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Leaves rustled as Loki slithered along the forest floor. Sweet, sun warmed flowers, the musk of a nearby herd of bilge snipe and Thor's mud muddled scent bathed his flickering tongue. Thor might have loved snakes but he would never be one, which left his dear brother's curiosity unsatisfied. Unless Thor the Ever-Trusting picked one up. Father would have to appreciate him more, notice him at the very least, if Thor were to wind up injured. Heavy footsteps thudded through the ground a short ways away. He'd chosen a species Thor had yet to encounter - the Blue Banded Star Snake - whose tiny size belied its potent magical venom. Not that he was going to bite Thor, no. Just because he wasn't as strong didn't mean he had to rely on magic for everything. Even at the age of 8, his training dagger was of more use than the fangs that lay against the roof of his mouth. Deliberately, he snapped a few fallen twigs as he coiled among the scrub. Thor was almost in range.

One thing he disliked about shapeshifting was the rare, yet powerful urge to act like said animal. There was a mouse nearby, squeaking in its sleep. Its heart was beating so loudly. What was a feast compared to warm meat that'd been alive seconds ago ? All it would take was one bite and a single drop of venom to make its rest eternal. He was about to bolt down the mouse hole when Thor pulled him into the sun. He sifted back into Asgardian form hissing, "It's me!" to keep himself from lunging at Thor's neck. Annoyed at himself, he summoned the dagger and thrust it into Thor's back, the lower left side specifically. Wait, was his right Thor's left or was it his left and Thor's right ? Odin's beard, he hated directions.

Thor's face scrunched up. "What'd you do that for ?"

A grin crossed his lips. "Does it hurt yet ?"

"Y-" Thud.

"Oof. You didn't have to fall on me, you great lump." He gasped, collapsing into the leaf litter. Ugh, why was his hand all wet ? That was a lot of blood. Oh, God. Was Thor going to die ? Stinking bag of goat's breath that he was, Thor wasn't supposed to die. "Hey. Hey, wake up ! You know, the Valkyrie used to ride flying wolves but Grandfather thought they were too scary for Father so he made them switch to flying horses instead. Also, they were all women so they'd never let you join. Lucky you though, you still get to ride a flying horse. Well, flying colt."

"Muh, wolves where ? They attacking horses ?"

He rolled Thor into the leaves. "Nowhere, so no they're not. Now get on before you faint again." In normal circumstances he wouldn't do a legless shift and a quadruped so close together, but this was an emergency.

Thor climbed onto his back and wrapped his arms around his neck. "Just closed my eyes for a second."

That made him roll his eyes. Why did Thor bother trying to lie ? He was too honest to be believed. After running to gain speed and launching himself off a boulder, pale poplars fell away as he flapped into a cloudless blue sky. From this distance the palace was a shimmering golden dot. All he had to do now was avoid attracting the attention of a flying wolf pup. They'd be the right size for a snack, after all, and Father wouldn't even miss him if he wound up eaten, just Thor. Blond, brash and perfect Thor. No one ever said how much they loved his eyes, except for Mother, but absolutely everyone loved that Thor had blue eyes. It was like he didn't even exist when they were in the same room.

 

An hour later...

"Loki, why did you stab your brother ?"

"He said I wouldn't ever be strong enough to hurt him earlier." Last week at lunch was earlier than today, after all. "I was just proving him wrong."

"You are a Prince of Asgard, you should be above the use of excuses. You could have killed him."

"I took him to the Healing Room, Father, Eir said it was just a flesh wound. He's fine." Once again Father's concern was only for his precious heir, wasn't even asking what might've caused him to act how he did.

"I thought I raised my sons to be better than this. You will not be having anymore magic lessons for two months !"

"But, Father...,"

"No, Loki."

Mother walked into the ante-chamber to the King's suite. Her pale green dress shimmered like stars on a storm's edge as she stopped before Father. "Your sons are not more than babies, my king. Besides, it's not like this is unprecedented. Bor told me that when you were the same age you stabbed his favourite horse so that he'd have to spend time with you. If Loki wishes to spend more time with Thor, or you, let him. Also, your son is a Novice of Magic and needs all the practice he can get."

Yes ! Thank you, Mother. At least the Norns'd had the sense to destine him with one caring parent.

"You are ever the voice of reason, my queen." Father closed his eye for a long moment. "All right. I will allow it, if only Loki can look Thor in the eye and apologize meaningfully."

