Loki inhaled the brisk air, taking in the familiar smells all around him. The rugged landscape looked the same and the rumble of the waterfall had not changed over the centuries. It was strange to return and see evidence of the old life he had left behind, memories of his adolescence flooding back in an overwhelming rush as Loki let his gaze rest on the cave that used to be his home.
He took a few cautious steps toward the yawning entrance, aware that the protective spells he had placed around the area had long since ceased to keep unwanted visitors out. He could make out the outline of his wooden casket by the mouth of the cave, but beyond that lay nothing but impenetrable darkness.
Loki opened his hand to conjure a small flame into his palm, the dim light from it just enough to illuminate his surroundings.
He froze as several gleaming eyes glared at him from the back of the cave.
A giant white wolf materialized from the darkness, its teeth bared, snout still red with blood from a fresh kill. It snarled and snapped its jaws, and Loki recoiled when three smaller wolves followed behind it, their luminous yellow eyes fixed on their new prey.
There were old bones all around the cave floor and the stench of filth and blood that flooded from the back made Loki’s eyes water; the wolves had probably lived in the cave for decades. Loki closed his fist, killing the flame and changing shape as soon as he had enough room to spread his wings and take to the sky.
He had not forgotten the death threat Byleistr had delivered to him when they met in the land of mortal men nearly two hundred years ago. He knew he was taking a considerable risk by flying over Útgarðar, but the temptation of seeing the royal city was too great to resist.
What used to be the heart of Jötunheimr was a desolate sight. The soaring towers of ice, once unparalleled in beauty and grandeur had crumbled into rubble under Laufey’s neglectful rule over the centuries, the city around the royal keep no more than a hollowed husk.
At first glance, the entire place appeared to be deserted, but as Loki flew lower he could see dim lights in the icy watch towers around the city. A lone guard patrolled the wall above the large gate of his father’s keep, but most of the city was quiet.
They must all be hibernating, Loki thought, remembering a time from his childhood when food was so scarce that most of his people had gone to sleep in the chambers deep below the ice for half a century while a handful of his father’s most trusted warriors stayed above ground to make certain Útgarðar still stood when they awoke.
Things had to be worse than Loki had thought, for mass hibernation had always been the last resort that wasn’t even mentioned until things were truly dire. He felt a brief sting of pity in his heart, but it was soon replaced by a sense of relief when Loki realized he would most likely be long dead had he not gone with Thor all those centuries ago.
As Útgarðar disappeared behind a row of jagged mountain tops, Loki couldn’t help but wonder if he would soon be all that remained of Laufey’s line.
Angrboða’s old hideaway lay far to the east, deep in the heart of the Ironwood. Loki lowered his altitude to fly above the treetops, surprised to see there were signs of life all around the wood. Only direwolves and other monstrosities had willingly set foot in the Ironwood while Angrboða’s evil had poisoned the land, and Loki felt hopeful when he saw that all sorts of birds and small animals had made their home in the forest once more.
His small bird’s heart began to beat a little faster as he fixed his gaze upon a familiar sight: broken tree trunks lay scattered across an old battlefield, and at the center of the clearing lay sprawled the enormous skeleton of Fenris wolf, its skull still crushed where Thor’s hammer had delivered the killing blow. Loki flapped his wings and turned his eyes away, the memory of that night too painful to dwell on.
Angrboða had made her home in the ruins of an ancient tomb, built long before Loki’s time and the land around the barrow was as lifeless as before. Loki doubted anything would ever grow in such a foul place. He landed a safe distance away from the völva's lair and cast a series of protective spells on his body.
The air inside the tomb was dank and musty with centuries of dust. Loki covered his mouth with his cloak as he peered inside from the arched doorway, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He conjured a small magelight into his palm and sent it floating into the depths of the long corridor, slowly following on its heels, his steps wary and quiet. Magical traps required frequent fortifying or they would eventually dissolve, and Loki couldn’t sense any lingering spells inside the tomb.
The main corridor was still intact, but most of the smaller pathways had collapsed and were no longer accessible. Even the main hall was covered in crumbled stone and debris. Loki knew the ice plates sometimes caused small avalanches and made the ground tremble when they moved, and it looked like something similar had left the tomb in shambles.
The wall at the back was full of broken jars and bottles, but the herbs and ingredients in them had spoiled and dried up ages ago. The small alchemy table and the arcane enchanter in the corner of the room were covered in a thick layer of dust and pebbles, and Loki felt his eyes water with a desire to sneeze as he cleaned the surface of the enchanting table to reveal the runes carved into the wood.
This is where it had all started, where Loki had learnt his first spells.
There was no denying that Angrboða had been a great teacher, but lessons from her always came with a price, and Loki had often been forced to forget his dignity and royal blood if he desired to master a new skill. She may have had the appearance of an old crone, but Loki never made the mistake of thinking Angrboða was a simple seiðkona. She was an evil from the ancient world and Loki had grown up hearing tales of her past deeds, so horrifying that few dared to speak her name after darkness fell.
Loki never found out why Laufey’s predecessors had exiled the witch from Útgarðar, but many of her kennings spoke of the calamities that followed her and the monsters she had spawned. Many a warrior had attempted to kill her and free the lands of her evil, but the völva had always returned through her dark seiðr to rain down her wrath upon new generations.
Loki had been a fool to allow her to get as close as she did. In his youth he’d been flattered by the interest she’d shown in him, but he knew now that he’d been nothing more than a pawn in the old völva’s games against the king.
He closed his eyes and listened to the stillness around him, his lips curving up in a relieved smile, for no trace of Angrboða’s presence remained inside her old dwellings.
Thor was seated at his desk in the study, his eyes fixed on a stack of private documents. His sources had brought him the latest intelligence concerning the small but loud group of dissidents that had been forming among the peoples of Asgard in the past decade. Thor had begun to suspect there was someone or perhaps even a group of agitators that continued to encourage the rancor among the people, and it appeared his men had finally managed to gather some information on the identity of the possible hatemongers.
He inhaled a puff of smoke from his pipe and stared at the mysterious name on the paper, tracing the runes with the pad of his finger.
“Gullveig,” Thor murmured.
The Great War had ended nearly a thousand years ago, but immortal beings had long memories and the jötnar were not regarded highly in most realms, least of all in Asgard. There had been mild animosity and grumblings among the Æsir from the moment Thor had brought Loki to Asgard, and even if most had come to accept their union over the centuries, the age-old hatred still smoldered in the hearts of some of the older Æsir who had fought in the Great War and had faced the jötnar on the battlefield.
Loki had never cared about the foul whispers and ill looks thrown his way, but after the birth of their children he had dedicated much of his time to learning more protective seiðr. He’d found a willing teacher in Lady Freyja and his latest visit to Sessrúmnir had lasted for nearly three moons.
There was a quiet knock on the door and Thor looked up from the papers. “Yes?”
“The children have been bathed and they await you in the nursery, my lord,” their young nursemaid informed him from the door. “They claim you have promised them a bedtime story,” she added, a shy smile tugging at her lips, “something about dragons and trolls, my lord.”
Thor chuckled, nodding. “Ah, I believe I have.” He put out his pipe and got up from his chair. “Thank you, Hildegard. You may take the rest of the evening off.”
The usual sounds of playful roughhousing and cheerful giggles reached Thor’s ears long before he made it to the nursery. He stopped in the doorway to watch as three identical lumps moved under the covers in the wide bed.
“You are not supposed to use your horns for that!” someone whined under the bedding and it was followed by a yelp and a fit of laughter.
Thor cleared his throat and stepped into the room.
“Father!” Birtá yelped, her ruffled head poking out from the blankets. She and her brothers hurried to settle into their proper places, lying in a neat row as Thor walked across the room, an amused smile splayed across his lips.
He shook his head as his gaze fell on the small dents and scratches on the bed pole. “Birtá…” Thor admonished.
Their daughter had begun to scratch her budding little horns against whatever surface happened to be closest to her as she attempted to relieve the itching. Loki would most likely know a useful remedy, but Thor had yet to find a way to break her out of the habit.
“Will you read to us?” Nilá asked.
“You promised you would!” Egíl reminded, swatting at his sister who kept poking at him with her stubby horns.
“Aye, aye,” Thor nodded, “but first you must settle down,” he said, grabbing the old storybook from the bedside table and taking a seat in the armchair by the fireplace.
Thor had hardly opened the book when Nilá scurried across the room to climb into his lap.
“Can I read with you?” he asked, craning his neck to look up at Thor with hopeful eyes. “I wish to get better before nanna comes home so I can show how skilled I’ve become.”
Birtá and Egíl let out protesting sighs, for they knew their brother took a long time to finish even one sentence. Thor silenced them with a stern look.
“Go ahead, I will help you with the runes that are strange to you.”
Little Nilá began to read, tracing his finger along the runes, his small face scrunched up in concentration. It was an old children’s book and the text was not difficult, but Thor had to help out every once in a while when his son came upon a rune he did not know or remember.
It didn’t take long for Birtá and Egíl to fall asleep, and Thor could tell Nilá was starting to doze off, too as his reading slowed down and his voice began to slur. He took the book from the boy’s small hands and carried his son to bed, setting him down next to his sleeping sister.
“When is nanna coming home?” Nilá asked, his eyes slipping closed.
“Soon,” Thor whispered, trying to ignore the longing the question had kindled in his own heart.
He picked up a large log from the woven basket by the hearth and threw it on top of the smoldering embers, poking at them to revive the flames before returning to the armchair. He watched his sleeping children and traced the long scar of brotherhood on his palm, his eyes slowly falling closed.
Thor awoke a few hours later when he felt a cold draft in the room. He blinked his sleep-bleary eyes and realized the balcony door was ajar, the light linen curtains billowing in the wind. Thor let out a startled gasp when he laid his eyes on the dark figure standing next to the bed, leaning over the children.
He was on his feet in a heartbeat, his hand grasping Mjöllnir's handle. “Who’s there?”
The shadowy figure straightened its back and spun around. “Hush, it is only I.”
The small lamp on the table began to glow with warm light, and Thor watched as Loki threw aside the hood of his falcon cloak, giving him an apologetic smile.
“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Loki… You’ve returned,” Thor breathed, half-wondering if he might still be dreaming.
“I promised I would be back before the first autumn moon grows full.” Loki leaned down to press a soft kiss to each of his children’s brows, cupping their chubby faces gently in his palms, careful not to wake them.
