and Great and Powerful Beasts from across the nine realms.” He continued, walking slowly forwards. “Right now.” He said, reaching the end of the bed. “I am here to give you a book.”

Loki’s forehead creased.

Thrym grinned at him.

“I’ve also been instructed to read it to you, unless by some miracle Odin saw fit to teach you Jotun writings?”

Loki shook his head. His silver tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth.

Thrym sat down on the edge of the bed and open the book.

“It’s the history of Jotunheim, well, the children’s version, which is much more exciting and has ice-breathing dragons in it. I thought it would make a better introduction to your home than the official version, which is frankly, a little dull.”

Loki crept cautiously forward and peeked over Thrym’s shoulder, his first glance had been right, the book had pictures.

Thrym cleared his throat and began to read.

 

 

Loki sat quietly beside Laufey in the throne room. Laufey had a hand resting on Loki’s knee, keeping him in his Jotun form. Loki tried very hard not to draw attention to himself. His first plan had failed. He was stuck until he figured out how to remove the spell that kept him from leaving Laufey’s side. Until then, he stayed quiet, obedient and careful. He had listened carefully to Thrym as he read to him and even chanced the occasional question. At lunch he had eaten well and tried not to flinch as Laufey stroked his back. It had frightened him, how little control he had over his own body. Laufey seemed to think that physical pleasure should translate into a willingness to mate. Loki’s feelings meant nothing to him.

Now, after lunch, Laufey was holding a public audience. He had stated very firmly that he wanted Loki to be there although there was no obvious reason. If it weren’t for the hand that didn’t stray from Loki’s knee he may as well not exist. It didn’t take someone as smart as Loki to figure it out. His purpose was to exist. Laufey was showing him off to his people, to ensure that the rumours that had probably run through the realm were indeed correct and Laufey had his mate back. Odin had occasionally done things like this, showing things for the sake of showing them. He wished that Laufey would let him leave, maybe then he could continue to try and locate the spell that was upon him. It had to be sophisticated, the Asgard would talk about the Jotun as savages, but he knew from his school lessons that their kingdom were founded on a culture with it’s own rules. And they had clearly mastered some very advanced spells.

Loki also discovered that it was possible to be bored while being felt up by an ice-monster, which was not something that he had ever wanted to know and certainly not firsthand.

Finally Laufey seemed to be finished with the day’s business. He sat back, giving Loki’s knee a squeeze that made him jump. Loki saw knowing smirks on the faces of many of Laufey’s closest companions. He tried to keep his face neutral.

“Friends, allies, Jotuns all.” Laufey stated grandly. “It is obvious that Odin’s curse is still present on my mate.”

He stood, removing his hand from Loki’s knee which allowed the pink colouring to rush back over his skin. The cold suddenly seemed harsher, cutting deeply into him.

“I will grant a King’s favour to the one who breaks the curse and allows my mate to remain in his true form.”

The sudden silence in the room told Loki just how important this announcement was. When Laufey sat down he chanced a question.

“What is a King’s favour?”

“Any request within the King’s power will be granted, whether it be land, a title, riches or the help of a sorcerer.” Laufey said smiling as he slid his hand back onto Loki’s knee, obviously believing that Loki’s willingness to communicate was a good sign.

Loki filed that away as useful information.

His thoughts were interrupted when a familiar light shone down in the distance. Laufey sat straighter, his hand squeezing Loki’s thigh. The Jotuns around them stilled in place, some of them almost seemed to become a part of the scenery. They waited in silence as their visitor made his way up to the palace.

It was Odin. He rode his favourite horse, which despite the rumours spread by a drunken Thor several hundred years ago, was not Loki’s accidental child.

Odin rode right up into the hall until he was facing Laufey. His eyes did not waver from Laufey’s face. Loki was torn between wanting his father’s acknowledgement and avoiding his face completely. Odin had to know what had happened, maybe everyone knew by now. To his horror Loki realised he was embarrassed. What kind of a reaction was that? Would he be embarrassed to be beaten bloody by a Jotun? No. He’d been attacked… it wasn’t his fault…everyone probably knew by now that he’d had sex with Laufey…

Loki blinked hard to force the thought away. Not his fault, not his fault, Thor would know, would he ever look at his brother the same way again? Not. His. Fault. Maybe once he got out of here he could run away to Midgard, that way he wouldn’t have to face everyone. But he had no reason to hide, it wasn’t his fault.

“King Laufey.” Odin said calmly.

“Odin Allfather.” Laufey replied coolly.

“I would like to discuss my son.” Odin said flatly.

Laufey’s grip on Loki tightened. “And what would you like to discuss? He’s not your son, he’s my mate.” The grip slid up Loki’s leg, rising high enough to make a blue blush wash across his cheeks. Odin’s calm exterior didn’t crack.

“He is my son. I brought him into my family, he was raised in my home, he is mine.”

“He was promised to me, you have no right to take him.” Laufey snapped. Odin’s calm exterior was clearly getting to him.

Odin nodded. “And at the end of the war, with Jotunheim in ruins, I did not think a small child left to lie on the floor would be found before it was too late. I did what I thought was right for him.”

“And now you have to let him go. He’s mine.” Laufey said. Loki sat unhappily beside him. He wanted nothing more than to run to his father’s side, then hide for eternity.

Odin nodded slowly. “Will you consider a trade?” He asked.

Laufey smiled, it was not a nice smile. “You have nothing more important than this.” He said, squeezing Loki’s thigh again.

“What about the Casket of Ancient Winters?” Odin asked quietly.

Loki felt the concentration of the room sharpen. He was shocked, Odin had just offered to give back the Jotun power source, for him?

Maybe he could face some of them.

Laufey laughed. “You would never.” He said dismissively.

Odin did not answer, merely reached into thin air and pulled out the Casket. Laufey stared at it, stunned. The Jotun in the room began to inch closer to Odin.

Loki glanced at Laufey, he could see the wheels turning in the Jotun King’s head.

“Agreed.” He said and released Loki.

The spell, the binding, he was relying on the binding.

“No father.” Loki said. “There’s a spell that will pull me back to him, he’s tricking-”

Laufey whirled around and snarled at him, shocking him into silence. Odin twitched, just slightly as Loki jerked backwards.

“If this is a true trade then you will release my son from any spell that is upon him.” Odin said calmly. Laufey sneered.

“Then we have no agreement.” He said. “I will take back the Casket one day, with my heirs beside me.” He reached out again and stroked Loki’s leg. “And I will have many heirs.” He said with a smirk.

Laufey waved a hand and the assembled Jotun leaped forward to attack Odin. Loki cried out in fear for his father, but Odin blasted them all back and mounted his horse with easy grace. A moment later he was gone from the castle, and a minute after that the Bifrost light shone and Loki was once again alone.

Chapter Text

Thor had spent the last four days training constantly. He knew it was unlikely to make much of a difference, he was already almost unstoppable, but it made him feel as though he was doing something. The summons to his father’s chamber brought a mixture of relief and anxiety.

Only anxiety remained when he saw Odin was without Loki.

“Father?” He asked without asking.

“Laufey turned down the casket.” Odin said quietly. “He is determined to keep Loki. He made reference to having heirs.”

“No. He can’t! Not with Loki. No.” Thor said, his eyes flashing. “Father we have to get him out of there, there has to be another way.”

“Heimdall has been instructed to watch Loki closely. If he sees anything relevant then he will tell me immediately.”

There was a knock at the door, followed immediately by Frigga, whose face was drawn.

“I take it that you were unsuccessful.” She said.

Odin reached out and drew her into a hug. “We’ll get him back.” He said softly. Frigga nodded and drew back.

“I’m going to visit him.” She said. Thor’s eyes widened in surprise. Odin’s face went ‘husband blank.’

“I don’t know if that is wise.” He said.

“I don’t care, Laufey has my baby boy and I will go and see him.” She said.

“What if he orders them to attack you?” Odin said. “Be practical, we will get him back, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Frigga glared at him.

“Be practical.” Odin said again, more firmly. Her lips tightened but she did not argue.

 

Laufey was furious. He was furious at Odin for getting away, furious at his men for allowing Odin to get away, furious that they did not manage to snatch the casket and furious that his plan had been spoilt.

Mostly though, he was furious at himself.

He’d ordered Loki back to their chambers, to wait there until he was ready to see him. His mate clearly thought some kind of punishment would be dished out, but truthfully though Laufey just needed time to calm down.

He had always been hasty. Even as a youngling he’d rushed into things. He thought he’d learnt his lesson when he rushed to invade Midgard after some young men who thought they were so very brave snuck into his realm to steal from him.

Now that he thought about it, the actions of Odin’s son Thor were kind of ironic.

He’d had a thousand years to learn his lesson and what had he done? Jumped straight into a plan that would never have worked. Of course Loki was going to warn Odin, he thought the Allfather was his father. Laufey had been hasty, and it had cost him.

He should have expressed cautious interest, invited the Allfather to a private discussion room (well, they were all still rubble but any room would have done) and agreed privately. Once he had the casket he would wave Loki goodbye, watch the Bifrost take them and then just stand still with his arms open.

Too late now, haste, it seemed would always be his enemy. He sat down for a moment, only to rise and begin walking again. The noise behind him was an unwelcome distraction.

“We’ll get it back.” Thrym said evenly from the doorway. “Or we’ll carry on without it. We’ve done well these last thousand years or so.”

Laufey gave him a knowing look.

“Well.” He said.

“Well, the farms are looking good, the industry is almost back up to strength and the public gardens are just lovely when the sun hits them in the afternoons.”

“Smartmouth.” Laufey muttered.

Thrym grinned at him.

“Truly the only thing we haven’t started rebuilding is the castle. Which could do with a nice new finish.”

“Stop talking.” Laufey said.

“If we put the army on it, we’d have this place standing proud again in half a century, no problem.” Thrym patted the wall theatrically.

Laufey was still glaring at him.

“You know, I’ve heard about this substance called paint. This place could be made all kinds of bright colours. It’ll cheer people up to see it.”

“Shut up.” Laufey said, not even trying to hide the smile that finally cracked his features.

Thrym looked at him seriously.

“He’s terrified you’re going to punish him. He was trembling when I put him on the bed, and I don’t think it was from the cold.”

Laufey sighed.

“I didn’t think it through.”

“It’s not every day you’re offered a casket, you’ll play it better next time.”

“Next time.”

“Oh yes, I’m pretty sure the Vanir have a casket of some kind, not the one you want but it would do to practice on.”

Laufey picked up a handful of snow and threw it at him.

“I’ll go and speak to Loki.” He said. “And no building fake caskets and leaving them in my workroom.” He called out over his shoulder, he knew his brother all too well.

 

Loki was trying to find the binding spell again. He was so rarely left alone for any length of time he had to take advantage of what he had.

It didn’t help that he kept hearing noises from outside the room. They made him jump with fear, Laufey’s face had been savage. Despite his attempts to stay calm his thoughts kept going back to what Laufey was planning to do to him. Maybe he would chain him to the bed, then he would be nothing but a sex slave, a breeder. Or would he be put in a dungeon, or beaten, or whipped?

He forced himself to calm and look for the spell, if he could remove it then all he had to do would be to get out of the castle. Granted it would be a lot harder than the first time, especially if Laufey put him in chains…

Focus. Who knew how much time he had.

His magic moved carefully over his body, but again he couldn’t find a trace of any spell. It was clearly cast on him, it had worked once already, but he couldn’t find it. It was so frustrating, he could feel nothing but his own magic, everywhere he looked.

The noise of the door opening made him jump in fear.

Laufey walked through and regarded him from the far side of the room.

“I’m sorry.” He said.

Loki blinked. Did Laufey really just-?

“I realise that you think of Odin as your father and you would want to warn him. I should not have expected otherwise.”

Loki’s brow crinkled upward in surprise. Laufey personally thought that expression was quite attractive. He came closer and sat on the end of the bed.

“You need to understand Loki that you are home now, you may think of Odin as your father but he is not. Your father died on Jotunheim in the final battle of the war. He fell not far from where the Bifrost sets down. Your mother too was killed by the Asgard army. They died to protect you, and to protect the line of Jotun kings. I know you love Odin and I am not angry at you. But you need to start accepting that you are home.”

Loki stared at him in defiant silence. Laufey sighed softly and rose from the bed.

“I want you to stay here for the rest of today. Odin’s visit has caused chaos in the court which I need to go and sort out.”

Loki watched him leave without saying anything. His face was a blank mask. Laufey doubted his words had made an impact, but he had to keep trying.

‘Four days’ he told himself. ‘He’s been here four days. And he’s here forever now, I just have to be patient’

It seemed he was going to have to conquer his tendency toward haste whether he liked it or not.

 

 

Loki’s days had developed a routine.

Morning, wake up when the servants arrive. Get a thorough brushing down and dressing followed by breakfast. Try to find the binding spell in the few minutes he had before Thrym arrived. Listen to Thrym tell the history of Jotunheim until Laufey came back. Do whatever activity Laufey had chosen until lunchtime. Lunch. Sit in the throne room next to Laufey while court was held. Do whatever activity Laufey had chosen for the afternoon until dinnertime, then dinner and then sex.

Laufey took him every night. Loki’s protests would fall on deaf ears. Laufey kept insisting that Loki would enjoy himself if he just relaxed. It was horrible, the way his body would react. It was like being betrayed, the total loss of control had him terrified of each coming night.

Afterwards Loki forced himself to stay awake and try to locate the binding spell again. It didn’t seem to be anywhere. He worked slowly, carefully testing every inch of his body for signs of magic.

He would search until he was exhausted, before finally allowing himself to sleep.

 

It was morning, and Loki was sitting next to Thrym hearing the story of the Great Dufa, who had singlehandedly created the mountains of the west while trying to put out a fire with his massive feet, when the sky outside the window lit up.

In a heartbeat Loki was off the end of the bed and standing at the window. His head just made it over the bottom edge.

He turned to Thrym who was still sitting on the edge of the bed, watching him patiently.

“Please?” He asked. He didn’t need to say what he was asking for. Thrym stared at him for a moment before nodding.

“Alright.”

The two guards stationed outside fell into step with them, one ahead and one behind as they made their way to the throne room. They stopped when they reached the threshold. Loki peeked around the giant bulk of the guard, expecting to see his father.

He gasped in shock when he saw his mother.

Frigga stood straight backed and regal in the centre of the room. She was holding eye contact with Laufey, who actually looked a little alarmed. Loki tried to inch around the guard and into their sight. Unlike Odin, who had not even looked at his son, Frigga’s head whipped around and her gaze locked on to him.

“My boy.” She said softly and held out her arms. Loki stepped forward, but found his way stopped when Laufey held up a hand. Frigga slowly turned back to face the Jotun King, if her gaze were any more fire like she would have melted him where he sat.

“Are you such an uncaring husband that you will ban your mate from his mother?” She asked. In contrast to her gaze, her voice was like ice. Laufey frowned, Loki tried again to get past his guard.

“I can’t go anywhere.” He said softly. Laufey glanced at him, then nodded.

Loki moved forward to Frigga’s arms. She held him tightly, folding him into the hug that he knew so well from his childhood. He fought the urge to break down right there in the throne room.

“You feel thin Loki, does he feed you enough?” Frigga asked.

Loki thought that was a ridiculous thing to ask him after what had happened. He pulled back to stare at her and saw the look in her eye. Frigga could not ask him, publically, about anything that had happened to him. She had to stick to safe topics. He smiled weakly.

“It’s not what I’m used to, but it’s enough.” He said quietly.

Frigga looked past him to Laufey.

“Will you allow me to send my son some of the foods from home he is more familiar with?” She asked.

Laufey was watching her suspiciously, trying to work out if there was a trick in play.

“I suppose that would be acceptable.” He said slowly.

“Thankyou.” Frigga said sharply. She turned back to Loki and ran a hand through his hair. “Do you want anything from your room? Your grooming tools? Your books?”

Loki nodded. His throat felt suspiciously tight.

“That would be, um, good. Thankyou mother.” He said, trying to keep his voice even.

Again Frigga looked over his shoulder, a question in her eyes.

“That would be acceptable.” Laufey said again, he sounded grumpy.

Frigga pulled Loki into another hug.

“I will bring you your things soon.” She said to him, squeezing him tightly.

Loki squeezed her back and murmured in her ear.

“King’s favour to he who breaks father’s spell.”

He pulled back and gave her another tight smile.

“I love you mother.” He said clearly, a challenge in his voice to Laufey. This was his mother and he would not forget it.

Frigga stroked his hair again and stepped back. She bowed to Laufey without lowering her eyes and left the throne room.

Loki jerked as the Jotuns made as though to follow her. But Laufey held up a hand and they stopped.

“Let her go. She has made no threat. Loki, come here.”

It was the first time Laufey had given him an order. Usually he was content to lift, carry and otherwise manhandle Loki to where he wanted him. Loki turned to face him. He could see the challenge for what it was, and here in the throne room no less. With a carefully blank expression Loki forced himself to walk to Laufey’s side. Laufey’s smile was triumphant as he reached out, took Loki’s hand and pulled him onto his lap.

Loki could hear the snickers of the Jotun elite. He sat stiffly and stared straight ahead. Laufey reached out and stroked his hair in a mockery of Frigga’s loving gesture. The strokes slowly became more sensual, sliding down Loki’s neck and between his shoulder blades. Loki struggled not to react as Laufey pulled him closer and nipped lightly at his ear. With a knowing smirk Laufey scooped him up and left the throne room behind.

 

Odin was waiting at the Bifrost when Frigga returned. His arms were folded and his face tense.

“You disobeyed me.” He said flatly.

“You gave me a stupid command.” Frigga responded, stalking past him. “Laufey has given me his permission to send Loki some food and personal items. If he is to stay there for some time then I think he deserves some comforts from home.”

Odin fell into step beside her.

“As you wish. We will order the kitchens to make his favourites.”

“He told me something. Something important.” Frigga added, her voice low.

Odin nodded without turning his head.

“In our chambers.” He said softly.

Chapter Text

Laufey’s days had developed a new routine.

Morning, wake up when the servants arrive. Get a thorough brushing down and dressing followed by breakfast. Go and take care of the dull parts of Realm management. Try to balance an increasingly thin end of year budget before returning to Loki. Spend time with Loki until lunchtime. Lunch. Sit in the throne room with Loki beside him while court was held. Spend more time with Loki until dinnertime, then dinner and then mating.

Loki always reacted the same way to being mated.

First he would fight.

Then he would beg.

Then he would cry.

Laufey took him every night. There was no way to tell when Loki’s body would develop a fertile seed. When it did it had to be released it into his womb and then fertilised by Laufey. Mating daily was the best way to ensure a fertile seed would not be wasted.

He still wished Loki wouldn’t cry.

It didn’t hurt him, Laufey knew it didn’t hurt him. But Loki just would not accept that he belonged in Laufey’s bed.

Laufey hated Loki’s arms. Oh they were fine to look at, nice shape, proper length, but they had this way of pressing against his chest while they mated. Loki’s hands would lie flat as he tried to push Laufey away from him, even as his instincts overrode the lower half of his body.

‘Ten days.’ He told himself. ‘He’s been here ten days.’

Queen Frigga had troubled him. Her arrival was so unexpected she was lucky she hadn’t been killed on sight. Now that would have caused chaos.

Her requests had been annoyingly reasonable. He could have refused her and told her to leave and never return, but the satisfaction he’d have gotten from lording it over the Queen of Asgard would have been fleeting at best. Still, Loki needed to learn to live without his Asgard family. Laufey couldn’t have them dropping in at any time, if they did it would only be a matter of time before one of them got killed (probably Frigga) or killed one of his subjects (probably Thor).

Truly the Asgard were just savages in fine stitching.

 

 

Odin’s eyebrows had risen when Frigga mentioned the King’s favour.

“Are you certain?” He asked.

“I am.” Frigga said.

“So we send someone to break your spell, and they request Loki as payment.” Thor said, sitting up straighter in his chair.

“I doubt Laufey will allow that. He may declare that letting his mate leave to be beyond his power, as unfortunately Jotunheim is better off if Loki stays and Laufey must do what is best for his realm. But we may still be able to use this knowledge to our advantage.” Odin said.

“We can send someone of another race to break your spell. In return they can ask how the binding spell is performed.” Frigga said. “Perhaps we can use that knowledge to break it.”

Odin nodded slowly.

“There is still the problem of Laufey’s heir. He will almost certainly declare war if we take Loki back.”

“So we fight them.” Thor said bluntly. “We are stronger and better armed.”

“But right will not be on our side.” Odin reminded him. "Unfortunately Loki does belong to Laufey, and by now the other realms know it. If we take him, even with his consent, we will be the aggressor nation. The other realms will not look upon us too kindly. We may find ourselves isolated.”

“The other realms will side with us when they hear of how Loki has been imprisoned.” Thor said stubbornly.

Odin and Frigga shared a look. It was not Thor’s fault that he had grown up in a time of peace, when Asgard was seen as the shining jewel of the realms. He did not see how fragile a reputation that was. Other realms all had their less than desirable traits wrapped up as tradition and did not want to be interfered with. Hel, Asgard had a few that made the other realms shudder. If Asgard just barged in and took Loki away from his rightful mate there would be a fallout lasting centuries, millennia even. Laufey had to be convinced to let Loki go. Publically it had to seem like Laufey’s idea, privately? Well, first they needed leverage, then they could see what might be done.

“We need more information.” Odin said. He glanced reluctantly at his wife. “If you truly believe you will be safe there, you may be the best person to obtain it.” He said.

Frigga nodded immediately.

“I will bring Loki food regularly. Perhaps they will get used to my visits and drop their guard.” She said.

“Heimdall will watch you every moment, if they make a hostile move he will remove you immediately.” Odin said sternly. “And you will take a guard.”

“They will interpret that as hostile and ban me from coming.” Frigga said.

“You cannot risk going without one.” Odin said. “What you did today, while understandable, was foolish. They could have easily killed you, or taken you hostage. You will go with a guard or not at all.”

Frigga did not answer.

“Promise me.” Odin said. She just stared at him.

Thor cleared his throat, breaking the tense silence.

“I think I see a way we can resolve this.” He said.

 

 

Loki was sitting beside Laufey again. Laufey’s court, as far as he could see, was almost identical to Odin’s. Jotun from various stations in life came to ask for things, report on things and occasionally be brought to justice.

Laufey was quite just.

He would listen to both sides of the story and ask intelligent questions, sometimes with a truth spell cast when he suspected something wasn’t quite right, and thought carefully about his judgement before speaking.

Loki was forced to admit that while Laufey was a monster, he was a monster with a brain.

 

There was a light on the horizon. Loki sat straighter for a second before he realised the light had not been strong enough to be the Bifrost. Laufey frowned suspiciously and gestured to one of his guards to go and investigate.

The guard brought back a dwarf.

Loki went rigid, he desperately wanted to sink into his chair. It wasn’t just any dwarf, it was Brokk. Brokk had made Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. Loki had lost a bet to him long ago when he was barely an adult. The bet required Loki to forfeit his head, but he’d managed to avoid that fate by pointing out that Brokk would have to cut through his neck, which was not a part of the bargain. As revenge for his quick words Brokk had sewn his lips together instead and made him the laughing stock of the nine realms.

Right now he looked like he could barely contain his glee.

“Your Majesty.” He said, bowing deeply.

“Dwarf.” Laufey said shortly.

“My name is Brokk, and I have come on behalf of my people to offer you a gift in honour of your happy marriage.” Brokk said. Loki wanted to smack the smile off his face.

Laufey leaned back in his throne.

“Your people have never offered mine any gifts before.” He pointed out.

“True your majesty, but if I make so bold, this is the first union to have come to our attentions while still in the newly wedded phase.”

Laufey nodded slowly.

“I suppose that is true.” He said.

Brokk grinned widely, making sure he caught Loki’s eye.

“For you esteemed majesty I offer you this.”

He pulled a hammer from his back that looked a lot like Thor’s only much bigger. Loki felt a stab of fear. Was that idiot really giving the Frost Giants a giant Mjolnir?

Laufey made a gesture and Thrym stepped forward to take the hammer. He weighed it thoughtfully in his hand for a moment and nodded.

“It is exceptional.” He said.

Brokk’s grin took on a distinct element of smirk.

“And for your lovely bride I have personally fashioned this.”

He reached into his pouch and pulled out a collared necklace. It was made from tiny delicate loops of gold, with diamond and sapphires set in a twisting pattern. It was beautiful, and just the sort of thing a queen would wear. Loki tried hard not to react as Brokk held it up in front of the crowd.

“It will look beautiful sitting across her shoulders.” He said, eyes sparkling with malicious mirth.

Laufey gestured again and Thrym took the necklace from Brokk’s hands and brought it up to where they sat.

Laufey regarded the Dwarf thoughtfully. You would have to be an idiot not to spot the mocking nature of his presentation. And Loki had been as rigid as a statue from the moment the Dwarf had walked in.

Come to think of it, where had he heard the name Brokk before?

Then Laufey remembered. Brokk had sewn Loki’s lips shut for losing some kind of bet. Laufey remembered thinking Odin’s son being humiliated like that was hilarious at the time. Now that Odin’s son was his mate it didn’t seem so funny.

No one humiliated his mate.

“It does indeed look fine.” Laufey said, smiling slowly. “But I am not the one to judge such things. What do you think, Loki?” He asked, turning to his mate. “Do you like it? Should we thank the nice Dwarf for his gifts and send him on his way? Or are you insulted by his tastes and should Thrym test out the hammer’s strength on a nice hardy Dwarf skull?”

Brokk’s grin vanished. He looked nervously at Loki’s face.

Loki couldn’t help himself, despite everything he’d been through in the last few days he was still Loki, and Loki didn’t let an opportunity like this pass him by.

His lips pulled back in a slow smile. With exaggerated care he looked over to where Thrym held the necklace. He made a great show of examining the loops, the pattern and the shine.

“It seems...” He said and paused. Brokk’s face had broken out in a sweat.

“It seems...” He said again. Tilting his head from side to side.

“I suppose...” He added. Laufey was trying not to laugh beside him. Thrym wasn’t even trying to hide his mirth.

“Well, I guess it is alright. Sapphires are not my favourite stone but it will do.” He said at last. Brokk looked like he was going to faint.

Laufey turned to him and smiled benevolently.

“Our thanks to your people, Dwarf.” He said.

Brokk bowed deeply and hurried backwards out of the throne room. He had barely cleared the threshold when the court began to laugh.

So did Loki.

Laufey spotted it, so did Thrym, so did a number of other Jotun who wisely kept from commenting.

“Put those somewhere.” Laufey said with a wave of his hand. Thrym bowed and vanished with the gifts.

Laufey turned his attention to the next in line. He carefully didn’t look at Loki for the rest of the audience.

Small steps. Every day was another small step.

Chapter Text

The following day Loki was having a reading lesson from Thrym. Jotun runes were one of the oldest written languages and as such, had become immensely complicated as the centuries passed by.

So far he could read his name, Laufey’s name, Thrym’s name and the runes for ‘king,’ ‘enemy’ and ‘idiot older brother.’ The fact that it was expressed in a two stroke rune indicated to Loki that one of the original scribes probably had one.

Thrym had taken great delight in teaching it to him.

He wondered if he could have a coat made for Thor and have the runes stitched along the collar. He’d never know what he was wearing.

He’d never be given it, because Thor was in Asgard and Loki was here.

He sighed softly and turned the page of the writing book. Thrym turned to him and frowned.

“Something wrong?” He asked pleasantly.

Loki gave him a knowing look.

“Missing home?” Thrym said gently.

Loki felt his throat close up as he nodded. He did miss it. He missed the hot sun and the grassy fields. He even missed the ridiculous gold plated walls. He missed waking up and lying in bed while he decided what to do that day. He missed his family, he missed Thor. Stupid Thor.

Thrym reached out and gently rubbed the midpoint of Loki’s back.

“Did I ever tell you about the Great Hunt?” He said.

Loki shook his head.

“The Great Hunt comes once a year. We travel to the hunting grounds on the far side of the mountains and lie in wait for the prey. We call them the Draphts. They are huge beasts, massive great things, bigger than our great mounts and those will carry a battalion. We have to take the oldest Draphts, the biggest ones of all. For days we try to bring them down. A good hunt will kill five or more, a bad hunt will only kill one or two. Once the Great Hunt is over we travel back to the castle with our prize and there is a Great Festival to mark the successful end to the hunt. We eat and drink for ten days. It is the greatest time of our year.”

Loki smiled softly.

“And when does this hunt take place?” He asked.

“In half a season more.” Thrym said. “Perhaps you could come with us.”

“I don’t think Laufey would let me.” Loki said.

“I don’t see why not. All the warriors go and a large number of spell casters, gatherers and even some children, if they can follow orders.”

Loki shrugged his shoulders.

“It sounds like fun.”

“It is.” Thrym confirmed. “You’ll love it.”

Loki looked past him at the window. Thrym turned his head just in time to catch the light of the Bifrost as it faded. He turned back to see Loki’s hopeful face.

“Alright.” He said, rolling his eyes with extra dramatic flair. “We’ll go and see who is visiting Jotunheim now. You do know this realm was quiet before you got here, don’t you?” He teased as they made their way down the corridors and to the throne room.

It was Frigga. She carried a large bundle of furs in her arms. Behind her stood a handmaiden, the silky skirt, beautifully done hair and carefully applied makeup doing absolutely nothing to hide the fact that it was Sif.

Loki’s mouth dropped. He’d never seen Sif look even remotely like a traditional female before. Now that he knew what he was looking for he could see that one sharp tug would bring that skirt to the ground, leaving Sif in prime position to kick out. He had no doubt that she wore armour beneath both her skirt and her fine coat. She would also be armed with every concealed weapon she knew how to wield.

She was Frigga’s protection. Loki was glad of it. He couldn’t believe his mother had just walked into the heart of Jotunheim, for him. And now she was doing it again.

Laufey and Frigga were sizing each other up. Finally, the Frost King spoke.

“Queen Frigga.”

“King Laufey.”

“I see you have returned, and in such a short time.”

“I promised my son his possessions and food from home. I did not want to delay.”

“Clearly.”

“May I give them to him?”

“You may give them to the servants, they will take them to *our* chambers.”

Frigga looked up at the Jotun who came to take her burden. She handed it over gracefully.

Sif too lifted her own basket. It was big and she appeared to struggle to lift it. Loki knew she was acting because he’s once seen her put her fist through a wall. He felt torn between letting his mother know he was here and the horrible sense of embarrassment he felt at knowing that Sif knew what had happened.

Then he remembered Brokk. If the dwarves knew then everybody probably knew, the whole of the nine realms. The thought made him cringe and a blush wash over his face. He took a deep breath to calm himself, if you can’t hide it, face it. It was not the kind of saying an honourable warrior used, but honourable warriors never found themselves married to Jotun kings. He braced himself and stepped out into their view.

At once Frigga’s face softened, she reached out both her arms and gave him a tight smile.

Loki moved to her and hugged her tightly, wrapping his arms around her and taking comfort from her scent, the scent of safety and security and *mother*. He had missed her.

“Mother.” He said, loud enough so that Laufey could hear. The king was looking grumpy again.

Frigga just held him tightly, putting into her actions what she could not say.

‘I love you and I fear for you and I miss you.’

Loki heard Laufey shift on the throne behind him.

“That’s enough.” The King said in a low voice. “You have delivered you gifts and now you must leave.”

Loki turned to face him. Laufey looked annoyed, his eyes were narrowed as he took in the display in front of him.

“Can’t I have a few minutes to talk to my mother?” He asked.

“You have runes to learn.” Laufey said. “And Asgard are not welcome here. I gave her my permission to deliver her gifts, not to stay and talk.”

Frigga’s hand squeezed Loki’s arm.

“I will bring you some more food another time.” She said.

“No.” Laufey said.

Frigga leaned to the side, looking past Loki to where Laufey sat on his throne.

“You are everything I was told you were.” She said, her voice icy cold.

Laufey scowled.

Frigga pulled Loki’s head down and kissed his brow.

“I love you.” She whispered to him.

Loki nodded and fought to keep the tears from filling his eyes.

“I love you too, mother.” He whispered back.

Frigga turned and began to walk away. Sif shot Loki a look of compassion before she turned to follow.

“Forty days.” Laufey said.

Frigga stopped and turned.

“You may bring him more food in forty days.”

He did not sound happy, he was sitting hunched on his throne too, which Loki had learnt meant that he was brooding or annoyed at something.

Frigga bowed without lowering her eyes and left the throne room.

The light of the Bifrost shone brightly a moment later.

Loki turned back to where Laufey sat. He didn’t know what to do. Laufey looked at him with unconcealed annoyance.

“You have runes to learn.” He snapped.

Loki fled.

 

 

Odin and Thor were waiting at the Bifrost when Frigga returned.

“I will not be able to get much information.” She said. “Laufey has forbidden me to return for forty days.”

“Did he say why?” Thor asked. Frigga shook her head.

“He almost banned me entirely. I did not want to antagonise him further by asking for his motivations.” She said.

Beside her Sif looked withdrawn.

Thor reached out and held her shoulder.

“Thankyou for escorting my mother.” He said.

She gave him a small smile.

“Loki just seems so lost there.” She said. “All I wanted to do was drag him home.”

“I know, but we can’t, not yet.” Thor said, he sounded sullen.

Odin nodded.

“Not yet. Heimdall has confirmed that the other realms are aware of what has happened. The dwarves even sent a volunteer to confirm it. He barely escaped with his life”

“Who would be stupid enough to walk into Jotunheim alone?” Thor said.

Frigga just raised an eyebrow until her son blushed scarlet.

“Brokk.” Odin said. “Apparently he was eager to go.”

Thor frowned at the mention of the name. Frigga’s eyes narrowed.

“I imagine he thought it was a great joke, seeing Loki like that.” She said quietly.

Odin nodded again.

“He reported back that Loki was the acknowledged mate of Laufey. The other realms are waiting to see what comes of this. The dwarves, by their gifts, have recognised the marriage. If the other realms follow then it will be even harder to remove him. It pains me to say it but we are losing at every turn. With every passing day Loki is being taken further from us, and yet the only option that we have that will definitely remove him will cause chaos among the realms.”

“Somehow we have to place a spy in Jotunheim.” Thor said. “We need to know if there is anything that can help us convince Laufey to let Loki go.”

Odin nodded.

“But our spy will have to be the best. It is hard to go unnoticed in a land of ice.”

Chapter Text

Laufey was sulking. He knew he was sulking which only made it worse. He sat in his workroom and stared at nothing, while inside his head he played back Queen Frigga’s visit.

He hated her, hated the way Loki’s face lit up when she arrived, hated the fact that he ran to her with his arms open.

“You’ve stuffed it again.” Thrym said from behind him.

Laufey turned around and fixed him with a warning glare.

“Do you want to tell me what crept into your mind and tried to pass for thought back there?” Thrym continued, placing the dwarf’s hammer on the floor with a clang and sitting down in the room’s only other chair.

“He ran to her.” Laufey muttered, sinking down lower in his seat.

“Of course he ran to her, she’s his mother. If you saw our mother again wouldn’t you run to his arms?”

“Given that our mother is long dead, probably not, it might be a trap.”

“Very funny. You know what I meant.”

“I know.” Laufey sighed. “I made a mistake. *Another* mistake, I am making a dozen mistakes a day!” He rose from his chair and threw up his hands. “I thought having a mate was supposed to be easy!”

Thrym threw back his head and began to laugh. Laufey whirled around to glare at him as he gulped and spluttered. He took several deep breaths in an attempt to silence himself. Until he caught sight of Laufey’s face which only served to set him off again. Big hearty guffs and undignified snorts filled the air.

Finally, after several long minutes, Thrym got himself under control.

“I have been married,” he said, wheezing slightly, “for nine centuries. I love him, I adore him, I thank the frost for every day that I have with him. But Laufey, dear Laufey, there isn’t a man alive I want to kill more than him when he’s being an arrogant little sod.”

Laufey frowned.

“He’s fighting me.” He said grumpily.

“Of course Loki is fighting you! He’s been raised far away in a land of savages, he’s trying to learn everything he should have already been taught by now and he misses the people he thinks of as his family. You have to have patience brother, real patience, and that means you do not frighten him like that. He does not know you, he does not know that you would never hit out in anger, or confine him to a dank cell. He has been taught his whole life that you are the king of the monsters, such thinking will not be changed in a few nights, and not at all if you keep proving it right.”

Laufey scowled deeply.

“He’s my mate, he shouldn’t fight me.”

“Mother and father would have great fights. They would scream at each other from across the room, usually about the two of us and our tendency to cause havoc across the city. Mates will fight, and it’s a good sign! When you frighten him he shrinks from you, he cowers. That is not the sign of a good mate, if I saw it in any other match I would be concerned. You have to get your temper under control, think of him as a wild Mau, they cannot be tamed with whips and cruelty, but if you treat them with kindness they will follow you forever.”

Laufey sat back down in his chair.

“You are doing a better job with him than I am.” He said.

“I will leave him entirely to you if you wish it.” Thrym said calmly.

Laufey shook his head.

“He listens to you, he is learning our history without resistance. I am pleased that he feels he can trust you. I will try to be more careful with him.”

“You were jealous today.” Thrym said gently.

“I was not!” Laufey snapped.

“You were and you did a poor job of hiding it. His mother arrived and you were barely in his thoughts, you were jealous.”

Laufey snorted in an unkingly manner.

“Was not.” He muttered.

Thrym didn’t say anything, but he looked sceptical.

Laufey shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

Thrym remained silent.

Finally Laufey snapped.

“Maybe.”

“He is your mate, not your possession. His thoughts and feelings are his, not yours. Sometimes you will find yourselves at odds, other times you will be in perfect agreement. But you will have none of that at all if you do not stop frightening him.”

Laufey pulled a face.

“When did you get better at this than me?” He asked.

“When I got married, you are a great king, brother, but you are a newly mated Jotun and you have every lesson still in front of you. Trust me, and treat him gently. When he challenges you then you know he is learning to trust you, to trust in your restraint. That will be a healthy sign.”

Laufey nodded reluctantly.

“I will go and talk to him. Again.” He said.

“In a moment.” Thrym said. “I have other news to tell you.”

He gestured to the hammer that rested on the floor.

“Try to pick it up.” He suggested.

Laufey gave him a suspicious look and reached for the hammer’s handle. He tried to lift it from the floor but it wouldn’t budge. After a minute of straining he gave up and looked at Thrym.

“It turns out there was a spell cast upon it.” Thrym said. “The first non-dwarf hand to wield it is the only hand that may wield it until death, then it just casts itself on the next lucky hand.”

“You said wield, not hold.” Laufey said. “I know you took it from him but surely you haven’t attacked anyone with it?”

“I may have given it a threatening swing when you mentioned smashing the dwarf’s skull in.” Thrym admitted, he looked a little embarrassed. “Apparently it was enough.”

Laufey stared down at the hammer. Then back up at Thrym.

“How would you like this nice big hammer brother? I think it suits you.” He said, lips twitching.

Thrym grinned awkwardly.

“I will carry it with honour and barely concealed guilt.” He said.

Laufey rolled his eyes and started to laugh. He stopped when Thrym did not join him.

“What else do you have to tell me?” He asked warily. There was little that could take his brother’s smile from his face.

Thrym straightened in his chair. He reached into the pouch of his loincloth and pulled out the necklace.

“This too has an enchantment upon it.” He said. “It makes the wearer… compliant, willing, obedient.”

“Destroy it.” Laufey said. He turned away from Thrym and stared pointedly out of the window. “Melt it down and turn it into something attractive for Loki. Reset the stones and ensure the spell is melted away.”

“As you wish.” Thrym said, his voice just slightly tinged with relief.

He rose, picked up his new hammer and walked toward the door.

“Thrym.” Laufey called out, turning slightly.

“Yes?”

“Do it now, go straight there and do not stop.”

“Yes brother.”

Thrym vanished through the doorway, leaving Laufey alone. The king pointedly stared out at the warriors training, visible in the yard below. He was trying with limited success to banish the thought of Loki, arms and legs wrapped tightly around Laufey’s body and head thrown back in abandon as he surrendered to Laufey’s thrusts. Then the image changed to include a delicate necklace with sapphire stones and Laufey found that he was no longer tempted.

 

Loki was trying to find the binding spell again. Every moment he had alone was spent searching. He had to force his frustration down because it just wasn’t there. No matter where he looked, no matter how hard he tried, all he felt was his own magic. If he could only feel a trace of it, then he could track it back and hopefully destroy it.

There was only one type of search left. But it required a trace, and a long time to hold it. There was no way he could perform it with a scant time he had.

Maybe it wasn’t on him anymore? Maybe it only worked once? Laufey would hardly come out and say that to him.

But no, Laufey would not have been willing to let him go with his father if he had not been sure Loki would be pulled back. The spell had to be subtle, really subtle. Such spells did exist, Loki just had to keep trying.

He was interrupted by Laufey.

The king walked into the room slowly. In his arms he carried Frigga’s bundle. Over one arm was the handle of the basket. He walked toward the bed where Loki sat wrapped in furs and sat down.

“Your, er, mother packed your winter clothes.” He said, handing over the fur in his arms. Loki unravelled it to reveal his long coat, thick winter trousers and several thick undershirts and pants. The final things to be revealed were his boots. Sturdy and lined with fleece from Thor’s pet goat herd, they were a miracle of warmth.

“She also sent this.” Laufey continued, pulling a thick book from the basket. It was a story book, an adult one, full of the tales of Asgard. Loki had last seen it on the shelf in his room. It was a harmless text, containing no spells or information the Jotun could use. Loki loved that book. He read it about once a year, one tale every night for fifty nights. It was a favourite tradition of his. He smiled sadly as he pulled the book towards him. It was the perfect choice.

Laufey watched Loki’s face carefully as he looked over each of Frigga’s gifts. He swallowed his annoyance at the depth of emotion he saw there. Patience was to be his watchword, he would learn to be patient and wait for Loki’s acceptance.

With great care he lifted the remaining contents of the basket out and laid them on the bed. There seemed to be a great deal.

“It’s all frozen.” He said, gesturing to the food that Frigga had brought. “But the servants can make fire to warm it for you.”

Loki looked up at the spread before him.

“She always gives me too much.” He said, his voice thick.

Laufey shrugged.

“It will keep, you can have it again tomorrow if you wish.”

Loki nodded softly. Laufey glanced uneasily around the room and tried to think of something that would distract Loki from his musings.

“Show me what you look like in those clothes.” He said.

Loki looked up at him.

“The Asgard always look so confined. And are those shirts to go under that other shirt? It seems like a waste of good cloth.”

Loki seemed unsure, but slowly crept out of his fur cocoon and pulled one of the shirts over his head. He tugged on the smallclothes, coat and trousers before reaching down and undoing the cords holding the fur to his feet.

Laufey watched as he slipped his feet into the boots and stood up.

“Put the hood up.” Laufey said.

Loki complied. Laufey thought he looked silly in all that fur, but he couldn’t deny that it was far more practical than holding him all day, or leaving him on the bed to shiver.

“You look warmer.” He said as a compromise.

Loki didn’t answer him. He stood there looking awkwardly at Laufey.

‘He’s afraid.’ Laufey realised. ‘He’s afraid to speak to me in case he says the wrong thing.’

Laufey reached out and pulled Loki into his lap. Loki made a sound of protest and tried to pull away.

“Hush.” Laufey said, wrapping his arms around Loki’s small frame. He was the size of a child, although thankfully did not have the build of one. Jotun children were much broader and stockier and had more weight to them by far. There was a term for those who found children attractive, that term was *dead*.

Loki was slender and delicate, he was utterly beautiful.

Laufey reached back and broke of a piece of food from Frigga’s gifts. He pressed the morsel between Loki’s lips and brushed his fingers lightly against his cheeks. Loki flushed blue in response and slowly began chewing the food.

“It has been a long time since visitors have come to my realm, and the Asgard have never been our allies. I am sorry I did not let you speak long to your mother.” Laufey said as they sat there. “She can stay longer next time, you can speak to her in private if you wish.”

Loki’s body became fractionally less tense in his arms.

“If you want to write her a letter you can. I am sure we can find a way to deliver it that does not involve bloodshed on either side.”

Loki turned his head up to look at Laufey. His eyes were wide, and he couldn’t hide the faint trace of hope in them.

Laufey fed him another piece of whatever it was.

“What am I feeding you?” He asked as Loki chewed.

“Honeyed pastries.” Loki said. “They are very nice.”

Laufey held up another piece and inspected it.

“If you say so.” He said and pressed it to Loki’s mouth. Loki’s mouth twitched a little.

“Try some.” He said.

Laufey looked at him sceptically but broke off another piece and sniffed it.

Loki stifled a giggle.

“You must have had Asgard food before, back when you visited, before the war.” He said.

Laufey wrinkled his nose.

“I tried boar. It was hot and stunk of burning flesh.”

“This is better.” Loki said.

Laufey placed the morsel on his tongue with exaggerated care. He chewed slowly, letting the flavour spread through his mouth.

“It is a lot better than boar.” He said at last. He picked up another piece and slipped it into Loki’s mouth. “I suppose I can see the appeal.” He said and licked his fingers.

A noise in the doorway interrupted them. Thrym stood there, watching the scene before him. His shrewd eyes took in the way Loki was sitting in Laufey’s arms, held firmly but not restrictively.

“I am sorry for interrupting your majesties, but one of our sorcerers has arrived from the far western plains. He claims to have a potion that will break Odin’s curse.”

In Laufey’s arms Loki stiffened. The alarm on his face was obvious. Laufey stood, scooping Loki up in his arms.

“We shall see him then.” Laufey said and headed for the throne room.

Thrym fell into step beside him. Loki was beginning to look distinctly panicky.

Laufey stopped and pulled him into a close hug.

“I know you don’t want to let go of your Asgard appearance, but you can’t deny it will be far easier for you if you could remain in Jotun form.” He said softly. “Your body will change, but you won’t.”

Thrym felt vaguely proud of his brother as Loki glance up at him, face still unhappy but no longer looking as though he was about to start trying to escape. Laufey gave him a slight squeeze and began walking again.

“You have checked this sorcerer’s potion?”

Thrym nodded.

“It has no taint on it that the royal sorcerers can find. They believe it may work.”

“We shall see.” Laufey said.

When they reached the throne room Laufey set Loki down and led him by the hand to the high dais upon which their thrones sat. He lifted Loki up onto his seat and then gestured for the Jotun present to rise from their bows.

“Where is the sorcerer who claims he can lift Odin’s curse?” He asked grandly, sinking into his throne.

A large Jotun adorned with several necklaces of bones and rune-stones stepped forward.

“My name is Hraudung and I have brewed a draught of powerful cleansing, your Majesty. It is designed to lift foreign magic such as the Asgard’s from a Jotun body. I have used it before in the war to lift battle curses cast by their sorcerers.”

Laufey nodded.

“Then you will have no trouble drinking it.” He said.

Hraudung nodded as though he expected it and unstoppered the bottle. He took a large mouthful and swallowed.

Laufey nodded again.

“Give it to Thrym.” He said.

Thrym took the bottle and handed it to a servant who took another large mouthful. They waited for signs of a reaction. When nothing happened Laufey gestured for the bottle to be brought to the dais.

Thrym handed the bottle to him and he in turn handed it to Loki.

“Drink.” He said.

Loki reluctantly raised the bottle to his lips and swallowed a mouthful.

Laufey felt a surge of fear. What if they missed something? What if this was an assassin sent to kill his mate?

Loki began to turn blue.

Laufey didn’t realise how tense he was until he relaxed. The sorcerer was real, his potion was working and Loki was finally free of Odin’s curse.

Laufey nodded to the sorcerer.

“You have a king’s favour, Hraudung, what would you ask for?”

Hraudung shook his head.

“I have come to serve my king, I have no desire for anything else.”

Laufey reached out and stroked Loki’s blue cheek.

“Perhaps one day you will have need of my favour, when that day comes you may ask for it.”

“Thankyou your Majesty.” Hraudung said, bowing deeply.

Loki was looking down at his hands, his expression unreadable. Laufey gently gripped his shoulder.

“Come.” He said, his voice soft. “It is almost time for the evening meal. We will eat in our chambers.”

Loki allowed himself to be led from the throne room.

The potion’s effects lasted well into the night, but the following morning Loki found his skin flushing pink again.

Chapter Text

Fandral stretched awkwardly. He was finally cleared to train again after seeing the healers. Being impaled really took it out of him.

Hogun was already warming up, swinging his mace over his head as he focussed on the target in front of him.

Volstagg was sitting down with a plate of boar meat and cheeses. His sword lay at his side waiting for him.

“What I don’t understand is why we haven’t been sent to take Loki back.” Fandral said, finishing his stretches. “We know where he is, everyone knows where he is.”

“Have you not heard the rumours about what he is?” Volstagg said, glancing over his shoulder. “They say he is a Jotun, and that Laufey has made him their queen. We heard Heimdall himself called Loki Laufey’s betrothed.”

“How can he be their queen, Volstagg? The role of a queen is to have an heir, I don’t know what Heimdall was talking about but that’s just a silly rumour. Loki is a prince of Asgard and we should be taking him back. Instead all that happens is Thor spends all his time with the Allfather and Allmother, and Sif gets sent on a secret mission. Why doesn’t Thor come to us? We can help!”

“Why don’t you ask Thor what is going on, seeing as you cannot wait to be told.” Volstagg said, putting his plate aside and rising to his feet.

Fandral pulled a face.

“I tried, Thor wouldn’t see me.” He admitted. “He has not been down to the training yards in eight days, and he eats alone these days instead of with us.”

“The Allfather must have a good reason not to take action. We must trust in him.” Volstagg said.

“The servants say Queen Frigga has been crying in her chambers, and they were ordered to prepare all of Loki’s favourite foods but deliver them to her instead. Odin has not ordered the army to assemble for his son. Something unusual is going on.” Fandral insisted.

“Perhaps we are about to find out.” Hogun said. “Thor is coming.”

The other two turned to see Thor make his way across the training grounds towards them. He was accompanied by Sif.

“Thor!” Fandral called out, raising his hand in greeting.

Thor raised his in reply and covered the remaining distance.

“We have been wondering when we are to rescue Loki.” Fandral said. “Have you a plan? Surely we must act soon?”

Thor’s shoulders slumped. Sif bit her lip and placed a hand on his arm.

“We will not be rescuing Loki.” Thor said.

“What?” Fandral and Volstagg cried together.

“Come now Thor I know he can be annoying but you can’t leave him there.” Volstagg said.

Thor did not even crack a smile.

“He is King Laufey’s mate. If we take him we declare war.”

“How can Loki possibly be the mate of Laufey, he’s a Prince of Asgard!” Fandral said.

Sif shook her head. “He’s a Jotun, taken by the Allfather and raised as Thor’s brother, but Laufey has a prior claim.” She said.

Fandral stared at them in astonishment.

“The rumours are true?” He said at last. “Loki is the queen of Jotunheim?”

Thor sighed heavily.

“This is my fault. I insisted that we go, if we had not Loki would be safe here now with all of us. Instead he is trapped, surrounded by savage monsters. Laufey…L-laufey wants heirs.”

“He can do that?” Volstagg said.

“All Jotun can, apparently.” Thor said. “But Laufey will not choose anyone else, and we cannot take Loki by force without causing a war.”

“So let’s cause a war.” Fandral said. “You were saying yourself that they deserved it for breaking in to the weapons vault.”

Thor shook his head.

“I have lost my brother for that folly, I will do as my father commands. He is trying to find a way to convince Laufey to release Loki to us.”

“He won’t.” Volstagg said. “Holding someone so dear to the royal family of Asgard is too much leverage, he will make impossible demands, he will probably ask for the casket back.”

“My father already offered it.” Thor said quietly. “Laufey did not accept.”

The Warriors Three were silent. Each one working over in his own mind the magnitude of Odin’s offer.

“Then he is lost to us.” Volstagg whispered.

Thor shook his head violently.

“I won’t accept that. There has to be a way to bring Loki home.”

“Let’s just rescue him ourselves.” Fandral said. “I’m sure the Vanir would be willing to hide him for us, Odin can swear under a truth spell he knows nothing of it. At least Loki would be better off with our cousins, and given enough time Odin will find a way to free him from his marriage.” He threw his arms up “Marriage! Can you believe we are even talking about this? Loki is married to the king of monsters!”

“I believe it.” Sif said quietly. “And we cannot go against the king. This is not some game we are playing, Loki is under heavy guard, his movements are watched closely. I spotted over five Jotun who were trying to hide around the throne room, I imagine there are even more that I did not see. He is also under a curse of some kind. If he moves too far from Laufey he will be pulled back in an instant.”

“You say it is impossible.” Hogun stated.

“No,” Sif said, “but it would be very difficult.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” Thor said, his voice low. “I want you to plan my brother’s rescue. It must be perfect in every detail, failure will mean death for kidnapping a queen is one of the highest crimes that can be committed. I want a backup plan should father’s attempts at diplomacy fail.”

The Warriors Three nodded, their faces were serious.

“Then we need to know details.” Hogun said.

Sif nodded at him.

“I have been only once, and only for a few minutes, but I will tell you all that I observed.”

“Father still has the old plans of the Jotun castle in the library.” Thor said. “You could ask Heimdall to see which parts still match and which are now rubble.”

“We will not fail you Thor.” Fandral said seriously. “We will find a way.”

“I know my friends.” Thor said. “I know.”

 

Hraudung bowed nervously to Laufey, who was sitting straight-backed on his throne. Loki would have told him not to worry so much. Laufey hunched his back when he was angry, pulling himself inward as though expecting to fend off attack.

“I am sorry your Majesty.” Hraudung said. “I truly thought my draught would work.”

“Be calm Hraudung.” Laufey said. “You have come closer than my own mages and have given me hope. I would ask that you stay here and brew more of your draught for my mate to keep him from freezing in his Asgard form.”

He looked over at Loki, who was almost completely covered by his winter clothes.

“I would be honoured your Majesty.” Hraudung said, bowing so low his head almost touched the floor.

“I would also ask that you work with my mages to try and strengthen the draught so that it may end Odin’s curse completely. It is our best hope so far.” Laufey said.

Once again Hraudung bowed.

“Of course your Majesty. I will stay as long as I am required. Um.”

Laufey leaned forward.

“Yes?”

Hraudung looked wary but spoke regardless.

“May I send a runner to my home and tell them I will not be returning just yet? My mate will worry.”

“Of course.” Laufey said. “One of the court runners will take your message.”

“Thankyou your Majesty, you are kindness itself.” Hraudung said, backing away.

Laufey dismissed him and turned to Loki.

“We are almost done here.” He murmured. “Then I would like to show you something.”

Loki’s eyebrows raised in inquiry. Laufey just smiled and turned to the next applicant.

Loki scanned the throne room as Laufey listened to the man’s plea. He caught sight of Thrym in the distance, talking to Hraudung. Thrym glanced up and grinned at him. Loki returned his grin with a smile. It was hard not to like Thrym.

The last few applicants were seen to in short order and Laufey called an end to his audience. He rose and reached over to lift Loki from his chair. Taking his hand he led Loki through the castle corridors. They passed through a set of doors and into an area Loki had not seen before. Still Laufey walked onward, through the corridors and several sets of doors, down some steps to a tunnel in the ice. Loki looked around him at the vaulted ceiling, trying to work out how the tunnel was lit as there was no obvious light source. They walked down its length for a long time before finally reaching the end. Here they climbed down yet more stairs, over two hundred by Loki’s count. Loki realised they had been walking for almost half an hour, heading downwards the whole time.

Finally they reached the bottom of the steps and faced a set of doors. Laufey nodded to their leading guard and he reached out and opened them.

They led outside. Loki blinked in the bright light as Laufey led him through. After a few seconds his eyes adjusted and he stopped and stared.

Below them was a city the size of Asgard. It was made entirely of ice. Slender ice towers soared upwards while squat ice halls were dotted throughout the streets.

“That is the city of Utgard, our biggest city and the capital of Jotunheim.” Laufey said.

He led Loki down the stepped pathway that led from the castle door to the main street of the city.

It took another fifteen minutes to reach the edge of the city limits, by which time the Jotun citizens were well aware of their arrival. They stuck their heads out of their shop windows and climbed to the second stories to get a better look at the royal couple.

Loki found he was looking everywhere. He thought, as did all the Asgard, that Jotunheim remained in ruins without the casket. It seemed they were completely wrong.

Several children darted forwards before retreating, only to be followed by others doing the same thing. Laufey leaned down, bending almost double to reach Loki’s ear.

“It’s a game.” He said. “They are trying to be the one who gets closest to the king without making the guard stop them.”

Loki’s mouth curled upward as a bold youngster darted further than the others. He grinned in triumph as the guard ignored him. His companion was not so lucky, as he stepped even closer to the king the guard calmly reached out and blocked his way. The other children laughed as he scrambled backwards.

The game continued as Laufey lead Loki around the streets. They stopped at several food stalls and purchased some of the different delicacies on offer. Laufey made a point of turning Loki around and pulling him into a store filled with exquisite carvings when he caught him looking. Everywhere they went the people would watch them, point them out and smile at them.

Laufey paid for everything.

It was strange. Loki had grown up in the palace of Asgard and when he and Thor had gone out drinking they never had to pay. The bar folk would insist that as princes the food and drink was given freely. Some Jotun tried to claim something similar but Laufey would firmly press the silver coloured coins into their hands and tell them to invest in their future.

By the time they reached the centre of the city Loki was exhausted. Laufey led him to a small shop with seats set out the front. They sat down and Laufey ordered something called ‘palif’. Loki resisted the urge to swing his legs back and forth like a child.

Speaking of children, they were still trying to play their game. They all looked about Loki’s height, although they were far broader. Their giggles were pleasant to hear.

When the palif arrived – a drink Loki discovered – Laufey let go of his hand to reach for the money in his pouch. It was the first time he had done so outside. Loki’s skin flushed with pink.

The children stopped their game and stared at him.

“Woah.” One of them said. Pointed at Loki while turning his head to look behind him.” Look Dani, he changes colour!”

Loki glanced over at them nervously, but the children did not seem alarmed. They were crowding at the edge of the street, trying to get a look at him.

“Can you go red?” One of them called out, only to be shushed by the others.

“You can’t talk to them! You’ll get your head cut off!” One of the children hissed.

Laufey supressed a smile. He reached forward and took Loki’s hand again.

“Try the palif, Ovak makes it in a way that even my castle staff cannot match.”

Loki took a sip. It was delicious and slightly warm, which was unusual for Jotun drinks.

“It is a winter drink normally.” Laufey said. We will have plenty of it next season during the Darkening.”

Loki was about to ask what the Darkening was when a loud crack echoed through the air.

It was some kind of entertainer. He let of light sparkles into the air which exploded with a loud noise. The children began to crowd around him, begging for their favourite colours.

They sat and drank the palif as the man let sparkle after sparkle into the air.

 

Laufey had to carry Loki up the last of the stairs. He had made it about halfway back up to the main level of the castle before he began to struggle. Every time they walked Loki had to take two steps for every one of Laufey’s, and the steps, while easy to jump down, were much harder for him to climb up.

Laufey reached their chambers and laid Loki down on the bed. He undid the fastenings on Loki’s coat and pulled it carefully off his shoulders. He tugged off his trousers, shirt and smallclothes. Loki frowned and tried to crawl away from him. Laufey resisted the urge to sigh. Every time! Every damn time Loki would fight him. He caged Loki with his body and nipped him on the ear.

Loki twisted away from him and tried to escape his arms.

“Don’t,” he said. “Please don’t.”

Laufey pressed down over Loki’s body, pinning him to the bed.

“Why are you fighting this?” He asked. “What is the point of you continuing to resist? You are my mate Loki, relax and let me have you.”

“No!” Loki said, he tried to scratch Laufey’s face. From the beginning Laufey had neglected to tell him that scratching was a part of Jotun mating and that it was actually very appealing. He caught Loki’s ear in his teeth and pulled lightly.

Loki tried to push him away but did not succeed. Laufey nuzzled Loki’s neck before nipping lightly at the soft skin. He ran his hands down the length of Loki’s body, squeezing his thighs and buttocks firmly. Loki made a noise of frustration and tried to free himself by wriggling out between Laufey’s arm and leg. Laufey stopped him easily and gripped his knees. He pulled Loki’s legs open and pressed his body between them so he couldn’t close them again.

“Relax.” He said again. “Trust me Loki, this can be so good if you relax and accept it.”

Loki shook his head and tried once more to push Laufey away. Laufey slid his fingers between them and pressed into Loki’s hole. Loki let out a sob. His eyes were filling with tears. Laufey gently rubbed his fingers back and forth in the tight opening, stretching and teasing the skin. Loki breathing had become ragged. The tears began to trickle down the sides of his face.

“Please stop.” Loki moaned. “Please…please…please.”

Laufey pulled his fingers free and replaced them with his cock. He slid easily into Loki’s body, looking down and watching the point where he vanished inside. Compared to Loki’s slender form his cock looked almost comically big. It was so thick Loki’s hole had stretched open from leg to leg. He marvelled that Loki could even hold him. But ice maidens were built to breed, even his length, which he believed stretched passed Loki’s navel, fit easily inside of his mate’s body.

Loki moaned and tried to push him away. His hand pressed uselessly against Laufey’s chest. Even as he whispered yet more protests his hips lifted slightly, responding to Laufey’s presence.

“Stop.” He whispered as he thrust upwards.

“Please.” Another thrust.

“I don’t want…” Laufey ground down to meet him, causing him to break off his words.

“I don’t want this.” He gasped, there was no denying the movement of his hips now, they were rising in time with Laufey’s thrusts.

“Please, stop.” His eyes were wide, tears flowed freely down the sides of his face.

“Stop.” He final plea, before he succumbed to sobs that overrode his words.

Laufey built up a steady rhythm. He tried to ignore Loki’s cries as they moved together.

“Relax.” He breathed. “Let go Loki, let go and enjoy it, it can feel so good. Just enjoy it, just relax.”

“Give in.”

Loki was shaking his head, trying to block out Laufey’s words. He kept pushing helplessly against Laufey’s chest as their combined rhythm grew faster. His breath was coming in gasps and Laufey could see he was approaching his peak.

“That’s it, Loki, that’s it, almost there, just relax, let it take you, beautiful, you are beautiful, so beautiful like this, let it come, let it, let it-”

Loki let out a cry as his body shuddered in a wave of pleasure. Laufey groaned above him as he released his seed. He rode the wave of it until the end before pulling slowly out and rolling off his mate. He pulled Loki against his side and scanned the room in response to ancient instincts. Loki whimpered, his eyes were closed and his body kept spasming as his muscles took over, tensing and releasing rapidly in an effort to put forth a seed. Laufey nuzzled Loki’s hair as he waited for his mate to finish.

Finally Loki slumped bonelessly against him. He moaned softly as he looked up at Laufey with heavy eyelids.

Laufey pulled Loki on top of his body and gently rubbed his back.

“Hush now, all done.” He murmured. “You can go to sleep if you want to. I’ll wake you when our dinner is ready.”

Loki muttered something under his breath but Laufey didn’t catch it. A moment later Loki was asleep against him. He smiled down at the delicate figure in his arms. Loki’s hair was messy and his face in sleep was peaceful. Laufey thought he was utterly beautiful.

Chapter Text

That morning Loki woke up feeling exhausted. He grumbled as Laufey led him to the brushing room and picked at his breakfast.

“What is the matter with you?” Laufey said as he stroked Loki’s back gently.

“I’m not hungry.” Loki said.

Laufey frowned.

“And why not?”

“I’m too tired.” Loki said, rubbing his eyes.

Laufey pulled Loki back until his head rested against Laufey’s chest. Loki just slumped against him, his eyes were closed. Laufey laid a hand over Loki’s brow.

“You’re a little warm” He said.

He gathered Loki up and moved him to the bed.

“I’ll send the healer to see you.” He said, wrapping Loki up. “I think you have caught an illness, hopefully you just need a few days in bed.”

Loki nodded wearily and closed his eyes.

He was asleep when the healer arrived. The feel of a hand on his brow woke him from his doze.

Loki was slowly learning to identify the different Jotun professions by their clothing. The healers all wore a strip of fur across their shoulders with a leaf-pattern fastening pin. This healer had an extra fastening on his strip.

He smiled kindly down at Loki.

“I am Puluk, the head healer. The king sent me to see you, your Majesty.” He said. “He said you were feeling unwell.”

Loki groaned and didn’t say anything. The healer unwrapped him and laid one hand on his head and the other on his belly. Loki felt a slight tingling sensation as the healer’s magic touched him. The healer sighed softly, almost as if he was disappointed by something.

“You have a mild sickness, you Majesty. You need to rest. Your throat will start to hurt and your nose will fill with fluid. I will bring you a draught to help reduce the build up of fluid and the kitchens will make you some soothing drinks. Other than that you just need to rest.”

He paused for a moment, taking in Loki’s lethargic state.

“Is there anything else I can help you with, you Majesty?”

Loki looked up at him, confused.

“You are otherwise quite well?” Puluk asked carefully.

When Loki said nothing, Puluk tried again.

“The last time I saw you, your Majesty you were, ah, quite sore? Bruised? Are you well now?”

Loki frowned and turned his head away.

“I’m fine.” He snapped. “I’m physically fine and that’s all anyone cares about anyway.”

Puluk frowned in confusion.

“The king isn’t hurting you?” He asked tentatively.

Loki looked up at him, anger clouding his features. He struggled to sit up with his aching limbs.

“I hate him! I wish he’d drop dead where he stands! I hate you! I hate that no one here seems to care that I Don’t. Want. This! I want to go home! I want to leave and never come back! I want my family and I *don’t* want Laufey!”

He was almost hysterical, tears were streaking his cheeks and his face was flushed. His breath was coming in gasps. Puluk pulled back from the bed, he looked bewildered.

“I think your Majesty is very tired.” He said, backing away. “I will go and fetch that draught.”

He turned and found himself face to face with Thrym, who was holding today’s book.

“One word,” Thrym said, his voice low and threatening. “One word about this to anyone and you will find your head on a spike.”

Puluk nodded, his eyes wide. He fled the room as Thrym walked over to where Loki had slumped in exhaustion.

Thrym sat down on the edge of the bed, reached over and pulled the furs back around Loki’s body.

“Does the royal family of Asgard speak its business to the lower classes?” Thrym chided as he tucked the last fur in place.

“I hate him.” Loki mumbled.

“Does he hurt you?” Thrym asked gently.

Loki pulled a face.

“Is that all anyone cares about?” He asked.

Thrym looked at him, concerned.

“Why don’t you tell me what bothers you and I will try to understand.” He said.

“You will?” Loki asked. He sounded so vulnerable.

Thrym nodded.

“I don’t want him touching me.” Loki said softly. “He doesn’t listen when I say I don’t want to.”

“Why don’t you want to?” Thrym asked.

Loki’s eyes narrowed.

“I’m trying to understand Loki, talk to me.” Thrym said firmly.

Loki sighed.

“He’s forcing me. That’s why I don’t want to. Wouldn’t you object to being forced to mate with someone? He holds me down every night. I fight him, I beg him, he won’t stop.” He was crying again, he sniffed as his nose began to run.

Thrym was still looking confused.

“You are married to him.” He said quietly. “You’re duty is to mate, it is suppose to be a pleasure.”

“It’s not.” Loki said shortly. “I hate it.”

“The more observant of the court have seen your reluctance. They think he is hurting you, they are beginning to become concerned.”

Loki pulled a face.

“It doesn’t hurt physically, but I hate it. I hate the way my body reacts to it. I don’t want to have a baby, I’m scared.”

Those last words were barely even a whisper. Loki looked up at Thrym with wide, sad eyes.

“I want to go home.” He said.

Thrym shifted uncomfortably.

“You’re going to tell me I am home, aren’t you?” Loki said sadly.

Thrym looked compassionately at him.

“You have no idea how precious you are.” He said. “We can live without the casket, we’ve spent the last thousand years rebuilding Jotunheim by hand. We have faced many hardships and overcome them. But all that will be wasted without you. Without an heir, Laufey’s death will mean civil war. The realm will be torn apart.”

“Can’t he have an heir with someone else?” Loki asked.

“Only another ice maiden, any other child would have no claim. Any of Laufey’s siblings could make a claim and there are many who would, but the ones most likely to are power hungry and they will not yield until all the others lie dead. They will fight, and thousands will die.”

Loki sniffed again, his nose was filling with fluid.

“Are there any other ice maidens?” He asked.

Thrym shook his head.

“Laufey waited five thousand years for you to be born. There may be another one born in his lifetime but there is no guarantee. The whole of Jotunheim mourned for you when they thought you had been killed.”

“He’s not going to stop is he?” Loki said. “It doesn’t matter what I want, he won’t stop.”

“You should have been married centuries ago, when you came of age. We would have held a great ceremony and feasted for days. You would have grown up in the castle and known all your life that your place was by Laufey’s side. You would have known him, and hopefully loved him.”

“I can’t love him.” Loki said. “I can’t.”

Thrym reached out and stroked Loki’s brow.

“Perhaps you can learn to live with him?” Thrym said. “He is not a bad man, truly.”

The arrival of Puluk prevented him from saying more. The healer looked nervous.

“I have brought the draught.” He said. “Your Majesty must drink a mouthful at meal times.”

He handed it to Thrym with a shaking hand. Thrym gave him a warning glare and unstoppered the bottle. Puluk fled the room. Thrym held the bottle to Loki’s lips. Loki swallowed a mouthful and sniffed again. His throat hurt.

Thrym put the bottle on the table beside the bed and regarded Loki thoughtfully.

“You should rest.” He said.

“Read to me?” Loki asked, his eyes pleading.

Thrym relented and picked up the book.

He was on the third page when he looked across and saw that Loki had fallen asleep.

 

 

Loki spent the next two days in bed. On the first day he slept, on the second he was awake, but stayed resting. He didn’t take well to boredom, so Thrym resumed their reading lessons.

He walked into the royal chambers with two books under one arm and an empty casket in the other.

Loki looked at him, puzzled.

Thrym winked at him and tucked the empty casket under the table in exactly the right place for Laufey to hit it with his feet.

“Let’s start with the reading.” He said.

They sat on the bed with their backs against the pillows. Loki ran his finger across the page.

“See…Mika…run. Run…Mika…run. Hide…Mika…hide…or the…Tr…Trolls…will…eat…your…brains.”

“Good.”

Loki turned to Thrym.

“Are you certain this book is for children?”

“Oh yes, do not underestimate the danger of the trolls. The children need to know as early as possible.”

“There are real trolls on Jotunheim?”

“Yes, they have been here for thousands of years. They attack every few years or so. Laufey once lead an expedition to wipe them out, but some survived up in the high mountains.”

Thrym took the book from Loki’s hands and tucked it away.

“I’m not sure if you are interested, but I thought you’d like to know more about your Jotun form.”

He picked up the other book and rested it on Loki’s lap. It contained diagrams of the Jotun body. One page had the skeleton, another the nervous system, another the muscles. Loki reflected that the Asgard would pay highly for this information and here it was just sitting in front of him.

They worked their way through the book with Thrym providing explanations on every page. It was fascinating the way the Jotun body could survive conditions that would freeze most species and yet still survive quite well in warmer environments for extended periods of time.

Loki turned the page and saw a new diagram. It took him a minute to piece together.

“That’s the reproductive system, isn’t it?” He said.

“Yes.”

“The passageway is looped?”

“Yes, it’s a channel of muscle that rises through the organs, your mate spends his seed at the top near where it bends over to the front. It then travels down into the womb. Do you see the ovary sac in between them? The stimulation from your mate causes the muscles there to contract, which forces the seed sac here to empty into the womb. If you have a fertile seed in there it will bond with your mate’s seed and create your child.”

Thrym turned the page to show a picture of a pregnant Jotun, it’s belly protruding outward. The baby Jotun was drawn inside. Loki frowned at the image.

“That’s a big baby.” He said doubtfully.

Thrym reached over and turned the page. Loki leaned forward with interest. It was a diagram of an ice maiden. It was just like the other Jotun bodies inside but smaller. The only thing that was just as big was the reproductive system. Everything else was fitted around it. Loki scanned it carefully, taking it in. This was him, this existed inside of him.

Thrym carefully turned the page. Loki’s eyes widened. The drawing was of a heavily pregnant ice maiden.

“That baby is too big for that body. How do you even stand up?”

“With great difficulty.” Thrym said. “You’ll feel the urge to nest before you get that big. You won’t want to move far until the baby is born.”

“How do Jotuns give birth?” Loki asked. “It can’t make its way back up the loop.”

“No, the passageway doesn’t stretch that wide anyway. Didn’t you ever wonder what that was for?” Thrym pointed at Loki’s navel.

Loki looked down and back up again.

“It connects the mothers-life to the baby, the mothers-life is tied and cut after the baby takes its first breath.”

Thrym shook his head.

“That may be for the Asgard, but that’s the Jotun birth canal. It’s a strong ring of muscle and nerves. It’s the most pleasurable experience when the baby passes through.”

Loki looked at him disbelievingly.

“Giving birth is painful, the Asgard have five different potions to give to the mother to help ease it.”

“What kind of a species delivers a child in pain?” Thrym said. The look on his face made Loki want to laugh. “It is wonderful. Goupr and I are both hoping to be the one to carry our third.”

Loki looked down at the diagram. His finger delicately traced the line of the passageway from entrance to womb before pausing over the birth canal.

“How many am I expected to have?” He asked quietly.

“Somewhere between one hundred and three hundred.” Thrym said. “About one every fifty years to a hundred years or so. My mother used to love being pregnant, he would demand all kinds of foods from the kitchen, including several that didn’t exist until he invented it. Have you tried the shredded louptr beans and wouza flesh? Mother’s. It was one of the few that didn’t taste completely horrible, and the whole court had to eat whatever he invented, even father. The sight of the king forcing down one of mother’s creations used to reduce me to tears I was laughing so hard.”

He grinned at Loki.

Loki’s answering smile was tentative.

“Can’t you tell when a seed is fertile and only mate then?” He asked.

“Unfortunately even our best healers and sorcerers cannot tell when a seed is fertile. It could be at any time.”

Loki’s shoulders slumped.

“You’ll be alright.” Thrym said gently. “Laufey will be a good father, you’ll see.”

Loki sighed and traced the image on the page again.

“Goupr is very lucky.” Loki said quietly.

Thrym suddenly realised that Loki was gently leaning into his side, and had been for quite some time. He shifted nervously.

“You should get some rest, you can keep the book to look at if you want to.” He got up quickly. “Don’t tell Laufey about the casket.”

“I won’t.” Loki said smiling.

Thrym returned it and left the room. His smile dropped the instant he was out of Loki’s sight.

 

Laufey was down in the artisan’s wing. He was admiring a particularly fine golden thighlet and matching armlet. He gave Thrym a puzzled smile when he saw him.

“Is Loki asleep? I thought he was feeling better.”

“He’s awake, I left him to read on his own.”

“He can do that already? That’s wonderful.”

“He’s still on the children’s stories, but he is a very fast learner and his memory is phenomenal.”

“Good. Do you think he’ll like this?”

“The set? It’s very beautiful.”

“They’re made out of that cursed necklace. I hope Loki likes the style.”

“Brother I need to speak to you, privately.” Thrym said softly.

Laufey put down the jewellery and frowned at him.

“In my workroom.” He said.

 

Loki climbed to the end of the bed and looked out at the western mountains in the distance. He wondered how far he could go before the binding spell brought him back. He’d travelled for about a second before landing in Laufey’s lap. The Bifrost moved you at incredible speed. Granted it had still been accelerating him when he was pulled back, but he still estimated that he could reach the mountains without the binding spell activating.

 

“I cannot continue teaching Loki to read.” Thrym announced. “I need to be in the training grounds with my men.”

“You are the best one for him.”

“What if Asgard attacks to bring him home?”

