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A thorn saves the rose

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Loki moved to the front of the cell, drawn by the unrest outside. He’d tried to ignore it as beneath him, but at least it was a break in the monotony.

A… creature -- one Loki presumed was the cause of all the chaos, crossed in front of his cell and paused. It turned to look at him, and Loki looked back. He spread his hands in an invitation to release him, too. There was so much to revel in, as the prisoners fought the Einharjar.

Not that Loki had any intention of joining the fight on either side. He was going straight to the Treasury to retrieve his prize and get out of Asgard as soon as possible.

The creature hesitated a moment more then punched open the cell. Loki grinned as he stepped over the line. “My thanks, friend. Be on your way.”

He shooed the creature off with a wave of his hand, and the creature glowered at him as if reconsidering releasing him, but it growled before stalking away. Taking a moment to rejoice in his freedom, Loki stretched and twisted seidr to make himself walk unseen, hoping Heimdall had been distracted at the moment of his escape.

Then just to give himself a bit more time, he set a double on the lounge and closed the cell again so it would appear he was still there. It was enough to fool Einharjar at least, until Odin or Frigga inspected the dungeon.

Slipping through the chaos like a ghost, he called a dagger, but didn’t use it as he avoided the battles. No sense drawing attention to himself while he was escaping, after all. He had to push himself once against the wall, heading up the steps, as an Einharjar went flying past.

He glimpsed a woman in green at the far end of the hall. Lorelei. After what she’d done to him, he wanted to rip out her tongue, but he would settle for his dagger in her neck But a fight moved between them and she was gone.

A bit disgruntled he grabbed another prisoner ahead of him on the stairs, who was trying to escape and in Loki’s way. This one was some dirty Vanir pirate apparently and Loki wasted no time hurling him off the steps to the melee below. Then he was out of the dungeon and could head toward the Treasure Hall.

Worse than prisoner scum, he found two Svartalfar warriors in the corridor.

He dispatched one before it knew he was there and put the other down on the floor, kneeling over it, dagger at its throat. “Why are you here, Dark elf?”

The elf sneered at him. “My lord with take the aether and we will have our revenge. Asgard will fall and the blood of your kind will--”

“You don’t know my kind.” He cut the elf’s throat and stood up. The aether. Why would Odin be such a fool to recover it?

Maybe I should let him take it. Why should I care? They want revenge; so do I. Let it all burn.

But the image of his mother’s face, drawn with sorrow at her last visit, and the weight of his regret for denying her, pressed on his heart. Let the rest burn, but not her.

Not Frigga. If Malekith was here and wanted revenge, he would look first to Bor’s line and their loved ones. And she would know where the aether was.

He broke into a run, hurling a seidr tracking spell heedlessly before him, knowing she would feel it, knowing she would know he was free…

… knowing he was headed deeper into the palace, toward guards, towards Odin, not toward the tesseract for freedom. But fear had lodged like a stone in his chest, and it felt like the heaviness of a prescience of a dream coming true.

Her death was written, he knew it, suddenly as if the Norns were whispering in his ear that it was too late. She would die having last heard him say she wasn’t his mother.

Not her, damn you. Take me instead. That’s what we all want.

More Dark Elves, now fighting Einharjar, and at the end of the hall he saw Volstagg laying into invaders with his axe. But Loki turned down the cross-corridor toward his own quarters and the stairs between his room and the queen’s sitting room above.

He broke the seal on his door by kicking it open. His sitting room felt strange to him - all was exactly as he had left it, and yet it felt like it belonged to someone else.

He barked out a bitter laugh catching his reflection in the mirror above the basin as he passed. Ah yes, it belonged to the boy who didn’t know he was a monster inside. Pity him, since he was a fool.

He grabbed an extra dagger off his work table as he passed and yanked open the passage door, taking the stairs two at a time. Originally built for the servants, Loki had prevented them from entering a long time ago, but he could only hope his mother hadn’t thought to do the same.

He found the landing was occupied. There was a brown-haired small mortal woman standing there in Asgardian clothes. She was peering through a crack in the door and was just beginning to turn at the sound of someone on the stairs when he had a hand over her mouth. “Hush,” he commanded. She blinked up at him, looking astonished, and gargled something behind his hand. He tightened his grip. “Be silent, Jane Foster,” he told her, finally recognizing her brown eyes from when he’d watched Thor during the Destroyer fight.

Her tiny hands beat at his chest ineffectually, while he held her out of the way to look for himself.

There was another Jane Foster out there, obviously an illusion of his mother’s since the real one was here. And there was his mother, and … oh Norns, Malekith, too.

He pulled Foster back to look her in the eyes and whispered, “I intend to kill him. Be quiet.” She nodded a little, trembling under his hand, as he let her go.

He pushed the door just enough to let him out and re-cast himself as a shadow in the gloom of the breezeway, as he stepped out from behind the pillar.