“They have missed you,” Thor whispered. “We all have.”
Loki glanced up, meeting Thor’s eyes. "I missed you too.” He hurried across the room and threw his arms around Thor’s neck, rubbing the stub of his horn affectionately against his bristled cheek. His skin was cool from the night wind and he had the smell of autumn in his hair.
Their embrace grew tighter and something primal rushed through Thor’s veins and he tilted Loki’s head to lay nibbling kisses all over his smooth jawline, his mouth seeking out Loki’s to mold their lips together.
Loki moaned into the kiss, tightening his hold around Thor’s neck, kissing him like he was starving for Thor.
They parted for air and Thor cupped Loki’s face in his hands, stroking the corners of his grinning mouth with his thumbs. “Loki…” He watched the red of Loki’s eyes grow deep with lust and he lifted him into his arms to hurry out of the nursery.
“Careful,” Loki chuckled as Thor nearly stumbled on the wooden rocking horse.
He carried Loki out of the nursery and reached behind his back to close the door, turning the key in the lock to ensure the children would not disturb their long-awaited reunion.
Too eager to make it to the bedchamber, Thor lowered Loki onto a velvet couch by the windows, and Loki pulled Thor on top of him, wrapping his arms and legs around his muscular back.
“Norns, how I missed you,” Thor murmured between hungry kisses, his hands roaming on Loki’s body and tugging at the falcon plumes Loki still wore.
“I want you to have me,” Loki panted, “right here.”
Thor groaned in approval and latched on to Loki’s throat to mark him, feeling the beat of his heart against his tongue as he sucked on the cool skin.
Loki began to grind against him, his hips lifting up from the couch as he nibbled at Thor’s earlobe, his long fingers sneaking under the hem of his tunic to stroke across the hard muscles of Thor's back.
Thor managed to get his trousers open after some fumbling and he pulled out his hard prick, rutting down against Loki's still clothed erection.
"Get these off," he panted, yanking on the waist of Loki's leather breeches. "Please."
Loki unlaced the strings with nimble fingers and together they managed to get one of his legs out of the pants to allow him to spread his thighs for Thor.
“In me, please,” Loki urged, taking Thor’s cock in his hand and guiding it to his sopping cleft, letting out a satisfied groan when Thor finally sank inside.
They rutted like a couple of youths, desperate for each other, their movements eager and out of synch, but no less pleasurable. Loki came undone first, spending against the hem of his tunic before Thor could even touch his prick.
But Loki was far from sated, and Thor felt his walls clench in need as he sought out the small nub above his cunt, rubbing and teasing himself as Thor thrust in and out of his slick passage.
“I cannot hold back,” Thor groaned, pressing his forehead against Loki's. “It’s been so long…”
Loki brushed his fingers through Thor’s long hair. “Come,” he sighed against Thor’s lips. “Spill inside me.”
Thor let out a deep grunt, trying to keep his voice down as he began to fill Loki with his seed, his orgasm long and bordering on painful.
He rested his head against Loki’s shoulder and they both took a moment to catch their breaths, Loki’s hands tracing soothing circles across Thor’s biceps.
“Welcome home,” Thor whispered.
They had their first shared breakfast in one of the smaller banquet halls where two long tables had been settled around a firepit in the floor. There was no fire burning this early in the morning, but the embers from the previous night still held a warm glow.
Loki watched Thor with tired but fond eyes as he filled his mouth with greasy sausages and soft oat bread. He was exhausted from his flight home, made even longer by the detour to Jötunheimr, his muscles still aching, for Thor barely let him sleep last night – or perhaps it was Loki who had been absolutely insatiable.
He was about to help himself to more cheese and bacon when he laid his eyes on his children who were being escorted into the hall by their nursemaid.
“Nanna!” they all cried out in unison, hurrying across the room, their tiny feet pounding against the floor.
Loki got up from his chair and met them halfway, kneeling down to shower his children with kisses and warm nuzzles.
“Darlings,” Loki sighed in his native tongue, drinking in the sight of their smiling faces, pausing briefly to marvel at the tiny horns that had appeared on his daughter’s forehead.
The children plastered their hands all over Loki’s face, grabbing at his nose, tracing the shape of his brows and holding on to his horns in their eagerness to touch. They were all in a hurry to tell Loki how they had spent the summer until Birtá suddenly burst into tears, too overwhelmed by the reunion. Loki scooped her up into his arms, rocking her gently while the boys clung to his thighs, their excited babbling momentarily silenced by the crying.
Thor allowed Loki to have his moment with the children, watching the exchange from the table with fond eyes.
Loki settled Birtá down when her sobbing turned to quiet sniffling and rubbed his fingers against her tiny horns. “Look at you, you’re going to have horns of your own!”
Birtá’s face glowed with pride, and upon seeing this, her brothers pushed their way into Loki’s arms to boast about their own achievements.
“I’ve learnt new runes,” Nilá informed.
“Father gave me my first sword!” Egíl cut in, making swinging motions with his arm like a tiny warrior.
“Did he now?” Loki asked, arching his brows.
“It’s made of wood,” Thor assured when he saw the look thrown his way.
“I think I might have something for you too,” Loki said. There was a mischievous glint in his red eyes as he reached inside his vest and the hall was filled with excited squeals when Loki pulled out a brand new story book, the leather still smooth and the bindings almost untouched.
“It is from Lady Freyja’s private library. We can read it together tonight,” Loki promised, grinning broadly as he watched the children leaf through the book, their eyes shining with mirth.
They all looked up when Thor cleared his throat and motioned for the children to take their seats at the breakfast table. “It's time to drink your butter milk and eat your porridge. You don’t want to be late for your lessons,” he reminded.
Thor’s words were met with loud objection, and not just from the children.
“Come now, Thor, can we not take the day off and spend it together?” Loki said, his voice honeyed. He came to stand behind Thor’s chair and wound his arms around his shoulders, pressing his lips against Thor’s ear. “It’ll be fun,” Loki whispered, flicking his tongue out to send a shudder down Thor’s spine.
There was little Thor could do to resist Loki’s persuading or the pleading looks on his children’s faces.
“You know I cannot say no to you when you look at me like that,” he groaned. “Very well, I'll go and saddle our horses while you three finish your breakfast.”
They set out after breakfast and headed down into the valley, Thor on his Friesian and Loki on his feisty Arabian, a gift Thor had brought for him some years ago from Midgard. The children followed them on their fat ponies, playing word games and riddles as they trotted along a quiet road that weaved between fields of barley and wheat.
“Iðunn’s apples will be lovely and ripe in a few weeks,” Thor remarked as he shielded his eyes from the sunlight, trying to catch a glimpse of the famous orchards in the horizon.
“Indeed,” Loki smirked.
“Oh, I know that look,” Thor snorted. “Don’t get any ideas. I’m not sitting through another reprimand from Lady Iðunn because you wish to sneak into her orchard for a bit of mischief.” He rubbed at a phantom bump on his forehead. “She has surprisingly good aim.”
It was just past midday when they arrived to a small and secluded lake, still within the borders of Thrúdheim, which meant there would be no unwanted company to disturb their peace.
They tied their horses to the alder trees that grew on the banks of the lake and the children undressed and ran to play in the water, their half-jötunn blood making them indifferent to the cool temperature. Thor reclined on a large, linen blanket while Loki took out the picnic gear the servants had packed in the saddle bags.
“Come and eat!” Loki called out after a while, rummaging through the large wicker basket, his mouth watering as he stared at its contents.
“Not yet!” the children protested from the water.
“Listen to your dam,” Thor said sternly, and all three children were soon out of the lake.
“I don’t know why they never listen to me,” Loki muttered.
“You spoil them too much,” Thor grinned. “You have to be firm.”
“You’re one to talk,“ Loki huffed, leaning a little closer. “You love to spoil me.”
They ate a fulfilling meal of pheasant, pork chops, biscuits and freshly baked honey cakes straight from the kitchen. The children had been asking to see some of Loki’s new spells since they set out, and Thor, too, was eager to see what Loki had learnt as Freyja’s apprentice over the summer.
Loki was always happy to indulge his children, pleased that they were so eager to see and learn more about seiðr.
“The restoration spells I learnt aren’t very interesting, but I did pick up a few new conjuration and illusion spells.”
Loki spoke an incantation and weaved invisible patterns with his fingers and suddenly, a tiny fawn made of ice appeared a few meters away from the picnic blanket, called into existence from the waters in the lake.
The children all gasped and ran to pet its cold, frosty flanks, running after it when it skipped into the woods before disappearing in a flash of blue smoke.
“More!” they demanded. “Please, we want to see more!”
Loki smiled, eager to show his next spell. He closed his eyes and whispered another incantation. There was a flicker of light next to him and Thor and the children all blinked in unison when they were suddenly face to face with Loki and what appeared to be his twin. The second Loki looked exactly like him down to the last detail. His left horn was broken near the root, his black hair combed into a thick plait and he wore the same riding leathers Loki had donned for their little outing.
“What-what is this?” Thor gasped, leaning over to touch the illusion. It flickered as soon as Thor’s hand came into contact with it and vanished a moment later.
“A useful trick, is it not?”
“Aye, I suppose it is,” Thor agreed, but Loki could tell he sounded a little apprehensive.
“Don’t worry, I won't use it to trick you,” Loki promised, but Thor arched his brows, looking rather skeptical. “Not often,” Loki smirked.
When Loki next conjured a small flame into his hand, the children all looked unimpressed.
“I think they’ve seen this one before,” Thor pointed out.
Loki shook his head, lifting one brow. “Have they now?” He spoke another incantation and his body flashed green. He then blew into his palm and increased the size of the fire until his entire arm was engulfed in it, the flames licking around his blue fingers, spreading all the way up to his elbow.
Thor and the children recoiled, genuine worry twisting their faces. Thor grabbed his tankard and hurried to pour the remaining mead on Loki’s burning hand.
Loki shook his head. “No, I am in no danger,” he assured, “this is a new spell that makes its caster immune to elements such as fire and ice.”
“Loki…” There was a quiet warning in Thor’s eyes.
Loki noticed the worried looks on his children’s faces. He shook his hand and extinguished the flames, feeling a little disappointed by the reaction. It was a fine spell, one that had taken Loki the longest to master.
Egíl hurried over and grabbed Loki’s hand to inspect it.
“Don’t worry, darling, I’m not hurt. This spell will allow us all to bear the heat of the summer months a little better from now on,” he smiled. “No more sweaty brows and heat stroke.”
