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Water's Sweet but Blood is Thicker

Chapter Text

The origin of the Aesir and Asgard was a fraught one. It became a story lost on their idyllic waterfall of a planet at the time of Hela’s birth, but before her coming it beat like a mantra in Odin’s mind. Asgard is not a place; it’s a people. While once they walked as gods on the backs of living planets, the Aesir were forced to flee their homeland through the paths of the World Tree, through the gates that were originally created for the Asgardian ships to use. Lying in their chambers, isolated and forced to become so much less than they used to be, Odin pressed his face into Frigga’s shoulder and mourned their home. As Frigga ran a hand though his dark black hair Odin knew it truly to be a different world.

The problem was for all that his people seemed content with all their magic and technology on this new planet that they fled to, Odin still remembered the days of his childhood. He remembered standing at his father’s side before the Bifrost as their armies arrayed behind them ready to rush outward and bring forth the might of the Aesir.

Sometimes Odin saw the hollow discontent in the eyes of his soldiers. Sometimes Odin wondered about the fledgling worlds, so quickly cut off from the trans-galactic gates that the Bifrost powered. He wondered if they could truly survive on their own without the guidance of Asgard’s technology.

Sometimes Odin wondered about the Celestials, the planets that had once embraced them, before ultimately betraying the gods that walked on their back. Sometimes Odin wondered about the empires of the Frost Giants and Dark Elves that grew and grew in hunger. Odin wondered about much, but knew that it was not yet time to reclaim the rule of Asgard as he had once known it. His people were fragile yet. Though many powers fought without the Aesir trying to secure the peace, Odin knew that his fragile race required time yet before they were ready for war once again.

But oh he longed for it.

It was ultimately Frigga placing his hand on her stomach and whispering, “Yes my love, yes. You have an heir and we have a baby” that convinced him to wait. One day he would stand at the gate of the bifrost with his heir at his side, and the two of them would look out over the cosmos and win back the worlds that had once been theirs.

At one thousand years old, Hela stood beside Odin in front of the Bifrost Gate. She was not an adult woman yet. Her jet black hair was braided in a crown around her head, a gift from her mother on the advent of the battles to come. Her armor was black and green, with none of the reds and golds typical of her mother’s livery. In fact beyond the braids there was barely any trace of Frigga to Hela’s bearing.

Between her dark hair, and the black leather armor with shimmering green cloak, the young woman looked every inch her father’s daughter, even down to the excitement in her eyes. On each hip hung a single shimmering black obsidian blade. Odin knew them to be her own creations. Rather than the illusory magic of her mother, meant to either create images or heal the dying, Hela bore the same magic as his father, the same magic that had passed him by; she had the magic to effect reality. Odin looked at his daughter ready to spill blood and fight and die for him, not yet an adult but already courting war, and he only felt pride.

Later that day as the cooling corpses of dark elves littered the ground under their feet, Hela stood triumphant before her father. Her hair was no longer bound in the crown that her mother had given her, instead it hung ragged around her face. Odin could feel the magic surrounding her and felt a sudden surge of regret. She was much younger than he had been when arriving upon his godhood. She still had the body of a child despite her age. But it was not the king who decided godhood, it was the magic of the Aesir itself.

Knowing that, it was easy to grip her face in-between his hands and say “My daughter Hela, I pronounce you the Goddess of Death. My you always use your powers in service to the Asgardian throne, and never turn your gifts against the crown. You are worthy daughter of mine. Never forget it.” A smile bloomed across Hela’s face, and her joy was almost enough for Odin to set aside the strange feeling of foreboding that had come across him when he first realized exactly what the magic flowing around her had meant.

The ultimate problem lay in the difference of expectations between Hela and Odin. Where the wise king sought to reclaim the lands that had once been the vassals of Asgard before the betrayal of the celestials, Hela longed to expand their empire. Her joy in the death and destruction of the field of battle came to a head in the final fight with the Frost Giants. As the giants fell in spades around them Hela was a fearsome sight, untouched as she felled giant after giant. However as Odin sounded the horn for retreat there was an obvious problem. Hela stayed where she was.

As the Asgardian soldiers pulled back from the line of conflict taking their dead with them Hela remained slaying any giant that would dare to step toward her or the heaping mountains of dead at her feet. Mjolnir in one hand, needle knife in the other, Hela sat astride her war wolf Fenir as giants fell around her in an ever-growing circle of death.

For hours as Odin and Laufey negotiated a treaty, the warriors of Asgard and Jotunheim alike watched as the heir to Asgard murdered all who stood in her path and gave no quarter to any that sought to recover their dead.

“You are no heir of mine!” Odin roared, as his beloved daughter stared at him with wide eyes. In front of the whole court it was a startling statement. Not a banishment in private, but a public shaming, meant to mark a permanent loss of status. To his right Frigga pressed a hand to her mouth as she gripped Thor tight to her chest, eyes filled with tears. He had spoken often both in front of the court and to his daughter of his intention to stop Asgard’s conquests once the Frost Giants were defeated and the nine realms were reclaimed.

To have her flout that decree in such a vulgar, obvious way to every soldier that he commanded meant that there could be no reconciliation. Thor was a wee babe of thirteen years, still squalling and reliant on his mother for life and sustenance. And even if Thor should one day shirk the throne, there was another potential heir in his adopted Loki; an infant with jet-black hair in his chambers being tended to by a nursemaid that might one day be the best of his children.

As he shouted these words at his intelligent, brave daughter, her eyes widened. She knew just as well as he did that there was no recovery from this. She had lost her birthright. For a moment Odin wondered if she would test him. Though his subjects could not, he saw the flex of her hands against her thighs, pressing palms against the sweep of her green gown.

The death magic that followed her like a sickly cloud swirled, and Odin met Hela’s eyes, not challenging, but waiting. There was a moment where the air between them crackled, Odin looking at Hela, a Father looking at a daughter, a King looking at his Executioner. Then Hela’s gaze flicked down.

Her voice rang out in the silence that had befallen the court. “You are wise my king and though I would serve you until the end of my days I could never lead our people to the kind of future that you would have them see. I’ll not challenge you over this and I’ll serve Asgard to the best of my ability even without the burden of leadership. It has been a long time since I have been away from the front lines of battle. Indeed it feels some days as though you raised me there. It will do me good to spend some time within our palace walls, perhaps get to know my brother.” A diplomat his deathly daughter was not. The threat was obvious in the flick of her tongue against her teeth.

There was a strange pull in his gut as Odin’s love for his bloodstained beautiful daughter warred with his desire to protect his young sons. He should cast her out; she was wild and in his haste to reclaim a lost empire she knew little other than killing and blood. Her nature would not allow her to stop courting death. And yet he could not cast her aside. She was his daughter, Frigga’s daughter, and he loved her more deeply than he had ever loved anything. Still she would need some things to be made clear.

“You will never be the rightful ruler of Asgard. There will never come a day when you take this throne as someone who has been chosen to sit on it. I think remaining in the palace would benefit you however. The peace talks certainly wouldn’t.”

Hela’s lips twisted again. Some part of Odin wondered if she would run from the room like a child after his final barb, but instead she bowed mockingly to her father and swept from it, head held high. She was raised to be a queen in her childhood for all that she became a weapon.

“Oh,” Frigga whispered beside him, “My beautiful, brave girl.”

Odin took a moment to wonder if his Queen was mourning her daughter’s pain, or mourning her daughter entirely. She didn’t permit him to examine her face long as her eyes shuttered closed and she too swept from the hall, Thor clutched protectively in her arms.

Odin stayed at the feast for several hours more. He knew his sons, were being held protectively in Frigga’s chambers. Thanks to updates from Heimdall he also was aware that Hela had retreated immediately to the palace gardens where she sat for several hours before retiring to her royal suite. She had not acted against him for all that she had threatened and postured. In choosing a retreat she had given Odin all the reason he needed to keep her as a member of his court.

As the feast began to wind down, Odin made his way to the royal chambers. There upon their bed lay Frigga, still in her royal gown with a crown of braided hair still in place. In the adjoining room lay Thor in his cradle, though Loki’s was empty.

So small that he had missed it upon entering, the wee babe was clutched protectively in Frigga’s arms. As gently as he could Odin lifted the child up and away from his sleeping queen. As he did the babe’s eyes flickered open. Though in the moment all that appeared on the child’s face was confusion Odin knew from experience with both his daughter and elder son that crying would soon commence.

To preserve the sleep of his Queen, who he believed to be wearied enough for one night, Odin quickly swept out of the chambers and toward the silent sanctuary of the palace gardens, a place he found himself more often than not to collect his thoughts.

Not two steps into the hall Loki began to cry, tired and scared, having been separated from the women who had gently laid him to sleep.

Upon arriving in the garden Odin made straight for an isolated bench that sat beneath one of the apple trees. Gently he rocked the tiny child that he had saved in his arms, unable to do more than gently croon at him.

Odin’s own quiet made the gentle tapping of footsteps coming up the path even more pronounced. Even if the footsteps had been silent the thickening of the air around as the sent of death magic, like rotting apples, began to fill his nose. Still Odin didn’t react, simply continued rocking Loki from side to side. Hela came around the corner and paused for a moment before gingerly stepping forward and sitting beside him.