“They can’t, he is bound to me.”

“And if they try and kill you? We must be ready to defend ourselves.”

“Odin is not like that, not anymore. And our army is stronger now than it was back when the war began.”

 

Loki narrowed his eyes as he looked at the castle grounds. He would need to hold an invisibility spell for a long time. And he’d need a decoy, something to keep people thinking that he was still in the castle. He’d done it before, and he was feeling a lot better now. He was alone right now, but he needed to be alone for longer if he wanted to perform the trace spell. It was his last hope of finding and breaking the binding curse.

 

“Laufey you need to be with your mate.”

“I am with him. I spend time with him every day, but I need to run a kingdom. Loki likes you.”

“Yes, he does. But he should like you.”

“Thrym, I need someone I can trust.”

“Then trust me when I say you must do this yourself. Take him to see you work! He can practice his reading here, and he may get a new appreciation for what you do.”

“Thrym.”

“Laufey I cannot.”

“Thrym, you will do as I ask.”

“No.”

“Thrym.”

“I refuse. Throw me in the dungeon.”

“Thrym you’re being ridiculous.”

“Those are your choices Laufey, I will not teach him anymore.”

 

Once out of the castle grounds he would have to make his way down the main road for a while. It was hard to see at this distance but he thought he could make out the mountain road branching off in the distance.

 

“I will not release you from your duty unless you tell me why you want to stop.”

“It’s the right thing for you both.”

“How?”

“Trust me.”

“No, Thrym, tell me how this is better. As your king I command you to tell me.”

“Fine, I think he is bonding with me.”

“What?”

“I don’t think he even realises it but he is showing small signs of wanting to bond. It’s very early and he’s never shown a sign of recognising the behaviour in others. I just think it’s better that I am not around as often.”

“You are already bonded.”

“That doesn’t stop people from developing feelings.”

“He feels for you.”

“Maybe, slightly. I want to discourage it. He is yours.”

“He doesn’t feel for me.”

“Not yet, but if you spend more time with him-”

“I spend most of my day with him! And what happens? He feels for you!”

 

Loki carefully made an inventory of the food he had. The basket of Asgard food was still mostly full, his appetite having vanished with his illness. He also had winter clothes, but it would be better if he had the cleansing draught, his Jotun form would be helpful in keeping out the cold while he sat still to perform the trace spell. The sorcerers had reported that it would be ready the next day, so he just had to wait until then.

 

“I listened to him! He wants to be listened to, to be heard. Doesn’t everyone! He is reacting to me because I made him feel heard. Listen to you mate brother, he needs you to listen.”

Laufey threw himself into his chair and looked grumpily up at Thrym.

“He doesn’t want me. He doesn’t want to mate. But if we don’t we might miss a fertile seed. I need an heir Thrym. After the first one we can take our time but I *need* to do this.”

“I know brother. He doesn’t understand. I don’t think there is anything we can do except wait and hope that he comes around. But if you can inspire a bond then surely he will want to mate with you.”

“How did you do it?” Laufey looked up at his brother. “How did you reach him?”

“I don’t know, but I think I made him feel safe, safe and heard.”

“I will try to listen, but I cannot stop the mates.”

“I know. I hope you are successful brother.”

Laufey sighed.

“Me too.”

 

 

Odin looked up as Thor entered the room. Frigga was already seated there, looking anxious.

“Close the door, Thor.” Odin said.

He waited until Thor had sat down before speaking.

“Our spy reports that our impressions of Laufey as a tyrant are not wholly correct. Apparently he plays up that side for our benefit. He has been seen escorting Loki to various activities, apparently in an attempt to court him. But there is some concern.”

Thor leaned forward slightly in his chair, bracing himself for the worst.

“There is some speculation in the Jotun court that Laufey may be physically hurting Loki when they mate.”

“Of course he is! He’s raping him!”

Frigga and Odin winced.

“How can that not hurt?” Thor demanded.

“Apparently Jotun bodies are designed to react favourably to mating, even if the recipient is not willing.” Odin said with a grimace. “For Laufey to be hurting Loki is unusual for them. The court is worried.”

“Then we should be doubly so.” Thor said. “Does the spy have any information that we can use as leverage?”

“Nothing yet. She’s still searching for something we can use. When can you go back Frigga?”

“Thirty six and a half days.” Frigga said without hesitation. “I worry for him. I can’t sleep thinking about my baby.” Her eyes filled with tears.

Thor blinked hard and looked at the ceiling. Odin took a deep, shaky breath.

“We all fear for Loki. We must hope that our spy can find something we can use.”

“What if she does not?” Thor asked. “What then is our plan father?”

Odin didn’t say anything.

“Father?” Thor asked again.

“We have no plan.” Odin said softly. “If we cannot force Laufey’s hand we will lose Loki forever.”

“No.” Frigga said. “We will not leave my baby with those people. We *will* break the binding spell and we *will* bring him home. The one thing we will not do is give up on him.” She raised her chin and locked eyes with Odin. “Whatever it takes.” She said quietly.

 

 

Loki watched as Laufey walked to the breakfast table and sat down. There was a clunk as his foot hit the empty casket. He frowned, reached down and pulled it out. He looked from the casket to Loki, who shrugged to indicate the presence of the casket must be a mystery that was clearly unsolvable. Laufey rolled his eyes and muttered something about annoying younger brothers name Thrym. He reached out towards Loki. Loki made himself step forward into Laufey’s arms and allowed himself to be lifted up. He settled on Laufey’s lap and started to eat his breakfast.

There was a noise at the door. Laufey and Loki both turned to see the head sorcerer, Kwall and the visitor Hraudung standing there.

“Your Majesties, we have finished brewing the cleansing draught.” Kwall said.

He held a large bottle in his hands.

Laufey grinned and gestured for them to enter.

“Pour a measure for Loki.” He said.

As Kwall reached for Loki’s cup Laufey gave him a hard look. Kwall nodded just faintly to indicate that he had checked the potion thoroughly and found no poisons or problems with the brewing.

Loki picked up his cup and drank without hesitation. Kwall put the bottle on the table.

“One measure every quarter-day. We will begin trying to strengthen it now that we know the brewing process.” He said.

Laufey nodded at them.

“Thankyou Kwall, Hraudung.” He said.

After they left Loki eyed the bottle carefully. He estimated there was enough for ten days or so. The food in his mother’s basket would last him that long if he was careful. He would go tonight.

They finished their breakfast in silence. Laufey made no move to remove Loki from his lap and Loki didn’t argue, he was too busy making plans.

He was surprised when Laufey took his hand afterwards.

“You are to come with me today.” Laufey said.

“Where’s Thrym?” Loki asked.

For a moment he thought he saw Laufey’s face darken but it was gone so fast that he couldn’t be sure.

“Thrym has to see to his men. He is the general of my army and needs to return to his role. He said you were reading quite well, you can read in my workroom.”

“I could read here.” Loki suggested. “I don’t want to get in your way and I still feel a little unwell, I should rest some more.”

“You will not be in my way and you can rest in the chair. Come on.”

Laufey took Loki’s hand and led him down the corridors to his workroom.

Loki had never been inside of it. He wasn’t sure what to expect but he would not have guessed a table covered in scrolls and books, two chairs and a simple bookshelf cut into the ice wall.

Laufey pulled out Loki’s book and handed it to him.

“Can you read while I do this work? You can ask me if you get to a word you don’t understand.”

Loki took the book uncertainly. This whole morning was a new development and not one that he liked. He sat down in the second chair and opened his book. It was the further adventures of Mika. He focussed on the words in front of him as Laufey sat down and pulled a pile of scrolls toward himself.

Loki finished the book in good time. Normally he would talk to Thrym, ask him questions about Jotunheim. Now he sat uneasily in his chair and glanced around the room.

Laufey looked up and spotted him.

“Finished?”

Loki jumped.

“Yes. Yes I’ve finished.” He said.

“Would you like another one?” Laufey asked.

Loki nodded.

“Yes please.” He said.

Laufey rose and fetched another of Mika’s adventures.

“I used to read these when I was small.” He said. “This one was my favourite.”

Loki took it from him and opened it.

“Mike…finds?...the Mau.”

“Encounters, see the tiny stroke above the ‘dr’ rune?”

“Oh, thankyou.” Loki gave Laufey a tight smile and raised the cover of the book so that it broke their eye line.

Laufey went back to his work.

After he’d cleared away the scrolls he rose and went to the door. His advisors were waiting outside. They followed him in and stood around the desk as Laufey settled back into his chair. Off to the side, Loki peeked out at them from behind his book.

“Your Majesty.” The first one said.

“Uoukr, head of the northern region.” Laufey said to Loki.

He turned back to Uoukr, who was looking over at Loki curiously.

“Your report?” He asked.

“Yes your Majesty. The harvest promises to be good this year. We estimate enough to last until halfway through the Darkening.”

“That is good.” Laufey said. “We only lasted a third of the way last year.”

Loki was intrigued in spite of himself. Odin had handled the business of Asgard openly and Loki had always tried to be present, unlike Thor who spent his time training. Laufey’s realm ran in a similar fashion.

“What is the Darkening?” He asked. He’d heard that phrase before.

They all turned to look at him.

“Our winter.” Laufey said. “We need to prepare every year to ensure we have enough food to survive. Nothing grows during the darkening.”

Loki nodded.

“Oh.”

Laufey turned back to his advisors who were all watching Loki like he was some kind of rare specimen, which was actually a pretty accurate description.

“Yorte, your report on the Palif harvest? Yorte is in charge of the southern region.” He said to Loki.

Loki spent the rest of the morning watching Laufey tackle the business of the realm, the book in his lap forgotten.

 

 

Laufey sent Loki back to their chambers alone at lunch. He told him he wanted to fetch something and to start without him.

Loki crawled into his chair and reached for the bottle of cleansing draught. He poured himself a dose and swallowed it as the servants arrived with lunch. He waited politely for them to lay out the food and leave before reaching up and grabbing about half of his plateful. He jumped down and ran to Frigga’s basket. He stowed the food and ran back to his chair just in time for Laufey to enter. Loki quickly shifted his food on the plate to make it look fuller and tried to look innocent.

Laufey smiled at him and sat down. He put a box on the table and started to eat.

“You’ve taken your draught?” He asked.

“Yes.” Loki said, biting into some kind of meat roll. It crunched under his teeth.

“Is your chair high enough?” Laufey asked.

Loki realised that this was the first meal he’d eaten at the table while not sitting on Laufey’s lap.

“Yes, it’s fine.” He said.

Laufey went back to his meal.

When they finished Laufey reached for the box.

“I had this made for you. I hope you like it.” He said.

Loki laid the box on the table and opened it. The set Laufey had commissioned lay inside.

“I had the diamonds set into it as a base pattern, and the sapphires are spelled to change colour to reflect what you feel like wearing.” Laufey said. He sounded nervous.

Loki picked up the armlet and examined the pattern.

“Do you like it?” Laufey asked.

Loki looked up at him.

“Yes, it’s beautiful.” He meant it, it was the sort of design he would have secretly craved back in Asgard, but never admitted it for fear of Thor’s teasing. He slipped the armlet on and secured it. The sapphires changed to a deep green colour.

“It suits you.” Laufey said.

Loki pulled out the thighlet and slipped it on under the table. Laufey watched for a moment, then gave in to curiosity and leaned over to see. The stones had changed to match and the overall effect made his heart race.

Laufey very deliberately moved back and did not attempt to reach out and stroke Loki’s leg. He did not want Loki to associate his new gift with mating, as much as it pained Laufey to admit it, he knew Loki would reject the set entirely if that happened.

“You’ll make the court jealous.” He said instead, rising from his chair.

Loki jumped down and went to follow him to the throne room for the afternoon audience.

Laufey turned and stopped him.

“I think you should stay here today. I don’t have many people to see and you should rest, I don’t want your illness to flare up again.”

His smile was brittle, Loki noticed. He wondered briefly when he had gotten to know Laufey’s smile well enough to spot it.

“Alright.” He said.

“Why don’t you ask the servants to bring you some writing implements and write a letter to your mother? I’ll be back soon.”

Loki nodded brightly.

“Good idea.” He said.

Laufey left.

Loki stuck his head out of the door and smiled at the servant waiting behind his guard.

“May I have some writing implements and a drink of dia, um, diea from the kitchens?” He asked politely.

“Yes your Majesty.” The servant bowed and headed away.

As soon as Loki had his drink he sat at the table and stared at the surface of the cup. Diea was alright as a drink but the quality Loki like most about it right now was its dark smooth surface. He called upon his magic and focussed hard on the throne room. Slowly the image appeared before him.

For a while the usual scene was all he could see. There were fewer supplicants than was usual, but the number had been lessening for a while. Laufey had blamed it on the time of year. Finally the last one left and Laufey was alone with his courtiers.

Then Hraudung was escorted in. Loki focussed his concentration further and the sounds of the throne room filled his ears.

“Hraudung. How are you settling into the castle?”

“Very well, your Majesty.” Hraudung said.

He looked around at the court nervously.

Laufey leaned forwards, his back was hunched and his hands and arms were curled almost like claws. Loki frowned in concern.

“The messenger you sent to your mate returned yesterday. He reported that all was well yes?”

“Yes your Majesty, I am pleased to hear it.” Hraudung said.

Laufey’s face was ugly, he stared down at Hraudung with unconcealed contempt.

“I had the messenger followed.” He said.

Hraudung’s face fell. Fear filled his eyes.

“Do you know what my spy saw? He saw the messenger reach the far western plains, walk for a number of miles and then be met by you.”

Hraudung was slowly backing away.

“You cast a spell on him and turned him back. Then you disappeared.”

Thrym appeared behind Hraudung. He was holding his hammer.

In the royal chambers Loki bit his lip. He wanted to shout a warning but it was useless.

“You are a spy Hraudung, you were sent by Asgard. You used the cleansing draught to ingratiate yourself into the court. You manipulated events so that I would ask you to stay, and sending a messenger to your ‘family’ was a nice touch.”

He made a small gesture with his hand. Thrym brought the hammer down on Hraudung’s scull. The blow killed him instantly.

In the royal chambers Loki shut his eyes and turned away. He knew now why Laufey hadn’t wanted him there. He forced himself to look back.

Guards picked up Hraudung’s body and dragged it from the room. Thrym pulled out a cloth and wiped the head of the hammer. Laufey scowled at the door where Hraudung’s body had been taken.

“I wish I could send Odin the body back as a message.” He muttered. “This audience is over.”

He got up and left the room.

Loki waved his hand over the drink and dismissed the spell. He picked up the quill and hastily wrote ‘Dear Mother’ on the blank scroll. The quill was too big for him to hold easily and the ink splotched on the page. He scribbled a little bit about his reading lessons and his gratitude for the food. By the time Laufey entered the room he had a few lines down.

Laufey smiled at him.

“All done, I told you it wouldn’t take long.” He glanced at the scroll. “You haven’t written much.” He said.

Loki looked down at the scroll in front of him.

“I don’t know what to say.” He said.

Laufey sat down in his chair.

“Tell her about the children and their game.” He suggested.

Loki bent his head to the task. He managed to write a letter containing no sensitive information whatsoever that was still a decent length. Laufey seemed content to sit quietly until he was finished.

“We still haven’t worked out how to deliver it yet.” He said. “I suspect though that if you took it to the Bifrost site and left it there Odin’s all-seeing guard will collect it.”

“Can we go now?” Loki asked.

Laufey nodded and rose.

“Let’s go.” He said.

 

 

That night Loki lay pressed against Laufey’s side. He tried to inch away so that he could begin his escape, but Laufey’s arm was wrapped tightly around him.

He sighed in frustration, Laufey always held him tightly, he’d thought he could get out but he’d been mistaken. He would have to try and slip out tomorrow.

He closed his eyes and tried to find the binding spell again. He didn’t expect to find it and wasn’t disappointed. Then he had a thought. The spell bound him to Laufey, so that meant there must be a link between them. He may not be able to sense the spell on himself but surely he could feel it between them. If that was the case he could trace it back to himself and hopefully work out how to break it.

He reached out tentatively toward Laufey’s sleeping form…

…and screamed as his body jerked violently off the bed. He muscle contracted painfully as though he’d been hit by lightning. He gasped and moaned as the tremors shook his body.

He opened his eyes to find Laufey staring down at him. His red eyes were furious.

“And what spell were you trying to cast exactly?” He spat out.

Loki groaned, he hurt too much to speak.

Laufey waited in cold silence, he had never looked more like a monster.

Loki tried desperately to think of a lie that would get him out of trouble. He could barely remember what he *had* been doing. His brain hurt.

Laufey did not move. He continued to glare down as Loki struggled to breathe deeply enough to speak.

“Lower…your sex drive.” He managed. It was plausible, Laufey knew Loki didn’t want to mate and it would deflect from his real objective. He was in trouble, but how much remained to be seen.

Laufey pulled Loki up from the floor and shoved him onto the bed. He pinned Loki’s arms by his sides and reached for the furs, using them to wrap Loki up so tightly that he couldn’t move. Laufey kept wrapping until Loki was little more than the centre of a furry tube. Only his face was left exposed. He tried to wriggle out and found that he couldn’t move an inch. Laufey took the last fur and lay down on it on the other end of the bed.

Neither one of them slept for the rest of the night. Loki could hear Laufey’s occasional huffs of angry breath. He tried hard to stay silent as his back started to hurt from the awkward position he was forced to lie in. He was grateful when the cleansing draught wore off, his Jotun body had grown uncomfortably warm inside of all the furs. His face was freezing though, he tried to turn his face into the furs and found it impossible.

When morning came Laufey unwrapped him and pulled him roughly by the arm to the brushing room. The servants glanced nervously at them but Laufey didn’t seem to care. He held Loki firmly by both arms and forced him to stand directly in front of him. Loki glared at him with undisguised hatred.

When the servants had fled, Laufey let go of Loki’s body and left him to change back to Asgard form in the cold air. Loki gasped as the cold sliced into him. He walked quickly to the table and pulled himself up onto his fur covered chair. He looked at the bottle that held his draught. He couldn’t touch it, it was cold enough to burn him. He sat, freezing and helpless as Laufey ate his breakfast as though it was trying to escape from the table.

After he’d eaten Laufey left without a word. Loki waited until he had left and stood up on the chair. He climbed onto the table and used the fur from his chair to pick up the bottle. He tipped some into his mouth and swallowed.

The room grew warmer as the draught worked. Loki stoppered the bottle and grabbed his breakfast. He jumped from the table and put them both into Frigga’s basket. He grabbed his winter clothes and wrapped them into a bundle, cursing the lack of an appropriate carrying pack. With a nervous glance at the door he took a deep breath to calm himself and created a clone lying on the bed. Another breath and he was invisible.

He crept down the corridors of the castle, slipping past the servants and guards that wandered the halls. His sprint across the training yard was fraught with near misses but at last he reached the castle gates. He checked the contents of his basket to make sure it was all still secure and headed out toward the mountains. Behind him, the snow on the pathway shifted to erase his tracks. Around him, the air filled with invisible magic, masking his presence to all who might go looking.

Laufey returned at mid morning. He’d thrown himself into the business of the realm with a fury that startled his advisors. He’d snapped and snarled and taken his anger out on the furniture. Now though he was calm, at least, as calm as he could be. He told himself again that Loki didn’t understand that mating was important. An heir was important. He’d been so furious to think his mate had attacked him, and doubly so when he found out how. He walked back into the room to find Loki lying on the bed.

“Loki.”

There was no movement.

“Loki, look at me.”

Nothing.

Laufey reached over and touched Loki’s arm. It disappeared, Loki disappeared. Laufey stared at the empty bed in shock. Loki was gone. He looked around the room in a panic, half expecting to see Loki hiding somewhere. Instead his shrewd eyes took in the missing basket, Asgard clothes and the draught bottle. Laufey strode to the door and stuck his head out.

“Fetch Thrym.” He barked, trying to keep the panic from his voice.

Loki had run away.

 

 

Loki timed his run carefully. He jogged alongside the cart until he’d matched speed and then leapt up onto the back. It jolted slightly at his extra weight but the driver thankfully didn’t turn around.

Loki settled down among the freight until he couldn’t be seen from the outside relaxed. He was afraid to sleep, but the previous night and his morning spent running had worn him down. The cart was moving just faster than walking pace. Hopefully he could get a few hours before the driver needed to stop.

He wondered whether he’d have any warning before the binding spell took him, enough time to backtrack and avoid being taken? He hoped so. The plan was find a nice, isolated spot where he could perform the trace spell and hopefully find the binding spell on his body. Step two was to break it, which he may have to do back at the castle. He doubted very much Laufey was going to let him get away for long.

 

Thrym scanned the room carefully before his eyes came to rest on Laufey’s panicked face.

“What did you do this time?” He asked.

“Nothing!” Laufey snapped. “*He* cast a spell on *me*.”

“What spell?”

“To sap my desire for sex.”

Thrym frowned.

“He still doesn’t realise how important this is?”

“I don’t think he cares.” Laufey snapped. “I have to find him, I have enemies out there, if they realise he’s gone from my protection they will look for him and kill him.”

Thrym nodded.

“You should take a Grur, they are the fastest runners.”

Laufey headed past his brother and out the door.

“You will handle the realm until I return.” He said.

“Wait, I will send some men as an escort.”

“They will have to catch me up.” Laufey said.

They raced down the corridors to the stables on the eastern side of the castle.

“He’s probably gone west.” Thrym said. “So you should head in the other direction.”

“Why west?” Laufey asked.

They reached the stables. Laufey grabbed one of the army carry packs and began to climb the side of the Grur. It was big enough for two full sized Jotuns to lie down on its back.

“He can see the western gate from your chambers, he could have mapped the whole yard area and the plains beyond. He has not had the opportunity to do so anywhere else. It is the logical choice.” Thrym said.

“Loki is not logical. Not that I have seen.” Laufey called from the top of the Grur. “But I have no better plan.”

He grabbed the reins and coaxed the animal into movement.

“I will send my men behind you. I will tell them it was bandits.” Thrym called as Laufey rode past.

Laufey raised a hand in acknowledgement and rode out of the eastern gate. It went against his instincts to ride away from where he thought his mate had gone but thus was the nature of the binding spell.

 

 

Loki’s luck held all morning. He slept undisturbed in the cart for a few hours and was pleased to note that the driver turned down the mountain road. He stayed until nightfall, when the driver stopped at a village. With great care not to make a sound he dropped down to the ground and set out walking along the road. He walked for a few miles before coming to a fork. At the junction there was a small rise with steep, icy sides. Loki walked around it carefully. The far side had a small kind of depression in it. He scanned the surrounding area carefully. It was closer than the mountains where he’d been heading but it meant he’d have more time for the spell. The ground on this side of the rise looked undisturbed, hopefully that meant Jotun did not often walk around it. He set his things down, checked that his tracks were covered, took a mouthful of the draught and pulled on his winter clothes for extra protection.

Loki settled his back against the ice and breathed in deeply a couple of times to calm himself. Slowly he closed his eyes and let the casting for the trace spell begin.

 

 

Laufey rode all afternoon at a ferocious pace. The Grur were good for high speed transport. They had good night vision too which was just as well, because Laufey did not plan on stopping. Loki had no idea the dangers Jotunheim held for an unprotected ice maiden. If he were found by an enemy they would kill him without a thought. If he were found by bandits they would demand a great ransom, no doubt sending a finger or ear along with their note, and if he were found by Trolls they would take their pleasure without mercy until it killed him.

Night fell, and Laufey kept riding onwards.

 

Thrym ordered his most trusted men to ride after Laufey. He told them Loki had been taken by bandits and that Laufey had rode off in a fury to get him back. They were gone less than an hour after Laufey down the eastern road.

The sorcerers were instructed to scry for him, although Thrym doubted they would find him. Loki was raised a prince of Asgard, he would know how to hide from scrying eyes.

He sent his best trackers to the western gate, with orders to be silent on any trail they might follow. They picked up nothing on the path, but one of them found a faint footprint in the snow of the training yard, too slender to be a child’s. It was heading toward the western gate.

They followed.

 

Throughout the castle the rumours went wild. The official story was that Loki had been taken by bandits, determined to empty the King’s treasury and that Laufey had ridden to rescue his mate.

But it was a weak story, as hastily made up ones are, and Thrym heard more than a few whispers that Laufey had been rough with Loki, hurt him, caused him pain, and that they were both still in the royal chambers where Laufey was treating his mate poorly away from prying eyes.

“He’ll never get an heir like that.” Thrym heard one of their brothers say. “If he’s too rough Loki won’t peak, you need to peak to have a child.”

“I heard Loki was taught wild ways by the Asgard and he needs to be civilized before he can be a proper mother.” Whispered another.

“He won’t learn to be civilized by Laufey being rough with him, that’s probably how the Asgard treated him.”

“Maybe it’s all he’s used to? Maybe Laufey is easing him into being gentle because he doesn’t know any better?”

Thrym growled under his breath. These rumours would cause chaos in the court. Laufey should have done more to prevent them. Instead it was all up to Thrym.

 

Loki barely moved for days. He rose only to eat and take the draught. Sometimes he’d be so deep into the spell that he’d miss the time and wake to find himself in Asgard form. He was grateful for the winter clothes.

His only disappointment was that he still couldn’t locate the binding spell. He wasn’t done, not by a long way, but he had hoped to pick up the faint trace of it sooner.

 

Thrym’s trackers returned after heavy snowfall overnight destroyed any chance of finding the trail. They couldn’t even tell if Loki had stayed on the main road or travelled down on of the side roads, or even left the roadway entirely behind him.

 

Laufey was tired, he hadn’t slept for days. His body hurt from riding the Grur non stop at a run. He was grateful that the beast could travel so fast for so long.

He could remember his father telling him that he had to be ten days ride from his mate before the spell would activate. That was ten days on a regular hunt, with stops for sleep. Laufey hoped to reach the limit in four.

 

Thrym’s men did their best to catch Laufey, but he had ridden at top speed through uneven round. It was a foolish thing to do and they did not dare match it. But even so they stayed on the trail. They would catch their King, and rescue his mate. No bandit would be left alive.

 

Loki was only halfway through the trace spell when his eyes opened. Something was wrong, he could feel it, like someone was watching him. He reached for the food basket and gripped the handle protectively.

There was a sudden lurch in his belly and he found himself in Laufey’s arms.

Loki screamed in anger and swung his fist at Laufey’s head. Laufey had not been expecting it and the blow landed solidly.

Laufey’s grip lessened and Loki took the opportunity to swing again. He let go of the basket which tumbled away from him as he punched Laufey a third time. Laufey’s lip split from the impact.

With a growl of annoyance Laufey swung his arm in a wide arc, throwing Loki off him. Loki tumbled sideways and found himself slipping off the edge of a large beast. He had a fleeting glimpse of a long fall and large paws before he was jolted to a halt.

Laufey had caught the back of his coat. Laufey pulled him back up onto the beast’s back.

Loki kick him in the stomach. Laufey growled and tried to pin Loki’s arms.

Loki responded by spitting into Laufey’s face.

Laufey raised his arm up with a snarl.

He froze. Loki was looking at him with wild hatred, his features twisted into a fierce snarl of his own. His body and face were braced for the blow.

Laufey lowered his arm. He had fought in battle, executed criminals and hunted prey, but he had sworn never to raise his arm to his mate. Even though at this point his mate was trying to kill him.

Loki grabbed the back of Laufey’s neck and slammed their heads together.

Laufey grunted in pain as Loki’s forehead hit his nose. It didn’t break, but it was a close thing.

He managed to get a grip on Loki and push him, face down, onto the back of the Grur. Then he sat on him.

It was not the most eloquent of solutions but Laufey didn’t have a lot of options. Loki struggled under him and let out a scream of rage and frustration. Laufey reached forward and grabbed the reins. He turned the Grur around and slowed its mad run. They could be slow now that Loki was with him.

Loki continued to struggle beneath him for hours as they made their way back to the castle. Laufey sat still, not letting Loki have an inch. Finally Loki slumped, he was breathing heavily and staring up at Laufey angrily.

“Why?” Laufey said.

Loki growled and renewed his struggles.

“Loki, talk to me, I’m listening. Why did you run away? You know you were never going to get far.”

Loki stayed silent.

“I’m trying to understand you.” Laufey said.

Loki reached down as far as his arms could go and pinched Laufey’s leg as hard as he could.

“Ow.” Laufey said dryly. “Please tell me why.”

Loki ignored him.

They continued on for another twenty minutes in silence, until Laufey registered a minute change in Loki’s body beneath him.

“Loki.” He said. “I want to know why you ran.”

Loki pulled a face.

“I wanted to try and find the binding spell so I could break it.” He admitted reluctantly. “Because I hate you and I want to go home.”

Laufey shifted off him and allowed him to get up.

“You are home.” He said.

Loki looked murderous.

“Yes, well, you’re in luck because I still can’t find it. I’ve tried every spell I can think of and it’s like it doesn’t exist, except for the fact that it works.” He snapped.

Laufey looked at him for a minute, then tried to concentrate. He had never been particularly good at magic, but he remembered this.

He reached out and gently touched Loki’s shoulder. Loki pulled back but the momentary contact was enough.

The back of Loki’s hands began to glow.

Laufey gestured to them.

“It’s over your whole body, you can see more if you remove your coat and pants.”

Loki stared at the back of his hands in shock. In a kind of daze he peeled back his winter clothes and took in the glowing pattern across his skin.

It was everywhere, thousands of tiny runes written across his skin. No wonder he couldn’t feel it with his magic, it was a part of his magic. In the first magic lesson he’d ever had he had been taught to find his magic, feel the shape of it, recognise it. The spell had been two hundred years old then, it had been a part of him for so long that he had failed to recognise it as foreign.

He wondered what his magic felt like without it. Lighter? Smaller? He had no idea.

And he couldn’t break it. The complexity was such that if he had the rest of his life to work on it, to separate the feel of it from his own magic, he still wouldn’t be able to figure out how to undo it. He was trapped here. He was never going home.

 

Laufey watched Loki carefully. He was staring at his body in a kind of shock. He didn’t resist when Laufey touched his shoulder again, making the runes disappear.

He didn’t resist when Laufey pulled the coat back over his shoulders and reminded him that the draught had been lost and he needed to be careful.

He didn’t resist when Laufey pulled him into his arms and held him while the Grur made its way back across the ice.

 

A quarter day later they were met by Thrym’s men. The leader raised his arm in salute and drew alongside.

“You have him, your Majesty.” He said, glancing over at Loki, who was staring at nothing. He looked exhausted and miserable. “And the bandits?”

“They were not a problem.” Laufey said woodenly.

The leader took in his King’s split lip, bruised face and body. His eyes slipped back to Loki, a silent figure in the King’s arms.

“Yes your Majesty. We will escort your Majesties home.”

Laufey nodded, his thoughts were a million miles away.

Loki said nothing.

 

They took seven days of riding to reach the castle. This time they stopped for rest each night. Loki had said nothing. He did not resist when Laufey carried him, held him or fed him. He just seemed to drift inside his head.

If the men noticed they said nothing, but Laufey found this new, quiet Loki to be almost frightening. He would look down while they rode to find Loki staring at the back of his hands, as though they had given him great sorrow.

When they reached the castle the court crowded around to see them. Thrym had done a good job of calming the rumours, at least publically. They cheered the King who had gone to rescue his mate.

Laufey carried Loki back to their chambers and laid him down on the bed. It had been eleven days since they had mated, time enough for a fertile seed to be lost. Laufey was torn between coaxing this new quiet Loki from his stupor, and his own anxious need to continue their mates.

Loki just lay there, he didn’t even raise his head.

Laufey frowned. He leaned forward and very deliberately nipped Loki’s ear.

No response.

He did it again.

Still nothing.

He pulled Loki’s coat off, then his pants.

Nothing, not a plea.

Laufey pulled the remaining clothes from Loki’s body and stroked down its length.

This at least got a response, Loki turned his head away and looked out of the window.

Laufey frowned and nipped at Loki’s neck. He squeezed Loki’s thighs and nuzzled his hair.

Loki just kept looking out at the window.

Laufey pulled Loki’s legs open. Loki didn’t even fight it. He pressed his fingers into Loki’s opening. Tears filled Loki’s eyes but he didn’t move.

The tears spilled over as Laufey pushed inside of him. But he made no sound, none. It was disconcerting.

At least his body responded properly, his hips rising to meet Laufey as he thrust downward. But his arms, the arms Laufey hated so much, lay flat against the bed, his fingers twitching against the fur as Laufey thrust into him.

He whimpered as he peaked, the only sound he’d made since they started. Laufey spent himself and pulled out of his mate. He scanned the room quickly for threats and settled down on the bed before gathering Loki in his arms and holding him until he was done.

Afterward Loki just lay slumped against him, still staring at nothing.

For the first time since Loki had arrived on Jotunheim, Laufey felt as though he’d done something wrong.

Chapter Text

Dear Mother,

Thankyou for the food, it is good to taste something familiar again.
(Can I come home now? Have you found a way?)
I’ve been eating a little each day as a treat.
(He holds me down, I don’t know what to do.)
I have been given reading lessons by Thrym, he is King Laufey’s younger brother.
(I don’t want a baby, I’ll be trapped here forever. Mother help me.)
I am still reading children’s books so far but Thrym says I am improving daily.
(Your marriage was arranged, did you ever not love Father?)
They have a series here about Mika. He is a Jotun child who has different adventures and learns about the realm.
(Did he hold you down like Laufey does me? Did you beg him not to? Did he ignore you? Did he make you feel so full you couldn’t *not* move?)
So far I have read about half of them.
(Did he ever make you cry? Did you ever hate him?)
King Laufey showed me some of Utgard, which is the capital city on Jotunheim.
(I’m scared and I’m out of ideas.)
The children in Utgard have a game where they try and get as close as they can to the King without being caught by the guards. It is a mark of high honour to be the child who gets closest.
(Thrym says I have to learn to live with him. I can’t, Mother I hate him.)
We drank something called Palif, it is the only warm thing I’ve discovered on Jotunheim that they eat.
(Is there any way for me to come home that doesn’t de-stable Jotunheim and cause thousands of deaths?)
It wasn’t bad. King Laufey says they drink it during the Darkening, which is the Jotunheim winter.
(Are you going to leave me here? Please Mother, don’t leave me here.)
King Laufey says you can write back, I look forward to your reply.
(Mother help.)

Love Loki.
(I’m your son…aren’t I?)

 

 

Frigga’s heart had leapt when Heimdall sent a messenger with the letter. She had written back immediately, although Odin had requested she wait a day before sending it so as not to alarm Laufey. The last thing they wanted was for him to change his mind about letting them write.

She had read the letter at least a dozen times a day since, and every day would find her anxiously checking with Heimdall to see if Loki had replied.

Heimdall himself had been trying to see Jotunheim each day, to check on Loki and to see if there was anything they could use against Laufey. What he got was blurry images, or deserted icy landscapes. Someone was blocking him, diverting his gaze. He didn’t like it, and his mood was grim.

It was as though Asgard was in mourning. People spoke in low voices and any laughter that sounded echoed with loneliness. Odin had informed Frigga and Thor that the king of Muspelheim had officially recognised the marriage, as had the Dark Elves.

But the worst had been the Light Elves.

Not quite an ally to the Asgard, but certainly not an enemy, they had informed Odin that as Loki’s betrothal had taken place long ago with the consent of his birth parents then there was no reason why the match wasn’t legitimate. Thor had thrown his hammer through the wall in anger, and while Odin made him repair it himself as punishment, there was no force behind his words when he spoke. His shoulders were stooped as though under a great weight, and each passing day brought more sorrow to the royal house of Asgard.

But there was something else. Frigga could see it in Odin’s eyes, in the way he moved. The Odinsleep was pressing down on him. He was fighting it, but he would lose. Some things were more powerful than even the king. Soon he would sleep, and she would once again have to take up the mantel in his absence. She debated as to whether Thor should be given the task, but his actions of late were not those of a king.

What worried her was that with her baby in trouble, her actions might prove to be no better.

 

 

“Come here Loki.”

“Go there Loki.”

“Sit down Loki.”

“Come to bed Loki.”

“Drink your draught Loki.”

“Read your book Loki.”

“Look at me Loki.”

“Smile at them, Loki.”

“Put your hands above your head and sing a song about ice Loki.”

Laufey regretted the words as soon as they had left his mouth. He regretted them more when Loki, eyes filled with hopeless sorrow, slowly raised his hands above his head.

“Stop that.” Laufey snapped.

Loki had been silent for days. He obeyed every command he was given with the same detached manner. It was as though something deep inside of him had taken flight and left a shell behind. His shoulders were permanently slumped. His eyes were empty.

Laufey didn’t know what to do. He could only watch as Loki sleepwalked his way through the days. He ate only when instructed to, he would read when asked to do so out loud. But when Laufey gave him a book to read silently he stared at the page for an hour without turning it, his thoughts somewhere else entirely.

Obedience, Laufey discovered, was overrated. Loki would never make a good mother like this, even the rebellious man he’d first taken to bed would do a better job.

Laufey thought back on his own mother, the tiny figure that sat beside his father in the throne room. Kolga had been loving and kind, with a look that could have matched Frigga’s when Laufey had done something wrong. In total Kolga and Farbauti had conceived a total of two hundred and forty three children. Laufey’s entire royal court, and Kolga had raised them all.

Kolga was long dead. Laufey had held a lavish funeral when the time came. The whole royal court had mourned for two seasons.

Laufey suddenly he missed his mother as though it was only yesterday. Kolga would know how to reach Loki, coax him out of his stupor and convince him that his duty was to Jotunheim and to the King.

“Come here.” He barked.

Loki came without protest. Laufey pulled the smaller figure onto his lap and wrapped an arm around him.

“You will talk to me, Loki. You will tell me everything you are thinking right now.” He said, holding Loki’s chin in his other hand.

Loki stared at nothing. His face was a mask of hopeless misery.

“I was thinking that the tower isn’t tall enough to kill me.” He said. “But the cliff face on the northern side of the castle would be deep enough, and even if it wasn’t I would be trapped until the draught wore off and I could freeze to death.”

Laufey’s eyes widened until they were as round as saucers (literally, Jotun can do this) and nearly as big.

“You will not under any circumstances try to kill yourself! You are precious, do you understand me? There are people who care for you and would suffer if you left them behind!”

“They’re not here.” Loki said quietly. It was the first thing he’d said voluntarily for ten days.

Laufey stopped and stared at him.

“I’m here.” He said quietly. “Do you think I don’t care for you?”

Loki slowly raised his head until their eyes met.

“No.” He said.

He didn’t elaborate. Laufey just stared back at the creature in his arms. It wasn’t Loki, it looked like him but it wasn’t him. This thing was something entirely different.

“Thrym.” He said at last. “Thrym cares for you.”

Loki looked down.

“He’s not here.” He said.

He was right. Thrym had left Loki entirely to Laufey’s care in the hope of preventing Loki’s preference for him from becoming something more serious. Right now Laufey thought he was prepared to risk it.

“Loki.” He said softly. “Thrym is just busy with the preparations for the Great Hunt. He’ll be back.”

Loki looked down, defeated.

Laufey held him for the rest of the afternoon. Loki was silent as Laufey rubbed his back gently, as though those few words had exhausted him.

 

‘I’ve failed. I am trapped here. There is no way out. I am going to have three hundred children and they are all going to be named Laufey Junior. I can’t escape. I have no plans. My backup’s backup has failed. I failed. I am stuck here forever on this world of ice. I want to end it. I want to die. He won’t let me. I will live until I am old and I will never see my home again. I’m frightened. I don’t want to have a child. I don’t want him to get me pregnant. I wish it would just happen already. That he’d just get me with child so I could stop hoping. It hurts to hope. I’m tired of hoping. I’m tired of fighting. I want to go home. I will never go home. My children will think like him. I want to stop now. Father, please, make it stop now. Save me. Kill me. Do something please but don’t leave me here. My life is over. I am the queen of Jotunheim. I am Laufey’s mate. I am an ice maiden. I am precious. I am everything but I am not Loki, not anymore. And I am sad.’

Loki sat still as the days drifted past. The letter from his mother sat unopened on the side table. He didn’t want to read it. He dreaded the pain he would feel reading about his home, the home that was slowly moving on without him. The longer he stayed here the more people would get used to the idea and the less they would fight to save him. It was easy to dismiss someone you never saw. Easy to be grateful it wasn’t you and leave it at that. He felt lost, he was lost.

‘Maybe I’ll love the babies when they come. Maybe I can have that, despite who their father is. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to love his children, even if they are mine too. I want to die.’

Loki didn’t move an inch but tears filled his eyes until they overflowed and ran down his cheeks.

‘I feel empty.’

He stared out at the training yard below him, then turned his head to look back at the royal chambers.

‘Maybe he’ll fill me.’

Chapter Text

Odin was tired, he was fighting the Odinsleep with everything he had, but soon he would have to give in. Loki still wasn’t back. He didn’t want to sleep while his son was in Laufey’s hands, Odin the father was terrified for his son. But he had to sleep, because Odin, King of Asgard, could see that Loki could never come home. It had been a mistake to take him. Odin had erred, and Loki would pay the price.

Odin, King of Asgard knew what Thor and Frigga refused to accept. Loki was Laufey’s Queen and their only hope to prevent civil war. Without an heir Jotunheim would collapse into factions, those factions would fight in a long drawn out war that would kill thousands, hundreds of thousands. His spy had provided a wealth of information that he had never known about the Jotun. Things he had never wanted to know or tried to find out before. Odin was supposed to be wise but right now he felt like a fool.

The war would bring refugees. People fleeing the victors and willing to go anywhere to get away, willing to fight to the death for new land. They would travel in small groups by the dark pathways and as a result could wind up anywhere. Midgard would be invaded by Jotun unable to go home and willing to fight to stay.

They would go anywhere there was snow, they would even come to Asgard if they grew desperate enough and settle in the high mountains. Divided, it would take millennia to root them all out and if they were left then they would settle and breed and the next thing the Realms knew the Jotun would be everywhere.

Did the realms even have to right to turn them away? True refugees? Technically no, but there were few races among the nine realms who were welcomed to settle anywhere permanently in a world not their own. The chaos would be devastating.

 

Odin, King of Asgard could see all these points, could lay out every argument and see that it could only end one way.

Odin the father had no arguments, nothing practical that could sway the King’s mind, no great points of debate that would sway a council.

All he had was a memory…

…of a child with big green eyes and a small face, screwed up in such concentration
…of tiny hands releasing his mother’s skirts
…of chubby legs taking that important first step, as the tiny figure determinedly made his way across the terrifying abyss that was the ten feet between his mother and the throne
…of that stumble, almost toppling him, but saved at the last second as he straightened
…of that final lurching step, into Odin’s waiting arms
…of that little head turning upward and that small face splitting into a wide grin because he’d *done it* and his daddy had him, safe and sound

Odin wiped the tears from his face with a tired hand. For a moment he sat unmoving and staring at nothing, then rose and slowly made his way to the training yard where Tyr was putting some of the junior men through their paces.

“Tyr.” He said, getting the General’s attention.

“Allfather.” Tyr said.

He gestured at the recruits to continue and walked to Odin’s side.

Odin looked at him seriously.

“How long would it take to be ready for war?” He said, his voice deceptively calm.

Tyr looked surprised but answered quickly.

“Three months if you are planning a proper campaign.” He said. “We’d need to have proper coats made for the cold.”

Of course Tyr would know where Odin was thinking of. Odin nodded.

“Prepare them while I sleep.” He said and turned away.

Odin the King screamed at him to not be so stupid.

Odin the father told him to shut up.

 

 

Thor sat at a long table with Sif and the Warriors Three. His eyes scanned the map of the Jotunheim castle.

“We’d go in there, down that passageway and up those stairs. Then when we reached the royal chambers we’d shoot Laufey dead and grab Loki. Down the back passage, through the northern gate and to the Bifrost site where Heimdall will be watching and take us home.” Fandral was saying, pointing at each stage as he spoke.

Thor nodded slowly.

“This is good my friends. But we must have a place to hide Loki once we have him. After the Jotun have finished killing each other then he can come back to the Asgard court. Even if they demand him back Father will refuse them. He is only tied to Laufey after all. He doesn’t have to go for anyone else.”

“We can ask Freya if she will hide him as an apprentice for a while. He can use magic, eat at the court table and train with us. No one in Asgard is going to comment that it is Prince Loki under a glamour.” Volstagg said.

“Not if they value their lives, I think Queen Frigga would kill anyone who betrayed her son.” Sif added with an admiring smile.

“So we will ask Freya if she would be willing.” Fandral said. “I will do so myself tonight.”

“When do we go?” Hogun asked.

Thor frowned.

“Father and Mother are still hoping to blackmail Laufey into letting Loki go. I do not think they will succeed but I do not want to interfere with their plans until I am sure they have failed. If by some miracle they do succeed the result will be much better than our plan. Be ready, I will tell you the moment we are to go.”

One by one they nodded, committing themselves to the plan and to Thor. Truly he could ask for no better friends.

 

 

Laufey tried to coax Loki into reading his mother’s letter. Loki just sighed and let it fall from his hands.

Thrym came and sat with him, he tried to get Loki to take an interest in the Great Hunt, which was fast approaching. Loki did not rouse from his slump.

Laufey conducted the business of the realm with Loki beside him. Loki showed no interest and asked no questions.

“You’ve broken him.” Thrym said as he leaned back in his chair.

Laufey was pacing across his workroom as though the floor had offended him.

“All I did was show him the binding spell. He said he was trying to see it! I helped him see it! How was I supposed to know he’d react like this?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t see it coming either.” Thrym confessed. “Has he read the letter from his mother?”

“He won’t look at it. On the one hand it’s wonderful that he wants to sever ties with Asgard, on the other there is no way Loki would ever sever ties with Asgard! It’s not in his nature, at least I thought it wasn’t.”

“I think you should read the letter to him. It may rouse him from this waking dream he seems to be having.”

“You’ve read it?”

“I’m the General of your army, of course I read it. There were no codes we could discover, no instructions for him to sneak out or run away or kill you.”

“He can’t kill me, the spell will stop fatal blows.”

“Do they know that?”

“I doubt it.”

“Then they may still instruct him to do it.”

“But they didn’t.”

“No, she didn’t.”

Laufey looked over at Thrym.

“She reminds me a little of our mother.” He said.

Thrym smiled at him.

“Only a little?”

“I will try to get him to read it again tomorrow. This silence is wrong brother. He aches, the light in him has gone out. I miss it.” Laufey confessed.

“Perhaps he will brighten again, perhaps he is just missing his home. Give him time and he will recover.” Thrym suggested.

Laufey sighed heavily.

“He doesn’t believe that I care for him.” He said. “I know that he is not happy with our mating but I do care, he’s…” He broke off, unable to find the right word.

“Loki.” Thrym filled in for him.

Laufey nodded.

“Exactly. He’s been here thirty one days now.” He said. “That is not so very long. I must be patient.”

“Not your strongest trait brother, but it is your only course of action.”

Laufey looked uncomfortable.

“Do you think I should ask his mother back early?” He mumbled reluctantly.

Thrym shook his head.

“I saw that look in her eyes, she’d be here to stay if you let her. You don’t want your mate’s mother in the castle. Mine lives past the eastern plains and it’s still not far enough.” Thrym said. “Besides, you have set your conditions; to go back on them will be to show weakness to Asgard. She’ll be back soon enough, remind him, he can have it to look forward to.”

 

Loki was awake when the crash occurred. It was loud enough to shake the castle walls.

Loki and Laufey sat up together, startled. A few seconds later the servant ran in to their chambers without knocking.

“Trolls.” He said.

Laufey sprang from the bed and pulled Loki with him.

“How many?”

“Fifteen.”

“No. How did they get so numerous?” Laufey asked, his eyes wide as the servant fastened his loincloth around him.

“I do not know your Majesty.” The servant said, moving on to Loki.

Laufey’s mouth set in a determined line. He grabbed Loki’s draught from the table and poured out a measure.

“Drink now. We must get to Utgard and defend the walls. Where is Thrym?”

“The General is at the western gate; the trolls broke through the walls but his men are holding the line for now.” The speaker was the head of the royal guard, he entered the room and nodded to see them ready. “We must go.”

He crossed the room, scooped Loki up into his arms without ceremony and made for the door. Laufey turned and grabbed something from the side table and shoved it into his loin-pocket before running after them.

They left the chambers and were immediately surrounded by the royal guard. The group ran down the passageways and down the steps that led to the city. Loki found it was impossible not to be engaged in the world around him when everyone else was so alarmed. He lifted his head up and tried to follow the conversation being shouted above him.

“Why didn’t the lookouts sound the alarm?” Laufey asked.

“No time, heavy snow tonight, they must have charged out of it and killed them. We barely saw them coming and the road is flat for miles.” The head guard replied.

There was another crash, the ceiling above them flaked slightly, giving the impression of a mild snowfall inside.

“Have they all gone for the castle?” Laufey asked.

They reached the outer doors in record time and threw them open. Loki was aware of the snow falling thickly around them, obscuring his vision past a few feet.

“So far, General Thrym has sent half his men to Utgard’s walls just in case. If the Trolls do not move in that direction they have been ordered to circle around and attack them from behind.”

“Good.” Laufey panted. Their run had not slowed as they made their way down the stairs.

Loki was being bounced over the guard’s shoulder. He struggled to keep his head up.

At last they reached the entrance. The gates were shut, but a small door in them was being held open by a nervous looking Jotun. They ducked down to get inside.

The guard deposited Loki on the ground. Laufey grabbed his shoulder.

“Do exactly what you are told, do you hear me?” He said, looking worried. He gestured to the guards. “If they have to look for you they will be in danger.”

Loki nodded his understanding. A loud crash caused them to both look down the street.

“The Herald Gate.” Laufey said, his face creasing in alarm.

“It can’t be.” The guard said. “They would have to attack from the east, they couldn’t have made their way around so fast.”

“Unless they were already there.” Laufey said darkly. “They have planned this. The castle attack on the western side is a diversion so that we will send our children east. The Herald Gate is closest to where the children are hidden. They are planning to feast.”

He reached into his loin-pocket and pulled out a piece of parchment which he shoved into Loki’s own pocket before gripping him under the arms and tossing him back to the guard.

“Take him to the stronghold.” He yelled and turned to where the crash had come from.

The guard began to run with Loki in his arms. The others followed Laufey. They had just reached the point where their two paths would split when another, more final crash echoed through the streets. Loki saw over the guard’s shoulder the open gate and the troll beyond.

It was huge. Twice the average Jotun height and five times as broad. It was covered in white fur and carried what looked like a whole tree as a club. With a roar Laufey sprang at it, swinging himself up its body to attack the head. The guards followed his lead, climbing up over the troll and slamming their weapons and fists into its vulnerable eyes and ears.

It shook itself hard, causing several Jotun to go flying. Then the guard carrying Loki turned a corner and he could see no more.

“Let me down.” Loki yelled. “Let me fight.”

“I have orders.” The guard said and kept running. Loki wriggled until he could get a strike in and jammed his fingers into the side of the guard’s neck.

The guard’s arm spasmed and he dropped Loki. Loki rolled as he hit the ground and came up running. He sprinted back along the way they came, ignoring the guard’s yell behind him.

He arrived in time to see the troll fall in death, but another had come behind it. The second troll kicked it’s fallen comrade out of the way and into a building, which cracked alarmingly. There were screams from inside. Loki dashed to the doorway and pulled it open. Red frightened eyes looked up at him.

“You have to go.” He said. They were almost all children, hiding in what had been the safest part of the city.

The few adults that were there started to grab the smallest and heave them onto their shoulders.

“Where?” One of them said. “Where do we go?”

Loki turned to look behind him, the guard was almost there.

“Follow him, he’s going to the stronghold.” He said, loud enough for the guard to hear.

The guard nodded.

“Follow me. Quickly.” He yelled. His eyes locked onto Loki’s. “You too.” He said.

Loki ignored him and ran around the corner to see the second troll. It shook off the Jotun clinging to it and scanned the buildings. Loki saw it look over his head to where the children were running.

It grinned, it actually grinned. He felt a powerful anger rise in his stomach.

Laufey sprang from the side. He raced up the length of the troll and slammed his hand into its eye.

The troll roared in pain and threw Laufey off like a doll. He vanished over the top of the buildings.

There was a yell, loud and feral as Thrym came charging out of the snow and threw himself onto the troll. In his hand he swung his mighty hammer. A single blow shattered the troll’s leg, causing it to fall to the ground. Another caved a crater in its head, killing it where it lay.

Thrym turned and ran off to where Laufey had been thrown. Loki followed him through the twisting streets until they came across Laufey’s still form. He had landed badly, his body was twisted at a terrible angle. Despite his feelings for Laufey, Loki found himself wincing at the sight.

Thrym shouted out a loud call. It was echoed in the distance. Only a minute later Puluk arrived. His face paled when he saw Laufey lying on the ground.

He knelt by the King and placed his hands on Laufey’s body.

“He is badly hurt.” Puluk whispered, there was fear in his eyes.

That was all he was willing to say before his eyes closed and he began working his magic on the King.

Loki became aware of a shadow growing over them. He looked up and saw a third troll looming out of the snow, club raised as it came closer to where Laufey lay.

Later Loki would not be able to explain why he did it. He would tell himself it was his training, that you see an enemy, you fight. Or that he quite liked Thrym, who was too busy staring at his brother to see the danger behind him. Or that Puluk probably didn’t deserve to die with his eyes closed. Whatever the reason, when the troll brought the club swinging down Loki raised his hand.

The club bounced off his shield of magic so hard it hit the troll squarely between its eyes, knocking it to the ground. Loki stooped and grabbed an icicle in his hand. It wasn’t a dagger but he’s practised with unusually weighted weapons for this very reason.

He threw with frightening accuracy, the troll’s head had barely risen before it was falling back again with the icicle embedded in its eye. Thrym had turned by then and charged the fallen beast. It was still trying to claw out the icicle when his hammer fell.

Thrym turned and found Loki standing among the building rubble.

“What are you doing here?” He shouted.

“Saving your life.” Loki snapped back.

He ran to Thrym’s side as another roar filled the air.

“How many are there?” He asked.

“Too many. They have been hiding their numbers.” Thrym said with a snarl. “They should not have the strength for such a raid.

The troll appeared out of the snow. It saw them and raised its club.

Thrym pushed Loki behind him. Loki kicked the back of his leg and stepped out again.

The troll ran at them, each foot landing with a crash that they could feel. With a roar and triumph it slammed the club down…

…about fifteen feet from where they were standing. Thrym just had time to see the clones before they faded. Loki had picked up more icicles and was weighing them in his hand, trying to get a feel for them.

Thrym reached down and covered his hands, when he pulled away the ice had been shaped into daggers. Loki snapped his arm forwards and buried one of them in the troll’s ear. It stumbled and fell. Thrym charged it with a roar and finished it off.

“We make a good team.” He said, running back to Loki.

“I’ve fought beside a hammer wielding maniac before.” Loki said dryly.

Thrym grinned at him. But then his grin faded and he ran back to Laufey.

“Is he alright?” He asked as Loki came up beside him.

The sounds of battle had faded. The roar of the trolls had stopped and the city had descended into an eerie silence.

Puluk looked up, his face a mask of worry.

“He’s badly hurt. My Lord General I…I don’t know if he will survive.”

The look on Thrym’s face made Loki feel guilty for the feeling of hope that washed over him. He kept his face carefully blank as Thrym called for more healers to come and help the King.

 

Laufey lay in the healer’s wing of the castle. In his absence the court ground to a halt.

Loki spent his first night alone in the royal chambers since he’d first been trapped on Jotunheim. He lay curled in too many furs. His Jotun body was hot, but his Asgard one would be freezing the moment the draught wore off.

The next day Thrym arrived and together they visited Laufey.

The King was almost white in colour. He was so still that for a moment Loki thought he had died in the night and they were viewing his body. But then he took a slow, shallow breath and Loki had to cover his disappointment.

Puluk looked exhausted. He sat by Laufey’s bedside with his shoulders slumped.

“We have done all we can. He is strong, and he will need that strength. I’m sorry your Majesty, my Lord General, we cannot do more. It is up to the King.”

Thrym nodded seriously.

“Keep us informed of any changes.” He said.

As they turned to leave Loki saw a younger Jotun come up to Puluk. He stopped nervously.

“Yes Ulat?” Puluk said.

“I have finished the minor wounds of the guards, father.” Ulat said. His eyes flicked to where Loki and Thrym sat then back again. He looked like he was about to faint.

“My son.” Puluk said with a tired smile. “He is learning to be a healer, he’s very good.”

Ulat blushed blue. Loki smiled at him.

“I’m sure you’ll be as good as your father someday.” He said.

Ulat went bluer and mumbled something that sounded like a thankyou. Thrym nudged Loki and gestured for them to leave the poor lad alone. They left.

“We have to attend to the duties of the realm.” Thrym said.

“We?” Loki asked.

Thrym nodded. “You are the queen and I am the General of the army. When the King is unable to perform his duties we must do so.”

Loki stared at him, this was new information. They made their way to Laufey’s workroom.

Thrym handled the paperwork; he read out what was written on it and explained what he was doing. Loki knelt on the chair beside him and tried to make out all of the words he recognised. Afterward they called in the advisors who shuffled in warily. Thrym told them in clipped tones of Laufey’s condition. Loki did his best to keep the hope from his face.

As they began to report on their regions, Loki became aware that the advisors who were not speaking kept glancing curiously at him. He frowned at them. Caught, they quickly looked away.

When the morning was over Loki headed back to the royal chambers. He was escorted by four guards instead of the usual two. From the corner of his eye he saw one of them look over at him critically. The guard’s head snapped back to the front when he saw Loki looking. As Loki approached the doorway he saw two servants instead of one standing outside the door.

Loki stopped.

“Where’s Thrym?” He asked.

The guard bowed slightly.

“General Thrym has gone to the training yards, to see to his men.” He answered.

“I want to see him.” Loki said. “Take me there.”

The guard looked nervous but obeyed. Loki followed them down to the lower levels and into the training yard.

Thrym was surrounded by his men. He looked up in surprise as Loki approached.

“What is it? What’s the matter?” He asked, concerned.

“Why did you double the guards?” Loki asked.

Thrym took a deep breath.

“To protect you. They are my most loyal men, if, if Laufey dies then you will need protecting.”

“Why?”

“Because the first Jotun to get a child on you will have the best claim to be King.” Thrym whispered.

Loki stared at him in horror.

Thrym’s face was serious, he leaned forward conspiratorially.

“Unless you are already with child?” He asked gently.

Loki backed away from him and stormed out of the training grounds.

It wasn’t him they had been looking at, he realised as he made his way back to the royal chambers. It was his stomach.

He closed the door behind him to shut out the servants and guards, went to the window and crawled up onto the sill so he could see the training yard below. The men were being put through their paces. He watched them with narrow eyes.

He was nothing but a breeder, nothing but an object to these people. He slumped against the sill as he scanned the yard below him. The morning had made him feel as though things had changed, but they hadn’t.

There was a knock on the door. Loki turned in confusion; lunch was still two hours away.

“Come in?” He said.

The door opened to admit a servant. For the first time ever the guard escorted him.

“Your Majesty. We took your cloths to be cleaned, but you left this in the pocket?”

He held out a piece of folded paper. Loki held out his hand and the servant crossed the floor and gave it to him.

“Thankyou.” Loki said.

The servant smiled at him. Loki watched as the guard escorted him out.

It was the paper Laufey had seemed to think was so desperate. Loki turned it over and blinked in surprise. It was Frigga’s letter.

With nervous hands he opened the envelope and pulled out the letter.

 

My Dear Son,

There has not been a day that goes by that I do not miss you. My heart breaks at every mealtime to see your empty chair. You were always the quieter of my two sons but without your presence the palace now knows true silence.

Your father is still trying to find a diplomatic way to return you to us. He sleeps little and worries constantly. And your brother is much subdued. He has lost the sparkle in his eye that I thought permanent, now I know it was your doing and I ache when I see it gone.

I will come again as soon as I am allowed to bring you more of your favourite foods. Would you like another of your books? Tell me which ones and I will bring them.

The trees have buds on them again and will soon be covered in leaves. Your favourite garden is well tended and the Cristolape are almost in bloom. When they are at their height I will cut you some of the finest and bring them to you so that you might decorate your chambers. I imagine that the cold will preserve them for quite a while.

Loki, my child, I know you well. I should, I am your mother and I know that you are strong, resourceful and very, very clever. Please my darling boy, stay that way. Do not let this trial overwhelm you. No matter where you came from and where you are now I will love you, I will miss you, I will never forget you and one day I will bring you home.

I will come every time I am allowed and think of you every minute that you are not by my side.

I love you with more feeling than I ever thought myself capable of. Stay strong for me as I will for you,

Mother.

 

Loki lowered the letter and looked out again at the yard. Thrym was fighting one on one with one of the guard captains. Loki’s eyes narrowed in thought.

He wasn’t nothing.

He was never nothing.

He was Loki.

And he was angry.

 

After lunch Loki stepped out of his chambers and turned toward the throne room.

“Your Majesty, I believe General Thrym will be here shortly to escort you.” The guard said.

Loki turned to face him.

“Why? I know the way.” He said pleasantly.

He turned and set off down the corridor.

His arrival caused a hush to filter through the room. Loki walked straight-backed and regally to his chair. The effect was spoiled somewhat by his inability to reach the seat without an undignified scramble. Rather than do so he stood in front of it with his arms folded.

One Jotun came walking quickly up to him, smiling eagerly. Loki recognised him as Raolr, the second sibling of Laufey and a member of the royal family. He stooped when he reached Loki’s side.

“May I assist you, your Majesty?” He asked.

Loki nodded.

“Thankyou Raolr.” He said.

Raolr carefully lifted him into his chair. Loki carefully did not roll his eyes as he felt Raolr’s hand ghost across his stomach.

Raolr backed away as Loki settled in his chair. A few minutes later Thrym strode in, he cast a worried look at Loki’s impassive face as he crossed the room and stood behind Laufey’s throne.

“Court will now begin.” Called the Herald. “Send the first supplicant.”

Thrym leaned down to whisper in Loki’s ear.

“You didn’t wait for me.”

Loki leaned back and looked up at him.

“No, I didn’t.” He said sweetly.

Thrym frowned uncertainly and looked up to face the nervous looking Jotun making his way before the throne.

There were only a few of them. Too many people were busy with the harvest to worry about petitioning the King. Thrym handled them easily. Loki just listened as they argued, pleaded and asked for what they wanted.

The final supplicant was a member of the royal family by the name of Greer. He was accused of putting aside a greater share of his harvest into his private stores. This was a serious crime, as every scrap of the harvest was needed for the coming Darkening.

Thrym waited patiently while the charge was read and the evidence presented, then spoke.

“Your defence?”

Greer sneered.

“It’s a lie, that is my defence.” He nodded toward Loki. “Has he got a child in there or not?”

The sounds of outrage that echoed through the throne room made Loki look around in surprise. Apparently you could look but not ask.

Thrym growled and strode forward.

“You will show respect!” He yelled.

“Laufey is dying! If he doesn’t have a child in his belly someone should put one there before we collapse into chaos!” Greer snapped, his face ugly.

“Laufey is in the healer’s care! He is strong and he is not dead you vile disgusting excuse for a sibling! You will show respect for his mate!” Thrym roared over the top of the shouting crowd.

“What mate?! He’s not a proper mate! Laufey doesn’t know how to treat him!” Shouted a voice above the crowd.

“It takes time to make a child! It could take a century! At least Laufey is trying!”

“How do you know he’s trying? Did you bribe the guards?!”

“Shut your mouth and do not speak of such treason! How dare you accuse me! I will fight you in the arena for that!”

The whole court had descended into chaos. Loki looked around him in horrified bewilderment as the Jotun screamed at each other. He could see Thrym trying to restore order and failing as his voice was drowned out.

But mostly what Loki became aware of was the fear. Their King was dying, they had no heir, no stability and they were terrified. Greer’s actions were those of a desperate man. One who would risk losing everything for the chance to protect his own.

Loki stood up on his chair. He had performed this spell before, but never on so many people at once. He focussed his mind, reached out his hand and brought it down.

Every single Jotun in the room was pushed to the floor by an invisible force. From the mightiest General to the most junior servant, they all found themselves face down and unable to rise.

“My name, is Loki.” Loki said. His voice was low but cut through the crowd like a knife.

The room was silent. Loki slipped off the edge of his chair and landed awkwardly on the floor. The Jotun were all watching him from where they lay. Loki walked slowly over them to the centre of the crowd where Thrym and Greer lay. They were both looking at Loki uncertainly.

“Right, let’s get back to the root of the problem.” Loki said, looking down at them. “You have been accused of stealing from the harvest. The penalty is to forfeit your private share to the realm and live off the central store like everyone else. So the question here is, did you do it?”

Loki raised his hand and swept a truth spell across Greer’s body. Greer scowled.

“Royals don’t have to answer under a truth spell.” He spat.

“I don’t see why not. You’re just as capable of lying as anyone else.” Loki said.

Greer shook his head.

“I won’t! It’s an insult!”

Loki smiled slowly.

“Then I will leave it on you for the rest of your life.” He said, his eyes hard.

Greer looked shocked.

“You can’t.” He said.

“I can.” Loki replied. “And I will, last chance.”

Greer looked helplessly at Thrym, who was looking nonplussed from his prone position.

“Oh, and given that every Queen has been an ice maiden for thousands of years, why has no one thought to add *stairs* to the Queen’s chair?” Loki added, looking over his shoulder at the assembled crowd.

They just looked at him, stunned.

Loki walked back over to the Queen’s chair and tapped his foot.

“You can all shape ice, perhaps one of you could oblige me, now?” He said waving his hand and allowing them to rise.

One of the servants rushed over and knelt in front of the chair.

Greer shifted to his feet.

“Alright!” He yelled. “I did set more aside! Jotunheim is collapsing! Laufey’s never going to get a child on Loki! Everyone knows he’s rough with him! And now he’s dying and there is still no heir! I have to protect what’s mine!”

He stopped, out of breath.

Loki stood and regarded him thoughtfully.

“He’s not rough with me.” He said quietly.

The crowd was silent as it absorbed this information.

“The penalty for taking more than your share is to forfeit what you are entitled to, which will be done.” Loki said, looking at Thrym.

Thrym nodded.

“I will send my men to confiscate it.” He said. He turned to Greer. “You will stay in the cells until we are done.”

Thrym gestured to his guards who came forward to take Greer by the arms. Greer looked outraged.

“Who do you think you are?” He snapped.

Loki raised an eyebrow.

“Loki, Queen of Jotunheim.” He said. “And I’m done here.”

He turned and left the throne room behind.

 

Laufey languished for days. Every morning Loki and Thrym would go to the healer’s chambers to hear their report before together they handled the business of the realm. Every day the healers reported the same thing. There was no change.

Thrym insisted on keeping Loki guarded. Despite what had happened in the throne room he still felt that if Laufey died, Loki would need protection.

Loki did not tell him that if Laufey died he’d be out of the castle and back in Asgard before Thrym could blink.

The incident in the throne room had two unintended side effects. Firstly Thrym had insisted that Loki take over the judging duties, which was quickly earning him a reputation for brutal but fair justice. Secondly, Loki’s quiet declaration that Laufey was not a rough mate had calmed the wild rumours that had been sweeping through the castle.

Thrym was grateful for that at least. But the whispers and careful looks in Loki’s direction had not faded. The fear that drove them was lingering in the air. It was almost solid. Not a day went past that Thrym was not asked, quietly, if he knew of any pregnancy. The servants had reported to him that they had received multiple offers of bribes for reports on Loki’s condition.

He had thanked them for their discretion. But the truth is he was as anxious as anyone to know whether Loki was pregnant or not. He suspected not, as Loki was showing none of the early signs. But if Laufey died without an heir then the scene in the throne room would only be the beginning. Jotunheim would be devastated by the fallout. He had already been accused of keeping Loki a prisoner in preparation for mating upon Laufey’s death.

He didn’t want that. They may not believe it but Thrym was happy with his mate Goupr. He didn’t want anyone else, even for the crown. But there were many who would think differently.

 

Nine days after the troll attack, Laufey opened his eyes.

“Loki.” He croaked.

The healers came running to his side.

“You Majesty.” Puluk said. “Please don’t try to move. You have been badly injured.”

Laufey closed his eyes again. A moment later he was unconscious again.

Two days after that he woke again, this time for longer. Loki and Thrym came to see him.

“You look better brother.” Thrym said quietly.

Laufey smiled at him.

“Were the children saved?” He asked.

“Yes, we lost forty two guards but thankfully no civilians.” Thrym said. “You should rest brother, Loki and I have been taking care of everything in preparation for your return.”

“Do you remember how I vowed we would not repair the castle until after Jotunheim was rebuilt to its former glory?” Laufey asked weakly.

“Yes?”

“I think Jotunheim is probably as good as its going to get. We should really begin rebuilding, start with the walls.”

Thrym grinned widely.

“I’ll organise some builders.” He said.

Laufey’s eyes shifted to where Loki stood. He reached out a hand and enveloped Loki’s.

“Take care of Thrym.” He said weakly.

Loki nodded awkwardly. He was still fighting his disappointment at Laufey’s survival.

Laufey drifted back into sleep.

Puluk came over and gently placed a hand on Laufey’s brow.

“He’s still very weak, but his mind has survived intact and his body will follow with rest.”

Thrym smiled.

“That is the best of news.” Thrym said with relief.

Loki forced a smile onto his face and said nothing.

 

Four days later Laufey returned to his rooms. He was moving slowly and had to rest for most of the day, but just knowing the King was recovering restored peace to the realm. Loki could see it in the advisors’ faces as they made their morning reports. He could see it in the throne room and in the faces of the servants as they came to the royal chambers. It was disturbing, how quickly things had almost broken down without him.

‘He needs an heir.’ Loki thought with horrified realisation. ‘He wasn’t joking about the war, about the struggle and the fighting. It may be a stupid tradition but it is something they really believe in. For every Jotun who can accept a King not born from an ice maiden there are hundreds who cannot. Uh oh.’

Loki looked over at Laufey sitting at the table eating his breakfast. He was moving stiffly but better than the day before. Today he was planning to resume his duties, at least, the morning scrollwork. The afternoon was still debatable.

Laufey looked over and caught Loki’s eye.

“Thrym says you have done a wonderful job in my absence.” He said.

Loki shrugged.

“It had to be done.” He said, turning back to his breakfast.

“I am grateful, Loki.” Laufey said.

Loki glanced up at him.

“I may have scared them a little.” Loki admitted.

Laufey smiled.

“Good, they probably needed it.” He said.

Laufey finished his breakfast and got slowly to his feet.

“Come with me?” He asked.

Loki got down and walked with him to Laufey’s workroom. They did the scrolls together, with Thrym contributing as Laufey caught up with the business of the realm. Afterwards he went back to the royal chambers to rest until lunch. Thrym and Loki went to the training yard so that Loki could practice his fighting skills.

“It’s been a while.” Loki said as he stretched.

Thrym picked up a staff and held it in the guard position. Loki raised his own staff and took a deep breath. A second later they came together in a loud crash. Loki slid under Thrym’s guard before he could use his superior size and weight and spun around to strike from behind. Thrym block the blow and swung his staff up towards Loki’s head. Loki pulled back, ducked low and managed to land a strike on Thrym’s leg. It wasn’t strong enough to topple him though and Thrym’s next blow saw Loki landing flat on his back. Loki rolled out of Thrym’s reach and scrambled back to him feet. He deflected Thrym’s next blow and ducked the follow through. He landed one more strike to the side of Thrym’s midsection before finally falling back with Thrym’s staff at his neck.

“Not bad.” Thrym said, reaching down and offering Loki a hand.

Loki got to his feet with a grin. The exercise had his blood pumping and it felt good.

“Another round or do you want to start on knife throwing?” Thrym asked.

Loki took up a guard stance.

“One more.” He said.

Laufey watched them from the window. He and Thrym had quite a talk while he was recovering. They spoke about the realm, about the chaos and about Loki. Thrym had a lot to say about Loki. He had quietly impressed upon Laufey how Loki had taken charge of the throne room and how he had handled the problem of Greer by charging right over it.

Laufey turned from the window and walked stiffly to the door.

“I want to speak to the metalworkers and the stone carvers.” He said to the servant waiting outside.

He wanted to give Loki something to show that he was grateful, to show that he cared.

 

Five days after Laufey returned to his duties the sky lit up with a familiar light.

Loki almost ran to the throne room in his excitement. He had been fidgeting all day. Laufey had to keep a hold of his arm to stop him from running ahead.

“There is such a thing as decorum.” He teased gently.

Loki just gave him a look and continued to pull.

Frigga was back. She stood proudly in the centre of the throne room. Sif stood a pace behind her, eyes scanning their surroundings. Loki’s face split open into a grin when he saw them.

“Mother.” He ran to her side and threw his arms around her in a hug.

Frigga gripped him tightly.

“My son.” She said, her voice thick.

“Queen Frigga.” Laufey said curtly.

She stiffened and pulled back to acknowledge Laufey.

“King Laufey.” She said. “I have brought more food for my son.” She lifted the basket as evidence. “No doubt you will have a servant take it now?”

Laufey narrowed his eyes. His shoulders were slightly hunched. Loki held his breath.

“Loki, why don’t you take your mother somewhere private so that you can talk together?” He said, his voice strained. “The servants can bring you something to drink.”

“Thankyou.” Loki said.

Frigga’s eyebrows rose in surprise but she said nothing as Loki took her arm and led her from the throne room.

They wound up in the royal chambers. There weren’t that many rooms in the castle that weren’t already in use. Truthfully the castle was half a castle, the rest was rubble.

Loki helped his mother into his normal chair and clambered into Laufey’s. The draught he’d taken was still working. It did make his life here more comfortable but he wished he could undo it for an hour.

Sif prowled the room and scanned the training yards outside the window.

Frigga smiled gently at him as she very carefully avoided looking at the gigantic bed at the other end of the room.

“Are you well Loki?” She asked. “For what has happened, are you well?”

“I’m, alright. It’s difficult. I’m supposed to be this precious thing, this means through which they can avoid a war, but all I really want to do is come home.” Loki said.

Frigga reached out and tried to squeeze his hand. Loki pulled back reluctantly.

“You’ll burn yourself.” He said with a sad smile. “Our hug earlier has destroyed your collar.”

He was right, the bands over the fur had frozen and crumbled off. Frigga looked down.

“I didn’t even notice.” She said.

Loki shrugged.

“If you come just after lunch next time I won’t take the draught, that way I can be normal again.”

Frigga nodded gently.

“Both your forms are normal Loki, nothing about you is wrong.” She said.

Loki shrugged again.

“I suppose so.” He said. Frigga could tell that he didn’t believe it.

Loki glanced back at her.

“Your spy was discovered.” He said in a low voice.

Frigga winked at him. It was so fast he almost missed it.

“I guess it was foolish of us to try.” She said mildly.

Loki’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, but before he could ask any questions there was a knock on the door. Sif immediately moved until she was beside Frigga.

It was a servant, carrying three drinks of Palif. They steamed slightly in the freezing Jotunheim air.

“Thankyou.” Loki and Frigga said together.

The servant smiled at them both and left. Sif resumed her careful pacing.

Loki took a drink and let the warmth and flavour seep into him. Frigga carefully lifted her cup. There was a moment of uncertainty, in which they both calculated the likelihood of Laufey having her poisoned. Loki reached out and waved a hand over the cup anyway.

“I can’t detect anything.” He said.

Frigga took a cautious sip.

“It’s very nice.” She said.

Loki nodded.

“They drink it in the winter.” He said.

“I know, you said so in your letter.” Frigga said. “You, um, didn’t tell me what books you would like, so I asked the librarian which ones you borrowed the most.”