After they had finished their meal, the children darted off to explore the woods.
Thor reclined on his back and laid his head in Loki’s lap, letting out a content sigh when he felt Loki’s fingers begin to card through his hair.
“Do you… Do you think I went too far?” Loki asked. “Did I frighten the children?
Thor shook his head. “They are not so easily startled.” He opened his eyes to peer up at Loki. “Your spells were truly impressive, Loki.”
Loki smiled and leaned down to press a kiss to the bumpy bridge of Thor’s nose.
They lazed the afternoon away as the children played in the woods, the wind carrying their laughter every once in a while.
“How is the fair Freyja? Does she still search for her missing husband?” Thor asked, his head still resting in Loki’s lap.
“Aye, but I do not think she lacks new suitors,” Loki said with a telling grin. “She is truly beautiful to behold.”
“Oh?” Thor gazed up at Loki, arching his brows. “Should I be jealous?”
“Fool,” Loki huffed, rolling his eyes. “Truth be told, I spent most of the summer in my own company. The library of Sessrúmnir holds some of the most fascinating books written on the art of seiðr that I have ever seen. I can’t wait to pass my knowledge on to our children.”
“Nilá is already eager to learn. He can read more runes than some grown men I’ve known,” Thor said. “When I was his age, I could barely spell my own name.”
“When I was his age, I did not even have access to real books,” Loki laughed softly.
Loki’s playful demeanor vanished and he seemed to get lost in his thoughts.
“Aye… The war left deep scars on our realm and not even the royal house of Laufey was spared. When I was a child, I often heard the men at court speak of the past glory of Jötunheimr. They told stories of a time when the other realms respected us, even feared us. But after the war was lost, we became nothing more than monsters in bedtime stories, our once great kingdom in ruins.”
Thor’s expression grew grave and a touch uncomfortable. “I’m sorry,” he said.
“Why? It is not your fault. You were just a babe in your mother’s arms when your father marched into Jötunheimr and conquered our lands,” Loki said, unable to mask the bitter edge in his voice.
This was a subject they often tried to avoid, for it always led to heated arguments, but the words were out before Thor could stop himself. “Because your people left him no other choice.”
A heavy tension descended between them and Thor felt Loki’s touch in his hair grow painful.
“Your people slew my kin and stole our most priced relic-“
“Because your king used it to attempt to conquer Midgard and enslave its people!” Thor exclaimed, pushing Loki’s hands away and sitting up.
Loki glared at him, baring his sharp little fangs. “Odin’s hands are equally stained with innocent blood,” he snarled. “He has begun more wars than he has ended.”
Thor hung his head in shame, his eyes downcast, for Loki was not wrong about Odin’s bloody deeds. “There are many things in my father’s past that I am not proud of,” Thor admitted, “but he is not the sole reason why your kingdom lies in ruin.”
Loki turned to look away to hide his angry pout from Thor. There was no other argument he could make, for they both knew that Thor spoke the truth. Laufey-King had led the jötnar past the mountains that separated their lands from Midgard during the height of their glory days, marching on in great numbers to the realm of men, killing and destroying everything in their wake until the Allfather had arrived with his own army to aid the humans.
In the end, Laufey was defeated and the jötnar were driven back to their own lands, their Casket lost, many of them dead. The land was marred with the scars of war, but no aid came from Laufey as he licked his wounds in the depths of his stronghold, leaving his people to fend for themselves.
“Loki…” Thor placed a hand on Loki’s shoulder, his touch hesitant. “I do not wish to argue… You know I would have peace between our peoples, but I am not king, not yet.“
Loki spun around, shaking Thor’s hand away. “Oh, Thor… always so naïve,“ he sighed, his tone mocking. “What makes you think Laufey would listen to your peace offerings? He is a cruel, heartless, old man, stubborn in his pride. He will watch his people die before he accepts peace between our races.”
“And what about you, Loki?” Thor cut in. “You are Laufey’s heir and you will live on long after he has passed. Would you make peace between our peoples?”
Loki blinked, a hint of sadness creeping into his voice when he spoke. “Most of my kin is already dead or living on scraps. I do not know if there will be anything left to salvage by the time my father’s rule comes to an end.”
“Loki…” Thor took Loki’s hands in his own, brushing his thumb over his knuckles. “Come here,” he murmured and pulled Loki into his arms, laying them down on the blankets.
They embraced each other, the argument already forgotten and the anger gone as quickly as it had appeared. Loki burrowed his face in Thor’s neck, inhaling the earthy scent of his hair. Thor felt a pleasant shiver run down his spine when Loki began to plant soft kisses along his chin, moving down to his neck, his warm tongue laving at the stubble beneath Thor’s jaw.
“Loki… What are you doing?” Thor sighed as nimble fingers began to tug on the laces at the collar of his tunic to reveal more skin. “What if- what if the children come back?” He let out a low groan when he felt Loki’s tongue flick out to taste the salt in the hollow of his collarbones, and despite his protests, Thor couldn’t help but be a little disappointed when the caresses ceased and Loki pulled away from him.
His disappointment was short-lived, for Loki merely stood up to divest himself of his own clothing.
Thor licked his lips as he watched Loki’s black tunic and leather breeches fall to his feet, revealing smooth, blue skin. Loki began to walk toward the lake, removing his smallclothes as he went, and by the time he reached the water’s edge, he was naked.
He glanced over his shoulder to give Thor a look they both knew he would be unable to resist. “Well? Are you going to join me?” Loki asked, his hands tracing the painted lines on his body.
Thor stumbled up to his feet and hurried out of his clothes, tossing his tunic and breeches behind his back. Loki was already wading into the lake and he chuckled as he watched Thor kick his undergarments into a nearby bush and dash to the water, eager for Loki like a young buck.
Thor was waist deep in the water when he realized just how cold it had gotten as the seasons had changed. He let out a loud shriek, scaring a flock of birds from the nearby trees.
Loki doubled over with laughter and Thor shot him a withering glare.
“You wretch! You failed to mention the water is freezing,” Thor grumbled. He was about to turn back and return to the shore, but Loki waded over to him and grabbed hold of his arm, pulling Thor deeper into the lake.
“Loki, no, I… I will not be able to perform in this temperature,” Thor protested, blushing in spite of the cold.
“Hush, be still,” Loki said. He placed a hand on Thor’s forehead and spoke a charm.
Thor blinked when he saw his own skin flash green, the biting cold of the water disappearing entirely as the raw pink of his skin retreated back to normal.
“What did you do?” he gaped.
“It’s the spell I demonstrated to you earlier. It keeps away the heat, but it can also be used to resist cold.”
Thor pulled Loki into his arms and pressed a wet kiss to his mouth. “You’re brilliant.”
They ventured a little deeper, hiding behind tall reeds, sinking down until most of their bodies were submerged and concealed from prying eyes. Thor felt long fingers on his stirring prick and he closed his eyes when Loki gave the shaft a few light strokes before guiding it between his thighs, pressing the swelling head against his cleft.
“I love to feel you grow hard against my flesh,” Loki whispered against Thor’s cheek. He rubbed the thickening shaft back and forth between his folds and slipped the head inside his cunt. Thor wasn’t yet hard enough and he slid out almost immediately, but Loki continued to tease and caress him and it wasn't long before Thor was fucking into Loki’s warm passage.
Thor fixed his hold around Loki’s body to keep them afloat, supporting most of his weight to allow Loki’s own hands to roam freely on their bodies. One of them disappeared below the surface to stroke his own cock while the other began to caress his left breast, tugging on the hardening nipple.
Thor broke their kiss and lifted Loki higher in his arms so his peaked nipples were on level with Thor’s mouth. The movement caused Thor to slip out of Loki’s cunt, but whatever protest Loki had been about to make died on his lips as soon as Thor took his nipple into his mouth, lapping at it with his warm tongue.
“Yes, just like that,” Loki gasped, wrapping his fingers in Thor’s hair to guide his movements.
His other hand continued to tease his cock while Thor suckled on his breasts, now flat and firm, but Thor could still remember how they had filled out when Loki was carrying their children, the memory of it often enough to send his blood racing.
Thor switched to the other nipple and continued to suck and caress, biting down a little and soothing the sting with a wet kiss. Loki let out a quiet wail and Thor felt him tremble in his arms as he found his release, the evidence of it lost beneath the surface. He gave Loki’s nipples one more affectionate lick before lowering him back to his lap, quickly sliding his own aching cock back between Loki’s soft folds.
Thor took his pleasure from Loki’s body and the water around them rippled with his rutting as Loki kept flicking his tongue against Thor’s lower lip, clenching around him just the way he knew Thor liked. It didn’t take long for Thor to find his release, but he kept going, rocking his hips, never growing fully soft. He reached between them to stroke Loki’s half-hard cock, his fingers questing lower every once in a while to rub against the fleshy nub above his cunt.
Loki panted against Thor’s lips, letting out breathy sighs as Thor kept caressing and stroking him in time with his thrusts.
“Harder!” Loki gasped. “Please… go harder.”
“Shush,” Thor whispered, claiming Loki’s mouth in a kiss to silence his cries, afraid the water would carry their voices to the woods. He increased his pace and rutted into Loki’s passage, rubbing his fingers against the head of Loki’s prick.
Thor soon felt the warm spurt of Loki’s seed as it spread out into the water around his fist and his cunt clenched so sweetly around Thor’s cock that it milked another release from him.
They turned to float on their backs, watching the autumn leaves rustling in the wind. The wood had been their private little hideaway for centuries, its secluded location perfect for lazy afternoons of hunting and lovemaking.
“Do you remember when I had you between those two alder trees for the first time?” Thor asked, pointing a lazy finger at the trees their horses and ponies were tied to, their muzzles sweeping the ground in search of something edible.
“Aye,” Loki smiled contently, “they were but tiny saplings.”
“Much has changed since then,” Thor remarked.
They both turned their eyes to the shore when they heard the telltale sound of wild trampling and laughter.
“But not for the worse,” Loki smiled, clasping their hands together as they waded out of the water.
Loki and the children were always eager to travel to the royal capital, for Thrúdheim only had the small fishing village that had sprawled around the harbor, nothing more than a waypoint for ships to restock their holds and sell some of their cargo on their way to Vanaheimr. Most of the land in the province was inhabited by farmers and peasant folk, and Loki preferred the bustle and excitement of the royal city.