She did not look at him, instead looking outward over the bluffs toward the waterfall that denoted the edge of their world. The two sat in silence for a moment as Loki’s cries tapered off into hiccups breaths and snuffles.

It was Hela who broke the silence; “I don’t think that I’ll ever forgive you for this. I want so badly to force you to see my pain to crush this little kingdom on a hill you’ve made.” Odin turned toward her as she spoke. She didn’t need to burn down the palace for him to see her pain, it was written all over her face.

Sometimes the words abandoned him when he needed them most. Frigga would know what to say here, but Odin could only guess at the correct answers; “You could do it my daughter. I would fight you every inch of the way, but you could do it. Soak our golden walls in blood and crush the soldiers that serve me still.”

Hela turned to face him at this. The knife’s edge of anger that had been so clearly on display in the great hall had completely vanished leaving behind nothing but turmoil. Her black hair fell unbound around her shoulders and the cuffs of her green gown were ripped around the wrists where it seemed her hands had punched wrist deep into some stone wall.

“I wish I could destroy you,” Hela cried, voice full of a repressed shout, “but something holds me back. I know not what it is.”

Odin let out a pensive breath. “Perhaps some time in Asgard, some time away from war will reveal it.”

There was a long pause between the two of them as they both seemed to contemplate the vision of Hela at court, a place she had not stayed in over a millennium. Whispers would follow her, the warriors that had fought with her would idolize her but those who had remained behind would find it challenging to look beyond her disgrace. The image was strange, it was that of a lion playing at being a kitten with velvet paws rather then claws made for killing men. Hela seemed to think the same.

“You would ask me to pervert my nature. This goes against what I am meant to be. I am the Goddess of Death, how could live in a world that forsakes it.” Odin sighs.

“Life is about change Hela. You are the Godess of Death yes, but you could be so much more than the carrion crow for fields of battle. Asgard heals the sick, but loses some as well. Death comes even if war has left the land for eternity. There is more to you than you know.”

The air fell still and quiet around them. Neither father nor daughter seemed to have another word to say.

The silence was broken by the crying of a baby. Loki stirred and reached his arms out for his sister. An expression of disgust passed over her angular features, and Odin was struck by the youth that the expression restored to her face.

“I’m not helping with those brats!” Hela snarled, before turning and stomping back toward the palace, skirts flaring behind her. Strangely, her derision made the edges of a smile cross Odin’s face. A warmth had flared in his gut. There was hope yet for his most beloved girl.

Chapter Text

Having Hela at the palace was strange at first but eventually settled into some semblance of normal. As Thor and Loki grew, so to did Hela. The men who had ridden into battle with Hela at their head protected her from the nastiest of courtly gossip, and she had begun to forge ties with the Valkyries, often overseeing their training sessions and helping the most experienced fighters remain sharp in the absence of conflict.

Frigga would have been loath to describe any of these relationships as friendships however. The men at the training yard looked up to Hela with the fervor of men worshipping their Goddess, and Hela seemed to eye them similarly. Amusing in their devotion, useless for much else. The Valkyries were a different story. They seemed to frustrate Hela endlessly. She seemed to Frigga to view them as incompetent, destined to fail the crown if things continued as they were. She would have trained them all, however she lacked the patience to manage the mistakes of the rookies for very long.

The only real difference in Hela’s interests came in the time spent with her mother. Every once in a while she would make her way to Frigga’s side in the Halls of Healing. These afternoons soon became treasured to Frigga as Hela moved at her side handing her medicines and magical tinctures.

It was clear to Frigga however, that Hela had no real affinity for healing, and many of the other nurses often eyed her when she entered the homes of the dying, as if her very presence courted death. The first time she noticed the fearful glances Frigga quietly stated, “My daughter, Goddess of Death, can you keep Death’s grasp from this home for a while longer?”

The moment that Frigga spoke Hela eyed her, expression dry. It was clear that her sharp-witted daughter could see what her silver-tongued mother was up to. It was always a question of whether Hela would take the hand extended to her. More often than not she preferred spiting on anything that might have been construed as pity or even aid. However as Frigga’s eyes met Hela’s she could see something in her daughter that almost appeared to be amusement rather than the smoldering rage that always seemed to be moments from breaking the controlled surface.

That amusement was a secret held between the two of them however for Hela’s voice in response was as solemn as Frigga’s had been in questioning.

“For love of you my Queen, I could do anything.”

And the man did not die, not that night nor any of the nights while the queen sat vigil. After his fever broke and he took a turn for the better, the other nurses were far more amenable to letting Hela attend their patients in the halls of the dying.

Frigga took every moment that she could gain with her daughter and gripped it with greedy hands. She had never truly understood the change in her daughter. Hela had ridden out with Odin’s troops before she was even near her coming of age. She had left with untapped magical potential stirring around her and no godhood to direct it. She had returned Goddess of Death, her magic smelling of blood-soaked dirt and cloyingly sweet rot.

Frigga often suspected that Odin thought the magic of the Goddess of Death was doomed to be this way, however Frigga had long been involved in acts of healing, and to her trained eye Hela seemed to reek of war and chaos far more than she reeked of death.

It was odd, the picture of her bright eyed, rambunctious, brawl-prone daughter remained in her head throughout the thousand years that Odin took back the tracks of their old empire. It remained until her daughter returned, ragged, teeth bared, near feral, to shatter it.

The lust for battle was strong in her daughter, but Frigga knew that underneath it somewhere was the joy for peaceful times that had allowed her baby to exist within Asgard before war had destroyed her. In the quiet of the Hall of Healing there was a serenity that existed between mother and daughter no-where else. Often what would engender snappy replies and hissed remarks in the open halls of Asgard received nothing more than a long look or perhaps even a quiet reply in the halls of healing.

While Frigga adored the notion that her daughter had found a place she could be freer, a place where she could let go of her rage, she could also see that outside of the Halls of Healing Hela lacked any impetus for change. She worked with soldiers and Valkyries but as far as Frigga could see she had no true friends. The healers feared her, the soldiers worshipped her, and the Valkyries had yet to decide on how much they despised her, every passing day seemed to reach new levels.

As Frigga swept toward the gardens after a day spent weaving in her chambers, the sound of shouting from the weapons chamber near the training fields drew her attention.

Thor had begun apprenticing to Tyr learning the art of combat, which had caused Frigga to pass by the training fields on her afternoon walks. It wasn’t as thugh she watched his training sessions but after the loss of her daughter to the world of combat, Frigga had decided that she would never lose her son similarly. Letting him catch a glimpse of her every now and then wouldn’t truly accomplish this goal, but perhaps it would have him keep her and her teachings in mind.

Thor had never been particularly gifted in Sedir, the magic around him far more prone to bursting out with huge power and than retreating, but the stories and legends that his mother shared during his time learning the basics of magic were ones of peace not of thoughtless violence.

Still the shouts were far louder today than usual, and Frigga quickly found her feet moving toward the disturbance.

Set in the center of the training field was a hammer. Frigga quickly recognized both the detailing around the sides as the basis for an extremely powerful enchantment, one that would only let the worthy lift it as well as the hammer itself. Once long ago her daughter had lifted this hammer from its place in the center of the training field and raised it toward the sky. She had been lifted of her feet from the force of the magic she unleashed. Giggling she had run to tell her mother of her worthiness. Twenty years later preparations began for war.

Hela rarely used Mjolnir in combat preferring her own created weapons. Her blades brought better death than a hammer. Still the courtly murals that depicted the wars she had fought in always showed her with Mjolnir in hand. Odin had taken it from her when she lost her birthright. Seeing it placed here again made Frigga grit her teeth as rage swelled within her. Sometimes for all his wisdom her husband was cruel.

All around the training field stood warriors both men and women, Valkyries had come from their own personal area as well, some peering over walls and toward the hammer dropped in the center of the field. The murals had been long since covered, and only a few of the seasoned veterans seemed to realize the significance of the hammer being placed back onto the training field. Odin was looking for a Hero, a right hand once again.

Frigga also noticed that she was not alone in standing in the shadows rather then going in toward the hammer. Tyr was standing near her, leaning against the wall next to the gate that opened up into the training fields eyeing his students. Across the way Hela was similarly slouched against an old tree outside the ring picking dirt out from under her nails with a knife. Looking at her one would never know that the hammer at the center of the field had once been hers.

Her black leather training jerkin left her arms exposed even as her long black hair tumbled around her shoulders. Even now standing in nonchalant repose there was something wild about her that none of the other trainees seemed to possess. The distance between them and their Goddess was vast.

Quietly Tyr made his way to the Queen’s side. “They’ve been trying to lift it for about an hour now. Odin placed it at the center of the ring, said only the one who was worthy could take it up.”

“Let me guess, Thor hasn’t tried yet.”

“No he has not.” Frigga glanced at him. His face reflected the same wry acceptance that hers did. Odin’s game seemed clear. This hammer was for Thor. No he wouldn’t be able to lift it on his first attempt, but for him it would do more than for the others, it would shift or move just an inch. The slight shift would haunt him, and her son would return to it throughout his training, until one day he would lift it above his head triumphant, the best of Odin’s warriors. Frigga knew this story, and so to did Hela. Her lips were twisted a little at the corners as she played with her knife.

