Hela watched her hand slide through one of the pillars, the projection sending golden ripples through the solid matter that were visible only to her and the Allmother beside her.
"He will give you much trouble," She said, looking at the two boys in the garden.
Frigga smiled. "Thor? He has his father's temper, aye. But he shall grow into a good man."
A good king, Hela corrected to herself. He was the older one and one day he would take his place on her throne.
But now he was only a child, carefree and dueling an invisible foe with a wooden sword. Whatever imaginary monster had had battled, a victory cry announced that he had prevailed. The boy turned to his brother as if expecting praise.
"It was not Thor I was speaking of."
The other boy – the adopted one, the Jötun one – was watching his brother and pretending not to, hiding behind a book.
"Loki?" Frigga asked, but her face didn't show concern. Or surprise. Just a mild curiousity. Hela wondered whether her Mother still heeded her warnings or whether she would forget about them as soon as her astral body had returned to its physical counterpart in her prison. Casting her words aside as the ramblings of a madwoman. "He hasn't shown much promise as a warrior. Or interest."
"But a warrior is what the Allfather wants. You spoke of the boy's intelligence. He will cast his nature aside to please his Father and it will destroy him."
A line appeared one the Allmother's forehead as she studied her youngest. A look of deep thought.
"One day you will wake up, Mother. And you will find your little boy in a prison just like mine. And give and take a few thousand years – he will no longer be yours. He will be a monster." She knew what solitude did to a living mind – even that of a Goddess. "Your husband would have done him mercy, leaving him to die on his little rock."
"I haven't done right by you," Frigga finally said, reaching out as if to touch Hela's shoulder but she stopped herself when she remembered that she couldn't touch her daughter any longer. Hela smirked. "No day goes by that I do not seek a way to change what happened. To go back. Or even just to make my husband ease your sentence. But I will never forsake you – or your brothers."
Hela refused to answer. The day would come when she'd want to hurt her Mother like anyone else, but until her control had slipped so far, she would hold her tongue. Asgard had no place for the truth.
For a brief moment she thought the pale little boy was looking at her - but then a smile spread across his face and she understood that it was his Mother that had caught his eye.
Watching in silence as Frigga walked over to her youngest, Hela let her hold on Asgard go and the astral connection pull her back into her prison.
The palace, the city – the realm – everything was torn apart. The tethers of ancient magic were ripped to pieces like spider webs. Asgard was falling and Loki was still there and there was no way out.
He was stumbling blindly through the smoke now filling the halls of the Realm Eternal, trying to cough it out of his lungs and blink it out of his eyes.
He evaded falling pillars and collapsing ceilings, each escape narrower than the last and he almost cursed his instincts for drawing out the inevitable.
Through smoke and flames, he only spotted the dark figure heading his way when she blocked his path, close enough to wrap a claw-like hand around his throat, cutting off his airpipe.
Fear was written across her face and it should have made her seem less frightening, but now she looked almost feral, a cornered beast-
"You did this."
She pulled him in closer until their faces were only inches apart and he didn't fight back.
There was no way out. Even if he escaped her, he couldn't escape Asgard.
Her free hand reached into the pocket dimension that hid the stolen Tesseract on his body. She held it up between them.
"It won't help you. Without Asgard, nothing will," He reminded her and a cold smile spread across her face. "You will die here."
"And she said you were the clever one, brother."
Behind them, an arc came down, the rubble missing them only by a few mere feet.
She held the Tesseract out to him and he reached for it, instinctively. The strange, foreign magic sent small shocks up his arm.
"I'm the Goddess of Death. I do not die."
He looked up at her, but her eyes were focused on the glowing cube in his hand, her lips moving with words he couldn't make out.
Suddenly, the world bent around him - no, around the Tesseract, he was just dragged along when Asgard was whisked away and the universe flew past him. Her face before him was snapped away and he fell because it was always falling for him until his entire body connected painfully with a hard floor.
He sucked in the clean air and when he looked up he looked at a familiar face. The Valkyrie.
"How did you get here?" She looked more annoyed than anything else. He had half a mind to ask her the same question, but-
"I...I think my sister just saved my life."
With that she walked off, leaving him alone, lying on his stomach in the middle of the hallway of the stolen spaceship Hela had ported him to. Alive and with his people.
For Thor, it wasn't death in battle. As a young man, the thought of being refused entry to Valhalla had held him awake at night.
Now, he felt no shame stepping down into the realm of shadows, whole and youthful once again.
She too looked like he had last seen her, so many years ago.
"You are here. Loki swore so often that you survived."
"I did. When Asgard fell, I found that I was still tethered to my old prison and I found myself here through no doing of my own"
An entire realm for a prison. The realm of the dead.
"It was Mother's magic that saved me," She said. It was the first time he heard any softness in her voice. "That brought me back."
"She would never forsake her children," Thor said. "None of us."