It was close to winter solstice and they had begun a new tradition of spending the celebrations with the Queen and the Allfather after the children were born. The little ones loved to visit their grandparents and Thor and Loki were happy to have some time for themselves while Frigga spoiled the children.
Thor reined their two horses toward the city gates, and Loki and the children all sat up higher in the sled to take in their surroundings.
“Welcome back, my lords,” the guards at the gates smiled at them as they opened the large wooden doors.
It was midday and the streets were crowded with merchants, common folk and horse carriages. Loki tugged his fur collar aside to breathe in the air, rich with different smells: smoke from the blacksmith’s shop, freshly baked bread, salted meats, herbs and spices and a dozen other things Loki could not even identify.
The people on the streets stopped to give a polite nod or a curtsey as the royal family passed by in their sled and many of them seemed happy to see their prince in the city again. Birtá stood up to wave like proper lady, but the boys’ choice of greeting was to slip out their tongues and twist their faces.
“Prince Thor! Prince Loki!” a group of children cried out happily as they began to run alongside the sled, jumping and waving.
Thor glanced over to Loki and they exchanged little smiles. The children soon ceased their chase, but as the sled drew further away from them, there was suddenly a series of soft thuds, and when Loki glanced over his shoulder, he saw some of the boys and girls throwing little snowballs at the sled, their aim so terrible that most of the balls missed their target.
Loki’s lips quirked up in a sly smile. He removed his glove and made a few subtle spinning motions with his fingers, glancing back as the group of children was showered with snowballs.
Loki let out a satisfied bark of laughter.
“Loki…” Thor sighed when he noticed what had happened. “Was that really necessary?”
Loki flashed him a smug grin. “Absolutely.”
Thor had always been beloved by his people, but as they rode deeper into the city, Loki began to notice that not all the faces in the crowd looked friendly. Noblemen and common folk alike watched them with barely contained contempt in their eyes, the weight of their gazes enough to send Loki’s skin crawling.
Loki was used to receiving such looks, but seeing the silent judgment directed at his children and Thor made his anger boil. He glared back at every malicious face, his hands itching to cast a spell or two.
“Alright, children, sit down,” Thor urged, his eyes fixed on the crowd as he, too, became aware of the dark looks thrown their way. He wound his arm around Loki's shoulder and pulled him against his side in a protective manner, a shadow of anger darkening his face.
They made their way to Fensalir where Frigga awaited them in the courtyard to welcome them with open arms.
“My little lambkins!” she exclaimed with laughter in her voice as the children scrambled out of the sled and hurried into her warm embrace. “My, how you’ve all grown.”
Thor handed the reins to a stable boy and helped Loki out of the sled. “Good day, mother.”
“Darling,” Frigga murmured, dropping a kiss to Thor’s frost-bitten cheeks. “It is good to see you too, Loki,” she smiled, pulling Loki into an embrace and kissing his brow.
The children ran around in circles at their feet and Egíl began to tug on the queen’s skirts to get her attention.
“Can we have cream cakes now?” he asked, smacking his mouth greedily.
“Oh, I’ve got cream cakes and biscuits and a fresh pot of tea waiting for you inside,” she said, ushering the children in through the doors of her hall.
“Will you be joining us?” she asked, turning to look at Thor over her shoulder.
Thor shook his head. “I must see to some official court business first. And I would have words with father. Is he in his hall?”
“Your father spends more time on Midgard these days than he does at home,” Frigga sighed, rolling her eyes. “Ymir knows what he even does while he’s down there. But he returned just last night and you will most likely find him in one of the mead halls, drinking with his men. If not, try the bathhouses.”
“Do you wish me to come with you?” Loki asked.
“I must take care of some of my father’s duties. I fear it’ll be dull. You should stay here and have tea with mother.”
Loki’s brows furrowed in visible irritation and Thor knew he wasn't happy to be left out of the politics, shunned aside to tea and doilies. But there was naught Thor could do about it without inviting trouble, for he knew how the old politicians felt about Loki’s presence in their meeting chambers. Even Thor was nothing more than a boy in most of their eyes and they only tolerated him out of necessity.
“I’m sorry, Loki,” Thor sighed, cupping Loki’s pointed chin, his eyes apologetic. “You know I would like nothing more than to have you by my side, aiding me in the decision-making, but those old rams in the court are so stuck in their ways.”
Loki’s expression softened and he nodded, understanding of Thor’s predicament. “It’s fine… I will stay and make certain our children don’t empty out your mother’s pantry.”
Thor arched his brows at that, for they both knew it was Loki who had the biggest sweet tooth.
Whenever the Allfather succumbed to the Odinsleep or left to wander the realms, most of his duties were managed by Frigga, Tyr and Frey, but Thor had tried to lessen his mother’s burden for a few decades now, taking care of whatever duties his father had managed to neglect whenever he visited the city. He was eager to get the official court business out of the way and he met with the royal advisors and held a few meetings to deal with the most pressing matters in the realm.
When Thor was done with politics, he looked for his father in the largest mead hall in Glaðsheimr, but the men seated at the long table sent him to the bathhouse instead.
Odin had always preferred to bathe with his men, and Thor knew to go to the bathhouse near the guard tower where the Einherjar could wash up and relax after training or simple guard duty. The place was mostly deserted at this hour and only a few older soldiers were soaking themselves in the steaming baths.
Thor walked through the torch lit halls, loosening his collar as he felt himself begin to perspire in the humid heat. He found his father at a small antechamber, sitting on a wooden stool as an old, voluptuous áss woman washed his back. The room was windowless and the ceiling so low that Thor had to crouch a little. There had once been beautiful murals on the cream-colored clay walls, but the steam had washed them away over time.
“Father,” Thor greeted, giving a small bow.
“Ah, Thor my boy, you are in town to make merry on the blót?” Odin asked, a jovial smile lighting up his ruddy face.
“Aye, and I have brought Loki and the children with me.”
“Wonderful,” Odin nodded. He took a wooden pail from the floor, lifted it above his head and poured the water in the pail on himself to cool down. Thor waited patiently as his father wiped at his face and blinked the water out of his eye. “How are the little rascals?”
“They’ve been excited about the visit for weeks, pestering us about Frigga’s cream cakes and the toy shops in the market plaza.”
Odin bent down to allow the washer woman better access to his lower back. “And Loki? I heard he spent the summer with Lady Freyja in Sessrúmnir.”
“Aye, he's become very skilled in the art of seiðr,” Thor nodded, "I only wish he wasn't so shunned for his talents in this realm. The Vanir are much more open-minded about such things."
”Just as they are with incest in their court,” Odin scoffed.
”Those are just rumors, father,” Thor said, for he did not wish to speak ill of Freyja and whatever may have been between her and her sibling.
The washer woman finally deemed Odin’s back clean enough and she poured another pail of water on him, splashing Thor’s traveling cloak in the process before doing a small curtsey and exiting the room.
“Mother tells me you've been spending a lot of time on Midgard of late,” Thor said once the woman was gone. “I must say, she didn’t seem too happy about it,” he added, arching his brow.
“Ah, your mother is sour because she thinks all I do is chase and bed young milkmaids.”
“And do you?”
“Of course I do!” Odin guffawed, but his expression turned pensive. “Midgard is going through a time of change,” he sighed, the gaze in his eye suddenly a little misty. “You and I, my son, are beginning to fall into man’s myths and legends.”
Odin’s words didn’t come as a surprise to Thor, for he had seen the change with his own two eyes. The men of the North had been reaching further and further into new lands for many centuries now, but this was the first time when strange new customs and beliefs were beginning to reach their own lands.
“Perhaps it is better this way,” Thor offered, even if the thought of this golden age and the alliance Asgard had had with Midgard for centuries coming to an end made him feel strangely melancholic. “Perhaps the humans no longer need us to interfere in their lives.”
Odin said nothing, but his back was hunched in silent resignation.
Thor cleared his throat, his expression growing grim when he remembered the reason for his visit.
“Father, I would speak with you about a delicate matter.”
“You mean Gullveig?” Odin asked almost conversationally.
Thor’s mouth fell open in surprise. “How did you know?”
The corner of Odin’s eye twitched in something that could have been a wink. “I have my sources.”
“Huginn and Muninn?” Thor asked, strangely touched and relieved to learn that his father had been watching over them from afar.
“Ever have they been my eyes and ears,” Odin nodded.
“And what do they tell you of the mysterious Gullveig? I believe she is the one who is filling people’s heads with all the anti-jötunn sentiments, stoking the fires of hatred and age-old grudges.”
They fell quiet when a young serving girl entered the room carrying two pints of cold ale on a tray. Thor brought the tankard to his lips, taking a deep pull to moisten his dry mouth.
"They tell me little," Odin said, wiping foam from his beard. “Never in all my travels have I come across this Gullveig. She hides herself well. Not even the all-seeing Heimdall can catch a glimpse of her, but people whisper her name in secrecy, speaking of her great beauty and clever tongue. Perhaps she is Vanir or one of the Ljúsalfár.”
“What would someone from Álfheimr have against my spouse and children?” Thor puzzled.
“Loki is jötunn and he is Laufey’s heir,” Odin sighed. “That is all it takes.”
Thor’s eyes blazed and he set his tankard down so hard that half of its contents spilled out.
“How can that be?!” he snarled.
“Laufey has been making enemies long before Loki was born, long before the last Great War. He has always been greedy for power, never hesitating to spill the blood of innocents or even his own kin.”
“One could say the same about the mighty Odin. The humans do not worship you as a war god in vain,” Thor said, unable to bite his tongue.
Odin fixed his eye on Thor, the weight of his gaze heavy, but Thor took note of the way his father’s shoulders seemed to sag, his entire body collapsing in on itself. “Aye… I have blood on my hands. I do not deny that. But I did what had to be done,” he straightened up in his wooden stool, “to protect the Tree and every Realm upon her branches. One day, when you are King and Allfather, you will understand the cost of ruling.”
They were quiet for a long time, the sounds of splashing water echoing in the rooms beyond the antechamber. Thor drank what was left in his tankard and wiped at the sweat on his brow.
“Do you have any advice for us?”
“Be vigilant, but do not lose yourself in needless fear,” came Odin’s response and Thor felt a little disappointed. “Now, do you think you’ll join me in the steam room for a sweat?” Odin asked, hobbling toward a wooden door that led to a small sauna.
Thor shook his head, declining the offer, eager to return to his family. “I will see you at the feast in a few days.”