On the field a hush began to fall as Thor made his way toward the hammer. He wrapped his fingers around the handle, his young face lit with anticipation. Frigga could tell that he thought this prize already claimed. As he pulled back the hammer itself shifted, but resisted. Still there had been an intake of breath from the surrounding warriors as they all processed that Thor had gotten far closer than they could have.

Thor’s expression however was one of profound disappointment and sadness. His expectation had not become reality. This would drive him Frigga knew, to become a great warrior, a hero for his king. However in the moment Thor didn’t back away from the hammer instead his eyes scanned the crowd before the alighted on his sister leaning against a tree eyeing him.

“Hela my sister, would you perhaps come and lift this hammer with me. I felt it move beneath my hand and know that one day perhaps it might move more. But with your wisdom of the field added to mine perhaps the hammer would rise to be used and fulfill its purpose.”

The surrounding trainees had fallen to a dead silence. Many of the fighters that Thor trained with seemed to nod in agreement, but Frigga saw other faces, the faces of the Valkyries and veteran warriors reflecting the same horror that she felt at this request. Thor had no idea, but what he had just asked might have been the cruelest thing done to Hela this day.

“Oh brother,” Hela said, pulling herself out of her slouch and making her way towards Thor on the field, “if you think that I will help you in this endeavor you have lost what little sense you might have once had. That is the hammer of heroes, it is not a game meant for multiple people. And even if I thought your suggestion a wise solution, I would never help one as untrained and foolish as you gain possession of a weapon so beyond you.” Thor’s face scrunched into a frown as a storm cloud began to cross his expression. Frigga sighed at this. As always Thor’s tantrums were easy to spot from a mile away.

“I will forgive the insult of my skill sister, for indeed I am in early days of training though I will say that I almost always win my bouts despite this. But do you not think our house worthy?” At this Hela bit out a laugh.

“Worth is subjective. Our house’s worth is certainly up for debate. As for my own, I find I truly do not want an answer, and if you had a scrap of wisdom or intelligence you would think twice about asking for my worth to be added to yours.”

At this statement Thor whipped out his training sword. With a shout, “You insult not only my honor but the honor of my house. Face me in single combat or be branded a coward.” A dark skinned Valkyrie with tumbling brown hair put her hand over her face with a sigh and a mutter of “What a moron.”

Hela’s own though seemed to be running along similar lines as she gaped disbelievingly at her younger brother. “Really. Are you serious?”

Frigga took four steps forward and let her voice ring out, “I think it would be good for him my beloved daughter.”

At her words the warriors standing around began to leave the ring itself as bother of her children stared at her. Frigga’s appearance had cut through Thor’s self-righteous anger leaving him slightly bewildered at the presence of his mother, while her daughter’s expression could only be the one of someone resigned to their fate.

Crossing the distance toward her children Frigga continued, “However with my presence here this duel becomes royally sanctioned which means I am law bound to declare the presence of my champion in this fight.” The surrounding soldiers stirred. Frigga had only once declared a Champion and it was so long ago and so quietly done that only two people currently on the field would remember it.

From his position against the gate Tyr broke into a small smile. In front of her, Hela’s own expression changed. She seemed caught between smiling and swelling with fury. Frigga reached for the handkerchief in her pocket before withdrawing the red scrap of silk. The dawning horror on Thor’s face amused her as he looked back and forth between Frigga and her firstborn daughter.

Once long ago Asgard was a fugitive nation in its first time of peace and a dark haired child had longed to fight. Her mother had showed her where to put her feet and how to swing a sword. When Hela had showed her technique to Tyr and been allowed her place in training her mother had kissed her brow and said before the entire hall of warriors, “Learn well my sweet, for you are my champion and when danger comes I will call on you above all others.”

The words had never been realized for quickly Hela had become deadly and taken up the public mantle of Odin’s Executioner and Hero. In this moment however, Frigga knew that she could remind her daughter that though her Father might have stripped her of the titles he saw fit to grant, her mother never had.

Both mother and daughter moved to meet each other in the middle where Frigga reached out for Hela’s arm. Around it she tied her hankerchief, the red the lone color among Hela’s black armor that had been stripped of Odin’s green.

Frigga gripped her daughters face in her hands and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Fight hard my champion. Give no quarter and show the honor and power of the line of Friggadóttir.”

Hela did nothing dramatic like fall to her knees, but instead inclined her head regally before quietly responding, “Mother I will.”

Frigga walked to the side of the field and the fight commenced. It was over in a matter of seconds. For all that Thor was a gifted fighter Hela was the Goddess of Death and could control almost every aspect of the battlefield. In war she was nigh immortal, death’s touch washing off of her like water. Frigga’s youthful son never stood a chance.

As he charged Hela, she twisted out of the way at the last moment disarming him with a quick grip of his hand and twist of her wrist. The concurrent kick to the back of his knee sent him to the ground where Thor then found himself with his own sword at his throat.

Hela stepped away from her brother. Eyes going to her mother a smile broke out over her face as she bowed. Behind her the same Valkyrie from earlier grinned unrepentantly.

As Frigga looked at her smiling daughter with a red band around her arm and her gaping son who had just had a much needed hard introduction to humility she can’t help but grin to herself. Her daughter is a gift that Frigga has been lucky enough to be granted twice. She refuses to waste this second chance.

Chapter Text

As the years go by several things became clear to Brunnhilde. One: The royal court was a pit of vipers looking for the moment to best stab each other in the back, and only the loyalty of sisterhood and the bonds of love between Valkyrie would keep one’s sanity intact. Watching the aristocracy eye the warriors at feasts with derision and scorn never failed to raise the hair on the back of Brunnhilde’s neck.

Two: The Royal Princess was deadly, spiteful, and extremely beautiful. Often Brunnhilde would track Hela across the training yard. The way she walked among the soldiers was akin to watching a panther walking through herds of sheep; deadliness floated in the air around her like a particularly heady perfume.

Hela had taken to wearing her jet-black hair in a braided crown on the top of her head for training. Brunnhilde missed the way her hair used to hang unbound and floating around her shoulders, but the new pinned plaits left her swan-like neck on clear display as well as the corded muscle in her shoulders, which the Valkyrie viewed as an acceptable trade off. Her muscle was just as beautiful as her hair

Three: Hela’s family was crazy. Her younger brothers had both been enrolled in the training yard, and as Brunnhilde watched them grow and quested at their side, she couldn’t help but question how either of them were in line for the throne while Hela was not.

Thor was pigheaded and brash. He ran forward before even stating intent, and diplomacy was constantly left at the wayside in favor of brutish warfare. He wielded his sister’s former weapon with graceful speed and such a lack of wisdom as to be astounding. Part of what baffled Brunnhilde so much about him was that he so clearly walked the same line that had once led to Hela’s own fall but with far less elegance. Honestly her neck and shoulders were divine.

The court surrounding Hela never ceased with their whispers about the disinherited heir, however the Queen and King would tolerate none voicing gossip on the subject in their present and as every year passed those who had known Hela in her prime vanished, retiring from the constant scrutiny of courtly life. The princes, limited in those willing to tell them of their sisters failing due to availability and fear, seemed to view their elder sister as a mysterious angel of war, soaked in magic and mystery and entirely out of their league.

All the Valkyries noticed the way that Thor looked to his sister every time he made a particularly beautiful swing in the field. They also noticed that Hela took her responsibilities as Arms Master for the Valkyrie seriously and very rarely noticed.

The other brother Brunnhilde found concerning. Rather than training with his brother, Loki often made his way to the Valkyrie side of the yard to learn from their skills with knives. Rather than looking to his sister for validation Loki’s eyes followed her in his moments of rest. In the pauses between training bouts Loki seemed to examine his sister, soaking up every spare moment he could catch.

While all of this was happening, Brunnhilde also saw him watching Thor. She kept an eye on this younger brother because of that. He seemed to view his elder sister with awe and glee, even the whispered stories of her fall never seemed to faze him. His glances toward Thor when his brother wasn’t looking were different. Ostensibly the two were as thick as thieves going everywhere together, but sometimes Loki would look at his bother with something like desperation in his eyes, maybe even something like fury.

It was only when Thor wasn’t looking though. Only when it seemed like no one at all was looking because the attention was centered on Thor. Brunnhilde didn’t like the avarice in Loki’s eyes when he looked at his elder siblings.

Brunnhilde admired Hela, (both individually and visually) she truly did, but there was a reason that the wild killer who trained the Valkyrie was used as a cautionary tale. Hela would be the first one to admit it, yet still Loki seemed to almost venerate the path that had led her to fall from the position that Thor occupied as Odin’s Champion, Heir, and Right Hand. In an almost contradictory amount he seemed desperately baffled by how his brother came to be loved best by their father.

Sometimes Brunnhilde could almost understand that confusion. Thor was bloodthirsty and quick to lash out against any who he thought to be lesser, but Brunnhilde had seen him grow. She had seen his first lightning and fought beside him the first time he wielded Mjolnir, and it was clear to her at least that there was something honest and genuinely kind about Thor that his siblings lacked.