With an inward sigh, he walked up to Thor who sat on Mother's vanity bench. The frame-less silver mirror mostly showed Father's emotionless face, but Mother smiled encouragingly. Just so Father couldn't say he wasn't looking Thor in the eye, he pressed their foreheads together. "I'm sorry, brother, I shouldn't have stabbed you." Thor'd totally deserved it. "Can you forgive me ?"

"Of course I can, you stupid Frost Giant. You're my brother, you're my best friend."

That phrase made Mother scowl, she hated discriminatory things like that. Mother hadn't outright said Father's war stories were biased but all the stories they'd ever heard of Frost Giants stealing children from their beds at night or freezing and shattering people had come from Father. But, if they weren't horrid, mindless monsters why was travel to Jotunheim forbidden in spite of the treaty ? Maybe they were so monstrous they'd turned to cannibalizing each other ? Maybe they'd eat anyone that crossed their paths ? Norns knew, he'd do anything not to learn the truth of that matter.

Chapter Text

The next day...

"What're you doing, Father ?" Loki wondered as he walked into Father's study.

Father startled, loose papers fluttered through a ray of sunlight onto the floor. "You should remember to knock, my boy. The greatest offence to a foreign court is often a unconscious one."

He...he should remember ?! It was one time out of hundreds that he hadn't knocked. Thor never knocked, he barged in like a wolf was snapping at his backside every time. "I will. So, what are those for ?" As he approached the big, dark oak desk, he picked up the few papers that'd fallen on the close side. His eyes skimmed over the top page. Wereguild, urgent, Marauders and Vanir were the only words he recognized instantly.

"It is a request from the Vanir Emperor, Xin Qin, Qin Xinson as we would say. He wishes me to compensate them with sustenance. The Marauders robbed and sank one of our trade ships while it was en route to them. Should I accept or reject it, what do you think ?"

A bit of effort later, he'd climbed into one of the two chairs before Father's desk. "Vanaheim is one of our closest allies. They trade spices and tea for Asgardian protection, but they outnumber us despite lesser magics and tech-technologies. We would win, but too many of our people and theirs would die. It would be better to accept it."

"Indeed, it would, and I shall. Now, what else brings you here ?" Father reached across the emerald mat to collect and straighten the papers.

"There was a big, dark blond man and a boy of the same look requesting an audience earlier. Einherjar Olafson said you weren't to be disturbed. Am I disturbing you ?"

"Of course not. I forgot all about my meeting with Headsman Valinson and his boy, Baldur. Why don't you go find Thor while I go see to that ? We can talk more later."

Baldur, like bald-ur ? What a stupid name. Why couldn't Mother teach him how to cast curses ? Shapeshifiting was supposedly harder than curses, yet he'd always been able to shapeshift. All he would've done was make Baldur's hair fall out...and run around like a herd of ponies it was so long. Heh. One to remember for later. But, why would he even bother leaving the study ? As soon as he found Thor he'd have to come back right away. There must've been something interesting in Father's shelves. Ugh, he couldn't wait to grow up, no more scrambling up and down from adult-sized chairs. At least the feasting bench was sized that everyone fit on it comfortably, except for the warrior Volstagg. So many lower shelves, so little time.

The Harrowed Reunion of Novi and Ullia. Pfft, a bunch of sap. Varius the Valiant. Blunt as Mjolnir, and just as deadly if read past page 2. Bridge-cracking: A Contemporary History of Asgard and Jotunheim. Ooh, now that sounded interesting. Only a few pages in he started finding...inaccuracies with the stories Father'd told him and Thor. Since when had Grandfather been friends with Ymir, Jotunheim's former king ? When had Father ever been friends with Laufey ? Wait. Did that say Grandfather'd taken a Frost Giant as his junior wife ?! Thank God that time had passed because he didn't know what he would've done if he had two Mothers. Which still would've been better than Heimdall, the Bifrost Guardian, whose Father had taken eight junior wives. 

Hmm. What else was in this book that might be useful later ?


That night....

"Loki, we shouldn't be in here."

This was why he preferred exploring alone, Thor was so worried about arbitrary rules. "You wanted to get another look at Mjolnir, now you can. Besides, what are they going to do if we get caught ? Throw us out ? They wouldn't dare. If anyone besides Father has the right it is us. Or are you not a Son of Odin ? Ow."

"Know your place, brother."

