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The Principle of Loss

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Loki had thought there would be at least a little fear involved when facing his own death. Anger, maybe, or sadness, perhaps some regret thrown in the mix just for good measure. Numbness hadn’t been on the list, but apparently it should have been at the top.

It was fitting that Thor’s face would be the last thing Loki would ever see. Front and center in everything, like always, though it hardly mattered now, as the wind screaming past his ears faded into a deadly silence and the last glimmer of Asgard disappeared into the distance.

There was no air to breathe, and Loki found he didn’t really care anymore.

 


 

“Welcome, foolish Trickster.”

As it turned out, the afterlife was rather underwhelming. There was nothing but white, stretching out as far as Loki could see with no discernable end. The more he thought about it, the more unsettling his surroundings felt – everything seemed dead, down to the very air and the lack of any sort of smell or sensation.

The odd, layered voice was the only thing breaking the unnatural stillness of this place. Loki masked his surprise as he turned to find the source, his brow furrowing as he examined the odd being sitting on the ground and staring at him. At least he assumed they were watching him; it was hard to tell, what with the lack of visible eyes. They were just as white as their surroundings, only made visible by a blackish, blurred outline.

“You’re not Hela,” Loki said, clasping his hands behind his back and taking a step towards the unknown entity. “I’m still alive, aren’t I?” Any other day this whole situation would have been thrilling. He’d never heard of a place like this, not in all the books he’d read of other worlds. He thrived on knowledge. Yet only a glimmer of interest surfaced, masked mostly by a resigned sort of disappointment. He should have known death wouldn’t be that easy to come by.

The being’s smile was unnaturally wide. “Your presence is a mistake, Loki of Asgard. You shouldn’t be here.”

Loki’s gaze sharpened, the unsettling feeling in his gut growing more pronounced. Loki’s reputation was hardly a secret in the universe, but pocket dimensions, especially undiscovered ones, should not have held that knowledge. “Who are you?” he asked.

“You might call me the world. Perhaps the universe, or God, or Truth. I am All, I am One. And I’m also you.” The unknown entity stood up, and Loki was struck by just how similar their silhouette was to his own. “At least, that’s what I normally say when someone trespasses on my domain.”

“I assure you, I did not intend to arrive here,” Loki said.  

“Most don’t,” the being – Truth, for lack of better options, he was hardly going to call him God – replied. “That’s not the point. You shouldn’t be here. You don’t belong here.”

“Then send me back into the void.” Kill me. “I have no one to tell of you.” I’m completely alone. “You mentioned others have come here, is this any different?”

Truth just laughed, and Loki felt himself stiffen despite his efforts to appear unfazed. “You’ve opened a door that should have been left closed, sorcerer.” There was a dulled bang behind him, and he turned to see a set of massive, unmarked stone doors that definitely hadn’t been there earlier. “It was already cracked – if you can find what slipped through before you, I might even consider returning your toll!”

“What?” Loki had barely registered Truth’s words before a wave of dizziness overcame him, his limbs suddenly feeling weak. The door was opening, a horrible groaning sound assaulting his ears, but his focus was on Truth, the once undefined being now clothed in rich shades of gold and green. Loki’s armor.

Black tendrils were wrapping around him, dragging him back, and there was nothing he could do as he was pulled through and the door closed with a resounding boom.

Distantly he was aware he was screaming. The thousand years of his life were passing by in a myriad of colors and motion, all the information he’d ever possessed reasserting itself in his mind. The streams of data twisted away, offering a brief moment of reprieve before a soft blue light filled his line of vision. Something was there, just out of reach, and though he didn’t know what it was he couldn’t help but try to take hold of it. It disappeared, and suddenly everything was cold.

 


 

“…the hell?”

He was freezing. That had to be what this sensation was, though Loki had never actually experienced it before. The rough floor stung his skin, and he couldn’t calm the tremors racking his body. It was absolutely miserable, and as far as he could tell he'd only been conscious for a minute or two. He cracked his eyes open, the lack of white settling his racing thoughts just a little, and tried to take in his new surroundings once again. It was a lot darker here, wherever 'here' was, yet as his eyes adjusted he could make out walls and bulky furniture. Not a black companion dimension, then.

A few seconds later he noticed the other person in the room, and really, how many times was he going to wake up in strange locations with people standing behind him? At least this man was relatively normal in appearance. Human, or at least mortal, given the clear fear written in his features and the gun in his hands. Aimed at Loki, like it would cause any lasting harm to someone like him. Had he somehow ended up on Midgard? It would explain the stupidity of pointing a gun at a god.

“Who are you? Where did you come from?” the mortal snarled, his fingers twitching on the trigger as Loki slowly sat up. He didn’t respond immediately, taking a moment to further observe his current location. The concrete walls, lack of windows and staircase behind the stranger suggested a cellar of sorts. Books were haphazardly stacked on a low table, loose papers sticking out of the pages and covering the remaining surfaces. A strange, intricate circle was drawn on the floor surrounding Loki. It reminded him of some of the sigils he’d read about years ago, though this one was much more complicated than most he’d ever seen. Maybe this was a summoning sigil. It would explain how he got here, though not why he felt so weakened. The fall must have taken more out of him than he’d realized. He looked back at the mortal, whose nervousness seemed to have only grown in Loki’s silence.