He was quick to champion the underdog, and he had gained a lot of respect from the Valkyrie when he backed Lady Sif’s desire to fight as a shieldmaiden among men not as a Valkyrie separate from them. His loyalty to his friends was commendable, and he honestly loved his younger brother and elder sister. While his bloodthirsty nature recalled the fall of his sister, the blatant joy he took without superiority in his bonds with friends and fellow soldiers gave glimpses into a King who would sacrifice without end for his people. Loki’s own manipulation and derision of his comrades even as he fought by their sides rendered him ill-suited to see the potential for growth behind Thor’s lack of caution and sense.

Throughout all of this Hela trained and occasionally assisted with Thor’s missions, however for the most part she spent her time at the palace or touring the nine realms. The first time she had taken an independent journey there was a distinct feeling of apprehension about the castle, as everyone wondered the purpose and cause. All members of the Royal Family where granted free access to the Bifrost, but Hela going off on her own made some of the older factions nervous.

While Brunnhilde was Hela’s drinking companion and most frequent training partner, she wasn’t sure if she could ask the woman about those jaunts, even as they became more frequent. Freya, Brunnhilde’s best friend among the sisterhood, only shook her head—long blond hair moving against white armored shoulders when Brunnhilde voiced the urge to her.

“You have it bad darling.” Brunnhilde gave her a dark look at this.

“I don’t have it bad. I’m just worried about her. It’s not like Hela has very many friends,” “Or any friends.” Freya interjected. Brunnhilde snapped a quelling glare toward the blonde.

“We drink with her once a week, we’re her friends.” At this Freya’s eyebrows raised with skepticism.

“I don’t know Brunnie, she mostly just sits there and doesn’t say anything while we talk shit about her younger brothers. The ‘Thor and Loki’ show offers endless entertainment, but she is their sister. If we were her friends I figure she’d add something to the discourse.” Even as Freya spoke Brunnhilde was shaking her head.

“We’re her friends Freya. You know why? Because we’re the closest thing she’s got.” Even Freya couldn’t contest that.

Two more of these trips saw Brunnhilde standing at Heimdall’s side looking out toward the stars, his eyes seeing more than hers ever would. “What does she do out there?” The Valkyrie asked.

“She goes to a different planet in the nine realms, a location ruled by Asgard but untouched by it and sits in contemplation. What she thinks about is known only to her” Brunnhilde glanced toward the man beside her. For all his knowledge she thought that Hela’s purpose behind these sojourns was beyond even him.

So Brunnhilde waited. When the gate erupted into light and the dark-haired princess stepped forward, deadly like a sheathed knife in black leather, the Valkyrie was leaning against the far wall arms crossed. Their eyes met across the room.

Brunnhilde saw how Hela’s eyes widened for a moment before narrowing into their usual slitted apathy. The moment of surprise made Brunnhilde’s mouth curl up at the corners even as Hela swept by her, the very picture of indifference. Brunnhilde followed. And so, a routine developed.

Whenever Hela left Asgard, Brunnhilde would be waiting for her when she returned; together the two of them would walk through the palace side by side, until they reached the bar in the city that the Valkyries frequented. Once there they would join the other Valkyries in libations. While Hela never spoke during these events, once in a while Brunnhilde could see the corners of her mouth turn up as someone recounted the antics of her younger brothers.

Somtimes Brunnhilde would catch Hela’s eyes lingering on her dark brown waves of hair or remaining on her smile.

The tension underneath their strange friendship came to a boiling point three months before Thor’s coronation. When Hela asked Brunnhilde to accompany her to the Halls of Healing, the Valkyrie was quick to accept. Even though she protested Freya’s analysis, the truth remained that Hela was the most beautiful thing Brunnhilde had seen since the first time she held her Valkyrie blade in her hand.

The day passed easily in the company of Hela’s mother. It was far quieter than on the training field, but the work was no less hard. The Halls of Healing turned no one away from their doors, and while it was very difficult to harm an Asgardian in their prime, the end of an Asgardian’s life often brought on many strange ailments, each made significant to the individual through their connection to the sedir.

It was the most magic Brunnhilde had been around in a long time.

As the two women left after the day’s work, the royal halls seemed entirely devoid of human life beyond the two of them. As Brunnhilde made to return to the barracks, the silence ringing between them, Hela’s cool hand caught hers.

“I wanted to thank you for coming with me today. It meant far more to me than you know.” Hela said quietly.

“I was honored you asked me.” Brunnhilde responded with a grin. She let herself close the distance between her and Hela, sidling closer. “I was very glad it was me and not someone else.”

Hela’s free hand came up to brush against Brunnhilde’s cheek. “There was no one else I would ever have wanted to ask.” Brunnhilde leaned closer in, Hela’s touch drawing her forward like a magnet.

Her lips were so close, almost brushing against Hela’s when suddenly there was a shout.

“Hela, there you are, I, oh.” Rushing around the corner was the youngest Odinson, in all his sly glory. Hela jerked away from Brunnhilde as though she had been burned. The Valkyrie felt a growl rise in her throat and she let it out, snarling at the younger man.

“I’m so sorry for interrupting but honestly this is very important, it’s about the coronation, and there’s something I need your help with Sister.”

“Loki,” Hela said, voice deadly soft, “Wherever did you get the idea that I cared enough about you to help you with anything.” Her younger brother’s eyes widened with something resembling hurt, though he quickly regathered himself. Knowing Loki the emotion was probably genuine, but allowing them to see it was a calculated move. Hela’s eyes narrowed further and the hand that moments ago had been caressing Brunnhilde’s cheek settled on her hip.

“I know you care. You helped train me and Thor when you don’t even bother with the rest of the warriors other than the Valkyries most of the time. Look, Hela, Thor’s not ready to rule, he doesn’t understand what Father keeps trying to tell him, and he’s dumb and hotheaded. You need to help me make Father see that.” Loki stopped there and visibly cut himself off from saying more. Brunnhilde would think it an act, but the derisive sweep of Loki’s eyes towards her betrayed the truth, he wouldn’t speak further on the matter in front of her, she was not to be included in whatever plot he seemed to be concocting this time.

Brunnhilde thought that he might have ensured Hela cooperation eventually if not for that last look, but as his eyes slide over Hela shoulders go loose and her hands flex. Sedir was suddenly thick in the air around them, not active, but no longer held back by the rigid control that Hela normally employed. Her long black braid that reached past her hips whipped like the tail of a lion ready to pounce, moved by a soundless, senseless breeze. In front of her Loki went very, very still.

Brunnhilde crossed her arms and settled back. She’d been training with Hela long enough to know what came next.

“Baby brother, let me tell you some truths. I have no interest in whatever game you are playing with Thor over the throne, I have no interest in helping you expose our brother to our father or whatever you think you’re doing. The only help I will give you is to let you know that this is going to end badly, because thinking you know more than Father or that you know better, is a good way to get banished whether you are right or not. Now you’ve interrupted me and the Lady Brunnhilde—whose company and thoughts I might add, I value far more than yours—I would ask that you go far away where I can’t see you. Before I get mad. ”

By the end of this Loki’s lips are pressed into a tight line and his eyes are blazing with fury. Brunnhilde could see the flickering green light of his Sedir around his fingers, but with the weight of Hela’s magic pressing down on him he didn’t dare step closer.

“Fine.” He hissed, “I’ll do it myself.” Upon this declaration the youth with dark-hair to match his sister spun on one heel and strode down the corridor away from the two women.

“That could end up being a problem.” Brunnhilde said as he went. Hela snorted.

“It’ll be a problem like the problem he had with Sif. Sure she was mad, but the only thing that changed was she became a brunet. Don’t worry too much about Loki. My brother is a trickster, but he’s the God of Mischief not the God of Deposment.” Hela reached out and grasped the back of the Valkyrie’s neck, gently pulling her in.

“It will be fine.” As Hela spoke, Brunnhilde wrapped her arms around her and twisted the fingers of her left hand into the thick black braid. As she kissed Hela she gave the braid a gentle tug and got a playful nip to the bottom lip in response. Her worries fell away. With a woman like this at her side what could go wrong.

Chapter Text

The thing of it is, Hela is a busy person. She’s her mother’s champion, which didn’t mean anything originally but has actually resulted in many instances of supervising Thor’s quests and working alongside the Valkyries. She works in the Halls of Healing and is on call for the death ward’s emergency cases. She sometimes goes and functions as a diplomat for areas that have need of Asgardian intervention, and as a Hero on quests where the villains are particularly nasty.

So, when everything goes to shit Hela mostly misses it. The reason that she misses it starts small. Brunnhilde goes with the Valkyrie on a mission to discover rumors of a Titan’s influence beyond the borders of their galaxy steadily encroaching closer. Brunnhilde promises to come back in time for Thor’s coronation. The day arrives and Brunnhilde isn’t there.

The thing about Brunnhilde is that she is steadfast. She might be the queen of snark and goading smirks but Brunnhilde fights for her compatriots without reservation or hesitation, and she never breaks her word. As the coronation approaches, Hela’s grip gets tighter and more white knuckled on her knives.

The Palace is bustling as everything gets cleaned up for the big day. The gold gilding on the walls are shining, and there are servants moving through the halls clutching armor polished to shining. Normally this would be Hela’s favorite kind of event. People running around with trivial things to do so that Hela could snarl at them and make them jump. It was practically heaven. Still, doing it without Brunnhilde to smirk back at her while the household staff scurried away in terror took all the joy out of it.