Bilge snipe butt. After a scowl at Thor, he rubbed his shoulder and moved down the shiny metal hallway. Something one of the scrolls in the library had mentioned flitted through his mind. The Tesseract had once been in the Weapons Vault. Why would Father ever want to bring it to Midgard and replace it with the Casket of Ancient Winters ? There was an Infinity Stone in the Tesseract while the Casket was just a bunch of stupidly old Frost magic. Grandfather's friendship with Ymir ? Father's own former friendship with Laufey ? It was stupid. No one could even use the Casket since it only responded to those of Jotunheim's current royal family, of which only Laufey still lived. According to Bridge-cracking, Laufey's queen had died during the Asgard-Jotunheim War and left him without a child. Still, the Casket was prettier in person than the Tesseract's drawing. The white and blue magic swirled behind the deliberately cracked glacial-like ice, the grey stone handles gleamed under the torchlight. Could it really be so dangerous as Father made it sound ? It seemed so innocent just sitting there on its pedestal than again no one would've said he could stab Thor just going off of his appearance either.

"Come here, come to me, little Loki. I won't hurt you, I could never hurt you."

An elder's voice echoed in his mind and an urge to touch the Casket gripped him. Impulsively, he reached out only for Thor to wrench his arm down.

"What're you doing, slush brain ?! You're always telling me not to touch stuff and then you go try to touch that magic whatever it is. Unless it's Asgardian, magic is bad !"

"I'm not a slush brain ! My brain is bigger than a mouse's, which can't be said for yours. Magic takes patience and training that's all. I wanted to see if you were paying attention." Shaken though he was, the lie left his tongue as smoothly as any other had.

The tales of cryo-telepathy were true, apparently. Ancient ballads told of entire armies being persuaded to lay down in the snow never to wake because the Frost Giants had frozen the blood in their veins. It was no wonder now why the Casket was locked away. So, why hadn't Father commanded the Destroyer to melt it ? Unless Father planned to use the relic as leverage if Laufey ever decided he'd had enough of the treaty and hired the Marauders to help them invade.

Why did Father put more thought toward relics than him ? Had Father not wanted him at birth, was that it ? Of course, without him there'd be no fuss about who'd get the crown when Father stepped down...or died. Even if he had wanted it the choice was already made, no matter what Father said. Thor was first-born and tradition dictated that he be Crown Prince of Asgard and future Allfather. Thor who wasn't even smart enough to realize that when he got very angry or scared the wind picked up or a thunderstorm or rainstorm started. Asgard was doomed to chaos, no, the whole of Yggdrasil was doomed to chaos. Not even the fun kind because Thor wouldn't allow for no rules.

"Well, I kind of made Mjolnir fall on the floor but I managed to put it back. That thing is heavy. It's weird, normally, you would have jumped around like a Frost Giant trapped in a forge, but you didn't. It's like you were in a trance or something. Now can we get out of here ?"

"Yeah, I want to go sleep." That was true, fear and the remnants of pain in his shoulder had sapped his energy to almost nothing.

Maybe he'd actually sleep in for once ? Oh who was he kidding ? He wasn't going to do that. He'd miss the perfect opportunity to switch Cook's flour and sugar if he did.

 

 

Chapter Text

July 973 A.D.

"Father, Thor ate all our food ! He didn't even leave the apples and he hates them." Loki complained, throwing a pebble at Thor's stupidly thick skull. It bounced off without Thor noticing and splashed into the river beyond. His stomach grumbled as he looked down at the empty haversack.

"Mmph ?" Thor pulled two pieces of un-chewed apple out of his mouth. "Did you want these ?"

"Ew, that's disgusting. Don't be a pig, Thor."

"Your loss."

"My l-"

Father interrupted with, "Come here both of you, sit with me."

Confused, he walked to sit on the left side of the rock Father had settled on. "Is something wrong, Father ?"

"I don't know but someone is coming."

Feet crashed through the undergrowth toward them, someone grunted before a dark skinned boy tumbled out onto the grassy shore. A strange man called, "Kari, I told you to be careful in the forest !" and stepped out before seeing them. He knelt at once. "Your Majesty, Your Highness-es."

Ever gracious, Father waved his hand. "Rise, Haldi, brother of Heimdall. This is your son ?"

"Yes, my king. Kari, this is your king, Odin Allfather, and these are your princes, Thor and Loki Odinson."

Now curious, he got up and approached Kari. It disappointed him to see the boy didn't have Heimdall's golden eyes, the mark of All Sight. No Allfather had ever been born with that magic. Father said it would be too heavy a burden to bear when one was destined for the throne. "Welcome, Kari Haldison. What brings you here ?"

Kari got to his feet, brushed himself off. "Father said he was going to take me fishing, but we haven't caught anything yet. May I ask what Your Highness-es are doing ?"