Loki felt a flush of guilt at her words. He had not answered her letter, he had avoided reading it for weeks and when he finally did he had been too busy to answer.

“I’m sorry I didn’t answer Mother, there was a bit of trouble with some trolls, also, I ran away.”

“You ran away? Where did you go?”

“The middle of nowhere, really. I was trying to find some time alone to…” he lowered his voice, “break the binding spell. But I can’t, it’s been a part of me for so long I can’t feel it as a separate thing to my magic. If I can’t isolate it, I can’t break it.”

It hurt to put it into words.

Frigga nodded sadly.

“There will be a way.” She said gently. She lowered her voice further. “Your father has been taken by the Odinsleep, but before he succumbed he ordered the army to prepare for war.”

Loki’s eyes widened. If the Allfather was sleeping then didn’t that mean Frigga was the current ruler? Yes, which meant that the current ruler of Asgard was sitting in the heart of the Jotunheim castle drinking Palif with a single warrior as a guard? Wait…the army was preparing for war?

“That, doesn’t sound like Father.” He said at last.

Frigga sighed.

“I believe it is part of a feint, to try and pressure Laufey into releasing you.”

Loki shook his head sadly.

“I don’t think he will, his army is not exactly weak. I really do seem to be the most important thing in the Realms right now.”

He shifted awkwardly.

“Which is not as fun as I thought it would be.” He joked badly.

Frigga had never wanted to hug him more.

“Oh my son, you are important to us, you were always important to us.” She said. “You are my baby and I love you.”

“Why did Father take me?” Loki asked. He’d been wondering that for a while.

Frigga shook her head slightly.

“I don’t know. But I’m glad he did. Your father lives by his own rules, perhaps he though a tiny child in a land of giants deserved a chance?”

“Perhaps.” Loki said. “Perhaps I can ask him someday.”

Frigga nodded determinedly.

“No perhaps about it, you will and I will be there with you to hear his answer.” She said.

Loki smiled at her, and it was a real smile that reached all the way to his eyes.

 

Frigga left after half an hour. Loki wished she could stay longer but neither one of them wanted to risk upsetting Laufey.

The King had reluctantly granted Frigga permission to visit in another forty days. She had thanked him graciously before taking her leave.

Laufey tugged Loki toward him and gave his shoulder a squeeze.

“Did you have a good discussion with your mother?” He asked.

Loki looked out in the direction of the Bifrost.

“Yes.” He said, a little sadly.

Laufey squeezed his shoulder again.

“You can write to her as much as you want.” He said.

Loki nodded.

“I need to do more of that.” He said.

“Come and have lunch.” Laufey said gently.

Loki walked with him back to their chambers. His mood was sad, which made Laufey nervous. He didn’t want Loki sliding back into that stupor. Once was more than enough.

When Loki went to pour a measure of his draught Laufey reached out a hand and stopped him.

“I have a surprise for you.” He said. “But you can’t drink that. You need to be in Asgard form.”

Loki looked surprised. He knew Laufey didn’t like his Asgard form.

A short while after lunch when the draught wore off, Laufey picked up the bottle and Loki’s cup and gently guided him down through the corridors of the castle. Loki looked around him in confusion.

“Where are we going?” He asked.

Laufey smiled.

“I had something made for you.” He said. “I thought you might be missing it.”

Loki’s brow furrowed as he tried to work out what Laufey could be talking about.

They reached a doorway in the lower part of the castle. Laufey opened it and let Loki walk through. He stopped in shock at what lay beyond.

“You made me a ba-uh, an immersion bowl?” He asked.

Laufey nodded.

“You said it was pleasant.” He said.

Loki nodded.

“It is.”

He walked forward toward the large bowl. It had been carved from stone and the inside lined with gold. The water in it was steaming.

Loki ducked his head and saw the heat crystals that had been placed under it and the shielding spell below them that prevented them from melting the floor.

“That’s a lot of magic.” He said.

“There’s always more.” Laufey said. “And the sorcerers all wanted to practice anyway, for when the Darkening arrives.”

He placed the bottle within easy reach for Loki and walked back to the doorway.

“There’s a servant outside if you need anything.” He said. “Um, enjoy being wet.”

Loki fought to keep the smile from his face at Laufey’s obvious confusion at why he would find this desirable.

“I will, um, thankyou.”

Laufey left him alone with his bath.

It.

Was.

Glorious.

The water was hot enough to sting and the bath big enough that he could completely immerse himself. They had even scented the water with something. Loki let out a groan as he relaxed into the delicious heat. He ducked his head under the water and stayed there as long as he could. When he finally surface for breath he couldn’t help but let out a sigh of pleasure. This was wonderful.

He stayed there for hours. The servant even ducked his head in at one point, fearful that somehow the queen had drowned, but Loki assured him that he was just fine, thankyou. When he finally, and reluctantly, got out he quickly grabbed the bottle and poured himself a measure. With a last look of regret at the bath he swallowed the draught and let the change pass over his body.

The room suddenly became uncomfortably hot. Loki sighed in disappointment and called out to the servant to bring him his loincloth as he brushed the tiny drops of ice from his body. Once dressed he gathered up the winter clothes he’d worn down to the bathing room and made his way back up to the royal chambers.

Laufey was reading when he came in. As he came closer Loki realised it was the book that Frigga had brought on her first visit.

“Do you feel better?” Laufey asked.

“Yes thankyou.” Loki said, climbing onto his chair. “I should have steps made for this too.” He said.

Laufey smiled.

“It does seem like a very sensible idea, now that you mention it. I think my mother may have preferred to be lifted though.”

“Why?”

“He liked to be pampered, he was never happier than when the whole court jumped to do his bidding. As long as it didn’t affect the kingdom my father was happy to let Mother have his way.”

Loki looked over at the book.

“I didn’t know you could read Asgardian.” He said.

Laufey looked down at the pages.

“I learned a long time ago. I’m a little out of practice but there was a time when the realms, all the realms, would speak often to each other. We would learn each other’s writings and histories.”

Loki looked at the book.

“It seems sad that you all stopped.” He said.

Laufey nodded.

“It was a better time. But it is long past now, there is no point in thinking of it.”

He put the book down.

“Perhaps you could help me with the words I do not remember?” He said. “Perhaps tonight before we sleep?”

“Alright.” Loki said.

He was a little confused. Laufey had not laid a hand on him since the troll attack. It made sense while he was recovering but he moved easily now. In truth Loki had been expecting him to try it for days. But Laufey seemed content to let the days drift by. Maybe he was still not fully recovered. It was too much to hope for that he’d damaged his cock and couldn’t get it up.

That night Loki lay pressed against Laufey’s side as he read one of the stories out loud. He wasn’t bad for someone who hadn’t practised in over a thousand years. Loki found himself making only the occasional correction. Laufey read until the end of the story and marked the place with a piece of cloth. He gave Loki a light squeeze and reached for the light crystal on the table.

Loki closed his eyes with a sigh as the darkness enclosed them.

“Loki.”

“Mmm?”

“Will you mate with me tomorrow?”

Loki opened his eyes and frowned into the darkness.

“I don’t want to.” He said quietly.

“I know.” Laufey replied.

There was a pause in the darkness.

“I need an heir.” Laufey said softly.

Loki lay still for a long moment.

“I know.” He said at last.

Chapter Text

The following morning saw a change in routine. The moment the business of the realm was taken care of Laufey guided Loki down to the training grounds.

It was packed with large Jotun, all striding purposefully from place to place, or pausing to test their weapons.

“They will compete for a chance to join us on the Great Hunt.” Laufey said. “The warriors will be decided today and tomorrow, the sorcerers the day after and the children the day after that.”

He walked with Loki to the edge of the yard where two chairs had been set up. One of them had steps.

Loki sat back and watched with interest as the first battle took place. It was a standard free for all between one hundred warriors, with each one fighting to be the last one standing. They fought until the last twenty were left, then departed to the side to allow the next hundred to enter the arena.

It took all day for them to finish, such was the prestige and rewards of being a part of the Great Hunt.

Laufey and Loki ate their lunch and dinner out on the edge of the arena and quietly placed bets on who would be the first and last to fall. Laufey won more than he lost, but he knew his warriors better. Loki had only his skill at sizing up opponents to help him, and with a hundred warriors at a time to weigh up he felt he hadn’t done so badly.

Thrym competed halfway through the day and remained on his feet. Neither of them expected any less. After his bout he wrapped an arm around one of the others still standing and walked casually to where the King and Queen sat.

“Brother.” He called out cheerfully.

Laufey acknowledged him with a wave.

“Well done Goupr.” He called out to Thrym’s companion, who grinned widely.

Loki looked at Goupr with interest. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting from Thrym’s mate but he knew Goupr wasn’t it. He was taller than Thrym by half a head and had extremely broad shoulders. His head was almost perfectly round, with his nose almost flat and curved around to complete the image.

Thrym gave his mate a hard squeeze and half dragged him to Loki’s side.

“This is Loki.” He said.

Goupr rolled his eyes a little and said.

“I am honoured to meet your Majesty.”

“I am pleased to meet you too, Goupr.” Loki replied politely.

Thrym shook his head.

“Get past the formalities already, you two should make good friends.”

Loki and Goupr shared a smile.

“See!” Thrym said, catching it. “They’re already making a private language to use against us brother!”

Laufey laughed.

“That’s it, we’re doomed.” He said.

Goupr and Thrym shared an identical grin.

“Helblindi is competing this year in the children’s competition.” Thrym said cheerfully.

“He’s very nervous.” Goupr added.

“He’ll be fine.” Thrym said waving a hand as though to remove all objection. “He’s strong and fast and just like his mother.”

Goupr smiled at his mate adoringly. Loki found the sight to be very cute. He frowned slightly, when did Jotuns interacting become anything other than monstrous?

“Are you alright Loki.” Laufey said, looking over at him.

“Yes. Yes I’m fine. They’re about to start the next bout.” Loki said quickly, sitting straighter and paying attention to the arena.

Laufey turned his attention back to his warriors.

“Klik will take down seventeen of them.” He wagered.

“Who’s Klik?” Loki asked.

Laufey pointed.

“The one with muscles on his muscles.” He said.

Loki nodded and scanned the crowd.

“The one with the club, he’ll go down quickly.”

“Oh?”

“He’s whacked his own fingers twice now and they haven’t even started.”

“Good point, we shall see.”

That night Loki lay beneath Laufey and tried to think of something he’d rather be doing. Laufey for his part tried to end it as quickly as possible. Afterwards they lay pressed together in the darkness. Laufey leaned down and nuzzled Loki’s hair gently. Loki closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

 

Loki was watching the servants pack the last of his things for the Great Hunt. He’d offered to do it himself but the servants had just looked at him strangely until Laufey told them to carry on.

The hunting grounds were over the other side of the western mountains, through troll territory, although after their losses in the attack they were not expected to be a problem this year. It was a twelve day journey by Prur, the broader, slower cousin of the Grur. Loki wasn’t sure how he felt about going so far from the Bifrost site. He couldn’t go through it anyway so it shouldn’t matter that he was going so far. It shouldn’t matter, but it did.

He filled in the remaining time writing a letter to his mother. He described the battle and the packing preparations. Laufey had promised him that a runner would be dispatched to carry his letters back to the Bifrost site from wherever he was on the road. He folded the parchment carefully and walked down through the corridors to the northern gate. His guard doubled the second he left the walls, but there was no need, he made the journey there and back without incident. He had just reached the entrance to the castle when the sky lit up behind him and Heimdall carried his letter away.

Loki went to go back to his rooms but was intercepted by one of the servants.

“You Majesty, the King would like you to join him at the western gate.”

Loki changed course and crossed the training yards. There were squadrons of soldiers left behind who were running through their training drills. He skirted them and walked along the western wall which was undergoing repair by a team of builders. He reached the western gate and walked through to the outside.

Laufey smiled when he saw him.

“There you are.” He said as Thrym came up behind him.

“Time to climb aboard!” Thrym called cheerfully.

Loki looked up at the Prur. It was gigantic. It occurred to him that the Frost ‘Giants’ were one of the smallest beings he’d seen on Jotunheim.

Laufey leaned down and scooped him up under the arms.

“Hold onto me.” He said.

Loki wrapped his arms around Laufey's neck and gripped tightly as the King turned and began to climb the side of the massive beast. He had to jump slightly from handhold to handhold at one point, which made Loki’s heart leap in his chest, but they soon arrived on the back of the Prur.

Laufey set him down and stood to survey the view.

Loki looked around him. The Prur’s back was broad enough for him to walk across, and it was about four times their chambers in size. The edges had been fitted with some kind of railed barrier that would help to prevent people from falling off and the whole back had been divided into sections and covered in furs and cushions. There was even some furniture, low and squat to prevent it toppling over as the Prur moved.

Thrym and Goupr joined them, as did several other Jotun that Loki recognised as members of the royal family. They were all warriors. The final Jotun to join them was smaller, although no less broad in shoulder width. His features looked familiar.

“Our child, Helblindi.” Thrym said happily, throwing an arm around the child’s shoulders. “He’s seven hundred and twenty three and this is his first Hunt.”

“Father.” Helblindi mumbled, embarrassed.

Goupr grinned and slapped him on the shoulder.

“We’re proud of you, Helblindi, nothing is going to change that.” He said.

Loki smiled at him.

“Hello Helblindi, it’s my first Hunt too.”

Helblindi went a terrifying shade of dark blue which made Thrym throw back his head and laugh.

“You’re allowed to talk to him you know!” He said to his child. “You speak to your uncle Laufey don’t you?”

Helblindi shuffled on his feet.

“Maybe later.” Loki said with a smile.

Laufey reached out and slipped an arm onto Loki’s shoulders.

“Let’s go and see out section.” He suggested.

They moved away from the main group to the centre of the Prur’s back. Scaffolding had been erected in various places around the edge but there was only one section in the middle.

“We don’t risk tumbling off in our sleep?” Loki said as Laufey pulled back the fur hangings.

“Of course not, you’d fall right through the gaps.” He said, his voice tinged with good humour.

Loki walked through, Laufey had to duck behind him. The furnishings here were comfortable, and the cushions from their bed were piled onto the floor. Laufey eased himself down onto them and smiled at him.

“We’ll be underway in a little while, they’re just doing the last checks now.”

“I still don’t know what anything about the Hunt itself.” Loki said, sitting down.

“The creatures are called Draphts. They are massive great things. We go to their migration path and try to hunt the oldest and biggest.” Then we bring the meat back and store it for the Darkening, we use the fur for warmth, it’s the softest fur in the realm, and we use the scales for our celebration.”

“They have fur and scales?”

“And horns and claws of ivory. They are a wonderful creature. That’s why we only take the oldest, so the younger ones survive to breed. We don’t want to wipe them out.” Laufey said.

Loki felt the floor lurch beneath him. Laufey smiled.

“You get used to the movement.” He said. “We’re living a lot closer to other people as well. But it’s good practice for the Darkening.”

“What happens during the Darkening?” Loki asked, curious.

“You two can come out now! Helblindi is up on the head talking to the driver.” Thrym’s voice echoed form outside.

Loki crawled to his feet and came out.

Thrym grinned at him.

“He’ll get used to you, he’s just nervous because you’re the queen.” Thrym said cheerfully.

Loki shrugged.

“He’ll have to if we’re travelling together.” He said.

The Prur lurched again, making Loki sway on his feet. Laufey caught his arm and steadied him.

“Are we leaving?” He asked.

Thrym nodded.

“Any minute now, the crowd has arrived to wave you off.”

Laufey gestured to the edge.

“Shall we?”

They walked to the edge of the Prur and looked out at the crowd. There were thousands of them, tens of thousands. It looked like the whole city had shown up to wish them well. Laufey raised a hand and acknowledged them. The roar from the crowd was deafening even from their impressive height.

Loki carefully waved a hand. The crowd erupted again. They were waving and cheering in excitement. Loki could see children riding the shoulders of their parents. It was a fantastic sight.

The Prur made another, bigger lurch as it began to walk. This time Loki managed to stay on his feet. They waved to the crowd until they were well down the western road, the centre of a large caravan of over fifty Prur. Loki looked around at the others. Each Prur carried about twenty Jotun. They all had a section of their own and a communal area. There were children playing on one of them. They were running back and forth without a single thought as to how high they were.

Helblindi returned from talking to the driver. He looked shyly at Loki and fled to his section of the Prur. Thrym shook his head at Helblindi’s behaviour. Goupr grinned widely.

“I think he’s a little smitten.” He said.

Loki looked surprised. Laufey raised both eyebrows. Thrym looked nonplussed.

“What?” They said together.

Goupr laughed.

“How many ice maidens do you think he’s seen? He’s got a little bond going on, he’ll grow out of it.”

Loki bit his lip to keep from smiling. Laufey just shook his head and strode off, laughing, towards the front.

 

When Laufey nipped at his neck that night, Loki was surprised. Apparently baby-making did not stop even on the back of a Prur, even when separated by only a fur from other members of the family.

Laufey was quieter than normal, the only sound he made was heavy breathing as they moved together. Loki fought the peak that his body was building to but it was a futile act. He gasped as his muscles began to spasm and the sensation carried him away.

Chapter Text

The days past by as they travelled onward. The sun shone brightly, and the collective mood was cheerful. Jotun travelled between Prur by throwing ropes across and climbing easily from one to the other. Loki found the steady pace of the Prur relaxing and the ground they covered brought new sights into view every hour.

Laufey sat with him and described the different features of the landscape. Loki could remember several of them from Thrym’s stories. It was strange to see them in reality.

He spent some time up near the drivers. They happily explained how the Prur were guided by gentle tugs on the reins that lead down to holes carefully pierced through the ear flaps. They were placid animals, apparently content to carry the Jotun over large distances without complaint or difficulty.

He wrote to Frigga about what he saw and what it was like to travel by Prur. He had worried her by not replying to her last time and he was determined not to do that again. When his letter reached ten pages he asked one of the runners Laufey had brought to carry it back and place it on the Bifrost site.

The air grew thinner as they made their way up the mountain road. Large walls of ice grew up high on either side of the path as they went deeper into the mountains. Here the Jotun warriors began taking turns keeping lookout. The mood had quietened; Loki spent his days watching his surrounds from his favourite spot just behind the Prur’s head.

After four days they cleared the mountains and reached plains beyond. The Prur’s pace quickened on the flat ground and the mood grew cheerful again. Thrym and Goupr started playing a game against each other where they would try to be the first to spot different flowers. Loki joined them and found himself staring in wonder at the multitude of different types. He hadn’t even realised that Jotunheim had flowers. The ice surrounding the castle was far too thick for them to grow.

The flowers were different shades of blue and white and their sizes varied wildly from petals as long as Loki’s arm to tiny blossoms smaller than his pupil. Laufey, Thrym, Goupr and Loki swung down to the ground one afternoon with about half the group and spent a few hours exploring the frost covered ground. They carried armfuls of flowers back up with them and decorated the back of the Prur.

 

 

It took twelve days in total to reach the Hunting Grounds. They were met by a small band of Jotun who had been camping on the flat overlooking where they would hunt. They waved to the drivers to help them position each of the massive Prur. The drivers lead the Prur into a circle and tied them together. Then they made their way down to the side of the Prur that faced inwards. From the side they unhooked enormous coils of rope that had been hanging there as they travelled. Ever second rail had a coil of rope that they tied off firmly with complicated knots. Then, the drivers of two Prur that were opposite each other each grabbed the end of a rope and tied it to a spear.

They threw at the same time. They each caught the opposing spear and tied the rope end to one of the bare rails. Then they did it again, and again, and again until finally the two Prur were tied together by twenty four ropes, all pulled taunt.

The two drivers at right angles to the first had tied off their ropes as well. Now they each grabbed an end, took a run up and leapt onto the nearest rope strand that stretched across the gap. They began to weave their ropes over and under as they swung across to the other side, where they threw the remaining length to the second driver waiting behind. He tied it off and threw back the next rope for them to weave as they swung back again.

Once the framework was done the other Prur drivers took it in turns to weave their ropes through the middle. Each addition narrowed the gaps between ropes and the final result was that of a large woven floor suspended high above the ground.

Loki watched them from start to finish through two of the rails, fascinated. Laufey leaned on the rail above his head.

“That is impressive.” Loki said.

“They practise for a month leading up to the Great Hunt, but truthfully they do not need it. Only a new driver who is learning needs the practise but he is always partnered with someone very experienced for a few centuries. It is a source of great pride to them to build and dismantle it without fault.”

Loki looked out at the perfectly even floor. The drivers were each setting up a woven pathway between two ropes that lead from the Prur to the start of the floor.

After everything was properly set up, Laufey took Loki’s hand and lead him to the ground and over to the far side of the camp where the flat overlooked an edge. The drop was long and lead down to a narrow corridor in the ice.

“The Draphts pass through that corridor on their way to their breeding grounds. We ambush them from above, it’s the only way we can hunt something that big.”

Loki looked down at the long drop below him.

“I can see why you need so many people. When do the Draphts arrive?”

“According to our scouts they will be here in a few days. It takes ten to fifteen days for them to pass through. They are slow, and must travel single file.”

“What happens if the scouts get the timing wrong or the Prur are delayed and they’ve already passed through?” Loki asked.

“Then we ration our harvests and suffer through the Darkening.” Laufey said.

He reached out and rubbed Loki’s back gently.

“That has not happened since before my father’s reign, we are very careful to track the migration.”

Loki nodded and turned away from the edge.

“Tell me about the Darkening.” He said.

Laufey lead him back up to the camp and they settled on thick fur mats. He ordered them drinks of Palif from the servants before shifting so that he knelt behind Loki.

“Do you see the sky in the southwest?” He said, pointing at the horizon. “Our sun rises there every day. But there is another planet that orbits the sun, closer to it. We call it Måne. It travels on the same pathway as Jotunheim, but slightly faster. Soon you will see it appear on the horizon, chasing the sun across the sky each day.”

He shifted so that he was facing Loki again as their Palif arrived.

“Every year Måne must overtake us in its orbit. When this happens it will block the sun. But it does not do so quickly. Every day it will draw closer to the sun until it takes a small bite, then a bigger one and a bigger one until finally it blocks the light completely. Of course by then we will be far underground in the tunnels. The reduction of light causes the temperature to plummet so that even Jotun will freeze if we go outside. The loss of the sun also causes the wind patterns to change, they grow wild and fierce. But Måne always passes in time, and the sun’s light slowly comes back. We have to wait until there is enough of it to warm the air again but then we can begin our planting and send our hunters out to hunt and our foragers out to find those less than fortunate animals who did not survive.”

Loki now knew why the Jotun were so small compared to the other animals; you had to be massive on Jotunheim if you wanted to survive the Darkening above ground.

“How long do we stay in the tunnels?” He asked.

Laufey looked nervous.

“One hundred days.” He said at last.

Loki’s eyes widened.

“One hundred days.” He repeated, stunned

One hundred days without a letter, and certainly not a visit from his mother. One hundred days in close quarters with the royal court. One hundred days, he’d only been on Jotunheim for just over sixty.

“Oh.” He said.

Laufey shifted uncomfortably.

“We spend most of it sleeping.” He volunteered. “We don’t hibernate but our sleeping to waking ratio reverses. The time doesn’t seem so long, really.”

Loki nodded slowly, absorbing this new information.

“I see.” He said eventually.

Laufey looked really nervous now, as if he was afraid this new information would send Loki spiralling back into his stupor.

“It’s still a way off. We have the Great Hunt and the Celebration and the preparations to go yet.” He said. “You’ll see your mother again before we go underground.” He paused and thought quickly. “If he promises not to kill anyone your brother can come too.”

Loki looked up in surprise.

“But he can’t bring the hammer.” Laufey said quickly. “I’m too afraid he and Thrym will want to see whose is stronger.”

That brought a slight smile to Loki’s face.

Laufey relaxed a little.

“The drivers tell stories over the dinnertime of the Great Hunts they have witnessed.” He said, steering the conversation back to safer ground. “They compete to tell of the most ridiculous blunder and the most impressive spear-throw. It can be quite embarrassing if you are at the centre of their stories. Thrym stars in a particularly fine one.”

“Won’t he stop them?” Loki asked.

Laufey shook his head with a grin.

“He’s not allowed, it’s tradition.”

Loki could hear the glee in his voice.

 

 

The dinner atmosphere was one of a party. The food was served on big platters and handed from person to person to take what they wished. The sorcerers cast a huge light spell above the centre of the camp floor and the warriors sang loud songs of battle and victory terribly out of tune.

Loki swallowed a mouthful of a mead-like drink known as Ber. He was actually feeling slightly tipsy. Having their queen appear a little bit drunk did not seem to faze anyone. Thrym was swaying from a drinking competition earlier and Laufey was smiling pleasantly at pretty much everyone.

Loki made his way to the pathway that lead back to his Prur. The toilet was on the far side, a small (relatively speaking) enclosed space with a long bucket that had to be emptied daily. He’d certainly had worse while on adventures with Thor and the Warriors Four. He made it across the pathway easily. They were wide enough for a regular Jotun and the drivers had added hand rails around every edge.

With slightly swaying footsteps he found the toilet and slipped inside.

He was sitting quietly, as it was better for balance, when he heard voices from outside.

“You’ve seen him up close, Helblindi, is he really that pretty?”

“Prettier. His hair looks soft and kind of silky and his shape is all…”

“What? What?”

“I dunno, it’s just so…beautiful. He’s beautiful.”

“I wish I could marry one.”

“I wish I could be one.”

“Why?”

“Cause then I can marry the King be the Queen and lie in bed all day.”

“The King is my Uncle, he’s okay, but I don’t want to marry him, ew. Besides, I want to be a warrior.”

“I’m going to be a warrior, but I want to be a Queen. That would be amazing.”

‘Try it.’ Loki thought sitting still and trying not to make a sound.

It looked like Helblindi had made some friends, some not-quite-grown-up, hormonal friends.

“Can you introduce me?”

“What? No!”

“Why not?”

“Why do you want to meet him anyway?”

“Cause he’s beautiful, and I want to find out if his hair is as soft as it looks.”

“King Laufey will cut your head off.”

“I’m not going to do anything, I just want to meet him.”

“And touch his hair.”

“Is he nice?”

“…”

“Helblindi, is he nice?”

“Yeah.”

“I knew it! I have to meet him! I have to. I’ll charm him with my wit.”

“What wit?”

“I have wit!”

Their voices floated away. Loki was biting his wrist in an effort to remain quiet. Boys! He and Thor had been exactly the same at their age. So sure and cocky until they actually met the one they were boasting of, at which point they would suddenly clam up.

Come to think of it Loki would only clam up around some of the bigger boys. He’d never found the female shape to be pleasing somehow. Now that he knew he was Jotun that made a lot more sense. The female shape had no meaning to him because his brain was seeking something else. It knew even if he didn’t that they weren’t right for him.

He was too tipsy to be having these kinds of deep thoughts.

He made his way back out of the toilet and rubbed his hands on the rough cloth set aside for that purpose before swaying his way back to the camp floor and the party.

The crowd had congregated around the centre, where there stood one of the drivers. Loki made his way over to where Laufey sat. Laufey smiled up at him.

“You disappeared.” He said. His words were a little slurred.

Loki shrugged.

“I’m back.” He said simply.

Laufey reached up and tugged his arm. Loki, already unsteady on his feet tumbled into Laufey’s lap, which caused a light cheer to go up among the Jotun who were watching. Laufey settled Loki into a more comfortable position and wrapped his arms around him.

“They’re starting they’re starting shhh!” He said, despite the fact that Loki wasn’t making any noise.

Loki wriggled in Laufey’s lap, trying to get out. He didn’t like being treated like a child.

Then he noticed that Thrym was sitting, no, slouching, in Goupr’s lap with a blissed out look on his face as Goupr lazily scratched around the hard, not-quite-horns on his head.

Loki glanced around the camp and noticed one or two others in a similar position. There weren’t too many, the chances of both partners of a mate qualifying for the Great Hunt were rare, but the ones he did see were clearly warriors and without fail one of them was snuggled calmly in the other’s lap. He relaxed cautiously back against Laufey.

“I speak to you now of a Great Hunt long ago.” Intoned the driver in an impressive speaking voice. “Of Miskorblinde, who killed a mighty Drapht with a single spear.”

“An old favourite this one.” Laufey murmured in Loki’s ear. “Good opener, gets people in the right mood.”

He picked up a morsel of food from a tray and pressed it against Loki’s lips. Loki let him push the food inside. The Ber had made him feel lazy and a little sleepy.

“Miskorblinde lived in the time of my father’s father’s father. He was a mighty warrior, but boastful, and on the first night of the Great Hunt he claimed he would take down a Drapht alone and unaided. The other scoffed at him. But he would not be swayed. They mocked him, but he was determined. Finally, Miskorblinde grew angry at their taunts, and in a fit of wild temper he claimed he would not only slay a great Drapht alone, but that he would do so with only one spear.”

Laufey fed Loki another piece. Loki became dimly aware that some of the closer Jotun were watching their interaction without trying to be observed. Just to rattle them he turned his head quickly in their direction and watched as they tried quickly to pretend they had been watching the driver.

“When the day came for the Hunt to begin, Miskorblinde stood at the very start of the corridor. He stood tall and proud, determined to make good his boast. When the Drapht came into view he chose his prey and threw his mighty spear! It landed, but it was not a killing blow, so Miskorblinde jumped onto the Drapht’s back and retrieved his spear. He threw again, still the Drapht continued to walk. Again! Still he did not bring it down. Eighty one times he threw his spear, and he had to fetch it every time! All day it took the mighty Miskorblinde to make good his boast. But make good he did, and at the end of the day, as the sun sank below the horizon, Miskorblinde was victorious.”

The crowd cheered and raised their glasses as the driver took a bow and went to sit with the others. Another driver came to the centre.

“I,” he announced, “will tell the story of Thrym, child of Farbauti and Kolga. Who on his very first Hunt, fell off the Prur!”

The crowd roared with laughter, Thrym loudest of all. He waved his Ber cup in the air and drank deeply in salute to the crowd.

“Didn’t harm me!” He shouted.

“Can’t harm something that doesn’t have a brain.” Laufey called out, to general amusement.

Thrym waved his hand dismissively in Laufey’s direction. Loki laughed along with the crowd.

The stories were told until late into the night. Funny, exciting and horror filled. Loki fell asleep listening to the drivers talk and was carried back to bed by servants, Laufey having drunk too much to be sure of his footing.

Chapter Text

The Warriors four were sitting around the edge of the training yard looking depressed. Two things had occurred since they last made their plans, one lucky and one much less so.

It had been lucky that they were not able to implement their first plan before Frigga had a chance to visit Loki again. Sif had reported back that their planned path to the throne room was nothing but rubble. Loki had led them down a different route entirely. So now they had a much better understanding of the layout.

The bad luck was that Freya wasn’t in Asgard. Fandral had gone to see her that first night and found her door closed. Her brother, Frey, had rolled his eyes when Fandral had knocked on his door, enquiring as to the whereabouts of his sister.

“She’s gone home to see our family. You do know we are from Vanaheim, don’t you?”

“I had not forgotten. I just wanted to talk to her as a matter of great urgency.”

“Fandral, you do not have a chance, my sister has quite discerning taste.”

“Even so, if you could but tell me where she resides?”

“No.”

“Frey!”

“Hmmm?”

“My apologies, my Lord Frey. It is important.”

“You think all your romancing is important, she’ll be back in time for summer. You’ll have to wait.”

It was most discouraging. They had been trying to think of an alternative place for Loki to hide until the chaos on Jotunheim was finished with.

“He could stay in his rooms, at least for a little while.” Volstagg said.

“He’ll be very bored, besides, he’s a prisoner now, I don’t think we should keep him confined.” Fandral added.

Sif nodded her agreement.

“He was calm, but unhappy. This burden weighs on him heavily.”

“Why should it? He’s a Prince of Asgard, not a Jotun breeder. Let the savages die.” Fandral said.

Sif shrugged her shoulders.

“They are not civilized, but he seemed torn anyway. Perhaps they are kind to him, when Laufey is busy, perhaps he doesn’t want the servants to die.”

“We should snatch him back now, no more waiting!” Fandral said.

Since Loki’s capture Thor had not gone on a single quest or adventure or even a camping trip. Fandral was feeling confined in the palace halls, and his feelings were making him restless.

Volstagg was of the same opinion, they should rush in, kill Laufey, grab Loki and fight their way out, come what may. They had rushed in to battle before enough times to know the drill.

It was up to Sif to remind them that ‘one of those times’ had ended with the situation Loki was in now. She wanted to gather more information, especially as Heimdall’s gaze was being blurred by powerful magic. He could be of no help to them in their planning.

Hogun was always in favour of careful planning, for all that he joined them readily on their wilder quests.

In the end it came down to Thor. Normally Thor was the first to rush in, the first to laugh loudly when a plan went wrong and he had to take up his hammer.

He didn’t laugh anymore. He didn’t rush in, or act before thinking. In this plan, more than any other, he wanted a careful strategy and backup plans, and backup plans to those backup plans. The stakes were too high for anything else.

Thor had finally learnt the first lesson of kingship: actions have consequences for *other people too*.

 

Odin had finally woken from his slumber and it was not to good news.

“The army is not yet ready, your Majesty.” Tyr said, bowing. “It has been so long since the last war they are slow and sluggish to prepare. I’ve no doubt to their fighting skills but to march them and set up camp is going to be a challenge. I have begun to hold drills to pull them together.”

Odin should have expected it. Thirteen hundred years of peace was never good for an army. He should have ordered these drills to be conducted every year, to keep them focussed.

“How long until you think they are ready?” He asked.

“Five months instead of three.” Tyr said.

Sitting beside him, Frigga looked between them.

“Are you really planning to take Jotunheim to war?” She asked.

It was hard to tell whether she disapproved or not.

“I hope not.” Odin said. “But our spy can find nothing that would entice Laufey to release Loki, the threat of war coupled with another offer of the casket may be enough.”

“We are risking our standing in the realms.” Frigga said.

Odin nodded.

“I know. I know that this is a dangerous gamble, if he calls our bluff we may have to go to war. I am hoping he at least agrees to a negotiation.”

“I think he is fond of Loki.” Frigga said carefully. “He allowed me a longer visit last time and it was certainly not because Laufey wished it, and Loki’s letters describe the many things he is seeing and doing. Laufey is not keeping him chained.”

“He is still a prisoner.” Odin said.

“I know, believe me I know, but if Laufey has developed a fondness for him it may not just be tradition that guides his actions, in which case he will be even more reluctant to let Loki go free.”

“Perhaps we can use that. If his feelings are strong enough he may let Loki go to make him happy.”

“We cannot count of that.”

“No. That is why our army must be ready.”

Odin turned to Tyr.

“Work them hard Tyr, this is not something they should have been slacking on.”

Tyr bowed deeply.

“Yes your Majesty.” He said and left.

Odin sighed heavily.

“We must speak to Thor, he must be kept informed of his brother’s situation. I do not want him deciding to take matters into his own hands.”

Frigga reached out and gripped Odin’s hand tightly.

“Are you going to call me foolish for going while you slept?” She asked gently.

“No. You were, but no. I wish I could see him again myself. I fear-”

“No, never think that. Loki is coming home. You will see him again.”

She looked away to give Odin a measure of privacy as he blinked back tears.

 

 

Loki woke the next morning tucked under Laufey’s arm. He wriggled out expecting the King to waken but Laufey just grunted in his sleep and settled further down into the furs.

Without his touch Loki’s skin turned back to pink. He shivered as he dug out the bottle of draught and poured a measure.

After he was warm again he slipped out of the makeshift chambers and made his way down to the camp floor. It looked like a typical post party setting. There were more than a few Jotuns who hadn’t bothered going back to bed.

Loki walked around them as he made his way to the rope on the far side of the camp. He swung down to the ice below and walked over to where the flat dropped away.

He was only there a few moments when he was joined by Kwall, the head sorcerer.

“How are you this morning, your Majesty?” Kwall asked pleasantly.

“Well thankyou.” Loki replied automatically.

“Really?” Kwall said. He sounded sceptical. “I’m glad to hear it. Will your Majesty be helping us cast our spells during the Hunt?”

Loki turned to him.

“What spells?” He asked.

“We cast illusions over the Draphts so that they do not see their herd-members being killed. That way they do not panic and we do not lose the chance to Hunt properly.”

“I’m not too bad at illusions.” Loki said.

“From what I have heard you are exceptional.” Kwall replied. “Would you like to aid us?”

“Yes.” Loki said. “I will.”

“Should you perhaps ask the King?” Kwall said. “He will probably say yes but it may be wise to check.”

Loki frowned deeply, his face twisting until it was almost ugly.

“No. I will not ask Laufey, and I will be helping you cast your spells.” He said shortly.

Kwall smiled uneasily.

“I did not mean to upset your Majesty, I only desire that you do not do anything that may bring you trouble.”

Loki scowled.

“If there’s any trouble it’s going to come from me.” He muttered and turned away.

He climbed back up the rope length. It was a long way and despite his training he was breathing heavily when he arrived at the top. Laufey was up and standing in the centre of the camp floor. His expression turned to relief when he caught sight of Loki.

“You went to the ground?” He asked as he got nearer.

“Yes.” Loki said with a challenge in his voice.

“Did you take a guard?” Laufey asked.

“No.”

“Loki-”

“Do I look harmed to you? I’m fine. I took care of myself for years without you and I can do it here. I’m going to help cast the illusion spells during the Hunt.”

The change in direction caught Laufey by surprise but he rallied quickly.

“If you want to.” He said, a little stunned by Loki’s sudden ire.

“I do.” Loki said.

Laufey frowned.

“What has happened Loki, no, don’t turn away from me! You are angry and I want to know why. Who have you spoken to?”

“No one. I’m fine! Just fine. As fine as you need me to be.” Loki snapped.

Laufey growled under his breath.

“We obviously need to discuss some things. Will you come to our chambers?”

“No.”

“Fine, I will wait for you there until you are calm.” Laufey said.

He turned and walked away.

Loki watched him go.

 

 

“I’m proud of you brother.” Thrym said quietly as Laufey shifted impatiently on his cushions. “You handled that well.”

“I want to know what happened, who spoke to him and what they said.” Laufey said darkly.

“I will find out.” Thrym promised. “But right now you have things to do.”

Laufey sighed in frustration and turned back to the paperwork in his lap. The runners had arrived with it early that morning. There was a letter for Loki on the pile. Laufey had carefully put it aside where it could not be lost.

He read through the reports, filling out orders and signing documents. The work of a King was never done and always dull. And Loki still hadn’t come to see him; it must have been at least two hours. What? Twenty minutes? No way! He shifted again.

The next paper made him sit still. He read with growing alarm the report from one of his spies in Vanaheim. Apparently rumours were flying around the court that Odin was planning to attack Jotunheim. The spy had included all he knew, it seemed the army was being made ready to move out.

“Thrym, read this.” Laufey said, handing it to him.

Thrym read it through to the end.

“Should I return to the castle?” He asked.

“No. Laufey said. “The report says they are not yet ready and that they will not be ready for some time. In fact, if they continue on the schedule they are believed to be following they will arrive right at the height of the Darkening.”

“They will freeze to death in moments.” Thrym commented with a shrug. “As long as they are not warned by their all-seeing guard.”

“I’ve been taking care of that.” Laufey said. “We’ve been blocking his gaze since Loki arrived, I do not have any great desire to be watched by an Asgard while I mate.”

“Fair enough.” Thrym said. “Do you think Loki knows about this?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps that is what is affecting his mood. He was up before me, perhaps he has read the report.”

“You should tell him anyway. If he knows you have this report and have tried to keep it from him he will be even angrier.” Thrym advised.

“I will.” Laufey said. “As soon as he shows up.”

“Do you want me to talk to him?” Thrym asked.

“No.” Laufey said. “It is time Loki and I handled these moments on our own. I will wait for him.”

“He may keep you waiting the whole Hunt.” Thrym said. “He has a lot more patience than you.”

“I will learn.” Laufey said and hastily pulled the next paper toward him.

Chapter Text

Thrym left his brother to the realm business and stepped out onto the camp floor. He couldn’t see Loki anywhere. He was scanning the distance when Helblindi piped up behind him.

“He’s on the ground again, throwing spears at the practice targets like they have insulted his mother.”

Thrym turned and reached out as though to grab Helblindi by the neck. Helblindi ducked easily with a grin on his face.

“I don’t know what happened but he looks like a snowstorm.”

“Thankyou son.” Thrym said dryly and made his way across the camp floor to the side that overlooked the targets.

Loki was indeed throwing spears. He was incredibly accurate; in fact Thrym wondered whether he would like to be a spear thrower instead. Or maybe try both, the Hunt would last for days, there was plenty of time.

Thrym watched long enough to be certain that Loki was guarded, by two Jotun keeping well back, and that he did not appear to be in any danger where he was. Then, following his brother’s orders Thrym turned away and busied himself with the duties of the camp.

Loki threw the final spear and walked forward to retrieve them. He was still angry. Angry at Kwall for reminding him that he was nothing to these people. Angry at Laufey for, for…*everything* and angry at himself, for almost forgetting to hate them all.

He did hate them all. He really, really did. Ask anyone. He definitely, really hated them all. Thrym? Hated him. Kwall? Hated him. Puluk and Goupr and the entire royal court? Hated them. Helblindi? Um…

It was hard to hate something smaller than yourself, even if he was only an inch smaller and likely to grow out of that before the end of the year.

Loki carried the spears back to his throwing mark and stabbed them into the snow vengefully.

He raised a single spear and took aim…

Goupr had collected his own spear from his chambers on the Prur and swung down to the ground a few minutes ago. He’d stopped briefly to talk to the guards in a low voice, now he walked silently up behind the queen and swung hard at Loki’s head.

Loki whirled and stopped the spear from landing a split second before Goupr would have pulled out of the swing. They stood there locked for a moment before Goupr pulled away and swung again.

Loki dodged and ducked under the spear, bringing his own up in a sharp jab to Goupr’s midsection. The large Jotun twisted away and caught Loki’s spear with his own, forcing it upwards and out of Loki’s grip.

Loki huffed angrily.

“Not fair.” He mumbled.

“No, it wasn’t.” Goupr said. “How am I expected to learn how to fight a sorcerer if you won’t use magic? Now try again, and stop going easy on me.”

Loki gave him an angry look but collected his spear and took up the guard stance.

This time when Goupr swung his spear passed through nothing. He whirled just in time to deflect Loki’s strike from behind and force it upwards. Loki let go of the spear and vanished. He reappeared under the spear and caught it before charging straight at Goupr. Goupr stood ready to knock him off his feet but his spear connected with nothing. The image faded as Loki came at him from the side. Goupr only just recovered in time to deflect the strike and force Loki past him and onto the snow. He brought his spear down and pinned Loki to the ground.

“Yield?” He said, wheezing slightly.

Loki’s image blurred and the point of Goupr’s spear that had been pining Loki by his chest was now pressing into his shoulder. Goupr had caught him halfway through sliding out of the way. Loki nodded, he too was panting from the effort.

“I yield.” He said.

Goupr helped him up.

“You are quite hard to beat.” He commented.

Loki smiled slightly at the complement.

“I trained with Thor, he likes a challenge.” He said.

Goupr fashioned an ice-seat and sat down. He reached out and fashioned another, smaller one for Loki.

“I thought you could use someone to spar with.” He said. “I can never quite let my anger go until I have exhausted myself. It’s calming somehow.”

Loki snorted and stabbed his spear into the snow.

“Does he still hurt you?” Goupr asked gently.

Loki rolled his eyes.

“No.” He said, not even trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

“I meant up here.” Goupr said softly, reaching out and tapping Loki’s head lightly with his finger.

Loki stared at him in surprise.

“You…?”

“Understand? A little, a very little. You are not the first with an alien mind I have tried to befriend.”

“I’m not? Who else on Jotunheim is an alien?”

“No one here, oh no, they are all Jotun to the core. When my parents died I decided that the solitary life was for me. I took the dark pathways to Midgard and settled in the cold mountains.”

“You settled on Midgard? How did father not stop you?”

“There was only one of me. I don’t think he was watching that closely to be honest. I made myself a little house and hunted in the forest that covered the mountains. I was happy, at least, that is what I believed.”

“Who was the alien you tried to befriend? Were they Midgardian?” Loki asked, intrigued.

“Yes. They were a small tribe of people living in the shelter of one of the valleys. Every year after the winter snows, the pathways they took would fill with boulders and fallen trees. They would spend weeks trying to reopen them. I was fascinated by how difficult a task it was to them, and yet they faced it with determination. Such a weak species, but so very strong in spirit. It does not surprise me to see how they have thrived. I decided to help them. At first I did so only at night, they would return in the morning to find their task completed, their obstacles moved. After I had given them many weeks to grow curious, I allowed some of them to see me work from a distance. Finally, I showed up to help them when they were struggling the most. They did not fear me, they called me their man-of-snow.”

“So you became their friend?” Loki asked.

“Oh yes. They invited me back to sit around their fire and listen to their stories. I watched their children grow up and their grandchildren grow old. I was their history, for I knew them all. I was their friend. Their way of thinking was not the way I had been taught. I had to change my thinking for them. It was hard. It is always hard to change what you know to be true. But I managed.”

“Why did you leave?” Loki asked softly.

“I watched the joy on each mother’s face as she brought a child into the world. I watched the pride in each father’s eyes as his son went on his very first hunt or his daughter got married. I wanted a family. I did not want a solitary life; if I had I would not have tried so hard to help them, or to understand them. I had lied to myself in my grief. And when I realised the truth I came home.”

He caught Loki’s eyes and smiled warmly.

“I may not understand why you are hurting, but I know that being a foreigner in a land not your own is daunting and difficult. I think that if you are angry then you have a good reason, even if it is not our reason.”

Loki bit his lip suddenly and blinked furiously as he looked away.

“Thankyou.” He said, his voice sounded a little thick.

Goupr reached out and gripped his shoulder.

“Will you tell me why you fought this morning? A public fight is not normal for the royal family. I know this lesson, I had to learn when I married Thrym that our lives are not always ours to live, that we must be mindful of our behaviour. Will you explain to me your thinking? And I will try to understand.”

Loki looked back at him uncomfortably.

“Kwall suggested I should ask Laufey for permission to join the spell-casters during the Hunt.” He said.

Goupr frowned.

“You don’t need to do that, Kwall knows that. He must have been thinking that with this being your first Hunt and you being a new queen that Laufey might want you with him. But you can decide where you go, as long as it is not into the direct path of danger of course.”

“Is that why Laufey agreed so readily?” Loki asked.

“Yes, that and you were snarling at him. Kings don’t often get snarled at.” Goupr pointed out.

Loki smiled a little at that.

Goupr returned it.

“Thrym should have really started you on your rights and duties.” He said. “You should be told these things. I know he gave you a lesson in anatomy and our myths and history but you should be taught more than that.”

“The anatomy lesson was interesting.” Loki said carefully.

“He showed me what he was planning to tell you.” Goupr said. “I would have skipped the regular sized Jotun and just gone straight for the ice maiden part. I can’t imagine the rest would hold much interest for you and you could have gone into more detail.”

Loki shrugged.

“It was enough.”

Goupr just looked at him in silence. After a minute Loki gave in.

“I have thought of a few more questions.” He admitted.

“Such as?” Goupr asked, leaning back on his ice-seat.

“How long does a pregnancy last for?”

“He didn’t even tell you that? I will have to speak to him. One year from start to finish.”

“How many months before giving birth do Jotun want to ‘nest’?”

“About a month before birth, ice maidens tend to settle sooner because they have more difficulty moving around.”

“How much difficulty?” Loki asked.

“Oh, you can stand up with a bit of effort and walk short distances. You’ll have to use your arms to support your belly in the last two months or so. Did you see the sacks of Palif grain that we brought? If one of those was sitting in your belly that would be about the right weight.”

Loki frowned as he considered the probable weight of the sacks, then his face changed to alarm.

“Do Jotun ever conceive twins?” He asked.

“Yes.” Goupr said. “Sometimes, usually when there is plenty to eat the body will release a second seed at the same time. Are you worried you’ll have two at once?”

“I won’t be able to move at all.” Loki said, his eyes wide.

“No, ice maidens can’t move on their own for about the last three months if they have twins. But if it happens you will have at least three servants to tend to you. They will even support your belly if you want to move.”

“It doesn’t seem like a very good survival tactic.” Loki commented.

“Perhaps that is why you are so rare.” Goupr suggested. “In the distant past I believe your mate was supposed to store up food for you both and stay with you, but the days of cave dwellings are long past, and twins are not *that* common.”

Loki hunched his shoulders and frowned.

“I don’t want twins.” He said.

Goupr sighed without malice and smiled gently.

“I didn’t want a family. Things change, people change. One day you may be proud to carry twins.”

“I doubt it.” Loki said.

He shifted uneasily.

“I…I kind of owe Laufey an apology, don’t I?”

“You were angered by a lack of information. It would be kind of you to offer one, but… I would advise you talk to him about what rights you have. Loki, you are the queen. That is not a small thing to be.”

“Pun intended?” Loki asked.

“Oh yes. I am perfectly terrible at them, so I practice every chance I get.” Goupr said with a straight face.

Loki rolled his eyes and smiled. He got up off his seat and began to walk towards the ropes that led to the camp floor above.

“Um, Goupr?”

“Yes your Majesty?”

“Can ice maidens shape ice? And can I learn how?”

“Yes they can and yes you should. I will tell Thrym he has been most neglectful of you.”

“Thankyou.” Loki said and turned away to face Laufey.

Chapter Text

Loki loitered on the camp floor for almost an hour before finally making his way over to the Prur. He did not want to apologise to Laufey. He didn’t want Laufey to have that kind of power over him. It was like a bad taste in his mouth, the thought of asking that man for forgiveness.

He had to though. Eventually he had to. So with a deep breath to steel himself, Loki walked up the rope bridge and to the entrance of their makeshift chambers.

Laufey was lying down on the furs, skimming through the book of Asgard tales with a bored expression on his face. He was turning the pages too fast to be really reading them. He glanced up as Loki blocked the light.

For a moment they just stared at each other. Loki stood stiffly at the door and the King lay propped up on his elbow.

Loki tried to say his apology, but the words stuck in his throat. He couldn’t do it, he couldn’t humble himself to Laufey, not for anything. His mind found an alternative.

“It was implied that I had to ask for your permission to take part in the Hunt.” He said.

Laufey looked surprised.

“Who said that?” He asked, sitting up properly.

“Kwall. I’ve since been informed that he was probably just concerned for me, as it was my first Hunt.”

“Probably.” Laufey agreed carefully. “But I will speak to him.”

Loki scowled.

“Why does it have to be you? Why can’t I do it? What exactly do I need your permission for anyway?”

That last part was almost shouted. Laufey carefully put the book aside.

“Very little actually.” He answered. “Jotunheim has laws which you must obey, as does everyone else, but as long as you do so there is little that requires my express permission. I would suggest that you discuss any actions with me at this early stage but once you are familiar with law and custom you shouldn’t *need* to ask my permission for anything.”

Loki frowned.

“Need? But it is still strongly suggested?” He said, his voice bitter.

“I would prefer it if you asked before purchasing any large areas of land or deciding to renovate the castle from top to bottom but I do not think that is an unreasonable request.”

“You’re safe there, I don’t have any money.” Loki said pointedly.

Laufey looked surprised.

“No, you don’t do you? That was not by design. Your money is the royal family’s money. You can ask the servants to fetch you some if you want to spend it directly, or you can direct them to pay for things on your behalf in the case of larger orders. The royal family has a reputation for always paying for their goods.”

Loki took a very small step through the doorway.

“What if I want to train every day?”

“Do you?”

“Maybe.”

“Then by all means go ahead. But the queen is still expected to attend the Afternoon Audience and Justice Hearings, I would hope you would choose to train around that.”

“What about in the morning, when you are handling the realm business?”

“The presence of the queen is not required by custom, but I enjoy your input. I would like you to be there.”

Loki took another small step. Laufey didn’t move. He felt like he was trying to capture a wild Mau. Of course sitting still was hardly his favourite activity.

“Can I go to the city without you?” Loki asked suspiciously.

“Yes, but you should take some guards. *I* take guards as an escort, it is expected, both for your protection and as a show of strength to the people. *They* expect it of us, it makes them feel as though things are being done properly.” Laufey explained.

“Can I stay overnight in a tavern?” Loki asked suddenly.

“Do you want to?” Laufey asked incredulously. What did the Asgard get up to?

“That’s irrelevant, can I?”

“I suppose so, but it will cause comment among the people. I…would strongly advise against it.”

“So you’d stop me?” Loki said, folding his arms.

“I would come and ask you why you wanted to bed down in a tavern when you have a perfectly good castle to sleep in but no, I would not stop you.” Laufey said.

“What if I did it every night?” Loki challenged.

Laufey frowned at that.

“I suppose I would have to join you.” He said. “So please make sure you choose a decent tavern.”

Silence reigned between them. At last Loki seemed to give way.

“I am going to help the sorcerers during the Hunt.” He said.

“I’m sure they will be very glad to have you.” Laufey replied.

Loki shifted where he stood.

“It’s almost lunchtime.” He commented.

Laufey stretched and got up from the fur.

“Already? I hadn’t noticed.” He said and made to leave. He stopped and turned.

“A letter from your mother arrived with the paperwork.” He said, stooping down and retrieving it.

“Thankyou.” Loki said, taking the letter from him.

They looked at each other uncertainly for a moment. Then Laufey turned and left their chambers.

 

 

Thrym watched the royal couple out of the corner of his eye. In fact everyone was trying, with different levels of success, to watch the two of them interact.

Loki had read his mother’s letter over lunch and was now perched behind the Prur’s neck, scribbling a reply.

Laufey was practising his spear throwing down on the ground. The fight that morning had caused muttered rumours to break out among the hunters. There were some who felt it was wrong for the Queen to challenge the King at all, others felt it should have been done in private. The older Jotun who remembered Queen Kolga just smiled to themselves as they went about their daily duties.

Certainly things seemed to have calmed down. Thrym had personally doubted his brother’s ability to stay put and wait for Loki to come and talk to him. But it seemed he had underestimated his older brother. That and Goupr’s quiet, but quite long word in his ear had revealed that the reconciliation process had been helped somewhat.

“That was cheating.” He said to his mate with affection.

“Talking to your friends when they are upset is never cheating.” Goupr replied, lightly clicking his teeth in Thrym’s direction. Thrym returned the gesture lovingly.

“I’m glad that you found a way to calm him. I tried my best but I wonder what goes on in his head. He is so different, I would never have guessed he was Jotun.”

“He thinks like an Asgard and perhaps that is not such a bad thing. We have been very isolated since the casket was taken, isolated people become insular, and then they stagnate, and then they die.”

Thrym reached up and lazily scratched along Goupr’s head.

“My wise mate.” He said.

The scratching moved further down to Goupr’s neck.

“My clever mate.” He murmured with a smile.

Goupr rolled his eyes.

“My mate-obsessed mate.” He countered with love in his voice.

They snuck off to their chambers.

 

 

The scouts reported that the Draphts were still another day away, so they broke out the Ber at dinner and carried on through the night.

Once again they all sat around the centre of the camp floor and listened to the drivers’ stories. Loki consented to sit in Laufey’s lap as he cradled a cup of Ber in his hand. Until he saw that Goupr and Thrym had swapped positions. With a mischievous expression on his face he put his cup down, crawled out of the quite tipsy Laufey’s lap and scooted around behind him. He wrapped both arms firmly around him and held on as Laufey twisted back and forth trying to see him.

“What are you doing?” He said, his voice slurring slightly.

“Dja want me to rub your back?” Loki asked.

He’d had quite a bit to drink that night, Thrym had introduced him to a game called ‘swallow’ which by its name alone Loki had known wouldn’t be very sophisticated. He’d been right, and now he was more drunk than he’d like to admit.

There were chuckles around them as the hunters caught on to what had happened.

“If I fall backwards ‘m gonna squash you.” Laufey said.

“I’ll risk it.” Loki said from behind him.

He stayed like that for the next story, but when he reached for his drink Laufey took the opportunity to hook one arm around him and haul him back to the front.

“Ver’ funny. Now stay here, yer good t’ hold. Good size.” He muttered.

Loki grunted his disagreement but stayed put, the floor was moving a little bit too far sideways for him to put up a proper fight.

That night in their chambers Laufey nipped Loki’s neck almost the moment they were inside. He nuzzled Loki’s hair with exaggerated drunken movements. Loki tried to push him away but his own movements were far too sluggish. Laufey pressed down on top of him and pulled off his loincloth.

“Beautiful.” He slurred. “Yer so beautiful…Loki…want you so much.”

Loki grunted and tried to roll away but Laufey caught him and pushed his legs open.

Loki blinked up at Laufey’s chest as the King pushed into him. He pulled a face at the now familiar sensation of being utterly filled.

“Make baby with you…beautiful baby…like his mother.” Laufey moaned as he seated himself properly inside of Loki’s body.

Loki could feel his muscles starting to react. It didn’t hurt, but it was uncomfortable to have something so big holding him open without movement. Even as he tried not to respond his hips rose upwards, giving him a feeling of relief as the pressure eased. As long as Laufey’s cock moved Loki’s body felt alright. He moaned and tried to fight the growing feeling inside of him. Each thrust of Laufey’s cock was causing Loki’s core to tighten and loosen around it. He felt as though something was building up inside of him, like when he stretched a sore muscle past the point of pain to where it suddenly and wonderfully eased. It wasn’t quite like that, the build-up didn’t hurt, but he was going to reach a point where the pressure eased, and that point was his peak and that led to children.

He tried to prevent it, tried to keep his muscles from spasming in response to Laufey’s presence.

He failed.

The sensation that overtook him became his whole world. Spasm after spasm pulsed through his body in waves. He moaned as every inch of him tingled with a burning pleasure. He’d never felt a sensation that intensely, good or bad. But he just wished he could make it stop.

Eventually the feeling faded, leaving him worn out and boneless. He was lying on top of Laufey now, on his stomach. He hadn’t even been aware of being rolled over.

Laufey normally rolled him onto his stomach afterwards and held him. Right now he was rubbing Loki’s back gently.

A vision of the Jotun anatomy floated across Loki’s mind. The passageway looped, if Laufey left his seed at the top then it still need to move forwards before sliding down to his womb. The best way to help that would be to use gravity.

Loki twisted quickly to lie on his back. Laufey stirred at his sudden change in movement.

“Whatsmatter?” He said.

“You can’t get me like that.” Loki said, sounding each word out slowly. “I’m on to you.”

Laufey looked down at him in drunken confusion.

“Kay”? He said.

Moments later he was asleep. Loki lay uncomfortably on his back on top of Laufey for a while before compromising and lying on his side instead, tucked against Laufey’s body.

He fell asleep praying that there would be no baby.

 

 

And just for kicks…

 

How Thrym fell off the Prur

By Driver Gølner

 

Many years ago Thrym fought for his right to join the Hunt and was found to be worthy. He was one of fifty children to come on the Hunt that year and he was very excited.

On the day the Hunt was due to depart Thrym climbed the side of the Prur unaided and unwatched. And so he was spoken to by his mother, Kolga, Queen of Jotunheim, who told him he did not want him climbing such a tall beast without someone to watch him.

On the first day he played with his brother, Laufey, now King of Jotunheim. But on the second day he was to be found up near the drivers, asking about the journey. He was most upset to discover that the journey had only just begun and the Hunting Grounds were still ten days away.

On the third day he began to play close to the rails, and so was spoken to a second time by Kolga, Queen of Jotunheim. He spoke back to his mother, and so the fourth day was spent in his chambers.

On the fifth day he promised to behave and so was allowed out to play with his brother again. But Thrym grew bored with the games and began to swing around the railings.

The Queen did not see him, so Thrym moved closer to where he sat at the rear of the Prur, tempting his fate and tempting the Queen’s temper. Still the Queen did not see him, so Thrym began to make noise, to attract his mother’s attention.

The words he spoke, according to legend, were ‘mother, look what I can do.’

Kolga, Queen of Jotunheim turned his head but Thrym was not to be seen, for in the moment of yelling his grip failed and he plummeted downward to the ground below.

He landed softly, which is the only way you can land when you have fallen into Prur droppings.

And so Thrym, Great General of King Laufey’s Army, great warrior of a thousand battles, slayer of mighty foe, will forever be remembered in the Hunt as the boy who landed softly.

Chapter Text

Loki opened his eyes slowly. They felt dry and horrible, although not nearly as horrible as his tongue, which appeared to have grown its own fur. He groaned and tried to remember what had happened last night. He had a vague memory of hugging Laufey from behind. Had that happened? He wasn't sure.

His noise and movement woke Laufey beside him, who let out a groan of his own. He looked down and for a second they shared a look of familiar understanding, which was shattered as Thrym threw back the fur door-cover from outside.

"Good morning!" He announced brightly.

Loki and Laufey groaned in unison, covering their eyes with their hands.

"Go away Thrym, we're asleep." Laufey said.

He reached down, grabbed a handful of fur and pulled it up over both their heads.

"Breakfast is ready brother, and I've brought you the Cure."

Laufey pulled the fur down enough to peek out suspiciously. Loki grabbed a handful of fur and pulled it down far enough to do the same.

"What cure?" He asked.

Laufey shuddered.

"An evil concoction that takes away the pain of Ber-morn. It tastes foul, but it works really well." He said, keeping his voice soft.

Thrym's grin widened as he brought over two cups.

"I had mine already." He said. "As you can see it is amazing stuff."

Loki took one of the cups and sniffed it. The smell made him gag horribly.

Laufey took the other cup, braced himself and swallowed the mixture down. He coughed once or twice but managed to keep from rejecting it.

Loki moaned, torn between his aching head and the smell of the Cure. Finally he screwed up his courage and took a large swallow.

He gagged violently and almost lost the contents of his stomach but managed to just ride the wave of nausea until it ended.

Thrym handed him a piece of breakfast roll.

"It'll take the taste away." He said when Loki made to push it away.

Loki shot him a dark look and took a bite. Laufey was already chewing, he looked better already.

Less than fifteen minutes after waking they were able to walk unaided and without any headaches to the camp floor, where they joined in the communal breakfast.

Most Jotun were eating easily, but there were a few here and there who had obviously been unable, or unwilling to take the Cure. They were looking a little worse for wear.

"The Draphts will be here tomorrow morning." Laufey said. "We will spend today preparing for their arrival."

Loki nodded as he chewed.

"I'll go and ask Kwall what spells they use." He said.

He got up and walked over to where the head sorcerer was sitting with the others. Kwall looked worried as Loki approached.

"Good morning." Loki said in greeting and sat down opposite him.

"Your Majesty. I do apologise for any problems I may have caused yesterday, I did not mean to give offense." Kwall began.

Loki waved his words away.

"It's fine, it's over. I want to talk to you about the spells we're going to use."

"Ah yes. Well, it is a co-ordinated effort between us all. There are two main spells that we will use. One to prevent the individual Draphts from seeing their herd-mates and the other to prevent them seeing us. That way the spears will be a surprise and they will hopefully be struck before they realise they are under attack. They can panic if they feel threatened and we don't want them to stampede and trample their young."

"Right. Which spell do you want me to cast?"

"Are you able to cast upon a moving target?"

"Yes."

"Then perhaps you should cast upon one of the Draphts to prevent them from seeing their herd-mates. Lohals and Grid will be casting the vanishing spell over the group. After breakfast I will get Alsvin to show you the spell. It is an easy one to cast, but it takes skill to keep it focused on a moving target, especially one that is under attack."

"Sounds good." Loki said.

Kwall was looking at him intently. His frowned in puzzlement but Kwall quickly looked away.

 

 

The hunters spent the day setting up stations along the edge of the drop. There was a distinct feeling of anticipation in the air. Loki could feel it coming off every member as they went about their tasks. The children were running back and forth carrying supplies and even the servants were looking excited as they cooked and cleaned the campsite. Only the drivers looked calm, they spent their days lying on the heads of the mighty Prur with their eyes closed.

Loki mastered the spell easily. If he had to name a specialty, vanishing and cloning would vie for top position. He spent the morning casting on various individual volunteers until Alsvin was satisfied that he could indeed cast well enough to fool a Drapht.
Laufey and the hunters practised their spear throwing again. Not because they needed to but because they couldn't sit still for any length of time. The excitement was too much for them to stay calm.

Finally the day came to a close. No-one drank the Ber that night, despite being promised a cup of the Cure to help them in the morning. They sat around the glowing light and listened as the drivers told tales, not of prideful boasts or humorous moments, but of fantastic throws and spectacular kills. Loki found he was swept up in the atmosphere, his own nerves humming with anticipation of the following day.

Unfortunately the mood also infected Laufey, who dealt with his excitement by taking Loki to bed with enthusiasm. Loki tried again to hold back his peak. Once again he failed.

He lay on top of Laufey afterwards as the King gently stroked his back with a large circular motion. He had the strangest feeling he should be lying on his back for some very important reason but he couldn't remember what it was.

He was woken before light by a servant carrying a plate of breakfast. They ate quickly, their sleep having done nothing for their nerves.

It was here, the day was here. Loki was going to see his first Drapht.

They crawled out of their chambers and waved to Thrym and Goupr, who were outside and stretching. Laufey joined them in their movements, working the kinks out of his body in readiness for the day ahead.

They were finishing up when the servants reappeared with a bag of food for each of them.

"We will be hunting all day, eat when you need to. If you need anything else, signal a servant and they'll bring it to you." Laufey said. "Did you bring your draught?" He asked, suddenly remembering.

Loki nodded in confirmation and followed the group as they made their way across the camp floor and down the ropes to the ground.

He took up his station and looked out at the corridor in the ice. It was too dark to make anything out yet but the sky was just beginning to lighten in the distance. He waited a few more minutes as the Jotun sun rose slowly above the mountain line.

The light filtered down into the corridor, it was still empty, but even as Loki squinted at the far end his eyes caught a tiny fraction of movement.

The Jotun stilled around him, once more almost becoming a part of the scenery as they waited for the Drapht to advance.

Loki was charged with casting on the third Drapht in line 'if required'. It all depended on when a suitable target appeared, as once the Jotun attacked the remaining Draphts would not enter the corridor until they had calmed, usually the next day. He sat as still as a statue and waited as the great beasts drew closer.

They were gigantic. The smallest adult was easily the size of a Prur and the children still big enough to flatten Loki utterly if they trampled him. They bodies were covered in thick white fur and their massive claws dug deeply into the ice beneath their feet. Their necks were long and their heads tapered to a point. Their faces were covered in light blue scales that reflected the light with a rainbow sheen.

Loki did not think he had ever seen anything so bizarre in his life. One of those would feed the whole of Asgard for a month. Then he realised that that’s what the Jotun were relying on.

The first Drapht gradually made it's way past him. Lohals and Grid were already working their vanishing spell over the hunters. The second was equally slow; Loki had plenty of time to observe their lumbering walk and deadly-looking horns. Each one was the length of a Prur's foreleg and pointed straight forward past their extended snouts.

The third Drapht appeared in the line and Loki immediately cast his spell. It's pace slowed slightly for a moment as it adjusted to losing sight of it's herd, but these were creatures used to snowstorms, so after a moment it continued walking in their footsteps.

The biggest Drapht thus far appeared at the start of the corridor. Loki knew without having to ask that this was the first target. He found himself torn between wanting to watch and having to continue his spell. He did his duty, he'd gone on hunts before where one thing had ruined everything and he was not going to be the one who failed here.

The Jotun waited until the Drapht was too far forwards to back out of the corridor, then the first of the hunters drew back his arm and let fly at the Drapht's head.

The spear landed in it's eye, piercing through the soft tissue and burying itself up to the end of the shaft.

Loki heard the Drapht roar but did not turn his head away from his task. There were sounds coming from the far end of the corridor, but they were growing closer as the Drapht lumbered forward trying to evade it's attackers.

Loki's Drapht was still far from the end of the corridor. He kept his eyes on it, not breaking the spell for a moment.

The sounds of the hunt were really close now. He realised that very soon they would overtake him where he lay. Then the sounds grew distant again as the hunters herded the Drapht back from the end of the corridor.

For the next hour the sounds drew nearer only to fade away again as the Jotun fought the Drapht into submission. The second Loki's Drapht was beyond the corridor he turned and watched the hunt in progress.

The Drapht was a huge beast, it had taken a dozen spears through it's eyes and still it thrashed wildly in the direction the missiles came from. It had hit the wall several times, gouging out huge chunks of ice and causing a small part of the ledge to collapse. The hunters were careful, despite their excitement. They stood steady and cursed whenever their throws were not clean and true.

It took them almost three hours in total to bring the beast down. When it finally began to tire enough to stop swinging it's deadly horns the hunters began to launch themselves directly at it. They landed on it's back and climbed quickly up to the head. Loki saw Thrym and Goupr working as a team to push the lodged spears further into the Drapht's eye sockets. It shook it's head to try and dislodge them but Goupr's grip on both the horn of the Drapht and Thrym's arm never wavered.

Thrym used his feet to shove the spears home, burying himself almost up to his chest.

The beast stiffened as it’s brain was struck and began to fall. The Jotun hunters scrambled across its body out of the way as it tumbled to the ground with an almighty crash. Loki's body actually left the ground slightly from the shockwave. He looked out over the site trying to see if everyone had made it out safely.

He saw Thrym and Goupr stand up and breathed a sigh of relief. They were grinning from ear to ear. Goupr's head looked like someone had made a crack in a round boulder as he cheerfully wrapped his arms around his mate.

The work was not done by any means. The first hunt had taken almost the whole of the early morning and now they had to clear the corridor so that the Drapht would use it the next day.

The Drivers appeared, their arms full of ropes. They swung down to the bottom of the corridor and stood ready.

The hunters had pulled long and wickedly sharp knives from their packs and had begun to slice the fur from the Drapht's body. They crawled inside under the skin to ensure the fur was cut away in the biggest pieces possible.

Loki swung down to the corridor floor and walked up to the side of the Drapht. Even lying down it's body was a massive height. He looked up in awe at the fur covered mass before him.

"Wow." Said a voice behind him.

He turned and saw Helblindi, for once oblivious to his presence as the young Jotun stared at the Drapht.

"Wow is about the right word." He said.

Helblindi looked at him startled and turned a dark shade of blue.

Loki decided to make it easy on him and walked away, making his way around to the Drapht's head.

There were more hunters there and some youths. They had bags made of skin and were scraping away the scales from the Drapht's long snout into them. The smaller youths were picking up the scales that dropped to the ground.

"Can I help?" Loki asked.

One of the hunters gave him a bag.

"As you wish your Majesty." He said.

Loki squatted down and picked up the tiny scales that the Jotun youths were missing. His long delicate fingers worked quickly and nimbly, and after about an hour he had a decent number weighing down his bag.

"Loki!" Called out Laufey from somewhere nearby.

"Here!" He replied and kept picking up the scales.

Laufey appeared with Thrym and Goupr in tow. He smiled when he saw what Loki had been up to.

"Have you children been taking care of the Queen?" He asked.

The youths tried to hide behind one another as Loki laughed.

"They are hardly children to be allowed on the Hunt, they're practically adults, and yes they've been taking good care of me."

The young Jotun beamed with pleasure. Laufey gave Loki a knowing smile.

"I'm glad to hear it. Do you want to continue here or go up to the ropes? The sorcerers are helping to lift the first of the claws."

Loki looked at his bag, it was about half full.

"I leave this to the experts for now." He said and gave his bag to one of the youths, who blushed brilliantly.

As they walked away Loki heard Helblindi's voice say:

"Charm him with your wit, eh? Last time I checked wit required speaking."

They moved beyond the range of hearing before the reply was spoken. Laufey's shoulders were shaking slightly in mirth.

The front of the Drapht had changed. The belly had been split open and the organs were being drawn out in stages. Jotun were growing ice over the top in an effort to freeze the flesh so that they could tie it securely and haul it up to the ground above.

The claws had been removed from it's mighty legs and the drivers were tying off each one in preparation for lifting.

"The sorcerers lift from the ground and the hunters lift from above." Laufey said. "We'll see you later."

They made their way to the nearest rope and climbed easily to the distant top.

Loki walked over to where Kwall was directing the sorcerers. Kwall assigned him a claw and he waited for the order to be given.

When the shout came he cast his spell around the claw and began to float it upwards as the hunters pulled at the rope from above. Their combined effort brought the claw to the top quickly and with minimal strain. Loki moved on to the next claw.

 

It took all day to remove the Drapht. Everyone worked tirelessly to cut tie and haul the pieces to the top. Even once that was achieved the work was not over. They had to cut the meat further and bury it in the snow for freezing. The more tender meats had to be frozen on the corridor floor and were the last to be lifted. These were secured directly onto the sides of the Prur, waiting patiently in their circle.

The final act was for the sorcerers to cover the blood stains with a very localized snowfall, so that the next day's Drapht would not be alarmed.

Loki collapsed into bed that night exhausted to the core. He was asleep before his head reached the pillow.

Chapter Text

Loki crawled from his bed the next morning. He was weary from the day before but he was determined not to show it as the hunters once again gathered at the edge of the corridor.

He settled into position and waited once again for the Draphts to make their crossing.

The day turned out to be disappointing, a steady line of Draphts made their way through the narrow passage in the ice but none were deemed big enough to Hunt.

After a time the children got bored and began to play games at the back of the camp. Loki could hear them as they ran about. The hunters didn't stop them or call them back.

He cast the vanishing spell over the third Drapht until it was out of sight and then waited until Kwall tapped him on the shoulder to indicate the next Drapht to enter would be his again.

By the end of the day the sorcerers were exhausted and the hunters restless, they retired back to the camp for dinner.

"I happens." Thrym said. "The really big ones don't come through all at once. There will be more days like this, and more days like the first."

Loki nodded sleepily. He didn't object when Laufey pulled him into his lap and started feeding him, he was too tired to do it himself.

Later Laufey lay him down on the furs and nipped at his neck. Loki grumbled and rolled away.

"Go way, m' tired." He mumbled.

"I know, but we missed yesterday." Laufey said quietly in his ear. "I'll be quick."

Loki pulled a face as Laufey rolled him onto his back and spread his knees apart.

Loki sighed and looked away as he felt Laufey fill him. The king rocked his hips back and forth building up to a fast rhythm. Loki's body jerked slightly with every thrust.

The movement reminded him sharply of the first time Laufey took him, violently and without mercy. For a moment he was back there, hands pinned, body helpless.

He cried out in fear and pushed frantically against Laufey's chest.

"Stop! Stop! Please stop!" He gasped.

Laufey stilled and looked down out him. Loki kept pushing helplessly against his chest.

"Off, get off, please!" He cried, kicking his legs frantically and helplessly in the air.

Laufey pulled out of him and rolled to the side. Loki's eyes were almost circular with panic and his breath came in shallow gasps.

He pressed his legs together and brought his knees up toward his chest.

"Loki?" Laufey asked quietly.

He reached out gently toward Loki's shoulder. Loki flinched slightly when he was touched but did not pull away.

"Don't go fast." He whispered. "Please don't go fast."

"I won't, Loki I won't." Laufey whispered.

He gently slid his hand under Loki's body until he could rub his back. It was a common comforting move among Jotun. Loki lay stiffly as he rubbed.

After a few minutes Laufey rolled Loki onto his side and drew him into a hug.

"I'm sorry." He whispered. "Loki I'm sorry."

Loki relaxed in miniscule amounts. His breathing slowed and he finally seemed to uncurl. Laufey didn't move the whole time, just made slow circular motions across Loki's back as time ticked by.

There was one slight problem though, it was lying between them, a clear reminder that they had been in the middle of something. It was also making Laufey very uncomfortable. He still didn't move. It took almost every ounce of willpower he had, but he didn't move.