Hela could feel her death mantle pressing closer over her shoulders like a storm. She usually masked her nature in the palace walls for the comfort of those around her. Among a people as talented in the arts of magic as the Asgardians, magic as strong as hers never went unnoticed; unfortunately for the Asgardians within the walls today the smell of death was thick in the air as Hela paced the halls like a snarling tiger. When Hela sent the third maid who tried to get her dressed in her gown for the coronation crying she had the feeling that her mother would be sending the big guns in next. Prepared for her brothers or perhaps even her mother herself, Hela was surprised when she saw Tir in all his wrinkled glory approaching her from down the hall. The captain of the guard had become a quiet friend of Hela’s over the years.

When she had first stepped foot on the training yard after her fall from favor, there was no respect afforded her from anyone outside the cadre of dedicated men with whom she had served. The fear and awe that everyone held for her overwhelmed their ability to welcome her to training. In fairness her rage at the time had lashed out unforgivingly against the few that tried.

Through it all her old instructor was there in the background, treating her rage and ostracism with the same indifference that he had treated her adolescent interests and rages once upon a time.

As her time in the palace let her indignance settle and fury cool, Tir had emerged as one of her confidants, the wily old man being surprisingly willing to exchange snarky comments and interesting thoughts on the fighters in the yard. Hela found herself turning to him for tips on how to usefully aid in teaching the Valkyries when she trained with them. His dry wit had eased the sting of reaching out, and his easy acceptance of Hela even while still possessing full knowledge of her fall had made her far more willing to tolerate his presence than she was of almost anyone else.

She had known Tir since she was a girl, and his expression coming down that hall was one she had seen many times before: a dash of disappointment, a touch of amusement, a dollop of exhaustion. He had put up with her shit since before that shit got serious, and so his “Really Hela” expression with a single eyebrow quirked up was a familiar one.

“They sent me because apparently you were making the household staff fear for their lives on this already quite stressful day.” Tir said.

Hela scoffed, “If they can’t handle it they shouldn’t be bothering me.”

“Normally I would agree, but today your brother is getting crowned, your father and mother are desperately trying to ready the palace to award someone else the honor that should have been yours, and the girl you love is missing, and when it comes down to the wire no one can truly handle you, not even your father.” As Hela opened her mouth to quickly retort, perhaps to rebut the suggestion that what she felt for Brunnhilde was anything quite so serious, Tir continued, perhaps seeing something in her expression.

“Don’t even try whatever line you’re thinking of on me, I’ve known you too long.” Her response died unspoken.

“You don’t need to be here you know.” He spoke quietly. “You are a hero of the realm, and while it would probably be taken as a political statement by the court, Thor and his advisors know better. You have been loyal through circumstances that would have tried the most steadfast of men; you are allowed to follow your heart, especially when it guides you to pursue the protection of the realm.”

Hela cocked her head to the side and gave the old instructor who knew her better than anyone a long assessing look. Nothing but honesty and care shown from the eyes of the man who had been a surrogate father to her for many, many years.

Rather than respond, Hela gave him a quick nod and a clap on the shoulder, letting her affection speak through her actions rather than anything else before moving down the hall toward her rooms. She made her way quickly, moving with speed toward her chambers where she had left her gear, which she had packed the night before in a fit of pique.

Strapping her sheathed knives across her thighs and pulling her hair into a tight braid that she then wrapped into a crown around her head, end pinned down, Hela made for the Bifrost gate before suddenly coming to a stop as her middle brother blocked her path to Heimdall’s observatory.

To her Thor still looked unspeakably young, and the thought of him being king was a strangely alien one. However, in the moment that he faced her head on in the hall the seriousness of his expression belied the immaturity that usually manifested itself in fits of destructive rage and ill-thought responses. Suddenly Hela could see the echoes of the King he would become. Perhaps a beard, maybe shorter hair, a little stronger, she could almost see it.

The Thor in front of her was still a youth though, and despite the fact that he had restrained his emotions, she could still see his restless anger moving unsettled underneath his skin. “I am being crowned king later today.” He stated firmly, starting out on ground he knew.

“Yes,” Hela responded, “I’m sure you are going to do a fantastic job of it. Good job not clenching your jaw too hard, you’re almost convincing me that you’re a rational human being.” Thor’s teeth ground so hard that the sound had almost tangible feeling. He kept his cool in the moment though, a noticeable improvement Hela thought.

“You’re in your fighting clothes. Dressing down for the ceremony or not attending?” Thor asked intently, mouth pinched at the corners.

“Not attending. I’m sorry Thor but honestly, I have far more important things to do than babysit the most boring ceremony in court history.” Hela made to continue her path down the hall, but just as she was about to pass her younger brother his arm snapped out to block her path. Hela let her gaze slide slowly over to him letting the threat that her very presence carried fill the air. If there had been any aggression in Thor’s response Hela would not have hesitated to put him through the floor, however the only thing his expression suggested was a plea.

“Please sister, I am asking you not as crown prince or your prospective king, I am asking you as your little brother who has always looked up to you and longs for your endorsement in front of the world. Please come.”

Hela thought briefly about giving him the same curt rejection that she usually opted for on the training yard, but something about his wide eyes and oddly solemn tone stopped her. She and Loki were cut from the same mold as her father, hard and quick witted, but there was a brightness deep within Thor that reminded her of Freya’s warm eyes. She couldn’t stay, but perhaps, just this once, she could provide an explanation.

“Brunnhilde is missing Thor. All the Valkyries are. Not a single one, messenger, or fighter, or scout has returned from their most recent mission. They were due back from it a week ago. They ventured into lands hidden from Heimdall’s sight, and something was powerful enough to keep any of them from emerging. I am the only person I can think of with powers to defeat all the Valkyrie, and even I couldn’t hide them from Heimdall’s eyes.” Thor’s expression hadn’t changed. He understood the cause well enough, but to him the difference between a morning and an evening was nothing. He wouldn’t forgive her haste if he couldn’t see the reason.

Hela searched for the words to make her brother understand. “I’m in love with her Thor. I hope one day you love someone as much as I love her, and when you do you will understand that every moment I leave her lost is a moment that I begin to hate myself more and more.” His brow furrowed, and though there was no comprehension in his gaze, no empathy for the situation, this was the best that Hela could do.

She pushed past his outstretched arm and made for Heimdell. A mad titan was shrouded in darkness, her brother was soon to be crowned king, and for the first time since their original fight for a home after the celestial planets betrayed them all, the Valkyries—protectors of Asgard’s King—were lost; Hela could see the pieces moving on the board, but the conclusion was still unknown to her. Things were changing, but she would be damned if she left her Valkyrie behind for the endgame.

Chapter Text

The problem with being confined to the palace of Asgard is that you miss things. People confined to the palace miss the entire fighting force they helped train getting cut down with no quarter given. They miss their girlfriend surviving a Mad Titan’s rage by lying dead amongst the bodies and crawling away from him like a coward, callow and foul. They miss the desperation and terror that freezes a warrior in place. Hela missed the ending of the Valkyries and Brunnhilde would rather drink herself to death than be the one to tell her.

The thought of The Valkyrie’s treacherous fear is made even worse by the fact that she doesn’t know what prompted it. She is the only one of a legion that did not die. Brunnhilde is The Valkyrie, a singular where once there were multitudes, and she has known since being a child accepted into the training yard—into a sisterhood—that she would rather slash her own wrists than survive her battle torn family. Worst of all, she knows in her heart that she survived for Hela, and facing that burns and curdles in her chest.

It feels like the worst kind of betrayal in those breathless moments as the Titan turns away—The Valkyrie’s will to live stems from the thought of a graceful neck and a braided black crown of hair. The Valkyrie’s love is The Goddess of Death, and in that moment her breath runs so still and her skin so cold that it could only be her lover’s arms wrapped around her shoulders, her lover’s breath in her ear and magic on her skin that saved her.

And it hurts like being stabbed.

She lives when she shouldn’t. She lives because her lover could not bear to let her go, and she lives as a coward, a traitor to everything that she loves; even her Goddess. For all that Hela plays at being cruel, The Valkyrie knows better. Hela has helped train every single woman that ever stepped foot onto the muddy grounds of the Valkyrie. Hela has blessed each woman with her own brand of intense devotion and fought beside them when she went out to Champion her mother and act as a hero to the realm on those rare, rare occasions over the years.

The first time she did, the Valkyrie were sent out alongside to keep an eye on Hela, not the creature that she was fighting, and not a single one of the had allowed her to think otherwise. As the years rolled on and a camaraderie grew between the Valkyrie and their harsh weapons-mistress, the pointed stares and tense intakes of breath faded in favor of a relaxed acceptance of Hela’s place at their campfires.

The Valkyries had even felt loose enough in the face of The Goddess of Death to laugh at her relationship with one of their own. The only comment that had gotten any sort of reaction from Hela was a particularly clever one from Freya about Hela’s snatch having teeth, fear of death, and Brunnhilde’s tongue. That reaction was a gracefully raised eyebrow and a pointed comment on the state of Freya’s own love life and cow eyes at Hela’s youngest brother, which the rest of the girls had always found baffling.

Now they are dead, and Valkyrie can’t face her lover knowing how deep her failure runs, and all the reasons for it that Hela will both love and hate.