"We were going for a hike and stopped to have lunch, but an animal's eaten our food." Its name was Thor, but they didn't need to know that. "Perhaps Thor and I can help you fish ?" Father always said that a good king should offer his citizens aid when they needed it, even though he'd never be king it was still sound advice. Kari would remember that it was Loki and not Thor who had offered him help.

"I would be honoured, my prince."

They caught four salmon while Father talked with Haldi and made a fire. Thor and Kari one each with poles, him the remaining two as a bear cub. Since he was the only one with a knife, swords weren't exactly fit for the task, he cleaned and filleted the fish.

Haldi held up a piece as he went to lay it on the smoking platform, he whistled. "You have exceptional knife skills for your age, Prince Loki. Well done."

"Thank you, Master Haldi."

Why couldn't Father have said it instead ? He would have if Thor'd done it.


 


August 973 A.D.

"Mother, why are those Einherjar dragging Einherjar Olafson to the post ?" Loki whispered, instinctively clutching her hand as the angry Einherjar approached the parade ground dais.

"Ssh, my dear, your father is about to speak."

Father banged the great spear Gungnir on the sandstone, the thud echoed through their feet. "Erik Olafson, 4000 years ago you stood before me swearing to serve Asgard and your king faithfully. Now you stand before me a coward who left his fellow Einherjar to die on the field of battle, a disgrace to the principles that this Realm holds sacred. What have you to say before your punishment commences ? Have you anything at all ?"

Olafson raised his head, the brown eyes burned fervently. "My brothers know how to protect themselves with arms and armour, I did not fear for their safety. I fled so that my daughters might have a father. That they might learn to protect themselves before our Warriors or Einherjar are not there to help them. How would the Princes cope, my king, if you fell in battle tomorrow ? They have barely begun to travel the path destiny has set before them, they would not be ready for your absence from it. My girls are the same age as Prince Loki. Unlike the Prince, the dissolution of the Valkyrie so many years ago leaves my daughters vulnerable without a warrior at their side. I am no longer Einherjar, but I am still a citizen of Asgard and I ask the Allfather to consider reinstating the Valkyrie."

"It would be a request worthy of consideration had I the heartlessness to see such slaughter brought upon my citizens' daughters again. I, Odin Allfather, sentence you, Erik the Dishonoured, to a hundred lashes of the whip and 2000 years in the dungeon for cowardice. Einherjar Gjallerson, you will deliver the first 50 lashings. Einherjar Torson, the last 50."

Slaughter ? Mother always just said that the Valkyrie had died gruesome deaths. Personally, he thought it'd been a horde of fire dragons. They were faster than flying horses and, according to Mother, could burn the feathers off of one with a single breath. Any Valkyrie who'd survived that would've fallen hundreds or thousands of metres, all while the molten helmet burned out her eyes and flooded into her nose. That would've been a gruesome way to die for almost anyone, much less him. To see a fire dragon flying toward him, toward Mother and the city, would be one of his worst nightmares come to life. In all reality, he could've done very much without fire. It was too bright, it stank horribly and it could destroy almost anything if it was hot enough, like the forge on Nidevillir. Which Father had finally promised to take him to...next year. How exciting, he couldn't wait. Right, he could wait because he had to. Even though Thor'd gotten to go on the same day he was promised. It wasn't fair ! Father was a no-good son of a Frost Giant, though not literally thank the Norns.

The first whip stroke fell and Olafson barely grit his teeth. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad ? Yet by the time the fifth stroke fell blood speckled the stone. His stomach twisted unpleasantly, not unlike the time he'd eaten a rotten rabbit as a wolf pup. Excepting, of course, that he'd done it to himself, however unintentionally. Would Father have the same thing done to him when he was old enough for battle ? Stabbing Thor was one thing, but having to kill someone ? That was far more terrifying. Yes, he liked gaming and jesting but he wasn't Thor, he wasn't overly violent. He didn't dream about going into battle and getting a stranger's blood on him. Blood that could contain God only knew how many foreign diseases and other nasty, incurable things. Ugh.

Thunder rumbled as dark clouds suddenly blocked the sun.

"You've seen enough for today, boys." Mother whispered before she teleported him and Thor far from the parade ground.

Thor stomped over to a half-rotted poplar, which snapped in half when he kicked it. "Father shouldn't've done that ! Why did he do that, Loki ?! Einherjar Olafson just wanted to help his kids."

Impulsively, he hugged Thor. "Father had to do it. If he let Olafson go others would start doing it too and then there wouldn't be any Einherjar. If Asgard were attacked Father couldn't defend Mother, us and our people at the same time. He'd fall into the Odinsleep before long and we'd all be slaughtered." What even was the Odinsleep ? Mother'd said it was a kind of magical coma, but weren't comas bad ? Grandfather had fallen into one after saving a village from a giant bear and he'd never woken up.