Finally, when he was sure Loki had slipped into sleep, he carefully rolled over to his other side and took care of himself. The sight of his spilled seed made him sigh in disappointment. It should be in Loki, but that reaction had been frightening. Loki had calmed so much during Laufey's attentions that the sudden terror that invaded his features had been a terrifying shock.

Laufey rolled back to face his mate and gently gathered him up into an embrace, mentally calculating his Rules for Loki.

1. Provide steps for his chair.
2. Don't underestimate his power OR temper.
3. No going fast.

He reached out and gently stroked Loki's hair. Loki was worth it. Loki was...was...*Loki*.

Loki wasn't asleep. The fear had woken him far too much to settle easily. He faked sleep in case Laufey wanted to try again but to Loki's surprise Laufey had taken care of himself as quietly as possible.

Loki mentally filed 'total freak out' as a possible future method of stopping mates. To be used sparingly, in case it lost its power.

He'd prefer it if he'd been faking that one but he hadn't. The sudden memory of that first time had been like a knife through his chest, hot and painful. He didn't think he'd ever be able to forget it, even if he left Jotunheim tomorrow.

It took him over an hour to finally fall into sleep.

 

The next day's hunt saw a massive Drapht enter the corridor. It was the fifteenth Drapht and Loki's to cast upon. He breathed steadily and concentrated on the spell.

Barely a moment after he'd cast the Laufey rose from his position and threw the first spear. It landed in the centre of the Drapht's eye, making it reel backwards in response as it thrashed it's head back and forth.

It took all of Loki's concentration to keep the spell from breaking. The Drapht lurched from side to side as it roared in pain and anger.

With a sudden wild jerk it slammed it's horns into the ice wall below the hunters. They hunters scrambled backwards as the edge cracked and threatened to crumble.

More spears flew from the edge, most landed in the eyes. The Drapht responded by slamming the wall again, whether on purpose or in a blind panic Loki did not know. He was too busy keeping the spell going to wonder more than briefly.

The second impact caused the edge to crumble and fall. The hunters were all well back and quickly regrouped among the new edge. They took aim and threw again.

By the time the Drapht was brought down it had run the length of the corridor and back again twenty times. The hunters herded it back and forth trying to keep it from getting out of range, where it's injuries would kill it without any chance of using the meat and fur.

It was midday by the time the hunters made their perilous jump. Loki was still keeping his spell going, the part of the herd that had not yet made the crossing were calling in the distance. He blocked the sound from reaching the Drapht's ears so that it wouldn't feel compelled to try and reach them.

He saw Thrym, Goupr and Laufey working together on the head of the Drapht. It suddenly thrashed hard, throwing Goupr into the air. Laufey reached out and caught Goupr's arm. The sudden weight caused him to lose his grip on the Drapht horn and start to fall, but his hand closed around the Drapht's fur and they jerked to a halt.

Laufey helped Goupr climb to the top of the Drapht's head as Thrym helped another hunter push the spears through the Drapht's eye and into the brain. It took several tries. The Drapht was so big that the whole of the Jotun hunter was buried in the soft tissue before the Drapht finally stiffened and began to fall. There was no time for the hunter to climb to safety and Loki watched with his heart in his throat as the Drapht hit the ground with a resounding crash.

Even as Loki made his way to the ropes the hunters were already climbing quickly to the eye and cutting through the flesh to reach the trapped hunter. Loki had no idea how long a Jotun could survive without air, but judging by how quickly everyone moved it didn't look like it was very long.

He reached the ground and was running over to the head when they pulled out the hunter from the bloody hole they had carved. Puluk knelt over him and pressed his hands to his chest. A moment later the hunter gave a hard gasp and opened his eyes. The feeling of relief was almost physical.

"You kept your mouth shut and didn't panic." Puluk said. "I can tell. Children! This is exactly what you should do if you ever go down under the Drapht! Keep calm and only try to move if you are sure your movements will assist you in getting out! We are always right outside and we will get to you as fast as we can!"

The seasoned hunters nodded in their agreement. The hunter was removed back to camp for healing and rest while the others began to carve up the Drapht.

"What happens if you're not in the eye?" Loki asked Goupr.

He still had the memory of Goupr's almost-fall in the forefront of his mind.

"You die. No one can survive being crushed by a Drapht. But the most common reason for not getting out of the way is being in the eye and that is survivable." Goupr said.

He seemed unfazed by his near death fall, grinning cheerfully as he hefted his carving knife. Loki went around to the front to help gather the scales until the first pieces were ready for lifting.

 

 

The days began to blur into one another. There were some days of endless smaller Draphts, others where the hunt would take down their prey. Loki became used to eating on the fly and working until exhausted.

One time he forgot to take his draught, and the sudden freezing air around him made him reach frantically for his bag while desperately trying not to break his gaze from the Drapht beneath his spell.

Laufey managed to save enough energy for mating, he was very careful to move slowly and let Loki's own body set the pace. Afterwards he would hold Loki close and rub his back and nuzzle his hair.

Loki lost track of how many days they had been hunting. But slowly the Prur sides were loaded with meat, fur and ivory. The bags of scales were tucked carefully into the store chests on their backs.

When the final Drapht made their way through the corridor Loki breathed a sigh of relief. He was utterly spent, his head ached from the long days concentrating as he worked his spells. With a feeling of a job well done, the camp fell into their beds and slept through until lunchtime the day after.

But that did not mean the work was over. The following morning was spent cutting and burying the last of the meat in the snow and uncovering and tying the meat already frozen.

The night had a party atmosphere once more. Ber was drunk in large quantities and the hunters would slap each other on the back with happiness and mirth.

The drivers told stories of this hunt. Of the brave hunter who was trapped in the eye, and of the moment when Thrym had swung using the Drapht's long fur to catch one of his fellow hunters who had slipped and fallen.

Loki found himself as caught up as the rest by the tales, even though he'd witnessed most of them first hand.

"These are the stories they will be telling in the future." Laufey said in his ear. "This is our history they are writing."

By the glow of the mage-light, with the Ber making his head tingle, Loki felt almost happy. Almost.

 

The next day the drivers dismantled the camp floor. It took them all morning to un-weave the fantastic pattern. The ropes were put to good use, the Drapht meat still on the ground had to be tied up on the inner sides of the Prur. In total packing up the camp took a further two days. But finally they were ready to depart.

Loki sat on the Prur's head as they set off for home. The hunter's good attitude was infectious and he found he was looking forward to seeing the response of the other Jotuns to their successful Hunt. On the horizon, he could see the planet of Måne as it followed the sun across the sky. Soon it would not follow, soon it would start to overtake and the terrible Darkening would be upon them, and Loki would be without his family for a hundred days.

He counted the days they had been gone and realised suddenly that he wasn’t going to be back for Frigga’s visit, the last visit he would likely get before the Darkening.

He wrote a letter to her, asking her to come five days later, and gave it to one of the runners who took it along with Laufey’s realm paperwork.

As the days past by and he received no answer Loki started to worry. When the day came for Frigga’s visit and he was still four days away he was gripping the fur beneath him so tightly his knuckles had gone almost white.

“Don’t worry.” Laufey soothed. “The runner will have delivered the letter the second he arrived at the castle.”

Loki barely ate that night or the next. He had an awful feeling that something was about to go wrong, and if anything happened to his mother he’s raze the castle to the ground.

Laufey did his best to keep Loki calm, but the truth was he’d been expecting a reply from his own letters to his third brother and Hunt-Regent. This had happened before, when the road became blocked or the smaller, faster Grur the runners used decided that they would rather stand still (rare but animals, even tame ones, can be unpredictable). For the sake of his paperwork he was not concerned. For the sake of Loki’s mother without his presence? That was worrying.

Finally the hunters reached the main road and began the last leg of their journey. Laufey spotted the runner before Loki and pointed him out.

“Don’t worry, he’ll bring you your mother’s reply.” He said, hoping it was true.

The runner’s face was not encouraging.

“I am so sorry, your Majesty, there was ice on the road which the villagers had not yet cleared and I had to go around it with my Grur. I reached the castle the same day that your mother did.”

“Is she alright?” Loki asked, his eyes wide with apprehension.

“She was gone by the time I arrived, um, there was some trouble.” The runner said nervously.

“What trouble?” Loki snapped. “Stop stalling and tell me everything!”

“The head Guard reported that without your presence your brother was most uncomfortable in the castle. One of the guards, well, he said something, I know not what, but there was a fight.”

Loki hit his head with his hand.

“Thor you idiot.” He muttered.

Laufey’s eyes narrowed.

“You are certain you do not know what was said?” He asked.

The runner nodded.

“I swear you Majesty, I do not know.”

“Fine.” Laufey said. “You are dismissed. We will be there in another half day and I will hold an investigation.”

“Did they say if my Mother was hurt?” Loki asked.

“The Guard said that her handmaiden turned into a great fighter and protected her. They all left without injury.” The runner said.

Laufey waited until the runner was out of range before turning to Loki.

“Handmaiden turned into a great fighter, hmm?”

“Rumbled.” Loki said, completely unabashed.

“We will investigate.” Laufey promised him.

“Thor probably did it.” Loki said, his shoulders slumping. “He’s a bit rash.”

“I am aware of your brother’s rash nature.” Laufey said with only a faint trace of irony in his voice. “Perhaps he can try again later, when you are sure to be there this time.”

“Father will never let him come back to see me now.” Loki said, shaking his head sadly.

“We’ll see.” Laufey said.

 

 

Their arrival at the castle was greeted with wild cheers. The people had come out in force. A lot of force actually, far more force than had seen them off. Loki look down at the crowd in confusion.

“How many people are there?” He asked Thrym.

“Almost the whole population of Jotunheim.” Thrym answered. “The celebration is about to begin and the preparation for the Darkening follows immediately after.”

Loki looked again, there were so many the ground looked like a blue sea.

“They all come to the castle for the Darkening?” He asked.

“Yes, the castle is on a high hill for a reason, beneath it are the tunnels we will live in for the Darkening. The outer regions come first with their harvests, they would have begun to arrive shortly after we left for the Hunt. By now only the close villagers and the people of Utgard will still be in their homes.”

It was unnerving, how big the Darkening now seemed. Loki found he was taking deep breaths to calm himself as he looked out over the crowd.

Chapter Text

It took over an hour to make their way from the Prur and to the castle. Laufey was in fine form, reaching out to touch hands with the Jotun citizens as he walked through the crowd to the castle gates. But once inside his face became serious as his brother and hunt-regent, Vindsval came hurrying over.

“Well? What happened?” He asked as they made their way to the throne room.

Vindsval flinched but he knew what Laufey was asking.

“Their arrival was expected, your Majesty. I met them myself in the throne room and explained that the Queen had not yet returned from the Hunt. Queen Frigga was disappointed and asked if she might return again once he was present. I did not know whether you would allow it so I told her I would ask once the Hunt had returned. Um, then, ah, a guard-”

“Which guard?” Laufey asked sharply.

“Karrir, your Majesty.” Vindsval said nervously.

Karrir was their much younger brother and the head guard of one of the castle squads. He had never been good at any kind of kingdom or land management but was a superb fighter and knew it. He had gotten himself into trouble more than once over the centuries for his brash attitude and boastful ways.

“Fetch him.” Laufey said to a nearby servant.

The servant disappeared as Laufey turned back to Vindsval.

“Go on.” He said.

“Prince Thor was clearly unsettled. He was glaring at us all and was clearly unhappy when I told him that the Queen was unavailable. Karrir said something.”

“What?!” Snapped Loki from beside Laufey.

“I, um, didn’t hear it.” Vindsval said.

“Nobody seems to have heard it.” Loki said darkly.

Laufey took a deep breath.

“Then what happened?” He asked.

It was clear by the tone of his voice that he was losing patience. Vindsval flinched.

“Prince Thor told him to retract it. He, ah, didn’t.”

“Vindsval, I am losing patience with you.” Laufey said.

Vindsval’s eyes widened in fear and spoke quickly.

“Karrir goaded him further, I ordered him to stop but he ignored me. He only said that he would not bow to an Asgard. Prince Thor began to leave with his mother but Karrir pushed him as he went out the door. Prince Thor turned and struck him, they fought as the Queen and her, ah, handmaiden left. The guards went to help Karrir and their presence cut off Queen Frigga’s exit. Her handmaiden turned out to be a warrior and fought through them. They fled to the Bifrost and escaped.”

“Given that they were not prisoners I feel escaped is not the best way to describe their exit.” Laufey said as Loki tensed beside him.

Vindsval flinched again.

“I am sorry your Majesty, I tried to control it but they are Asgard, their presence is an insult to all of us.”

Laufey heard Loki growl beside him. He put a hand out to try and stop any rash moves as Karrir approached. He was striding forwards with nothing less that total arrogance. Laufey stared him down but Karrir either did not notice or did not care.

“Karrir, what did you say to Prince Thor?” Laufey asked.

Karrir sneered.

“I told him that if he was afraid of us then perhaps he shouldn’t have come.” He said proudly.

Laufey frowned.

“Then I told him if he wanted to leave the handmaiden behind I’d find a use for her.” He said with an insulting smile.

“And you thought I would approve of this?” Laufey asked him incredulously.

Karrir shrugged.

“They are Asgard, they are nothing but savages.” He said.

Laufey gritted his teeth in anger. Karrir had always been arrogant, but his skill in battle had made him believe he was immune to punishment.

“That is unacceptable.” He snapped.

“Your little mate has addled your brains brother.” Karrir said. “You shouldn’t let any more of them come to our land, they dirty it with their presence.”

Laufey’s eyes widened considerably. Whatever the siblings said to one another it was always done privately, it was one of the oldest rules and kept a united front for the sake of the people.

“You will be punished for this.” Laufey said darkly.

Karrir just shrugged.

“I don’t see why you should pander to him anyway, he’s clearly been corrupted by the Asgard. They are only good for fun and food.”

Laufey was almost indigo with rage. He opened his mouth to order Karrir’s punishment, not just for his actions but for his public display, when Loki spoke first.

“Food? You ate my mother’s food?!”

Karrir just sneered at him.

“Most of it was trampled in the fight but there was a little left.” He said carelessly, gesturing to the floor around them. “They are worth invading, if only for their cooks.”

Loki looked down and scanned the floor. He squatted down and gently picked up a tiny frozen flower from beneath their feet. It was a Cristolape bloom. The flowers would have reached their height back in Asgard and Frigga had brought him some as promised only to have them be torn apart by careless Jotun hands. He rose slowly, still looking in horror at the trampled flower.

Laufey felt the heat as it shot past him, he flinched back but Loki’s aim was true. A narrow column of fire slammed into Karrir’s chest and blew him backwards across the length of the room.

The Jotun froze in shock. Loki was shaking in anger as he raised his hand for another blow. Thrym lunged forwards and grabbed him from behind to hold his arms down.

“Let go of me!” Loki screamed, struggling to free his arms from Thrym’s grip. “Let go! I’m going to kill him! I! Am! Going! To! KILL! HIM!!!”

Each word was shouted loudly enough to echo to the furthest reaches of the room. Loki twisted and screamed in Thrym’s arms as he struggled, his eyes never left the spot where Karrir was lying.

“Take him to our chambers.” Laufey ordered quickly.

Thrym pulled Loki, still screaming in rage, from the room. His cries echoed down the corridor as Thrym pulled him further and further away. Laufey walked up to where Karrir lay slumped against the far wall. As he approached he saw Karrir cough up a large mouthful of water and blood. It splattered down his front. As Laufey drew nearer he began to realise the true horror of his brother’s injuries.

Karrir’s chest had melted. The heat had been so intense that the ice in his structure had turned to water and run inwards to his lungs and outwards down his body. The flesh that was left behind had burned black. A foul smell rose from the shrivelled flesh. He was still struggling to clear his lungs and breath as Laufey looked down at him.

“Your punishment is earned, Karrir. Our mother will have much to say to you when you reach the frozen lands. *If* you reach the frozen lands. With what you have done you may just end up in the desert of sand, where you will languish until Ragnarok. I hope for your sake that you find forgiveness.”

He grew a blade of ice beneath his hand. When it was the length of a sword he held it high and brought it down sharply through Karrir’s chest and into his heart.

Laufey turned to face the crowd of Jotun behind him.

“Vindsval! Come here!” He shouted.

Vindsval came forwards at a run.

“Every Jotun that was present when this happened! Every last one will be rounded up now do you hear me? I want to see all of them in here! Those that fought will face trial! Those that *ate* will face trial! Every damn one of them will face trial and if found guilty will be punished severely!”

Vindsval flinched but spoke anyway.

“Your Majesty, it was just food. Surely Queen Frigga will send more for her son?”

Laufey grabbed Vindsval’s shoulder and pulled him close.

“Was that food a gift for the Queen?” He asked in an absurdly reasonable voice.

“Y..yes?” Vindsval answered.

“Does the Queen have it?”

“N..no.”

“Why doesn’t the Queen have it?”

“Because it was taken.” Vindsval said, wincing.

“Yes it was taken. From the Queen. Who is a Royal and second in the Realm. And what is the penalty for stealing from the Queen?”

“Death.” Vindsval whispered.

“And what is the penalty for disobeying the King?”

“We didn’t-“

“Vindsval, I gave my permission for them to come. They were my guests and you attacked them. What is the penalty for disobeying the King?”

“Death.” Vindsval whispered again.

His eyes were closed.

“Your Majesty I swear I tried to stop it, but the guards followed Karrir.”

“I will determine all things, Vindsval. Those who run will be assumed guilty and will not be permitted to enter the tunnels for the Darkening.”

“Yes, your Majesty.” Vindsval said fearfully. “I will round them up right away.”

Laufey gave his shoulder a squeeze and walked back across the room.

“You will all go and celebrate with the crowd.” He said. “They need to know that things are well. I will join you soon! But first I have some things to take care of.”

He walked to his throne and sat down. His back was curved over so far he gave the impression of a gargoyle made of ice.

 

 

It was several hours later that Laufey was able to make his way to the royal chambers. Thrym was waiting outside with Kwall when he arrived. They looked worried.

“I had to almost throw him in there and slam the door on him. He kept trying to break free and get back to the throne room. He screamed at me for an hour but has since gone extremely quiet.” Thrym said. “I had to get Kwall to keep him from using his magic to escape.”

Laufey acknowledged Kwall with a nod.

“Are you still blocking him?” He asked.

“Yes your Majesty, it is not easy, he is very strong, but he has not made an attempt for the last hour.” Kwall said.

Laufey looked at the closed door.

“Wish me luck brother.” He said to Thrym.

Thrym just nodded seriously. Laufey opened the door and went in.

“Loki?” He called out as he entered and looked around him.

It was a scene of carnage. The walls were dripping with water and deep grooves had been slashed into every available surface. The table had been melted as had the window seat. Laufey looked slowly around the room, wincing as he saw what had happened to the royal chambers of Jotunheim.

There was a mound of furs on the bed that Laufey got the distinct impression were ignoring him. He walked over and carefully sat down next to them.

“Loki?” He said timidly, bracing himself to duck. Loki couldn’t land a *killing* blow but that left an awful lot of other blows that, judging by the state of the room, would definitely hurt a lot.

There was no answer. If furs could look pointedly in the other direction then these ones would be doing so, possibly with their nose in the air and their mouth set in a determined line.

“Loki?” Laufey said again.

He took a deep breath and reached out to the furs. When nothing happened he pulled back the top layer to reveal a pair of angry green eyes glowering at him. Loki had not taken his potion.

Laufey glanced back around the room and spotted the neck of the bottle sticking out of their travel bags sitting in the corner. The bags had been soaked by the falling water and were now freezing back up.

He turned back to Loki again and said the first thing that came to mind.

“Aren’t you cold?”

“Yes.” Came the defiant answer, as though daring him to make something of it.

“Karrir’s dead.” Laufey said.

“Good.” Loki snapped.

He turned and tried to burrow back under the furs. Laufey sighed and reached down. He pulled the furs off Loki’s body, ignoring his protests and wrestled Loki into an embrace.

“Let go of me.” Loki said bitterly.

“Not yet.” Laufey said as Loki’s body turned back to blue. “The others have been punished also. Those that attacked your mother were put to death, as did anyone who ate your food. The others have been imprisoned until the Darkening where they will have two thirds of normal rations.”

“They destroyed the flowers.” Loki muttered into his chest.

Laufey winced at the memory of Loki’s face.

“Can your mother bring more?” He asked.

“Father won’t let her come after this.” Loki said.

Laufey held him for a long moment.

“What if…?”

“What?”

“What if we invited the Asgard to send a special representative party to Jotunheim for a day during the Celebrations? An official envoy of, uh, five people?”

“Seven.” Loki said challengingly.

“Alright seven.” Laufey agreed, wishing he’d suggested three. “We will write out the invitation today and send it to them. It will be an official royal invitation, with all that that entails.”

Loki shifted until he rested his elbows on Laufey’s chest and his chin in his hands. He looked at Laufey suspiciously.

“And they will be ambassadors? Like all the Realms used to have back in ancient times?”

“I don’t believe my childhood was quite ‘ancient times’ but yes, they will be the official representatives of Asgard.” Laufey said dryly. “I will include a general pardon for Thor’s behaviour as well if you think it will convince Odin to let him come again.”

“How will you stop *this* all happening again?” Loki asked.

“I am here now, my orders cannot be dismissed so easily. And Thrym is back too; those guards would never have obeyed Karrir over him if he had been present. It will be different. Karrir was wrong in his actions, he believed himself too important for the law, and such a belief cost him his life.”

Loki just looked at him for a moment as he considered Laufey’s proposal.

“Alright.” He said finally. “We will write the letter.”

With his mate apparently mollified, Laufey looked around the room again and chanced a jest.

“I did ask you to consult me before redecorating.” He said.

Loki rolled onto his side and considered his handiwork.

“We can put the flower blossoms in the grooves when mother brings them. They will make the room look like a garden.” He suggested without a trace of embarrassment.

 

Thrym spent the next few days listening to the chatter around the castle. He was a practical person and Karrir was not the first sibling who had been put to death for breaking the law. It was sad but no one was above the law and Karrir’s actions could not be pardoned. He had been one of the youngest of Kolga’s children and still only a young adult when their mother had died. He had stood with the rest of his siblings at Laufey and Loki’s betrothal ceremony and felt the fear when Loki was thought to be killed by Odin. He had lived with that fear for centuries, they all had. It was not unrealistic to expect the siblings to have made plans for a future that had not involved the continuation of the monarchy.

Loki’s return had caused the practical and the traditional to breathe a sigh of relief. The radical and those who had the most to lose were hurting and Thrym had no doubt, plotting. Karrir had made the mistake of underestimating the esteem in which the Queen was held in culture and in law. He only saw a breeder, raised by their enemy and good for nothing else. Thrym wondered how many others felt the same way.

Laufey’s children would inherit the roles of the government and make up the royal court. It had always been that way. The children of the current court were not considered royal. They had the best education and opportunities, and often went on to be sorcerers, healers, successful traders and scholars. But after the shock of Loki’s disappearance had worn off the siblings had begun to make new plans for their future. Laufey and Thrym had discussed it themselves as the years past. The best outcome they could imagine would be a future royal court made up of the children of their siblings. At least some of their siblings had been thinking along the same lines. Now their children had a good chance of being pushed down to their traditional stations and the more power hungry of the court were unhappy.

Thrym had discussed with Goupr what they would do if Laufey had ever died suddenly without an heir. The plan was for Goupr to take the children and go to his mother’s house beyond the eastern plains. He wasn’t fond of him, he had been far closer to his father and step-mother, but his birth mother was family and, annoying as he was, he would protect his grandchildren with his life.

Thrym would have to stay in the castle to try and restore peace. It was his duty, though even as they whispered their plans to one another at night they knew that if Goupr had to flee, Thrym would not be following. He would restore peace, or he would fall in the attempt.

That plan was still an option if Loki did not become pregnant. Thrym had no doubt that some of his more ambitious siblings were at least thinking about planning an attempt on Laufey’s life. Power was a difficult thing to give up. Karrir had been too arrogant for real plotting, but Thrym could think of a few of his siblings who were not nearly so rash.

And so he listened, and watched, and waited.

 

 

 

Thor could not keep still. He had come back from his disastrous visit to Jotunheim and been forced to face the wrath of his parents.

“I don’t care if he pushed you! We are permitted to see Loki only by Laufey’s good graces and now we will be unable to return at all!” Frigga had screamed.

She was a mess, her face puffy from crying and her hair was falling out. She shook as she fought the tears that fell down her cheeks.

Odin had been no better.

“I allowed you to go because I thought you had learned your lesson. I was wrong. You have changed little and are far too rash to be allowed out on your own, let alone be King of Asgard! You had one chance to behave, one! I do not know if we will be able to repair the damage your visit has caused. Thor, why did you not hold your temper?”

Thor had taken their wrath with tears in his eyes. He had failed his brother. He had tried to walk away, to stay calm and show that he had changed but the lesson was a difficult one and he had failed. Unfortunately failure had devastating consequences.

He had stayed in his room for days as a self-imposed punishment, now he strode onto the training grounds where the Warriors Three were being caught up by Sif.

“We must retrieve my brother immediately.” Thor said.

They looked up at him.

“Finally.” Fandral said. “But we still have nowhere to hide him.”

“Did you send Freya a letter?” Volstagg asked.

“Yes, but I have received no reply.” Fandral said.

“Perhaps you were not the best person to have sent it.” Sif said.

“I am perfectly capable of discussing serious matters, Sif, I am sure she has opened it.” He said.

“Amora.” Thor said reluctantly. “She’s a sorceress, and she is fond of Loki, we can ask her instead.”

“No we can’t.” Fandral said. “She’s been absent from the court for months.”

“How do you know that?” Volstagg asked.

“Do you really think I wouldn’t notice when a beautiful woman is absent from the evening feasts?” Fandral replied.

“My statement about the letter stands.” Sif said dryly.

“Where could she have gone?” Hogun said. “Perhaps we can send her a letter.”

“She usually goes to the great magic library on Vanaheim.” Fandral said.

“Is there a single sorceress left in Asgard who has not gone to Vanaheim?” Thor asked.

“Maybe they’re having a Thing.” Sif said.

“Perhaps we do not need them.” Thor said suddenly. “Loki has written letters to my mother telling her of this event called the Darkening. The Jotun must shelter from it for a hundred days, they cannot go above ground. If we kill Laufey and take Loki right before it begins then they will have a hundred days of fighting before they are even in a position to try and retrieve him. By then they may be so far into war he will not need to hide.”

“That could work.” Fandral said.

“It certainly sounds like a better plan than what we have.” Volstagg volunteered.

Thor smiled for the first time in weeks.

“There is only one obstacle, we *need* to see Jotunheim, we need to know exactly the right moment to take him.”

“Heimdall has been working on it.” Fandral said. “I will check with him and see if he has had any luck breaking through the haze they have cast.”

Their conversation was stopped by a servant, who informed Thor that his parents wanted to see him.

“They must have decided what punishment I should have. I will do whatever they feel is necessary.” Thor said. “I should never have been so rash.”

He left the training grounds. Sif watched him go.

“He is changing.” She said. “Slowly, with some missteps, but he is changing.”

 

 

Thor was surprised to see the smile on his mother’s face when he entered the room. She reached out her arms to pull him into a hug.

“I am sorry Thor, I should not have yelled at you like that. I was just so worried about your brother I lost my temper.”

“You were right mother, I acted rashly.” Thor said, confused.

“You…did, but I should have been calmer. I can hardly chastise you for your temper while losing my own. Oh Thor, we have good news.”

“What?” Thor said, his thoughts immediately going to Loki. Had Odin succeeded in rescuing him? It seemed impossible.

“Read this.” Odin said, handing it to Thor. “It was left at the Bifrost site for Heimdall to collect less than an hour ago.”

The handwriting was Loki’s. Thor read the document with an incredulous look.

“Laufey is inviting us to send a representative to Jotunheim?”

“It is an old invitation. We send one just like it to Vanaheim every year for the anniversary of my coronation.” Odin said. “They are guaranteeing the safety of our people. This is an incredible development.”

Thor looked at the two signatures at the bottom of the scroll. Laufey’s was all curled and looped, totally unlike the runes of the Asgard. Thor only knew it was Laufey’s because the other one was clearly Loki’s. Loki had always written his name in the same way. The ‘oki’ was neat and restrained, while the ‘L’ rune was always bigger and a little bit fancy. Almost as though his signature was trying to tell the world that under his calm, quiet demeanour beat the heart of a firecracker and a born trickster. Thor always felt Loki’s signature reflected his brother exactly.

The words ‘queen of Jotunheim’ were scribbled in after it in much smaller runes. If writing could mutter it would look like that.

“Who shall go?” Thor asked.

Odin looked at him seriously.

“Your actions have been officially pardoned, Thor. I believe Loki would like to see you very much.”

Thor nodded seriously.

“I will do nothing to shatter this fragile peace Father I swear.”

Odin nodded.

“Your mother will go, and the Lady Sif. There is room for four more.”

“Four? They have invited so many.” Thor said.

“Yes, we must hope that that is a good sign.” Odin said. “I was thinking of allowing your companions as well, they are Loki’s friends are they not?”

“Yes Father.” Thor said. “The Warriors Three are Loki’s friends.”

This was true, Loki may not be as into fighting, but the Warriors Three liked him and considered him their friend as much as Thor.

“That leaves one more. I will send a real ambassador, who knows, we may be able to negotiate more regular visits if this goes well.” Odin said.

He looked pointedly at Thor again.

“I will not fail you Father.” Thor said.

He would not fail Loki.

Chapter Text

The next few days past by in a blur. The Celebrations traditionally began five days after the hunters returned. They lasted for ten days. Ten days of wild drinking, dancing, feasting and fun. Loki found it hard to believe.

“Ten whole days? Non stop? When do we sleep?”

“You can sleep whenever you need to, there’s no strict time.” Laufey said with a smile. “This is the most plentiful time of the year. We Celebrate now or not at all, and we do not like to miss any more than we have to.”

They made their way down through the passageway to Utgard. Most of the preparations had been made in their absence and now they were going down to see the result.

Loki followed Laufey through the gateway and down the long stairway. He was fighting the rising sense of nervousness that had been growing ever since they’d received Odin’s reply to their invitation. He couldn’t help but worry about how Thor would act surrounded by endless Ber and drunk Jotuns. He had to hope that Thor had learned his lesson in the brief time since his last visit, or that he could be controlled by their friends.

They reached the gateway and walked through. Loki stopped in his tracks, his eyes widening in wonder as his mouth dropped open.

The city had been transformed. There were ice sculptures everywhere depicting various hunters and mythical creatures. The streets had been swept clean of snow and the buildings themselves had been decorated with icicles. Big ones, small ones, a whole spectrum of different shapes. Loki couldn’t take it all in.

“It’s…beautiful.” He said.

Laufey smiled broadly.

“You should see the main square.” He said. “They always do a good job.”

They walked through the busy streets. Loki turned his head in every possible direction trying to take it all in. The halls of Asgard had never looked like this. They had always favoured smooth lines and golden sheen. Utgard was a winter wonderland, a silver and white paradise. The closest thing Loki could compare it to was the fancy decorations the cooks sometimes put on the special cakes. He felt as though he was walking through the grandest of them all.

The children were playing again. Ducking forwards and jumping back with equal parts determination and fear. One young child almost got grabbed by the guard but made it back just in time. His friends cheered and patted him on the back.

Then Helblindi appeared. He looked cheerful and confidant as he stepped past the guards and stood before the King.

“General Thrym sent me to tell you that he is in the square, and that the artists have arrived.” He said seriously.

Laufey nodded graciously.

“Thankyou Helblindi, we will be there directly.”

Loki heard the impressed sounds from the children, some of whom looked to be Helblindi’s age. Clearly his magical way of bypassing the guards had made an impact. Loki couldn’t help but smile.

Laufey saw his look and grinned. The whole mood of Jotunheim was one of delight and anticipation. It was as though everyone had forgotten Måne which had almost reached the sun now as it chased it across the sky. Loki feared it, he couldn’t imagine spending a hundred days underground without even a letter from his family.

Today though Måne was far from his mind as he walked with Laufey to the central square.

“Artists?” He asked.

Laufey rested a hand on Loki’s furthermost shoulder as they walked.

“Yes artists, they come from all corners of the realm and demonstrate their abilities on the main square. People then hire them to create the body decorations.”

“What body decorations?” Loki asked, suddenly wary.

Laufey sighed and gave his shoulder a squeeze.

“It is traditional, you will look fine.”

“What body decorations?!” Loki asked with alarm.

He was imagining Thor’s reaction to seeing him *decorated*.

“We decorate ourselves with the scales of the Draphts. The artists create the most beautiful designs.”

He saw Loki’s look.

“Loki, it’s traditional. The scales are being sold in the city right now, even the poorest Jotun will have a few on his cheeks, and those who can afford it will be shine like precious jewels. Now come and help me pick out the artist we will use this year. It is a great honour to be the artist of the royal family.”

Loki’s brow furrowed as he thought quickly.

“Can we save some scales for the Asgard?” He asked. “If they’re an official party should they not also be decorated?”

Laufey shot him a suspicious look, then his face split into a broad grin.

“Thor?” He asked.

Loki blushed, caught out.

“Thor.” He confirmed.

“Of course we will save some. The artist we choose shall even help apply them in a wonderful style.” Laufey said.

Loki mood was noticeably lighter as they entered the square.

The main square was enormous. On a normal day it could hold several thousand Jotun without making it feel crowded. Today though it was packed to capacity. Loki couldn’t see a thing through all of the Jotun bodies. He was forced to rely on Laufey’s guiding hand as they made their way to where the artists were displaying their handiwork.

They were greeted by Thrym and Goupr, who were already negotiating for a price with one Jotun. He smiled eagerly when he saw the royal couple approach.

Thrym turned and caught sight of them.

“Brother!” He called out. “This one’s very good. Come and see his designs.”

The crowd parted as though by magic as the jostling Jotun realised that their King stood in their midst. Laufey and Loki made their way up to the stall.

Goupr greeted them warmly as he held a smaller child in his arms. Býleistr was the second child of the pair and under normal circumstances big enough to stand, but with the large crowds Goupr wasn’t taking any chances.

“Hello Býleistr.” Laufey said.

“Hello Uncle King.” Býleistr replied with a cheeky grin.

He had his arms firmly wrapped around Goupr’s neck and was surveying the crowd as they bustled back and forth.

Several designs were on display on a Jotun-sized ice sculpture. Each limb showed a different style that the artist had created and the face was divided into four. Loki looked it over with interest, now that he knew Thor would be wearing it too.

“They are very good.” Laufey said.

“For you.” Loki commented. “They’re too complicated for me, he’ll never fit the whole thing on my body, those designs will be too cramped.”

Those artists that heard his comment turned quickly back to inspect their designs. Loki was right, what would look good on the larger Jotun frame would look horribly crowded on his much small one.

“Please you Majesty.” One artist said timidly. “We have designs for children, they are smaller and would fit you better. I can show you some of mine.”

Loki gave him a nod and found himself presented with half a dozen child-sized sculptures pulled from behind the various stalls. They were smaller but he could see the problem right away.

“Those designs are nowhere near decorative enough for a queen.” Laufey commented, who had also seen it. “I know you need something simpler but you also need to shine.”

He frowned in disappointment.

“I did not consider how long it has been since we had an ice maiden, I suppose neither did anyone else.”

The artists all looked stricken, they glanced uneasily between each other as Laufey stood there considering the problem. All that is, but one.

“Your Majesty, I believe I can solve this problem.” He said.

The group walked over to him. He was very old and stood hunched over at his stall.

“Oh?” Laufey asked.

“Oh yes, I, you see, am old enough to remember your mother, I know the secret to the ice maidens’ art. Choose your favourite design my Queen, whoever the artist you prefer I will come to the castle and see that you are satisfied with their design.” He said.

Laufey looked at him suspiciously.

“I would like to know how you plan to achieve this.” He said.

The old man chuckled deeply in his throat. Loki realised that he liked him. This man was an old jester in his heart.

“A very ancient secret your Majesty, passed down from artist to artist for centuries.” He said with a twinkle in his eye.

He reached beneath his stall and pulled out a small bag. He opened it and held it out so that they could see the contents.

“Use smaller scales.” He said and began to cackle with mirth. “I bought all the really tiny ones I could find, the ones they use for infants! They will make your Queen shine with utmost glory *and* suit his smaller frame! Any design can be chosen as long as the artist uses smaller scales!” He was laughing so hard he was almost doubled over. Loki was laughing to at the simple nature of his solution.

“Show me your designs.” He said, laughing. “I have seven other people beside myself who will need some decoration and they are all too small to use the big scales.”

The old artist was quite gifted. His designs were flowing and beautiful, especially the smaller, more delicate one he made up in front of Loki’s eyes to show what he could do. In the end they decided to choose him and he swore to be at the castle gates the first morning of the Celebrations.

Thrym and Goupr went with their original choice. Helblindi and Býleistr then pleaded for sweets, so the whole group made their way to one of the far food stalls. It was amazing the way they were able to get a table despite the enormous crowds. Laufey thanked the Jotun family who shot out of their seats for them. They shook his hand with unconcealed delight.

Thrym leaned back in his chair and sighed happily.

“The Celebrations this year are going to be magnificent.” He said. “The people are so excited, so much more than in years gone by.”

Loki almost asked why until he caught Goupr’s knowing look and realised. He was the reason why, Jotunheim had a Queen and potentially, a future. The Hunt was successful and the harvest was good. The Jotuns had everything to celebrate.

He wondered what it had been like, living each year under the shadow of a future war, worrying that the life you had would not be shared by you children. He took a swallow of his drink to force down the sudden tightness in his throat. Sitting here, surrounded by the people and feeling their excitement, he had never felt as conflicted as he did now.

What if he stayed? What if he had Laufey’s children and raised them and accepted the role of Queen? He didn’t know that he had the strength, the very thought of being out of contact with his family for a hundred days made him want to shudder.

‘I’m not what you think I am.’ He thought as he looked at the people in the square. ‘I’m not a Queen, I’m an Asgard who was born in the wrong body. I want to do this for you, that is…I mean…I don’t want you to die. Can’t you just decide not to? Can’t you all change your thinking about ice maidens? How hard is it to change a whole world’s thinking? You can do it! I just want to go home.’

Oblivious to Loki’s thoughts, the rest of the group relaxed and enjoyed watching the final preparations for the Celebrations.

 

 

The morning of the first day was much like the Hunt. Laufey and Loki were woken by servants and brushed down. They ate their breakfast while blinking the sleep out of their eyes and then waited for the old artist to show up.

He arrived with a broad grin on his face and his arms full of his equipment. Loki watched as he carefully painted the back of each scale with a type of glue and stuck it onto Laufey’s body. It took over an hour to complete and the final result was spectacularly shiny.

Laufey grinned when he caught sight of Loki’s face.

“Your turn.” He said cheerfully.

Loki rose and stood in the centre of the room. The old artist smiled broadly and opened his second bag of much smaller scales.

“Don’t look so worried your Majesty.” He said. “I will make you shine brighter than all the others in the court.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Loki muttered, but held still as the artist began.

Laufey left them, he had to handle the royal business. It didn’t stop and he expected to leave the Celebration at least every second day for a few hours. He had his own supply of the Cure lined up waiting for exactly those times. The downsides of being a King.

Loki’s design took almost two hours to complete. It was a swirling, leaf-like pattern that climbed from his feet to around his neck and reminded him of the vines that climbed the walls of his favourite garden in Asgard. The artist then added the tiniest scales to his face in the same pattern. His final touch was to place the minute scales on Loki’s lips, making them shimmer as the light caught them. Loki examined himself in a mirror when he was finished.

Thor would kill himself with laughter. Loki looked like someone had dropped a chest full of diamonds on his head. Actually that wasn’t fair. If it were on anyone else Loki would think it was a beautiful sight. The design was amazing, the effect was more amazing still.

Laufey’s reaction was worth recording for a saga. His jaw dropped, his eyes widened and he stopped dead in the doorway.

“Loki you look beautiful.” He breathed.

Loki shifted awkwardly on his feet.

“When do the Celebrations start?” He asked to break the moment.

“At midday, we should get going soon.” Laufey replied, still staring at Loki in wonder.

“We’ll need you again on the seventh day.” Loki said. “We have guests and they need to be properly attired.”

“I will be here your Majesty, it will be my honour.” The old artist said.

Laufey and Loki made their way down to Utgard. Loki noticed that they were taking different and newer passageways that shortened the walking time considerably.

“They’ve really worked fast on rebuilding the castle.” He said.

“Jotuns are good at building.” Laufey said. “Anything that can be built out of large blocks of ice or stone and we’re the people to call.”

Long before Loki was ready they reached the gates of Utgard. He felt a sudden feeling of terror. He looked like a piece of jewellery! He felt his feet start to drag as he approached the gates. Then he saw what was going on in the city and stopped entirely.

They had lined the streets. Jotun from every station were standing on either side of the pathway and every one of them was shining with Drapht scales. Loki blinked hard at the incredible sight before him.

Laufey gently nudged him in the back to start him walking again. He stepped forward into a world of shimmering Jotun, all watching and waving, with plenty of cheering.

Laufey led him to the main square where they climbed on top of a stand that the Jotun had erected at one end. Loki noticed that there were two sets of steps in two different sizes.

Laufey took a cup of Ber that Thrym was holding ready and raised it high above his head. Loki watched as the King grinned broadly at the crowd and announced loudly.

“The Celebrations have begun!”

He dropped the cup which shattered when it hit the ground, spilling the Ber. The crowd roared in delight and drank from their own cups. The drums began to sound as the Celebrations began.

Thrym handed Loki a drink and grinned at him.

“You look amazing! That artist has done the perfect job!”

“You look pretty good yourself!” Loki shouted back above the roar of the crowd.

They were joined by Laufey who had already finished his first cup.

“Let’s go and watch the dancing!” He yelled.

 

On the first day the dancers performed. Flying through the air and spinning on the ground, all over the city there was something to see. The royal couple made their way around Utgard, drinking Ber and eating all the types of food on offer.

The day turned into night and the minor magicians performed with sparkling lights. They created images in the sky for the people to gaze at in wonder.

There were competitions for acrobats and the ever popular, death defying fire jugglers, and when midnight came the drivers gathered and told stories of the Hunt in the main square. In the darkness Loki felt Laufey’s arm slide around him and pull him away from the main crowd into a side street. Unseen by their people they slipped into an inn and up the stairs to where a modest bed waited for them.

Loki knew too well by now to expect Laufey to stop just because their routine was broken. He lay beneath the King and gasped as they moved together in the dim lighting, the sounds of the crowd echoing below their window. Laufey’s hands slid over Loki’s skin, his fingertips ghosting around the scales stuck to Loki body.

“Beautiful.” He breathed.

When it was over they re-joined the crowd and if Loki’s hair was a little messy and Laufey’s loincloth a little rumpled, neither Thrym nor Goupr said anything.

 

It was almost sunrise when they stumbled back to the inn. Laufey had turned it into a kind of temporary royal centre. They collapsed exhausted onto the bed and were sound asleep in seconds.

The Celebrations always ran the same way. The time between sunrise and lunchtime was given over to the children, who ran about playing games, eating too much and watching the tamer forms of entertainment. The afternoon was for youths and adults to admire the skills of the entertainers and sample the food and drink. After the sun went down the crowd became wilder, drunker and more daring. The dancers moved in more suggestive rhythms and the amazing feats carried a real chance of injury and even death.

Thrym and Goupr took it in shifts to ensure that Býleistr had a great time in the morning, before handing him back over to his nanny to watch for the afternoon and evening. Helblindi was old enough to accompany them in the afternoon as well, but was walked back to the inn as the sun went down.

Loki woke at midday, when the festivities were beginning to grow once more. He grumbled as his head ached from the previous night’s Ber. Laufey handed him a cup.

It wasn’t the Cure, like he’d been expecting, it was more Ber.

“Really?” He asked.

“Go on.” Laufey said with a broad and slightly tipsy smile.

Loki drank. The feast hall of Asgard had nothing on the Jotuns when they decided to throw a party.

The servants brushed them down with slightly softer brushes than normal. Loki expected the scales to fall off but the glue was incredibly strong.

“How long until these come off?” He asked Laufey.

“About fifteen to twenty days after they are applied.” He answered. “Enjoy them, you look incredible.”

The theme of the second day was music. Musicians played every day but today they were celebrated. Everywhere they went musicians played on the street corners, in the feast tents, down alleyways. Loki hadn’t heard anything musical since he’d left Asgard and he found himself fascinated by the Jotun style. It was a mixture of drums made of skin, bone sticks of different sizes, some with grooves carved in to provide a vibrating sound, the occasional rare metal chime, ice crystals that rang with a clear sound and, most unusually of all, string instruments.

Harps were popular, so were lutes and some kind of instrument Loki had never seen before. Laufey called it a vlin.

It was played by dragging one string under tension across several others, also pulled tight. The effect was amazing, Loki found himself transfixed more than once at the sounds they made.

“They only play at the Celebrations.” Laufey said in his ear, pointing at some performers. “The strings I mean, they only play now.”

“Out of the whole year?” Loki asked. “Why?”

“They use the sinews of the Drapht. But they freeze during the Darkening and break so they can’t play them afterwards.”

“How do they get to be so good without strings to practice with?” Loki asked him.

“They have to imagine it, all year they make up songs to play, in their heads. You can tell a master because he can play a brand new song perfectly the first time he tries.”

“That’s amazing!” Loki yelled over the sounds of the music around them.

“Which one’s your favourite?” Laufey asked. “Come on, we’ll hear them all and you tell me.”

They walked the length of the city five times over as they sought out every musician. All levels were represented, from the masters to those just beginning. All were cheered. When you only have music for ten days a year you enjoy all that you can.

Loki’s favourite was an older Jotun group, perhaps middle aged. The music they made together was incredible. He had no trouble telling Laufey that he thought they were best.

Laufey smiled at him and walked over to them.

“Will you play for us at the castle on the seventh day?” He asked.

The head of the group nodded eagerly.

“Our honour your Majesty.” He said as the others grinned in delight.

“And again at the end of the Celebrations? In the main square for the final dance?” Laufey asked.

“Of course your Majesty! Of course!” The Jotun said.

He was shaking where he stood, beaming with happiness.

“You certainly made them happy.” Loki said as they strolled away.

“The final dance is the greatest honour a musician can have.” Laufey said. “The king always chooses them and they are hailed as the greatest musicians in the realm for a year afterward.”

“You didn’t pick them, I did.” Loki said.

Laufey smiled at him.

“You have better taste than me.” He said simply.

Loki doubted it but he was feeling too drunk to care. The feeling of the city was incredible and he couldn’t help but grin as he watched the people celebrate around him.

“The seventh day. That’s when my mother will come.” He said. “We’re seeing them at the castle?”

“We can’t bring them down here, too many drunk Jotuns. Don’t worry, we will have a fine celebration up there, I’ve planned it all.”

Laufey reached out and pulled Loki into his side as they walked. Loki leaned against him and let the city flow through him.

 

The third day was dedicated to drink. Ber was plentiful but now there were other drinks being served. Strange concoctions with wildly different flavours. They all had one thing in common though, and Loki got wildly drunk trying them all.

Laufey had disappeared for a few hours and left him to roam the city with only his guard escort. Loki let himself wander down alleyways and into bars with a kind of lost wonder. His presence attracted a lot of attention from the Jotun citizens, they would crane their necks to catch even a glimpse of their stolen Queen.

Loki found he didn’t mind it so much anymore, although the drink had a great deal to do with that. In one establishment they were taking it in turns to sing and Loki found himself joining in with the choruses to the enjoyment of many. By the time Laufey found him he’d learned half the folk songs of Jotunheim.

The only part of the Celebrations Loki did not enjoy was the effect it had on Laufey’s libido. Once a day wasn’t enough to slake his desire when it was being fuelled by alcohol and the energy of the crowd. Loki found himself on his back twice, sometimes three times in a day. Each time he hoped desperately that there would be no child.

‘I’m not ready. I can’t have a baby. I know you need one but I’m not ready. I’m not. Please don’t put one in me, not yet, I’m not there yet.’

The fourth day was all about food. There were so many different types, including brand new treats the chefs of Jotunheim had invented for the Celebrations. Sweets were had for the first time that Loki had seen. The precious sugary foods were served in tiny portions and were widely praised.

Loki had a brief memory of the food of Asgard. Sweets had been a part of daily life, always served at the end of every feast. He had not realised before but here on Jotunheim sugar was incredibly scarce.

His mind flickered to the honey cakes his mother had brought him, and to the guards who had eaten them, maybe even off the floor. Was it really worth their lives for a bit of sugar? They had obviously believed it was worth the risk.

 

The fifth day was dedicated to sex.

Well, the fifth *night* was certainly. The day had been filled with general celebration and knowing looks from the adults over the heads of the youths. Once the sun went down Loki found he was seeing a different side to Jotunheim.

‘I wonder if anyone on Asgard ever knew about this?’ He thought as he watched display of several extremely fit Jotuns posing in a variety of very interesting positions.

They stopped short of an actual practical demonstration but it seemed like a close run thing. There were pictures painted on the street of different embraces and storytellers who described highly detailed scenes of lust and technique.

Loki actually found himself blushing a couple of times, and he’d grown up listening to Fandral.

Laufey seemed to sense his feelings but his reaction was to laugh and give Loki a good natured squeeze.

“It’s a normal part of life you know.” He said. “Perhaps we should wait until next year before I show you what they do in the tents on the eastern row.”

Loki shot him a look of alarm.

“No.”

“Oh yes.”

“Oh no.”

“Is Asgard so very different? I suppose with all those clothes they wear they must be.”

“It has…places, but nothing quite so open as this.” Loki said.

He turned his head quickly from the sight in front of him only to peek back curiously. Laufey laughed again, he was quite a silly type of drunk, his serious outer shell disappearing entirely.

“Just watch, they’re only demonstrating proper scratching. You know couples pick up tips from this night, ways to please one another. It is quite educational.”

“Well I’m learning a lot.” Loki said, his eyes wide.

Laufey grinned.

“See? Educational.”

 

The sixth day was all about colour. There was so little of it on Jotunheim that the city made the most of what it had. They did this by having a colour fight.

Each section of the city was given a vast supply of powder in a different colour. The object of the game was to spread it as far as you possibly could. The other sections of the city tried to stop you.

The game started just after the midday meal and was still going well into the night. Loki was a multi-coloured mess by the time it was over. He’d run through the streets trying to spread his green powder all the way from the northern gate, which led to the castle road, to the southern gate at the far end. The city looked like a swirling disaster area by the time they were done.

The winners were declared the following morning, when it was possible to see what had happened. This year the prize went to the pink team of the south-east corner, who had taken to the rooftops and spread their powder by throwing it high into the air for the wind to catch. Pink rained down on everyone’s heads as they ran through the streets, screaming with laughter.

The powder brushed off easily, but Loki’s feet were covered within minutes the next day as he made his way nervously through the city and up to the castle.

Chapter Text

Laufey had left nothing to chance. The throne room had been decorated from top to bottom, the best and softest foods were laid out and there was enough Ber to get the crowd wonderfully drunk.

The crowd itself had been handpicked. They were steady, calm and most of all, totally loyal to Laufey. Loyal enough to be civil to the Asgard even when their heads were spinning with alcohol. There were also more than enough of them to give the appearance of a grand celebration, even though this entire event was an act designed to reflect the real thing.

There were several of Lauefy’s siblings and their partners, Thrym and Goupr and the best of Thrym’s guards. Helblindi had been asked to attend as well. He was shaking slightly with nerves at the thought of meeting his first Asgard.

Loki jumped as the light of the Bifrost lit up in the distance. He almost ran to the castle gate to meet them, the old artist following on crooked legs.

Frigga saw him first, she was used to his blue skin by now and her face split into a wide grin at the sight of his shimmering decorations. Her arms were filled with Cristolape blossoms.

“Loki.”

She shoved the blossoms into Sif’s arms and threw her arms around him.

Loki hugged her hard. He’d missed her so much.

“It’s good to see you mother.” He said.

He pulled back and looked over at Thor, who was staring at him, thunderstruck. Loki realised that Thor had never actually seen his blue skin, let alone the scaled pattern that adorned him.

“Brother?” Thor said.

Loki grinned at his big, shocked face.

“Yes Thor, I am your brother.” He said.

Thor only hesitated a moment more before throwing his arms around Loki and pulling him into a tight embrace.

“Loki you look so different.” He said as he squeezed.

“Wait until you see your pattern.” Loki managed to get out with the little air remaining in his lungs.

Thor pulled back suddenly.

“What?” He said warily.

“You have to have a scale pattern, it’s traditional.” Loki said, eyes sparkling as the old artist stepped forward with an evil grin.

The Asgard couldn’t remove their thick winter coats, but the artist just stuck the scales in different patterns across their backs. He took more care with their faces and hands. Thor and Fandral’s moustaches had tiny scales stuck along their length and Volstagg’s entire beard shimmered with the old artist’s talent. At Loki’s request, Thor’s neck had a pattern made of a two stroke rune that made the faces of the Jotun who saw it go carefully blank.

Once properly decorated the Asgard party were led into the throne room, where Laufey sat on his throne and tried not to look nervous. It had been thousands of years since Jotunheim had officially hosted a foreign party and this one was happening solely to make his mate happy.

And Loki *was* happy. He was smiling as he walked in with his mother and brother.

Laufey took a deep breath and stood.

“Welcome to Jotunheim, people of Asgard. I hope you will enjoy our Celebration.” He said formally.

To his surprise, it was Thor who stepped forward.

“Your Majesty, I…apologise for my behaviour at my last visit. I thank you for extending you invitation to us and I vow not to cause any trouble tonight.” Thor said.

His face was a slightly deeper shade of pink than normal as he talked.

Laufey nodded.

“I accept your apology Prince of Asgard.” He said graciously.

Laufey made a gesture and the Jotun began to serve Ber and food. Loki pulled his mother and brother to the side and sat down with them.

Laufey sat down again and surveyed the Asgard party.

They were standing together looking around nervously, all but one that is. The heavy one named Volstagg had begun to try the foods. It took a trained eye to see the way he never turned his back on the Jotun guards even as he filled his mouth.

The four warriors looked to be Loki’s friends, although the female was Frigga’s ‘handmaiden’ and could be here as her guard. The final member of the party was a tall thin Asgard who looked like the most relaxed of the bunch.

He was clearly a diplomat. Laufey wanted to roll his eyes. Odin actually sent a diplomat? What did he think would happen? This whole thing was solely for Loki’s benefit. There would be no opening of diplomatic anything. Laufey kept an eye on the man as he began chatting to one of the Jotun crowd.

Laufey caught Thrym’s eye and gave him a significant look. Thrym slipped an arm around his son’s shoulders and led him over to the Asgard party.

“Excuse me but my son, Helblindi, has never met an Asgard and I was wondering if you would mind answering a few of his questions.”

They turned to face the half-sized Jotun standing nervously next to his father.

“Hello Helblindi.” Fandral said awkwardly. “What did you want to know?”

“Do…do you…um…do you…that is…do you really…um…do you really live in a giant floating garden?” Helblindi managed to say.

They considered the question.

“Not a garden, no, we live in a city lined with gold. But we do have a lot of gardens in and around the palace and the city itself is surrounded by forests and mountains.” He answered.

“Is it all gold like the palace?” Helblindi asked, his eyes growing wide.

“No, the forests are green and the flowers are all kind of colours.” Sif said.

Helblindi crept forward a little bit.

“Do they really smell strong?” He asked. “My mother says the Asgard flowers we saw in a book looked like the Midgard flowers that he used to smell. Are they the same?”

“Some of them are. A long time ago we took plants that we liked on Midgard back to Asgard and let them spread. Now they are everywhere.”

“Can I see them?” Helblindi asked.

There was an awkward pause.

“Maybe, one day.” Sif said helplessly.

Thrym shrugged at her.

“Maybe when you’re older.” He said to his son.

Helblindi looked disappointed.

Goupr meanwhile had cornered Volstagg and was showing him pictures of Býleistr. The Jotun crowd had begun to relax a little and were starting to drink and chatter among themselves. Laufey watched it all from his throne. He wanted to go and drink with his men but he also wanted the Asgard to be intimidated. He really didn’t want them reporting back to Odin that the King of the Jotun was a drunkard.

His eyes flickered to where Loki sat. He looked animated and his eyes were bright. Laufey wanted nothing more than to take him in his arms and nuzzle his hair.

He sighed heavily, it was going to be a long night.

Loki was telling Frigga about the Celebrations of the past few days. He skipped the sex day, he didn’t think he could tell it to his mother, but maybe later he could try and make Thor blush.

Thor was sitting stiffly next to Frigga. Every so often his eyes would scan the room carefully. They would narrow slightly whenever he caught sight of Laufey sitting on his throne.

“Thor.” Loki said.

Thor’s attention snapped back to him.

“Do you want to try the Ber?” Loki asked. “It’s bitter, but good.”

Thor looked uncertain. Loki rolled his eyes and rose.

“Come on, it’s not going to hurt. Mother would you like some?”

“Thankyou Loki, I will try the Ber.” Frigga said.

She remained seated but watched her two sons with worried eyes as they made their way to one of the large tables set up around the perimeter of the room. There were steps set at intervals to allow the Asgard to reach the top.

“Loki, I am so sorry to have gotten you into this mess.” Thor said the second they were out of Frigga’s hearing. “But I swear to you we will bring you home.”

His voice lowered considerably.

“We have a plan, when does the Darkening begin?”

Loki calmly poured the two of them a drink and reached for another cup for Frigga.

“I’m not sure exactly, soon after the Celebrations.” He said quietly. “Thor, does this venture have royal backing?”

“No.” Thor admitted. “But they’ve gotten nowhere. Find out for me.”

Loki raised the cup to his lips.

“I’ll write again to mother before it happens.” He said.

They turned to take Frigga her Ber and stopped.

Laufey had left his throne and was sitting beside her. He’d apparently brought her a cup of Ber and they watched as she took a cautious sip. The Jotun King and the Asgard Queen were talking quietly together with matching carefully polite expressions. It was a bizarre sight.

“I don’t know if that’s good or not.” Loki said.

Thor stared at him with narrowed eyes.

“He lays one hand on her you’ll be leaving tonight.” He said darkly.

Frigga said something to Laufey, who leaned in slightly to listen. Her two sons just watched uncertainly from the other side of the room.

Thrym appeared behind them.

“So this is the famous Thor, Prince of Asgard.” He said.

Thor turned to face him.

“I am.” He said.

“Thrym, General of the King’s Army. How do you like the Ber?”

Thor took a swallow.

“It is good.” He said stiffly.

“Only the best for our guests. I’ve had some pretty nasty stuff over the years.” Thrym said. “Once, in this tavern down in the city I was served something that I swear had Grur piss in it. Of course by then I was so drunk that my friends easily goaded me into trying to drink a whole tankard full. Apparently drinking lousy Ber makes you more of a warrior. But I’ve been a warrior for a long time and I believe I have enough experience in the field to say that no, it doesn’t.”

Thor took another swallow. He was frowning slightly, unsure of how to take Thrym’s open manner. Loki helped.

“Once when we were much younger, Thor, our friends and I went down to the seedier part of the city and tried to blend in. We did a hideous job of it. They worked out who we were in seconds, we kept wondering why so many of the men wanted to test Thor’s muscle against their own. He was convinced that his natural skill was shining through, we found out later our boots were too good a quality and gave us away. They all jumped at the chance to challenge the crown prince of Asgard.”

Thrym looked at Thor critically.

“If I get you drunk enough will you try your muscle out against me?” He asked.

Thor took another drink.

“Why wait?” He said with bravado.

Loki rolled his eyes.

“You two had better not ruin this.” He warned.

They shared a look between them.

“We won’t.” Thrym promised. “Now come out to the training yard so I can pummel you.”

Thor followed him with a swagger. Loki watched them go with mild alarm and turned to find Goupr standing behind him.

“Thrym’s not stupid, you’re brother will be fine.” He said.

“Thor is very good.” Loki warned.

“So is Thrym, but Thor will win tonight, either fairly or by design. Thrym’s not going to let his mood sour.”

Loki sighed.

“I wanted them to come so badly, now I feel as though it was a mistake.” He admitted. “I can’t help but think something bad is going to happen.”

“That’s not a stupid thought, they are Asgard and we have been their enemies for a long time. But everyone here has been warned, if there is trouble it won’t be from us.” Goupr said.

They were approached by the Warriors Four, who were looking out of place.

“Loki, how are you?” Fandral asked.

Sif shot him a look, which made him shrug.

“What am I supposed to ask?” He said.

Loki smiled at that. What exactly do you say when your friend has been through as much as he had? He could understand Fandral’s uncertainty.

“I am well, I plan on getting slightly drunk as the night goes on, will you join me?” He asked them.

“I’ve already started.” Volstagg replied, raising his Ber cup.

Goupr smiled good naturedly.

“I’m going to track down my son. He’s at that age where he’ll try the Ber if he thinks he can get away with it.”

“Who’s you son?” Sif asked.

“Helblindi.” Goupr replied. “You were talking to him before.”

He left them to talk.

“That’s Helblindi’s mother?” Sif whispered.

“Yes, he’s really nice.” Loki said. “A good listener.”

They looked at him in concern.

“Loki, are you sure you’re alright?” Sif said softly.

He looked back at their worried expressions.

“I am surviving.” He said softly. “Jotunheim is not the savage wasteland we grew up hearing stories about. It’s different from Asgard, very different, but the people are not wild or monsters. They’re just people.”

They looked at him doubtfully.

“Loki, it’s okay.” Fandral said at last. “We understand. We care about you.”

“Yes.” Sif added. “Whatever you think you feel, we will help you.”

Loki stared at them in confusion.

“Whatever I think? What are you talking about?”

It was Hogun who broke the silence.

“You sound like you have accepted them. We do not judge you Loki, you must do what you must to survive, and we will do our utmost to free you.”

Loki looked at them in helpless confusion.

“I haven’t accepted them.” He whispered. “I want to come home! I don’t want to stay here. It’s just…without me they can’t have an heir, without an heir Jotunheim will be torn apart when Laufey dies. They don’t deserve that. I don’t know what to do.”

The look of pity they gave him was insulting.

“It’s okay Loki. We’ll take care of it.” Sif assured him softly.

Loki found he was alarmed by the idea. But Thor had been alluding to the same thing, hadn’t he? And Loki had jumped on it. He felt so confused he didn’t know what to do, or even what he wanted anymore.

“I’m going to go and talk to mother.” He said and left them.

Laufey saw him approach and shifted to make a space between him and the Queen. Frigga had a tight smile on her face which softened as she saw Loki. He sat down between them and took a nervous swallow of his Ber.

“Are you enjoying yourself, Loki”? Laufey asked.

“Yes.” Loki lied. “It’s wonderful.”

Frigga reached out and squeezed his hand through her winter glove.

“His Majesty was just telling me about the Darkening.” She said. “I understand we will be unable to contact each other.”

“No.” Loki said. “Not for a hundred days.”

She swallowed hard and forced a weak smile onto her face.

“I will send you some more food, and your other winter clothes.” She said, her voice cracking.

Loki forced himself to breath slowly, to keep from breaking down himself.

“Thankyou mother.” He said.

She squeezed his hand hard enough to hurt. He returned it, holding on to her like it was a lifeline.

The sound of the music was a welcome distraction. The group had been setting up under the watchful eyes of the guards. The presence of the Asgard had made them nervous at first but now they were determined to prove that Jotunheim made the best music those savage aliens had ever heard.

Loki and Frigga listened for a while. Laufey disappeared from their side to give them time together.

“It’s beautiful.” Frigga said. “How do they make that deep sound?”

“The vlins are all different sizes. The big ones almost seem the make the ground rumble.” Loki answered.

They kept their conversation light. The Darkening was sitting between them like foul stench that both were too polite to mention. Loki drank more than he normally would, inviting them had been a stupid idea. The place was a giant room of awkwardness.

Thor and Thrym returned. They both looked messy and there was a growing bruise under Thrym’s eye. Thor was beaming.

“I congratulate you, your Majesty, for raising a fine warrior and a worthy foe.” Thrym said to Frigga, whose eyebrows had risen at the sight of her son.

“You are a worthy opponent, Thrym of Jotunheim.” Thor said cheerfully. “I was certain at one point that you had me.”

“Perhaps next time I will succeed.” Thrym said with a smile.

Loki narrowed his eyes at Thrym, who grinned at him.

“Has your mother tried any of the feast?” He asked.

Loki stood abruptly.

“No, Mother I’m sorry, I should have offered you some.”

“No Loki, it’s alright, I was enjoying your company. Let’s go together.” Frigga said, rising from her seat.

It took a number of hours before the Ber had worked sufficiently for everyone to let their guard down. Loki doubted it would happen at all, but an appetite like Volstagg’s will always draw interest and Sif’s female appearance was enough to cause a certain amount of curious conversation. It was much later, when a number of Jotun had drunk enough to stagger that one of them made his way over to Fandral and smiled widely.

“You know.” He slurred. “I don’t see colour, cutie.”

Fandral looked astonished. Laufey sniggered on his throne. Thrym laughed out loud without a thought for anyone else.

“That’s our little sibling Gwirm, he’s a flirt and a half.” He said to Frigga, who despite herself was looking amused at Fandral’s politely horrified expression.

“I…I’ll burn if you touch me.” He said nervously.

“I know a sorcerer.” Gwirm said in what his drunken mind probably thought was a seductive manner.

“Perhaps another time.” Fandral said.

Thor was openly laughing at this point, so were half the Jotuns.

“I’ll look for you.” Gwirm said and staggered off.

Laufey had chosen his younger sibling precisely because he had never judged anyone in his life. Gwirm had devoted his life to love in all its forms, and there were some who believed he’d even try in on with a Grur if he could get it’s consent.

“Perhaps you will have a Jotun wife one day.” Thor joked, swinging his arm around Fandral’s shoulders and pushing a new cup of Ber into his hand.

Fandral still looked a little stunned.

The party lasted until the early hours. Loki had spoken at length to his mother and his brother, although much less to the Warriors Four since their earlier conversation had shaken him so badly.

When it was finally time to go Loki walked them back to the Bifrost site.

“I’ll write to you before the Darkening Mother I promise.” He said, giving her a hug.

“I will send you all that I can.” She said in return.

Thor held him so tightly he thought he’d break a rib.

“Stay strong brother.” Thor said quietly in his ear.

Loki hugged him back as hard as he could.

“I will see you again.” He promised.

A moment later the Asgard were gone in a flash of light.

Laufey was waiting for him when he arrived back.

“That went surprisingly well. The start of the night was a little rough but everyone relaxed eventually.”

“Yes.” Loki said, trying to sound happy.

Laufey pulled him into a hug.

“You’ll see them again after the Darkening.” He said.

Loki nodded, his thoughts were miles away.

They made their way back down to Utgard, which was still in full swing. Thrym and Goupr had gone on ahead and greeted them as they came in through the inn door.

“That Thor is quite the fighter.” Thrym said, rubbing his bruise.

Goupr rolled his eyes.

“Your sibling is unbelievable.” He said.

Laufey sat down and pulled Loki into his lap.

“Our little sibling was serious. He would have quite happily tracked down a sorcerer, had himself or the Asgard spelled so that they might touch and made merry for the rest of the night. Your friend handled it quite well.” He said to Loki.

Goupr stood and stretched.

“It’s the Day of Magic tomorrow. I’m going to get some rest so I can take Býleistr to see the illusions in the morning.”

Thrym rose and followed him. Laufey pulled Loki close and gave in to the impulse to nuzzle. He’d kept away from his mate the whole time the Asgard had been present and now he wanted to make up for lost time.

Loki sat uncomfortably in Laufey’s arms. He knew where this was headed and he didn’t want to. Not tonight, not any night, but tonight more than most. He shifted, trying to wriggle out from Laufey’s arms.

“I’m tired.” He said, not expecting it to work.

Laufey pulled him even closer.

“Really? Or do you have something on your mind?” He asked.

“Both.” Loki admitted.

Laufey stood, scooping Loki up and carrying him up the stairs to their bedroom.

“Tell me?” He asked, laying Loki down on the bed.

“I miss them.” Loki said.

He couldn’t even begin to explain how torn he felt. How much he desperately wanted to leave but feared for the Jotun future if he did. He wanted so badly to see Asgard again. In the moment the light had taken them he’d hated them all for leaving him, and longed for them to stay for just a little while more.

Laufey settled down next to him and pulled him into an embrace.

“The Darkening begins eleven days after the Celebrations this year, if you want to see your mother again she may come once more.” He said.

Loki looked up at him.

“Thankyou.” He said.

It wasn’t until he woke the next day that he realised Laufey had not taken him.

 

The ninth day was dedicated to the army. Warriors demonstrated the different fighting styles and weapons that they wielded. There were mock battles and Thrym roamed the streets looking for the young warrior who would be decorated with a helm for the finest demonstration of skill.

Loki joined the line for knife throwing and stunned the crowd with his skill at hitting smaller and smaller targets, finally nailing a piece of cloth as it flapped about in the wind. Laufey proved that he was quite skilled at spear throwing and sword fighting, toppling several of the better fighters in his army.

Thrym’s best warriors stood in the main square and allowed the youths of the city to come up and challenge them. Every one of them was dumped on their bottoms but the warriors would always praise their efforts, with the proud parents standing by to watch.

The final day was simply a celebration. All the arts and entertainments crowded the streets. The last of the food was eaten with gusto and the Ber was rapidly depleted. Awards were handed out in the main square for the best artist, best illusionist, best dancer, best acrobat and best warrior.

Finally it was time to end the Celebrations. Laufey climbed to the stage and held his hands up for silence. He spoke no words but brought his hands slowly downward. The Jotun musicians Loki had favoured began to play a lively song. The crowd began to dance, their twirling movements were all identical. Loki watched as Thrym, Goupr and Laufey joined in. After a minute he began to follow the steps himself.

The tune gradually slowed until the crowd almost seemed to be moving in slow motion. Then, with a final drawn out note the song ended and with it, the Celebrations.

The crowd slowly began to make their way back to their homes and lodgings. Loki walked with Laufey back to the castle.

“That was beautiful.” He said.

Laufey smiled.

“The last dance is designed to calm everyone down after the hyperactivity of the Celebrations. But the Jotun who wrote it was a genius of music, and yes it is beautiful.”

“And now comes the Darkening?” Loki asked. “Eleven days is cutting it quite close.”

“Not really, we’ve had as little as three days before. The meat is stored, the country people are already settled in the tunnels. The city people will pack their things and begin moving tomorrow.” Laufey said as they climbed the stairs. “We will be almost the last to move to the tunnels. The servants will begin packing our things soon as well.”

The next day Loki wrote a letter to Frigga. He invited her to visit on the second last day before he was supposed to enter the tunnels. He described the oddly gentle way the celebrations had ended and how the packing had disrupted the whole castle. He took it to the Bifrost site with his heart thundering in his chest, thinking about Thor and his plan. He wanted it to succeed but he feared for Jotunheim and for everyone in it if it did. His head hurt with all the different thoughts and worries that crowded it.

When he got back to the castle Laufey was waiting for him in the royal chambers. He was smiling at the large pile of new furs that had been laid out on the bed.

“I love this time of year, the new furs are wonderfully soft.”

“Are they from the Draphts?” Loki asked.

“Yes. We get all new furs and any others go to the royal family. We then give our old furs to the rest of the royal court, who give their furs to their extended families and so on. Everyone hands down their furs until the poorest get given something to huddle in during the Darkening.”

“What if they miss out?” Loki asked.

“They go the central store, where the population gets their food. We always keep some furs back just in case. Everyone needs at least one if they are to survive.”

“How cold does it get?” Loki asked.

He’d thought it was just like a ‘winter’ but the way Laufey was talking it seemed that the temperature was going to plummet further than he’d thought.

“Cold enough to kill an entire Asgard army in seconds.” Laufey said.

Loki carefully kept his face blank. Odin’s build up of the army was a point of tension between them. By the time the Darkening was over they would be ready. Loki didn’t know what Laufey had planned but judging by what he’s seen of the Jotun army he hoped that war could be avoided, for the sake of both the realms.

Laufey lifted one of the furs and looped it over Loki’s shoulders.

“How does it feel?” He asked, changing the subject.

“Soft.” Loki answered as it tickled his back.

Laufey pulled on the fur, making Loki step closer to him.

“Shall we break them in?” He asked, his voice low.

 

Frigga’s final visit was a quiet affair. She and Loki sat in one of the newly built reception rooms and sipped Palif. She had brought him enough Asgard food to last a month, even if he ate nothing else. The servants had taken it along with his other winter clothes. He thought he spotted a new set in there as well, which knowing his mother was likely.

Frigga told him about the goings on in Asgard and how everyone still missed him. Loki deliberately did not try to calculate how long he’d been gone or the likelihood that laughter had returned to Asgard’s halls among the lower classes.

“Tell Father I miss him.” Loki said as he wished her goodbye.

“I will, I love you my son.” Frigga said, hugging him tightly and kissing his cheek.

Loki had finally been able to keep his promise and take Asgard form for her visit. His green eyes were sad as he walked her back to the Bifrost site.

He had no sooner returned to the castle when Laufey handed him his draught. He swallowed it with a sigh and watched his skin change back to blue. Laufey handed the bottle to a servant who disappeared with it.

“Come on.” He said.

Loki followed him through the corridors.

“Where are we going?” He asked as they walked down through the castle.

Laufey shrugged.

“The tunnels.”

Loki felt his heart jump.

“Isn’t that the day after tomorrow?” He asked.

“Until we *must* seal the doorway yes but there is no point in delaying now that you have seen your mother.” Laufey said.

Loki followed him reluctantly down the stairways to the entrance to the tunnels.

“Do we have to go now? We’re going to spend so long there anyway.” He said, stopping.

Laufey just pushed his back gently until he stumbled forwards through the doorway.

“No point. All our things are already down here. A few days won’t make much of a difference.” He said.

Thrym was standing behind the door.

“All Jotun recorded on the census are accounted for.” He said.

“Seal the door.” Laufey said.

Loki watched in horror as Thrym pushed the first of nine heavy doors closed. He wanted to scream at them that he couldn’t go yet, but he had no good reason why not. Thor was going to arrive to find an empty castle and a locked door. And Loki was going to be here for the Darkening, a hundred days without his family.

He was silent as Laufey led him down further into the depths of the tunnels, past the poorer Jotun sequestered near the surface, to the deeper, warmer centre where the court would live.

Laufey didn’t comment on his mate’s reaction. He knew full well why Loki was upset. Half the Jotun at the party had been his best spies, a precaution against Thor’s known rashness and general personality, and Thrym himself had suggested telling Loki the wrong date. They’d cut it close as it was. Måne had just begun to clip the sun that day. Usually the doorways would have been sealed a few days before that happened, but Laufey had promised Loki he could see his mother and he was determined to at least give his mate that.

Laufey led Loki to their new home in silence. It was much smaller than the castle, but then it needed to be to preserve the warmth. They settled next the Goupr, Raolr, Vindsval and their families. Laufey pulled Loki into his lap and stroked his hair gently.

“Those clothes your mother brought you look very warm. You may find you need them what with your body being so much smaller than ours. Our mother used to hate the cold of the Darkening. He practically sat on the heat crystals.”

Loki said nothing. Goupr spotted his mood and hugged Býleistr a little closer. When Thrym showed up Goupr shot him a hard look. Thrym frowned but said nothing as he settled beside his mate.

“Now what?” Loki asked. “Now that we’re stuck here what do we do?”

“Sleep, eat and wait.” Laufey said, ignoring Loki’s reference to being ‘stuck here’. “Måne’s path will cause wild winds to blow very soon. They will not abate until it has cleared the sun. We have to wait it out.”

Loki said nothing more as the others began to discuss the supplies and some of the previous, leaner Darkenings.