Weapons clanged together, and he saw Frigga had Malekith on the defensive. But there was company in the receiving room now, That creature who’d let Loki out was here, too, hanging back waiting his chance.

Oh no, you made one too many mistakes, Kursed One. You let me out.

He called a dagger to both hands and slipped between the shadows, stalking behind him as he crept up on Frigga and Malekith.

She backed him against the basin, sword at his throat, and Malekith glanced deliberately to the side at his hound, coming close. Frigga turned her head, as Loki let the glamour fall and he saw her smile to see him behind Kurse.

Malekith made a sound of warning, but Loki was already moving: one blade in Kurse’s side, and the second in the back of his neck.

Or it should have been. But his armored hide resisted his blades, barely pricking him, and he turned, snarling, seeming untouched by the dagger stuck in his side. And Kurse had a sword -- a heavy reinforced blade that he swung at Loki’s head.

Loki ducked, calling two more daggers.

“Loki!” Frigga called, as Malekith took advantage of her inattention and shoved her away. Her sword rang on his, as he retreated against the blade, looking for a better opening. Loki would like to do the same, but what better opening was he going to get, daggers against that monster? He was fast enough to stay out of reach, but he'd vastly underestimated Kurse's personal armor.

Really, he hadn’t thought this through very well.

“Loki!” Frigga called again, giving him split-second warning, as she threw her sword to him, diving over the pool and coming up with daggers of her own.

He caught the hilt in his hand and grinned at Kurse. “Did I say thank you for letting me out? Thank you. Now you get to die, you creature.”

It hit like a damn bilgesnipe, but at least with the sword he could parry Kurse's blade. He was still keeping track of Frigga through seidr. Malekith was pressing her towards Loki so they might tangle on each other. But Loki trusted her as he trusted literally no one else alive, and they slipped easily into fighting back to back.

He heard the clang above as she blocked Malekith’s strike overhead, which left Malekith wide open.

Without hesitation, he turned the sword and thrust it straight behind him. It passed along Frigga’s side, piercing her over-robe, then the point hit something - first something hard, of armor, then something soft, and Malekith cried out. Gritting his teeth, Loki pushed it harder.

But Kurse was still before him, still armed, and he struck while Loki was open. Loki didn't have time to bring his blade back out in defense. He couldn't move aside, since Frigga was still at his back and if he moved, the blade would hit her instead.

Fine. Me, not her. That’s the deal.

The monstrous eyes were pitiless as the tip of the blade passed through his soft tunic layers without resistance and the pressure exploded beneath his ribs.

“LOKI!” Frigga screamed.

He couldn't do anything. Couldn’t move. He could only stand there, hands empty, staring at Kurse whose monstrous mouth seemed to curl in a triumphant grin.

A sudden bellow -- ah Thor of course ready to be the hero -- and Kurse looked alarmed. A bright flash filled his eyes followed by the crack of thunder somewhere behind, and Kurse pulled his blade out to meet the new threat.

Air rushed in where air didn’t belong, and the pain was blinding, enveloping Loki in white-hot fire all through his body. He must've screamed and fallen, but all he knew was a moment later, strong familiar hands caught him beneath the arms. He jerked, pain flashing through him. “Hush, Loki, it’s all right, my little one,” she soothed. A soft warmth flowed through him, eased the pain away into something bearable.

He blinked, and Frigga’s face was next to him, her eyes liquid with worry and love. He realized he was sprawled across her lap, clutched to her chest.

“Loki, rest easy,” she murmured. “I have you. Why did you do such a foolish, brave thing?” she demanded and her voice caught with grief.

He had the vague feeling he should push her away, to atone for what he had said. He imagined what he could say in a light tease: You can stop hugging me now.

But he couldn’t find his voice, or the strength to move, and he was just glad he could feel her touch once more. At least she was warm. He was so cold. Was that his Frost Giant blood making him feel so cold?

Frigga pressed her lips to his forehead. “Hold on, dearest. This time, hold on,” she coaxed.

He had to tell her, but it was hard to find the words with the pain in his chest. “I-- I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m sorry.”

He meant for denying her, for Midgard, for everything, but breath was too short to explain.

“Don’t speak. Save your strength, and hold on,” she pleaded with him.

He couldn’t breathe, his chest wouldn’t rise enough to draw air, but he could feel the pounding of his heart, hard and more frantic as it tried desperately to keep him alive, even as it pumped his life blood onto the beautiful blue silk of Frigga’s gown.

His heart hurt more and more, more than the wound itself, a seizing inside like an ember searing him from the inside. Did he whimper or moan, he tried not to, but he heard a thin sound in his ears that was probably him. He hoped it would stop soon..

From far away he heard Thor’s voice, pleading with him, and then somewhere beyond that, Odin was speaking, but Loki paid no attention. They didn’t matter anymore.

Loki looked up at Frigga’s face and knew she would live now. That was all that mattered. His worthless life had spared hers.

There were worse reasons to die.

He smiled as he closed his eyes and let go.