The sounds of merrymaking began to grow distant as Thor and Loki stumbled through the grand hallways of Glaðsheimr. Most of the corridors were quiet and empty while the many mead halls were packed full in honor of winter solstice. The dark of the winter had been beaten and it was time for Sól to lengthen her journey across the sky once more.
“I believe I am quite adequately drunk,” Thor announced. He paused in his swaying walk and leaned in to steal a kiss from Loki.
“I believe you are,” Loki agreed fondly into the sloppy kiss, bringing his hands up to Thor’s shoulders to steady him.
They continued on their way, stopping every once in a while to lean against a pillar or a windowsill to trade heated kisses.
Thor’s hands were sneaking under Loki’s tunic when a group of Frigga’s handmaidens flittered past them, giggling as they went. Loki did nothing to hide their intimate touches, always embracing an opportunity to flaunt Thor’s love for him in people’s faces.
“Good evening to you, my good lady Fulla,” Thor said politely to one of the handmaidens, his smile broad and exuberant.
“The same to you, my lords,” the old woman replied with an amused twinkle in her eyes.
Once they were alone, Thor returned his attention to Loki’s long, slender neck, tugging on the high collar of his tunic to reveal more skin.
“Perhaps we should make our way to our rooms,” Loki panted as Thor’s caresses began to grow bolder. “Your mother promised to take the children to the market plaza tomorrow, we’ll have the entire morning to ourselves,” he said. “And I might have a little present for you, waiting in our rooms.”
Thor’s eyes lit up. “A present?” he echoed, sneaking a hand inside Loki’s breeches from behind to give his buttock a light squeeze.
“No, not that you oaf,” Loki chuckled, “a real present.”
They were spending the night in Frigga and Odin’s old chambers which had been vacant since Thor had come of age and Frigga had desired to build herself a hall of her own.
Thor loosened the collar of his tunic and poured himself a glass of mulled wine while Loki disappeared into the bedroom.
“I’ll be right there,” Loki called, digging through their luggage.
Thor hummed and took a seat in one of the lavish armchairs, sipping on his drink, anticipation bubbling in his chest. Loki returned a moment later and Thor noticed he had divested himself of the long vest and his deer skin boots. He was also hiding something behind his back, his red eyes gleaming impishly.
“What have you got there, mmm?” Thor smiled. He spread his legs and patted on his muscled thigh, inviting Loki to climb into his lap.
“You’ll see,” Loki said in a sing-song voice, slinking closer. He took the glass from Thor’s hand and emptied the remaining wine in one long pull before setting it aside and sitting on Thor’s lap, finally revealing what he’d been hiding.
“A book?” Thor said, sounding a little perplexed.
“Not just any book,” Loki smiled. “It is from Freyja’s very private collection.” He placed the book in Thor’s hands and urged him to open it.
On the outside, the book appeared old and plain. The cover was brown leather and there was no title or any markings to hint at what waited on the pages inside.
Thor opened the cover and leafed through the first empty pages, inhaling sharply when he finally saw what kind of a book Loki had given to him.
Loki turned his face to smirk at Thor.
“Oh,” Thor repeated, taking in the very detailed illustrations.
The book was full of skillfully painted pictures of beautiful Vanir couples making love in different positions, all of them inventive and adventurous to say the least.
“I wish to try them all with you,” Loki murmured against Thor’s neck, his hand slipping between Thor’s thighs to rub and palm the bulge that was already beginning to grow in his breeches.
“I… I don’t know if I’m quite that flexible,” Thor breathed, turning the pages with a light tremble in his hand. His cheeks were heating up and his breathing turned shallow as his eyes took in the lewd illustrations, his mind already flooding with images of bending Loki into the same positions.
He’d been half-hard most of the way to their rooms and Loki’s eager fingers made his flesh swell even further. As Thor glanced away from the book, he noticed Loki’s other hand was between his own legs, already slipping into his breeches to caress his hard prick and the cleft below.
Thor continued to turn the pages while Loki fondled them both. There were some positions in the book that Thor was already familiar with, but as he stared at the strange ways the Vanir couples had arranged themselves, he was beginning to wonder if he possessed much imagination in the bedroom after all.
“Not yet,” Loki panted softly when Thor was about to turn the page. Thor glanced at him and noticed the way Loki’s red eyes were fixated on the picture, his hand moving rhythmically inside is breeches. Thor’s nostrils flared at the sight and he made a mental note to try the position on Loki once they got into the bedroom.
Loki was getting lost in his desire, his mouth falling open as he let out breathy moans, grinding his hips into his own hand in a frantic pace.
Thor could tell Loki was only moments away from spending into his breeches and he wrapped his fingers around Loki’s wrist to still his hand.
Loki let out a disappointed groan but he allowed Thor to pull his hand back. “Bedroom,” Loki gasped, mouthing at Thor’s chin. “Now.”
Some of the positions in the book were more difficult than others, but Loki soon found that it was the challenging ones that made him see stars like never before. They would have to save the positions that required the most agility and balance for a time when Thor hadn’t downed a barrel of mead, but Loki had no complaints as he lay on his back amid their rumpled sheets, his hair askew as he recovered from his third climax.
Thor pulled his cock out, still hard as a rod for he had yet to find his release. “Ready for more?” he asked, lifting one brow.
Loki could have used a moment to catch his breath, but he could see how heavy Thor’s cock was between his legs, the head angry red, a pearl of seed already beading in the slit.
Thor took Loki’s hand to help him up until they were kneeling face to face. Loki glanced at the illustration in the book and straddled Thor’s thighs, wrapping his arms around his neck as Thor reached between them and slipped his cock back into Loki’s well-fucked hole. He embraced Loki and pulled him closer until Loki’s own prick was sliding against Thor’s stomach in time with their thrusting.
The position allowed them to nibble and kiss each other’s mouths, and Thor swallowed every sigh and gasp that slipped past Loki's lips, greedy for them. His hands squeezed around the soft flesh of Loki’s ass and he reached even further down to feel where his cock was sliding into Loki’s slick passage.
Loki let out a loud gasp when he felt two of Thor’s fingers slip inside his cunt next to the thick girth of his cock, the stretch a heady mixture of pleasure and pain. He threw his head back and ground down to meet Thor’s thrusts, the wet noises and the slap of their skin increasing his lust as he rode Thor’s cock and fingers.
“I’m going to spill soon,” Thor panted. “Do you wish to try another position first?”
Loki gave an eager nod and Thor withdrew and settled Loki down from his lap so they could leaf through the book.
“That one looks fun,” Loki smiled, tapping his finger against the page. “And it doesn’t require a whole lot of flexibility on your part.”
He turned to lie on his stomach, arching his back and resting most of his weight on his forearms. He kept his right leg straightened out and bent the left one at the knee, moving it slightly to the side to allow Thor better access.
Thor didn’t enter him at once, taking some time to appreciate the sight of Loki’s glistening and fucked out cunt. Loki glanced at him over his shoulder, blushing at the hungry expression on Thor’s face. He could hear the slick sounds as Thor stroked his own cock, guiding his other hand between Loki’s thighs to slide his thick fingers along the cleft, parting the outer lips to reveal the entrance.
Thor let out a grunt and continued to push his fingers inside, ignoring Loki's protesting wiggles. He brushed Loki’s black hair aside to nuzzle his neck, mouthing at the sweat-slick skin between his shoulder blades, finally positioning himself on top of Loki and entering him from behind in one fluid motion.
The power of Thor’s thrusts shook the bed and Loki held on to the sheets, arching his back to allow Thor to penetrate him deeper. He began to pant and whisper filthy encouragements, urging Thor to fill his belly so full of seed that Loki would be leaking it for days.
”Come on, Thor, spill into me, fill me up,” Loki panted.
Thor let out a guttural groan as he finally drove himself over the edge, the flow of his semen so copious that some of it leaked out around his pulsing prick.
Loki turned to lie on his back, his own cock still hard and heavy where it rested against his belly. Loki took it in his hand and palmed it gently. “Do you wish to take a moment to rest?”
Thor gave Loki a lewd grin and shook his head. “I wish to taste you."
Loki inhaled sharply when Thor grabbed his hips and lifted his ass up in the air. His legs fell open as Thor moved his hands to grip his inner thighs and he found himself completely exposed to Thor’s eyes.
“Hold yourself open for me,” Thor said, the roughness of his voice sending a shiver down Loki’s spine.
Just like in the book, Loki thought, slipping his hand between his thighs to bring his fingers to his well-fucked cunt. He decided to tease Thor for a moment, simply rubbing his hand along the folds, covering them with his fingers and robbing Thor of his view.
“Open yourself,” Thor repeated, voice hoarse, and Loki felt another throb of arousal at the command.
He pressed his fingers against his swollen folds and held himself open for Thor’s eager mouth, breathing out a sight when he felt Thor press his face between his thighs, his beard rough against his skin.
Loki welcomed the burn, moaning contently as Thor ate him out. He sank his fingers into Thor’s hair and canted his hips up, grinding against his warm tongue as Thor sucked on his sensitive flesh. He splayed his legs even wider when Thor moved his caresses lower and finally dipped his tongue inside.
Loki rocked against Thor’s mouth, wrapping his hand around his hard arousal to stroke himself from root to tip, the room filling with his breathy moans and the wet noises from Thor's mouth as he continued to pleasure Loki. He knew he was leaking Thor’s seed and the thought of Thor licking him clean sent him spilling against his own chest and his cunt squirting against Thor’s tongue.
Thor allowed Loki to come down from the heights of his pleasure, leaning back and settling his body down on the mattress. He smiled down at Loki as he wiped at his mouth, his beard glistening with their combined juices.
“Come here,” Loki murmured.
Thor lay down next to him, resting his head against Loki’s chest, humming conently when Loki began to trace idle patterns with his fingers across Thor’s back.
“I could not have wished for a better gift,” Thor said happily through a yawn, his eyes already slipping closed. “Thank you, Loki.”
“Oh, the pleasure was all mine,” Loki grinned, kissing the crown of Thor’s head.
Loki flew toward the pale winter sun which was already beginning to sink behind the evergreen forests of Thrúdheim. He had roused himself before Thor that morning, donning his falcon plumes and flying out their bedroom window while Thor continued to slumber.
He’d spent the day in the form of a bird, spying on sailors and merchants in the docks and listening in on conversations in the small hamlets around the province. He hadn’t heard anything of interest, only the usual gossip concerning the latest skirmishes between the Dwarves and the Dökkalfar, and some grumbles about one or two jarls living too high on the hog.