 

 

When Thor and the Warriors Four arrived the next day they crept into a deserted castle. When Thor saw the royal chambers emptied of everything not made of ice he threw his hammer down hard enough to crack the floor.

“We have been tricked.” He said. “Laufey has lied to my brother and told him the wrong day. He is a lying, sneaky Jotun bastard.”

The Warrior’s Four looked nervously at each other.

“Thor.” Sif said at last. “Perhaps Loki is, ah, a little confused.”

“What do you mean?” Thor asked, his eyes flashing.

“He’s been here so long now, maybe Laufey has, um, talked him into believing he wants to stay? At the feast he was clearly worried about the fate of Jotunheim, and he seemed convinced that they weren’t monsters.”

“That Goupr did not seem much of a monster when he was talking about his children.” Volstagg pointed out.

“No. Loki would not let himself be convinced. He has been tricked, lied to, he wants to come home!” Thor insisted.

The others just looked at him uneasily.

“Perhaps we can find the entry to the tunnels.” Fandral said.

They searched the castle, but the entryway did not seem to be anywhere.

“Thor.” Sif said after several hours. “Thor we cannot find it, and even if we did this is not the secret operation we were planning. We would never get to Loki when he is surrounded by all of Jotunheim.”

Thor looked about him wildly. His face creased with fear and frustration.

“No! No! We have to get him back! He can’t stay here for a hundred days! NO!”

His last shout was punctuated by a blow from Mjolnir to the nearest wall, which shattered. The Warriors Four looked at each other.

“We’ll keep looking.” Fandral said.

But in the end they had to give up. Jotunheim was cold and growing colder as the sun set. There was no sign of the door. Thor’s feet dragged as he made his way back to the Bifrost site.

“I’m sorry Loki.” He whispered. “I’ve failed you.”

 

 

Loki spent the night tucked under Laufey’s arm. He had done some hard thinking as the hours drifted by. He could do this. He could survive this. He could last a hundred days. He had no choice but to survive, and when the Darkening was over he would emerge with the Jotuns into the light and *find a way home*. He would not spend his life pressed into Laufey’s side. Jotunheim could burn for all he cared.

He looked up the King’s sleeping face.

‘I will never love you.’ He thought fiercely.

 

 

The following day Loki sat with a book in his lap. Now that the Hunt and Celebrations were over Thrym had cheerfully encouraged him to begin reading again. His mind was restless though, and it had taken him all morning to finish a single story.

Laufey and Thrym had disappeared for the morning. Goupr was reading quietly to Býleistr a little way away but he looked up now and again to check on Loki. Helblindi had gone off with his friends while the temperature was still warm enough to wander around.

Loki was already restless. He couldn’t imagine a hundred days down here. He was barely managing the first one. He sighed and put the book aside.

“I’m going for a walk.” He said to Goupr, who had looked up.

He made his way through the tunnels. There were a number of larger ones that were used for travelling. Smaller tunnels branched off from them that led to small alcoves carved into the ice where Jotun families sat huddled together in groups. Each of the royal families had their own small room in which they stored all of their belongings. The less affluent would share a room with another, or sometimes three other families. The poorest of all would make do with keeping their things beside them as they huddled in the alcoves, pressing tightly against one another as the temperature dropped.

Loki wandered for a while. He had no chosen destination, he just wanted to keep moving.

The guards shadowing him were getting annoying. Loki waited until he came to a bend in the corridor, then darted quickly around it and made himself invisible. When the guards came around the corner he had vanished.

He spent another hour just walking. Finally he decided that he should probably return, only to realise that he had no idea where he was. He stood still and looked around him.

“Lost your Majesty?” Said a familiar and unpleasant voice.

Loki looked around him and caught sight of Greer. He was sitting with a second Jotun and an angry looking youth a little older than Helblindi.

“Greer.” He said calmly.

“Your chambers are back toward the centre.” Greer pointed. “That way.”

“Thankyou Greer.” Loki said and left.

He was aware as he walked that there were more Jotun watching him. They had the build of guardsmen, but this place was too far out for them.

Then his thoughts turned to the guards that had been involved in the attack on the Asgard. They had to stay somewhere and Loki appeared to have stumbled right into their section. He quickened his pace as he made his way down the corridor.

“You know, we don’t have to be enemies.” Greer said from behind him.

Loki turned to find that Greer had followed him. He was smirking in a worrying kind of way.

“I know you don’t want to be here, and I don’t want you here.”

Loki raised an eyebrow.

“You aren’t concerned about Jotunheim falling into chaos?” He asked.

“Most of the fighting will take place in Utgard and the castle. All the siblings will travel there to stake their claim. My lands are far from there, I will protect my own, and when the others have finished killing themselves I will travel with my men and take the throne. I *am* born of an ice maiden. There’s no reason why I can’t be king except for a stupid outdated tradition. They may feel trapped by it, but I don’t. We can help each other Loki, *Prince* Loki. What do you think?”

Loki looked at him suspiciously. His mind moving rapidly through possible scenarios.

“I’ll think about it.” He said at last.

He backed away from Greer and made his way back to the centre.

Loki thought carefully as he walked. Did he trust Greer? No. He had been far to free with his information. No one was that transparent unless they were hiding something. It was far more likely that he would either imprison Loki and breed him, or kill him to end the Jotun tradition utterly.

 

The look of relief on Laufey's face caused a twinge of guilt when Loki saw it. He suppressed it. So what if Laufey was concerned. He sat down with annoyed snort.

Laufey was still looking at him.

"I know." Loki snapped. "No wandering off without my guards."

Laufey sat down beside him and took a deep breath.

"They are on half rations for losing you." He said.

Loki looked up at him in surprise. Laufey returned his look calmly.

"They failed in their duty." He said.

His expression was hard. Loki narrowed his eyes at him.

"You're doing this on purpose." He said.

"Yes. You know why you shouldn't go unaccompanied, the whole of Jotunheim is down here, including those that would wish you harm. I asked you to respect my wish that you should have protection. *I* have protection for the same reason, do you think I cannot handle myself? They were supposed to accompany you and they have failed. They are on half rations from now on."

"For the whole Darkening?" Loki asked, outraged.

"Yes."

"No."

"*Yes*."

"NO! This is not their fault. *I* ran away, *I* lost them on purpose. You can't possibly expect them to follow me through a vanishing spell, that's ridiculous!" Loki snapped.

"I have made my decision." Laufey said angrily.

"It's a stupid decision!" Loki shouted.

Laufey rolled his eyes.

"What would you have me do? If there is no punishment then every time you run off they will treat it as a time to relax! They are guards, they had a duty and they failed."

"There was no way for them to succeed!"

"Nevertheless, they must be punished."

"No!"

"Then what?!" Laufey snapped.

"I won't run away again!" Loki yelled, out of breath.

Laufey stared at him with narrowed eyes.

"Swear it." He said at last.

There was silence for a long moment.

"If you restore their rations, I swear I won't go wandering without my guards." Loki said quietly.

Laufey nodded curtly.

"I will order their full rations restored." He said.

Loki crossed his arms and drew his legs up. There was a sound from beside them that made them both look up.

Býleistr was clinging to Thrym, watching the two of them with wide, fearful eyes.

"Uncle King and Uncle Queen are fighting." He said softly.

Loki suddenly felt really guilty.

"I'm sorry Býleistr, we're not angry anymore." Laufey said to his nephew.

Býleistr snuggled closer to Thrym. He still looked miserable.

Loki winced at the sight, he hadn't meant to get into a shouting match at all, let alone in front of Býleistr. He was such a loving little thing, he didn't deserve to see things like that.

"I'm sorry Býleistr." Loki said. "We're done now."

They sat in awkward silence as Thrym tried to cheer up his child with songs. Loki recognised some of them from the Celebrations and joined in, which caused Goupr, Vindsval and finally Laufey to start singing as well. They had worked their way through a dozen old favourites before Býleistr started to join them with a happy smile.

Loki turned to Laufey.

"I accidently wound up in the dangerous part."

Laufey immediately looked concerned.

"What happened?" He asked as the latest song washed over them.

"Greer offered me an alliance, you die and I go back to Asgard."

"And you have chosen to tell me about this instead?"

"Don't flatter yourself, his plan was stupid. I don't do stupid." Loki said.

Laufey tried not to smile.

"Fair enough, I will instruct my guards to keep a closer eye on him. He doesn't like you."

"He doesn't like you either." Loki replied.

"That just means we have something in common." Laufey said and joined in with the chorus.

 

A few hours later the servants came to tell them that the royal chambers were ready.

"We have chambers?" Loki asked.

"Our things are stored there, and there is a private room as well, but we sleep in the alcove with the others because it's warmer." Laufey said as they followed the servant around the corner.

Their possessions were not far from their sleeping place.

"Why do we need a private-?" Loki began and stopped. "Oh."

Laufey didn't say anything. Only the royal couple had the luxury of total privacy during the Darkening. It wouldn't be long before a combination of boredom, cold and the howling winds caused a number of couples to curl up in one corner of their alcoves and quietly work on their relationships.

Loki had to duck to get into the room, Laufey had to crawl.

The first thing Loki noticed was the fur beneath his feet. The floor was lined with them providing a thick surface to lie on. But the coverings did not end there. Furs had been stuck to the walls and ceiling as well, creating a cosy cocoon of furry warmth. Heat crystals had been placed in the room to take away the chill and they also made it glow with a soft, yellow light.

Loki saw the doorway in the other end that led to the storage area. He moved through before Laufey got any ideas.

His food was there, stacked up neatly in a corner. His books from Asgard and a few written in Jotun runes were set neatly into shelves cut into the ice. His jewellery, writing implements, winter clothing and draught were lined up neatly as well.

Loki turned and stepped back out into the other room.

Laufey was kneeling on the floor, the ceiling was too low to let him stand. He was watching Loki carefully.

"It's very nice in here." He said.

Loki nodded curtly.

"Yes. It looks very comfortable." He said.

Thankfully Laufey did not suggest trying it out, although Loki knew it was only a matter of time.

"Do you think you will need more heat crystals?" Laufey asked. "We can bring in a few more."

"I don't know, how cold is it going to get?" Loki asked.

"At the winter's height we will barely move from our huddles. Even the biggest adult will leave the group only reluctantly. If you are anything like the ice maidens of the past you will shiver badly if you are not in the centre."

"I guess we'll find out." Loki said, making his way to the door. "I can always add more power to these ones if I need it."

"True, you are fortunate to be so powerful, if mother had had your talents he would have melted half the tunnels at the Darkening's height." Laufey said, following him.

They returned to the others. Býleistr was much happier now and gave them both a big grin.

"I'm going to be a big brother." He said in a loud voice.

They both froze. As one entity they turned and looked at Thrym and Goupr, who looked up nervously.

"Oh?" Laufey said, trying not to smile. "Are you now?"

"Yes. Mother's having a baby." Býleistr announced happily.

Laufey looked up at Thrym, who was looking guilty.

"I was going to tell you soon." He said.

Laufey grinned at him.

"Thrym that is fantastic!" He said and pulled his brother into a fierce hug. "And so soon after Býleistr! You two are so fortunate."

Thrym relaxed a little and hugged his brother back.

"He must have overheard us talking, we were going to tell you all once we were properly settled in." He said.

Loki could sense the slight air of tension from the adults. He could guess why. Thrym was pregnant, Loki was not. He quietly sat down and pulled a fur over himself. It *was* starting to get chilly, even with the heat crystals dotted about the place.

Laufey congratulated them both and sat down next to Loki. After a minute he pulled him into his arms.

Loki sat still and tried to ignore the way Laufey's arm slid slowly up and down his leg. He was surprised Laufey didn't cart him right back to their chambers, but apparently he didn't want to be too obvious.

Thrym and Goupr curled up together with Býleistr between them. Helblindi crawled under the furs and pressed against Thrym's side. He looked nervously at Laufey and Loki.

Loki wanted to tell him that it was alright, he didn't think Laufey was the type to hold a stupid grudge. But it must be hard on the king to watch his brother do what he had not. A third child, and so soon after Býleistr too. If it had been Goupr then Loki thought Laufey probably could have handled it better, his last child had been Helblindi and that was over seven hundred years ago. Býleistr was just past three hundred, meaning Thrym was highly fertile for a regular Jotun.

Loki carefully leaned against Laufey's chest. He wanted to reassure him that it was only a matter of time, but the thought went against everything Loki wanted for himself.

Laufey's arms slid around Loki and pulled him into a tight hug. They stayed like that for hours as the winds outside blew harder and began to cause echoes through the tunnels.

 

Laufey had been right about the sleeping. Loki could barely keep his eyes open past lunchtime. But everyone else felt the same way and sleeping in a big huddle for hours on end was the chosen pastime of many.

Loki's days took on a new routine, partly inspired by the weather and partly inspire by Thrym's condition.

Laufey took him twice a day at a minimum, which considering the new, shorter days meant that he was quickly becoming intimately acquainted with the furs in their private room.

He still took him slowly, but his other movements had a new sense of urgency to them, a new kind of desperation. As much as Loki didn't want a child, Laufey wanted one even more.

Loki's day would start when the servants woke them with breakfast. They would eat their smaller rations and then have a quick brush down. Loki would usually be shivering before it was over and Laufey would take him to their chambers to mate. It was warm in their chambers and their movements meant that Loki would warm up quickly.

After mating they would return to the group where Laufey would handle realm business, storage levels, distribution, crime and population.

There were four thousand and seventeen Jotun due to give birth over the Darkening. They were on extra rations and were staying with their families in a purpose built cave with plenty of heat crystals for when the babies came.

Anyone with a newborn was also allowed to stay there. Loki had visited it one afternoon with Laufey. The people were all in together in the vast cave. The ceiling was purposely low to improve the heat crystals' efficiency. Loki helped by giving them a boost of power whenever he came across one.

The new and expectant mothers had thanked him with beaming smiles. Several of them had taken his hand and squeezed it gently. The guards allowed it, but kept a close watch.

Only one mother had mentioned Loki's own potential child.

"Yours will come soon, your Majesty. A baby for Jotunheim." He'd said.

Loki had given him a smile and kept walking.

'No. I can't have that, Laufey wants one and you all need one, but I don't want one.' He thought as he walked through the crowd. ‘I want to go home.’

Laufey was not to be deterred. As soon as they got back he tugged Loki's arm and pulled him into their chambers.

"I'm tired." Loki said.

"Just this and then we'll sleep." Laufey said, tugging at his loincloth.

Loki almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

Chapter Text

Thrym had been put on extra rations. He had tried to insist that he didn't need them yet but Laufey was firm.

"I want a strong nephew, no arguments." He said firmly.

Despite his new urgency with Loki he was calm and caring with his brother. No sign of jealousy marred his behaviour. Loki was the only one who saw how much Thrym's condition affected his brother.

On the twelfth day since they had sealed the tunnels, Loki had had enough.

“Stop touching me.” He said quietly and dangerously into Laufey’s ear as they lay under the furs with the others.

Laufey retracted the hand that had been stroking down Loki’s leg. He looked down at the angry expression on Loki’s face.

“We already spend every waking moment rutting like animals, you can afford to let me go now and again.” Loki hissed.

Laufey looked hurt.

“I’m sorry.” He murmured into Loki’s ear.

Loki turned his back on him.

The days had grown steadily colder. Loki had resorted to wearing his winter clothes at all times to keep warm. Their breath could now be seen in the frigid air and the servants had several slim heat crystals tied to their bodies to take with them everywhere to prevent them from succumbing to the cold.

On the surface the sun wasn’t even fully obscured yet. Loki hoped desperately that Heimdall could see the state of the surface and warn Odin not to send the army, it would be disastrous.

The winds were howling furiously above their heads. Little Býleistr hated the noise and would cuddle into his parents and whimper at the loud bangs that echoed through the tunnels.

Loki spent the days reading and trying not to count how long it had been. He was restless, but couldn’t go anywhere. It was far too cold to waste heat crystals with just wandering around. Instead he slept as often as he could, working on the theory that the Darkening would go faster if he did.

There was one unintended side effect to Loki’s new clothing. One night as he shifted in his sleep, Laufey’s hand slipped away from Loki’s skin.

Loki began to change back to his Asgard form. It started from his fingertips and began to creep up toward his hands. It took a few seconds but then Loki’s eyelids fluttered and opened. He yelped in pain and sat up, holding his hands out in front of him.

Laufey woke and saw the pink skin blistering. He reached forward and grabbed Loki’s wrists as Thrym yelled for the servants to fetch Puluk. The spread of Odin’s spell reversed under Laufey’s touch. Loki bit his lip at the pain as the blisters rose up along his fingers. Goupr grabbed the draught bottle from where it lay near a heat crystal to prevent it from freezing and poured a measure. He held it up to Loki’s lips.

Puluk came at a run, he hadn’t even pulled on his own crystal vest and was already shivering as he knelt by Loki’s side.

“You’ll n-n-need an oint-tment and y-you’ll h-have to h-have your h-hands b-bandaged.” He stuttered. “I’ll f-fetch it.”

“Put on your vest as soon as you get there.” Laufey said as Puluk rose to fetch what he needed from the healer’s cave.

He hadn’t let go of Loki’s wrists.

Puluk nodded.

“Y-yes your M-majesty.” He said and set off at a run.

Loki was still looking at his hands in shock when Puluk returned. He submitted to the bandaging without complaint. The air in the tunnels was cold enough to blister Asgard skin. He couldn’t imagine what the surface must be like.

Laufey ordered the servants to wake Loki every quarter day to drink the draught, no exceptions. He spent the rest of the night holding Loki tightly to his chest. Neither one of them slept as the hours ticked by.

With his hands bandaged, Loki was even more miserable than before. Now he couldn’t feed himself, or turn the pages of a book or, to his horror, use the toilet without assistance. He spent most of each day resisting the urge to break down and cry. He missed his family, he missed Asgard, he missed everything and he hated this miserable place.

Goupr and Thrym tried to engage him in conversation to take his mind off his situation. Laufey sat and read to him from his favourite Asgard books, as well as from new Jotun texts. He discussed the realm business with him and insisted Loki give him an answer to every question he asked. There was nothing Laufey feared more than Loki sliding into another stupor, and without the use of his hands it seemed more and more likely.

Býleistr was also having trouble with the cold, even Helblindi was shivering if too many adults left their group. Loki was curled up one day with the furs over his head trying not to give in to his ever sinking depression when he was confronted by a smallish face.

“Hello Uncle Queen.” Býleistr said, bringing his face close to Loki’s under the furs as though they were about to share a secret.

“Hello Býleistr.” Loki replied.

“Are your hands sore?” Býleistr asked.

“Yes.” Loki said. “They are very sore.”

“Mother says it is because you turned pink and pink things can’t get cold without getting hurt.”

“That’s true.”

“Why did you turn pink?”

“I didn’t mean to, sometimes it just happens.” Loki said.

Býleistr nodded in childish understanding.

“I’m cold a lot too. I hide under the furs. You should put your hands under the furs so next time they won’t get hurt.” He said with a serious face.

“I’ll do that from now on.” Loki promised.

“Are your hands warmer now because they are wrapped up?” Býleistr asked.

“Yes.” Loki said with a small smile. “They are warmer now.”

Býleistr nodded as though he had expected the answer.

“I’m hungry. It’s lunchtime soon. Do you want me to feed you?”

Loki smiled properly then.

“If you think you are big enough to handle such an important job then yes, I would like that.” He said.

Býleistr looked very serious.

“I am big enough. I’ll feed you Uncle Queen.” He said importantly.

After their lunch, Loki asked Goupr and Thrym if Býleistr could come with him for a very important job. Goupr didn’t like it, the cold was worse for both of them, but he reluctantly gave his permission when Thrym pointed out that they were going around the corner and the servants would be carrying heat crystals the whole way.

They went to the royal couple’s store room where Loki instructed Býleistr to take some of the honey cakes Frigga had given him and bring them back to the huddle.

They crunched on the frozen treats as Loki read Býleistr a story from one of his Asgard books. Býleistr turned the pages for him with wide eyes as he listened to the Story of the Crying Tree and the Story of the Giant Snake of Midgard (who was definitely not Loki’s child, another drunken Thor moment).

Laufey left them be. He had not mated with Loki since his injury, but the days were sliding past and he could already feel the old anxiety that he might miss a fertile seed building in his mind.

He carefully pretended to read his own book while working out the problem. Loki didn’t really want to mate at the best of times. Laufey knew that, although it pained him to admit it to himself. But Loki definitely wouldn’t want to mate with his hands hurting. He felt useless right now, and that feeling combined with a reluctance to mate could undo all the progress Laufey had made.

He churned the problem over in his mind as Býleistr did what none of the adults had managed, taken Loki’s mind off his situation.

They were giggling in their huddle, the hero of the latest story was apparently a buffoon.

‘That will be our child one day.’ Laufey thought, distracted. ‘He’ll sit and read to our baby just like that. If we could only have one. Loki will get used to the idea, he already has friends here, and interests. All I need is more time.’

It was frustrating, wanting something so badly and knowing that not only could it take another fifty years or more, but the whole realm was relying on it and his damn brother had just gone and achieved it without effort.

Laufey wished he could hate Thrym, but his brother was also his best friend. It hurt to hear about his new condition but Laufey wouldn’t wish it away for anything. He looked at Loki again, then realised Goupr was watching him from the far side. As Loki started on a new story, Goupr got up and quickly made his way to Laufey’s side, burrowing under the furs when he reached him.

“I think Býleistr has a new best friend.” He said quietly.

Laufey nodded stiffly.

“Breath out my friend, I have known you for a long time now. You know well that one mate a day will have the same effect as three. Loki is tired and feeling very alone. Calm your efforts and he’ll respond better.”

Laufey narrowed his eyes and glared at Goupr.

His look lasted all of a few seconds before he slumped in defeat.

“You two are ridiculously perfect for one another.” He muttered. “I need a child, I want a child, I want Loki’s child. I’m afraid of what will happen if I can’t get him pregnant soon.”

“These things take time. Your people know that.” Goupr said. “You must be patient.”

“I am being hasty again, aren’t I?” Laufey said with a rueful smile.

Goupr just leaned back against the furs.

“You are who you are. I think you and Loki are well suited to one another, if you can ever convince him of it.”

“I will try to be more patient and mate with him less.” Laufey said. “Where had Thrym gone?” He added, changing the subject.

“He is checking on the outer tunnels with Vindsval. There are reports that the guards who were not executed for attacking Loki’s family are muttering about rebellion. Thrym wants to strengthen the guard in case they do more than mutter.”

“Thrym should be careful in his condition.” Laufey said.

“He’ll be fine until the last three months when the baby grows big. He’s done this before.” Goupr said. He turned his head and considered Laufey from the side. “You were the same about him back then so I shouldn’t be surprised.”

Laufey shot his brother in law a smile and turned back to watch Loki.

“I’ll be insufferable with him.” He predicted.

“He’ll set you straight.” Goupr said, making a prediction of his own.

Chapter Text

Laufey waited until the next day before asking Loki if he would come to their chambers. Loki followed him reluctantly. When they arrived he slumped down against one wall and stared at Laufey, waiting for the inevitable.

To his surprise Laufey sat down opposite him and settled against the fur.

“I’m sorry for, uh, rutting like an animal.” He said, wincing slightly at Loki’s choice of phrasing.

Loki gave him a surprised look.

“Thrym’s news, while wonderful, uh, upset me a little, a lot.” Laufey continued.

“I noticed.” Loki said flatly.

Laufey sat in silence.

“You want to do it again, don’t you?” Loki said.

Laufey indicated that kind of, what with needing an heir and all, yes he did.

Loki rolled his eyes.

“I think I’ve made my feelings clear.” He said.

“I know.” Laufey said quietly, and a little sadly.

Loki shifted in place. His hands were still bandaged, the healing Puluk had worked on them had sped up the process, but with so many of the smaller Jotuns beginning to suffer from the cold he couldn’t afford to give any more than the minimum, for anyone.

“I know you need this.” Loki said carefully. “I know Jotunheim needs this. But I don’t want this. I *want* another ice maiden to take my place.”

“There isn’t another one.”

“Ever?”

“Maybe when I am a very old man.”

“You’re already my father’s age.”

“Yes, which is something I assure you I cannot control.”

“So I’m really it.”

“Yes Loki.”

“What were you going to do when you thought I was lost?”

“I was going to try and change the world. I’m not convinced it would have worked.”

“How?”

“To be honest? I was going to attack Asgard, take back the casket and order my men to bring back Odin’s head to Utgard on a spike. Then I was going to declare the one who slayed him my heir. Admittedly, I was going to wait until Helblindi was old enough to be a part of the invasion. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and you need more than brute strength and prowess in battle to rule a kingdom.”

“I know that.” Loki muttered, thinking of his own actions in preventing Thor from taking the throne.

Those same actions had brought him here, although he’d *planned* on their father bringing them back before they actually reached the Jotun castle.

“Thrym and Goupr would have helped him without him realising it. The people, hopefully, would stand behind a hero and a warrior. But there was no guarantee. The second I am gone there will be people who would rise up against him despite what I do. I had hoped only to leave him the most stable realm possible so that he had a real chance of keeping us from total war. Battles and death would be inevitable for some.” Laufey continued.

Loki frowned.

“And now that plan is moot?”

“The people will not accept him knowing you are alive. Your child will be the next ruler of Jotunheim.”

“Not if it’s not yours.” Loki said.

Laufey looked uncomfortable.

“Not exactly.” He admitted.

“What?!” Loki said in astonishment.

“It’s supposed to be mine, tradition and custom demand it. But I am pretty sure there have been a few changes in royal bloodline in the past. We don’t talk about it.” Laufey said.

“I’ll bet, you’re not really royal.” Loki said.

“I rule this realm, the people do not suffer under me, all in all I think I can be royal enough for that.” Laufey said. “Nothing has ever been proven but my great, great, great grandmother suddenly began having children after two thousand years of trying. We’re pretty sure the king was sterile, as his, um, close friend never had a child.”

“Close friend?”

“We’re not supposed to, but arranged marriages don’t always work out.” Laufey said, his voice had a tinge of sadness to it.

“Really?” Loki said sarcastically.

Laufey sighed regretfully.

“I’m pretty sure the true father was a relative of the king, I can’t imagine they would let the queen lie with just anyone.”

Loki hunched down against the fur.

“Which leads us back to the problem at hand. You need an heir, I’m the only ice maiden you’ve got. Therefore I get the wonderful honour of filling up your castle with little Laufeys.”

“I’ve been hoping for a few little Lokis myself.” Laufey said softly.

He shifted onto his knees.

“Will you mate with me?” He asked.

Loki stared at him for a long moment.

“No.” He said.

Laufey’s shoulders sagged. For a moment Loki was sure he would reach over and pin him to the furs, but instead he turned and crawled out into the corridor, leaving Loki sitting there, staring after him in surprise.

 

 

Laufey asked him every day. Quietly, and only once, but he would ask. Loki could feel the pressure behind his question, the uncertainty. He was trying to give Loki a choice, but there was no choice, it was an illusion. Eventually Laufey would stop asking and begin again. Loki waited through the freezing days as his hands healed. Was it better to give in before it got to that point? If he did then would Laufey stop again if asked him too? Could he use submission as a weapon? Something to give him an advantage later on?

The nights grew even colder. Soon even the biggest adults wouldn’t move unless they had to. Little Býleistr was sleeping almost the whole day away. His parents woke him at meal times but even then his eyes would droop and he’d drift off again soon after.

Cauldrons of Palif were brewed near every alcove. They sat on the heat crystals and were topped up constantly. The drink had been a pleasant experience during the warmer days, now it was a lifeline, warming everyone from the inside out.

Loki spent all his time buried under the furs. He was constantly cold, even with his winter clothes wrapped around him. The heat crystals were moved closer to the huddle, some of them were slipped under the furs, which meant they could no longer warm the air, but helped keep the smaller members of the group from freezing.

The healers began to see a slow trickle of Jotun coming to them. Most were adults carrying children who had grown too cold and were in danger of falling into a permanent sleep. The death-sleep, they called it. A real danger during the Darkening.

“How often does it happen?” Loki asked one morning.

“There are usually a few every Darkening, usually children. We care for them as their bodies waste away without food. They never wake up. It is a tragedy.” Laufey whispered in his ear.

“Is there any way to keep the tunnels warmer?” Loki asked.

“The heat crystals are our only option. Before them we used to lose thousands, but that was a long time ago.” He replied.

“Perhaps I can help to boost their power like the other sorcerers?” Loki suggested.

He knew Laufey didn’t like the idea of him wandering the tunnels when it was so cold but he wanted to do something.

“Maybe the servants could bring them here to me?” He suggested as a kind of compromise.

“Perhaps, when it gets really cold.” Laufey replied.

“It’s not really cold?” Loki asked, alarmed.

“Not yet.” Laufey replied and rubbed his back gently.

Loki waited for the question he knew was coming. Laufey did not disappoint him.

“Will you mate with me today?” He asked quietly.

Loki sighed, his hands were almost better and he felt more confident than he had previously. Power in submission. He’d never know if he didn’t test it.

“Alright.” He said.

The moment the words were out of his mouth he wanted to snatch them back. He didn’t *want* to do this. But with every passing day he’d been slowly getting closer to the point where Laufey would stop asking.

They made their way quickly to the chambers and crawled inside. Loki looked at the heat crystals in the room.

“These are wasted in here.” He said. “We should put them out in the tunnel.”

“The room would be very cold without them.” Laufey said.

Loki waved his hand in the air and caused a ball of heat to appear. He pushed it out towards the edges of the room.

Laufey ducked rapidly back out of their chambers into the freezing tunnel.

“What are you doing?” Loki asked, astonished.

Laufey grinned at him through the entryway.

“Unless you like being hit by that protection spell?” He asked.

Loki dropped his hand.

“I forgot.” He said.

The spell had done the job though. The air was much warmer in their chambers.

“Can you do that on a larger scale?” Laufey asked, crawling back inside.

“Not much larger than that, I can help to heat the healer rooms and the mother’s cave.” Loki said.

“Perhaps you will have to. Can you teach our sorcerers to cast it?” Laufey said, settling on the furs.

“Will they teach me how to shape ice?” Loki asked.

“I can do that.” Laufey said. “Come and sit in my lap.”

Loki crawled over and let Laufey hold him. He tried not to show how he had to brace himself for the contact. In a way stopping was worse than not stopping. Now he had to face it again and he was feeling nervous.

Laufey held out a hand and let ice grow from his palm.

“My teacher told me to imagine pulling the ice beneath my feet through me to my hand and letting the feel of it flow out of me in a shape of my choosing.” He said.

“You’re on furs and I’m on you.” Loki pointed out.

“That’s just how it feels. It really comes from your own body. The bigger you are the more ice you can shape. Of course you *can* use the ice you are standing on, but it’s harder because first you have to pull it in then push it out in a new shape.” Laufey said.

Loki held his bandaged hand out and tried to imagine pulling ice through himself. It didn’t work. Laufey gently laid his hand under Loki’s wrist and concentrated. The ice flowed through him, through Loki and grew up out of his hand.

“Can you feel that? Remember that feeling and try to recreate it.” Laufey said.

“Why didn’t it throw you across the room?” Loki asked.

“Ice shaping is not magic, it’s a part of who we are. We all have it, the binding spell doesn’t see it.”

Loki nodded in understanding and filed that information away with his ever growing store of Things That Might Be Useful To Know.

He concentrated on recreating the feeling and smiled as a tiny lump if ice grew in his hand.

Laufey squeezed him a little tighter in response.

“You’ll be shaping it in no time.” He said.

Loki let the lump drop to the floor. He knew what was coming.

Almost on cue, Laufey nipped at his neck. Loki took a deep breath to prepare himself, he could survive this. It was bearable. And maybe later he would see if he could make Laufey stop again.

Chapter Text

Thirty two days after they had sealed the tunnels, and Måne had finally obscured the sun. It would take approximately forty days or so before Jotunheim would see any daylight again.

The winds were incredible. The air shafts blasted the outside air through the tunnels with every gust. The heat crystals that lined the way barely made a dent in the freezing temperature of the fresh air and the ones that sat around the huddles could barely be felt unless they were underneath the furs.

Loki’s hands had finally healed. Laufey insisted he wrap them in small furs as a precaution. Loki admitted that there were gloves in the storeroom, he’d forgotten to wear them because his Jotun form had felt merely cold, not freezing. Laufey was not impressed, and they had a Discussion that ended with Loki promising to wear his gloves and Laufey promising not to treat him like a child who cannot learn a lesson without help.

On the thirty fourth day, Býleistr would not wake up.

Thrym shook him frantically as Goupr shouted his name. He stirred slightly but did not open his eyes. His fingers, toes and lips had gone white. He’d spent the night pressed against them as always, but some of the furs had fallen away while they slept and bunched at their feet. Býleistr’s little body had half frozen as the hours ticked slowly by.

Loki watched as the adults grew more and more panicked. Puluk was sent for and the servant left at a run. Helblindi was watching the scene with wild, terrified eyes. Vindsval had grabbed a large cup of Palif and Thrym tried desperately to tip a little of the warming drink into his child’s mouth.

“Please baby please.” He whispered desperately.

Býleistr did not respond.

Goupr rubbed hard at his arms under the furs, Roulr took his legs.

Býleistr didn’t so much as twitch.

Thrym had tears trickling down his face as he pressed the hot drink against Býleistr’s mouth.

“Nononononono.” He whispered like a chant. The desperate prayer of a terrified mother.

Loki pushed past Laufey, who was packing the heat crystals around his nephew’s body with shaking hands.

“Back up.” He barked at him.

Laufey ducked back as Loki pulled the furs away. He stood up and put all his energy into one of the first spells he ever learned.

Granted, he was a lot better now than was back then.

Loki’s hands burst into flame. He forced the air around them to burn, heat rolled off him in waves. He grabbed it with his magic and forced it down around Býleistr’s body in a tight circle. The air currents heated rapidly from beyond frozen to a mild Asgard winter day in a few seconds as Loki’s hands glowed with bright light, making the tunnel blaze from end to end.

For a few minutes nothing happened, then Býleistr stirred weakly and open his eyes slowly.

“Is the Darkening over?” He mumbled as he felt the warmth around him.

Thrym burst into tears, his body shaking with relieved sobs. Goupr grabbed Loki and hugged him so hard a few of his ribs almost cracked. Helblindi crawled forwards and held the Palif to his brother’s lips.

“D-d-drink it a-all, g-g-go on.” He said through chattering teeth.

Thrym immediately pulled his oldest child down next to the youngest and buried them both underneath the furs.

“You two stay warm.” He ordered, his voice was shaking from a combination of cold and relief.

“You too.” Goupr said warningly. “Get under there with them.”

Laufey wrapped Loki up as well and brought his a cup of Palif. Despite his impressive fire display he was shivering violently from just a few minutes outside of the furs. Laufey had to hold the cup steady as Loki’s hands were shaking too much to hold it.

“That was amazing.” Laufey said.

“I had t-t-to.” Loki stuttered. “N-no one e-else c-c-could.”

Laufey wrapped his arms around Loki tightly and held on to him as his body slowly warmed.

“No.” He said. “There was no one else.”

Puluk arrived a few minutes later at a run. He checked Býleistr thoroughly and sagged in relief.

“He’s warming well, there’s no sign of the Sleep.” He said.

Thrym and Goupr had their children pressed between them, at his words they finally relaxed a little.

“Are you sure?” Thrym asked.

“Not a sign, he’s well awake. But I’d recommend waking him ever few hours for Palif just in case.” Puluk said.

They nodded. It had been a close call.

 

“Tell me more about the Death-sleep.” Loki said as he lay in Laufey’s arms.

They were in their chambers which he had warmed for them. The heat crystals had been moved to the alcove where they could be of more help. Without their presence the air Loki had warmed was rapidly cooling down again. Laufey pulled a fur over them both and lazily nipped Loki’s neck.

“We believe that a long time ago during the Darkening Jotun-kind used to hibernate like the other creatures. Based on evidence we have found we believe our bodies used to be bigger and better able to survive the long sleep. When we get cold enough, our bodies still trigger those old instincts. Unfortunately once it happens we are unable to wake again, it is a lost trait, a broken trait. We traded it for our agility and our thoughts. If we could wake them again we would not fear the Darkening so much. Watching a child lie as though in death and being unable to help them feels terrible for anyone. I speak to the families who suffer a loss after every Darkening. It pains me that I cannot do more for them, but as you have seen, sometimes it is nobody’s fault. Accidents happen and the Darkening takes them.”

“I never learned healing spells.” Loki said. “Minor ones of course, you can’t go on a quest with Thor and not know your minor healing spells, but it never interested me. I wish I’d studied them more.”

“You’ve done plenty.” Laufey replied, rubbing Loki’s back. The room was definitely growing chillier. “I have no doubt you saved Býleistr’s life and you’ve been repowering the heat crystals for days. They are almost too hot for the servants to carry back.”

“I want to repower the ones in the air shafts, to try and warm the incoming air a little better.” Loki said.

“No.” Laufey said at once. “You can’t get that close to the surface, you’ll freeze, even with your clothes and a vest of crystals. No one can get that close right now, we just have to wait it out.”

“What if one of the other sorcerers used a shield of magic to block the shaft while I was in there? If the air wasn’t blowing a vest of crystals would be enough.”

“It’s too dangerous.” Laufey insisted.

Loki sighed against his chest.

“If the air was warmer there would be less moments like the one with Býleistr.” He said.

Laufey was stubbornly silent for a long time.

“You are insufferable, do you know that?” He said at last. “You can try one air shaft, *one* if it goes well I *might* let you do another, but I will not guarantee it. And you will have two sorcerers providing a shield and heat crystals around your arms and legs as well as a vest.”

Loki hugged him.

It was the first time he had ever done so while sober and they both froze awkwardly.

“Um, thankyou.” Loki muttered and let go quickly.

“No taking unnecessary risks.” Laufey said to cover his surprise.

 

 

Kwall was not happy with the idea. He didn’t say so, contradicting the King was a bad move generally, but he frowned as he watched Loki be strapped up with crystals.

“Are you sure, your Majesty?” He asked nervously. “You have been doing such good work down here.”

“I want to do good work up there.” Loki replied calmly. “I’m sure you won’t let me freeze.”

Kwall paled and backed away.

“Never even think it your Majesty.” He gasped, horrified.

They made their way upward toward the chosen shaft. Laufey had chosen it because it was smaller and had less crystals, which meant Loki would be finished faster. The whole groups was wrapped in furs and heat crystal vests.

Kwall and Alsvin cast the shield spell, working together to stop the blasts of icy wind from the surface. They began to walk upward, pushing the shield back before them. The further they went the harder it became to hold back the force of the wind. The temperature dropped further as the party made their way upward.

Loki was trying to hide the fact that he was shivering. He didn’t want Laufey calling an end to this venture before it began.

They were all shivering by the time they reached the narrow shaft where the crystals lay. Kwall and Alsvin were putting all they had into the shield. They both gave a grunt of effort as they pushed it up to the entrance of the shaft.

Loki ran forwards quickly. He didn’t want to spend a second up here longer than he had to. His fingertips had already turned white.

He pushed power into the heat crystals that lined the shaft. There were fifty of them in total. He moved steadily forwards, making each one glow like a supernova with the extra power he pushed into them.

As he worked the air began to warm. It was still behind the shield which meant that the heat started to build up around them. Kwall started to look a little better. Laufey just watched Loki with worried eyes.

Finally the last crystal was done, Loki stumbled back to Laufey, exhausted by his efforts.

“Let’s go.” Laufey said.

He scooped Loki up into his arms and carried him quickly back down into the warmer tunnels.

“Do you think it will have an effect?” Alsvin asked.

“It should have some, but probably not enough to risk this again. He can’t do them all.” Kwall said.

Loki raised his exhausted head.

“Any effect has to be a good thing.” He gasped. “I will do as many as I can.”

Laufey said nothing. Loki was right, but so was Kwall. He would decide later, when he knew Loki was alright.

The party reached the deeper tunnels and Laufey put Loki down. Hunching over him protectively and wrapping him tightly in the furs they had brought, he gave the order to drop the shield.

A blast of warm wind hit them, followed immediately by a much colder one. But as cold as it was, it wasn’t as freezing as it had been on their way up.

“How long will your powering last?” Laufey asked Loki as he scooped him back up again.

“If I did it right, until the end of the Darkening.” Loki said from somewhere in the depths of the fur bundle.

He pushed his head out and looked up at Laufey.

“I should have done this at the start, I could have helped a lot more.”

Laufey gave him a squeeze.

“You can help with the set up next year.” Laufey said. “You’re one of the strongest sorcerers I’ve ever seen, we’re not used to such power, it never occurred to us to ask you.”

Loki nodded.

“I want to do the other tunnels.” He said.

“I’ll think about it.” Laufey replied.

 

 

Laufey allowed Loki to do one air shaft every three days. In between he had to stay bundled up and surrounded by crystals. He drank so much Palif he was surprised he didn’t slosh when he walked.

He liked to believe he was having an effect though. Each time Loki repowered the crystals in a shaft the air closest to it was marginally warmer. He hoped that the combined efforts of all the crystals would slowly take the bite out of the wind.

Kwall didn’t believe so. He hated travelling so close to the surface. The cold seemed to affect him quite badly. But Loki was determined.

It also meant that Laufey did not mate with him every third day. They were both too frozen from going so close to the surface.

On the days when they did mate, Laufey would pull him close afterwards and wrap them both in furs. He didn’t like returning to the group straight away. Loki would lie there and silently wish for an ice maiden to be born to one of the expectant mothers as Laufey stroked his back.

Each child born was a cause for delight. Laufey and Loki would visit the mother’s cave every ten days or so. It was warmer in there than anywhere else, especially now that Loki was helping, and the baby Jotuns were undeniably cute.

“He’s lovely.” Loki said as they stopped to admire one of the newest arrivals.

“He’s a big one.” Laufey said with a smile. “He’ll be strong.”

The mother grinned broadly at them.

“May I hold him?” Laufey asked.

The mother practically shoved the child into the King’s arms.

Laufey cradled the child easily.

“Nephews.” He explained when he saw Loki’s expression. “Here, you hold him.”

Loki suddenly looked terrified.

“I’ve never-” He started to say as Laufey put the baby in his arms.

Loki held the newborn uncertainly. The mother looked like all his dreams had come true. Loki looked helplessly up at Laufey’s face.

“Am I doing this right?” He asked.

Laufey smiled.

“You’ve got his head supported and he’s sleeping soundly, you can’t be going too far wrong.” He said.

Loki looked back down at the baby. It was the size of an Asgard toddler.

‘And this is a newborn!’ He thought in horror.

Laufey gently took the child back and gave it to the mother.

“Thankyou, it is a great joy to be able to hold a child.” Laufey said to him.

“Soon you’ll be holding one of your own, your Majesty.” The mother said boldly.

Loki wanted to cringe.

‘I’m not ready yet!’ He thought.

“All things in time.” Laufey said easily.

‘Bullshit.’ Loki thought. ‘You weren’t saying that this morning when you practically tore my coat off.’

They wandered through the rest of the cave. Loki felt as though he was walking through a nightmare. Babies. Babies everywhere. It was a relief to finally get back to the huddle.

Loki buried himself under the furs. A sure sign something was wrong. Thrym gave Laufey a questioning glance but Laufey just shrugged in confusion.

He crawled in next to Loki, who was curled up tightly.

“Talk to me.” He said in Loki’s ear.

“You don’t want to hear it.” Loki said.

“Even so, I think I should.” Laufey said.

Loki turned until they were facing each other.

“I’m not ready for a baby.” He said. “What if I break it?”

Laufey smiled softly.

“You’ll have a castle full of nannies, proud uncles and me. You can ask your mother for help, and you’ve got your own instincts. Don’t underestimate yourself Loki, you will be a fine mother.”

Loki looked unconvinced. He turned his back again and snuggled down.

Býleistr crawled over through the furs to reach him. Ever since his near freezing he had lived in awe of his Uncle Queen, who could make the cold go away with *real magic*.

“Hello Uncle Queen.” He said.

“Hello Býleistr” Loki said with a smile.

Býleistr was impossible to dislike.

“My baby brother is coming in time for the next Hunt, you can practise on him if you want.”

“I’m not sure how your mother would feel about that.” Loki said.

“Mother won’t mind, you’re a good Uncle, you read stories.” Býleistr said.

Loki’s smile widened.

“Would you like me to read you a story Býleistr?” He asked.

Býleistr smiled guiltily.

“Yes please Uncle Queen.” He said.

Loki crawled out of the top of the furs and reached for one of the books.

“Shall I read you the story of the Great Race from Asgard to Midgard to Vanaheim?” He said, pulling the tome back down under the fur.

The heat crystals tucked under there with them provided a glow of golden light as Loki started to read.

 

On the fiftieth day Loki was despondent. He had made it halfway through the Darkening, but it had felt like an eternity. Now he had to do it again and the thought was agony. He lay under the furs and didn’t move as the hours drifted past. Nobody else moved either. They had reached the coldest point of the Darkening, and for days no one had moved more than the absolute minimum. Even Laufey had reduced their mates to every third day. The short distance to their chambers was still enough to turn their fingertips white.

Loki lay in Laufey’s arms and dreamed.

He dreamed he was sitting on the throne of Jotunheim, not because he wanted to, but because his belly was so big he couldn’t get up. He struggled and struggled as crowds of people, Jotun and Asgard, made their way past the throne to a party in the other room.

“Help me!” He called out. “Please, help me! Don’t leave me here!”

They ignored him. He struggled harder, until there was a sudden popping sound and his belly was flat. On the ground before him lay an Asgard sized child with Jotun features. Then there was another one, then another, then another. Loki was surrounded by children. He looked up into the eyes of his father.

“Whore.” Odin said.

“Horse.” Thor corrected.

Loki looked back and the babies were now all eight legged foals.

“I didn’t mean it.” He said.

Frigga looked at him sadly.

“You silly child, look at the mess you made.”

Loki reached out to her but she was too far away.

“Are you going to clean it up?” She asked.

“Mother?” Loki said, still trying to reach her.

She was gone, he stood in the Hall of Asgard and looked up at Laufey on the throne. He was holding Odin’s spear.

“What are you doing here? You should be in bed.” He said.

Loki opened his mouth to argue and realised his belly was big again, too big. He stumbled forwards onto his hands and knees.

“Stop.” He gasped. “I want to stop.”

“You can’t stop, you’ve only had three million.” Laufey said calmly.

He pointed at a counter in the corner, it was going slowly but steadily upwards.

Loki moaned and tried to rise, but his belly felt like lead.

“Please.” He whispered.

“Oh all right.” Laufey said.

Loki gasped as he felt the weight fall from him. He looked down to find a sack of Palif lying on the floor.

“What am I supposed to do with that?” Laufey asked angrily. “I need another one, a better one.”

He left the throne and walked down to where Loki lay. Loki crawled backwards, trying to get away from him but the floor was too slippery. Laufey reached down and grabbed him by the arm. He hauled Loki upright and pushed the spear hard into his belly.

“Do it right this time.” He said.

Loki looked down and realised he was holding a child, it was Býleistr.

“Hello Uncle Queen.” Býleistr said.

Loki woke up.

 

 

The sixty-fifth day was a cause for celebration. According to the calculations, a small sliver of daylight should have appeared. It was still far to cold to go and check, but in the tunnels the mood grew lighter.

“This is actually the most dangerous time.” Laufey said to Loki as they lay curled together under the furs. “People become careless, and the temperature has not yet risen. The sunlight needs time to work.”

Loki nodded in understanding.

“I only managed eight tunnels so far.” He said. “Out of two hundred.”

“You can power the crystals from the start next year.” Laufey said.

Loki didn’t say anything. The thought of still being here next year made his stomach hurt.

 

The air did slowly begin to warm again. The bigger adults were able to leave the huddles for longer periods and the children were able to stick their heads up out of the furs and breathe fresher air for a little while.

Laufey was moody. Loki could tell by the way he sat with his back hunched under the furs. He had been a source of great strength for months. Now he was irritable and glared down at the paperwork as though it had offended him.

“What’s the matter with him?” Loki whispered to Thrym

Thrym looked at him sadly.

“He has to go and speak to the families of the dying.” He said. “It’s warm enough now, he has to offer his condolences. Every year he vows he will find a way to stop it, every year there is always a loss.”

Loki watched as the King shoved the finished work back at his shivering advisor. He looked like a man under siege. Loki filled a cup with Palif and walked over to him.

“What are doing out of the furs?” Laufey snapped.

Loki handed him the drink and sat down next to him, pulling the furs over himself. He took his time in getting settled before turning to Laufey.

“Do you want me to go with you?” He asked quietly.

Laufey’s face softened.

“You shouldn’t have to see it.” He said. “I’m sorry Loki, I didn’t mean to speak to you like that.”

Loki sat there silently as the King finished the realm business. When it was done he got up and, ignoring Laufey’s protests, followed the King to the Healer’s cave.

One hundred and forty one Jotuns had died during the Darkening, but they had been old or sick, their time had come. It was the seventeen small bodies in the corner that held their attention. Seventeen children who had gone to sleep one night and would never wake up.

They were mostly around Býleistr’s age, although there was also one adult Jotun who had taken the edge of the huddle too many times in a row.

Loki watched with wide eyes as the families reached up and held Laufey’s hand and told him of their child’s smile, and laugh, and sweet nature. Some were clearly exhausted, they had been sitting here for over a month as their baby wasted away. Others had fresh tear tracks on their cheeks, their little ones still had flesh on their bones, still just looked as though they could wake up at any moment.

Loki swallowed hard at the sight. They were so innocent, it wasn’t fair.

Puluk was sitting by one of the children with his hands lying lightly on top of his son’s. Ulat was concentration hard as his magic flowed through the child.

“Can you feel the shape of it?” Puluk was asking. “The Sleep is settled in his head. His brain barely knows it is alive.”

“I can feel it.” Ulat said softly.

“When you feel this inside someone, but it has not yet settled, it is possible to pull them back, difficult, but possible. You must heat the body with furs and crystals as much as you can to lesson the hold, and then pull the Sleep from their mind. It is painful, and they will always have trouble sleeping afterwards, but they will live.” Puluk said. “Once it has settled fully there is no way to undo it.” He concluded quietly.

Ulat nodded seriously and removed his hands.

Loki knelt beside them and looked at the child.

“Can you teach me the feeling?” He asked. “In an emergency any sorcerer should know how to pull the Sleep away.”

“That is a sensible idea.” Puluk said with a sad smile.

He turned and sought out the parents.

“May I have your permission to teach the Queen with your son?” He asked.

They nodded, they were holding each other tightly. Their faces were shattered as they watched the sleeping form of their baby.

“Put your hands on him and reach out with your magic.” Puluk said.

Loki obeyed. Puluk placed his hands on top of Loki’s and combined their magics.

“Can you feel the shadow?” He asked.

Loki nodded. Inside the child was something like a heavy cloud that was settled across his mind. The sparks that should zap across his brain were few and far between. Loki resisted the urge to reach out and grab at it. He would most likely do terrible damage without training and he was conscious of the parents standing right behind him.

He withdrew his magic and opened his eyes.

“There is nothing that can be done?” He whispered.

“Nothing. We have tried to lift a settled Sleep, but it has always ended horrifically. Now we just care for them until the end.” Puluk said quietly.

Loki blinked the tears out of his eyes.

“I wish there was something I could do.” He said, looking down at the still form before him.

“You have done much, your Majesty. You have heated these rooms and the mother’s cave with your magic. It is enough.” Puluk said kindly.

Loki stood and turned to face the parents.

“I am so sorry.” He said.

One of them reached out and took his hand.

“He was our first. I hope with all my heart your own will be plentiful and fill your life with laughter, your Majesty.” He said thickly.

Loki gripped his hand tightly. He felt utterly useless.

Laufey was speaking to one of the other families. Loki walked slowly back towards him. He hated this feeling inside of him. He could do nothing, nothing at all.

Well, not nothing, just nothing useful. He reached behind him and forced the air in the back of the cave to warm. He let his frustration flow out of him with his magic, pouring out and heating the room as his hands lit up with fire.

Some of the Jotun who had injured themselves throughout the Darkening and were in the healer’s cave recovering woke up when the heat hit them. They sighed in relief at the feeling.

“That feels so good.” One of them murmured.

“I’m hot.” Snapped an old Jotun. “You’ve overdone it boy.”

He was hurriedly shushed by his relatives. Loki ignored him, old men were always complaining.

He had reached Laufey’s side when he heard the scream.

They both whirled around to the back of the cave where one of the Jotun parents was frantically shaking their child.

“He stirred! He stirred! I saw it!” He was shouting.

His mate tried to pull him away.

“Stop, stop now, he’s Sleeping, he can’t stir. Stop, I know, I know, I want it too but he’s gone.”

Loki walked back over to them. He was exhausted now that he’d released his frustration and his footsteps staggered as he reached them.

The child lay as silent as the others. Puluk reached down and searched him with his magic. After a moment he frowned.

“The Sleep is lighter.” He said.

The parent shrieked.

“I told you, I told you! He stirred!”

“It is still very strong.” Puluk said doubtfully.

Loki watched the child. The air here was much warmer now. He frowned in thought, remembering Býleistr.

Býleistr had been warmed by the air. But these children had been warmed by the crystals and furs. They were the warmest Jotuns in the caves. So what else could possibly make the child stir?

Loki stopped and looked down at his hands.

Laufey told him that the Jotun had grown smaller and in so doing could no longer hibernate through the Darkening on the surface. Their bodies were too small to store enough for the whole Darkening, so they had gone underground where it was warmer and where they didn’t have to hibernate. But those instincts were still there, if they got cold enough they would sleep. But warming them up didn’t work once they were fully asleep. What else was missing underground? *Sunlight*. They froze to death on the surface because of their smaller bodies, but they Slept and died down *here* because they were away from the bright light of the sun. Maybe the dull golden light of the crystals wasn’t enough? A no win situation. Almost.

Loki looked back up at the parents desperately clinging to one another in their grief.

If he didn’t try it he’d never know.

If he’d thought about it he would have remembered he was in a cave of ice. If he’d thought about it he would have remembered that he was tired and cold and was having trouble standing. If he’d thought about it Jotunheim would be burying seventeen children and one too-selfless adult.

Exhausted though he was Loki reached out and *forced* the air around him into flame. He pushed the fire until it blazed, filling the cave with heat and bright, burning light. The air whipped around the cave in a tight whirl as the flames danced, obscuring him as he stood in the centre. It took everything Loki had to keep it from flying away through the tunnels.

A sudden deluge of water landed on top of him as the ceiling melted away. His concentration broke and darkness flooded his vision as he collapsed. The last thing his ears heard was the sound of a child’s cry.

“Mother!”

 

 

There was no one in Jotunheim who could heat the air. No one who could master the dangerous art of fire. Unlike in Asgard, where fire was common and used for everything from cooking to heating to mixing of draughts, in Jotunheim it was a dangerous element and a barely touched branch of magic.

Loki had mastered it through long years of hard work. It was such an essential part of Asgard life that he had never considered that other places might not see it that way.

His ease at heating the crystals had given him great respect. He had never thought that the reason they found it so hard was not because they were less powerful, although that was a part of it, but also because they did not understand the fire the way he did.

Loki lay in the mother’s cave where they had evacuated the injured from the falling water. He’d been asleep for hours. The fantastic heat he’d put out had destroyed that whole area. It had refrozen into a misshapen cavern.

Laufey had known Loki was powerful. He’d known Loki could summon fire. He had not known what that truly looked like until now. Laufey sat beside his mate as the families he’d saved sat around them and held their children close.

Every year Laufey vowed he would not lose anyone *this time*. Every year he failed. Until Loki. Until the year his mate came home.

Laufey was too old to believe in omens and signs. Be even he couldn’t deny Loki’s arrival had heralded a change in the realm. A good change, after so very long, the mood in Jotunheim was definitely lighter.

He reached out and tenderly stroked Loki’s hair.

“I love you.” He whispered.

 

Loki sat up surrounded by furs and awkwardly held one of the children whose life he saved. Each family had come and thanked him and the endless stream of praise had made him uncomfortable. He smiled down at the child, who was staring back at him in awe.

“Are you feeling better?” He asked.

“Yes your Majesty.” The child answered.

Loki gave him a squeeze.

“You, uh, grow up big and strong now.” He said and gave the child a gentle push back towards his parents.

Laufey watched Loki from a distance. Puluk had given his permission for Loki to rejoin the huddle rather than stay here with the injured and the mothers. Laufey was glad of it. Loki did not like being on display and in this cave he was surrounded at all times by admiring, but still prying eyes.

He helped Loki walk back. He would have carried him but the look in Loki’s eye warned him not to suggest it.

He wondered when he’d gotten to know Loki’s looks so well.

Laufey detoured Loki into their chambers and settled him down on the furs.

“You can rest here in privacy for a little while.” He said.

Loki smiled gratefully and looked around the room.

“When did you move the heat crystals back in?” He asked.

“This morning, I didn’t think you’d be up to heating it yourself, and the huddle is warm enough at the moment.” Laufey said.

Loki shook his head.

“Magic doesn’t work like that. If I can concentrate, I can use it.”

He held his hand up and heated his half of the room.

Laufey felt the air around him warm as it gently circulated on its own.

“I’ve never been very good at magic.” He said.

Loki shrugged.

“I’ve never been good at spotting my limits.” He said.

“Really?” Laufey said sarcastically.

Loki smiled in response.

“You have no idea what you have done, Loki.” Laufey said seriously. “Those families will love you forever, those children are alive because of you. When the Darkening is over I need you to teach the sorcerers some fire magic, enough to make the light.”

“I will.” Loki said. “As many sorcerers as possible should know, so that the art doesn’t get lost.”

Laufey settled back against the furs.

“You’re amazing.” He said admiringly.

Loki concentrated, grew a handful of lumpy ice in his palm and threw it at him.

 

 

There were thirty four more days to go. Loki was getting restless and jumpy. He wriggled under the furs every few seconds trying to get comfortable. Thirty four days. Thirty four. It was so close and yet now more than ever the hours seemed to drift by in slow motion.

Laufey eventually took him to their chambers to stop him upsetting the others.

He nipped along Loki’s neck gently, teasing the soft skin under his mouth. Loki turned his head away and stayed still in his usual manner. Laufey resisted the urge to sigh loudly. Loki had made his feelings clear, it was too much to expect them to change.

He nipped again, enjoying the feel of it as he removed his loincloth.

Loki pulled back and looked down.

“That really should be too big for me.” He said.

Laufey looked at it too.

“It’s not though.” He said. “You’re built for it.”

“Yes.” Loki said, his voice distance. “I’m built to take it, not to give it.”

Laufey stopped and looked down again. Loki was examining the differences between them.

“Ice maidens aren’t meant to be fathers, are they?” Loki asked.

It was not really a question.

Laufey reached out and stroked Loki’s arm.

“It’s happened before.” He said.

Loki looked sceptical.

Laufey chuckled gently.

“The seed can swim. Ice maidens have fathered children, it’s just a little more difficult.”

Loki looked down at the two of them again.

“I have my doubts.” He said. “I’ve seen the book, Jotun need stimulation inside to peak. I can’t see this working.”

Laufey stroked his arm again, slower this time.

“Do you want to try it?” He asked.

Loki looked up at him in shock.

“Really? Uh, I mean, I don’t know.”

“I’ve done it before in my misspent youth.” Laufey said. “If you want to we can try it.”

He shifted until he was lying down on his back and looked over at Loki.

“Your going to have to get a bit more worked up.” He pointed out.

Loki was completed flaccid.

Loki flushed and leaned back.

“That’s okay, I’m not really in the mood.” He said.

Laufey reached out and pulled him close. He nuzzled Loki lightly on his chest and shoulders. His hand slipped downward and stared rubbing firmly against Loki’s cock.

“Are you sure?” He murmured in Loki’s ear.

Loki was about to say ‘yes really, don’t worry about it’ when Laufey’s teeth scraped down his chest.

It was like someone sent a lightning bolt straight to his cock. Loki gasped as he felt himself harden under Laufey’s hand.

He moaned at the sensation, Laufey repeated the action and Loki bucked up helplessly in response.

“We…don’t …have….to.” He gasped.

He was fighting a mixture of desire and fear. Laufey bite down on his chest and Loki almost came right there.

Laufey pushed Loki down to the furs and without warning, took Loki’s cock in his mouth and sucked hard. Loki’s eyes bulged as his hips thrust upwards.

He bit back another moan as Laufey lay back and pulled him on top.

Loki found himself lying between Laufey’s outspread legs.

"Take your time, Loki." Laufey breathed.

Loki looked down doubtfully. Laufey's entrance was concealed behind his balls. With uncertain movements Loki lifted them up and probed carefully at the hole beneath them.

Laufey moaned in pleasure at the touch. Loki looked up nervously but Laufey wasn't paying him any attention. His head was back and his arms stretched out as he gave himself up totally to the sensation.

Loki pressed again carefully with his fingers, he worked two of them fully inside and moved them carefully back and forth. Laufey moaned his approval.

Without warning the King suddenly bucked his hips upwards, jerking Loki's arm backwards.

"More." He panted. "More, Loki please."

Loki's eyes were huge. He felt bewildered by this turn of events. He had the King of Jotunheim on his back begging to be penetrated.

He removed his fingers and moved up until he was properly settled between Laufey's legs.

"Uh, I'm going to, uh, now." He said.

Eloquent as always.

Loki lined himself up and pressed inwards. He was expecting it to be quite loose. Laufey's girth had made it seem like the Jotun passageway would be large as well.

Instead an intense tightness enveloped him. Laufey's muscles contracted around him keeping him pinned inside.

'Do I do that?' Loki wondered as sensation washed through his body.

A few seconds later Laufey bucked upwards, almost throwing Loki off. He reached down and grabbed Laufey's hips to keep from being thrown across the room as the King bucked again.

Loki held on tight. There was no thought of moving himself, he was only just managing to hang in there. It seemed the King liked it a little rough.

A few minutes later Loki's grip became a moot point when Laufey's legs wrapped around him and clenched him inwards.

All he had to do was ride it out as the sensations built inside of him. Laufey was arching his back and growling in pleasure. Loki's small size apparently not affecting his enjoyment in the slightest.

They reached a point where Laufey's body suddenly clenched. The muscles were spasming hard over and over. The look on his face was one of total overwhelming pleasure.

'I look like that.' Loki thought at the sight. 'Except smaller and more attractive.' He amended.

He couldn't last much longer, as the feeling of Laufey's body spasming around him drove him over the edge.

This peak didn't last long. He spent himself with a cry and slumped against Laufey's still spasming body. He watched in fascination as Laufey worked his way through to completion.

When Laufey finally slumped, Loki eased his way out and sat back on his heels.

Laufey opened his eyes and smiled up at him.

"We should do that again sometime." He said.

Loki felt a blush creep up into his face as Laufey pulled him down for a cuddle.

He felt a sudden surge of panic. If he got Laufey pregnant Odin would kill him. Frigga would give him a stern talking to and Thor would fall out of his chair he'd be laughing so hard.

Loki could practically hear his brother's voice.

"He carries you away and makes you his Queen and *you* got *him* pregnant? BAHAHAHA!!! My brother the trickster!"

Loki took a deep breath to calm himself. Laufey had even less chance of conceiving than he did. Everything would be fine.

Chapter Text

Thirty three days to go. Loki read to Býleistr, drank Palif, practised his ice summoning and shaping until he could form rough daggers, and slept.

Thirty two days to go. Loki wanted to go for a walk. Laufey pointed out it was still cold enough to make him shiver after a few minutes and no, no he couldn't.

Thirty days to go. Loki began talking to Laufey again.

Twenty nine days to go. Loki wound up yelling at Vindsval for breathing too loudly and letting the guards attack his mother. Laufey dragged him off to the royal chambers to calm down. Vindsval shot him filthy looks for hours after he returned.

Twenty eight days to go. The food was getting monotonous as the different harvests ran out. Loki shared his Asgard food with the huddle. Vindsval got slightly less than the others, just enough to notice but not enough to complain about. He shot Loki a dirty look instead which earned him a private chat from Laufey about not antagonising Loki when he was obviously restless and snappy.

With twenty seven days to go Loki came down from his peak to find himself held against Laufey as usual.

No, not as usual, he felt...there was...

"You can pull out of me now." Loki said.

Laufey was on his knees, holding Loki upright against him.

"No I can't." Laufey said calmly.

Loki was about to ask why when he realised his legs were locked tightly around Laufey's body.

"Oh." He released them hurriedly.

Laufey lay him down gently and pulled slowly out of him.

Loki whimpered as the feeling of Laufey's cock sliding out of his body sent sparks of pleasure running through him right to the tips of his fingers.

Laufey stopped and looked down at him.

"Did you *like* that?" He asked teasingly.

"No." Loki lied quickly.

Laufey looked sceptical and pulled out further.

Loki tried to keep his expression calm but failed miserably.

"Ahh!" He choked out before clamping his mouth shut.

"You are so enjoying this." Laufey said, pulling out completely.

Loki shook his head but he'd already given himself away.

"Instinct." he said stubbornly.

"Instinct or no your reaction has produced a result." Laufey said dryly.

The base of his cock was swelling slightly.

Loki gave him a look.

"That soon?" He said. “You’re sex crazed.”

"You have that effect on people." Laufey replied leaning back calmly.

Loki looked down at it again. Most of the time he looked away to try and block out what was happening. Now he sat up and looked at it curiously.

"It really is about double the length." He said. "And about three times as wide."

He reached forward and gently touched the tip. It was slightly narrowed compared to the rest of it.

"Why does it have to be so long?" He asked. "You didn't have any trouble with me."

"Evolution, probably." Laufey said. "The longer it is the less distance the seed has to travel to reach the womb."

"That makes sense." Loki said reluctantly.

He moved on from the cock and looked further down to inspect Laufey's balls.

They were heavy looking things sitting against his thighs. They looked slightly raison-like at the moment, having just emptied their seed. Loki looked up instead and traced his fingers over the family lines that covered Laufey’s body. His own echoed them.

“Why do my lines match yours? I’m from a different family.”

He looked up sharply.

“Aren’t I?”

Laufey chuckled.

“Yes, you are from a different family.” He said. “You were born not long after the Darkening and your parents gave you to me for our betrothal ceremony. My family lines were placed on you as a part of that. They were supposed to stay in the castle and raise you but Odin’s army invaded and they died in the final battle.”

Loki traced the lines upward and over Laufey’s stomach and chest.

“When’s my birthday?” He asked quietly, as though it had just occurred to him.

“Thirty seven days from now.” Laufey said.

Loki looked up.

“You already asked the record keepers didn’t you?” He asked.

“Why pass up the chance to throw a party?” Laufey answered with a smile.

He shifted slightly in place and Loki realised with a start that his curious touches had done nothing to calm the situation. The exact opposite in fact. Laufey was doing a wonderful job of holding still and letting him explore.

“Um, sorry.” Loki said, dropping his hands.

Laufay shifted again.

“It’s fine.” He lied.

Loki looked at Laufey’s too calm expression guiltily. He’d actually had a hand in causing this one. Dammit.

He pulled a face as he regarded Laufey’s swelling cock. Dammit dammit dammit. Still, it wasn’t like it was going to make a difference given what they’d just done not fifteen minutes ago.

“I’ll take care of it.” Laufey said with a slightly strained voice.

Loki sighed in frustration.

“I still don’t want to.” He said, leaning forwards and wrapping his hand around Laufey’s cock.

Laufey’s eyes widened in surprise but he didn’t argue as Loki climbed onto his lap and sank down onto his swollen member.

Loki had seriously underestimated the feeling of being filled again so soon. He was sensitive, and Laufey’s cock sent sparks through his body.

Loki gripped Laufey around the waist as he sank to a stop. It’d be over in a few minutes, it wasn’t like this was anything new by now.

The thought made him angry. No this wasn’t new, this was routine. Lie back, take it, sleep, repeat.

Loki growled under his breath and drove down harder than he meant to. Laufey responded with a moan. Loki gasped at the feeling that shot through him. He hadn’t meant to do it so hard. There was no denying it felt good. Really good. Loki shut his eyes and held on to Laufey’s waist as the feeling subsided. He wished that he could just relax and let it feel good. He was cold and tired and he just wanted to stop fighting for a while.

On instinct, he turned his head, bared his teeth and scraped them down Laufey’s chest.

Laufey let out a moan of pleasure. Loki pushed the sudden feeling of guilt away with an effort. He was sick of feeling alone, isolated, unhappy. He just wanted to feel good. He did it again. Laufey responded by bucking upwards, lifting Loki’s feet off the floor with his movement.

Loki scratched his hands down Laufey’s back.

Laufey pushed upwards again, returning Loki’s scratches with a few of his own.

Loki bit down on the flesh of Laufey’s chest.

Laufey growled in pleasure and pushed Loki high enough that his feet slipped away from the furs.

Loki lifted one leg and wrapped it tightly around Laufey’s body, squeezing him closer. He let out a moan of his own.

‘Don’t speak, don’t speak, not one word, just let me have this, let me feel good right now, don’t ruin it by reminding me where I am, who you are, just let me go. I need this.’ He thought desperately as Laufey moved again.

Laufey bucked up sharply and Loki’s other foot lost its grip, he wrapped it around Laufey’s body with the first one.

Their rhythm was faster than normal, but Loki chased it, urged Laufey on with his teeth and legs. He could feel the peak growing inside of him as they moved. He didn’t resist it, he welcomed it. He was so tired of being cold, of being alone.

Loki let out a loud cry at the feeling of Laufey’s cock slamming up into him over and over. He couldn’t stop it, didn’t want to stop it, just want to let go.

He screamed in pleasure as Laufey bent down over him and, twisting his upper body, managed to bite the back of Loki’s neck. It was like lightning running from is neck to his groin. He desperately tried to ride Laufey harder, chasing the feelings that were overwhelming his body.

Laufey’s hips were snapping upwards at a brutal pace. Loki just held on tightly and screamed as he let the movements send him over the edge…

Laufey spent what little seed he had left and relaxed back down onto the furs. Loki remanded tense around him for a few minutes more before he slumped down, exhausted against Laufey’s chest.

Laufey pulled out of him with a soft moan, pulled a fur over them and held Loki close as they drifted off to sleep.

 

Loki woke with an ache on the back of his neck and a feeling he’d done something terrible.

His eyes widened as the memory came back.

No.

No no no no no no.

He hadn’t.

He raised his head and looked at Laufey’s marked chest.

He had.

Oh shit.

Oh no. No. No.

Loki backed away from Laufey’s sleeping form in horror.

He hadn’t meant to do that! He didn’t want this! No!

Laufey tricked him! He had to have! He put spell on him! Or put something in his Palif. Loki didn’t, he wouldn’t. He did. He really did and there was no one to blame but himself.

Loki had his back against the fur covered wall and was staring at the sleeping Laufey with terrified eyes.

He grabbed his winter clothes and pulled them on with shaking hands.

No. He wouldn’t accept it. No. Not happening. He didn’t. It was a mistake, a lapse. It was the Darkening. It was the cold and the ice.

Loki finished dressing and crawled desperately from the cave.

He made it around the corner to find the huddle was looking at him.

The knowing look on Thrym’s face and the gentler, more understanding one on Goupr’s made him freeze in horror.

They’d all heard him.

No.

Loki vanished where he stood.

“Loki!” Goupr called out as Thrym rose and ran to the spot where he’d been standing.

Loki ran back towards the cave. No more waiting, no more watching, no more playing along. NO!

He threw a ball of fire directly at the entrance to the cave. The whole thing collapsed in an explosion of ice and heat.

“I hate you!” Loki screamed and kept running.

Maybe he’d get lucky and the falling cave would crush Laufey to death. It wasn’t a direct blow so the spell shouldn’t activate. He ran through the tunnels in a wild dash, just desperate to get *away*.

He wound up in one of the store rooms, which was starting to look quite depleted.

He sat behind a pile of sacks and allowed himself to become visible again. He was crying with the shame of it. He’d given in. He’d let Laufey have that last piece of him, that part he’d been holding on to, trying to preserve.

‘Whore.’ He thought as he started to shiver. ‘Filthy little Jotun whore, give yourself to anyone with a cock, you loved it you dirty, filthy creature. Odinson? Ha! You’re not worthy, you’re just an animal, mindlessly rutting because he called you a queen. Filthy! Whore! No, not whore. The whores of Asgard have *taste* they’d never lie with a filthy Jotun. You are disgusting, nothing but an animal. You’ve soiled yourself in his filth. How long did you last? How long?! Ha! You’re pathetic, you’re scum. Nasty, filthy little Jotun runt, desperately rutting with the biggest man you can find. You liked it, you *liked* it! You vulgar, filthy little thing! You don’t deserve to be an Odinson, you don’t deserve to be an Asgard, you should just let the cold take you.’

Loki realised with a start that he was probably due for his draught. He was shaking violently from the cold in his Jotun form, even in his winter clothes. If the draught wore off he’d burn to death in minutes.

‘Good. You deserve it.’ He thought and stayed put.

He waited as his body shivered and the time ticked by. Soon, soon he’d burn, soon he’d die like the filthy animal he was. He deserved nothing less.

There was a noise from the other side of the sacks. Loki frowned and drew himself inwards. He didn’t want to be found. He tensed, ready to throw a fire spell at the first Jotun head he saw. Damn them all.

Loki threw the fire at the first flash of blue. Kwall managed to deflect it and crawled around to where Loki sat.

“Your Majesty, you must drink your draught.” He said.

He had the bottle and a cup in his hands.

“No.” Loki said stubbornly. “Go away or I’ll kill you.”

“If you don’t drink you will die.” Kwall insisted.

“That’s the plan.” Loki said with manic cheerfulness.

Kwall’s eyes narrowed. He leaned forward and lowered his voice.

“You listen to me, Loki Odinson, Your father did not send me all the way out here to watch you burn to death from the cold. He did not brew this draught so that you could refuse it! You will drink it right now, that is an order! *His* order.”

Loki stared at Kwall in astonishment.

“You? You’re the spy?”

“One day I’ll teach you how to pull a man’s memories from his head and lay them over your own.” Kwall said. “But first you will drink.”

“No.” Loki said. “I don’t deserve to, I…I disgraced the name of Odinson.” He dropped his head in sadness and guilt.

Kwall leaned forwards and took him by the shoulders.

“You listen to me well, Loki. You do whatever you have to do to survive. *Whatever* you have to. The Allfather loves you and wants you home. He doesn’t care if what you have to do, you are his son and he lives for the day he can hold you in his arms. You must survive this, and if that means that you do things you do not believe a son of Odin should do, then you do them. He understands. He wants you home. Now drink the damn draught!”

Kwall shoved the cup into Loki’s hand.

Loki stared into Kwall’s eyes for a long moment, then raised the cup to his lips and drank.

“I collapsed the cave onto Laufey. He might be dead.” He said hopefully.

“He’s not, trust me, you’d know.” Kwall said. “You can’t leave anyway until the sun’s light is strong enough to warm the air outside. No more attempts on his life until you are sure you can get to the Bifrost.”

Loki nodded. Kwall returned the nod and left him.

Chapter Text

Loki stayed where he was until his fingertips turned white. He had no desire to return to the huddle, to face Laufey or to face the consequences of his actions. It was only when he found himself falling asleep that he finally rose and stumbled back down the tunnels to the huddle.

It was dark in the tunnel. Loki made his way cautiously to where the heat crystals should have been lighting the alcove.

As shadow moved as he approached. A small sliver of golden light peaked out from beneath the furs as Helblindi and Býleistr looked up at him.

They were the only ones there. All the heat crystals had been packed tightly around them under the furs to keep them warm while the adults were gone.

“They’re out looking for you.” Helblindi said before Loki could ask. “Your draught was going to wear off and they were worried.”