“Did you not look to bring me here?” Loki said, finding he wasn’t really interested in the answer as he pushed himself to his feet, his shivering finally abating somewhat. The mortal’s fear was already starting to get on his nerves, some of his anger from before his fall returning.

“I never activated it,” the mortal said shakily, his eyes flicking to the chalk runes in obvious confusion. “I… I don’t understand. How – stay back!” He stumbled back as Loki stepped forward, and the gun went off.

Loki was startled by just how much the bullet’s impact hurt. Mortal weapons had evolved, it seemed. It took a few seconds before he realized he was not only bleeding from the new hole in his arm, but it wasn’t healing.

What in Hel was happening to him?

With renewed energy Loki stalked forward, his sudden speed startling the inept mortal, who shot at Loki again. It was obvious the man had never had any real training, considering the ease with which Loki disarmed him even with only one arm working properly. Within seconds Loki had turned the gun on its former owner.

“Tell me where I am,” Loki said, gritting his teeth as another wave of pain radiated out from his limp arm. It hurt considerably whenever he attempted to move it, and his magic was not responding to him at all. The lack of magic left him with a gutted feeling that only grew more pronounced as he focused on calling upon it, dread setting in on top of the hollowness of his being.

The mortal whimpered, the pathetic sound reminding Loki of the task at hand. “My basement, i-in the east district of Central.”

This was like pulling teeth. “And where, pray tell, is that located? Are we in America? On Midgard?”

“I-I’ve never heard of those places. We’re in C-Central City, in, you know, Amestris?”

Loki resisted the urge to put a bullet in the mortal for making such inane assumptions. He’d never heard of Amestris, much less Central City. Still, it was likely on Midgard. The humans referred to their realm as something else, if he remembered correctly, though their name for it escaped him at the moment. It didn’t matter. There were other ways to get that information.

Now that he thought about it, there really was no point in interrogating this obviously clueless human. There was no need to drag this out. He shot the gun, shoved it into the waistband of his pants, wiped at the splash of blood on his shirt (and why was he only wearing his undergarments? He’d been wearing his armor last he knew) and turned to look more closely at the circle now that he wasn’t standing in it.

It still didn’t look at all familiar, though some of the runes were reminiscent of some ancient, obscure forms of magic. A pentagon lay within the circle, with a triangle and three unknown symbols within the pentagon. Alien writing lined the edges of the circle and other portions of the design. He would have to look it up in Asgard’s library later.

Well. If he ever returned to Asgard. It wasn’t a particularly appealing option anymore.

For now, Loki needed to make his way out of this house. It appeared to have magic repelling wards upon it, and he was starting to feel a bit dizzy. Staying here also held the risk of running into others, especially if they’d heard the gunshots and came to check it out, and he didn’t relish the idea of battling without his magic or his armor. With a last glance at the room, Loki stepped over the still body at his feet and made his way up the stairs.

It was becoming quickly obvious Loki was in worse shape than he’d thought, now that some of the adrenaline was fading out of his system. He still couldn’t feel any trace of his magic and his muscles felt weak as he clutched his injured arm and maneuvered through the clutter of the house. As an afterthought he grabbed a dark jacket slung over a couch; he was far too tall to fit in it properly, but it could at least cover up the bloodstains on his green undershirt. He didn’t bother trying to get his wounded arm through the too-short sleeve before stepping out the back door into a sparse, poorly maintained lawn.

The wards were still in place. Loki was still without his magic, and the blood loss was starting to become a real issue. At this rate he would have to resort to more primitive methods to stop the steady bleeding. Surely the wards did not extend beyond the yard; it would take a lot more power than most had at their disposal to stretch even to that distance.

Surely, he would have his magic back once he’d gotten that far.

The forest was all around him now, and it was like his very essence had been cleaved out of his chest.

 


 

It had gotten cooler as night fell, but Loki made no effort to move from where he was leaning against a tree. There didn’t seem to be much of a point. All the energy he’d gotten from his brief encounter back at that accursed house had sapped away with every step he took. The hole in his arm had partially crusted over, bleeding sluggishly only when he moved it. He hadn’t bothered to bind it, and mortal bodies had turned out to be a little more resilient than he’d given them credit for.

And that was what he appeared to be now. Mortal. Human. Weak.

At first he’d been tempted to think of that strange white place as a dream, or a hallucination conjured by the unknown in the abyss. And while it remained a possibility, he’d been forced to consider it may not have been merely inside his head.

Regardless, that was almost definitely where he’d lost his godly status. Even his Jotun heritage seemed to have been stripped from him, small comfort as that was, though it left him vulnerable.

And with a time limit.

Mortal lives were substantially shorter than his own. In his ordinary body he would have no qualms over losing a few years, but now he ran the risk of aging beyond what he was comfortable with. If he had any hope of finding a way of finding a way to reverse whatever had happened to him, he had no time to waste on self-pity.

There was no way he would allow himself to die a mortal. It would be the worst humiliation of them all.