These are common thoughts as Valkyrie drinks her weight in booze in the Grandmaster’s court. She thinks about taking on a position as a junker, but the capture aspects make her gut tense. The terrified looks in the eyes of the slaves remind her too much of Hela in the early years, trapped in Asgard and brilliantly violently furious at every second of it; almost as furious as she was scared.

So instead Valkyrie kicks just enough ass at smuggling to get her own ship, drinks whatever booze she can find and decides to forget the world she loves. It’s easy enough to use the styles of facepainting that are so popular on Sakar to write the symbols of betrayal onto her face, even with her bare and limited magic. White paint, white for her lost sisters and family, sings a message of betrayal into the magic of the very air around her. Traitor, Valkyrie whispers, drawing the white paint in deliberate circles and lines. Traitor, magic echoes, guided by her hand. Cowardly, empty, nameless, traitor.

Even Heimdell would not be able to spot her, shrouded in the magic of her betrayal as she was, unless he knew to look for it.

Sometimes Valkyrie thinks of her princess in Asgard. She knows Hela; the women will no doubt search for the warriors she has helped train when she notices that their journey has gone on far too long. She will no doubt find the Titan, and the Goddess of Death will remove his stain from the Galaxy or at the very least survive him. Valkyrie has always believed Hela to be the strongest creature in the Galaxy. She will survive Thanos, believe Brunnhilde dead, and go on to live for as long as she possibly can.

Meanwhile Valkyrie plans to drink until she finally tries to fight something capable of putting her down. She’s pretty tough, but this is Sakar, at some point almost certainly there will be something that does it.

She can say with perfect certainty that she wasn’t expecting Hela to fall out of the sky and crash into the trash heap right next to her parked ship.

It has her frozen for a moment because her goddess, the woman she loves, has appeared out of nowhere, but honesty the Universe has always conspired to make Valkyrie’s life as absurd as possible. Valkyrie feels scared stiff. She really wants to know why Hela has fallen into a trash heap, but she’s decently sure that it’s bad etiquette to ask your girlfriend why she has trash all over her when you’ve been missing after faking your death.

Hela comes up spitting. Her hair is jutting out of her usually immaculate braids in tufts and her black bodysuit that she wears to fight in is covered in a gelatinous red substance that is letting shreds of plastic and paper stick. The Goddess slams her hands into the ground with a shriek of rage that has Valkyrie flashing back to the time Loki had turned into a snake in order to surprise Thor with a stab in front of the whole training ground. Suddenly the family resemblance between the three is startling.

Valkyrie stares wide eyed as her lady love slams her fists into the ground again with a yowl that reduces her seeming maturity by centuries. Then Hela’s eyes lift and meet hers across the distance of two trash heaps. Everything stops.

Hela looks like shit. There are dark circles around her eyes, and her hair looks positively ragged, but when her eyes meet Valkyrie’s it’s as though a spark deep inside her lights. For the first time that Valkyrie can ever remember Hela looks genuinely hopeful and equally as unsure. She rises to her feet with sinuous grace, her fury and frustration vanishing from her face as she drinks in the sight of Valkyrie with all the fervor and desperation of a woman lost in the desert.

For her own part in this reunion, Valkyrie feels as though she is burning. She wants to run and take Hela into her arms. She wants to run away, as far and fast as she can. She wants to weep and tell the whole sorry tale. She wants to keep her treacherous mouth shut, keep any whisper of defense or justification away from the Goddess whose love saved her only for her to fail her sisters anyhow.

In the end, the choice isn’t hers. Hela moves across the heaps of trash and destruction with a speed and purpose that Valkyrie has rarely seen from her. There is no grace to their reunion; Hela crashes into her like a wrecking ball. She knocks Valkyrie backwards onto the metal grating of her ship deck. The situation is entire un-helped by the fact that Valkyrie is a little drunk. When Hela hits her with force there is no chance of her keeping her feet, and the two tumble down.

Hela is straddling her when they land, her hands gripping Valkyrie’s shoulders and then her face. Her fingertips trace over the white markings, her magic mixing with Valkyrie’s in the air, and a look of bone deep sadness washes over Hela’s face as she traces over them. Valkyrie knows with certainty then, at Hela’s complete lack of surprise, that the woman already knows what has happened to the rest of Valkyrie’s sisters.

Valkyrie squeezes her eyes shut as tight as she can. Hela’s weight astride her hips is oddly grounding and her sorrow at the sight of Valkyrie’s renunciation lets loose a flood of emotion that Valkyrie had been suppressing deep within her chest. Tears slide down her cheeks, and suppressed sobs shake in her chest as Hela grips her face between two hands as strong as steel.

“I’m so glad you’re not dead,” Hela whispers, pressing her mouth to Valkyrie’s neck, letting her teeth scrape skin as she talks, “I knew that you weren’t dead, I could feel it in my chest.”

“I am dead,” Valkyrie cries out, voice breaking on a sob, “I should be dead, should have died with them, shouldn’t be…” the rest devolves.

Hela presses her arm across on Valkyrie’s chest as she sobs, lets her thighs and muscle pin Valkyrie to the floor. Through it all she hisses words of fierce denial in Valkyrie’s ear. A constant stream of furious joy.

Hela has never been soft, and here is no different. She pulls the poison from Valkyrie’s lungs, lets the dark-skinned woman purge herself of every last bit of it. She knows that softness in front of Valkyrie now will be taken as weakness or even worse, rejection, so she presses the woman into the floor and digs her teeth into her neck and grips tight. She knows even better than Valkyrie that some wounds never really heal, but that if cleaned and tended they can scar over and only twinge from time to time.

Eventually Valkyrie’s sobs taper off and she lies in her lover’s arms, completely emptied of any possible emotion. Hela’s fingers are twisted into her hair and wrapped around the meat of her arm, holding fast.

Eventually Valkyrie speaks, voice rusty from disuse, “How did you end up in my trash heap? I suppose something must have happened, so catch me up.

Hela gives her a long, considering look, before accepting the change of subject for what it is, a pathetic attempt at self-defense.

“Let me see if I can break it down for you,” Hela pauses, clearly considering how to start—Valkyrie finds this in and of itself disturbing.

“To start with, apparently things really devolved while I was looking for you. Thor nearly re-started a war with the Frost Giants, and got straight up banished and stripped of his titles. Apparently our dearest father found Thor’s following in my footseps troubling and decided to escalate his punishments. Instead of dealing with the fallout, Father went into Odinsleep, and this somehow resulted in Loki taking the throne, which apparently was his whole plan all along, which was discovered when he tried to kill Thor.” Valkyrie doesn’t even know what expression her face is making as she stares at Hela. It feels like a trick to jar her out of feeling nothing, to pull her away from her tears.

“What?”

“Yes. It gets even more troubling. Apparently, Thor and Father confronted Loki and he’s actually an adopted Frost Giant using his magic of disguise to look Asgardian and wanted to prove his filial love by murdering every Frost Giant in existence with the Bifrost. When Thor went to talk him down apparently Loki was punted off the Bifrost bridge and dove into a cosmic void to avoid facing up to the fact that Father didn’t like him, which frankly is old news. Why nobody thought to bring Mother to that little fight I’ll never understand.” Valkyrie cannot even imagine what expression her face is making right now. Hela’s tone is entirely bland, but her mouth is twisting into a smirk as she talks, she’s clearly enjoying the stark disbelief that Valkyrie knows is all over her face.

“Did you say Loki fell into a cosmic void?”

“Yes, it’s funny its actually the same little hole that I found Thanos in. Loki actually beat me there by about a week, in which time Thanos gave him command of his army and an infinity stone. He’s always been an excellent negotiator.”

“Loki is a terrible general. He’s incredibly cunning when it comes to individuals but he’s just dreadful at large force tactics and battle command. We made him stop coming to strategy meetings, because he kept prolonging the theoretical battles so he could eat grapes in the command tent. How did Thanos put him in charge?”

“Apparently my brother did not see fit to share that little tidbit about his command failings with the man who had forcibly conscripted him in a cosmic void,”

“Well when you put it like that it makes sense. What next in this tale of horror then?”

“Well Loki attacked Earth, managed to lose the army, the infinity stone, and get arrested by my brother. He was still in jail when I came home as I was informed that Dark Elves were moving to attack. They were soundly defeated, though the general got away. Broke Loki out of prison, and he, Thor, and I hunted the general down for having the audacity to attack us. I put mother in charge of the kingdom, sent Thor to play with his little friends on Earth, and took Loki on a reform tour as I pitched it to mother.”

“Reform tour?”

“Cosmic tour where I could look for you and let him get out his frustration with Father near someone who would really prefer that all his ranting about us not being family was actually reality. We got into a fight in the Bifrost mid-transport on our way to get drunk and gather information in Xandar. I grabbed him by the antlers and threw him as hard as I could after he tried to stab me, but I felt bad about it so I came to make sure that he hasn’t gotten in to too much trouble.”

“Really?”

“He’s been a changed man lately Valkyrie, you should have seen him. Who knows what he could be up to, he’s been seducing people and inciting democratic riots left and right. He’s really trying to get away from the family traditions, you know?”

Valkyrie gives in, curls her fingers into the metal grate, and laughs.

“I can’t even imagine how Thor’s been taking this ‘reform tour’.” She says. Hela smirks in response.