“I, had some with me.” Loki lied.

He came closer, Býleistr lifted the edge of the furs and smiled at him. Loki crawled underneath and lay down. Býleistr wrapped both arms around him and looked up at his face.

“You’re cold Uncle Queen.” He said. “I will warm you up.”

“Thankyou Býleistr.” Loki said and returned the hug.

Helblindi was watching him curiously.

“You blew up Uncle Laufey.” He said.

Loki looked at him warily.

“I…was quite upset by something, but it was wrong of me and I won’t do it again.” He said.

Helblindi looked unconvinced.

“Mother says you think like an Asgard, and that it hurts to change your mind when it is set so strongly. He says we have to be kind to you. But you BLEW UP THE KING!”

He looked fierce now, the shades of the warrior he might one day become laid across his features. Loki took a slow breath.

“Is he alright?” He asked.

Helblindi nodded reluctantly.

“He broke his arm when the ice fell, but everyone dug down and got him out quickly. Puluk healed him, then they all left to go looking for you.”

Loki squeezed Býleistr a little closer.

“I’m sorry. I did something I wasn’t proud of and I overreacted. When Laufey gets back I’m sure he will have plenty to say to me about it.”

“Were you embarrassed because we heard you mate? Lots of people mate during the Darkening, you must have heard it echo down the corridors?” Helblindi said.

Loki felt a blush rise in his cheeks.

“Um, yes. I didn’t mean…it’s complicated.” He said.

Helblindi looked at him in confusion.

“You’re married. Married people mate. You’re not even the loudest I’ve heard. You didn’t have to blow him up.”

“Uncle Queen doesn’t want to be married.” Býleistr said. “He wants to go to Asgard and leave us.”

Loki stared down at him in shock.

“Who told you that?” He asked.

Býlristr looked up at him with the calmness of a child who knows everything he needs to.

“I heard Mother and Father talking. They say you don’t want to be married. Grandmother stopped being married to Grandfather before I was born. He says they were not happy anymore. Are you unhappy Uncle Queen?”

Loki bit his lip. The short answer was yes, he was very unhappy. But he couldn’t bring himself to say so to Býleistr’s trusting face.

“A little bit?” He compromised. “Sometimes?”

“Uncle King is very nice. He doesn’t talk all the time like Grandmother. Grandmother doesn’t need to breathe to talk. Mother says he has gills that breathe in so that he never has to stop. Father tells him to stop telling me tales like that but I looked once and I thought I saw some gills. Uncle King doesn’t talk much, but he reads me stories sometimes. And he doesn’t have gills.”

“I know, and he is very nice to you.”

“He wants a baby to read to. Don’t you want a baby?”

Býleistr was relentless.

Helblindi frowned at his little sibling.

“It doesn’t matter. He’s the ice maiden, he’s married to the King, he has to have a baby. Why don’t you want one? Do the Asgard hate children?”

“No.” Loki said. “I told you it’s complicated.”

“That’s what adults say when they don’t want to admit they don’t know something.” Helblindi challenged.

Loki sighed softly.

“I was raised by the Asgard. They have laws and customs that I believe in. Jotunheim has different laws and customs. I don’t belong here. I have been taken from my family and married without my choice. I miss Asgard and I want to go home.”

“You were betrothed. Lots of people are betrothed, you just have to get used to it.” Helblindi said practically. “Father said you were a Prince in Asgard, wouldn’t you have to marry someone your father chose anyway?”

“Yes, but to secure an alliance, or to strengthen political ties.” Loki said. “And I would have spent at least part of the year in Asgard, maybe all of it depending on the terms of the betrothal.”

It was hard to argue with Helblindi, he didn’t know how Loki came to be trapped here and it wasn’t the sort of thing Loki felt he could bring up with a child. Without that his argument seemed weak. It was clear by Helblindi’s face that the young Jotun thought so too.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s not important.” Loki said instead.

He had not expected them to understand, they were just children. If the adults around him couldn’t understand what hope did they have?

Býleistr leaned in and pressed his mouth to Loki’s ear.

“Maybe you could ask Uncle King to make an alliance, then you can stay and be happy and Helblindi could go to Asgard and see the flowers.” He whispered.

Loki smiled and gave him a squeeze.

“That’s a clever idea, Býleistr. Maybe you’ll be a diplomat one day.” He said.

Býleistr shook his head.

“I’m going to be a driver and go on the Hunt every year.” He said seriously. “I will learn all the stories and tell them to the Hunters.”

“No wonder you like being read to.” Loki said.

There was the sound of footsteps returning to the huddle. Helblindi held up one of the heat crystals to find Vindsval stumbling toward them.

He stopped and stared when he saw Loki.

“We have been searching everywhere for you!” He snapped.

Loki narrowed his eyes.

“And now you’ve found me.” He said calmly, refusing to apologise.

Vindsval crawled under the furs and scowled.

“You’re more trouble than you’re worth.” He said angrily.

Loki ignored him.

 

The second person to arrive back was Vindsval’s mate, followed a few minutes later by Raolr’s. Goupr returned next and wrapped his arms tightly around his children as they waited for Thrym, Raolr and Laufey to return.

Raolr and Laufey returned at the same time, stumbling in from either end of the corridor. Laufey’s face turned to a look of relief when he saw Loki in the huddle. He crawled underneath the furs and hugged him tightly.

“I thought you would freeze out there.” He whispered in Loki’s ear.

Loki regarded him in surprise. Apparently trying to kill him had not been a huge deal in the land of Laufey.

An hour later and Thrym stumbled in, white lipped and bleeding.

“What happened?” Gourp asked as he pulled his mate down under the furs. Býleistr started making sounds of distress at the sight of his injured mother.

Thrym reach over and stroked his child’s head gently.

“Some of the more rebellious Jotun out on the edges were a bit unhelpful.” He said.

A servant ran to fetch Puluk.

“We should see to them.” Laufey said, his eyes dangerous.

“I’ll go.” Vindsval said.

Ever since the trouble with the Asgard that had occurred under his watch he had been eager to make up for what had happened. Laufey nodded his permission.

“Take some guards with you and find the attackers. This cannot go unpunished.”

Vindsval nodded and vanished down the tunnels.

Puluk arrived and treated Thrym’s wounds. They were superficial, which was a relief to everyone. Thrym immediately started planning how to root out the troublemakers.

Goupr and Laufey let him ramble on. He was taking their rebellion as a personal slight. Thrym had trained nearly all the guards in the castle and knowing some of them had disobeyed the King’s orders made his General very angry.

Loki watched and waited for Laufey to decide when to talk to him about what happened. The wait was starting to annoy him.

Laufey just lay down and pulled him close as though the last six hours or so had not existed.

 

Vindsval came back without result.

“It will take a bigger operation to find the ringleaders.” He said. “But from what I can see it is a small band who are angry because they have not advanced as far as they would have hoped in life. The usual, in other words.”

Laufey nodded.

“Once the Darkening is over we will conduct a proper investigation, just to be sure.” He said.

 

Later that night Loki fell asleep in Laufey’s arms as usual. But he found himself curled up alone as he was woken by the sound of low voices.

“He attacked you! Attacking the King is treason, even for the queen!” Vindsval hissed.

“Especially for the queen.” That was Thrym’s voice.

“Do we know why? I do not wish to pry too deeply into your life brother, but things sounded as though they were going…well.” Raolr added.

There was a sigh from Laufey.

“I was not expecting him to be so receptive and neither, I believe, was he. His reaction afterward was born of fear. I do not wish to punish him.”

“He almost killed you!” Vindsval again. “The penalty for trying to kill the King is death!”

“The King can choose not to enforce a penalty. I have no desire to execute my mate.” Laufey said.

“But he should be punished. He cannot do this whenever he is angry or upset. The last time he killed our sibling.” Raolr said. “He is dangerous, the Asgard have made him unstable!”

“Loki is dangerous.” Thrym said quietly. “But I do not believe he is indiscriminate. Our sibling was arrogant, his actions were deserving of his penalty.”

“Loki still should not have carried it out. There should have been a trial.” Raolr insisted.

“True.” Thrym said. “His actions were rash, but he is young and he misses his mother. The thought of her being attacked frightened him.”

“He thinks like an Asgard, like a savage. He needs to be civilized.” Vindsval said.

“He needs to learn not to react violently when frightened.” Thrym said.

“I will talk to him tomorrow.” Laufey said. “Right now I do not have a private place to discuss it with him and I believe that approach would be best. When the servants have finished repairing our chambers I will talk with him about what happened. Tomorrow. Right now there is nothing to discuss.”

“I know he is important brother, but if Loki cannot be tamed from the ways of the Asgard you may have to consider keeping him confined. He can breed just as well from a prison cell as he can from your bed.” Raolr again.

Loki was getting sick of the sound of him.

“I will take your words under advisement.” Laufey said. “*If* Loki does something like this again he will have to be punished and yes, that may involve time in prison, but I am trying to show him that I care about him. Locking him away will be seen as somewhat of a backwards step.”

“I have had enough of this.” Thrym said. “You will do what you believe to be best and I trust that it will work. I’m going to bed.”

Loki kept his eyes shut and lay still as Laufey slipped back down beside him.

“You’re not fooling me.” Laufey said quietly in his ear. “You broke one of the laws of Jotunheim and we *will* discuss this in the morning.”

Loki said nothing. He didn’t sleep for the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

The next morning the servants reported that the royal chambers were repaired. Laufey gave Loki a pointed look and made his way there. Loki reluctantly followed him.

Once inside Loki sat on one side with his back against the fur covered wall and his arms crossed defensively. The ceiling was higher, and some of the walls had lumps under the furs where chucks of ice had fallen away.

Laufey sat on the other side of the room near the doorway to their storage area. His face was serious.

“You heard our discussion last night.” He said flatly.

Loki nodded slowly. He had no idea where this was going.

Laufey regarded him with a frown.

“Your actions constituted treason, the penalty is death.”

Loki raised an eyebrow at him. Laufey sighed heavily.

“But as you well know you are too precious to us to kill, even for a crime as serious as trying to kill the King. The other option is a life sentence in a cell with no windows and no comfort. I do not wish to do that to you.”

Loki watched him warily.

“But I will Loki, if you do this again I will. I told you on the hunt that the Queen is expected to obey the laws as does everyone else. What you did was a serious crime.”

“I hate you.” Loki whispered.

Laufey looked slightly pained.

“So I saw.” He said, trying to keep his face calm. “I am sorry our marriage is not to you satisfaction.”

“You stole me, you raped me, you kept me here against my will.” Loki hissed.

“I claimed you, as was my right by law and by your parents’ consent. Your real parents. You do not get to dismiss their decisions because an Asgard King decided he could do with a playmate for his child. You are my mate as you were always intended to be.” Laufey said. “And you will respect the laws of Jotunheim as any other citizen. You have one chance left Loki, do not throw it away in anger.”

“I don’t care.” Loki snapped.

Laufey took a deep breath.

“You should care. You could have collapsed the whole tunnel with your fireball, were you hoping to crush the entire huddle? Did you *want* to kill Helblindi and Býleistr? That would have been a merciful death if you had succeeded in killing me. Thrym is the most likely candidate to be king if I die without an heir. His children will be targets, they will be hunted down and killed for my siblings’ ambition. Is that what you were hoping for? A war in the tunnels? A million Jotun killed because they can’t get away from the fighting?”

“No.” Loki admitted quietly.

“You have been raised very badly by Odin. You are young but you act even younger, and when you lose your temper you are no better than your brother. Worse even, because you have that much more power. Your actions were dangerous and foolish. And all because you were afraid. Did you think to talk to me? Or to someone else if you find my company so very repulsive. *Did you think at all?*”

Loki was looking distinctly uncomfortable. He shifted where he sat and drew his legs up closer to his body.

Laufey was unmoved.

“This is not the first time you have lashed out in anger and caused great harm, Karrir-”

“He attacked my mother!” Loki protested.

“He goaded your brother and caused the attack on your mother yes. He also stole the food she brought to you. Attacking the King’s guests is a form of disobedience and a form of treason, stealing from the royal couple is treason. His punishment in both cases was death, but Loki, *you* should not have killed him. We have trials here, we have laws. His had already confessed in his arrogance, he would have died as the others died.”

“I was angry.”

“Yes, yes you were. You need to learn to control your temper.”

Laufey regarded him thoughtfully.

“I will not imprison you, but you need to be punished. You have acted like a child, so the penalty will be in keeping with your behaviour. When the Darkening is over you will write to your mother and tell her you she cannot visit for another hundred days.”

Loki stared at him in shock.

“Laufey no, don’t, I don’t need that.”

“I think you do. You are also confined to the castle for the same amount of time. I’d confine you to our chambers but I think you can learn your lesson without that.” Laufey said evenly.

“Laufey, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, I promise-”

“You promise? Like you promised me you wouldn’t run off without a guard? Thrym almost froze for your promise, he was *attacked* for your promise, and in his condition! Your promises mean very little Loki, very little at all. No, you will write to your mother, and if you don’t, I will and you won’t see her for a thousand days.” Laufey said angrily.

Loki’s eyes were circular in fear.

“No!” He cried.

“Perhaps when your punishment is over you can convince me that your word is still worth something. Accept my judgement as King, I *am* your King, Loki. You have broken the law, you will be punished. So I decree.” Laufey snapped and crawled out of the chamber, leaving Loki curled up on the far side in misery.

He stayed there, heating the air over and over until it was time to take his draught. The servant poked his head through the door to remind him.

“Bring it to me.” Loki said.

“I have orders not to, your Majesty.” The servant replied calmly.

Loki scowled and crawled out after him. He walked around the corner and back to the huddle. Thrym was looking better, he was playing with Býleistr, who was giggling. It was a touching sight. Loki wished he could dismiss it from his mind but it was hard to do. He knew these people, and despite what Asgard believed, they were *people*.

He sat down at the edge of the huddle and accepted his cup from the servant. Laufey was reading somewhere near the middle, he had not looked up when Loki arrived.

Helblindi watched him warily. The boyhood crush had vanished with Loki’s behaviour, now he was suspicious. Loki found he didn’t like the change in the boy’s eyes.

Vindsval looked up and then pointedly turned his head. Raolr and his mate were otherwise occupied in the far corner and didn’t notice him at all. Loki pulled a fur over himself and lay down alone.

He felt drained, as though Laufey had managed to suck out his power and leave him feeling utterly exhausted. Loki curled up into a tight ball and tried to sleep. Eventually, after a long time he drifted away.

He woke up in Laufey’s arms. The king had him tucked into his side as he worked on the realm business. He was focussed hard on the scroll in front of him and didn’t notice Loki open his eyes.

Loki just watched him for a while, he was warm where he was, and comfortable, which was at odds with the churning in his mind. Surely he could convince Laufey to let him see his mother? He could play nice for a little while and try to talk Laufey into changing his mind.

He already knew that wasn’t going to happen. Laufey may not have brought him to a proper trial, but that late night discussion had been the alternative and his punishment was a real sentence that he would have to serve.

He tried to imagine what Asgard would do if anyone tried to blow up Odin. Laufey’s response was actually quite tame.

Loki closed his eyes again and tried to keep the tears from falling down his cheeks.

Whatever you have to do, Kwall had told him.

‘I can do this.’ Loki thought, and tried to believe it.

 

 

Twenty six day to go. Loki spent it trying to sleep.

Twenty five day to go. Loki read to Býleistr, under the slightly more watchful than usual eyes of Thrym.

Twenty four days to go. Loki apologised to Thrym for making him have to go searching and for getting him hurt.

Twenty three days to go. Loki practised creating ice daggers, he was nearly perfect every time now.

Twenty two days to go. Laufey asked if they could start mating again.

Twenty one days to go. Raolr made a disparaging comment about Thor. Loki gritted his teeth and said nothing. Laufey told Raolr to go and take a walk. While he was gone Laufey and Loki had a discussion about appropriate ways to respond when angered, and how ‘all or nothing’ was not the best choice one could make.

Twenty days to go. The Palif ran out, but the air was warmer and everyone was sick of it anyway.

Nineteen days to go. Laufey’s attentions were becoming more obvious, Loki reluctantly agreed to mate.

Eighteen days to go. Goupr pulled Loki aside and asked him if he was alright. Loki confessed he was upset he would not see his mother for another hundred days. Goupr pointed out that Laufey had not said Loki couldn’t write, and that now the decree was made he couldn’t modify it without new evidence. Loki asked him if that meant he could see his brother, who was not a part of the sentence. Goupr advised him to wait a little while before asking, and preferably just after mating, wink wink.

Seventeen days to go. The mood in the tunnels was becoming restless. The sun would be fully exposed by now but the weak blue light needed time to warm Jotunheim to a liveable temperature.

Sixteen days to go. Býleistr told a story he’d made up about an ice maiden hero who travels the nine realms kicking arse and saving maidens. Everyone was very impressed.

Fifteen days to go. Loki couldn’t sit still. Laufey took him to visit the mother’s cave to see the latest new arrival. Loki swallowed his disappointment that it was not an ice maiden.

Fourteen days to go. Loki spent it ice shaping, eating bland, bottom-of-the-storage-sacks food and sleeping.

Thirteen days to go. Vindsval’s mate picked a fight with Goupr and had to be taken away to calm down. Goupr did not seem fazed and blamed in on confinement sickness.

Twelve days to go. Laufey made Loki sit by him and help with the realm business. Loki’s reading skills had improved to a young adult level.

Eleven days to go. Thrym included Loki in a joke for the first time since his meltdown.

Ten days to go. Helblindi shyly asked if Loki would like help getting the tangle out of his hair, which was getting very long.

Nine days to go. Loki could not be calmed, and Laufey allowed him to go for a walk, under double guard.

Eight days to go. Helblndi and Býleistr had a fight over a fur. Goupr gave it to Laufey for the royal chambers.

Seven days to go. Several of the young adults started talking about braving the outside early so they could start hunting and scavenging. Thrym waved them in the direction of the door.

Six day to go. The door was still unopened.

Five days to go. Laufey took Loki twice just to wear him out so he’d stop fidgeting.

Four days to go. Býleistr threw a tantrum over the tunnels. Thrym managed to calm him after an hour.

Three days to go. Loki could almost taste the air outside.

Two days to go. Everyone was packing their things back up. As the royal family had servants for that, Laufey and Loki took a long walk through the main parts of the tunnels to visit the people after the Darkening.

One day to go. Loki couldn’t sleep. Neither could anyone else. They spent the day playing loud games and trying not to notice the time.

The Day of Emergence had arrived. The guard squadron who had the honour this year slowly opened up the nine doorways to the surface. They had just pushed open the last one when they came face to face with a dozen Asgard spears.

Odin stepped forward with Thor at his side.

“I’m here to speak to Laufey.” He said.

Chapter Text

The guards sent one of their number back down the tunnel to where Thrym was waiting at the first door.

He listened with wide eyes to the report and then sent a runner to fetch Laufey.

Then he sent one squad to each of the air shafts and other exits, and a small band of demolition experts to clear out the tunnels that ran beneath the Asgards’ feet and then wait for orders.

Down in the tunnels, the runner arrived at the huddle.

"Asgard!" He gasped. "They're here in numbers! Odin is demanding to speak to you, your Majesty."

Laufey rose from where he sat, face serious. Loki straightened and looked hopefully at the King.

"How many numbers?" Laufey asked.

"We do not know for sure, we could not see beyond the tunnel entrance. At least two dozen, but maybe the whole army." The runner reported.

Laufey nodded.

"I will have to go and speak with him." He paused, thinking. "But first, get a large party together and instruct them to carry the dead from the tunnels to the River of the Long Sleep. Even Odin won't attack a funeral procession, and they can report more accurately on numbers when they get back."

"Yes you Majesty." The runner said and departed.

Laufey turned to walk down the tunnel. Loki stood up.

"No, I don't think so." Laufey said, seeing him. "Goupr, a moment?"

Goupr came over and they talked in low voices for a a few minutes. Loki could tell by the way Goupr glanced at him that he was the topic of conversation. Then Laufey left and Goupr turned back to him with a gentle smile.

"He thinks your presence will inflame the situation." He said. "Our whole population is down here, if we start to fight, we have nowhere for the children to go, or the elderly, and bloodlust can cause men to do terrible things."

Loki wanted to say that the Asgard were different, but with Thor as the shining example of Asgard restraint, even he couldn't tell that lie. There were some in the army who might go berserker in battle, and any children trapped in the tunnels would be slain without mercy.

"I want to see my father." He said.

Goupr reached out and rubbed his back gently.

"Not today. It is the wrong time. If Laufey can smooth this over maybe you can see him later."

"I could tell them not to attack." Loki pointed out.

"But would you? Really? Would you go up to your father and tell him you wish to stay and not to take any action on your behalf?" Goupr asked.

Loki held his gaze for a second before looking down. He couldn't agree to that.

"Stay here Loki, Laufey will sort it out." Goupr said.

 

The funeral procession was long and slow. With great ceremony the Jotun guards carried each of the dead from the tunnel entrance to the River of the Long Sleep, a glacier that ran on the far southern side of Utgard. Each person was laid down gently and with reverence. In time the slow moving glacier would carry their bodies far from the city out to the semi frozen sea, as it always had. It moved so slowly that Jotun mates who died a century apart could still be laid beside one another, the first body still preserved only an hour’s walk down the River. A day’s stroll would take you to where Farbauti and Kolga lay in each other’s arms. On his death the queen had been placed beside his husband so that they might face the next world together.

It was over two hours before the guards finally finished moving the dead. The Asgard soldiers watched them silently the whole time. By the time the last Jotun was laid to his rest the guards had an accurate count of Asgard numbers, not just by the tunnels but near the Bifrost site and in the Castle.

Thrym then reported that if Laufey gave the signal, Asgard's King and its crown Prince would be buried under the ice in seconds. The demolition squad had carefully undermined the tunnels that ran beneath their feet. Although that did nothing for the rest of the army, which would still need to be fought off in a long and difficult engagement.

He had also begun to sneak some Jotun warriors out of the air shafts. With two hundred to choose from, the Asgard had not found them all. Now they were circling around, slowly cutting off the Asgard group at the main entrance from their reinforcements.

Laufey finally decided it was time to appear.

He strolled as casually as he could to the final gate and leaned as insultingly as possible against the mouth of the tunnel.

"Allfather." He said with a nod.

"Laufey, where is my son?" Odin demanded.

Laufey let confusion crinkle his features. Then understanding dawned insultingly on his face.

"He's right beside you, Odin, but on your right side. I can see why you lost him with that missing eye of yours."

Odin's remaining eye narrowed.

"You know well who I refer to, where is Loki?"

"The Queen is resting." Laufey said. "It's been a long winter and he's very tired. I'll give him your best wishes."

"I want to see him." Odin said.

Laufey took a deep thoughtful breath.

"Nnnnnooooo. I don't think so. I think I will call your bluff. Two thousand warriors setting up camp on my realm, and more waiting in Asgard I’ve no doubt. It will be very embarrassing to send them all home again. Unless you want to attack us? Really Odin? Is that what you *want?* You will be fighting in a bottleneck, we will be standing inside this lovely tunnel here with some very sharp swords and spears."

Odin stood stiffly, he was controlling his breathing with an effort.

"Or," Laufey continued. "You could starve us out. Wait until we were desperate for food and just give in. Very noble, very *Asgard*"

Thor growled under his breath and tightened his grip on his hammer.

Laufey smiled at them.

"Your decision Allfather? I would like to know whether we should move the children inward to be safe or outward to see the sun. It's been so long since they laid eyes on it and they get quite sick without the light."

"I will not be leaving Laufey until I have seen my son." Odin said dangerously.

"Then I hope you brought plenty of food because we won't be sharing ours." Laufey snapped.

He turned and disappeared back into the tunnel.

"Keep Loki away from them, all of them. I swear the only thing stopping Odin from killing me was that he couldn't grab Loki and take him back through the Bifrost straight away. As long as he doesn't know where his son is, we are all safe." Laufey said softly.

Thrym nodded.

"Where do you want me to hide him?" He asked.

Laufey pulled a face as he considered thought.

"I'll take care of it." He said at last. "But Loki’s not going to like it, and I need a dozen of your finest warriors as his guards."

Thrym pulled a face of his own. He knew where Laufey was thinking of.

“No, he will not like it. Hopefully you can convince the Asgard to leave before he spends too much time there.” He said.

 

Loki looked up when Laufey returned to the huddle. He leaned forward slightly where he sat, hoping that somehow they had managed to reach an agreement.

"Apparently your father wishes to negotiate." Laufey said. "To help him with this mission of peace he has brought his shiny army, to show them some new sights and let them breathe air not tainted with gold."

"Can I see him?" Loki asked.

"No, not this time." Laufey said and reached down a hand. "Come with me."

Loki looked at him suspiciously.

"What are you planning to do?" He asked.

"I'm going to escort you to a better location. If fighting breaks out I want you in the safest part of the tunnels." Laufey said.

Loki reluctantly raised his hand and put it in Laufey's.

“Please let me see him.” He asked as Laufey led him down the tunnels to his new location.

“No Loki, your presence will be the undoing of your brother, I’m sure. It is better that you see him under controlled conditions.”

“Controlled by you.” Loki said.

“Of course, do you really think Odin would let me visit Asgard with two thousand of my closest friends? This is my realm, he is an invader and I will not allow him control. That is just good sense.”

They walked down to an area Loki had not seen before, Laufey kept going as the light grew dimmer.

“Where are we going?” Loki asked again, more nervously this time.

Each step was taking him far from the surface and far from the light. The air smelled stale.

“These are the prisons.” Laufey said, ignoring Loki’s sudden halt at his words.

He tugged on Loki’s arm and pulled him the remaining distance.

“You will stay here until Odin leaves.” He said.

Loki’s eyes were wide with fear.

“Laufey don’t, you said you wouldn’t, Laufey please!” He said as the King sealed the door, locking him inside a small cave.

He stood on the tips of his toes to see out of the thin gap carved into the doorway. Laufey looked back at him sadly.

“I will have the servants bring you furs, food and your books too. Loki I do not wish to confine you but I must keep you safe. These walls are designed to hold dangerous people, they will keep out the Asgard army. Stay here and stay calm, I will let you out into the sunshine the second they are gone, I promise. Goupr and the children can come and keep you company, in fact most of the Jotun will start to bring their children down here, you’ll hear them arrive soon. This is the safest part of the tunnels, it is only by accident that they are also the prisons, the criminals have been moved, you are safe here.”

“Laufey please, let me see him, let me talk to him, Laufey!” Loki shouted after him as the King walked away.

 

 

Laufey hurt to hear the panic in Loki’s voice, but he couldn’t afford to let him run around free. Loki would try to reach the Allfather and that would be the beginning of the end.

He made his way back up to the entrance to the tunnel.

Odin watched him with narrowed eyes as he leaned once again at the mouth of the tunnel.

“And what, exactly, will it take to make you leave, Odin Allfather?” Laufey said calmly.

“My son.” Odin replied seriously.

Thor was twitching in an effort to stay patient, the long delays were driving him insane.

“That is impossible, he is my mate. He was my betrothed before he was your son, and just out of interest, foreign law being a hobby of mine, did you ever formally adopt him after murdering his parents? I’m just curious.” Laufey said with an infuriating smile.

Odin took a deep breath.

“King Laufey, it is my great desire that we discuss this matter formally, as two Kings. There must be something you want more than my son. I would like to negotiate.” He said.

There was a strain in his voice. The Allfather did not want another war, but Laufey was making other solutions impossible.

“There is one thing I need more than a queen.” Laufey admitted. “But I sort of need the Queen to get the Heir. I can see how that concept may confuse you, what with your second heir being stolen from a foreign temple. I guess in Asgard you only have a queen because they’re pretty.”

Thor took a menacing step forwards. Laufey just smiled as Odin stuck his arm out warningly.

“Once you had an heir would you let him go?” Odin asked quietly.

Thor’s eyes bulged in disbelief.

“Father-” He started to say but Odin silenced him with a gesture.

Laufey hunched his back over and glared at the Allfather through lowered eyes.

“This is not your world.” He hissed. “This is not your throne, these are not your people and these are not your customs. You seek to twist them? To change them to suit your liking? Loki is not yours, he was never yours. One heir is not enough Odin, what if he should die? Will you send Loki back to have another? My entire court is made up of my siblings, what will my heir do if he is alone? No, Odin Allfather, I will not let him go. This is Loki’s home and I still do not understand what you were thinking when you stole him away.”

“I was thinking a small child would not be loved in a land of monsters.” Odin said quietly. “I was wrong.”

“I should get that in writing, maybe send it as a royal declaration to the other realms.” Laufey snapped.

“Please will you let me speak to my son?” Odin asked quietly, sadly.

Laufey regarded him for a long time.

“Not now, not with an army at your back.” He said. “Make war or leave, but choose wisely because I do not have much mercy within me.”

Odin nodded slowly.

“I still wish to negotiate with you.”

Laufey tossed his head back in frustration.

“Not for Loki, I can see you will not consider it, but for visits, and maybe trade between us. My son sits at you side Laufey, if we will not go to war perhaps we can reap the benefits of peace.” Odin said.

Laufey watched him with narrowed eyes.

“That I will consider. In one hundred days. Until then, I expect to see no sign of Asgard.”

Odin nodded slowly in agreement.

“Please may I wish my son well?”

“No, come in a hundred days.” Laufey said and returned to the tunnel.

“Watch them, see if they go.” He said quietly to Thrym, who nodded seriously.

“If they do not, what is our plan?”

“We will wipe them out.” Laufey said. “And then there will be war.”

He looked serious.

“I do not want that, the last one took such a toll on us. But I cannot give up Loki.”

“I know, there is not a Jotun who would forgive you if you gave him up.” Thrym said.

“I can think of a few.” Laufey said. “Of course they are the ones hoping for my death and their advancement.”

“They are insane. Their opinions are hardly credible.” Thrym pointed out.

 

 

The Asgard army slowly began to depart.

“Father, we can’t leave him here. We came all this way!” Thor protested.

“We have achieved as much as we were going to.” Odin said. “Laufey sees our strength and he has agreed to negotiate.”

“Not for Loki.” Thor pointed out.

“No, for peace.” Odin said as they walked slowly back along the Bifrost. “Thor, to take Loki we must first break the binding spell. My spy has told me as much as she can about it. I could feel it as Laufey and I spoke. More time in his presence will enable me to see it properly and then break it. When that happens we must be in a position to take Loki immediately. Laufey has worn the spell for a long time, he will feel it shatter. But once Loki is back home he can claim sanctuary. We can protect him and keep him here. The other realms will be nervous but it is better than a war, far better. Our other option is to kill Laufey, and that will plunge Jotunheim into a civil war. The consequences will be disastrous for *all* of us.”

“So you cowered him into agreeing to speak with you.” Thor said.

“The army helped our cause, yes. Laufey does not want a war any more than I do. With Loki to unite us, Laufey is willing to try for peace.”

“We will be bringing him back, won’t we?” Thor asked suddenly.

His father was a good king, sometimes at the expense of his family. A burden Thor had thought he was ready for. He believed differently now.

“We will. I will not leave my child with Laufey. I cannot.” Odin said, his voice cracking slightly on the last word.

 

Loki had screamed until he was hoarse. He had banged on the door and cursed Laufey with every breath he took.

It was only when he heard the sound of children arriving that he stopped. Laufey had said they would bring their most vulnerable here, he had not lied.

Goupr had arrived with an armful of furs. Helblindi followed him with a tray full of food to share and little Býleistr had entered last with two of the books in his arms.

He put them down and ran to give Loki a hug.

“The Asgard are here!” He said fearfully.

“It’s okay, they won’t hurt you.” Loki soothed.

Býleistr looked up at him with terrified eyes.

“They’ll take you away from us.” He said, tightening his grip.

Loki felt a lump in his throat and hugged Býleistr tightly.

“I’m here, right here. It’s okay, they just want to talk to me.” He said.

Goupr rested with his back to the door, conveniently preventing Loki from banging on it further.

“Uncle Laufey will make them go away, don’t you worry, my baby, everything will be alright.” He said.

Helblindi looked worried.

“What if they attack?” He whispered. “Father’s up there.”

Goupr held out his arms and Helblindi crawled into them. He looked younger and fearful.

“Your father once took out an enraged Grur with nothing but a rock the size of my head. He’ll be fine.” Gourp said, giving his eldest a hug.

 

 

Laufey and Thrym came to fetch them several hours later.

“They’re finally gone.” Laufey said.

Loki tried to keep the sadness from his face, but he shoulders were slumped and he looked like someone had taken all the air from his lungs. Laufey smiled kindly at him.

“Let’s go into the light.” He said, holding out his hand.

The whole group made their way up to the surface and surveyed the damage the Darkening winds had caused.

The castle was still only half repaired. The more damaged sections were crumbling.

“We’ll get the army on that, it’ll be good for them to co-ordinate.” Thrym said.

Utgard was covered in snow. Jotun adults were already starting to lift it onto sleds to remove from the streets. Children jumped in it. In places it was so deep that they disappeared entirely.

Loki was having trouble making his way through the snowdrifts. Laufey leaned down and picked him up. He swung him up until he was sitting on Laufey’s shoulder, high above the ground.

The Jotuns who saw it gave him a cheerful smile. The children tried to play their game but the snow was too thick and they kept tumbling when they tried to lunge forward to reach the King.

Loki looked across and found Býleistr and Helblindi had also hitched a ride on each of their mothers’.

The city was covered, but undamaged. After their inspection Laufey took Loki back to the castle and up to their chambers.

“Home.” He said as they walked through the door.

The servants were still shoveling the snow from the floor. It had blown in through the window and piled up high against the bed. Laufey sat down at the table and leaned back.

“We will spend the next few weeks cleaning up, then the planting begins. When the plants begin to break through the frost we will go out to see the farmers. First in the north, then beyond the eastern plains. The southern lands will take us a while to visit, they are quite extensive but the western plains are much smaller. The mountains block us from extensive planting.”

“You’ll spend a lot of time away from the castle.” Loki said.

Laufey looked up at him.

“Your punishment should be over by the time we leave, if not it will be soon, you can catch up to me. In truth the most exciting part of the year is the Hunt and the Celebrations. Now we must concentrate on what we must do to survive the next Darkening.”

Loki nodded. He was beginning to lose hope that he would see Asgard again before the next Hunt.

Laufey could sense his mood. He wished there was something he could do about it. He thought about telling Loki of his conversation with the Allfather, but Odin had turned from loving father into mercenary-king pretty quickly. Laufey did not know how to break the news to Loki, who would surly take it as a major blow.

In the end they sat there in silence, each one thinking their own thoughts until the daylight dimmed and they retired to bed.

Chapter Text

The following morning Laufey made Loki write a letter to his mother. He had to detail exactly what he had done, what the consequences had been, what the consequences *might* have been and what his punishment was. It took over an hour, Loki only reluctantly put quill to scroll and his writings were interspersed with pleas for Laufey to reconsider.

Laufey was unmoved. When Loki was done he carried the letter to his workroom and scribbled a few words of his own at the bottom, before carrying it to the Bifrost himself.

Loki stayed in the royal chambers, sulking. He knew he was getting off lightly but the thought of being without a visit for so long was almost physically painful. He sat on the window seat and watched Thrym put one of the squads through their paces. The army was mobilising rapidly in response to the Asgard threat.

He scanned the horizon, watching the Jotun from the country as they made the long trip homeward.

The mad urge to run suddenly gripped him, to get out of this place, to go go go. He jumped down from the window seat and ran out of the doorway. The guards took off after him as he dashed at great speed down the corridors and out into the training yards.

Thrym saw him arrive and gave him a warning look. Loki stopped and took a deep breath. He slowed to a walk and made his way over to the squad.

“Restless already?” Thrym asked. “Do you want to spar? Maybe I can wear you out a little.”

Loki nodded, his eyes flicking to the western gate.

“Don’t Loki, please don’t. It’s not worth it.” Thrym said gently. “Spar with me, take away some of that energy you’re feeling.”

“I want to run.” Loki said. “I want to run as fast and as far as I can. I don’t have a reason, I just want to run.”

Thrym nodded and took a step to the side to speak to the squad.

“Right! In one minute your queen is going to start running through the grounds! He’s got magic, so don’t be surprised if he disappears! He’s fast, despite his size! So don’t think for one second your task is going to be easy! Your task is to get a strip of cloth from him! This strip of cloth!”

And with that Thrym grabbed a standard from one of the banners and thrust it at Loki with a mischievous grin.

“At no time are you to restrain him, land a blow on him or trip him up! The warrior who succeeds will have this afternoon free! GO!”

The squad turned to look at Loki. Forty red eyes locked on to him at once.

Loki ran.

He dashed toward the nearest weapons store, while the squad took off after his clone running in the other direction. He skidded to a stop inside and looked around quickly, eyes taking in possible escape routes, hiding places, everything.

There was a noise behind him. Loki spun and ducked as a Jotun lunged forward to try and grab the cloth from his hand. He slipped under the warrior’s arm and sprinted out of the far door, narrowly avoiding losing the cloth to another warrior who was waiting for him. Loki slid through the warrior’s outspread legs and came up running. He tore across the yard, weaving around the obstacles in his path.

Eventually Laufey came out from his workroom to find out what the commotion was.

“Well?” He asked his brother, who was leaning against the side of the castle trying not to laugh at the sight of his finest warriors tumbling all over the place as they tried to snatch the thin strip of cloth from Loki’s fingertips.

Loki himself was out of breath, his face was flushed with blue but the determined look in his eye was still present as one Jotun fell right through him, only for him to turn up a few metres away on the run.

“He said he wanted to run. He’s been confined for a hundred days, we all have. They were desperate to do something and so was he. He hasn’t tried to leave the castle, which I suspect was dancing in the front of his mind when he came down to the yards.” Thrym replied.

Laufey looked worried.

“He has been alright with this game? He asked.

“Perfectly fine, I think he’s enjoying himself.” Thrym commented.

“It’s just that some things are very upsetting to him, a group of Jotun bearing down on him might be one of them.” Laufey said.

“No, he’s fine, no sign of distress.” Thrym said.

“Just me then.” Laufey said sadly.

He watched the goings on for a while.

“He’ll be worn out tonight.” He said at last.

Thrym looked over at is brother.

“If you didn’t punish him he will only get worse. Children need boundaries.”

“He’s not a child.” Laufey interrupted.

“I know, as I was saying, children need boundaries, if they don’t get them they do not learn to properly control themselves. I don’t doubt that Odin loves his sons, but they are both too quick to temper, too quick to lash out when they are upset or believe themselves slighted. Loki’s punishment will be good for him in the long run, we just have to wear him out so that he doesn’t decide to go walking.”

“I don’t want to imprison him.” Laufey said.

“Hopefully he will learn to control himself. If he doesn’t, you may have to take a more serious step.” Thrym said. “But I hope not, he’s a good soul underneath that temper.”

“Yes.” Laufey said.

His voice was slightly wistful. Thrym very carefully did not lay his hand over his stomach, as he had been in the habit of doing lately.

“The house of Odin is full of thieves.” He said instead. “He’s stolen your heart.”

Laufey picked up a handful of snow and threw it at him.

 

Frigga wept when she got the letter. She sat in her favourite chair in her chambers and held it tightly in her hand as her shoulders shook with every sob. A hundred days she had endured without her child. One hundred more because he had committed treason in Jotunheim.

“Oh baby, my baby boy, I told you to stay clever.” She whispered sadly. “Oh my baby boy.”

The page shook in her hand as her heart broke over and over. Loki was suffering badly enough to try and kill the king. He was trapped in a land far from home and she couldn’t see him, couldn’t comfort him, couldn’t reach out and hold him for a single moment. It was the worst of tortures, the very worst, and she had been living with it for so long now.

Laufey’s message on the bottom of the page had caused a great deal of confused emotions. It was simple enough.

‘I understand that this is hard for you but I would appreciate it if you did not attempt to validate his actions. Your letters will be read and any encouragement on your part toward Loki breaking the law will result in your letter not being delivered.’

Then as an afterthought.

‘Loki’s birthday is in ten days time if you wish to send a gift.’

She did not know how to feel about her son’s captor asking for her cooperation. She would give it though. She did not want Loki to think for one moment that she had abandoned him. Her letters must get through.

Dinner that night was a solemn affair. After waiting so long for the blistering cold to recede not one of them had managed so much as a glimpse of Loki. Odin had buried himself in the business of the realm, Thor had buried several people inches deep into the training ground floor and Frigga had burned in silent agony.

Asgard had not held a single feast since Loki had gone. It was as though a dark shade had come over the realm. Attempts to lighten the mood were met with sleepless eyes and solemn faces. The commoners were calling it ‘Loki’s Winter’ ‘Loki’s Shadow’ and ‘Loki’s Echo’.

“One hundred days is such a long time.” Thor said, breaking the silence of their meal.

“We will endure it.” Odin said sadly. “We must.”

“I wish you could have just taken him.” Frigga said.

She kept her eyes on her plate. Wishing for war was not the actions of a queen, but most definitely those of a tortured mother.

“If we had seen him, we might have.” Odin confessed. “Although it is not the best course of action that is available to us.”

“It has taken so long.” Thor said. “Realm politics is a terrible thing when it catches a victim.”

“I know my son, I know.” Odin said. “But we must wait a little longer, our best chance is to break the spell. In this at least politics can help us. No one has ever negotiated inter-realm business in a single day. I will study the spell as Laufey and I have our discussions and hopefully I will be able to break it by the end.”

“What if you cannot?” Thor asked.

“I will stall.” Odin said determinedly. “I will stall until I can break it, and when that day comes you will find your brother and wait for the spell to break, then we will return to Asgard as fast as we can.”

“What of Jotunheim?” Frigga said in a strange sounding voice.

She was thinking of Helblindi and the children in Utgard, who Loki said played their game with him.

“Laufey is still in good health. He still has a chance to keep Jotunheim from its fate if we take Loki back.” Odin said.

He sounded a little uncomfortable. Politics was *never* easy. There would be no guarantees that Laufey could keep his realm from collapsing after his death. But there was plenty of time left, Laufey was in his prime. Without Loki he would have to do the best he could.

It was that thought that kept Odin on his path. Laufey was his enemy, but it had not always been that way. Once Jotunheim and Asgard had been, if not allies, then at least civil to each other. He knew that Laufey was a good King, for all that he despised the man. Jotunheim would just have to learn to survive without an ice maiden, just as they had learned to survive without the Casket of Ancient Winters. It could be done.

It had to be done.

 

 

Ten days after the Darkening had ended, the Royal Court celebrated Loki’s birth.

It was quite close to when Asgard had celebrated it, Odin must have guessed his approximate age and counted from there. Loki sat at the head of a long table and ate the finest scavenged meat the Jotun could find. There was some plant stores left from the Darkening which the chefs had worked wonders on to remove the slightly stale taste.

Laufey gave him a set of books on magic, Jotun magic. Thrym gave him a set of throwing knives with exquisitely carved handles. Goupr gave him a new set of winter clothes, stitched during the Darkening and made ready for him. They were made from Drapht fur and were a beautifully soft white on both the inside and outside.

“For when you want to be pink.” Goupr said quietly.

Loki smiled at him in response.

It was a surprisingly good day. Laufey didn’t ask him to mate either, which he suspected was deliberate. What he did do was quietly slide a letter and a gift from Frigga across the table at the feast’s end. Loki slipped the letter into his loinpocket to read in private and opened the gift.

It was a box of dried herbs and other plants from Asgard’s finest mage gardens. Loki gently stroked some of the dried leaves with a touched expression on his face. Anyone else would think it was a strange gift, a dreary gift, not suitable for a Royal Prince of Asgard.

They didn’t know Loki, Frigga did.

“Tomorrow will you teach our mages the fire magic?” Laufey asked him as they prepared for bed.

“Yes.” Loki answered, crawling up onto the fur covered slab.

Laufey resisted the urge to help him and made a mental note to have steps placed on Loki’s side of the bed.

“It needs to be done as soon as possible so they can practice for the next Darkening.” Loki said. “It takes a while to master and I found it much harder to do in Jotun form.”

Laufey lay down beside him and gently pulled Loki into their usual embrace.

“They are eager to begin their practice.” He said. “Mages do not have much to do this time of the year, now is the best time for them to study and learn new things. A large number of them from all over Jotunheim have stayed in Utgard in the hope that you will teach them.”

Loki nodded sleepily.

“Perhaps they can teach me some healing spells in return.” He said.

“They will be honoured.” Laufey said.

“Or else?” Loki asked mischievously.

“Or else.” Laufey said, holding a straight face for all of two seconds before a smile broke through his features.

Chapter Text

If someone had asked Loki what defined Jotunheim he would have said ice, darkness and ruin. But that was before he came to live there. Now he would answer that Jotunhem was defined by food.

Good food and plenty of it when the Harvest was over and the Hunt successful, good food in smaller portions during the Darkening. Then almost exclusively small portions of meat in the days following the Darkening until the smaller, faster plants had a chance to yield their crop. Then the diet would become the opposite, small portions of hunted meat with plenty of grain and leaves to supplement it.

Loki had never had to wonder where his food came from before. Laufey thought about it every morning when he handled the realm business. Granting permission for hunting parties, monitoring plant growth and expected harvest yields, Laufey was an accountant King.

But in the afternoon he wore a different crown. In the Throne Room he sat in judgement over those that had committed crimes during the Darkening. It had not been prudent to sentence them at the time, they had merely been locked in the cells with every other accused criminal to keep warm. The most common crimes had been to steal food or furs from someone else. There were also a few who stood accused of pushing someone out of their huddle, which at the heart of the Darkening could easily lead to a frozen death.

Laufey was just but fair, and when the crimes of the Darkening had been taken care of, he quietly called an audience in his workroom.

Loki, Thrym, Vindsval and Raolr all attended. When they were settled and the door closed and guarded, Laufey regarded them all thoughtfully.

“It is no secret that Greer is angry at me.” He said.

“That’s partly my fault.” Loki said.

He raised his chin defiantly.

“But mostly his.” He finished.

“He did steal from the central store.” Thrym said. “The penalty was set down years ago. We enforced it as was our right.”

“Greer is angry and unfortunately, quite powerful in his lands. He is a good manager and popular with the people who live there.” Laufey said. “I’d rather not remove him simply for being angry but there are hints that he would be willing to rebel.”

“But would he succeed?” Vindsval asked. “The rest of Jotunheim supports their King, there will be some on his lands who support you as well. Greer has no claim to the throne, the whole realm knows that.”

“There are those who do not care.” Thrym said. “There always are.”

“But they are outnumbered.” Raolr pointed out. “To strike at Laufey is to destabilise us, the only one with the numbers to take control is Thrym, and that’s because he has the army to back him.”

“I would just like to point out that I have no desire to take the throne.” Thrym said, holding up both hands in a surrender motion. “Just letting everyone know.”

“I need you to investigate him.” Laufey said. “Send your best spies to find out whether he has serious plans or if it’s all just talk.”

“I will.” Raolr said, answering Loki’s occasional musings about what Laufey’s second brother did for the court.

“While you’re at it, I need you to find out whether there is anyone else who harbours thoughts of improving their station and is mad enough to believe they will succeed.” Laufey added.

Raolr bowed and left the room, Vindsval went with him.

Lauefy sighed heavily and slouched in his chair.

“I hate politics.” He muttered.

“Says the King.” Thrym said with a grin.

Laufey gave him a wry look.

“I like the part where I get to eat well and lie on the best furs in the realm, I asked father years ago whether I had to do the rest of it and he was quite, uh, unwavering on the subject.”

“I’ll bet you did.” Thrym said with a smile, remembering their childhood of long ago.

Loki suddenly felt as though he was intruding on a private moment. It felt so strange to be included in them.

Laufey turned to him.

“Are you going to teach the mages today?” He asked.

Loki shook his head.

“I know I said I would, but there is something I need from Asgard, unless Jotunheim has candles?”

“Candles?” Laufey said.

The confused look on his face gave Loki his answer.

“They are columns of wax with a string through the centre called a wick. You light the wick with fire and they burn for hours. It is easier to manipulate fire than to start it and all Asgard mages learn the ways of fire with candles first.” Loki said. “I’ll write to my mother and ask her to send me some. How many mages are there?”

“About two hundred.” Laufey said.

Loki’s eyes widened.

“That…quite a few.” He said at last.

Thrym grinned broadly.

“You’re not afraid of an audience that big? Not Queen Loki the Jotun flattener.” He joked.

Loki rolled his eyes at him.

“No, I just didn’t think there’d be so many staying behind.”

“Write to your mother today. You can begin teaching them when the candles arrive.” Laufey said. “Which I guess means your morning is free. I have to visit Utgard to inspect the repairs and no you may not come.”

Loki’s body sagged.

“I’ll read my new books.” He said.

Thrym laughed at his expression.

“Come on my queen, I’ll escort you back to your chambers.”

 

They took their time strolling back. Thrym’s hand rested gently on his belly, which was still flat and taunt. Loki glanced at it.

“How long before you see a bump?” He asked.

“Not until the seventh month, sometimes longer. The child is very, very small right now. He is developing his brain, which takes a long time.” Thrym said with a wistful smile.

“How did you know you were with child?” Loki asked.

“The early signs are wanting more food than normal, feeling restless around others when your mate isn’t present and an increased desire to mark your mate.”

“Mark?”

“Biting, scratching, that sucker isn’t going anywhere.” Thrym joked.

Loki grinned and gave a chuckle.

“After that there are other signs. Your entryway feels more sensitive, you sleep more to conserve energy. If you have any of those signs it’s good to go to a healer and see if they can sense the second life inside of you.”

“So are you feeling restless right now?” Loki asked.

Thrym looked sideways at him.

“Desperate to get out of the castle aren’t you? Not for a long while yet, and I’ll be taking your letter to the Bifrost, not you.”

“I know.” Loki said. “You wouldn’t think being confined to a giant castle with hundreds of recently rebuilt rooms would make you feel confined, but it does.”

“It’s in your nature to be flighty. You are a traveller in your heart Loki, you enjoyed the Hunt, you’ll enjoy the visits to the far reaches of the realm.” Thrym said. “But right now you will learn not to throw fire at the King.”

“What if I learn my lesson early?” Loki asked.

Thrym just gave him a look. There was quite a bit of ‘parent’ in it.

“Then you will understand why you must receive your full sentence.” He said.

They reached the royal chambers and Loki climbed up into his chair. He told Frigga about his birthday celebrations and his wild dash against forty Jotuns through the castle grounds. Finally he told her about the children, and how they had been saved by the light.

‘I need about two hundred candles if I am to teach their mages how to make fire. My own lessons took years but if I can teach them how to manipulate it first, it might be enough to start them on their way.’ He wrote.

Thrym took the letter and disappeared. Loki, finding himself with nothing to do for the first time in a long time, ordered a drink for from the kitchens and settled in the window seat with one of his new books. He was so engrossed he did not hear the servant arrive at lunchtime. The poor thing had to knock four times before finally one of the guards opened the door and called out to get his attention.

Loki ate quickly, he hadn’t realised how hungry he was. The diet of meat wasn’t very appealing, and he suddenly wished he’d asked his mother to send more food. Still, knowing Frigga she would do it anyway.

He finished his lunch and was debating on whether he could get away with crawling back into the window seat to read some more when Laufey showed up.

“I ate in Utgard.” He said. “Come on, the afternoon audience is waiting.”

Loki pulled a face but walked with Laufey to the Throne Room. He hoped for a small audience so that he might return to his books. Jotun magic was a whole new branch that was totally undiscovered in Asgard. There were spells there that he was dying to try out.

 

 

Frigga sent three hundred candles through the Bifrost that day, along with five baskets of Loki’s favourite foods. Laufey suppressed his annoyance at Loki’s obvious delight. His love for his family struck a sore spot within the King. He had come to accept that Loki did not love him, would not love him. Far from being the thing that bound them, their first mate had torn them apart. Maybe, in a century or two Loki might let go of his heart, but until that impossible day Laufey had to come second to a woman who was married to his greatest enemy, and it hurt.

Loki snacked on the honeyed cakes while he set up one of the new halls for his magic lesson. He built the tables himself, slowly drawing the ice up through his body and shaping it into furniture. They were a little lopsided, and he’d forgotten the chairs, but Laufey had one of the servants fix it after Loki had left.

That night Laufey nipped along Loki’s neck with great care. It occurred to him that his pressing need for an heir had taken some of the gentleness out of his mates in recent weeks, so he worked Loki’s body up to a steady state of arousal and peak.

Afterwards he nuzzled Loki’s hair gently. It still fascinated him the way something so different from all other Jotuns could cause such a strong reaction. Just the sight of Loki walking down the corridors could cause some people to blush with sudden lust. His hair was so alien and at the same time so much more desirable. His skin was so soft, you’d think it would bruise easily but it seemed as hardy as any Jotuns, just more yielding, more smooth.

Loki was beautiful, and his. The burden of being a King was to always work to keep the realm from crumbling. The reward was something so precious Laufey could not find the words for it. It was…it was…Loki.

Loki with his fire and his temper. Loki with his questions and his wide, if somewhat wary eyes. Loki with his quick wit and clever mind. Loki who could be tame, but not tamed. Loki who forced justice and who had different ideas. Loki who saved the children but almost started a war.

That night Laufey dreamed of a day when Loki ran to him because he wanted to, and woke with a heavy heart because it would always be a dream.

Chapter Text

Loki stood in front of the assembled mages. They each had a chair, a place at a table and a large candle in front of them.

With a wave of his hand and a great deal of concentration Loki lit the candles. The assembled mages stared at him in wonder. It was almost embarrassing. After all, Loki was still perfecting ice shaping and the books of Jotun magic Laufey gave him were full of water and ice spells that he'd never even heard of.

'Fire and Ice' Loki thought. 'Can there be a better metaphor for Asgard and Jotunheim?'

He cleared his throat and began to speak.

"Fire magic is just like any other branch of magic. It requires focus, discipline and practice. Now I know you are all full mages which means you understand that concept well. So today what you are going to do is feel the shape of the flame with your magic. Reach out toward it. Don't try to manipulate it, just let your magic flow over it. See if you can sense the flame in front of you."

The assembled mages each looked down at their candle and, almost in unison, took a deep calming breath.

Loki watched as the magic of two hundred mages flowed out in tight, well controlled streams to wrap around the flickering flames in front of them.

Some overdid it immediately. Their candles went out in a puff of smoke. Others caused the flame to flicker wildly.

Loki relit the candles that had gone out as he wandered the hall, watching their efforts. With focus he could see the different magic trying to encircle the individual flames.

After about an hour the magic was clearly more focussed, more refined. It flittered around and through the flame as the mages learnt the feel of fire.

Loki called a break for snacks.

They crunched a small mouthful of frozen meat each. Food was scarce just after the Darkening, but learning magic required major focus, and that meant doing the best you could to take care of yourself.

"Right." Loki said, after they were done. "A lot of you have managed to feel the shape of a flame. Now I want you to try and push it sideways without extinguishing it, like this."

He focussed on the flame in front of him. It lengthened out sideways from the candle base in one long steady flame, before coming back to the centre and lengthening out in the other direction.

"You need to use you magic to encourage the flame's essence to grow in one direction and one direction only." He said.

The mages went back to their candles. All two hundred of them instantly went out.

Loki relit them.

"That's exactly what I did the first few hundred times." He said cheerfully. "Try again."

After another hour only one mage had managed to stretch his flame out. It was a wild, flickering thing that curled at the end, a far cry from Loki's sedately controlled line.

"We'll try again tomorrow." Loki said. "Get plenty of sleep tonight."

He left the hall and made his way to the royal chambers for lunch.

 

Laufey was waiting for him.

"Good lesson?" He asked.

"The usual." Loki replied.

"Which is?" Laufey asked, amused.

Loki glanced up at him.

"Lots of focus, almost no result. It's early days yet, they need to practice for weeks before they'll be ready to try and summon it. They need to *know* fire, to know it's very nature. They get it though, there's nothing stopping them but time."

"And you? Have you begun your own studies?" Laufey asked.

Loki picked up a piece of meat and crunched on it.

"Not yet, I've been reading those books you gave me. There's a lot in there I want to try."

"Maybe this afternoon then." Laufey said.

They finished lunch all too quickly. Loki jumped down from his chair and fetched some Asgard food from Frigga's baskets.

"Here." He said, handing some roasted pheasant to Laufey. "Tell me if that tastes like burning."

Laufey chewed the pheasant carefully.

"It's a lot better than boar." He said. "I like the skin."

"Everyone likes the skin." Loki said. "It's covered in herbs and roasted in butter."

Laufey smiled as he ate another mouthful.

"The short harvests will be coming in when we go on our tour, there will be better food then."

"This food is fine." Loki lied. "It's a bit repetitive, but better the same meal every day than no meal at all."

"True." Laufey agreed. "Are you having enough though? With your new studies? The mages are all having a little extra from the kitchens each day."

"I haven't started yet, but maybe, when I'm trying a new spell. Can they spare it?" Loki asked.

"For the queen? Hmm, let me think." Laufey joked.

Loki shaped a handful of snow into his palm and held it threateningly.

"It will not be a burden for you to have a little extra if you need it." Laufey said. "The hunting parties are successful, boring, but successful."

"I'll stick to the Asgard food. I'm sure mother will send more if I tell her I'm starving." Loki said.

"You should not joke about that to her, she will believe you." Laufey said, suddenly serious. "I would never starve you."

"I know." Loki said, surprised. "I didn't meant it seriously."

They finished the pheasant in silence and made their way to the throne room for the afternoon audience.

 

Afterward, Loki read his books while Laufey sat and carved a small animal bone into a decorative pin.

"I didn't know you carved." Loki said from his perch on the window seat.

"It helps me to focus my mind." Laufey said. "It is also a good way to be creative. I don't have a lot of time for it though."

They went back to their respective tasks.

When Thrym knocked on the door he took in the domestic scene in front of him with a smile.

"I thought you ought to know, I'm moving in here for a month." He announced.

Loki looked up at him puzzled, but Laufey began to chuckle.

"Goupr's mother is here, isn't he?" He said.

Thrym groaned and sank down onto the available chair.

"He heard about the baby, he's decided to come and give me advice." He said with a pained expression.

"So cowers the mighty Thrym." Laufey joked.

"You would cower to if your mate's mother was insufferable." Thrym said.

There was an awkward moment of silence.

"Loki's mother is...very strong willed." Laufey said at last.

“Damn straight” Loki muttered.

"Where's Goupr?" Laufey said quickly.

"Hiding the children." Thrym said. "Or greeting his mother, I don't know, but I'm not coming out until that chattering moron has gone."

"That sounds a bit harsh." Loki said.

Laufey chuckled as Thrym straightened in his chair.

"Harsh? That was going easy! That man is incapable of remaining quiet for anything! He says everything that comes into his head, everything! Last time he commented on the weather four times in ten minutes. It's Jotunheim! It was a clear day and had been for a week, and *would* be for a week more! If you want enough variety to comment on the weather go to Midgard!"

Loki was biting his lip in an effort not to giggle. Laufey wasn't even trying to hold back his laughter. Thrym looked exasperated.

"Stop laughing you two! Especially you Laufey! Remember when he tried to join our huddle for the Darkening?"

Laufey stopped laughing.

Thrym nodded, his eyes wide.

"You see? It's not funny at all is it? He just happened to come up for a visit right at the last moment before it became too cold to travel. Goupr had to escort him back to his huddle and almost froze on the way back. You remember what he was like Laufey. Oh you know."

Laufey nodded seriously, although a small smile still threatened to break through his mask.

"I remember, I asked you if you wanted me to build a wall between the castle and the eastern plains. You said yes and tried to hold me to it when the Darkening finished."

"You should have done it." Thrym said. "That man is a menace."

"Apart from the talking, what's wrong with him?" Loki asked.

Thrym just buried his head in his arms. Laufey looked over at Loki and smiled gently.

"That's it really, you try living with someone who talks non-stop about every inane thought that goes through his head and you'll soon understand why Thrym is upset. Even so," he said, turning to Thrym, "you have to deal with it. I'm sure it won't be for too long, and your duties as General will keep you busy."

"He'll accuse me of putting work ahead of my children." Thrym said.

"You are the First General of Jotunheim! Of course you put work ahead of your children! But only when you have to, and you are the best parent I know." Laufey said.

"He doesn't believe pregnant Jotun should work." Thrym said. "He's a traditionalist from the warm ages. He thinks I should be setting up a nice nest so that Goupr can bring me food and rub my feet. I don't need any of that, I'd get bored."

Laufey chucked again.

"Nobody believes that the ancient Jotun were so lazy anymore, no species on Jotunheim starts nesting the moment they are with child, why would we be the exception? That is a silly holdover from a silly time in our era."

"What time?" Loki asked.

"There was a time when the first Jotun of a couple to get with child was declared the mother of all the children. He would nest early, speak to no one but his mate and do nothing for a year. Then he would raise the children while the father did nothing but provide food for them. It was a stupid time. Our population dropped to record lows, and both mothers and fathers were unhappy with their assigned roles. Swapping roles would make you an outcast."

"That's unbelievable." Loki said.

"And yet, they were those who really believed in it. There are a few isolated pockets of ignorance that still perpetuate the myth today. Goupr's mother for one." Thrym said.

"You'll be fine, he drops in every year or so, you can stand it for a few days." Laufey said.

Thrym lowered his head and sobbed theatrically into his arms.

"You're a cruel brother." He said. "You won't even give me shelter during my delicate time."

Laufey snorted.

"You've never been delicate in your life." He said. "Go and get it over with, you know he hangs around longer when you are distant, and that's not fair on the children. Little Býleistr had sore cheeks from Nada's squeezing, and Helblindi was ready to run away."

Thrym grumbled but rose from the chair.

"If he kills me, I want him punished by the old method, it suits his style." He said as he left the room.

"The old method?" Loki asked.

Laufey looked caught.

"I was a long time ago." He said, laying down some early security. "We haven't done it since before my grandmother's day. In fact his father was instrumental in outlawing it."

"But what was it?" Loki asked.

"Use magic to send them to Asgard." Laufey muttered.

"What?"

"We used to send them to Asgard, where either the heat or the warriors would finish them off." Laufey said. "It sounds like an easy punishment but it was painful and terrifying."

"That's the reason Asgard has all those old stories of Jotun attacking from nowhere?!" Loki said. "The children still try to scare each other with tales of Jotun living in caves up in the mountains. Some warriors still go up there even now to see if they can find them."

“Yes, well, we stopped.” Laufey said.

Loki raised an eyebrow at him before turning back to his book.

“Do I have to meet Goupr’s mother?” He asked suddenly.

“You are under no obligation, but you’ll see him at the next audience. He’ll be the one in the back who won’t shut up.” Laufey said

 

The next day’s lesson was much like the first. Thankfully the mages understood how slow the progress was when starting a whole new branch of magic. While they were practicing, Puluk taught Loki a spell to feel the inside of a Jotun’s body. He got to practice on Thrym, who was spending the day hiding out anywhere he could. Puluk provided a careful shield between Loki’s magic and Thrym’s body in case of flair-ups, but Loki was still able to sense the tiny child growing inside.

“It’s still so small.” He said, opening his eyes.

“Tiny.” Puluk confirmed. “But healthy and strong. He’s developing nicely.”

Thrym beamed in pleasure.

Loki tried scanning Jotun bodies until his head hurt. By then the others were exhausted too, they ate their extra rations and departed for the day.

Loki looked over the candles. They were large ones, perfect for this kind of work. It would be some time before he would need to ask Frigga for more.

Thrym escorted him back to the royal chambers.

Loki slowed his walk until he was barely strolling.

“Don’t want to go back there right now?” Thrym asked.

“It’s lunchtime, I have to.” Loki said.

Thrym shook his head.

“Tell a servant to tell Laufey you’ll be eating lunch somewhere else. Then come and help me find somewhere good to hide.”

Loki smiled at that.

“You’re not feeling restless are you Thrym? All that time away from your mate while your mother in law visits.”

“My mother in law? Is that what they are called in Asgard?” Thrym asked.

“Yes, once you marry by law they become your mother too.”

“Oh no, that monster will never be my mother.” Thrym said.

“I’ll help you explore, there has to be some old passageways or something you can use as a hideout.” Loki said.

They had a servant bring them lunch and two crystals which Loki filled with light, and spent the whole afternoon exploring the older passageways at the base of the castle. At one point a servant brought a message from Laufey saying that Thrym should know better than to keep Loki from the afternoon audience, but that he would overlook it this time because he knew for a fact Nada was spending *his* afternoon trying to build a nest for Thrym in his and Goupr’s chambers.

They reached the lowest depths of the castle. It was cold down there, even for Jotun. Loki could feel the air on his skin as they walked. A thought suddenly occurred.

“Do these tunnels go beyond the castle perimeter? Because if they do I’m getting into trouble as we speak.”

“According to the old maps Laufey and I used to study before planning one of our ‘adventures’, only one tunnel goes beyond the castle limits and we are well away from that one.” Thrym said. “I’ve never actually explored this one.”

They wandered for a few more minutes, content to poke their heads around every corner and into every crack in the ice. In case of treasure, Thrym informed Loki with a straight face. Loki responded by telling Thrym about the time he and Thor had explored the narrow service tunnels of the Asgard Palace.

“Every royal childhood is the same.” Thrym said happily.

“Seems like it.” Loki said with a reminiscent smile.

They continued on their way in silence until they heard the faint sound of voices.

“Does this passage join the servants paths?” Loki asked quietly.

“Maybe.” Thrym said, equally soft. “The map was old and showed no other tunnels down here at all.”

Loki waved a hand and dimmed their crystals to a dull glow. Thrym looked at him in surprise.

“Are you really expecting us to spy on some servants?” He asked.

“They might have treasure.” Loki replied with a straight face.

Thrym snickered and together they crept closer to the source of the sounds, grinning the grin of adults pretending that just for a moment they had not yet grown up.

The voices were not servants. They were ex-guards, the same ex-guards who had been involved in the attack on Loki’s mother.

Loki and Thrym exchanged nervous glances before Loki darkened their crystals completely.

“This is ridiculous. I fought a war against those dirty Asgard, now they come as guests just because our pretty little queen needs his mother? Is he Jotun or not?”

“Maybe he’s an Asgard spy, planted to bewitch Laufey and bring us down.”

“That makes sense, the King can’t even get a child on him. Maybe that’s the reason.”

“Or maybe we could be reasonable. Even an ice maiden doesn’t get pregnant the second you mate with one.”

“Whose side are you on?”

“The one that will win, it doesn’t mean I’m giving in to suspicion of Asgard plots. The plan was disrupted by his arrival but Greer has adapted it now. We will still have what he promised us.”

“I only joined this venture because Jotunheim was going to collapse into war anyway and I wanted to come out on top, now that Laufey has a queen our future is safe. Why do we continue with this?”

“Don’t you want to come out on top anyway? Greer will make it happen.”

“Who gets the ice maiden?”

“The queen will have to die. We can’t risk someone getting a child on him and rallying the realm. Once we are finished, Jotunheim will never bow to such stupid traditions again.”

Loki couldn’t help but feel conflicted about what he was hearing. War? Bad. His death? Bad. Cultural change in Jotunheim? Good. Cultural change lead by the people who tried to kill his family? Bad. Dead Laufey? Good for him, bad for Jotunheim.

He reluctantly raised a hand.

Thrym saw what he was doing and grabbed it. He shook his head in the semidarkness and pulled Loki away.

“We will tell Raolr, he will investigate these tunnels, he may have a spy in there already and you don’t want to kill him.” He breathed into Loki’s ear. “We have explored enough for one day, let us return to the light.”

They made their way back to the public parts of the castle and to the royal chambers, where Laufey was playing with Býleistr.

“Hello Mother, hello Uncle Queen.” Býleistr said happily when they walked in.

Thrym reached down and swung him up high.

“Have you been good for your Uncle Laufey?” He asked as Loki climbed into his chair.

Laufey saw the look on his face and gave him a questioning look.

“Something wrong?” He asked, keeping his tone pleasant for Býleistr.

“Something.” Loki said, equally light. “We should include Raolr in the news.”

At once Laufey’s demeanour changed, he went to the door and requested a servant bring his brother to them.

“Býleistr.” He said in a teasing, playful voice. “Why don’t you ask your Uncle Loki if you can have a honeyed cake?”

Býleistr turned and gave Loki a mischievous smile.

“May I have a honeyed cake Uncle Queen?” He asked.

Loki pretended to consider it before jumping down and fetching one of the sweet treats. Býleistr mumbled a thankyou and tucked in as Thrym came to join them at the table. Laufey gave him his chair and shaped two stools for himself and Raolr.

When the spymaster arrived, Loki and Thrym relayed everything they had seen and heard. Raolr nodded in reply.

“My spies have reported similar things from across the town. They are staying together in small bands in a variety of locations. They do not communicate with one another except via secret meetings in which everyone is cloaked. I believe this is so if one cell is compromised, the others cannot be given away. We didn’t know about this band.”

“How many have you found?” Laufey asked quietly.

“Fourteen bands of about six in each. Not that many if they are planning a revolution. But there are a number of key positions filled by the plotters here at the castle. If they fill enough of them before they strike, their plan may be to preserve the appearance of peace by publically uniting, that way they will have the people on their side. Those that break away will be seen as loving themselves more than Jotunheim.”

“Good plan.” Laufey commented. “When do you think they will strike?”

“Not for a while yet, we still have a number of them to locate.”

“Keep us informed.” Laufey said as Raolr left.

Thrym got up and fetched Býleistr, who was flicking through the pages of Loki’s Asgard story book.

“Come on, time to go.” He said.

“NOOOO! I don’t want to see grandmother! He pinches, he pinches!” Býleistr cried out.

He started kicking his legs in the beginning of a tantrum.

“Býleistr, you know that’s not going to work, now be good or Uncle Loki won’t let you come back and read his stories.” Thrym said.

Býleistr whined a little bit more but wrapped his arms around his mother.

“We’ll face him together, come on.” Thrym said and carried him out.

Laufey looked over at where Loki sat.

“Amazing.” He commented dryly. “Even when you are confined to the castle you manage to walk into trouble.”

Loki just shrugged.

“What are you going to do?” He asked.

Laufey smiled an evil smile.

“I’m going to have the servants set up a Grur dung and fungus growth pile in the old passageway.” He said.

He saw Loki’s look and returned it with an innocent expression.

“We need the dung to break down to use on crops. That old tunnel sounds like the perfect place for the fungus to grow well, and what with it being so far from the main castle the smell won’t bother *anyone*.”

Chapter Text

Jotunheim needed a lot of rebuilding after the Darkening. It was one of the reasons why Jotun were such good builders. Laufey visited Utgard every third day or so to evaluate the progress. He tried not to let Loki know when he was going. Loki had not taken well to his punishment, Laufey disappearing to Utgard just seemed to highlight that Loki could not leave and, as a result, Laufey would return to find Loki almost literally bouncing off the walls.

Thrym would take him out to the training yards as often as possible to try and wear him out. The magic lessons helped too, sometimes Loki would be so exhausted from his studies that he’d fall asleep for an hour straight after the afternoon audience.

Laufey wondered what kind of punishment Odin had used on Loki when he was growing up for something as simple as confinement to an *entire castle* to affect him so badly. Whatever it was he had clearly used it on Thor too, to the same effect.

The fire magic, Laufey was told, was progressing about normally for learning a whole new technique. So far a few mages had managed to make the fire stream in a thin, *almost* controlled line. Loki had set them on to making the fire bend in the middle and curl around the top of the candle in a spiral.

Laufey walked back up the passageway and into the royal chambers.

There was a giant tentacled ice sculpture in the middle of the room.

“I’m not redecorating.” Loki called out from somewhere on the far side.

“What *are* you doing?” Laufey answered, ducking his head to try and see where Loki was.

“The spell just went a little funny, but I can fix it.” Loki answered, clambering over one of the tentacles. “It got away from me.”

“What were you trying to do?” Laufey asked, sitting down at the table.

“The spell was supposed to summon a fountain of water, but I lost control and accidently made it grow enormous. But I froze it before it wrecked anything.” Loki said, coming to stand near him.

Laufey surveyed the sculpture thoughtfully.

“Maybe outside next time?” He suggested at last.

Loki ignored him, his eyes were closed and his breathing slow. He stretched out both hands toward the sculpture which began to sparkle and ripple along its surface.

The tentacles slowly retracted until they disappeared. Loki slumped where he stood. Laufey reached out and gently pulled Loki into him lap.

“You’re exhausting yourself.” He said.

“I want to learn.” Loki mumbled sleepily.

Laufey leaned down and nuzzled Loki’s soft hair.

“Lunch isn’t even here yet and you’re falling asleep. I know mages can be stubborn, but maybe you should do something else tomorrow. It will still be here the day after.”

Loki shook his head.

“I’m enjoying it.” He said, reaching up and rubbing his eyes with one hand.

“Enjoy it after tomorrow.” Laufey suggested. “There is a training exercise tomorrow in the field just outside of the castle walls. I’m going to watch from the ramparts, along with most of the court, will you join me?”

Loki sighed, he was half asleep.

“Alright, but only one day, I want to master this.”

“How have your healing studies been going?” Laufey asked as a knock came at the door.

“Well, I already had a background in the minor things so I’m progressing faster.” Loki answered as the servant brought them lunch.

It was a new type of meat. The hunters had managed to spear some of the fast, Wika that raced across the snow and fed on animal dung. The meat was quite nice provided you cleaned out the entire animal’s digestive tract and washed the remaining meat in herb water for three days.

Laufey took a bite, then fed some to Loki, who hadn’t moved from where he lay slumped in Laufey’s lap.

“I’ll have the servants set up a viewing platform for us. We’ll bring in some spyglasses as well in case the action moves away from us.” He said.

 

Loki fell asleep twice during the afternoon audience. Laufey woke him gently the first time, the second time he left him to rest.

There was a distinctive silence in the throne room. It was the silence of a hundred people *not* asking the only question now on their minds. Why would the queen fall asleep in the middle of the day? Only the mages, who were exhausted themselves, understood the answer. Everyone else had a different theory. Laufey found his mood darkening as the contained excitement buzzed through the throne room. Would Laufey be making an announcement?

Laufey hunched over in his throne and tried to concentrate on the problem actually in front of him, rather than the one fast asleep next to him. From the corner of his eye he saw Thrym’s sympathetic glance.

Loki twitched in his sleep and woke up suddenly. His eyes took in the room and he shot a slightly guilty look at Laufey.

Despite the defensive feelings Laufey had been fighting, his heart melted at the sight of his mate uncomfortably shifting back into an upright position instead of his sleepy slouch while trying to look innocent.

“I told you that you needed a break from your magic studies.” He said just loud enough for the nearest people to hear him.

“Point made.” Loki mumbled in reply.

“Spend tomorrow with me.” Laufey said. “It will be fun.”

Loki just nodded and looked forward at the next supplicant.

Loki fell asleep immediately after dinner. Laufey gently lay the furs over him and read for a while in the crystal light. He had heard that magical studies sapped your energy but he had not realised just how much. He would have to come up with some activities to distract Loki from his studies whenever he wore himself out. It was that or order him to stop for a few days. Laufey felt he knew the outcome of taking that path all too well.

 

 

The next afternoon Laufey escorted Loki to the ramparts. There was seating set up for most of the royal court, who were eager to see the warriors display their strength. Laufey deliberately did not speak of the Asgard threat in front of Loki, but this was as much to reassure the people as it was to entertain them.

As they sat there under the blue-white light of the sun Laufey reached across and gently rubbed Loki's back in large circular motions.

"Care to make a wager on the winners?" He asked.

Loki looked over at him.

"What wager?" He said, his eyes showing a spark of interest.

"No reducing your sentence." Laufey said, guessing what Loki was thinking. "But if you win..."

"You have to let my father visit me." Loki finished.

Laufey was taken aback. He had not expected that.