The lack of news did not disappoint him. If anything, Loki was relieved that whispers about the mysterious Gullveig had seemed to die down in recent months.
He altered his course when his bird’s eyes spotted four familiar shapes at the edge of the field where they often let the horses out in the summer. It appeared Thor had taken the children out to teach them to hunt, and Loki saw they were tracking the small pack of deer further down on the field.
He soared above them, watching as Thor helped Birtá find a proper grip on her bow, correcting her patiently and waiting until the girl got it right.
Loki would have smiled, had he been able to do so. The children couldn’t ask for a better father than Thor. He may have possessed a quick temper and the arrogant streak from his boyhood hadn’t disappeared entirely over the years, but when it came to raising their children, Thor had inherited Frigga’s patience and wise heart.
That did not mean Thor couldn’t be firm when the situation called for it, and truth be told, it was often Thor who denied the children’s demands to stay up late or have one more butter scone for dessert, for Loki rarely had the heart to do so. Loki had spent his own childhood in such squalor that he would do anything to ensure that his own children would never lack anything they desired.
It had been almost four decades since the birth of their children, and the role of a parent had brought forth a new kind of love in Loki that he didn’t even know he possessed until the moment he first held each tiny babe in his arms.
That didn't mean that Loki didn’t sometimes miss his old life and the freedom he used to have, and there were days when he threw on his feather cloak and took off before his family had even woken. Sometimes he was gone for a week, other times the longing in his heart drove him home before the day was done. But however long his absences were, Thor never made Loki feel guilty about them, always welcoming him back with open arms.
Loki lowered his altitude to watch as Birtá shot a few practice arrows with her bow. One of them fell at her feet and the other disappeared into the thickets at the edge of the field. Birtá looked crestfallen, ready to give up, but Thor patted her horned little head encouragingly, handing her another arrow and urging the girl to try again.
Loki let out a high-pitched call and they all turned their faces to the sky. Thor’s mouth split into a wide grin when he spotted Loki above them and he held out his right hand. Loki landed on his forearm, careful not to dig his sharp claws too deep into the fine leather of Thor’s glove.
Thor smiled fondly and ran a gentle finger along Loki's feathered cheek. Loki leaned into the touch and hopped on to Thor’s shoulder as Thor continued the hunting lesson.
“Why not?” Loki snarled, shooting Thor a withering look.
“Because it is not safe,” Thor snapped back. He took a drag from his pipe, exhaling everything out in an angry puff.
Loki paced the floor in front of the long dining table, his agitated steps echoing off the walls and rafters of the large banquet hall.
“How can you possibly claim it is not safe with such certainty? You know nothing about seiðr,” Loki argued.
Thor didn’t respond. He continued to smoke his pipe angrily, his eyes fixed on his half-empty pint of warm goat milk.
Their arguing had driven the servants out of the room and most of their dirty dinner plates had been left on the table, for the maids had been too frightened to come back for them.
“It is not fair,” Loki bemoaned. He sounded genuinely hurt and Thor’s head jerked up, the hard glare in his eyes softening momentarily. “You get to teach our children everything and yet you deem the one thing I could share with them too dangerous.”
“Loki… there are plenty of things our children can learn from you.”
Loki shook his head stubbornly, too lost in his anger to even consider Thor’s words. “You are already teaching them to ride and to fence and to hunt. They even learnt how to swim with you.”
“You were right there with us on the day our children learnt to swim, Loki,” Thor reminded, his voice half amused, half exasperated.
Loki blinked furiously as he realized his mistake, but it did not end their argument. He crossed his arms over his chest, glowering at Thor. “Why can I not teach our children seiðr? Nilá is already eager to start learning.”
“Of course you can teach them, I simply think it’s too early and-“
“It is not too early,” Loki insisted. “The younger they are, the easier it is for them to learn. Your mother agrees with me.”
Thor gave Loki a flustered look, coughing out a puff of smoke. “My mother? What does she have to do with this?”
“She and I discussed the matter during her last visit to Thrúndeim.”
Thor’s jaw clenched and he felt annoyed at the thought of Loki and Frigga conspiring behind his back.
“Why wasn’t I told?”
“I’m telling you now!”
“I still think it’s too dangerous,” Thor declared, trying to sound firm, but Loki refused to back down. “What if something goes wrong? What if they can’t control it? What if they set the furniture on fire?”
“I will teach them to control it,” Loki countered, finally ceasing his pacing.
Thor shook his head. “I’m sorry, Loki, but my answer is still no.”
Loki’s eyes turned deep crimson with anger and Thor noticed the curve of his mouth was also decidedly unhappy.
“Oh, I see,” Loki hissed as if he had stumbled upon a great secret. “You don’t trust me. Is that it?” His tone became accusing. “Of course you don’t. You have no faith in my skills, you never did.”
“Loki…” Thor groaned, setting down his pipe to pinch the bridge of his nose. “That is not what I meant. You’re twisting my words.”
“Do not lie to me!” Loki snarled, about to resume his angry pacing, but he was interrupted when Hildegard, their timid young nursemaid slunk into the room, carrying a tray of tea in her shaking hands.
“I beg your pardon, my lords,” she whispered, her eyes downcast, “I have brought you your evening tea.”
Thor softened his voice and instructed the girl to set the tray on the table while Loki glared at her furiously, angry about the interruption. His ire seemed to flare up when the maid attempted to pour tea into their cups and managed to spill some of it on the tray, unable to control the tremble in her hand.
“Give me that,” Loki snapped, forcefully taking the tea pot from her hand, “I shall do it myself. Leave us! And take those eavesdropping oafs with you,” he said, pointing at the two Einherjar stationed at the door.
Finally alone, Loki filled the two porcelain cups with tea, glowering at Thor through the cloud of hot steam. He handed Thor his cup along with a biscuit, gripping it so hard that most of it crumbled in his fist. Thor raised his hand to hide the smile that threatened to spread across his lips, watching Loki from under his brows as he took his own tea saucer and retreated to drink the it a few feet away, his back turned to Thor.
They had their tea in a seething silence, but Thor could already feel his anger settling. He was about to call out to Loki to see if he was ready to make peace when Loki spun around to face him, swaying on his feet.
“Thor…” Loki gasped, his voice alarmed. “Something- something’s not right.”
Thor set down his cup and felt his chest contract with fear when he saw Loki’s eyes roll back in his head, his body gradually going limp. The cup and the saucer slipped from Loki’s hand, shattering as they hit the floor, the sound of breaking china loud in the quiet room.
“Loki!” Thor scrambled up from his chair, watching in horror as Loki fell unconscious, collapsing on the floor with a sickening thud.
He hurried to Loki’s side, his own vision swimming, his limbs heavy and his steps uncoordinated. “Loki…” Thor breathed. He crashed down on his knees and crawled the rest of the way to where Loki was sprawled on the floor.
His eyes flicked briefly to the shards of broken china and he realized they had been drugged. He tried to fight the heavy drowsiness as he slipped closer to unconsciousness, but there was nothing he could do to prevent it. Thor gathered Loki’s limp body into his arms and held him protectively against his chest as darkness took him.
Thor was pulled back from the edge of oblivion when someone yanked his head up by his hair. He let out a wheezing groan, his body in shock from the abrupt pain.
He blinked his eyes open, trying to shake off the lingering haziness from the drug, but his vision continued to swim and his head felt disoriented. He discovered he was on his knees and his hands were pulled to the sides, bound and shackled with heavy iron chains that were attached to two large stone pillars.
“What is this?” Thor croaked, yanking on the fetters, the rattle of the chains making his ears ring. “Where am I?”
He was greeted with silence, but his vision began to settle and he could finally take in his surroundings. It appeared he was outdoors, for he felt the bite of winter on his skin. There were broken pillars and stone archways all around him, towering toward the sky, which was like a canvas of thick black velvet, starless and moonless as if he were inside some strange dome.
Thor had a sinking feeling in the back of his mind as he recognized the ruins around him. He was in the summit of Cauldron Peak, at the ancient burial site of a long-forgotten witch king; a memory from the dawn of Asgard when the Tree was still young. Thor had flown over the place many a time, but he had never been foolish enough to set foot here, for there were places in the remote corners of the realms that were better left undisturbed.
A torch was lit somewhere to his left and the light from it was enough to reveal the few dozen or so cloaked figures standing in a circle around Thor, unmoving, their half-hidden faces expressionless and their blank eyes staring into void. Thor blinked when he realized the young man on his left looked like the innkeeper's son. A simple but good-natured lad, always dashing to and fro around the tavern with a tray in his hand.
There were other familiar faces in the crowd, men and women from the village down in the valley and a handful of old Einherjar veterans from the Great War. All of them stared into nothingness and Thor realized they all appeared to be under some strange spell.
Thor looked around and his heart nearly ceased beating when his gaze fell on three small bodies lying in the snow some distance away.
“No… No!” Thor bellowed. “What have you done to my children?”
Their small hands and ankles were bound and they appeared to be in deep slumber.
There was a hooded figure standing next to the children and she began to tremble and sob. “Forgive me, my lord, I never meant for this to happen.”
Thor narrowed his eyes and he realized he recognized the voice. “Hildegard?” he gasped, struggling to comprehend the young nursemaid’s part in the strange events.
The girl removed her hood and fell to her knees. She didn't appear to be bewitched like the others, only very frightened. She shook her head as hot tears spilled down her cheeks. “I didn’t know- I didn’t know this would happen,” she spluttered. “My mother is ill and I needed the coin…”
“What is going on? Are my children alright?” Thor asked, desperation creeping into his voice. He pulled on his chains in an attempt to free himself, but his muscles protested, the drugs still coursing through his veins sending a wave of nausea and dizziness through his body.
“Your children are unharmed,” a soft voice spoke somewhere behind him. “For now,” the stranger added with a hint of laughter.
Thor's head snapped up and he looked around, trying to see who the voice belonged to. Slender arms embraced him briefly from behind in an almost caressing manner.
“You may as well cease your struggling, godling.” The stranger tugged on the chains around Thor’s right wrist. “These fetters have been fashioned to withstand the might of a god, even one as fierce as you, my little thunderer.”
“Who are you?” Thor snarled. “Show yourself!”
The stranger finally stepped out from the shadows and Thor let out a stunned gasp, suddenly face to face with a tall and fair Vanir woman. Her long, blond locks flowed down from her head like a river of gold and though she was slender in build, she appeared regal and commanding. Every inch of her was decked in jewelry and when the firelight from the surrounding torches reflected off her many brooches and gold chains, it was almost as if she were glowing.