“Well he was for it until he realized we’d checked father into an old-folks home on earth. Then he confronted us, and it was just yelling, yelling, yelling until he had me in a headlock with Loki trying to stab me mid-bifrost transport. I’m furious they got the drop on me.” The indignant rage that spreads across Hela’s face makes her look younger than Valkyrie can ever remember her being. The grin that spreads across Valkyrie’s face in response feels rusty and a bit ill-fitting, but good.

Hela grins ruefully back at her and continues. “I might have tackled him or something, so I suppose he’s here too.”

“Hela.” Valkyrie says slowly, half-admonishment, half-delight.

“He just kept demanding that I ‘put father back right this instant’ and you know how I get when Thor tries to do the right thing. I just have to make him regret it. Do you know he had a lady-love on Earth, and she left him?”

“What!”

“Yes, a Midgardian if you can believe it. She refused him right before he confronted me and Loki. Said he was spending too much time away helping mother run a planet. He was so irritated, and angry about Father; I think usually he would have been more fun about it.”

“He was sad.” Valkyrie says with warmth. Hela is playing irritated, but she would happily kill anything that brought a sheen to Thor’s big blue eyes. It’s good for everyone involved that all the siblings had left Midgard immediately. It’s especially good for whichever mortal girl spurned Thor, Valkyrie can’t help but think.

“Yes, maybe a little sad. They were both sort of sad actually. Might as well bring Thor along on Loki’s reform tour. While my youngest brother is reminded that he likes eating cheese and grapes, and stabbing people at court more than actually ruling things, my middlest brother can fret about Loki’s mental state and maybe help us overthrow a government or two. It’ll be good for him.”

In the distance, a roar builds as the games for Sakar’s night begin, and Valkyrie is hit with a sudden premonition as she looks toward the arena lights. Loki loves a spectacle and Thor loves being a spectacle. There is only one possibility.

“You know my dearest love, my ship, though sticky with booze, can in fact fly. I think I might have an inkling where your boys might be.” Hela’s eyes light up as her mouth curls into a lovely smirk.

“Oh do lead the way, I think this is going to be one to see.”

Chapter Text

Sakar turns out to be an even bigger clusterfuck than Hela expected. It’s infuriating. Hela finds her lady love, but doesn’t even get to keep Valkyrie to herself for more than two minutes before she has to go wrangle her brothers.

The violence and open chaos of the planet suits Loki’s love of largesse and political machinations. He’s preparing a coup from within, while Thor, who somehow managed to get himself captured and given a haircut, is planning the revolution from without. Hela bounces back and forth between the two of them, Valkyrie at her side.

She meets the Grandmaster in his main hall when Thor—being an idiot—escapes without warning her. It takes all her effort not to commit brutal murder when the sly ruler casually suggests that she, her lady love and her brother all join him in his bedchambers in the evening. The only thing that keeps her from rendering every person in the hall into a corpse, is that her brother looks as though he is about to have a heart attack from disgust.

She can’t help but be a little impressed with her siblings. They’ve grown up so much. Loki has an openness to him that she hasn’t seen in decades, and Thor is wearing the burden of responsibility with none of the brash arrogance that Hela would have once sworn to be intrinsic.

Somewhere along the way they pick up one of Thor’s little earth friends, and when she sees her middle brother with him, it becomes easier to understand the path Thor has taken to get where he is now.

Hela also sees the moment where Loki considers betraying Thor and their party, but then his eyes slide sideways to meet hers. As Thor leads his merry ragtag band to victory over their oppressors and to the theft of a ship while Valkyrie harries his steps with long-suffering exasperation, Loki drifts next to Hela.

“He’s gotten better.” He says quietly to her.

“He has.” Hela says back. She eyes her littlest brother.

There’s a strange discontent running under his skin still, but the savage broken edges that had sliced into anyone who had tried to get close to him after his shattering have smoothed out. It’s a familiar state.

Hela wonders when her own shattering had transformed into something else, when she had become something other than the mad warmongering murderess that she had been.

“What,” Loki starts, and then pauses, frustrated, “No, not what, how. How did you forgive Father for what he had done? All I wanted to do was please him, and he told me that I was wrong and Thor was right, and I can’t figure out what the difference was.”

“There was no difference. Father’s cruel, utterly cruel. Did you know that Mjölnir used to be mine” Loki nodded slowly. “When I courted war with the Frost Giants father took it from me, said I wasn’t worthy of being a hero, but it was never about worthy. Mjölnir is the weapon of heroes, and I couldn’t be a hero the way I was, but he crushed me with that knowledge just to see me bleed. It didn’t mean that I wasn’t worthy of love or affection or family or any number of things, not that he told me that. But when we murder in cold blood outside the bounds of law we lose the ability to be heroes in the way that Thor is.”

“So, is it just over for me? One crime and then nothing!” Loki says, voice raising in anger. To her discomfort Hela notices a slight shiver in his tone as though underneath it all is the beginning of tears. Loki isn’t quite making sense, but Hela understands what he is trying to say all the same. For so long she too had been lost to what the exact words were.

“No Loki. We change and grow. We love, and learn, and live all the ages that are denied the petty mortals that hop in their skyships from planet to planet. Of course, it’s not over. I am the goddess of death, and that used to mean the rotted blood of battlefields—all the shame and crimes that men fear to call their own in the open light. Now I am a Princess of Asgard taking my little brothers on a reform tour. Death is change and transition, just as it is an ending. What I claim is so much bigger than it once was. Grow up Loki. Try something new.” Hela keeps her voice steady as she gives the speech.

Loki doesn’t say anything back immediately as the two of them walk on toward the elevators. As they board, and the doors slide shut behind them, Hela is struck with a sudden flash of inspiration.

“Let’s do get help.” She loves the way despair looks on Loki’s face. It fills her with joy.

Somehow the plan of riding for freedom on stolen spaceships becomes riding for Asgard on stolen spaceships. When she hears this, Hela rolls her eyes so hard heavenward that it actually strains her cheeks.

“Do you hear this Heimdell.” She muttered at the indifferent sky. She can easily picture the slight quirk at the corner of his lips.

The party moves fast, and it’s easy for Hela to sit back and enjoy the ride. Loki makes snide comments that have Thor’s scientist friend twitching and remains totally oblivious to the half-suspicious, half-hopeful looks that Thor keeps sending him. Valkyrie bullies everyone into line and when they finally arrive on Asgard’s shores, both Odin and Frigga are waiting for them, her mother crowned, and her father wearing stately robes of spousal largesse.

“My Queen,” Hela says, kneeling before her mother, “My little brothers found a cause that befits their house and bring the survivors of a rebellion here to recover.” Just who was rebelling against what Hela left out. No need to bring up the subject of a democracy right now.

She feels Thor draw up against her left and Loki her right. For the first time in a very long time, possibly the first time ever, the three of them are united. Frigga beams at them, and Odin gives a sharp nod. It is easy then to unload the refugees from Sakar onto the rainbow bridge, however they barely begin progressing toward the mainland of Asgard, when Heimdell’s head snaps to the left, looking past the bifrost into the void that lurks beyond it.

“He’s coming.” Heimdell says, words echoing oddly. There is a moment of confusion on the bridge as her family turns toward Heimdell, unsure of what is coming, But Hela feels her eyes go wide; she knows.

As though drawn by a magnet Hela feels her gaze move to Valkyrie; her Brunnhilde in spirit, even if the name has been renounced. Valkyrie is terrified. Every muscle in her body is tensed and the whites of her eyes are showing around the irises.

“Thanos, the Mad Titan, the Killer of The Valkyries and the Burner of Worlds is coming.” Hela says, letting her voice ring across the wide space around. There’s a stillness, and then pandemonium breaks out.

Her mother’s voice rings through the chaos, “To the Bifrost. Evacuate the citizens to earth. Fighters, man the castle gates.” But Hela knows better. She crosses the space and grabs her mother by the arm.

“Mother, he will kill them all. Any soul who stays here is being doomed to die except for me.” This engenders a long look from her mother.

“Are you sure?” She asks, and the words are weighted. This cannot be like before. It is time for Hela to earn the trust placed in her and act on what the magic is whispering in her ear. They will hear her now.

“Yes.” She says. As firmly as she can despite the fear and rage that she can feel in her heart. ‘It is your day’ her magic whispers. ‘Yes’, she thinks back, ‘but not theirs.’

The army forms columns, and group after group of Asgardians are marched into the Bifrost disappearing to Earth in flashes of multicolored energy until it is only Hela and her family left. Her mother kisses Hela on her forehead.

“Be brave my sweet.” With that, Queen Frigga moves toward where Heimdell waits.

“You are worthy daughter, protect our home.” Is all her father says before he follows. It is honestly more than Hela expected from him. He used the kindnesses between them all at once when he spared her blood-soaked life.

As soon as he is gone, Valkyrie kisses her hard, hands clenching in Hela’s hair.

“I’m staying.” She says breathlessly as she pulls away.

“I you do not go and keep my people safe it will be worth nothing. If you stay you will die, but today is not my day. Go with my people love, and I will find you.” Valkyrie snarls at her, but it is more resigned than anything else. She stalks angrily away for a few paces, before turning back for one more look at her deathly love.

“If you die, I will spit on your grave.” She says tightly, coming forward to kiss Hela once more before making her way beside the King and Queen.