"Agreed." He said. "But if I win, you can't see him when he comes back."

"He's coming back?" Loki asked, eyes suddenly wide.

Laufey cursed internally, he had not mentioned Odin's offer of potential trade agreements in exchange for relinquishing his claim on his son. Loki was likely to be hurt by the information.

"I agreed to let him come back at the end of your sentence. As long as you continue to see your family, we should at least try to maintain some kind of organised peace." He lied.

Loki hesitated. He bit his lip as he thought over the deal. What had started as a lighthearted whim of Laufey's had suddenly become quite serious.

"I can't accept that." Loki said quietly.

Laufey slipped his hand up to Loki's shoulders and pulled him in close.

"This is meant to be fun, I'll wager you a present. If I win you have to buy me one, if you win I will buy you one. Fair?"

"Fair." Loki agreed.

His shoulders relaxed slightly. Laufey felt as though he'd dodged an arrow.

The two groups of warriors were to try and capture the leader of the other team. They were painted different colours to signify the different sides and the leaders each wore a bright helmet to mark their status.

The field had been transformed with obstacles of ice and snow. There were dozens of places to take shelter and hide out.

A horn blew. The troops moved out.

Thrym was the leader of one team, the Second General Ordo was the leader of the other.

"I'll wager on Thrym's team." Loki said.

Laufey grinned.

"Ordo has won a lot of these, they are evenly matched in strategy and skill." He said.

"I'll stick with Thrym." Loki said.

Thrym's team began to sneak down the castle side of the field. Several of them broke off to travel through the centre and a single man headed off to the far side.

Ordo meanwhile spread his men evenly across the field. They crept forward at a stealthy pace.

Loki leaned forwards on his seat. Laufey could feel his own excitement rising as the two teams came closer to one another.

A warrior on Thrym's team spotted one of Ordo's. He took careful aim and fired an arrow tipped with coloured powder. The arrow flew true and landed on the man's chest.

Instantly three of Ordo's troops who had been sneaking around up high fired their arrows, taking out four of Thrym's team.

"Come on Thrym! Take them down!" Loki yelled.

The crowd smothered laughter as Thrym's team pushed back with renewed vigour.

The battle took over three hours. The teams were ducking and weaving and firing arrows everywhere. Several went wild and one hit a bystander on the ramparts, coating his shoulder in bright red powder.

Loki was leaning out over the top of the wall in excitement. Laufey tactfully decided not to remind him that he was technically outside the castle limits by doing so. He just carefully slip an arm around Loki's waist and brace his hand against the wall, just in case Loki's enthusiasm caused him to slip.

Encouraged by the queen, the crowd had begun to cheer for their favourite team. Loud calls of support and derision echoed over the field.

In the end, Ordo's team won the day. They were down to just three warriors, but they managed to slip past the last of Thrym's guard and capture him.

Loki sighed in disappointment. He looked upward and twisted slightly to see Laufey behind him.

"What gift do you want?" He asked.

"Surprise me." Laufey answered.

Loki made a slightly rude noise.

"You're getting snow." He said.

"Surprise me after your sentence is lifted." Laufey said in his ear with a smile.

They heard a voice from further along the rampart.

"...knew he shouldn't be fighting in his condition. He should be nesting! Rest is what he needs. I don't know what these modern Jotun think they're doing with all that moving around, he was fighting! Did you see it? Fighting! With a baby! A shame that the old traditions are gone, he should be safely nesting while Goupr takes care of him. He has no need to go out fighting like that. What if the baby got hurt? He's off his game anyway coming in second. The pregnancy is slowing down his brain. That's what it is. All this modern thinking is bad for the children. That queen is a pretty little thing isn't he? To think my Goupr shared a huddle with him during the Darkening! Very cold it was too, colder than normal, it gets worse every year, that's what I think. But those children being saved! What a wonderful thing to have happened! That queen is such a blessing! But he fell asleep in the throne room, that's not good. He won't have a nice strong baby if he's tired. He should be resting every day to make a fertile seed. That's the best way, lots of rest. None of this excitement, it's bad for babymaking. I do hope Thrym hasn't overdone it, if he has a weakling they have no one to blame but themselves. All this modern thinking, it's unnatural..."

Loki and Laufey exchanged a look.

"I'm not spending my day lying in bed." Loki said flatly.

Laufey just chuckled.

"Goupr is an amazing person." He said quietly.

Loki nodded and they moved away to congratulate Ordo.

"He bloody has to be." He muttered.

 

 

 

Loki’s sentence crawled by. He threw himself into his studies until he was exhausted. Laufey was at his wits end trying to come up with things to distract his mate so that he didn’t push himself too hard. Every third day or so Loki found himself being dragged to building sites, military exercises, plays and picnics.

With forty days to go Laufey promised Loki a surprise. He refused to say what it was as they worked through the morning, refused as they ate lunch and refused as they sat at the afternoon audience.

Finally, he escorted a slightly suspicious Loki through the corridors to a part of the castle he had never seen before.

“I didn’t want to show you before you were ready.” Laufey said with a smile.

“Ready for what?” Loki asked.

Laufey pulled open the door and let Loki walk inside.

It was the library. Loki’s eyes grew round in wonder as he took in the size of the room. The shelves reached so high he could only just see the top and the walls were lined with scrolls and books.

“Oh.” He whispered.

Laufey found he was smiling as Loki walked slowly, reverently toward the nearest shelf.

“Your reading skill has improved to the point that you can start on most of these.” Laufey said. “You can read any of them that you want.”

“I had no idea this was here.” Loki said softly.

“I’ll let you be.” Laufey said, backing away with a smile.

The library brought with it its own issues of course. Loki would wear himself out with magic every morning and reading every afternoon, but at least it made the time pass. He absorbed a wealth of knowledge about Jotunheim’s history, culture and stories.

Every day the time when Laufey would have to speak to Odin grew closer. In the afternoons when Loki was distracted, Laufey would sit with Thrym and the other members of his higher court and try to work out what would and would not be requests likely to be granted by the Allfather.

In the end Laufey decided to ask him for the casket and permission to send one regular trader to Asgard every month as a trial. In return he would grant Frigga regular visits to Jotunheim every month and allow Odin to visit his son once a year. If the arrangement worked well, they could renegotiate in a years time.

“He will never agree to the casket.” Thrym said.

“I know, but he can have the victory of refusing me, hopefully it will make him more willing to agree to the trader. We used to buy things from Asgard a long time ago. Sweet foods and small amounts of gold. They used to buy our artwork and hire our builders. Half of Asgard was built by us.” Laufey responded. “And Loki will be happier if we can halt the tension between us.”

“Do you suspect a trap?” Thrym asked.

“Of course.” Lauefy said. “They are Asgard, we cannot trust them.”

Chapter Text

The day before Loki’s sentence ended he was incapable of sitting still. Laufey had annoyingly held out for the entire hundred day span and Loki was practically scratching at the doors to the castle to get out. Then there was the Asgard delegation. His father was arriving tomorrow. Tomorrow. It seemed like forever away.

Loki paced rapidly back and forth across the royal chambers as Laufey tried to read the information Raolr’s spies had put together about the upcoming meeting.

“Loki, you are distracting me.” He said mildly and with a great deal of affection.

“Good, father will swindle you tomorrow then.” Loki replied without looking over at him.

Laufey’s smile faded slowly. He had not found the courage to tell Loki that his father had all but abandoned him, and that these negotiations were more to settle an after-marriage dowry than anything else.

“I’m sure Odin will be pleased to see you.” He said.

“It’s been months since I laid eyes on him. Months! You could have let him visit too you know.” Loki said.

“He is my greatest enemy and I detest him quite a lot.” Laufey said calmly, still looking at the scroll.

Loki looked up at him then, an amused look on his face.

“You could have done it for *me*.” He said almost cheekily.

Laufey looked up with a smile.

“Oh really? Was I supposed to do that before or after you tried to bury me?” He asked playfully, putting the scroll down.

For a second Loki looked uncertain, he was not sure if his actions had truly been forgiven. But Laufey was clearly happy to joke about it, now.

“If you’d done it before I would not have been so upset.” He said dismissively.

“I see, I see.” Laufey said, reaching out and hooking one finger through Loki’s belt. “Clearly I should have arranged things differently. I will learn for next time.”

“You really should.” Loki said with mock seriousness as Laufey pulled him closer and nipped his ear.

Loki wriggled in his grip and went to pull away.

“Are you going to let me tomorrow after you’ve seen you father?” Laufey asked, sliding a hand slowly up Loki’s thigh.

“Probably not.” Loki admitted.

“Better get it out of the way now then.” Laufey said. “And you are distracting me from my reading.”

Loki sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Fine, let’s go.” He mumbled and tried to head to the bed.

He was stopped by Laufey’s arm which was still pressed against his back.

“Uh, the bed is that way.” Loki said as Laufey nipped lightly along his neck and shoulder.

“Yes, but my chair is right here.” Laufey said in his ear.

Loki sighed again.

“Really?”

“Mmmm.” Laufey answered, one hand kneading Loki’s arse.

Loki pulled a face over Laufey’s shoulder and let himself be lifted up onto the king’s lap. Laufey trailed gentle bites down Loki’s neck as his other hand pulled Loki’s loincloth free. Loki tried to relax as best he could. It was just a physical act, like, training or stretching, just, with another person, who put very large parts of themselves inside of you. It would be over soon and then he wouldn’t have to do it again for as long as his father was here, maybe ever, if Odin could negotiate his release.

Laufey lifted Loki’s body up and lowered him slowly back down onto his cock. Loki gritted his teeth as the sensation of being filled swept through him. He finally came to rest with his legs straddling Laufey’s body in the chair.

Laufey didn’t move, just let the feelings flow through him. It was Loki who couldn’t stay still. His traitorous body urging him to move. He held out as long as he could but couldn’t help a sense of deep relief when he shifted his hips and felt Laufey slide inside of him.

Laufey thrust up in the chair. Loki grabbed a hold of the King’s waist to keep from overbalancing as he was lifted. He couldn’t supress a moan at the intense feeling that jolted through him. Laufey rolled his hips upward again. This time Loki dug his fingernails into Laufey’s flesh in response.

The next thrust forced a cry from his lips. A desperate needy sound that had nothing to do with his lack of desire. Loki felt his body drive downward as Laufey thrust up, meeting him in a hard slap of skin on skin. The sensation of peaking was building inside of him. He wanted to resist but it was too strong, pulling at him, threatening to undo him completely as they moved together again and again.

Laufey leaned forward and pressed Loki down against him, thrusting up against his body as it was held in a more restricted position. The sensation doubled, tripled. Loki snarled in pleasure as it ripped through him. He was so close, so very close. Laufey’s thrusts were like lightning shooting up from his entrance to his neck. Loki knew what he wanted, knew what would finish him completely, he didn’t want to ask for it, didn’t want to admit how good it felt and how much better it could still be.

Thankfully, Laufey didn’t try to make him. As Loki struggled to contain the feelings shooting through him, Laufey leaned down, compressing Loki’s body even more, and clamped his teeth tightly on the back of Loki’s neck.

There were no words, no way to articulate the utter mind-blowing sensation that tore through Loki’s body. He screamed in pleasure, kicking his legs uncontrollably, the only part of him that could still move as Laufey thrust into him from one end and pressed him down at the other. Loki peaked hard and long. The spasms that ripped through his body forcing cry after cry of pure ecstasy to spill from his mouth.

When Loki regained his thoughts he was still sitting in Laufey’s lap with his legs splayed either side of the King’s body. He felt raw, open and empty, the juices from his body freezing between them as they trickled slowly out of him.

Laufey reached down between them and brushed the frozen fluid away. The top of his hand lightly touched Loki’s entrance, causing him to rise up slightly in response. He felt tender and swollen from Laufey’s hard thrusts.

Laufey held him afterwards for a long time. He stroked down over Loki’s back again and again until a knock on the door signalled the arrival of dinner. Loki just rested against Laufey’s body. He had pushed himself magically and mentally for the last hundred days and he felt too tired to rise.

 

 

The next day Odin sent an envoy to enquire as to the correct protocols that should be followed for the negotiations. The envoy was escorted by two guards and stood proudly as Vindsval outlined the procedure for the next few days. Laufey sat on his throne and watched as they negotiated how to negotiate. He knew Loki was disappointed that Odin had not arrived on the first day, but hopefully things could get underway soon. The Royal Progress to the outer realm was being delayed for this.

It took all day, but finally they had a procedure that they both agreed to follow. Odin would come tomorrow morning with a small entourage. He and Laufey would ‘have negotiations’, neither side gave away what they hoped to achieve at the meeting, until dinner time, when Odin would return to Asgard so that he and his men would not have to spend the night in the cold.

‘Or in enemy territory.’ Laufey thought.

This whole exercise was a waste of time. If it weren’t for Loki, Laufey would have refused Odin outright. But Loki’s happiness was important, important enough to pretend for a few days that Odin wasn’t the most despicable person in the nine realms.

‘Why couldn’t he have been taken by an elf?’ Laufey thought as the envoy took his leave.

Laufey escorted a quiet Loki to their chambers and pulled him into an embrace.

“Tomorrow.” He said. “You’ll see them tomorrow, and they’ll be time to talk while each side confers about their decisions.”

Loki gave him a tight smile.

“I know. I was just looking forward to seeing them after so long.” He said.

Laufey’s answering smile looked a little strained.

“I’m sure they are just as eager to see you.” He said.

 

 

The envoy arrived back at the Bifrost where Thor was waiting anxiously. One of the guards shuddered and changed, turning into Odin.

“It’s one of the most complex spells I’ve ever seen.” He said as they walked to the horses. “It does far more than just bind Loki to Laufey. I saw protection runes, health runes, fertility runes and teleportation runes. I swear there was a rune that was for sustenance. I knew the Queen was at the centre of their culture, but he is practically sacred.”

“We’re still going ahead with it, right father?” Thor asked.

“Of course, Loki has the right to asylum and we will grant it as soon as he gets here.” Odin said. “It is going to take quite some time to unravel the spell though. We must negotiate hard enough to delay them, but not hard enough to drive them to end early in frustration.”

“Tricky.” Thor said.

“I know, but if we miss this opportunity who knows when we will get another.” Odin said.

 

 

The following day Loki awake before dawn. He couldn’t keep still, so after his wriggling woke Laufey they chatted quietly about the coming negotiations until the servants arrived.

The Bifrost site lit up an hour later. Loki would have run down to the throne room if Laufey hadn’t organised a large party of guards including Thrym to escort them.

When Loki saw Odin for the first time his eyes lit up.

“Father!” He cried out and went to run forwards.

Odin returned his look calmly.

“Your Majesty.” He replied.

Loki stopped. He tried to hold back the sudden hurt. Odin was here for him, clearly he had a plan of some kind. It probably didn’t look good to break from the agreed protocol.

Loki stepped back and went to his chair.

“Allfather.” Laufey said.

“King Laufey.” Odin acknowledged.

“Welcome to Jotunheim.”

“We thank you for your hospitality.”

“We have prepared a room and heated it as much as it can be for your comfort.”

“That is most thoughtful.”

“Lunch will be served at midday, but if you require refreshments at any time, please ask.”

“We thank you again.”

The two kings were speaking in ridiculously polite voices. Out of the corner of his eye, Loki saw Thrym pull a slight face at the overly calm, borderline insulting way they were carrying on.

“My son Thor greatly desires to speak with his brother. Perhaps they could have some time together while we negotiate.” Odin said.

Laufey regarded Thor thoughtfully.

“Very well.” He said. “Loki and Thor can get reacquainted with one another.”

Loki had not stopped looking at Odin. Odin had not looked at him since he had first greeted him. Maybe Thor could shed some light on what was going on.

Loki stood and held out an arm to Thor.

“Come on, I’ll show you the library.” He said.

Thor groaned audibly but followed Loki out of the throne room.

Laufey was surprised at the Allfather’s callous attitude. He knew Odin was here to get what he could in exchange for his son, but he had expected some level of feeling. Perhaps the Allfather did not live up to his name.

 

 

The moment they were alone Loki turned to Thor.

“What is going on? Is Father going to offer the casket again? Does he have another plan? What is he doing Thor? Why wouldn’t he look at me?”

Thor looked trapped. His eyes shifted nervously.

“Father is going to spend several days negotiating for many things. Trade agreements, visits for Mother, ah…”

“He’s not here for me?” Loki asked, horrified.

He had been counting on it, hoping for it. Despite his attempts to keep calm he’d been convinced Odin had a plan from the moment he’d heard his father was coming back.

“Laufey won’t let you go.” Thor said, he looked cornered. “Loki, trust me, please. Things will work out.”

“But not today.” Loki said, his face falling.

“No…” Thor said. “Not today.”

Thor was stuck. His job was to stay by Loki’s side, to be close by when the spell was broken and to help his brother reach the Bifrost. He had been ordered not to tell Loki what Odin had planned in case the Jotun overheard. He did not know what to do when asked outright like this.

“Father will do his best for you.” He said.

Loki gave him a fearful look.

“But how?” He asked.

“I was not privy to the fine detail of the negotiations.” Thor said. “Show me the library brother, please.”

Loki led the way to the castle library in silence. He was fighting the feelings of despair that threatened to crash over him. He had not realised how badly he had been pinning his hopes on Odin finding a way to rescue him.

 

 

Laufey sat and glared at Odin sitting across the table. He did not think there were enough derogatory terms in the whole nine realms to adequately describe the man.

“Let us be clear. There is little our two realms want or need from one another. The days of large scale trading and building commissions are long passed. I will grant Queen Frigga one, one hour visit a month with Loki in exchange for one of our small traders being allowed access to the Asgard markets.”

“That is all you wish? I imagine there is something else you want much more than that.” Odin replied.

Laufey resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

“Hand over the casket.” He said flatly.

“I have not dismissed the idea Laufey, but the price must be right.” Odin replied, leaning forwards slightly.

Laufey narrowed his eyes. So the game began.

Chapter Text

Odin wanted a wall. Laufey had not been expecting it. In fact on the list of things he and his council had been expecting Odin to ask for this had not even registered.

“Around the Palace.” Laufey confirmed.

“Yes. The old one is looking quite worn. I would like another one, and my father always said that Jotun made the best builders.” Odin replied calmly.

“And in return you will give us the casket.” Laufey said.

“That is the general idea, there are, of course, some fine details that we must establish. For example, how long it will take, how many Jotun will be required, whether they are to stay in Asgard or return to Jotunheim at night, what they need to eat, what will happen if either side breaks the contract and in what ways. There are many things to consider.” Odin said.

Laufey was suspicious.

“In one thousand years you have not trusted us enough to return he casket.” He said.

“I trust that you will not hurt Loki, waging war on his family will hurt him. I also expect you to agree, formally, not to use the casket to attack other realms, as we will be forced to defend them.” Odin said in the same, too reasonable tone of voice.

“I see.” Laufey said. “It seems we have more to discuss than I thought.”

“So do you agree in principal that we can make an arrangement? If so we can begin working out the details. I fear they will take some time and I do not wish to be away from Asgard any longer than necessary.” Odin said.

“In principal, yes I believe we can come to an arrangement.” Laufey said.

Odin smiled a small smile.

“Excellent. I imagine you will need to discuss the works with your builders before we negotiate properly. For now we can move on if you wish.”

“Move on? You have more?” Laufey asked.

“Queen Frigga’s visits in exchange for a trader seemed very reasonable, but when would the trader come? How long do you think they will stay? Are they buying, selling or both?” Odin asked.

He was enjoying this, Laufey could tell.

 

Odin was hating every minute of the negotiations. His head hurt from trying to keep ahead of Laufey while simultaneously trying to unravel the complex spell that lay over the Jotun King’s body. They had been speaking for barely an hour and already he could feel the strain pressing down upon him.

A major building commission was always full of complicated details that needed working out. It was perfect for stalling and at least partly plausible, the Jotun had built most of Asgard from what Odin’s father had told him. Things had been so very different back then.

“I was also hoping, for Frigga’s sake, that Loki might attend the annual anniversary of my coronation. Asgard will extend an official invitation of course.” He said.

Laufey gave Odin an old fashioned look.

“We’re busy.” He said flatly.

“She will be disappointed.” Odin said calmly.

He had not expected that one to succeed.

“The trader will both buy and sell. He will come once a month for one hour *not* including travelling time to and from the Bifrost. One hour from the moment he sets foot in the marketplace to peddle his wares. You will ensure he is protected, with royal guards if necessary.” Laufey said.

“I trust you will extend Frigga the same courtesy? One hour with Loki, not one hour in Jotunheim.” Odin replied.

“Agreed.” Laufey said.

He resisted the urge to check the time. These negotiations were ridiculous! Jotunheim and Asgard would never be allies! He took a calming breath.

“Should we renegotiate the arrangement in three months? If it goes well you may wish for the trader to have more time, or to send more traders.” Odin asked.

“One year.” Laufey said grumpily. “We can assess the situation and renegotiate in one year *if* we see a reason to change.”

“Six months.” Odin countered. “A year is a long time, and we do not have to renegotiate everything, just the trader.”

Laufey stood firm.

“One year, Allfather, unless you wish to arrive on the cusp of the next Darkening?”

“I see, yes, you are right, one year is better then.” Odin said. “With the option to request renegotiations if either side feels it cannot wait?”

“No.” Laufey refused to give way.

Odin looked disappointed, but inclined his head in agreement.

“Very well. What about food?”

“What about it?”

“Frigga has been sending Loki regular amounts of food. We do not need a trader to act as a go between if we work out a direct agreement between us. Is there a market for Asgard food here on Jotunheim? I know we used to line our coats with fur from your hunts. Perhaps we can set up a trade of some kind, a certain number of furs for each parcel of food? We will of course continue sending things to Loki, but for the rest of you?”

“I do not think that is necessary.” Laufey said.

Thrym made a slight noise behind him.

“Then again.” Laufey corrected in an annoyed tone.

He turned to glare at Thrym who was looking innocent.

“Excellent. I can have a menu of Asgard foods brought with me tomorrow. I’m sure we can work something out.” Odin said with a smile.

Laufey wanted to hit him.

 

 

Loki showed Thor the library, the training grounds, some of the rebuilt castle and finally, the royal chambers, where they sat and drank a cup of ber each. Thor was quite fond of the taste.

“Not as good as mead though brother.” He said patriotically.

Loki didn’t answer. All morning his attempts to get an answer out of Thor about their father’s plans had been met with nervous silence. Thor hadn’t so much as winked at him to indicate something was afoot. Odin had to be negotiating for Loki’s release, why else would he be in Jotunheim?

Thor was chatting in a bright, brittle way about the Warriors Three and their latest quest. Thor’s contribution was noticeably absent.

“Where were you when that fight was going on?” Loki asked.

He was not enjoying hearing about how life in Asgard had moved on.

“I wasn’t there.” Thor said. “I stayed at home. It didn’t feel right, questing without you.”

Loki was touched. Thor loved going on quests, fighting things and boasting about it afterwards. They were his three favourite things to do.

“You don’t have to wait for me.” Loki said. “I think I’ll be a while.”

He studied Thor’s face hard for any sign that he might be wrong. Thor looked guilty and took a long drink of his ber.

“Thor? Why didn’t father acknowledge me? Everyone knows I’m his son, there is no shame in greeting family.” Loki said in a quiet voice.

“Father is doing what he can.” Thor said. “Tell me about the Darkening. Mother said you saved some children, that is a feat worth speaking of.”

Loki gave him a long, slow stare. Long enough for Thor’s desperate smile to freeze in place.

“Alright.” He said slowly, and began to tell Thor about the sleeping children and the way he’d summoned the light.

 

At lunchtime they two groups met up. Thor returned to his father’s side at one end of the table. Loki had to sit by Laufey at the other. All through the meal Loki tried to catch his father’s eye, but Odin spent most of his time watching Laufey.

Laufey could sense Loki’s distress. He didn’t understand how Odin could so easily abandon his child. It was as though the moment he gave up trying to get Loki back he also gave up being Loki’s father.

Laufey would have assumed it was an Asgard custom if not for Loki’s obvious bewilderment. It seemed Odin had never truly cared for his second son and had only tried to get him back because he was a useful pawn in the game of politics. Having decided that recovering him was too great a price, he had instead turned all his energies to gaining what he could from Jotunheim.

Callous bastard.

Laufey vowed then and there to make these negotiations as difficult as possible for the Allfather, even if it took a month to complete them.

No one upset his mate, especially not Odin All-but-one-father.

He turned his attention to Loki.

“Have you eaten enough?” He asked.

“Yes, thankyou.” Loki said without taking his eyes off Odin.

‘Oh Loki, give him up, he’s already dismissed you.’ Laufey thought.

“It’s just that you have cleaned you plate, are you sure? There is more.” He said.

“I’m fine, thankyou.” Loki said.

Odin was watching them while talking to Thor, who looked upset.

‘At least one of them has a heart.’ Laufey thought to himself.

Thrym was on his second helping. He watched with shrewd eyes at the different factions sitting around the table. Loki was headed for a meltdown. He was wound so tightly, putting so much of his heart into his father and Odin was acting as though his son was little more than a window dressing. He was more like a stone wall than a person where Loki was concerned.

Thrym thought he could see where some of Loki’s behavioural problems had come from. Distant parents were a terrible burden for their children to bear.

Thor was under strain, no doubt he had spent his morning trying to avert what was already in motion. He looked miserable as he picked at the specially warmed Jotun food.

Laufey was tense, but then he was always going to be. His opinion of the Allfather was already low and having to deal with him directly was a challenge to his already small store of patience.

Odin himself was the most difficult to fathom. He had a reputation as a good king, and a good king would do exactly what he was doing, turning the situation to Asgard’s best advantage. But even so, no one would have thought less of him if he had hugged his son. Thrym might have even dredged up a tiny sliver of respect.

He had no hope of earning that now.

 

 

Thor wanted to see the Grur. He had killed one by flying through its throat back when Loki’s ‘adventure’ first began. After lunch they walked to the stables together as Loki described the Hunt.

“That sounds amazing.” Thor said. “I would like to see it.”

“Maybe in a million years.” Loki said dryly.

They reached the stable and strolled among the beasts. Thor craned his neck upwards at the Grur above them.

“They are tame?” He asked.

“These ones are. There are some wild ones in the far south lands, or so Laufey told me.” Loki answered.

“Does he mistreat you, Loki? Thor asked suddenly. “Apart from, uh…”

“Apart from that? No, he doesn’t. He’d make a great husband to *someone else*.” Loki said, failing to keep the bitterness from his voice.

Thor reached out and gripped his shoulder tightly.

“You will be alright.” He said.

He looked like he wanted to say more but instead turned away and continued down the stable to where the Prur were housed.

“Now that is a massive beast.” Thor said. “You wouldn’t starve with those in your stable.”

“They aren’t for eating, and the only time we are at risk of starvation is during the Darkening, they are above ground and hibernating then.” Loki said.

“What are they used for when you are not on the Hunt?” Thor asked.

“I don’t know.” Loki confessed. “I could ask Laufey.”

“It’s not important.” Thor said, shaking his head. “Are you allowed to train? I have missed your challenging style.”

“You mean you couldn’t find a sorcerer to keep you on your toes?” Loki asked with a slight smile.

“For some reason they do not enjoy the challenge.” Thor said.

“I am allowed to train, but I think it would be better if we told everyone of our intentions first. You don’t want a couple of hundred Jotun coming to my defence.” Loki said as they turned and made their way back to the entrance to the stables.

“I…wouldn’t.” Thor said slowly. “It wouldn’t be very helpful.”

“Maybe you could fight some of them in friendly combat?” Loki said. “I’m sure there are a few who would relish the chance to face the heir of Asgard.”

“Perhaps.” Thor said.

Loki looked over at his brother as they walked. Thor was nervous about the negotiations. Something was going on but he wouldn’t breathe a word. Loki took a deep breath and reminded himself to be patient. There were other ways of finding thing out.

 

The first day ended with hundreds of little details still to be resolved. Laufey had a headache from Odin’s constant wrangling, and farewelled the Asgard with the bare minimum of politeness.

That night he pulled Loki close and stroked his back firmly, as if to remind himself that Loki was really here, really his and no one could take him away.

Loki was quiet. It didn’t take a genius to figure out why.

“How was your day with Thor?” Laufey asked.

“Fine.” Loki said distantly.

“Did he make a good map of our castle?” Laufey asked, trying to insert a slight drop of humour into the conversation.

“Not that I know of.” Loki answered.

He burrowed down against the furs, pressing more firmly into Laufey’s side.

“I’m sure Odin just wants to get the formalities out of the way.” Laufey lied.

Loki didn’t answer.

“Kings have a lot to think about.” Laufey continued.

He could barely believe he was trying to defend Odin of all people.

“Did he ask you to give me back?” Loki asked in a muffled voice, as his face was pressed against Laufey’s skin.

Laufey hesitated, which gave Loki his answer. He sat up suddenly.

“Why not!” He yelled. “He’s my father! Why is he leaving me here?”

“You belong here Loki.” Laufey said, reaching up to draw Loki back to him.

Loki pulled out of his grasp and knelt on the furs.

“I know you think that, everyone thinks that! But Father shouldn’t think that! Why didn’t he ask for me?”

“He did ask, a hundred days ago when the Darkening finished. I made it clear to him that you belonged *here*.” Laufey said, trying to keep the anger from his voice.

Loki made a growl of frustration.

“He’d never accept that.” Loki snapped. “I’m his son.”

Laufey shook his head.

“Loki, please calm down. Odin will do what is best for Asgard, you must have known growing up with him that sometime he had to make difficult choices.”

“Not like this.” Loki said, but he looked uncertain.

Laufey succeeded in slipping a hand around Loki’s waist and pulling him back down.

“I’m sure now that the negotiations are underway he will make some time for the two of you.” He said. “I’ll ask him tomorrow when he wants to.”

Loki frowned at him.

“Promise?” He asked.

“I promise.” Laufey replied.

Loki relaxed slightly.

“Can I take Thor to Utgard?” He asked a minute later.

“Only if you also take Thrym and a band of warriors. The people have no love for the Asgard.” Laufey said, hoping this concession would keep Loki satisfied. “And he is not to break anything.”

“He won’t.” Loki said.

“I’m not convinced.” Laufey replied dryly.

Chapter Text

Odin’s head was killing him. All day he had tried his best to drag out every little detail, keep one step ahead of Laufey and try to find a way to break the spell.

He staggered as they made their way to the horses on the Bifrost. Thor caught his arm and held him until he was right again.

“Loki was disappointed not to talk to you today.” Thor said.

Odin winced.

“I know. But I must keep my distance. If Laufey should suspect that I have not given Loki up he will question the reason behind the negotiations. He will become suspicious and end them early. Distract Loki as best you can. I have communicated to our spy to try and tell him what is happening. But while she is well placed to tell me of the goings on in the Jotun court, she is not well placed to speak with Loki alone. She will try, but until then you must try to keep him with you, and calm.”

“I will try Father.” Thor said. “Loki knows something is not right. He is too clever not to notice.”

“I know, my son. We have a long way to go yet. I studied the spell all day and I have only scratched the surface. Even during the break for lunch I didn’t stop.” Odin said wearily.

“I know Father.” Thor said.

Odin slept almost from the moment he returned to the palace to the moment the party was due to depart in the morning. The spell was so complex, Odin was draining himself.

One again they were greeted by the Jotun court and once again Thor requested time with Loki. Loki’s face darkened when Odin wouldn’t look at him but instead locked his eyes directly onto Laufey.

Thor followed Loki through to one of the castle rooms. He stopped when he saw the twenty assembled Jotun warriors.

“We’re going to Utgard after lunch.” Loki said. “But first you need to meet our escort, and learn about the Jotun customs and expected behaviour. These warriors would also like to spar with you.”

Thor looked around the room with a nervous smile.

“As you wish brother.” He said.

Thrym stepped forward with a grin.

“We meet again, son of Odin.” He said cheerfully. “Please take a seat and pay attention while I run through a few things.”

Thor glanced at Loki, who nodded. He sat.

 

 

Odin sat down with his usual slight smile, hiding the fact that he was still tired from yesterday. Laufey eased into the seat opposite and regarded him with narrowed eyes.

“Your wall will require a team of twenty, working for one season, assuming that the materials are available. They will consist of fifteen stonemasons and five builders.” Laufey said. “It would be faster if they stayed in Asgard but they would require you protection and guarantee.”

“That seems reasonable.” Odin said. “I can promise them my protection. We can arrange special quarters for them with cooling spells to help with our heat, and of course it would be best if they worked in the Autumn, when the weather is cooling towards winter.”

“That is acceptable.” Laufey said.

Odin smiled his infuriating smile.

“And what diet will they require?” He asked pleasantly.

Laufey gritted his teeth.

“Asgard food is acceptable.” He said.

“Would they prefer to eat in their rooms or join the court in the great hall when we have feasts?” Odin asked.

“In their rooms.” Laufey said.

“Very well. What materials will they require?”

“I don’t know, what do you want your wall built out of?” Laufey almost snapped.

Odin was getting on his nerves.

“Stone and gold.” Odin replied. “But I meant what kind of tools will they need. I assume some hammers and chisels, but how many and will there be anything else?”

Laufey shifted in his seat.

“I will have the chief builder make a list.” He said.

Odin smiled his little smile again.

By the time lunchtime arrived Laufey was ready to strangle Odin. Not once the whole morning had the Allfather even mentioned Loki. He *had* kept Laufey bogged down in details until he was ready to scream. If it weren’t for the casket he would have called an end to this circus the day before.

But the casket was worth some aggravation.

 

Loki had spent his morning watching Thor spar with each of the Jotun warriors. It had been Thrym’s suggestion, to foster respect between them. It had been very entertaining and Thor was chatting to some of the warriors with something approaching ease as they made their way to lunch.

Laufey greeted Loki with a smile. Odin greeted Thor with the same enthusiasm. Loki was noticeably subdued as he sat down next to the King.

Laufey reached out and rubbed his back gently.

“Did you ask him when we can speak?” Loki asked.

Odin was watching them, no, watching *Laufey*. Loki told himself there had to be a reason. Odin must have a plan, Loki just had to be patient.

“Not yet.” Laufey said. “But I will do so this afternoon.”

“You promised.” Loki reminded him.

“I did, and I will keep my promise.” Laufey said with a sad smile. “Right after we finish wrangling about the building works.”

Laufey could think of no way to let Loki know the truth without hurting him. Odin had shown no sign of wanting to speak to his son, he had given Loki up for a new wall and some furs.

 

 

That afternoon Loki led the way down to Utgard. Thor walked next to him and kept an eye on his surroundings.

His eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw Utgard. The sheer scale of it was enough to rival Asgard.

“It’s, s-so big.” He stammered.

“It’s the biggest city on Jotunheim.” Loki said. “Let’s go.”

They walked down through the main street. The children were not playing their game today. They gathered in the street and watched Thor with wide eyes.

“He’s all pink.” They whispered. “And he’s got hair on his *face*.”

Thor reached up and self-consciously stroked his beard.

Loki calmly led the way through the main market. He pointed out the different foods for sale, now that the early harvests were in. Thor took great delight in examining the Jotun weaponry.

The sellers were understandable nervous of having an Asgard in their midst, but they were calmed by the presence of the warriors, who stood watching everything.

It was mid-afternoon when Loki decided that it was time for a drink. He ordered a cup of Diea and smiled mischievously as the smooth, dark drink arrived.

“Is anyone else wondering how the negotiations are going?” He said brightly and concentrated on the cup.

Thor paled and held out a hand.

“Brother no, don’t concern yourself, please.”

Thrym too looked worried.

“Your Majesty, I really feel that you shouldn’t spy on such things.” He said.

Loki ignored them and watched the tiny scene before him.

“So they will complete the works by the end of the season in exchange for the casket, unless Asgard is attacked, or suffers a major catastrophe which forces delays, in which case you will allow them a second season to finish.” Laufey was saying in a bored sort of voice. “If they do not finish on time you will withhold the casket for one year for every day they are overdue.”

“Yes.” Odin said. “That seems reasonable.”

“To you.” Laufey muttered.

His voice was too low for Odin to hear but the spell picked it up perfectly.

“Can we move on to Queen Frigga’s visits?” Laufey asked. “And for that matter, when were you hoping to speak to Loki?”

Loki leaned forward toward the surface of the cup. Thor winced and tried again to pull his brother away.

“Loki!” He hissed in panic.

He couldn’t tell his brother anything while surrounded by so many Jotun. The whole plan relied on Odin’s indifference.

“Do I need to?” Odin asked calmly.

Loki stiffened in his chair.

Thrym reached out and touched his shoulder gently.

“Your Majesty, Loki, stop.” He said urgently.

Thor tried to grab the cup away but jerked back when his fingers were zapped with magic.

“I believe he wishes you to.” Laufey said in a strained voice.

“I believe you do not wish it.” Odin replied. “He is yours Laufey, we have established this. I am here to make the best of this situation.”

“I see.” Laufey said slowly. “And you will cease all attempts by *all* Asgard to remove Loki from his place at my side?”

“I do not believe removing him is possible, both practically and for Jotunheim.” Odin said. “Loki was raised in the knowledge that one day he would make a political match. I will be honest, I was not expecting one with you, but why not? We had peace once, King Laufey, perhaps we can do it again.”

Loki had frozen in place. His face was a mask of horror. Thor was panicking, Loki had no idea about the plan! And Odin’s words sounded so cruel, so dismissive. He reached out and grasped his brother’s shoulder.

“Loki.” He said urgently, trying to convey the truth by sheer thought alone.

But mind reading was not a magic skill, it was innate, and Loki did not have it.

Far from looking pleased, Laufey actually looked uncomfortable.

“I would rather you tell Loki this yourself.” He said at last.

“Really? I believe he is yours now, I’m sure he will adapt to the news. After all, he has a duty to his new home.” Odin said. “You wanted to discuss Frigga’s visits?”

Laufey was staring at Odin as though he was some kind of monster.

“You raised him. How can you not even want to speak with him?” He asked.

“He’s never really fit in on Asgard.” Odin said.

The image blurred as a tear dropped from Loki’s eye into the Diea.

“Jotunheim will probably suit him better. To be honest, I should never have taken him. He was never truly an Asgard.”

Loki slowly peeled himself from the table and slid to the floor.

“Brother.” Thor said urgently.

Loki looked up at him with wide, lost eyes.

Then he vanished.

“Shit.” Thrym said and took off out of the door.

Thor ran after them, followed by the twenty warriors. The sight of them all tearing down the street was enough to cause mild panic among the children, who fled down the alleyways as Thor sped past.

Thrym did not bother to try and catch Loki, he knew where he was headed and he knew that with the steep stairs he could overtake him with time to spare. He ran all the way from the city to the doorway of the negotiation chambers.

“Guard…the…corridor…” Thrym gasp to the guards outside. “Block…it.”

They arranged their spears to allow only narrow gaps. Loki could still squeeze through some of them but it would force him to slow down.

Thrym knocked on the door and stuck his head in before anyone inside could so much as move. He grinned at Laufey. It was the same grin he used to give his brother when warning him that their father had found out about the latest adventure and was on his way.

“Brother? A word?” He said, trying to keep from gasping.

Laufey muttered an apology to Odin and followed Thrym outside.

“Loki heard you conversation.” Thrym said in between gulps of air.

“What?”

“He used a drink to scry on you.”

“Oh no.”

“He’s angry, and he’s coming here.”

“How long?”

“I don’t know. He vanished himself in the marketplace.”

“Again? This is bad Thrym, very bad.”

“Do you think he’ll attack Odin?” Thrym questioned.

Laufey’s eyes grew wide at the thought.

“I don’t know, but we can’t let that happen.” He said.

Thrym’s eyes flicked sideways just slightly. Laufey followed the look carefully and spotted the door handle carefully and silently pulling downwards on its own.

“We must be understanding.” He said, inching into a better position. “His mother still cares greatly for him, perhaps we should increase her visits. Do you think that would be better?”

“I believe it might be.” Thrym said carefully.

Laufey spun and brought his arms down, enclosing the invisible figure. There was an almighty bang as Loki lifted both feet from the floor and kicked the door hard with a scream of rage. A moment later he became visible. Screaming and struggling in Laufey’s arms.

“Loki, listen to me, I’m sorry Loki, I’m sorry he feels that way, but you must be calm. Loki! Be calm!” Laufey said in his ear as Loki fought to get at the door.

“I hate him! I hate him! I’ll kill him!” Loki screamed in rage.

He raised a hand and tried to summon a bright flame. Laufey winced in the knowledge of what was about to come as he clamped his hand down over Loki’s. The binding spell sent a shockwave through the whole of Loki’s body. The force was enough to lift them both off their feet and to send them flying into the far wall. Laufey hit first and let out a grunt of pain. Loki’s body spasmed painfully in his arms as the spell punished him.

Laufey lifted his mate and carried him away to their chambers without a backwards glance. Thrym waited until they were gone before taking a deep calming breath and sticking his head into the room.

“I’m sorry, we’ve had a bit of an incident and you all need to leave.” He said.

Odin was standing in the room. There was no way he could have missed the sound of Loki’s outburst. His face remained entirely impassive.

“Very well. Where is my son?” He asked.

“Laufey is taking care of him.” Thrym answered.

“I meant Thor.” Odin replied in the same tone.

Thrym reached forwards and slapped him.

Chapter Text

Loki was unconscious and limp in Laufey's arms as he was carried back to their chambers. The King was furious. Furious at that bastard Odin, at his casual cruelty. That man did not deserve children.

Laufey had just sat down when Loki groaned and opened his eyes. He whimpered in pain as the effect of the spell lingered in his muscles.

Laufey pulled Loki close and held him tightly.

"I'm sorry Loki, I'm so sorry." He whispered into his ear.

Loki made a sound like a cross between a whimper and a sob.

Laufey gently rocked him back and forth like a child.

"It's alright, it'll be alright." He soothed.

Loki slowly raised both arms and wrapped them around Laufey's neck, holding on to him tightly as they rocked together.

Laufey just held him, not letting his grip slacken for a moment.

"You'll be alright." Laufey whispered again, wanting so badly to believe it.

Loki lowered his mouth to Laufey's collarbone and bit down on it, holding the flesh between his teeth without moving, lips making a gentle sucking motion around the bite.

Laufey almost pushed him away then. The move was something infants did when they needed comfort. Children grew out of such behaviour in their second century. He knew Loki was upset but he wasn't a *baby*.

But what was Loki's infancy really like on Asgard? From what Laufey had seen they didn't bite each other. Did they know that when the infant Loki tried to bite them it was because he was in distress and needed to be soothed? Or did they push him away and tell him no, don't do that, that is not how we behave.

Did they know not to feed him right before sleeping? That it would hurt his stomach to be so full and that instead they should rub his belly until the muscles contracted, shrinking the stomach so that he wouldn't feel hungry?

Did they rub his little feet every night from the moment he started walking to ensure they wouldn't become too flat and cause him pain when he grew older?

Laufey glanced down. He'd never thought to check Loki's feet before, well, you didn't did you? But now he could see that the arches were flatter than normal and the toes pointed outward, not slightly down so that his nails could grip the ice and help him walk.

No wonder Loki was always worn out by climbing the stairs! Without his nails to help him grip the ice he would have to put far more effort into keeping his balance as he climbed his way to the top.

And then there was his behaviour in general. Loki swung wildly between ultra-reserved and untamed instinct. When he was calm he moved like a person who had very carefully studied proper behaviour and had practiced it until it was *almost* natural. When instinct took over his movements were much more fluid and free, but his emotional outbursts were far out of proportion to the situation that inspired it.

All or nothing. Asgard, through their ignorance, had mixed Loki up badly. Now as an adult he needed to be taught how to be truly Jotun.

Laufey didn't push him away. Maybe later they could discuss it, but for now he reached up and gently scratched the back of Loki's head where the skull curved inward. His other hand he brought up to the mid-point of Loki's back and did the same thing.

Loki made a noise like a muffled sob. Laufey crooned gently between his teeth, rocking his mate slowly back and forth with a gentleness that would have surprised the Asgard if they had seen it.

Loki's tears dropped onto Laufey's shoulder and froze against his skin. He held tightly onto Laufey's neck and shook with emotion.

There was a noise at the door. Thrym walked in quietly. He frowned a little in confusion when he saw how Loki was clinging, but Laufey's warning look prevented him from commenting.

"They're gone." He said instead. "They'll be back tomorrow."

Loki stiffened in Laufey's arms.

"We should still try for the casket." Laufey said quietly. "And I want to confirm regular visits for Queen Frigga."

Thrym cautiously sat down in Loki's usual chair.

"I may have caused a slight inter-realm incident." He said.

"How?" Laufey asked slowly.

"I slapped Odin." Thrym said, looking guilty.

"You what?!" Laufey and Loki asked at the same time.

Loki twisted his head around to look at Thrym, his face was a mask of shock.

"On the face?" Laufey added in bewilderment.

"Yes." Thrym admitted.

Laufey stared at him as though his brother had gone mad.

"That is technically an act of war." He said. "Thrym, *you* of all people!"

"Blame it on the pregnancy." Thrym suggested. "I was feeling a bit...protective."

He looked over at Loki, who was watching him with wide eyes.

"You slapped him for me?" He asked.

Thrym gave him a half smile.

"I don't advise that you follow my example, in fact I think I'm about to be punished." He said, turning back to Laufey.

"I will think of something, yes." Laufey said.

Loki settled back into his arms. He looked up at Laufey with a lost kind of expression.

"He gave up on me." He said quietly.

Laufey squeezed him tightly but said nothing. He *wanted* Odin to give up on Loki, but not like that. There were ways to tell your child that they belonged with someone else.

"I know it hurts Loki, but Thor still calls you brother, and I think Frigga would topple the castle walls if I were to ban her from seeing you. They love you greatly." Laufey said.

Loki bowed his head in defeat.

"Yes. My brother and mother love me." He said softly. "And my father sold me to his greatest enemy."

Laufey and Thrym shared a joint wince. There was no easy way through this. Loki was hurting, and might do so for a long time.

Laufey squeezed him again.

"Are you still sore from the spell?" He asked gently. "Do you want me to call Puluk?"

Loki shook his head.

"I'm fine." He said. "I'm..."

His face crumpled as sobs racked his body anew. Laufey rocked him back and forth as Loki dissolved. He had lost his father, with the extra pain of knowing the man was still living, still one Bifrost ride away, and utterly uncaring about his so-called son.

Loki cried for a long time. Laufey sat with him as the light dimmed and the shadows grew long. Thrym disappeared and returned with dinner, but neither one of them could entice Loki to eat.

When his tears finally stopped he sat still and quiet, so much like his earlier stupor that the brothers were alarmed. They exchanged nervous glances over his head.

Eventually Laufey carried him to the bed and laid him down to sleep. Neither one of them managed to do so. Loki's thoughts were running wild even as his body lay still and Laufey was dreading the following day opposite Odin. He didn't feel he had the restraint right now not to try and knock the man's head off.

 

 

Odin turned to Thor the second they were through the Bifrost.

"What happened?" He demanded in a slightly slurred voice. "I heard Loki screaming through the door, it was all I could do not to run out there to be with him."

"Be glad you didn't Father, he spied on your meeting with the surface of his drink. He saw the very worst of you. He heard every word."

Odin looked alarmed.

"Oh no, that deviously clever boy! I was lying through my teeth! Thor, why didn't you try to stop him?"

"I did! But I couldn't touch the cup! His spell was too strong, and I couldn't breathe a word of the plan surrounded as we were by Jotun warriors!"

"We must hope our spy can reach him. I never wanted him to hear such things." Odin said, his voice was pained.

"Will they allow us back after his outburst?" Thor asked.

"I have offered the casket, we must hope it is enough to tempt Laufey into continuing." Odin said.

Thor regarded Odin carefully.

“What is wrong with your jaw?” He asked.

Odin reached up and rubbed it.

“Apart from being partially dislocated by an angry Jotun? Nothing, it is back in place and it will heal.”

Thor watched him carefully but said nothing more as they mounted the horses. They rode back to the palace with worry weighing heavily on their shoulders.

Frigga met with them in Odin's study. Her face equally anxious for news of her son.

"What happened." She asked the moment she saw their faces.

Thor told her the story as Odin sat heavily in his chair.

"Oh Loki." She whispered, holding her hand to her mouth. "My poor baby."

Odin took a shuddering breath. Thor realised that his father was trying to hold back tears.

"Don't despair Mother, Father. We will rescue him. The plan has not failed, we must persist! The moment he is back here he will see what we have done and what Father had to do. Please don't give up!"

"We are not giving up." Odin said softly. "But our child is hurting tonight, Thor and we have no way to sooth him. He thinks the very worst of me, the very worst. I can do nothing. I must let him hurt."

Thor sat down and looked between them in misery.

"I am so sorry for what I have done." He said, tears prickling his eyes.

"We know my son." Frigga said. "Loki knows. You have matured greatly these past months and when we have Loki back you will be as brothers again."

She walked over and stroked Thor's brow.

"You must return tomorrow and be there for your brother, you must make him feel loved." She said.

Thor nodded.

"I will not fail him, mother I promise." He said.

 

 

Loki lay in the dark pressed into Laufey's side and tried to fathom where he’d gone wrong. He had always known he was different to the normal Asgard warrior. His love of magic and fighting from a distance made him stand out, not to mention his dark hair and thinner frame. Finding out he was really a Jotun had been a shock but, it had allowed him to make sense of what had long been a source of private pain. He felt different because he *was* different. Mystery solved. As long as his family loved him it didn't seem to matter.

But Odin didn't love him. Odin regretted taking him, he said so himself. Odin had decided to sell him back.

"Loki was raised in the knowledge that one day he would make a political match. I will be honest, I was not expecting one with you, but why not?"

That was true. Loki had known. But he had not expected to be sent so far away, or to have no way to visit home. He had not expected to be so casually dismissed.

But maybe, if he tried hard to be a good Queen? Maybe he could make Father lov-happy with him? He had a duty to Asgard. He could...fulfil it? Here? With...with...his...hus...band.

The thought itself *hurt*. But Odin wanted it, and maybe if Loki could do his duty he could convince his father to be proud of him. Bringing a new peace between Asgard and Jotunheim for Odin. Have three hundred grandchildren for Frigga. Maybe he could convince his Father that he had been worth taking? Maybe?

New tears sprung into his eyes. He didn't want to be the Queen of Jotunheim, he wanted to go home.

Home didn't want him anymore.

Would the situation be any different if say, one of the far realms had arranged a match with their next heir? There had never been a guarantee that he would stay in Asgard, he'd just assumed, as young people do, that his life would never change, never move on. Odin had not even put his name forwards yet to the other royal courts. He was still quite young, for all that he was an adult.

This was his life now. This was the match he had made. This was the marriage Odin had agreed to, and if his dowry was being negotiated after the fact, well, that was just a fine detail, like the ones Odin was haggling over on a daily basis.

The tears spilled over and ran down his cheeks until they froze, a hundred little droplet-shaped crystals of ice.

Laufey could feel Loki crying against him. He wanted to draw his mate up and hold him tightly, but he thought Loki would prefer some privacy, some time to work through his thoughts.

 

 

When morning came neither one of them wanted to move. The servants came in with their brushes and were regarded with tired, grumpy eyes from their King and tired, watery eyes from their Queen.

“Come on.” Laufey said at last. “We have to get up at some point.”

“Why?” Loki said hopelessly.

Laufey lifted him from the bed and carried him to the brushing room.

“Because I refuse to let you spend your days lying in bed. Get up Loki, face the day.”

He stopped and knelt down in front of Loki, putting their eyes on the same level. Loki looked utterly miserable. Laufey thought about the negotiations, he thought about the casket, he thought about his duty to Jotunheim and the possibility of peace.

“Stuff it, let’s do something fun today.” He said. “Vindsval has been with me throughout all the negotiations, he can wrangle with Odin over the fine details of the building works. He actually likes that sort of thing, he’s the one who’s been organising the castle rebuild. I want to go out.”

Loki looked startled.

“Where are we going to go?” He asked.

Laufey shrugged.

“How about we take a Grur and have a picnic south of the city? We can cross the River of the Long Sleep and go to Miten, the village beyond. It’s got a wonderful central garden and a fine selection of specialty shops.”

“You sound like you’re trying to sell it to me.” Loki said with a small smile.

“Let’s just go.” Laufey said. “All day, let’s just go.”

They left before the Asgard arrived, riding the Grur down around the side of Utgard’s walls and out to the plain beyond. Loki sat up tall and watched the view as it passed him by, his face was still grim but his eyes were no longer dull. Laufey guided the Grur, trying not to think about the last time the two of them rode one together.

“It should take us about an hour to get there.” Laufey said. “If you curl up between the shoulder blades you can have a nap if you want to.”

“I’m fine.” Loki said.

He crept up higher, near the Grur’s head.

“What’s that?” He asked, pointing into the distance.

“That’s the boulder field, caused by-”

“Grid fighting Måne. He threw them up to try and destroy it for causing the Darkening and ended up killing himself when one of the boulders landed on his head.” Loki finished.

Laufey smiled at him.

“Thrym’s lessons sunk in.” He said. “You’ll find that the children’s stories are taken semi-seriously by most Jotun. They all know that the boulders are caused by a long ago glacier that dropped them there when it melted in the warm ages, but they speak of Grid as if he were real.”

“The stories sound better.” Loki said. “And who doesn’t want to believe it?”

Laufey grinned.

“Exactly.” He said.

They rode together mostly in silence until they reached Miten. The Grur were left outside with the handlers and the royal couple strolled slowly through the gates.

Laufey was surprised. Loki seemed to be making an effort to talk and to stay engaged. He had expected and feared another stupor, or at least some heavy sulking. But Loki seemed to push it to the back of his mind as they wandered through the village streets.

Laufey reached into his loinpocket and pulled out a bag of coins. He handed it to Loki, who looked slightly confused.

“You still owe me a present.” Laufey said with a wink. “And you should go and see what Reson has for sale in his magic shop.”

“Magic shop?” Loki asked.

“He sells all kinds of strange ingredients, spell books and the like. I’ll point it out when we get there.” Laufey said casually.

Loki gave him a suspicious glance but Laufey was serious. Today was about having fun, just stepping back and taking a break from the real world. Today was about spoiling Loki.

They visited a number of different shops and sampled some of the new foods available now that the first harvests were in. There was so much seasonal produce that Loki had not yet had a chance to try. They bought enough for a good, if crazy mixture of lunch and Laufey carried it in a bag swung casually over his chest.

Loki spent about an hour in the magic shop and came out with two new books and a handful of something that smelt like Grur dung and stale ber mixed together.

“What is that?” Laufey asked, wrinkling his nose.

Loki wrapped it hastily in a cloth to try and keep the smell in.

“It’s a type of root, it’s used in converting ice crystals to heat crystals. I want to try it out.”

“Oh, in that case when we get back I’m setting you up a workroom. No more experiments in our chambers, especially if they are going to smell like that.” Laufey said.

Loki packed the foul smelling stuff away and continued on their walk.

They ate lunch over several hours in the square. Loki dozed off at one point and Laufey did likewise. Their guards stood silently around them, far enough away for privacy but close enough to protect them if needs be.

Loki woke first and gathered up the coin bag. Laufey had been right. He lost the wager and he did owe Laufey a present.

He left the square, accompanied by a servant and shadowed by some of the guards and made his way to the shopping strip.

He wandered in and out of several shops, not sure what to buy. What do you get a King? He considered buying a ridiculously shaped hat, or some overpowering perfume as a joke, but he was supposed to be a good queen now. He was really trying to be, even though it was making him ache inside and he felt that things would go better if he could find a proper gift.

He found it in a craft store. A set of ten carving knives in different sizes with different angles, perfect for Laufey when he wanted to carve bone. They were neatly arranged in a leather pouch.

“How much is that?” Loki asked the seller, who bowed to him.

“A gift, your Majesty, take it as a gift.” He said with a smile.

The royal family of Jotunheim always paid their way.

“No, I want to buy it, how much is it?” Loki asked again.

“Two hundred Carn, you Majesty.” The seller said.

Loki reached into the bag and pulled out some of the coins. He knew the little ones were worth the least, but that was about it.

“Do I have enough?” He asked the servant, who looked down at the coins in his hands.

“Yes your Majesty, ten of the gold ones will do.” He answered.

Loki handed them over and accepted the pouch of knives.

“Thankyou.” He said.

“Thankyou, your Majesty.” The seller replied.

Loki walked back to the square where he found Laufey had woken up.

“See?” Loki said as he approached. “I didn’t lose my guards.”

Laufey smiled at that.

“Very good Loki.” He said in a teasing tone.

Loki reached his side and handed him the parcel.

“One present, for one lost wager.” He said.

Laufey unwrapped the parcel and looked at the knives in surprise. A pleased smile broke out on his face. He had been expecting a bag of cakes at best and some of that foul smelling root thing at worst. He had not been expecting Loki to find him an actual gift.

“Thankyou Loki, they are wonderful.” He said, still gazing down at them.

Loki tried to look pleased as he fought the ache in his chest.

“I’m glad you like them.” He said.

The words felt strange coming out of his mouth, he’d never had any trouble lying before.

They took their time riding back to the castle. It was sunset before they arrived. Vindsval reported that Odin was a completely tyrannical, detail obsessed bastard (out of Loki’s hearing) and the royal couple retired to their chambers.

Loki lay down on the bed with an exhausted sigh. The day had been long and he felt as though he’d walked miles going around the village.

Laufey spoke to a servant outside in the corridor before coming to lie beside him.

“Dinner is coming.” He said, reaching down and stroking Loki’s brow.

Loki tried not to tense up.

‘Be a good queen.’

They lay like that for a few minutes before there was a knock on the door. It was Puluk. Loki looked up in confusion as he approached them on the bed.

“You sent for me, you Majesty?” He asked.

“Yes.” Laufey replied. “I was wondering if you could do anything about Loki’s feet.”

“What about my feet?” Loki asked, looking down at them.

They looked like feet.

“Do they ever hurt at the end of the day?” Laufey asked as Puluk leaned closer and started examining them.

“Yes.” Loki said. “When I’ve been walking, but doesn’t everyone’s?”

“Not as much as yours I’d wager.” Puluk said.

He looked up at Laufey.

“May I sit, you Majesty?”

“Yes of course.” Laufey answered.

Puluk sat on the bed and rested Loki’s feet in his lap.

“There’s nothing wrong with them.” Loki said. “They look like feet.”

Laufey looked very pointedly down at his own feet. Loki followed his gaze. Laufey’s feet had much higher arches and his toes were angled downward, allowing his nails to touch the ice.

“Mine don’t look like that.” Loki said.

“I know. I should have noticed sooner that you were having trouble on the ice.” Laufey said, coming back to sit beside Loki’s head.

Puluk took Loki’s right foot and pressed his fingers into the arch in a deep stroking motion.

Loki gasped and winced at the mixture of pain and relief that the movement brought.

“The muscles are almost completely seized up. You’ve got no flexibility at all.” Puluk said, pushing the top of the foot and trying to bend in over to look more like a Jotun’s.

It didn’t budge. Puluk pressed the underside again, provoking a moan from Loki who put his head back against the furs.

“That feels so good.” He moaned.

Laufey smiled and stroked Loki’s hair gently as Puluk worked at the stiff muscles. He finished one foot and started the other, prompting a new round of moaning.

“I *can* perform a spell that will force the foot back into its proper shape, but your Majesty will be unable to walk for quite some time afterwards.” He said.

Loki’s head snapped up so fast Laufey’s hand almost hit him by accident.

“But I feel the best method of treatment is a slower one.” Puluk continued. “Daily massages, perhaps twice daily at first, to loosen the muscles and allow greater flexibility. In the meantime I will have some shoes made for you to wear at night. They will hold your arches upward and encourage your toes to point downward instead of straight. The damage has been done over a long time, this method will undo it almost as slowly, but you will be able to walk in the meantime. The decision is yours.”

“I want to walk.” Loki said quickly.

“How long will he be unable to walk if you perform he spell?” Laufey asked calmly.

“About ten years.” Puluk answered.

Laufey nodded.

“Then I won’t try to convince you otherwise Loki, you’d go mad if you couldn’t walk for that long.”

Loki nodded.

“Good-aahh!”

Puluk smiled and pressed along Loki’s arch again in the same spot.

“I recommend Ran for the massages. He has an excellent grasp of muscular structure.”

“Good, he can start tomorrow morning.” Laufey said.

 

 

That night when they lay down in bed, Loki felt as though the ache in his chest was worse than ever. He forced it down. He was a good queen, a good queen, a good queen. Father would be proud of him. Well, almost.

He glanced nervously up at Laufey. The King had not made an advancement toward him for several days, but it would have to happen soon. The desire for an heir was overwhelming.

Better just get it over with.

Any second now.

Just give him a scratch, he’ll get the idea.

Just do it.

Be a good queen.

Do it.

Loki gingerly reached up and scratched Laufey’s chest. Laufey shifted in surprise and looked down at him.

“Loki, are you alright?” He asked softly.

Loki screwed up his courage and climbed on top of Laufey’s body. Before he could lose his nerve he scratched his nails down Laufey’s chest.

The King’s eyes widened.

“Loki, go to sleep.” He said.

Loki frowned.

“Why don’t you want to?” He asked.

“Why do you?” Laufey countered.

“I’m supposed to, isn’t that the idea?” Loki asked.

He scratched again. Laufey made an irritated noise.

“Stop it Loki.”

“No! We’re supposed to,*I’m* supposed to, to have an heir. We need an heir.”

“We?”

“Shut up! Why don’t you want to?!”

“Loki.”

“No!”

Loki grabbed Laufey’s cock and ran his hand down the length. Laufey grunted in surprise but managed to push Loki away.

“Loki.”

“Why don’t you want me?! You have to want me! No one else does!” Loki screamed.

There was a long silence. Laufey sat up and pulled Loki close to him.

“I do want you. Loki I can’t imagine my life without you in it. But I will not take you now. You are still upset, you are still hurt. I have learned enough to know that it is wrong to try and take you like this. We will have an heir in good time. I promise, you will always be wanted in Jotunheim, you will always be wanted by me, not for our heirs, for you yourself. I love you.”

He laid Loki down and cradled him, murmuring promises until his eyes closed and Loki slept.

Chapter Text

Thor was a bundle of nerves. The day before had been a complete disaster. They had shown up at the Bifrost, uncertain as to their reception following Loki’s meltdown, only to find that both Loki and Laufey were unavailable.

“My brother has kingdom business to attend to, I’m afraid it cannot wait. But I am authorised to speak in his stead.” Prince Vindsval had said with a predatory smile. “There is no reason why we cannot continue the negotiations.”

The king’s general, Thrym then stepped forwards.

“I apologise for my actions yesterday.” He said stiffly while giving Odin the Frost Giant equivalent of the Stink Eye.

Odin accepted his apology with grace and they made their way down to the castle.

Without Loki around, Thor had nothing to do. He spent the day sitting in the negotiation room trying not to fall asleep from the sheer minutia of details that Odin and Vindsval were ploughing through.

Odin argued over everything. Without the need to concentrate on the spell his ability to debate and discuss everything became noticeably better. He poured over every detail and delayed every decision for so long they could have put it on his epitaph. King Odin of Asgard: Allfather to the people, Great Warrior, Fantastic at Stalling.

Despite this, they still managed to finish the final details for the new Asgard wall. There was only so much stalling he could reasonable do, and so they lost a day in their struggle to end the spell before the negotiations could end.

That night their spy had reported that she had been unable to reach Loki and that he was still angry and very hurt by Odin’s words.

Thor promised himself that today would be better. Today he would find a way to see Loki again. Perhaps today Father would find a way to break the spell.

“Queen Loki is unavailable.” Laufey said shortly in response to his request. “Let’s get started.”

As Odin and Laufey prepared to battle their wits once again, Thor found himself looking over at Thrym, who had shown a similar level of concern for Loki two days before. He made his way over to him.

“Have you any word of my brother? Is he alright?” He asked quietly.

Thrym regarded him with his large red eyes.

“You’re father does not deserve him.” He said softly, angrily.

Thor winced.

“Please tell him that I care for him, and that I long to see him again. Please, I am his brother, always.”

Thrym gave him a long, slow look, then nodded.

“I will tell him.” He said.

“Thankyou.” Thor said.

They sat in silence for a while as the two Kings attempted to bore one another to death.

“We sparred back during your Celebrations.” Thor said.

“I know, you won.” Thrym answered.

“You did not spar with me two days ago when your men did.” Thor said. “I would like the opportunity again. You were a worthy partner.”

“You will have to wait a little while.” Thrym informed him with a slight twitch of his lips. “I am with child, and he is just big enough now that I must stop my more vigorous activities.”

Thor looked down at Thrym’s stomach in surprise. The tight muscles that had been present across his belly had softened and the slightest of bulges could be seen to those who chose to look.

“I…didn’t realise, I am sorry.” Thor said.

“Don’t be, a child is a great blessing, and when he is born I will humiliate you utterly in the training grounds.” Thrym said calmly.

Thor grinned.

“You will try.” He promised.

His face sobered.

“Is Loki allowed to spar?” He asked.

“Of course, he has done so a few times.” Thrym said. “Your brother aches but he is strong and I see clearly that he has you by his side, in spirit if not in body.”

“I never wanted him to be so hurt.” Thor said.

“Nor I, nor Laufey for all that you do not believe it.” Thrym answered. “Loki needs time to heal.”

“I fear for him.” Thor said. “He is alone.”

Thrym just looked at him.

“He is not with you, but I would never leave him alone when he is in pain. I have put my best warrior in charge of his care.”

 

 

Loki looked up from his book when he heard the door knock. He had not been reading it. That morning Laufey had spoken a long time about duty, honour, pain and why pushing your feelings down can cause major emotional outbursts after bedtime. It had not made him feel any better.

Ran had visited him afterwards and rubbed his feet until he was almost in a daze. Puluk had also come by with specially made shoes that were almost exactly a mould of Loki’s feet. Almost, because where the arches were they were a millimetre higher than his own. Puluk wrapped them firmly around his feet and told him he was to wear them whenever he was planning to be seated for a decent stretch of time.

He was wearing them now, and after an hour in them his feet were starting to hurt.

“Come in?” He called out.

A familiar, round head poked around the door.

“Goupr.” Loki said.

He had not seen Goupr for some time now and he was a welcoming sight.

Goupr walked into the room carrying Býleistr in his arms.

“Hello Uncle Queen.” Býleistr called out with a grin.

“Hello Býleistr.” Loki said, unable to keep the smile from his face. “How have you been?”

“Well. I made up another story. Do you want to hear it?” Býleistr asked.

“Of course.” Loki said, setting aside his book.

Goupr handed Býleistr to Loki and sat down on the other end of the window seat.

“How are your feet?” He asked. “Thrym told me you were having them treated.”

“They hurt.” Loki said. “I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.”

Goupr examined them.

“It will be, you’ll appreciate it in a century, trust me.”

“In a century I’ll admit you’re right.” Loki said with a wince.

Goupr reached down and unwrapped the bindings to release his feet.

“Take it slowly, Býleistr? Why don’t you start your story?”

“Alright.” Býleistr said as Goupr began to gently rub Loki’s feet.

Loki let him, it felt really good.

Býleistr’s story was another Ice Maiden Adventure. Loki found himself more entertained than he thought he would be, especially the part where the ice maiden rescued the King of Jotunheim from a troll/asgard hybrid of doom.

Afterwards Goupr caught Loki up on some castle gossip, gave him a brief rundown on the visit of his mother and discussed the Royal Progress, which was apparently ready to depart as soon as Laufey finished with the negotiations.

“You’ll love the northern villages, they build their houses so unlike anyone else’s. About halfway through we’ll pass through the deep valley, which is actually just a crack in the ice, not deep at all. A long time ago it was deep, but the ice movement has closed it up.”

“I’ve read about it. There’s a petition going around to rename it, and has been for twelve thousand years, apparently.” Loki said.

“Yes. They never will, they prefer tradition. Or maybe they are all insane, either way the name is staying.” Goupr said with a smile.

His face grew serious.

“Loki do you want to tell me about what you heard your father say?”

“No.” Loki said quickly.

“Alright, but you know I will always listen if you need me.”

“I know.” Loki said, looking away out of the window.

Goupr just waited.

“I thought he loved me.” Loki said, turning back with wide eyes. “He *said* he loved me, growing up he told me he did. He called me a prince of Asgard! I…sort of suspected he favoured Thor, and I was never a proper Asgard warrior. But, he told me it didn’t matter, he sat down and told me that himself when I was younger. I thought he’d fight for me.”

“You feel betrayed.” Goupr said.

“He said I did not belong in Asgard.” Loki said, his eyes were filling with tears. “I always felt different but I still thought I belonged, now I find out he regrets taking me.”

Goupr gave him a look of sympathy.

“I know it hurts, nothing can make that fade except time, but Loki, remember your friends, remember your brother and your mother. They would not say such things. They love you. You are not abandoned by all of Asgard.”

Loki gave him a sad smile.

“Odin speaks for all of Asgard.” He said.

Býleistr gave him a hug.

 

 

By the time lunch came Laufey had a headache. He just wanted Odin to leave them alone, but the Asgard king was insisting on hammering out every last detail of their new arrangement.

But the building details were finally done, which would return them the casket in due time. Frigga had been allowed one visit per month and one extra, day-long visit during the Celebrations to make up for the months of the Darkening when she could not come at all. Hopefully they could finish the last of things by the end of tomorrow.

He just had one question for Thrym.

“Why is Goupr sitting next to the Asgard?” He asked.

“He asked me if he could. I see no harm in it, Goupr is amazingly good at getting along with people.” Thrym said. “Better than me at the moment.” He added, watching Odin darkly.

“It’s just unusual that’s all.” Laufey said. “He hasn’t even joined us for lunch on the other days.”

“He’s been busy, training for the Royal Progress and sourcing things for the new baby.” Thrym said.

“Don’t you have a lot of old things?” Laufey asked.

Thrym let out a snort.

“Oh yes, we held onto everything for three and a half centuries just in case. Brother, the royal family are the only ones who need baby things again so quickly after the first one, we have started from scratch.”

“Oh. Do you want anything? A gift?”

“If you can find a shaker like the one we had when we were children I will love you forever. The ones they make these days are rubbish.” Thrym said. “But apart from that we are fine.”

They watched Goupr as he spoke to Thor.

“He talked to Loki earlier.” Thrym said. “He came to lunch with a strange look in his eye. He says there is something suspicious going on.”

“Did he say what?” Laufey asked.

“Only that no one is shocked to find out that their parent doesn’t love them.” Thrym said. “And no I don’t understand it either.”

“As long as he doesn’t slap him I don’t care.” Laufey said.

“I’m *sorry*.” Thrym said.

“I’m letting you off with a warning, because I wanted to do the same thing. Don’t almost cause an inter-realm incident again or I’ll make you clean out the stables without help.”

“You’ll be knee deep in Grur shit then, no one can clean the entire stables on their own.” Thrym said.

“Correction, *you’ll* be knee deep in Grur shit.” Laufey said. “Then you’ll be buried in Grur shit and then, only *then* will I send the stable hands back in to dig you out and clean it up.”

“You’re mean brother, very mean.” Thrym said.

 

Odin sat at the far end and concentrated on the spell. Alarmingly, the building details were done, and Frigga’s visits had been finalised too. If he couldn’t think of a way to stall further then it looked like they would be finished by the end of the next day.

A rather distinct Jotun was sitting near him. He had an almost completely round head and was chatting happily to Thor as though he were not sitting right next to a group of Asgard warriors.

“And is your Majesty happy with the negotiations so far?” He asked.

Odin was forced to look up for politeness sake.

“I am, err?”

“Goupr, your Majesty. I am Thrym’s mate.”

“General Thrym told me he was with child.” Thor said, trying to pull Goupr’s attention away from his father so Odin could work more on the spell. “Congratulations.”

“Thankyou, it is a great blessing. How many children do you have, your Majesty?” Goupr asked.

Odin tried to stay calm as once again he was forced to look away from the Jotun King.

“Two.” He answered.

“Thor and Loki?” Goupr asked.

“Yes.” Odin answered, trying to keep it brief.

“I am surprised that with only two you have been so accommodating in letting Loki come to us. Of course it is best for Jotunheim, but it must have been hard for you to release him.” Goupr said with a polite smile.

“He is Jotun, he will do better here.” Odin said shortly.

“Once we heal him.” Goupr said.

“What’s wrong with him?” Odin asked, just a little too quickly.

“His feet are too flat, they needed to be rubbed nightly when he started walking to keep them curved. Of course back when we lived in the caves it was not a problem, children who learned to walk also learned to climb. They spent their whole day using all of their foot muscles. But then we moved to the cities and villages and our children only walked on flat ground which caused their feet to flatten and the muscles to seize. We must help them now when they start to walk or they will have pain when they are older.”

“He’ll be fine then.” Odin said dismissively.

“He is very sad at the moment. I think he misses Asgard.” Goupr said.

“He’ll get over it.” Odin said, trying to focus on Laufey.

“So you have dismissed him from you thoughts.” Goupr said boldly. “He is ours for the rest of his life and you do not care if he is happy.”

“He knows his duty, he’ll be fine here. He’s Jotun, for once in his life he’ll fit in.” Odin said.

“And you never truly loved him.” Goupr continued.

Odin turned to face Goupr and held his gaze.

“No.” He lied.

Goupr smiled and leaned in conspiratorially.

“Bullshit.” He whispered.

Chapter Text

They met on Midgard. If Odin was surprised by Goupr's choice of location he didn't show it. He had been forced to wait in anxiety for the whole afternoon before the days negotiations finished and he was finally able to travel to meet Goupr. The site Goupr had chosen was in the north among the ice and snow. Goupr appeared as though from nowhere and immediately grew himself and the King of the Asgard a chair each.

"You had better tell me what is going on." He said calmly.

"I do not have to tell you anything." Odin responded.

"And yet you came here to talk when I asked you to." Goupr said. "I care about Loki and you cannot convince me that you do not. But you *have* managed to convince him."

"He was never meant to hear that." Odin said.

His eyes were still suspicious, but Goupr had not immediately taken his revelation to Laufey, which gave Odin some hope that the plan could continue.

"Yet he did, and he is hurting from it. Your words were shocking to him. He always believed you to be a loving father. It has been my experience that if a child reaches adulthood and still believes their parent loves them, then they are probably right. If you were as dismissive as you claim to be, Loki would be far less shocked, although no less saddened, by your behaviour."

"We want him to come home." Odin admitted.

"All of you." Goupr said.

It was not a question. Odin looked at the snowy ground.

"Yes." He admitted. "Loki is my son, he has been taken and held against his will. I want him home."

"You have no intention of fulfilling the terms of the treaty." Goupr said.

Odin looked up again, his eyes were dangerous.

"I will bring my son home." He said.

"At the expense of Jotunheim's future."

"I have no desire to kill Laufey, he has plenty of time to find another solution."

"Of that I have no doubt, but will you like his solution? Asgard will never have the chance to make peace with us again if you take Loki back."

"I will risk it." Odin said.

Goupr leaned back.

"I am glad that you care so much for him. I will try to convince him of it. But your Majesty, we need Loki, he does not have to be unhappy with us."

"But he is." Odin said.

"Not all the time. I feel things would go far better if we could find a compromise between our two peoples. And I definitely think Loki should be involved in that, not pushed to the side to await his fate."

"What you think is irrelevant, Laufey has barely agreed to speak with me now. He has flat out refused to negotiate over Loki." Odin said.

"I know the king far better than you." Goupr said calmly. "And you are wrong. For Loki, he would make an effort."

"For Loki. You speak as if Laufey is in love with him."

"Yes."

"Impossible."

"For the monster of your children's nightmares to be capable of something you yourself manage with ease? He cannot fathom how your wife has not left you, uncaring thing that you appear to be."

"Be careful of how you speak." Odin warned.