Thor felt a sickening dread in his heart as realization dawned on him. “Gullveig,” he breathed, jaw clenched.
“I see you are not as dull as they say,” Gullveig smirked, lifting one brow in mock impress.
“Where is Loki? What have you done with him?”
“Patience, my prince, patience,” Gullveig sing-songed. “All in good time.”
“Cease your games, villain!” Thor growled, rattling his chains. “What’s the meaning of this foul scheme? What do you want with me? I have done nothing to invite your ire. I have never even met you.”
Gullveig’s eyes blazed and the serene expression she wore on her face slipped away. She dashed forward, her face only inches away from Thor’s.
“Nothing, you say?” she hissed. “You invaded my home, slew my child and burned my body with your fire from the sky.” Her eyes flashed crimson and for a brief moment, her pale visage peeled back to reveal spots of blue.
Thor’s mouth fell open in shock. “Angrboða,” he said, voice barely a whisper. “But I- I destroyed you.”
“Aye, indeed you did, Odinson.” She spoke quietly, her words reaching only Thor’s ears. “And for nearly three hundred years I was nothing more than a whisper in the wind, gathering my strength and wandering the realms in search of a new form to house my spirit. And now…” she panted, “now I am finally ready and you, my little princeling, shall pay.”
Thor eyed the crowd around them. “If your quarrel is with me, why involve all these innocent people in your schemes?”
Angrboða grinned, looking at the villagers as if they were but cattle. “These fools are nothing more than the instrument of my revenge. Some of them asked for gold, others desired a more carnal payment for their loyalty.” She walked over to the innkeeper's son, stroking his barely bristled cheek. "This young fool would have fetched me the moons from the sky for one single night of passion between my sheets. Little did he know what his loyalty to me would entail."
Angrboða returned to stand before Thor, brushing her fingers along Mjöllnir’s grooved hilt where the hammer hung uselessly from his hip.
“They say even an entire platoon cannot rival the Mighty Thor,” she looked to her left, fixing her gaze on young Hildegard who knelt next to the children in a protective manner. “But I have bested you without a single blade. I’ve brought you down to your knees, fettered and utterly powerless, and all it took was one desperate soul, willing to sacrifice your family to save her own,” Angrboða laughed, as if the thought in its simplicity was amusing to her.
Hildegard burst into fresh tears, a litany of apologies falling from her lips, but she was silenced with a flash of seiðr from Angrboða’s long fingers.
“I’ve done my waiting and now, after centuries, I will finally have my revenge and when I’m done, your lands will be drenched in the blood of a new war.”
“War?” Thor gasped. “This is but a host of men you have fooled and bewitched to do your bidding. A few Einherjar will not win you even a skirmish.”
“I do not need an army to start a war,” Angrboða chuckled, her voice slow as if she were speaking to a child. “I have already sown the seeds of destruction over the years I spent in the shadows. This realm is full of old bigots who still remember the Great War, the sight of their kin and shieldbrothers dying in the hands of the race they deem monsters." She moved to circle one of the Einherjar, pressing her palm against the shiny metal of his mail. "Their hearts are heavy with age-old anger and such corruption is easy to command. In this form, they see me as an ally and all they needed was the appropriate kindle to stoke those old grudges into righteous hate"
"Who will they battle?" Thor asked, struggling to follow Angrboða's designs. "My father's men will root out such rebellion in mere days if the need arises."
The völva circled around Thor, tracing her sharp nails along his spine. "That may be, but Laufey has always been eager to court war and he will sacrifice his kin for a grudge he has held against your people for nearly a thousand years. There may not be any love lost between Laufey and his estranged little runt, but once word reaches Jötunheimr that the Æsir have murdered his heir, the bloodthirsty old fool will muster what remains of his people and lead them into a war he cannot win, thus ending his line and leaving the throne free for the taking.”
Thor barely heard the witch after she finally mentioned Loki's part in her schemes. “Where is Loki?” Thor demanded, suddenly sick with dread. "Where is he?"
Angrboða’s lips quirked up in a self-satisfied smile. She raised her hand and the darkness before them parted like a veil.
When Thor saw the large pyre, his eyes began to prickle with tears, for there was Loki, bound to a tall wooden pole and held immobile by tendrils of seiðr that coiled around his body like snakes. His mouth was gagged but his eyes blazed with pure hatred as he glared at Angrboða.
“Loki!” Thor cried out. He began to struggle against his own bindings, calling forth his berserker rage, but it was as if some dark force in his blood was blocking the transformation, rendering his body incapable of reaching berserkergang. Mjöllnir hummed at his side, the hammer's familiar battle song and solid weight daunting, for there was nothing Thor could do to lift it.
Angrboða glanced up at the sound of distant thunder, throwing her head back in an amused cackle. The darkness around them was momentarily pierced by a flash of white light, but the storm that raged outside of the strange dome never reached the ground.
“Your thunder and lightning will not save your family, Odinson, not this time,” Angrboða spoke, her grim smile growing wider still.
Thor growled at her, pulling on the chains as another flash of lighting made the dome tremble, still unable to penetrate it. It was followed by a burst of frost and icicles as Loki attempted to strike at the witch, but she evaded the attack with a simple wave of her hand, turning the ice into glimmering dust.
Angrboða made a clicking sound with her tongue, shaking her head at Loki. "Foolish child. Do you think your little tricks are enough to match my seiðr?"
Loki's eyes flashed with anger and another burst of ice magic flowed out of his bound body. Angrboða raised her hand and deflected the icicles midair, sending them toward the pyre where they crashed back into Loki, cutting his skin.
"Loki, stop," Thor called out before Loki could try another spell. "Please, don't. She... she is beyond your skills."
Angrboða's eyes shone with glee. “Well, Thunderer, shall we begin?” she smiled sweetly and leaned closer to whisper in Thor’s ear. “First, I will burn your little whore and when the flames have devoured his charred remains, I will take from you your children as you took my Fenris from me.”
“No!” Thor growled. He pulled on the bindings around his wrists, the muscles in his arms bulging under the immense strain.
Angrboða ignored his struggles and began to walk toward the pyre, raising her arm to signal the Einherjar to lower their torches to the kindling.
“No!” Hildegard scrambled to her feet and dashed toward the pyre, but someone in the crowd smacked her in the head and she hit the ground unconscious.
The storm outside grew louder as Thor watched the flames spread and lick their way toward the center where Loki stood tied to the beam. He continued to fight against his fetters, gritting his teeth, sweat rolling down his back as he pulled and pulled, thrashing wildly. There was a sharp flash of pain when his right shoulder finally dislocated and Thor let out a pained cry, forced to cease his struggling.
Thor met Loki's eyes across the small distance and his heart sank as the rage in him vanished and gave way to fear and utter helplessness. Tears welled up in his eyes, blurring his vision. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I’m sorry.” Thor glanced at his unconscious children, thankful they wouldn't have to witness this.
A whisper in his ear, fleeting and soft like the flutter of a moth’s wings. Thor blinked away the tears, glancing around.
“Don’t be afraid.”
“Loki?” Thor whispered, his breath catching in his throat. He turned his eyes to the pyre and saw the flames begin to rise higher, spreading toward Loki’s bound body.
“Don’t be afraid,” Loki repeated, shimmering into a hazy form in front of Thor. “Do not worry about me. Please, save our children.” Loki reached out with his hand, but the illusion vanished the moment his fingers brushed Thor’s cheek.
Thor caught a flash of green at the center of the pyre just as the fires engulfed Loki’s body.
Time seemed to slow down as the pyre continued to burn, finally swallowed by the blazing flames, spitting red sparks into the darkness above them. The thick smoke that rose from the pyre made Thor cough and his eyes stung and watered as he stared into the flames, hoping against hope that Loki’s seiðr would be enough to withstand them.
Please, hold on, Loki. Just hold on.
“Pity that he did not scream,” Angrboða said as she returned to Thor, the look on her face disappointed. “But Laufey’s runt was always so very stubborn. I imagine he kept quiet simply to spite me.”
Thor remained quiet, his only response a defiant glare, which seemed to strike a spark in the völva’s ire. She glanced at the unconscious children in the snow, a malicious smile splitting across her mouth.
“No matter,” she laughed grimly, “they will scream.”
“Do not touch them!” Thor snarled as Angrboða crouched down to gather the children in her long arms.
There was a deafening crack of thunder above them as the witch began to carry the children toward the fire. Her chilling laughter sent a fresh wave of red, hot fury coursing through Thor’s veins and he resumed his desperate struggling, and even the searing pain in his shoulder was not enough to stop him.
Angrboða reached the edge of the pyre and Thor pulled on the chains, blood trickling down his wrists as they dug into his skin.
“Please, don’t,” Thor wailed, unable to free himself, forced to watch as Angrboða lifted little Birtá up by the collar of her nightshirt, dangling the child near the flames.
"Help her!" Thor called out to the villagers, but none of them moved or batted an eye.
The darkness around them vanished in a sudden flash, peeling back and exposing them to the storm in the sky. Thor’s head jerked up in shock as rain, mixed with ice cold hail began to whip his face, the rumble of thunder that echoed off the mountain tops almost deafening.
He felt his heart soar when the storm clouds parted and the Allfather burst forth from the darkness on his eight-legged steed, followed by a host of Valkyries, their spears held high and gleaming it the light of the storm.
“Cease this madness!” Odin bellowed as he hurled Gungnir from the heights. The spear found its mark, impaling Angrboða’s left shoulder. She let out a pained gasp and dropped the children to the snow at her feet, her mouth hanging open in pain and shock.
One of the Valkyries descended from the sky and hurried to gather the unconscious children into her arms, carrying them to safety.
The crowd seemed to awaken from their magical haze and Thor watched as the cloaked figures dashed around, attempting to escape, but the Valkyries swooped down from the clouds and forced them to surrender.
Thor’s shoulders slumped with relief, the tension leaving his body. He turned his face to the sky and felt a childlike awe as he gazed upon his father. It had been a long time since Thor had seen the king ride out in full battle-gear and Odin was truly a fearsome sight to behold in his shining mail.
The air was pierced by sharp, chocking laughter. “You old fool!” Angrboða cackled, blood spilling from the wound on her shoulder. “You cannot destroy me, Raven God.”