Only her brothers remain. Standing next to each other, each focused on her, they look the most grown up that they ever have. For the first time she sees her brothers as men.

“Be strong.” Thor says quietly, before offering her Mjölnir hilt first. “You’ll need it. Father has been whispering in my dreams. It is not the hammer that makes me who I am. Nor is it what made you who you were, but who knows. A little lightning might come in handy.”

“What if I don’t want to give it back?” Hela asks softly, half teasing, half-serious.

“I’ll make myself something new.” Thor says with a bright smile, “Something cooler.” Hela laughs at her impetuous-serious-silly middle brother before taking the hammer in hand.

“He’s evil.” Loki says quietly. “Everything he touches is warped. Please end him Sister. End this, please. I couldn’t help myself then. Help me now.”

“I will.” Hela replies as firmly as she can.

“He’s here for the infinity stones.” Loki says.

“He won’t get them.” Hela responds.

Thor slings his arm around Loki’s shoulders. When he makes contact, something in his face lightens as if with relief, and he pulls his brother close.

“Fight, win, and come back to us sister. These simple things we ask of you.” Thor says, and his voice feels heavy with something like fate—perhaps it is love. Hela smiles and nods. She owes them one request after all this time.

She hugs them both. It’s stiff and strange, but it feels right. Her brothers turn to follow their parents and in a flash of rainbow light, Hela is the only one left standing in Asgard.

She lets her magic rise unbridled for the first time in a long time. For all that she was shaped to be the greatest weapon in her father’s arsenal against the cosmos, Asgard has always been the seat of her power. She is strong no matter where she walks in the cosmic world, but here, in her home, it would take a legitimate miracle to kill her. She wonders if Thanos qualifies.

She thinks on what she knows. In the heat of battle Hela moves without thought, all instinct and rage, little strategy, following the heartbeat of her magic out of the grasp of her own death. With time to prepare however, Hela can rise to be a legitimate general; for the first time since the Frost Giant wars she can unleash the true measure of her power.

Her heartbeat guides her down into the chambers where the lost armies rest, and she takes the eternal flame in hand. Once she would have wrenched the dead from their sleep with no thought. The undying armies, they used to be called. Corpses that fought long after they should have laid down to rest. Now she can’t quite bring herself to do it. She can only ask.

“My brothers and sisters in arms, my friends and loyal troops, fight with me one last time.” It’s not quite a request but not a statement either. Slowly at first, but then faster and faster as the eternal flame drags them forth, her old comrades rise.

It would have been only their bones and cadaverous forms that joined her had Hela not added a touch of her own magic to the process. It should have drained her dry but in Asgard it feels as though she could do anything. With a burst of power the corpses became comrades, and though they cannot express their own will beyond Hela’s commands they take on the full forms of the warriors they had once been.

They clasp her arms and hands as they brush by her. They march to the bridge and the city where they stand ready to meet Thanos’s army head on. At the back Fenris waits for his mistress once more, and Hela feels tears well in her eyes. It has been a lifetime since she’d last seen her most loyal companion and friend, slain on the battlefield that changed her forever.

She runs her hand through his fur and brings her forehead down to meet his. His gravely purr makes her ribs shudder and shake as he musses her hair with his rough wolf-tongue. She sighs into the warmth of him.

“Alright old friend. One last battle.”

It feels like no time has passed since their separation, as Hela swings up onto Fenris’s back. Mjölnir in hand Hela feels as though she is tumbling backwards through time, looking out onto the city that had raised her.

The only thing that is different is her. For all that she enjoys getting to use her power, the sight of Asgard being home only to an army of the dead chills Hela to the core. This is what it would have been if she had won against her father all those years ago, and it is so far from everything that she loves now.

She drags her hand gently over the gilded palace walls and takes one last look at the place that raised her. She feels it in the air. It is time for the death of her home. Change takes many forms and the greatest change is death; that is the change that Hela can hear the day promising.

She goes to the edge of her bridge and waits.

Thanos comes on a monstrosity of a ship, huge and hulking. His armies spill out from above and as her animated fighters clash with the twisted, vile creatures that Thanos calls his own, Hela reaches her power into the sky and pierces the skyship with a blade of death. The fight begins, and Hela loses her mind to rage and death.

It will later come to her in pieces. The waves of brutal assault pushing into the palace. She rends the foot soldiers and weaker beings into dust, but the air around Thanos splits with purple energy that prevents her blades from getting close.

The mushroom faced general bats her blades aside only to fall to the animated form of her old guard captain, who he’d thought felled, sliding a blade into his back.

She remembers the growl of Thanos as his soldiers fall and the way that death twists sweetly and madly around him. It shocks her when she feels it. She, the Goddess of Death, knows better than anyone that there is no one the old cosmic power is capable of loving. Yet she protects Thanos just as she guides Hela’s steps.

He is no god though, and her daggers slice into him. She hopes for a death brought by a thousand cuts, but the power of creation’s destruction pushes her back from victory again and again.

He slays Fenris in a burst of purple light. She flings his ships out of the sky. He shatters Mjölnir. She slices through the gut of him slipping out of the grasp of his power with a loop of her magic. But she cannot avoid the grasp of that boiling purple energy forever.

In the bowels of Asgard—the treasure rooms of her Father—her power runs out. Perhaps it is not her power, because she still feels the sweet croon of her magic telling her where to put her feet, but something falters. Long years of courting a different kind of death than this all-out war have made her softer than she should have been.

In that moment where her concentration slips ever so slightly Thanos gains a grip around her neck, his infinity stone holding her in place. Suddenly everything is still.

“You fought bravely little one, but no longer.” Hela can feel her lip curl at the condescension in this remark. Titans are an ancient spacefaring race, but so too are Asgardians.

His dismissal masked by sweet words makes her growl with fury. She can see the cold rage behind his eyes and knows that he is trying to make the defeat sting as much as possible. She has cost him too much to maintain the illusion of magnanimousness that he tried for when he first stepped off the ship.

“You’ve destroyed your home to no avail,” He says taking a step toward the glowing blue infinity stone, “I am going to hunt down your people. I will treat them fairly, but your family I’m going to have to purge. You gave me far too much trouble for anything of your ilk to be allowed to live.”

He walks as he monologues, and suddenly, steps away from the glowing blue cube that is his goal, he is standing in front of the flame she started, above it Surtur’s crown, prophesied to bring about the destruction of Asgard in an unkillable, undefeatable blaze. Hela can barely breathe as a plan takes shape. She reaches for her magic as quietly as she can. This needs no major working. Only a knife.

“I am righteous, the bringer of a new world. Who are you again?” Thanos asks, missing the slight swell of her magic. She smiles at him, letting all the rage and madness that her family and lover had soothed away fill her once more.

“I’m the Goddess of Death.” Hela says with that mad grin. Sharpening her magic to a point she knocks the crown into the green crucible and the world erupts into fire and ash.

Hela blinks awake to a world of grey, and red, and purple. She can hear the two powers clashing somewhere above her, and she feels the percussive sonic boom as Thanos’s power-stone lightning splits the ash filled air. Surtur roars in response, bringing the full weight of his hand down on top of the mad titan.

Hela knows that she has felled Thanos’s ships and brought his armies down with her own, there is no escape for him. If he had not had the power stone, he would be dead already. With it he only prolongs his demise.

Hela thinks about getting up and joining the frey, but when she reaches for the magic within her, the world remains silent, the voice of death is mute. The fight between these two is breaking the home that her magic has been tied to for all these years. They are destroying Asgard and with it her power.

Hela can barely move. There is no way for her to survive, but she hears the voices of her brothers in her ears, and the phantom touch of Valkyrie’s lips on her cheek, and she knows she must try. Hela thinks of Thor’s determination and Loki’s cleverness and her gaze lights on the faint glow of blue under the rubble only a few paces away.

It takes all of her effort to crawl towards it. The world goes dark behind her eyes several times as she makes her way across the broken remnants of her home. She reaches out towards that glowing blue doorway that will take her where she needs to go; she clings to consciousness as hard as she can, thinking of Valkyrie and her brothers a world away. She doesn’t know if she makes it as everything dissolves.

She wakes in a glass infirmary. There is no one in the room except for her brothers who appear to be playing a card game in the corner.

It is Loki, who is facing towards her, who sees Hela’s eyes flicker open and jumps to his feet in response. He and Thor tumble over each other like puppies as they make their way to her bedside. They are talking over each other but Hela catches snippets.

The Asgardian kingdom is on earth now, mother has become prime minister of Scandinavia, Valkyrie ran out to shower but will be back soon, father has taken well to the domestic life, Thor has a new axe and Loki a new pair of knives that were only made with the help of a tree.

Hela lets it all wash over her with a smile. She reaches out and pats Thor’s arm before grabbing onto Loki’s tunic and letting her fingers twist into the fabric.

“Did it. Won. Came back.” She croaks out, her voice rusty from disuse. Loki scrubs a hand over his face, and Thor’s smile trembles. She is weaker now than they have ever known her. Still they are her siblings, and when the two of them exchange a look in that moment of emotion, she’s knows that the moment is sure to be broken soon. Thor turns back toward her, grin brightening on his face.

“Yeah, it only took a thousand years, but you finally did something we asked.”