"No. I will speak because you need to hear it, shorn of any pretty decorations that so often accompany an address to a king." Goupr said, his eyes flashing. "You and Laufey are so alike you could swap places and no one would notice. You only see the worst of one another because that is what you despise in yourself. Together you could broker a peace to last an age, but instead you have fought to see who has the bigger army. You won the first round, he will win the second - do not scoff, I am a warrior and I know what our army is capable of. You love your son? Then do this for him. Make peace for him. Give him the chance to walk between worlds, because I fear what will happen if he falls. Loki is lost, he feels he belongs nowhere and his entire sense of self is shaken. He is at the centre of our culture, our world. He is at the centre of your heart. Somehow you must find a way to share him, or mark my words Odin Allfather, you will lose him and the pain you feel now will be nothing but a snowflake in the blizzard because your heart will *break*."

Odin was silent for a long time.

"I will think about your words, Goupr." He said at last.

Goupr nodded.

"Thankyou for your time, your Majesty." He said and walked away.

A second later his body vanished into the snow.

Odin sat until his fingers went numb, trying to change the thoughts he had cemented for millennia. In time he rose and returned to Asgard, a sad and shaken figure.

 

 

Frigga was studying the life-sized statue of Laufey in Odin's workroom. He had come home from the negotiations each day and drawn each rune meticulously in place so that if he could not break the spell in time, he could continue to study them after the negotiations ended.

She was following a particular strand of runes, muttering under her breath as she did so.

Odin walked into the room and reached for her. They held one another for a long time, taking comfort from each other’s arms as they examined the runes on the statue.

"His parents gave their consent." Frigga said at last. "The third strand is made up of runes of blessing. The type that can only be added by family."

"How do you know that?" Odin asked, astonished.

"I read about them in one of Loki's books." Frigga answered.

"The runes take years to master." Odin said.

"I do not have years." Frigga said. "Loki does not have years."

"No." Odin agreed. "He does not. My conversation with Goupr was...difficult."

"Will he tell Laufey what he knows?" Frigga asked.

"I do not believe so, but I cannot guarantee it." Odin said.

"Do we need to have the spy kill him?" She asked, her face drawn.

Odin thought about it.

"I think if he was going to tell he would already be doing so, killing him serves no purpose. He...had much to say about Loki and about Jotunheim."

"Like what?"

"He believes we should come to a compromise, and that Loki should be the one to broker it." Odin said.

Frigga turned to look at him, alarmed.

"Compromise? Compromise about leaving my baby with that monster? No."

"It is difficult." Odin began.

Frigga stepped away from him with cold eyes.

"Odin. No." She said.

"What if Loki agrees?" Odin asked.

"Loki will agree to anything that gives him greater access to Asgard. For him to make such a choice he would have to come home first and stay home for a long time. Then, and only then, if he agrees to a compromise I will believe he means it." Frigga said. "Break the spell, bring him home. No one can negotiate a true compromise when they have nothing to negotiate with."

Odin nodded slowly.

"I agree with you. But I do not think I can break this spell tomorrow and I have dragged out the negotiations as long as I can. It will be a year before Laufey will allow me to come back."

"Teach me to see the runes." Frigga said. "I will see Loki every month and Laufey too for a few minutes. I will remember as much as I can so that you can work on it here. By the time you see him again you will be able to free him in moments."

Odin hugged her.

"That is still a long time away." He said.

“Longer still if we do not try.” She answered.

 

 

 

Loki was in his new workroom when Goupr found him the next morning. His spell books were lined up neatly, his stinky root had been put by the window in its own special box and his gift from Frigga had pride of place on the workbench.

Loki himself was just sitting quietly in the only chair. He had spent another night in uncertainty and was torn between wanting the Asgard gone for good and begging his father to please take him home.

Goupr leaned against the wall and reflected on how perfectly Laufey had had the room made. Everything in it was Loki-sized.

“Your father, is a dirty rotten liar.” He said as an opening.

Loki looked up at him in shock. Anger flashed briefly in his eyes before they once again deadened to nothing.

Goupr smirked and crossed his arms in a jaunty, Thrym-like fashion.

“Do you know what he said to me?” Goupr continued. “Just came right out and lied to my face? He said he didn’t love you.”

Loki looked up again, this time his expression held a warning in it.

“Stop it. I already know, I don’t need convincing. Jotunheim is my home.”

He said the last part in a kind of singsong tone. Goupr shook his head.

“You’re not listening.” He said. “Your father said he didn’t love you and *he was lying*. Get the man alone and he tells quite a different story.”

Loki glared at him.

“I heard his ‘story’ when he was alone. Stop taunting me! I thought you at least would care!”

“You didn’t hear him when he was alone, *you* heard him when he was with Laufey. *You* heard him say exactly what he wanted Laufey to hear. Use that brain of yours Loki, after a lifetime of raising you, do you really think he doesn’t care? Truly? Because if so then I deplore your faith in your father. That man is suffering.”

Loki’s face had a drawn look to it.

“You spoke to him privately?” He asked.

“About as privately as you can get these days.” Goupr confirmed. “He’s up to something, that he confirmed to me himself. He is determined to bring you back to Asgard.”

Loki looked uncertain.

“He sounded very sure.”

“Laufey thought so, I’ve never seen him so angry at Odin before, and bear in mind that they hate one another. I didn’t think it was possible to make that hatred go any deeper.” Goupr said.

“Why does he want to convince Laufey to keep me?” Loki asked, bewildered.

“You’re clever, and Odin’s son. I’m sure you’ll think of it before I do.” Goupr said calmly.

Loki frowned in thought.

“Loki, if you do get the chance to go to Asgard, and I hope you do.”

Loki snorted.

“I’m serious Loki, the spell that binds you is fine if you agree to it, but you didn’t. I think you need time to think and you can’t do it here. If Odin finds a way to return you to Asgard without killing Laufey, please think about Jotunheim. I know I am asking much but I have three children to think about. If Laufey falls they will be targets. If Thrym cannot maintain peace I will take them to Midgard, I will run, and so will many others. It is not just Jotunheim’s future that you hold power over. It is the nine realms as we know them.” Goupr’s voice was calm but his eyes had a pleading edge to them.

Loki was still frowning in thought.

“*If* I ever return to Asgard. I will think about everything.” He said at last. “But I will promise nothing.”

Goupr left him to his thoughts.

 

 

The final day of the negotiations was almost over. Odin had haggled down to the last detail but Laufey was done. He had a royal progress to go on.

“I am pleased we were able to come to an arrangement, Allfather.”
‘Go away you callous bastard’

“I think the future of Asgard and Jotunheim is looking bright, King Laufey.”
‘Why did you have to give in on that last point? You kidnapping monster’

“We will see how things have gone in a year’s time, Allfather.”
‘I’d rather talk to Frigga, she has a *heart*’

“I am sure things will work out for the best, King Laufey”
‘I will get him back, I will tie you so up in details next time your head will explode’

“There is one more thing, Allfather.”
‘Let’s see how much you hate him, let’s see why Goupr was suspicious’

“Yes, King Laufey?”
‘Has he thought of something new, can we drag this out another day?’

“Your spell on Loki. If you have truly given him to me then you should break it. You said yourself he is better off here because he is *Jotun*.”
‘Take that you bastard’

“You haven’t found the answer yourself? How odd.”
‘Oh damn. That’s not something I can negotiate over’

“Unfortunately no, please will you come to Loki and break it?”
‘Face him you coward’

“There is no need. You just have to strengthen your potion with granta herbs, which your trader can buy when he visits our market.”
‘I’m sorry Loki, I will redo the spell the second you’re at home’

“*Your* potion Allfather, and thankyou.”
‘Slipped up there a little didn’t you?’

“Goodbye Laufey.”
‘Damn!’

Odin left.

 

 

Laufey immediately turned to Thrym, Raolr and Vindsval.

“Is everything ready to depart?” He asked.

“You can depart within the hour.” Vindsval said.

“Good, Thrym, fetch Loki and have him board the Prur. Vindsval, you’re in charge while we’re gone. Raolr, come with me.”

The two siblings walked through the castle corridors to Raolr’s private workroom.

“Any more news about the plotters?” Laufey asked.

“A mystery.” Raolr replied. “They speak about Greer being their leader, waiting for his word to make their move, but Greer is back in his lands, he has not communicated to anyone that we can detect.”

“Is he still angry about his punishment?”

“He will be angry until he dies, he is not a forgiving sibling.” Raolr said.

“He never seemed the type to plot rebellion. He was always sneaking extra food or little trinkets and he loved it when people would tell him he didn’t have to pay for things.” Laufey said.

“Outwardly he doesn’t seem to have changed. Until we figure out how he is communicating with his men then we cannot be sure of breaking the back of this plot.” Raolr said. “I will continue investigations while you are gone.”

“I know you will, thankyou.” Laufey said.

“It is my job.” Raolr replied.

“But you love it so much.” Laufey said with a smile.

“Oh yes.” Raolr said. “And if I might make a recommendation? Start thinking about who will be the next Head Sorcerer.”

“Kwall’s part of the plot?” Laufey asked with wide eyes.

“He’s a part of something, I need to investigate further.” Raolr said.

Laufey looked at him seriously.

“Is there anyone left I can trust?” He asked.

“I’ll let you know.” Raolr replied.

 

 

Loki followed Thrym to the where the Prur were waiting. As soon as it became apparent that the negotiations were coming to an end the servants had started packing, but he was still confused.

“Why are we leaving now? It’s almost night time, shouldn’t we wait until morning?”

“Laufey wants to get moving as soon as possible, he is already behind schedule and the outer regions will worry.” Thrym said.

“Worry?” Loki asked.

“He goes every year. They know when he is due to arrive, if he does not come they think something has happened to him.” Thrym said.

He was pleased that Loki appeared to be more animated, more like himself.

“Did Goupr come and speak with you?” He asked.

“Yes, he had a few things to say.” Loki said.

“You seem brighter.” Thrym said.

“I have been thinking.” Loki replied calmly.

Thrym gave him a questioning glance but he didn’t elaborate.

 

The Prur set off in a long train as the Jotun travellers settled down to sleep on their backs. Loki found the rocking of the Prur to be as soothing as the last time and drifted off to the first untroubled sleep he’d had in days.

Laufey stayed up and watched him for a while before getting up and going to find Goupr.

“What did you say to him?” Laufey asked bluntly.

Goupr did not look fazed.

“Odin hasn’t given up.” He answered. “He’s got some trick up his sleeve and hopes to bring Loki back to Asgard *without* killing you. Apparently, you can stop a civil war while a corpse. Not a bad trick really.”

Thrym gave Goupr a nudge and a cheeky smirk.

“You just sassed the king.” He said.

Laufey sat down and watched Goupr carefully.

“You told Loki this?” He said.

“Yes.”

“And it is true? You didn’t say it just to make him feel better?”

“It is true.”

“Why would he want us to think otherwise?” Laufey mused.

Thrym settled down onto his furs.

“Because the only way to take Loki is to break the spell. *You* spent the last eight days in the same room with him, arguing over stone masons. If he had bargained for Loki you would have sent him home in minutes. The rumours say that Odin has magic, or perhaps one of his guards was more of a sorcerer.”

Laufey looked alarmed.

“He must have failed, or Loki would be in Asgard as we speak.”

“He has not failed, he has just not succeeded.” Thrym said lightly.

“He will fail, because next time he will be negotiating with Vindsval.” Laufey said.

“Have you thought about how Loki feels about all of this?” Goupr asked.

Laufey frowned.

“Loki has to stay here, regardless of what he feels, we need him.”

“He would be happier if we could find a way for him to visit Asgard.” Goupr said.

“There is no way, if we break the spell he will leave me, not for a visit, forever.” Laufey said. “He’s coming around, there’s plenty of time.”

Goupr sighed softly.

“I fear that you will need all of it, your Majesty, maybe even more.”

Laufey left them and returned to Loki. His thoughts were troubled. He wanted Loki to be happy, he couldn’t give him up, he wanted Loki to love him…

No, Loki would never love him. But they could make a life together, as long as the Asgard kept the contact to a minimum.

They had thirty days of travel ahead of them, fifteen days down the main path to the north, fifteen days back along the second road, with stops at the cities and towns along the way. Thirty days away from the Asgard.

He hoped Loki would be alright. Seventeen days away was a little empty farm house, with an overgrown yard and the land around it being tended by another. Laufey had no idea how Loki would react but he was taking him to his parent’s home.

Chapter Text

Loki was woken by the servants bringing breakfast. He had spent the final day of the negotiations lost in thought, so much so that Thor’s request to see him had once again been turned down.

He regretted that now. Thor, like Frigga, was a lifeline and he shouldn’t have tried to cut it off.

Goupr’s words had replaced the hurt he’d felt when Odin had callously dismissed him with hope. It was a fragile, delicate thing quivering in his chest. He wanted so badly to believe that Odin had not abandoned him. Loki felt as though he was dangling over the edge of a massive crevice and Odin’s next action would either save him or destroy him. He had no idea which one it would be. So he waited, and despite the hurt that had gnawed at his chest the last few days, Loki hoped.

He pulled the shoes off his feet and winced in relief as the muscles shifted from their new, unfamiliar position.

“One millimetre shouldn’t hurt so much.” He commented.

Laufey smile gently at him.

“Can you walk?” He asked.

“Give me a minute.” Loki replied, wiggling his toes.

The servants brushed them down over a cloth to catch the flakes and dressed them in finer than normal clothing.

Loki shot Laufey a questioning look.

“We are going to be making an official visit today. That calls for some extra finery.” Laufey explained as the servants took Loki’s armlet and thighlet from their box and slipped them on.

The gems changed to green immediately.

“Favourite colour?” Laufey asked.

“Yes.” Loki confirmed.

They ate breakfast in silence. Laufey wanted to ask Loki if he was alright but he suspected that Loki was probably sick of the question.

They had just finished up when a voice called from outside.

“Your Majesties? We’re here to tend to the Queen’s feet?”

“Come in.” Laufey called.

Puluk and Ran pulled back the fur covering and entered. The room was just big enough to hold them all. Loki lay down on the furs as they took a foot each and started to rub.

“I thought it would be faster for us both to come this morning. The driver says we are almost at Wornar.” Puluk said.

Laufey nodded.

“Good, we are behind schedule, the Headjot will be worrying.”

Loki muffled a moan of contentment as the two healers worked on his feet. Laufey smiled at him and reached down to gently stroke his hair. It was down as far as his shoulders now, and messier than it used to be. Laufey grinned as a thought occurred.

“Sit up.” He said, nudging Loki to make him obey.

Loki did so with a grumble. Laufey positioned himself behind Loki with his legs on either side and reached for one of the grooming brushes Frigga had sent her son months ago. He began to brush Loki’s hair in long, gentle strokes.

For the next fifteen minutes Loki was at the centre of a Jotun pampering party. Laufey bushed his hair until the tangles came out and then wove it carefully into a tail behind his head. He tied it with a strip of fur as the healers finished their massage.

“Perfect.” Laufey said as Loki carefully got to his feet and tested his ability to walk.

Satisfied that his new night-shoes had not robbed him of his ability, Loki slipped out of the room and looked around at the rest of the Jotun travellers shaking off their morning slumber.

Thrym was up at the head of the Prur. His belly was just staring to poke out now. Loki made his way over there and sat down beside him.

“How much longer do you have to go?” He asked, gesturing to Thrym’s belly.

“Another hundred and fifty days or so.” Thrym replied. “I’ll be slowly getting bigger for a while yet, then quickly getting bigger for the last two months.”

“Does he kick?” Loki asked.

Asgard children kicked when they grew big enough.

“Not yet, but any day now he’s expected to start.” Thyrm said with an excited smile.

Loki turned his attention to the road ahead of them.

“Goupr said my father was lying when he said he didn’t love me.” He said, apparently to the back of the Prur’s head.

“Goupr can be scarily perceptive, you should try organising a surprise party for him, can’t be done.” Thrym said confidently.

“If I leave here Jotunheim will collapse into chaos.” Loki said.

“Most definitely.” Thrym said, trying to keep his tone light, despite the serious nature of the topic.

“I’m not ready for a baby.” Loki said.

“I didn’t think I was, Helblindi would probably agree with that some days, but he’s a youth, they all say things like that. You become ready because you need to be, if we all waited until we were ready no one would have any children at all.” Thrym said.

“I like questing, I never told Thor because if I did that’s all we’d ever do, but I like it.” Loki said.

Thrym watched him carefully. Loki’s statements were almost completely unrelated to one another, which gave Thrym the distinct impression that Loki wanted to tell him something, but possibly was afraid of putting it into words.

“Loki, you know you can tell me anything. Whatever is on your mind.” Thrym said gently.

Loki didn’t look up.

“I…” He started.

The sound of a loud horn interrupted him. The Prur were approaching Wornar and the townspeople were lining the way to the gate.

“Loki!” Laufey called. “We have to climb down!”

“Coming!” Loki called back and rose.

Thrym watched him go.

 

 

 

The royal couple were met by a wizen old jotun with a hunched back and a long cane. He smiled broadly as Laufey approached.

“Your Majesty! I thought something must have happened to you!”

“No, no, some Asgard held us up with politics.” Laufey said cheerfully.

The old jotun spat.

“Asgard, tell them next time to wait, you have an appointment.”

“I will tell them, Vaftrudner, I will.” Laufey said. “How are you?”

“Old.” Vaftrudner said. “And impatient of Asgard.”

Laufey chuckled.

“And besides that?”

“Well, strong, happy. The three best things in life to be.” Vaftrudner said. “Galr! Where has that child gone?”

A youth stepped forward with a bundle in his arms and a nervous expression on his face.

“Yes grandfather, I am here.”

“Go on then!” Vaftrudner said.

Galr turned to look at Loki. His face was growing bluer by the second.

“Welcome…cergh…welcometoWornaryourMajesty.” He blurted and thrust the bundle at Loki.

Loki took it carefully.

“Thankyou.” He said.

Galr stepped back, stumbled slightly and almost fell. He saved himself by flailing his arms wildly at the last second. Face turning even bluer, he quickly looked up at Loki, who just as quickly looked down at the bundle in his arms. It was a collection of six blue-green fruits. He’d never seen them before.

Loki looked up again, apparently for the first time and smiled at Galr.

“They look lovely.” He said to the embarrassed youth.

Vaftrudner snorted.

“Youths.” He muttered.

Laufey gestured for them to start walking.

“The last time I was here you were rebuilding your hall, how are the works coming along?”

“Finished your Majesty. All finished. I saw at the Darkening that you had begun repairing the castle. Wise, very wise. You should have started an age ago.”

“I know Vaftrudner, I know.” Laufey said with good humour as the old jotun led them to the town’s hall.

They spent several hours in Wornar, talking to the townspeople and admiring the new hall. Loki found himself the subject of a number of curious stares. He realised that despite how long he had been in Jotunheim, most of the people still hadn’t seen him. He couldn’t deny the look of hope in their eyes as they craned to get a glimpse of their Queen.

Vaftrudner was a good, if grumpy host. He muttered about everything and snapped at the ‘youth’ who hung around watching Loki for reasons of their own.

“Sorry about them, they’ve never seen an ice maiden before. You’re a pretty one too, they usually are of course.”

“How many have you seen?” Loki asked.

“Including you? Four. Dray, that was the old King’s sibling, Kolga, his queen and Shadr, their child who died young.”

“How?...” Loki started to ask and then stopped.

He wasn’t sure if Laufey would want to talk about his dead sibling.

“The Darkening.” Laufey said softly. “He was still a youth and the Death-Sleep claimed him.”

Loki tentatively put a hand on Laufey’s arm.

“I’m sorry.” He said.

He meant it.

“It happens.” Laufey said. “Or well, it used to.”

He and Loki shared a smile.

“I heard about your fire display.” Vaftrudner said. “Good work.”

“Thankyou.” Loki said with mock seriousness.

Vaftrudner snorted.

“Don’t sass me. You’re barely out of a youth’s loincloth.”

“Sorry sir.” Loki said, trying to show a lack of sass.

Laufey bit the inside of his mouth to keep from smiling.

“Are you staying your Majesty?” Vaftrudner asked suddenly.

“I’m afraid we cannot this year. We must be moving on to the other villages, lest they too think something has happened to me.” Laufey said.

“Bloody Asgard.” Vaftrudner muttered.

 

 

They left just after lunchtime. Loki waved from the top of the Prur as the crowd watched them go. When they were far enough away he turned to Laufey.

“Well that was interesting.” He said.

“Vaftrudner is a great warrior.” Laufey said. “He knew my father quite well and gave me sword fighting lessons as a child. He won the role of Headjot against a jotun four times his age when he was still a youth.”

“He’s not fond of them now.” Loki said.

“He’s never been fond of them. He thinks they’re lazy.” Laufey said.

“He must have been a great fighter to win a fight when still so young.” Loki said.

“He still is a great fighter.” Laufey said. “He fought in the last war against the Asgard. He came to the battlefield with a sword in one hand and his cane in the other.”

“You’re joking with me.” Loki said.

“No. I promise I am not. It sounds unbelievable but to my knowledge there are forty three Asgard who were laughing one moment and wondering what they were doing in Valhalla the next.” Laufey said with an admiring look in his eye. “I do not know what we will do when his time finally comes. He is such a great figure in his town, in all the towns around here. He is our history.”

Loki thought about Goupr, who went to Midgard and became someone else’s history, if only for a while.

“Next year we will stay longer.” Laufey said. “And you can hear his tales of long ago battles.”

Loki nodded, the mention of next year made him feel awkward.

Laufey paused and looked hesitant.

“Um, Loki. Do you think…would you mate with me?”

“It’s the middle of the afternoon.” Loki said and headed quickly for the front of the Prur.

“Alright then.” Laufey said to the empty space beside him.

 

 

That night in their furs Laufey laid a gentle hand on Loki’s shoulder.

“Will you mate with me tonight?” He asked.

“No.” Loki said.

“No.” Laufey repeated.

“That’s right, no.” Loki said.

“Would you tell me why?” Laufey asked.

“I don’t feel like it.” Loki said.

His tone was determined but his heart was pounding with fear. He was challenging Laufey and he knew it.

“Oh.” Laufey said. “It’s just that it’s been almost ten days since we mated. We really shouldn’t delay that long.”

“No.” Loki said firmly.

He was lying with his back to Laufey to try and hide his frightened expression. He didn’t want to be held down, but he couldn’t bring himself to submit. He’d been so sure the last time they’d mated would be the last time ever and that had not happened. Instead, Laufey had been a source of strength when Loki had thought Odin had abandoned him. He had held Loki, comforted him, spoiled him and soothed him. Then there was today, in the town Laufey had been welcomed, smiled at and admired. They people loved him, he was a good king. They were *happy* for him for finding his ice maiden, for finally having a mate and a chance of children. They loved their King and wanted him to be happy. Loki didn’t like thinking about how sorrowful they would be if he ever found a way home.

“Loki please.”

“No.”
‘Make me.’

“Loki.”

“*No*”
‘Go on, force me, you can’t have me any other way.’

“I’ll be quick.”

“No.”
‘Show me the monster, because I’ve almost forgotten him.’

“Will you mate with me tomorrow?”

“No.”
‘Remind me why I hate you.’

Laufey removed his hand from Loki’s shoulder.

“Will you talk to me?”

“No.”
‘Any second now.’

“Alright Loki.” Laufey said sadly and lay down. “Goodnight.”

Loki frowned where he lay. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. He’d been expecting force, maybe a lecture on why this was necessary and that he should just accept it. But Laufey was not playing that game and Loki had no idea why.

Chapter Text

Over the next few days Laufey asked, begged, pleaded and cajoled, but Loki still refused to mate. Every time he did his heart would pound and his body would tremble slightly in fear. He kept wondering if this would be the time Laufey ignored him, would this be the moment he would turn back into the monster Loki knew he was. The suspense was terrible. But Laufey refused to take Loki without his permission. It didn’t stop him from trying different tactics, from outright begging to reminding Loki of Jotunheim’s future to offering bigger and bigger bribes. Loki still refused.

The villages and towns greeted them with clear joy. They cheered the royal couple and in some cases climbed buildings in order to get a good view of them as they walked by.

The royal couple toured the farms and spoke with the farmers about the upcoming harvests. Up in the north the snowfall was less and the ground could be ploughed and planted. Loki was introduced to a large variety of foods including succulent fruits that dripped juice down his chin. Loki thought they would be perfect in Asgard in the summer, just the thing to cool you down after a long ride.

In public he was the perfect queen. He stood straight, acted calm and composed and smiled at everyone. The crowds adored him as their Headjots greeted Laufey and gave Loki gifts. He chatted politely and earnestly with the townspeople, Thrym and Goupr and even Laufey himself. There was no sign of any trouble on the surface.

In private, the royal couple were having problems. It was hard to hide things on a Prur. The thin fur walls of their chambers did nothing to stop careful ears hearing Laufey’s attempts to convince Loki to mate.

The servants were beginning to mutter amongst themselves. Soon after the guards started as well, although Thrym put a stop to that with a well-placed:

“You’re supposed to be *loyal*.”

Which shamed them into keeping their opinions quiet.

There was no denying that there was something wrong between the King and the Queen. The question on everyone’d mind was *why?* Theories ranged from Odin’s interference to Loki being pregnant and hormonal to Laufey having someone else on the side. No one could fathom why Loki was being so reluctant, or for that matter why Laufey was letting him refuse instead of seducing him like a normal couple.

One servant thought he’d hit the nail on the head when he said sagely:

“Raised by the Asgard, there was always going to be some problems.”

The others found that they agreed with him. Loki was still clearly in the process of being civilised.

By the time they reached Greer’s holding in the far north Laufey was desperate. It had been so long! Every time he looked at Loki he could almost *see* the seed sitting there in his belly, taunting him. But still he refused to force Loki. It was…wrong.

Laufey was having a hard time changing his thoughts. Loki was his mate. Mates mate. That’s why they were *called* that. He’d grown up knowing that, everyone knew that. But Loki didn’t want to mate, and Laufey didn’t want to hurt Loki.

Loki had been through so much. He had been hurt badly by his father. He had been raised incorrectly for a Jotun. He had spectacular temper control issues. What he needed was gentleness and care. ‘Like a wild Mau’ Thrym had said once. Laufey believed it now. Those times when Loki agreed to mate but still said he didn’t want to, Laufey had thought it was pride and that Loki hadn’t wanted to admit that he was willing to mate. He was forced to admit now that that wasn’t true. Loki had never wanted him. Loki had rejected him utterly. But Laufey still needed an heir, he had to keep trying.

So he asked, and begged, and pleaded, and cajoled.

Loki refused him.

 

Greer greeted them with a polite, if somewhat tight smile.

“My home welcomes you, your Majesties.” He said.

“Thankyou Greer.” Laufey said.

Thrym and his guards spread out in the hall where they would be staying the night. Laufey and Loki were led to Greer’s own chambers for their rest.

“He seems bitter.” Loki commented as they lay down to sleep.

“He seems like his normal self.” Laufey said. “I cannot understand how he can be at the centre of things.”

“Maybe he isn’t.” Loki suggested. “Maybe it was too much of a coincidence that Thrym and I happened to creep up on some plotting Jotun at the exact moment they were talking about the plan and not about their dinner.”

“Spotted that did you?” Laufey asked. “So did others.”

By others he meant Raolr, who, to the majority of the court, was a good natured bumbling fool. Loki had been fooled for months by Raolr’s slightly overeager smile and greasy, arse-kissing manner. Being let into the inner circle had been an exercise in trust.

“How are things going?” Loki asked quietly.

“Slowly.” Laufey replied.

He tentatively reached pulled Loki a little closer to him.

“Will you-” He started to ask.

Loki pulled back and turned away from him.

“No.” He said.

Laufey stared at his back for a minute.

“Loki. I would like to mate.” He said.

“Make me.” Loki snapped without thinking.

They both paused in silence. Loki in fear, Laufey in surprise.

“No.” Laufey said clearly. “I will not make you. I…am sorry I made you before.”

Loki’s eyes widened where he lay.

“I’m glad you regret your actions.” He said nervously without turning around.

He felt as though someone had pulled the very ground from beneath him.

“I…goodnight Loki.” Laufey said.

Neither one of them slept well that night. The following morning they toured the farmland under Greer’s control with tired eyes. Greer was exactly as polite as he needed to be, but no more. Since his crime the previous year his harvests were being monitored by the King’s auditors, who reported that this year Greer was keeping only his share and nothing more. They would monitor Greer’s harvests until such time as Laufey felt his brother could once again be trusted. In the meantime Greer had a permanent reminder of his humiliation.

They ate lunch in Greer’s home and wished him well as they departed for the secondary road.

“Thankyou for your wonderful hospitality.” Laufey said.

“I can’t wait until you come again, brother.” Greer said through gritted teeth.

Laufey almost dragged him back inside and gave him a lecture on why being punished for committing a crime wasn’t the fault of the punisher, but it wouldn’t do any good. Greer had a spiteful nature and always had done.

The Prur made their way down the secondary road. It was narrower and less travelled, with more farms than villages. Loki sat next to the driver and watched the fields as they passed by.

“I never knew Jotunheim had so much cleared ground.” He said.

“We could hardly survive if it were nothing but an ice block, your Majesty.” The driver replied cheerfully. “Although if we didn’t clear the snow each day we soon would be.”

Loki squinted at something in the distance.

“What is that red stuff?” He asked.

The driver squinted as well.

“I’m sorry, your Majesty, I can’t see it. The only red plant we have is the Loki-blossoms.”

“The what?”

“The Loki-blossoms. They are a type of red flower, unique to the north. Oh, I see them now. Someone has planted them beside the road.”

Loki watched as they approached the red flowers. They were cheerful little things that grew in clusters, which made them look much bigger from a distance.

“Can I pick some?” Loki asked Laufey as he watched the long trail of flowers. They were lining the road for miles.

“Later, when we stop. They will continue for a long while yet.” Laufey said. “They have grown here for thousands of years, each time I come they have grown a little further down the road.”

“They’re so unusual for Jotunheim.” Loki said.

“Yes.” Laufey said, looking at him and thinking about the other Loki that was unusual for Jotunheim.

That night Loki climbed down and picked armfuls of the tiny red flowers. They had a scent that reminded him of the hot night air of an Asgard summer, which clashed with the cold air of Jotunheim around him.

He scattered them around the royal chambers and breathed in their scent as he drifted off to sleep.

Laufey lay beside him and tried to do the same. Tomorrow Loki would see his parent’s home. Laufey hadn’t told him yet. He had no idea how Loki would react. Would he be sad? Indifferent? Angry even? There was no way to know.

 

 

The next day, just before lunchtime, the Prur stopped in the middle of the road. Loki looked around him in confusion. There was nothing there. Laufey came up to him with a bag swung over his shoulder.

“We’re going for a walk.” He explained. “Just the two of us.”

“And our guards.” Loki pointed out.

Laufey shrugged.

“We would be in trouble without them.” He said. “Let’s go.”

Loki followed him down the side of the Prur and off along a small, overgrown path.

“Where are we going?” He asked.

“You’ll see soon.” Laufey said.

Loki looked suspiciously at him but Laufey didn’t say anything more. The path was lined with Loki-blossoms, in fact they were everywhere. Loki looked around him in puzzlement as they made their way around the strange, twisted branches of Jotunheim’s version of a tree and beyond the sight of the Prur.

A little way ahead was a farmhouse, much like the others that were dotted along the road. This one was damaged. The door hung open and the Loki-blossoms had sprung up through the cracks in the floor.

“What is this place?” Loki asked.

Laufey set the bag down carefully and took a deep breath. Loki turned to look at him.

“We are not having a picnic here are we?” He asked.

Laufey smiled softly.

“Maybe, if you want to. Loki. This is where your parents lived. This is the house you were born in.”

Loki stared at him in confusion. With his brow crinkled upward in the way Laufey found adorable, he turned and surveyed the room he stood in.

“It’s, a house.” He said at last.

He looked back at Laufey.

“I don’t remember this place.”

“I know. You were far too young when they left it, but, I thought you might want to know where it was.”

Loki looked around again.

“Their things are gone.” He said.

“They packed them and moved to the castle with you.” Laufey said.

“So it’s just a house.” Loki said practically. “I’m sorry but if you were waiting for an emotional moment I’m not having one.”

“You don’t have to have one.” Laufey said, although he was a little disappointed. “I just thought as we were passing it anyway you might want to see the life your parents lived.”

Loki turned away from him and walked slowly through a doorway into another room.

“It’s very small.” He said. “They mustn’t have had much money.”

“Most farmhouses are this size.” Laufey said. “Farmers tend to spend most of their time out of doors, they build their houses small.”

“What did they grow?” Loki asked, peering up at the stairs.

They looked solid enough.

“I’m not sure. In the north they usually grow grains.” Laufey said as Loki disappeared upstairs.

Loki looked around at the top of the landing and chose a room at random. It was empty. The second room had a broken box in it. It was empty. The third and final room had a piece of cloth. It looked like an old cleaning cloth.

Loki went back downstairs. He felt weird, as though he should feel a connection to this place but just didn’t. All he saw was a home long abandoned with flowers growing through the floor.

Laufey was in the garden.

It was badly overgrown with Loki-blossoms. A seat made from ice sat under the eaves. Loki sat down next to the King.

“Did they name me after the flowers?” He asked. “Or is it a coincidence that Father chose the name Loki?”

“You’re name is written in you scars.” Laufey said. “Odin respected that at least. I do not know if they named you after the flowers but given the sheer number of them I imagine so.”

Loki scanned the garden again.

“The ones on the road. Did they come from here?”

Laufey looked at him with a gentle smile.

“Yes Loki they do. I don’t know why, but a long time before you were born the Loki-blossoms suddenly grew along the road between this farmhouse and somewhere in the next village, every year since they have stretched further and further in every direction. I don’t know why, I never got the chance to ask you parents if they knew. But I have wondered ever since I first saw them as a youth.”

They ate their lunch at the back of the garden surrounded by the Loki-blossoms. Loki tried to feel a connection to the house but apart from a kind of sadness that any old abandoned building always brought out in him, he felt nothing.

They made their way back to the Prur and set off once more.

An hour later they stopped again, this time at an occupied farmhouse to greet the farmer and see how he fared.

The Jotun’s name was Mulme and he was a little older than Laufey. He greeted the King with great respect before his eyes turned to Loki.

“Oh, you look like your mother!” He exclaimed.

Loki’s mouth dropped open. But then the Jotun lived on the adjacent farm, it wasn’t so unbelievable that he had known Loki’s parents.

“You knew him?” Loki confirmed.

“Knew him? I courted him. But your father won him in the end. He planted Nal’s favourite flower from his front door all the way down the road to his farmhouse. It took him a season, working at night. The next season the Loki-blossoms grew and flowered in a trail that led Nal right to Kari’s front door. I was never going to win after that.”

Loki looked back at the red flowers that were lining the road.

“Why didn’t people pull them out afterwards?” He asked.

“Why go and ruin a perfectly good love story?” Mulme asked. “Your mother was the most beautiful Jotun I’ve ever laid eyes on.” He leaned in and lowered his voice. “Don’t tell my mate.” He hissed and leaned back again. “He had half the village chasing him, but your father was the one who stole his heart.”

“With flowers.” Loki said.

“With work.” Mulme said. “Planting all of that took a lot of work. Your father was always coming up with ways to surprise Nal. He made the rest of us look quite bad.”

He paused and regarded Loki thoughtfully.

“You have Nal’s nose, and his high cheekbones. Your chin is more pointed, although not as much as your father’s. You’ve got your mother’s eye shape, but that thing you did with your forehead belongs to your father.”

“What thing?” Loki asked, unaware he was once again crinkling his brow upward.

Mulme just smiled at him, before remembering that he was in the presence of the King.

“I’m sorry your Majesty, I didn’t mean to give offense.” He said, turning his attention back to Laufey.

Laufey looked between Mulme and Loki.

“I think Loki might like to hear more about his parents.” He said. “Would you mind if we stayed a while?”

“Not at all, your Majesty, not at all.” Mulme said and stood back so that they could enter his home. “Please come in and sit down.”

The farmhouse was built in the same style as the one down the road. Now that Loki could see one that was full of life he had a strong urge to go back and see his parent’s home with new eyes. Mulme spoke quietly to a youth inside, who nodded and left as they sat down.

“Where is he going?” Loki asked.

“To get your parent’s friends.” Mulme replied. “Ortr and Daynr grew up with your father and Hefring was your mother’s best friend. If you’re lucky, Årvågen will come down. He is your mother’s mother.”

“I have family?” Loki asked. “My grandmother lives?”

He’d never considered that some of his blood relatives might still be living.

“He is the only one. We lost a lot of people since the war, a lot of good Jotun.” Mulme said.

He fetched Loki and Laufey a drink while they waited.

“What did my parents farm?” Loki asked.

“Grusha.” Mulme replied. “It’s a feed for wouza, which are a type of cattle.” He explained to Loki. “They mostly raised the wouza on their land.”

“Oh.” Loki said. “Did they enjoy it?”

“As much as anyone. They were content in their lives. Your father spoiled your mother as much as he could and your mother repaid him in kind.”

There was the sound of running feet outside, hastily stopped.

“Uh, Mulme? There are guards blocking the way.” A voice called out.

“I’ll see to it.” Laufey said rising from his chair.

Loki saw the faces of the Jotun change when their King stepped out of Mulme’s modest house.

“They may enter.” Laufey said.

The Jotun shuffled in. One by one their eyes fell on Loki.

“He looks like Nal.” One of them said.

“He’s got his father’s chin.” Said another.

“Kari’s chin was more pointed.” A third corrected.

“Hello.” Said Loki, amused by their conversation.

They fell silent.

“Come in my friends, come in. Their Majesties have visited my farm to enquire about the Queen’s parents. Between us I know we can answer Queen Loki’s questions.” Mulme said.

He grew ice stools for them to sit on as they slowly relaxed. Laufey sat down again and leaned back in a casual manner.

It took a little while, but the Jotuns slowly became more relaxed, and more animated as they reminisced about their long dead friends.

They regaled Loki with stories of his parent’s youth over lunch. Loki soon found that he was laughing at some of the hijinks his parents and their friends got up to in and around the village.

“Nal was the one with the magic. He would cast illusions over people just to see what they would do when a giant mau started lumbering down the road. The rest of the village would watch them turn and run away from nothing.”

“I wager that got him into trouble.” Loki said.

“Quite a bit, he was a prankster, but he had a good heart for all that.” Hefring said with a smile.

“They didn’t even know Nal was pregnant, you know.” Daynr said. “After the Darkening they came straight home with the rest of us. We’d barely settled back in when Kari came running to my house to ask for my father’s help. My father was the local healer. Nal was complaining about feeling uncomfortable all morning, then all of a sudden he had lain down on his side on the floor and couldn’t get up. Kari was frantic, he thought Nal was injured. We all went running back to their house to find Nal still lying there on the floor. My father checked him and said he could feel a life inside. He thought poor Nal was losing a baby. We stayed all day while your mother lay there. Kari was nearly in tears, the poor thing. Then all of a sudden Nal tried to get into the birthing position, he said he felt better that way. Then a few minutes later out you came and surprised us all. The look on your father’s face! I will remember that stunned expression for the rest of my life. There was not a lot that could silence your father’s golden tongue but you certainly did.”

Loki smiled at the image. He hadn’t thought too much about his birth parents, a part of him felt as though it would be disloyal to Asgard somehow. Now he wished he could have known them.

“Your father wanted to travel to the castle right away. But Nal wouldn’t let him.” Daynr finished.

“Why not?” Loki asked.

“He wanted to keep you to himself for a while. Once you were in the castle you would have carers and tutors and all kinds of things. He wanted to enjoy his little baby in peace.”

“They took you there when you were a month old.” Ortr said. “They never came back.”

The mood in the room saddened.

“They shouldn’t have been there.” Hefring muttered. “They were farmers, not fighters.”

“In the end, everyone fought.” Laufey said quietly. “The Asgard ripped through Utgard and the castle like savages. The battle-lust had come down and left nothing standing.”

Loki swallowed hard. He had grown up hearing the old Asgard warriors talk about the glorious defeat of Jotunheim. He had not given a thought for how it must have been for the non-warriors to have their home destroyed.

“We went up their afterwards, to lay them on the River.” Hefring said.

His voice was shaking. Ortr reached out and gripped his arm.

“It is done, it is over. Do not upset Loki, his parents died for him, how is irrelevant.”

Loki looked from one sad face to another.

“Tell me.” He whispered.

“Please Loki, you do not need to know. They looked very peaceful when we laid them on the ice.” Ortr said.

There were tears in his eyes.

Laufey shifted awkwardly. He had not meant to upset Loki with this visit. Finding his parent’s friends had been good luck, but he too knew how they had fallen. It was better for Loki not to know.

But Laufey was to be denied his wish.

“Fire.” A voice said from beyond the doorway. “Your father was killed by a blast of fire. His chest was melted away. His body was in two pieces when they found him.”

Årvågen stood behind the guard’s spears. His head was raised defiantly.

“I would like to see my grandchild.” He said.

Loki turned with nervous eyes and watched as Årvågen walked slowly through the door. He was craggy and bent with age, and large like a typical Jotun. But you would have to be blind not to see that his eyes were shaped like Loki’s. They had the same way of narrowing when he was upset.

“Your mother was run through from behind. His heart was sliced through by a sword that was still in him. I was the one who pulled it out. I still have it. I will take it with me when I die and when I reach the afterlife I will find the man who killed my only child and I will *return* it to him.” He said with eyes like fire.

Loki blinked hard at the image.

“You look like my baby.” Årvågen said, his face softening. “You have your mother’s face.”

Loki stood up uncertainly.

“I didn’t know I had family.” He said.

“Neither did I.” Laufey said, also standing. “I apologise for not bringing you to Utgard to see Loki.”

“I was afraid to go.” Årvågen said quietly. “I was afraid they had made a mistake and my baby’s child was still lying somewhere under the ice. I searched and searched for you that day, to lay you in your mother’s arms. When I couldn’t find you I cursed Odin and all the Asgard for being unable to stay their battle-lust long enough to spare an infant. When I heard that you were alive I thought it was a cruel trick, but you can belong to no one else. You are Nal’s child, his Loki-child. Despite my cursing it seems I owe Odin an apology, and I am not so prideful that I cannot give it.”

Loki felt the tears slip down his cheeks. He had not thought for his true parents at all, they had seemed like a story, something not quite real.

They felt real now, and he mourned for them.

“I am glad I lived to see you.” Årvågen said. “When my time comes and I go to the Frozen Lands I will find Nal and tell him to stop searching the spirits for a lost little infant, his baby lives.”

He reached out a hand and stroked Loki’s cheek tenderly.

“And has grown up fine.” He whispered through his tears.

He pulled Loki into a hug and held him for a long time.

Chapter Text

They took the villagers home. They climbed up onto the Prur with wide eyes and chatted to Loki as they enjoyed the novelty of travelling up so high. They arrived at the village at nightfall and Loki walked Årvågen home. His grandmother walked through the streets, pride clearly displayed on his features as he was escorted home by his grandchild, the Queen.

Årvågen promised to visit Loki in during the next festival. Loki in turn promised to write to him. Ortr, Daynr and Hefring made their way back to their homes. Each of them promised to make Loki welcome any time he wished to visit and hear more about his parents.

Loki was exhausted. Laufey could see it in the way he walked back to the Prur. His grip around Laufey’s neck as they climbed back up the side was shaky. He’d had a difficult day emotionally and it was starting to show. He was very, very quiet.

Laufey settled down next to him on the furs. He wasn’t sure what to say. In the end he just reached out and rubbed Loki’s back in firm strokes.

“I didn’t expect to find your parent’s friends.” He said. “I knew where the house was, but I didn’t have time to know them, or what their lives were like before they came to Utgard.”

“Kari was killed by fire.” Loki said flatly.

Laufey winced. He knew Loki was too clever to miss something like that, but he’d hoped.

“I’m sure there were many Asgard who fought using fire.” He said.

“Asgard sorcerers are usually women and women aren’t warriors. They don’t fight in wars.” Loki said. “It was Odin.”

“It was war, Loki. I’m sure there was no malice in his acts.” Laufey said.

Once again he found himself defending Odin. Damn the man.

“Two pieces.” Loki said.

His voice sounded strange.

“Loki-” Laufey began.

“They laid him on the river in two pieces.” Loki said.

His breathing was fast and getting faster.

All he could think of was the moment he had thrown a blast of fire at Laufey’s brother Karrir. The smell of his burnt flesh was filling Loki’s nostrils. His father would have smelt like that when Odin…

“I’m going to be sick.” He gasped.

He dove quickly out of the fur door and threw himself at the side of the Prur. Laufey reached him just as Loki vomited violently down the side. He pulled Loki’s hair back and gently laid a hand between his shoulder blades as Loki heaved again and again.

“Loki, Loki, dearheart, it’s alright, it’s alright.” He murmured in his ear. “I know it’s bad, it was bad, war is always bad but it’s over. He didn’t mean it, he wouldn’t. It was chaos, that last day, he didn’t mean it. If he’d known he wouldn’t have done it.”

Loki gasped and coughed, tears were running down his face and his body was shaking. A farmer. His father had been a farmer and he’d taken Loki to the castle and never gone home. His friends had come up and laid him out in two pieces.

“He killed him. Odin killed my father and took me away.” He said in between great gulps of air.

“He killed a Jotun, one of many. It was war. People die in war, Kari fought for you, for Jotunheim and for our future. Odin fought for Asgard. It happened, war takes everyone, good and bad. Please Loki, Odin took you to Asgard because he thought he was saving you. He gave you to Frigga and you heard your Grandmother, you have grown up fine.” Laufey said.

He gently wiped the tears away from Loki’s cheeks.

“Everyone has done things they are not proud of. If Odin knew what he’d done I am sure he would be horrified.”

“I thought you hated him.” Loki said.

“I do. My opinion of him could not be any lower but… I know enough to know he is not cruel in battle, he would not have killed your father with joy in his heart. He would not have killed him at all if he had known he was a farmer.”

Laufey pulled Loki into his arms and held him tightly as he carried him back to their chambers.

“You need to rest.” He said, laying Loki down and tucking the furs around Loki’s body. “Stay here and I’ll fetch you something to drink.”

He crawled back out of their chambers and headed for where the servants were preparing the evening meal.

“May I have two cups of Palif please?” He asked.

They scrambled to obey.

As Laufey waited for the Palif to heat, Thrym came up beside him.

“Is Loki alright?” he asked.

“He’s upset. He’s upset all the time these days.” Laufey said.

“He’s got a lot to think about.” Thrym said kindly.

Laufey nodded, but his shoulders were slumped.

“I don’t know how to make him better.” He confessed.

“You can’t.” Thrym said. “Some things a person has to do for themselves. All you can do is be there for him.”

“I’m trying.” Laufey said. “I don’t know if it’s making any difference.”

They stopped talking as the servants returned with the Palif. Laufey thanked them and took the drinks. He and Thrym walked back to the royal chambers together.

“He learnt about his parents today.” Laufey said.

“I heard.” Thrym replied. “I take it that it didn’t go well.”

“It was going fine until he found out how his parents died.” Laufey said.

Thrym shot him a puzzled look.

“How did they?” He asked. “I was injured in the final battle and spent three weeks unconscious.”

“I remember.” Laufey said seriously. “I thought you were lost to us.”

“What happened to Loki’s parents?” Thrym asked as they neared the door.

Laufey stopped and lowered his voice. He told Thrym everything that had happened the day Loki’s parents had died and what had happened earlier at the farmer’s house. Thrym’s eyes widened in shock.

“I’m amazed he didn’t throw himself off the Prur.” He whispered.

“Don’t give him any ideas.” Laufey hissed.

He ducked down and entered the royal chambers.

“Loki?” He said softly.

Loki blinked up at him from where he lay. He looked exhausted. His eyes had dark blue shadows under them. Laufey set the cups down carefully. The bases of the cups were much wider than the top so that they didn’t tip over as the Prur moved. He sat down next to Loki and pulled him close before picking up one of the cups and handing it to him.

“Hard day.” He said.

Loki took a sip and didn’t answer.

“Loki-” Laufey started.

“No.” Loki said.

 

“What?”

“No I will not mate with you.”

“That wasn’t what I was going to say.” Laufey said.

“Oh.” Loki frowned. “In that case I retract my statement until the appropriate time.”

Laufey tried and failed to suppress a smile.

“I was *going* to ask you if you wanted to write to your mother tomorrow and ask her to visit when we arrived back. We should be home again in seven more days, ask her to come in eight.”

“Okay.”

“Loki?”

“Yes?”

“Goodnight.”

 

 

The atmosphere on the Prur was sombre. Loki sat at the head most days, lost in thought as the landscape slowly passed. They visited the villages and smiled for the crowds, but on the Prur it was obvious that the royal couple were in crisis.

Laufey put his best face on things and, for now, stopped asking Loki if he would mate. He felt as though it might be centuries before Loki would even consider it again. The thought was painful. He *needed* an heir. He couldn’t afford to wait that long. But Loki was not ready, and that *mattered*.

As the future King of Jotunheim, Laufey had been told that his future queen would be an ice maiden, would be given to Laufey in marriage and that he would have hundreds of children and raise the next royal court as was his duty. In all the advice Laufey had been given growing up, no one ever told him that his mate might not want to, and that it mattered what he thought.

Laufey hated how helpless he felt in the face of Loki’s pain. He was a King! He ruled a great and proud Realm! He shouldn’t be unable to help his own mate.

By the time the Prur reached the castle, everyone was relieved to be home. Laufey and Loki waved to the crowds with frozen grins and climbed down to the ground as quickly as they could.

Vindsval was waiting for them. He smiled happily and greeted Laufey warmly as he, Loki, Thrym and a small band of guards headed for the throne room.

“Your Majesties, welcome home! I trust you had a productive trip?”

“Yes, very.” Laufey answered a little woodenly.

Loki walked by his side as they made their way to the throne room.

“The villages are doing well?” Vindsval asked.

“As always.” Laufey replied.

“And Vaftrudner? Is he still as fierce as ever?”

“Very much so. A force of nature in a Jotun shell.”

“That’s good news, very good news.” Vindsval said.

The moment they reached the centre of the throne room he grabbed Laufey around the neck without warning, pulled the king back against his body and jammed a knife against his throat.

“Now if you would all be so kind as to put down any weapons you may be carrying?” He asked the stunned group behind them.

He pulled Laufey back towards the throne as the air shimmered and revealed the room was full of his guards. On the raised dais Raolr was being held by three guards as was Kwall and a small number of the more prominent Jotun figures in Laufey’s court.

“What are you doing Vindsval?” Laufey asked.

His face was nervous. The number of Jotun who had joined him in the throne room was heavily outnumbered by the guards loyal to Vindsval.

“Taking over.” Vindsval said calmly. “I am the best at running this realm, and you have clearly lost you mind over your little ice-bitch.”

Laufey growled under his breath.

“Now Thrym, put the hammer down.” Vindsval said, spotting Thrym’s reluctance to release his weapon. “Don’t make me fetch one of your children.”

Thrym froze and turned stony eyes onto Vindsval.

“Where are they?” He asked in a voice that promised pain.

“Let’s get this business out of the way first shall we?” Vindsval said with a pleasant smile. “Someone fetch the head healer, his official verdict is going to be needed soon.”

In the corner, Loki saw Raolr’s eye twitch just once. He hoped that meant Vindsval was bluffing and Raolr had somehow gotten Thrym’s children to safety.

Thrym dropped the hammer to the floor with a clang. One of the guards tried to move it and found it impossible. Instead they moved the group away from it, closer to the dais.

“Now Loki, where is he?” Vindsval asked. “Oh yes, there you are. You’re so tiny I almost lost you.”

Loki glared at him as he was pulled from the crowd and made to stand in front of the throne.

“Greer was a misdirection, wasn’t he?” Loki asked.

“Greer was the codename Vindsval used, yes.” Raolr called out. “I’m sorry your Majesties, I was not quick enough.”

“Apology accepted.” Laufey said.

Vindsval still had a tight grip on his throat. The dagger now lay pressed against his chest where a quick thrust would send it into his heart.

“That’s sweet of you brother.” Vindsval said. “You were always sweet, too much so, this business with Loki is a step to far. You should have locked him away and bred him like the bitch he is.”

“Thankyou for your input Vindsval.” Laufey said, trying to twist away from the knife. “But I will do things as I see fit.”

“Not anymore.” Vindsval said as a bewildered Puluk was led into the room.

The healer gasped in shock when he realised what was happening.

“Your sweet nature is going to backfire brother. Loki is going to kill you.” Vindsval continued. “Puluk here is going to confirm it, one knife wound to the chest, by Loki’s hand.”

Loki stared at him in bewilderment.

“I can’t kill him.” He said. “There’s this spell I’m under which prevents me from landing a killing blow.”

“I know.” Vindsval said. “But the rest of Jotunheim doesn’t. It’s a shame the way you stabbed your loving mate in the heart and tried to run back to those savages in Asgard. It’s a good thing the guards were able to shoot you down while you were attempting to escape.”

“Ah.” Loki said, understanding. “You’re not worried about a civil war?”

“My brothers will unite to support me.”

Thrym snorted.

“Or their children will die, their mates will die and then they will die.” Vindsval snapped. “Loki can be very indiscriminate when he’s angry.”

Loki vanished.

Vindsval smiled.

“Sorcerer?” He said.

The sorcerer in his employ came closer to where he stood holding the King. He lifted his hand and muttered a few words. The spell on Laufey’s flesh lit up. With great care the sorcerer wrote a new rune into the surface on Laufey’s skin. Laufey tried to stop him but Vindsval jabbed the knife warningly into his chest. There was a sudden sense and movement and Loki appeared in front of them, close enough to grab.

He ducked quickly backwards but the moment he got twenty feet away from Laufey he stopped. He could feel the spell threatening to teleport him if he moved any further away. The rune had cut his freedom to almost nothing.

“Nowhere to go Loki.” Vindsval said with a cold smile as the guards closed in.

Loki raised a hand and summoned a ball of fire, forcing them to retreat from its heat.

“Throw that and you’ll wake up in chains.” Vindsval said calmly, tugging Laufey’s neck for emphasis. “And if that happens I see no reason why my guards can’t enjoy you in that position before your execution.”

Laufey snarled but couldn’t move, the knife blade was already causing a trickle of blue blood to run down his chest.

“Now, are you going to die standing like a Queen or on your back screaming like a whore?” Vindsval said.

Loki let the fire die.

“Turn around.” Vindsval ordered. “They’ve got to hit you in the back as you run away. Then Thrym, Raolr and I will make a joint announcement placing me on the throne of Jotunheim.”

“They won’t believe it.” Thrym said. “They won’t believe Loki killed the King.”

“Really? From what I hear the King and Queen are having problems, what a wonderful thing rumours are.” Vindsval said as the guards raised their bows. “Savage little Loki, raised by the Asgard and loved by Laufey. Too bad he’s such an ungrateful little beast.”

There was nowhere to run. The spell’s new boundary kept him from trying. Loki realised that he was about to die here, framed for the murder of the King. He would never see Asgard again.

Laufey’s eyes were locked onto Loki’s. In them Loki could see pain, despair, sorrow and a thousand other thoughts, never spoken. He even thought he could see love.

For the first time he wish he could return it.

“I hope you’re ready Thrym.” Laufey said without turning his head.

Vindsval turned to look at the still unarmed General, which is why he didn’t see Laufey’s hand come up toward the knife at his chest.

By the time Vindsval felt the King’s fingers curl around his own it was too late. Laufey thrust the dagger forward with enough force to drive it into his heart.

The spell shattered. Loki felt it fly away leaving him with nothing but a wisp of magic, no heavier than a spider web. He grabbed at it desperately and found despite its lighter feel it responded just the same.

The guards fired their arrows at him, every one of them flying straight through his image and clattering harmlessly into the walls beyond.

From an empty corner five ice daggers flew out, each one hitting a guard with deadly accuracy.

Thrym knocked one of the guards out of the way and lunged for his hammer as Vindsval found himself pinned by Laufey’s falling body.

Puluk ran forwards and pulled the dagger from the King’s heart. Ignoring Vindsval completely he shut his eyes and plunged his magic into the King’s chest.

Raolr’s guards were distracted by the chaos. The spymaster flicked his wrists once, a second later they began to froth at the mouth as the poison attacked their bodies.

Kwall stepped forwards and laid both hands either side of Vindsval’s head. He muttered a few, decidedly non Jotun words and Vindsval’s body began to glow silver. So did those of the guards in the room.

“Anyone who has sworn loyalty to him will be glowing!” Kwall shouted.

Thrym had retrieved his hammer. He smashed one guard’s head flat and ran to the side door. From the balcony Loki heard him shout to his guards below.

“Arrest all those that glow!”

The noise level outside increase suddenly as the army scrambled to obey.

Vindsval managed to get free of Laufey’s body and ran to the door of the throne room.

Loki appeared in the doorway, his hands spewing fire.

Vindsval stumbled backwards and fell before him.

Loki raised his hand, preparing to strike down the one who would threaten the whole of Jotunheim for a chance to be king…

And stopped. Lashing out in anger wasn’t right. Vindsval would face justice. Vindsval would be punished. But wasn’t for Loki to do.

Thrym lunged down and picked Vindsval up by the neck. His face was a mask of fury. He looked up and made eye contact with Loki. For a moment they just looked at each other. Thrym’s face softened into understanding.

Loki ran.

He ran through the corridors and out into the yard. He dodged warriors, glowing and not as they fought one another. He ran to the gate and out to the ice beyond.

There were footsteps behind him. He sped up but they were still gaining. Kwall caught up to him and grabbed his hand, pulling him along faster.

“Gogogo!” He yelled.

They reached the Bifrost site together.

“Heimdall! Now! NOW!” Kwall yelled.

Loki looked back at the castle. From here you couldn’t see the chaos behind its walls, you couldn’t hear the shouts and screams. It looked peaceful, nothing like the battleground it had just become.

The light of the Bifrost surrounded him and a second later he was back in Asgard. He was home.

 

 

It was hot. The air felt like summer against his Jotun skin. Heimdall was already sending a message to Odin as Loki turned to Kwall.

To where Kwall had been.

A pair of stunningly attractive eyes looked back at him.

“Freya?” Loki said.

“Who were you expecting?” She asked.

“I don’t know.” Loki said. “Not you? I mean, you just…”

He didn’t know how to finish the sentence.

“Sit around looking pretty?” Freya suggested. “Let’s just keep it that way, shall we?”

Loki thought of Raolr and his bumbling persona. Freya winked at him and examined herself in the reflection of the Bifrost walls.

“Every girl needs a hobby.” She said.

Her pretty face crinkled into a pretty frown.

“I need to get my hair washed, it’s gone all dry.”

“Your father is coming.” Heimdall said. “He will be here soon.”

“I’ll meet him.” Loki said and started walking down the bridge.

He had made it about a quarter of the way when he saw the riders in the distance. A moment later they were upon him. Odin swung down from Slepnir and reached out with his magic. Loki felt it surround him and force his body to change, overriding his Jotun nature and turning his skin pink once more.

A second later his father’s arms were around him, crushing him into a hug. It was the first time he’d had affection from his father since Thor’s botched coronation almost a year ago. Frigga’s arms enfolded him a moment later and Thor’s a second after that. For a long moment Loki stood at the centre of his family.

“My son.” Odin whispered. “I am so sorry to have hurt you. I love you so much.”

Until that moment, Loki hadn’t truly been sure of his father’s love, he’d hoped, but now he let the hope go and replaced it with sure knowledge. The feeling was better, much better.

 

 

Loki spent the season catching up with old friends, sparring with the Warriors four and riding out to the meadows. He was lazy and let himself be. For a time all he wanted was to feel his freedom.

But every night he would dream of Jotunheim. He dreamed of Thrym falling beneath a lucky blow. Of Goupr running with Býleistr in his arms only to be stabbed in the back and fall. He dreamed of Helblindi being beaten by Jotun four times his size until there was nothing left but blood and snow. He dreamed of little Býleistr being dashed hard against a wall until his head cracked open. He dreamed of Puluk, of Raolr, of his parent’s friends and his grandmother. He watched helplessly as they died again and again in a war that tore their realm apart.

He dreamed of the children playing their game, only this time the guards struck them down dead when they got too close.

He dreamed of the next Darkening, when only those that swore to support whoever controlled the tunnels were allowed to survive.

Most nights he woke up screaming.

Frigga would come and sit by his bedside. She soothed him with old songs and stories from his childhood as he trembled beneath the silk covers of his Asgard bed.

“There is nothing you can do Loki.” She said to him in the darkness. “There is nothing any of us can do. You told me yourself if you go back you will just be a prize for the winner. Stay here in Asgard, do not agonise over something you cannot change.”

He tried to heed her words. Slowly, with time, he came to laugh and smile and joke. By the season’s end he was more like his old self. So much so that Odin decided he was ready to know what Heimdall had seen.

“Sit down Loki.” Odin said gently when they reaching his office. “I need to talk to you about Jotunheim.”

Loki’s face became wary.

“What has happened? Has someone won the war? Is…is Thrym alright?” He asked, not sure if he wanted the answer.

Odin took a deep breath and looked seriously at his son.

“Laufey is alive.” He said.

Loki’s mouth dropped open.

“That’s impossible.” He breathed.

“That’s what our healers thought but it seems Jotun medicine spells are more advanced.” Odin said. “The healer managed to repair the heart muscle and get it to work again. It cost him dearly, but Laufey lives, and Jotunheim is still at peace. Only just, but they are.”

“What happened to Puluk?” Loki asked, worried.

“Puluk is his name? He pushed himself until he cause bleeding in his brain. He can no longer talk or use his left hand or leg.” Odin said. “I understand it is a risk of using magic.”

“Yes.” Loki whispered. “It can happen when you try to go too far. It could have killed him.”

“He may have been better off if it did. Heimdall says he is being treated by the castle healers, they are making him do exercises every day over and over. I do not see how it can help.”

“Neither can I.” Loki said. “But I know that they will often use non magical means to treat an injury if there is no magical one available.”

“Perhaps our healers could learn something.” Odin said. “Loki, I felt that you needed to know this, but I want you to know that you are under no obligation to do anything. Whatever you decide to do I will support you, Asgard will support you. Laufey is alive and he has plenty of time to find another solution to his heir problem.”

Loki thought about Laufey’s original ‘other solution’. There was no guarantee that it would work, and it meant that Odin’s life was in danger. Not yet, but one day Jotunheim would be sending their finest to bring back the Allfather’s head.

“Thankyou father. I need to think about this.” Loki said.

 

 

He thought about it for a long time. A whole season passed as Loki thought.

About Jotunheim.

About Asgard.

About Odin and Laufey and a war that divided two great Kings.

About Thrym and Goupr and their three children. It would be three by now.

About tradition and change.

About his parents, who kept him for a month before they gave him to the Realm to secure a future they never lived to see.

About Puluk, who almost lost his life for his King and for his home.

About the children in Utgard and the farmers in the north.

About the families who didn’t lose children to the Darkening. It was almost time for it to happen again and the Jotun sorcerers would not be ready.

About his own life and where he thought it would take him.

About planting Loki-blossoms all the way from the village to a farmhouse at night to win someone’s heart.

About blowing off negotiations to spend the day having fun.

About whether people could truly change their beliefs.

About whether apologies could truly be accepted.

About not being ready and doing it anyway.

After a season of thought, Loki went to ask Odin to teach him how to cast the changing spell.

 

 

Laufey sat slumped on his throne. The last of the supplicants had been led away and he was tired. The Great Hunt would arrive back shortly and he needed his strength for the coming Celebrations. Well, the start of the Celebrations. He was only just making it through his duties at the moment. His recovery from the brink of death was long and slow, although the healers told him that in a year he would be back to his old strength.

In the meantime he was tired.

The last thing he wanted to see was the light of the Bifrost in the distance. Behind the throne, Thrym gestured to two of his guards to go and see who it was who had set foot on Jotunheim.

Loki’s skin was that horrible Asgard pink colour. He wore a thick coat of furs that covered his body and he stood in the centre of the throne room with wide, slightly nervous eyes.

“What are you doing here?” Laufey asked him.

He had woken after a week to find Loki long gone. He had never expected to see him again.

“I wanted to see Thrym’s new baby.” Loki said.

Laufey nodded sadly.

“He’s with Goupr, I can send a servant to fetch him.”

Loki nodded.

“I also wanted to talk to you about Asgard’s wall.”

“Asgard’s wall.” Laufey repeated flatly.

“The one you were going to build in exchange for the casket.” Loki said. “It is almost autumn in Asgard, you need to prepare them.”

“Those negotiations were a lie.” Laufey pointed out. “I only played along because *you* wanted to see your mother.”

“Fair enough.” Loki said. “So how about we renegotiate, properly.”

“For the casket?” Laufey asked.

“And for me.” Loki answered.

Laufey watched him carefully.

“You. You are willing to come back here? To be my mate?”

“I am, but I have conditions. I will come and go between Jotunheim and Asgard as I please. But I will spend the Darkening with you, I will heat the crystals and summon the light. I will spend at least that time here with you every year, and when I am here, I will mate with you. I will not refuse you without good reason.”

“I see.” Laufey said.

“I will take our children to see Asgard when they are old enough. They will visit with me and learn about my home and the culture that raised me. When they are here they will learn about Jotunheim and the stories.”

Laufey was looking a little alarmed.

“They won’t be safe in Asgard.” He said.

“They will be safe with me.” Loki said, his eyes flashing. “They will be safe under the protection of Odin, their grandfather and Thor, their uncle.”

“I can’t have a part time Queen.” Laufey said shaking his head.

“Either a part time Queen or a full time war.” Loki said calmly, although those who cared to look closely would see that he was trembling slightly. “Your choice.”

“I, need to think about this.” Laufey said carefully. “Will you please excuse us?”

He and Thrym made their way to Laufey’s workroom.

“I think you should accept.” Thrym said the second they were inside.

“The other realms will think it’s hilarious that I have a part time Queen.” Laufey said.

“The Kings might, but how many of them have a bride from another realm? How many Queens will comment on what a good idea it is?” Thrym said. “You can do no better brother, he is offering to return to you. He is willing to mate.”

“I know. I…I did not expect this Thrym. I had given him up.” Laufey looked at his brother in honest confusion. “Why has he come back?”

“That is something you can ask him later brother. Right now you have twenty days until the Darkening to sort out all the details. You are going to need your strength.” Thrym said.

“You truly believe I should accept this unusual offer.” Laufey said.

“I do, Loki will never be conventional, so unusual offers are all you are going to get. But there is another reason I think you should accept. He’s pregnant.”

“What?”

“There’s a curve in his belly under that coat that I don’t think is caused by Asgard food.” Thrym said. “He’s about seven to eight months gone if I had to guess.”

“That’s puts it…right before the first negotiations.” Laufey said. “Do you think he knew before he left?”

“I have no idea. Possibly not, the signs aren’t always obvious, especially the first time.” Thrym said. “Go and accept his offer brother. Go and secure our future, and your child’s future.”

Laufey walked slowly back to the throne room where Loki was waiting. Now that he was looking for it, he could see that Loki’s stomach was not flat, and that the coat was *almost* hiding it.

“I accept.” He said.

Loki smiled.

 

 

The Darkening that year was the warmest in living memory. It was still bitterly cold, but down in the centre of the tunnels was a haven of warmth and light, where children woke and parents cried in joy rather than grief.

By the end of the Darkening, Loki needed to be carried out of the tunnels. His belly was so big he couldn’t walk more than a few steps under his own power. The new head healer, Ran, took advantage of his immobility to loosen the tendons in his feet slightly and hasten his treatment, shaving off a decade or so from the time needed to reshape his feet to proper Jotun form.

When the day finally came, Frigga arrived from Asgard and hurried to the castle. Loki was lying on his side in the bed. He’d been like that for about an hour and, the healers told her, would remain like that for most of the day.

“I feel like a cow.” Loki announced to her as she stepped into the room.

“You look just fine for someone about to give birth.” She told him and sat down beside him on the bed.

“Thrym was right, it doesn’t hurt.” Loki said. “But he keeps pushing against my channel and it’s not stretched enough yet. It feels funny.”

He lay there and just breathed for a while as the baby kept trying to force it’s way out. Laufey sat on the other side of him and rubbed his back as the hours ticked by.

Thrym and Goupr dropped in to see him. Frigga spent a good half hour cooing over baby Kolga as Helblindi tried to act grown up in front of the Asgard and Býleistr told Loki his new story about the ice maiden warrior who fought off a whole band of As-um, trolls, yes, blond trolls.

Finally, Loki felt something shift inside of him. He tried to lift himself up onto his hands and knees.

Laufey’s strong hands helped him get into position as he felt his channel stretch.

“This had better not be a sack of Palif.” Loki gasped.

“What?” Laufey asked, puzzled.

Loki didn’t answer, the baby was coming. He gasped as the feeling overtook him. It was better than mating. He felt as though his whole body was coming undone and sending wave after wave of pleasure through him.

There was a cry from beneath him, high and angry.

“Well I wasn’t expecting that.” Laufey said.

Loki looked down. The child was healthy and strong and very, very small. Little Kolga did not look so little when compared to his new cousin.

“We had an ice maiden?” Loki said in astonishment.

“We did.” Laufey confirmed. “But I don’t understand why you got so big…”

He was cut off as Loki moaned again.

“Remove the ice maiden!” He gasped.

Laufey scooped their first born out of the way as Loki shuddered again. This time he thought his world had exploded as his channel stretched to allow the second, regular sized Jotun into the world.

His wails echoed loudly in the royal chambers as Loki struggled to keep himself from collapsing on top of their child. The healers caught him and gently laid him back down onto the bed as Laufey beamed in pleasure at the site of their second born.

“Oh Loki, do you ever do anything normally?” He teased as he scooped up the second one and cuddled them both.

Loki just waved an exhausted hand at him.

Frigga reached over and stroked his brow.

“He never has done, I can’t imagine why he’d start now.” She said. “I’m proud of you Loki.”

Loki smile up at her. Of everyone, Frigga had been the least happy about his decision to return. She had asked him a hundred times if he was sure. It meant a lot to him that she was here for him, but then she always had been.

 

 

Later that day the royal couple sat on the bed and held their children as the healers carefully checked them for the millionth time.

“What shall we name him?” Laufey asked, gesturing to the tiny babe in Loki’s arms.

“Puluk.” Loki said.

On the other side of the room, Ulat’s head shot up.

“It is a fitting name for a future King.” Laufey said.

“King?” Loki asked.

“He is our first-born, he will be the next king.” Laufey said.

“Will he have to marry an ice maiden?” Loki asked.

“Tradition says the next king must be born of an ice maiden, if he wants to, I see no reason why he can carry his own heirs.” Laufey said.

“Which means he can choose his mate.” Loki said.

“Yes.” Laufey said. “He can.”

Loki beamed.

“What about his sibling?” He asked. “Did you have a name in mind?”

“I was hoping for Thrym.” Laufey said. “Every King should have a Thrym.”

Loki laughed.

“Yes, every King should. Big Thrym can teach little Thrym how to fight.” He said.

Laufey looked down at him with love in his eyes.

“Thankyou Loki.” He said.

For coming back.

For giving him an heir.

For being his queen.

For forgiveness.

“Two down, two hundred and ninety eight to go.” Loki said jokingly.

Laufey grinned and tickled little Thrym’s belly.

“Let’s just take it slowly.” He said.

Chapter Text

Epilogue

Loki stood alone by the River of the Long Sleep. The servants had placed a bed of flowers for Laufey’s body to lie on. Tomorrow the old King would be laid to his rest and King Puluk would be crowned by his four oldest siblings, as was tradition.

For now though, Loki was alone.

Laufey had been older than him, he had always known that one day he would say goodbye and be left alone for the last five thousand or so years of his life. There had been occasional times during their marriage when he had held on to that thought, but there had been many more times when he had tried to push it away.

He stood there staring at the flowers and remembered.

He remembered the times they had spent on the Great Hunts together, getting drunk and listening to the stories.

He remembered Býleistr’s first hunt as a driver and how proud Thrym and Goupr had been.

He remembered the way Laufey would always watch sadly as he left for Asgard and adventure, and the way he would pull Loki into his arms every time he returned.

He remembered the time one of the quests had gone on far longer than he’d thought and Thor had to fly him back to the Bifrost at great speed so that he didn’t miss the Darkening.

He remembered the year the Great Hunt killed no Draphts and Odin sent enough food from Asgard to see the Jotun through the Darkening.

He remembered the year Asgard was attacked by creatures from the sky and Laufey sent the Jotun army to help defend it.

He remembered the year he came to Jotunheim with the casket in his arms and no conditions attached.

He remembered Laufey teaching him to climb once his feet were properly healed.

He remembered going to visit Puluk a century after he saved Laufey’s life and delighting in watching the man walk and talk with only a slight slur to his speech.

He remembered setting up the healer exchange program, and the trader agreement, and the joint army missions.

He remembered the nights he spent working out each detail with Laufey before going to try and convince Odin of its merits.

He remembered the way Laufey worshiped his body, nipping and scratching down his sides until he was ready to peak from caresses alone.

He remembered attending Thor’s coronation, with Laufey at his side.

He remembered when the seventh day of the Celebrations became Visitor’s Day.

He remembered the look on Thor’s face the first time he saw Utgard with its metaphorical hair down.

He remembered the day Thrym died, old and ready.

He remembered laying Goupr down beside him less than a year later.

He remembered holding Laufey at night when the old King’s grief threatened to overwhelm him.

He remembered their laughter and their tears.

He remembered everything.

A noise behind him caused him to turn. It was Helblindi. Truth be told they were not that far apart in age and had grown to be great friends as the years passed by. Helblindi had become a gardener. He specialised in flowering plants and took frequent trips to Asgard to consult with the gardeners there. He was well known as an expert in his field.

Looking at him now, Loki was grateful he had never known his Uncle’s plans for him.

“He was a good King.” Helblindi said with a smile. “And a good uncle.”

“He was.” Loki said, turning back to the River.

From where he was standing he could just see where Thrym and Goupr lay. Helblindi came to stand beside him.

“King Puluk will be a good one too. He’s got a lot of ideas.”

“I know. He’s seen two Realms growing up and he is a mixture of both, all the children are.” Loki said.

He was proud to know that the next royal court of Jotunheim secretly thought that their parent’s generation was, well, a little bit silly for believing in that whole ‘ice maiden’ thing. King Puluk and his siblings were going to be making some changes.

Helblindi looked at the flower display in front of them.

“They shouldn’t have put the fradders next to the Loki-blossoms, the colours clash.” He said.

Loki smiled.

“I won’t tell if you want to fix it.” He said.

Helblindi carefully stepped down onto the glacier and made his way to the flower display.

“I did this for my parents.” He said, moving the fradders to the edge. “Usually only Kings get flowers but I wanted to do something for them.”

“I know. Laufey thought it was beautiful, and very fitting.” Loki said from the edge.

Helblindi made his way back and climbed up to stand beside Loki.

“When the time comes, do you want to be laid here beside him?” He asked.

Loki shook his head.

In all the years he had been the queen of Jotunheim, there was one thing he could not do. He had forgiven Laufey, he had talked to him, argued with him, joked with him and laughed with him.

He had never loved him.

But he had learnt to live with him, as Thrym had suggested such a long time ago.

“I have been Loki, Queen of Jotunheim for many years, but tomorrow there will be a new King and a new Queen. I will be Loki of Asgard once more. I have done my duty.” He said. “And I will go home and be an adviser to my brother, King Thor. When the time comes, I will go to the last world in a blaze of fire.”

“In doing your duty you have somehow changed the whole of the nine realms.” Helblindi said.

Loki smiled.

“Of course. I am Loki of Asgard, I do what I want.”