There was a whiz in the air as the Valkyrie flung their spears at the völva, piercing her in six different places all at once. Angrboða staggered and swayed toward the fire from the force of the strikes, but she managed to keep upright.
Her laughter grew louder and blood flowed from the corners of her mouth, painting her teeth red. “I shall not be destroyed! This body is but a vessel,” Angrboða panted, taking in heaving breaths as she continued to bleed out where the spears had impaled her.
Odin dismounted Sleipnir and walked toward the witch until they were face to face. “Be silent, Sorrow-Bringer, you herald of foe, for you are poisonous through and through and behold! this is the hour of your defeat.”
Loud gasps echoed all around them as Gullveig’s true identity was revealed to the crowd around them.
“We have been deceived,” someone cried out.
Odin continued to advance on Angrboða, his armor shining in the firelight. The völva glared at him with eyes full of hatred, staggering back, letting out a startled cry when she realized how close to the fire she had gotten, the heat of the flames burning her skin.
Just one small push, Thor thought. Just one push and the völva would burn.
“You will never be rid of me,” Angrboða snarled, “I will bring calamity where ever I go. I will poison the lands until the days of Ragnarök are upon us, ever will I be the joy of those with evil in their hearts-“
She choked on her gurgling words when Odin grabbed hold of Gungnir and yanked it out of her body. The movement shook her and before she was able to regain her balance, slender, blue hands reached out from the fire, twining around Angrboða’s neck and shoulders.
“Loki!” Thor cried out in shock, a wave of relief washing over him when he saw that Loki was unharmed by the fire; the spell had worked.
Loki tightened his hold around Angrboða’s shoulders and dragged the völva into the pyre until the flames swallowed them both and the air filled with pained screams.
Rain and hail continued to beat the old ruins and no starlight penetrated the dark thunder clouds. Odin made his way to Thor and he struck the fetters with Gungnir once, twice, three times until the chains finally broke. He pressed his hand on Thor's injured shoulder and murmured soothing words under his breath. Thor felt a warmth spreading into his muscles as his shoulder mended under Odin's healing touch.
“Thank you, father,” Thor breathed. He hurried to the edge of the pyre and lifted Mjöllnir to harness the storm he had created out of his rage and desperation. He increased the downpour until the flames began to diminish and the pyre slowly turned into a pile of smoldering wood.
The air was still heavy with thick smoke, but Thor ignored it, climbing the pyre and pushing through the smoke until he reached the center.
A wet squishing sound reached Thor’s ears and he came to a halt when the smoke cleared enough to reveal Loki, kneeling before Angrboða’s burned remains. All that was left of her was a pile of melted gold, but in Loki’s hands was the witch's still beating heart.
Thor let out a horrified cry when Loki sank his teeth into the organ and began to devour it. He knelt in front of Loki and grabbed his shoulders to stop him, but Loki shook Thor's hands away, the gaze in his red eyes glazed.
“The heart will not burn or cease its beating,” Loki panted. Blood ran down his chin and forearms as he continued to eat, chewing and swallowing until the entire heart had disappeared into his maw. He slumped back, gasping and heaving, and for a moment it looked like he would be ill until he finally licked his crimson lips and swallowed one last time.
Loki blinked his eyes, turning his face up. “Thor?”
“Hush, you’re all right,” Thor murmured and wrapped his arms around Loki’s trembling body.
“They are unharmed, my father arrived just in time.”
“I- I could not free myself from the foul spell until the witch was close to death.”
“It’s over now,” Thor murmured, collecting Loki into his arms and helping him to his feet.
They stumbled down the smoking pyre and Loki left Thor’s embrace to hurry to their children who were in the Valkyries’ care, finally stirring from their deep sleep.
Loki was stopped by the Allfather’s heavy hand on his shoulder.
Odin turned his piercing gaze upon Loki and looked him up and down, taking in the fresh blood on his face and the sickly pallor of his skin. “What foul thing have you invited into your body, child?” Odin muttered under his breath.
Loki shuddered under the sudden scrutiny and the weight of the Allfather’s gaze. He let out a quiet whimper and hung his head.
“Father? Is something wrong?” Thor asked, the exchange unsettling him.
“It appears there is yet work to be done,” Odin declared gravely. He motioned with his hand and Brynhildr stepped forward from the ranks of the Valkyries. “Take the children to my wife and escort the captives to the halls of Forseti to await their judgment.”
The Valkyrie obeyed and soon the ruins were empty, save for the Allfather, his son and Loki. Odin tightened his hold on his spear and turned his eye on Loki once more.
“We must make haste.”
Odin began to trace runes on the ground around their feet, dragging Gungnir through the blackened snow to enclose them inside a circle.
“Thor? What is happening?” Loki asked, leaning into Thor’s arms.
“You devoured the heart of the Evil One, thus inviting and trapping her spirit into your body. It was a brave but foolish deed, young Loki,” Odin said, a hint of pride in his expression.
“What!?” Thor gasped, and Loki appeared equally horrified as they eyed his body in disbelief. “Will he be alright?”
Odin turned his gaze to Thor. “I must use my skill as seiðmaðr to remove the lingering evil and destroy it once and for all.”
Odin wove his seiðr and fashioned a small figurine of ice, holding it aloft. Thor was still struggling to grasp the situation as his father began to chant strange old charms, quickly sinking into a trance. He’d known his father to be one of the most powerful seiðr-workers in all the nine realms, but he had never seen the king perform the art in such a manner.
Loki clawed at Thor’s chest, visibly frightened and Thor tried to hold him still as Odin continued to sing ancient incantations known only to him.
The air around them grew heavy with seiðr and Thor tightened his hold around Loki when he felt his body stiffen and begin to tremble, his eyes rolling back in his head. The runes in the snow began to glow brightly as Odin’s chanting grew louder and slowly, a bright red essence started to flow out from Loki’s body.
It poured out through his mouth, his nostrils and the tips of his fingers in a thick mass. Odin held out his hand and caught the essence in the small figure he had created, trapping it inside.
Loki let out a loud gasp as his eyes shot open. He coughed and took in heaving breaths, looking around with dazed eyes. The runes in the snow melted away and Odin ceased his chanting, coming out of the trance.
He cupped Loki’s sweaty cheek with his wrinkled hand. “That’ll do, lad,” Odin sighed. "Well done."
Loki slumped against Thor’s chest, panting heavily.
“Are you alright?” Thor asked, brushing his fingers through Loki’s ashen hair.
“Aye…” Loki whispered, voice hoarse. “She’s gone now.”
The figurine in Odin’s hand had turned crimson and Thor could see the essence swirling inside the ice. Odin strode toward the pyre and hurried to throw the object into the smoldering embers. He spoke a charm and the figurine caught fire, blazing bright for a brief moment before melting into a deformed puddle.
“Thrice now has the Sorrow-Bringer burnt.” Odin turned to look at Thor and Loki. “Nevermore will her evil poison these realms.”
It was early summer and the evening sky above Thrúndheim was still bright with Sól’s lingering light. Egíl chased fireflies around the small fountain under the large elms in the back of their private garden, stopping to make faces at his sister's as Birtá peered into the fountain to admire her growing horns.
“I can’t do it!” Nilá bemoaned. He crossed his gangly arms over his chest and got up to pace around the small gazebo. “It’s too hard.”
“Try again,” Loki said softly. He took Nilá’s hands in his own and pulled the boy back to his seat across from Loki. “Empty your mind of all else but the word I taught to you, envision it in your mind as you speak it.”
Nilá blew his red fringe aside and took a deep breath, his face scrunched up in concentration as he stared at his open palm, willing something to manifest there.
Thor leaned against the entrance of the gazebo and watched with bated breath as their son continued to practice his first spell, a mixture of nervous excitement swirling in his chest.
“Ljós,“ Nilá whispered.
“Once more,” Loki urged. “Remember to envision the light in your palm, feel its warmth.”
“Ljós,” Nilá repeated. “Ljós.”
A tiny spark of light flickered into his palm. It was gone almost as soon as it had appeared, but Nilá’s blue-crimson eyes shone with delight.
“Did you see that?” he exclaimed.
Loki’s face glowed with pride. “I did, darling, I did.”
“Did you see, father? I did magic.”
“Indeed you did,” Thor beamed. He stepped into gazebo and ruffled Nilá’s red hair. “You are lucky to have such a skilled teacher,” he said, placing his hand briefly on Loki’s shoulder, letting his thumb brush against his clavicle.
Night birds began to sing in the trees and stars began to light up the darkening sky, which meant it was past the children’s bedtime, but Thor was happy to make an exception and allow them to remain awake for a little while longer as Nilá continued to conjure tiny sparks into his hand, he and Loki equally excited.
Birtá and Egíl had grown tired of their own games and she climbed into Thor’s lap while Egíl stood behind his back on the wooden bench, his arms twined around Thor’s broad shoulders.
They all let out a gasp when one of the sparks in Nilá’s hand finally grew into a proper magelight.
“There you go,” Loki smiled.
He flicked his own fingers and the small ball of light rose toward the ceiling of the gazebo, floating above their heads and filling the space with warm light.
“Do it again!” Birtá and Egíl exclaimed.
“I think that’s enough for now,” Loki said. He could tell his son was beyond exhausted and he gathered Nilá into his arms, pressing their foreheads together. “I’m so proud of you,” he murmured.
“I cannot believe it’s been almost half a century since the birth of our children. Soon they will be able to start eating Iðunn’s apples,” Thor remarked after he had taken the children to bed, joining Loki in the study.
“They are growing up fast,” Loki agreed. He was poring over trade agreements and proposals for minor legislation changes, but he peered up from the papers when Thor circled around the desk and came to stand behind his back.
“They are not the only one who keeps growing,” Thor grinned. He leaned over Loki’s shoulders and parted his velvet overcoat to press his palm against the slight swell of Loki’s stomach, feeling around for any movement.
“Fool,” Loki said with a gentle laugh. “You’ll not feel a thing, it is too early yet.”
His words did nothing to discourage Thor’s caressing hands.
“Come to bed,” Thor murmured, brushing Loki’s black hair aside to press a soft kiss to the nape of his neck while his hand in Loki's lap continued to quest lower.
“Thor… These papers need your signature by the end of the week,” Loki protested.
“I’ll do it on the morrow,” Thor whispered, mouthing Loki’s jawline, “I promise.”
“You’re incorrigible,” Loki chuckled, setting down the papers, surrendering to Thor’s caresses.