Thor watched on in silence, his mother stood beside him with tears in her eyes. Loki's dull green eyes stared through them for a time as their father spoke. Before he was to be sent away their mother rushed forward and held him. "Nobody would want this life, a life of deceit. Forget your son, forget your brother. I am Loki, a Jotun, and Jotun have no place on Asgard." He turned away from them and was gone leaving behind a heart broken mother and brother. His father while regretful did not show it, he was a king, and he could not look weak.
Only Heimdall saw the look of heartbreak on Loki Laufeyson when no one reached out to stop him. Only Heimdall saw the tears that Loki shed as he held his head high and walked away from his family.
Nikolai Gagliardi of the Gagliardi famiglia was the youngest of three children. He had bright emerald eyes always glinting with mischief, and fluffy black hair that just wouldn't lie flat. The bright bubbly four year old was always causing chaos. The staff that attended to him happily gifted the giggling child the nickname trickster. He happily lived up to his name by getting into messes and right out of them with his silver tongue. Not even his siblings or parents were immune to his charm.
On his fifth birthday he surprised everyone with a Cloud induced temper tantrum when his sister introduced her intended. Nikolai could remember everyone's joy at his strength and power even if he was not like his elder siblings with Sky flames. His sister's intended was the only one to react differently. The lust and greed in the eyes scared him, he'd known then that the man could not be trusted.
He couldn't explain it to anyone that asked. His intuition told him, but this word known and used by his family didn't make sense to him It frustrated him to tears that he couldn't explain himself. Not even his beloved brother could calm him down when he worked himself up trying to puzzle through his own emotions. He tried.
By the God's they all tried to help him.
It was painful for everyone to watch the bright and bubbly five year old become a former shell of himself. And it only got worse when his sister finally married the man of her dreams.
He cried at her wedding narrowly avoiding a temper tantrum because he wanted her happiness more than anything in the world.
It was exactly three months after the wedding that Nikolai threw another tantrum when he heard the news that his beloved sister had passed away. She'd died under mysterious circumstances, and with everyone so distraught her death went uninvestigated.
Liana had died on her way to visit Nikolai after not visiting since the day after her wedding and it broke his heart. His brother Corvus bonded to Nikolai to prevent him from spiraling into discord. But it backfired on him, Nikolai was so powerful his Cloud flames twisted his brother and his brother fell into a quiet madness.
Corvus died a month after his sister.
Nikolai wasn't told that the death of his brother was his fault. But slowly everyone began to distance themselves from him. His Mist mother.
And his brother's Lightning guardian.
It was as if the world had gone dark. He was alone. And the only one who ever came close to him was the husband of his sister. The man he suspected was responsible for his sister's death. The man was a liar. Every word he spoke was a lie. No one could see through the lies like he could. He hated him. This man who twisted his parents using their grief against them until they gave him control of the family. This vile man who stole his brother's guardian, who also trying to force his will on Nikolai. The chains he used stole Nikolai's strength but no one cared, they seemed relieved. Why were they afraid of his flames when they used to be celebrated? Why were they not helping him? How far had they been twisted by their grief? Why didn't they want him anymore?
Why didn't anyone ever want him?
Where had that come from? There was a small voice in his head screaming that it was his fault. That he'd done this to his family. That he deserved this for failing them.
He went from a grief stricken five year old, to a lonely six year old, to a caged seven year old, that tried everything he could to escape the shackles around his wrists. But every burst of his flames seeped him of his energy and sent him into unconsciousness. Not even his small amount of mist flames could help him get free. He slowly stopped using his flames feeling disgust and rage whenever he did. The press of Sky flames made his skin prickle like the time his brother had bonded them together. The equal share of grief had been almost too much and it made Corvus sick.
When he was eight his mother died of grief and his father passed soon after unable to bear life without his snow angel.
Which meant Nikolai was left to the mercies of Erebus, helpless to stop him from ruining his family's name, image and spending their enormous wealth.
Children and teenagers were brought to the same wing he was in all being held prisoner. When they disappeared new kids were brought in.
The ones that did come back were changed. Broken and twisted from the scared or defiant children that had first arrived.
It was only when the Gagliardi name was beyond ruined and used as a curse that the servants could finally see what had been done.
They'd left their young Master alone with this monster disguised as a human. "Little Trickster." Nikolai stared blankly at the masterpiece painted on to the wall of his cell and ignored the term of endearment. Whatever they wanted could wait until he was good and ready. Or they could just demand he listen, whatever came first. But they left him be with only a sigh.
Everyday, like clockwork they came. They brought food, games and clothes. He didn't touch the food, poison was painful.
He didn't look at the games, it was a trick.
And he pretended that they didn't exist when they brought clothes, he would only wear his brother's hand me downs. It kept him safe and enraged Erebus whenever he saw them.
Sometimes they talked about how much he'd grown. Other times they were silently apologizing until they were chased out by the new men that Erebus brought. The men were strange, always taking his blood and speaking amongst themselves about him. What was so strange about him he didn't know, but it made the greed and desire in Erebus' eyes grow. Whatever they were telling him made him want Nikolai to bend to his will even more. The feeling of Sky flames pressing against him made him sick to his stomach.
Every morning and every night the flames began to burn his skin. Blisters formed around his hands and bled profusely when he treated them. It was painful to feel any type of flames brushing against his skin.
"The stronger guardians you have the more prestige and honor you have. And with your flames I'll be the strongest Sky. I'd beat that damn Giotto." Nikolai peeked up at Erebus feeling trapped by the hungry gleam in his eyes. The madness in him that had been slowly building up had come to a head and all that attention was being focused on Nikolai.
This time the press of Sky flames was worse. His very being burned, something was warping side of him. Something was shaken loose and his very core began to freeze. He could hear the children screaming.
He was falling.
There was someone crying in the distance, it sounded familiar. "Nikolai, Nikolai." Wasn't that Valiant? Why was he crying? Did Nikolai misbehave again? He was rarely well behaved these days, his current state of being was nothing new. Getting Erebus angry took very little effort on his part.
"I'm going to get you out of here Nikolai, I promise. Erebus won't get away with this anymore." Nikolai peeked up at him and saw his hazel eyes glowing with hatred an Nikolai just realized that this was the first time since his brother's death that Valiant's eyes weren't clouded over in a fog of confusion.
It was warm and he felt like he was floating. "Shh, you'll wake him." Valiant whispered softly petting his hair the way Corvus used to when he was sleeping. There was a hand resting on his forehead and he began to burn. He could feel his teeth chattering as he focused on the cold feeling deep within as he fought against the push of the compulsion. "He's resisting. I think you should put those chains back on. It will make this easier in the long run." His strength was instantly sapped away and he couldn't fight the compulsion anymore.
Valiant stared down at Nikolai with deep regret. His grief had allowed him to be manipulated and it cost him years of his life. He couldn't protect his Sky's brother. And now he was in danger. "Thank you. For doing this." The young woman with short blonde hair glared at him with such fierceness that it stole his breath. "I didn't do this for you! He was suffering, I ended that. I ripped away everything that made him who he is so he could live. It's because of him that we can still resist." The young woman snarled flinching suddenly at the quiet whine that escaped Nikolai's lips. She heaved a deep sigh and gathered Nikolai into her arms and bundled him into her robes. "I'm going to disappear with him and you will keep Estraneo off my trail as promised." The young woman vanished off with his precious bundle of life. "Good luck in your new life. And may your memories never return."