"Oh."

"Exactly. Do you want to play tag ? I want to." Just to make sure Thor didn't burn down the forest. Not feeling like playing peacekeeper as a badger chattered angrily from the set beneath their feet, he dragged Thor toward the gurgling of a stream.

"Are you going to turn into a squirrel and start hoarding nuts again ? Because that was funny. Ow. Hey, you actually hit me."

"Hey yourself, and that was one time." God, that'd been humiliating and Thor'd just had to tell Fandral and Sif all about it. At least Fandral had the tact not to bring it up since, Sif did not. "I am not going to turn into anything." Yet. "You're it." When it got to his turn he just had to wait until Thor hid under a tree, transform into a bird and dive on him. It would technically still be tag, he'd just be tagging Thor by the hair instead of the body.


November 973 A.D.

"Loki ! Loki, come inside !"

Loki huffed as he lay in his half-finished snow angel. "Why, Father ?" Snowflakes drifted down from a starry sky. Winter was his favourite season, mainly because he got to laugh at Thor when his hair got clumped-up by Fandral's snow-washes. It helped that Thor never stayed out after dark, which let him be alone, except for the Einherjar on guard duty. Plus, if Thor did venture outside he tripped over the most obvious things his night vision was so terrible.

"It is cold out here, that's why." Father stood on the steps that led from the palace gardens to the entrance hall.

"But I'm not cold !"

"You have been out here for hours, you've become numb to it. Now come inside or I'll have to wake your mother."

With a sigh, he got up and followed Father into the hall. It confused him when Father looked around before asking him to take his gloves off. Why would Father care if the Einherjar saw ? Unless Father were ashamed to be seen with him. Annoyed, he did as bid and what he saw startled him. His fingertips had turned blue. Not a dark blue-black like deep frostbite but a lighter almost icy blue. Wasn't frostbite supposed to hurt ? Father's hands clasped his, the sudden warmth that shot through his fingers made him yelp. Still, whatever spell Father had used, his fingers returned to normal a few seconds after being released.

"It is time for you to go to bed. Your mother wants to start your illusion training tomorrow."

Illusion magic ? Finally ! It might've been time to go to bed, but how could he possibly sleep ? He was one step closer to becoming an Adept then a Journeyman and then, at long last, a Master of Magic. Who needed kingship ? All he wanted was mastery.

Chapter Text

March 974 A.D.

In a few short months Loki had come a long way from failing to stabilize the illusion of an emerald. Now he could fool the honour guard of Einherjar that stood before the Hall of Sleep as he passed them. It was so funny watching them sense something small, yet see nothing. Some frowned or furrowed their brows but not one dared to move. When the golden doors to the Hall swung open for him an Einherjar close-by muttered, "What the Hel ?" He walked inside, the doors closed and he burst into laughter, which echoed off the cavernous walls.

It was nearly dark inside but for the light of a few flickering torches and the golden magic that covered Father's bed like a glittering dragon's egg. Mother had briefly left her duties as Queen Regent to see Father again. She sat on the right side of the bed. "Amusing yourself again ?"

Slowly, almost on tiptoe, he approached the bed. "Yes, Mother." God, he hoped Father woke up soon. Father was far too still, his eye and hands hadn't twitched even though he'd been asleep for two days straight. How could magic be so taxing on a body just because it got older ? Shouldn't it have happened to him and Thor instead, since they weren't used to wielding magic ? It didn't make sense and he didn't like it.

"That's good. Your father should be waking up any hour now, so what brings you back ?"

"What does it mean when someone's been adopted ?"

"It means that they don't live with their birth parents anymore. What got you curious ?"

"Sif said her adopted siblings were stupid and that she wished her mother had never married Heimdall's father."

Mother pursed her lips. "Jarl Taric was very opinionated about certain things and he married Lady Joris because she shared his beliefs. It seems Sif is the same as Joris was before she met Hjalmir. You know, your uncle Fraki, my big brother, is adopted."

"Uncle Fraki's adopted ? So, he's not really your brother ?"

"Yes, and no. While Fraki is not related to me by birth, he is my brother. I was angry at my parents, at Fraki too, for weeks and then one day when I was in the forest hunting with him some Marauders attacked us. We fought them off but he'd taken a sword through the shoulder for me after one of them stole his shield. I realized then that it didn't matter if he was adopted because I still loved him like a brother. He is my family, Loki, as much as you are."

"I only met your mother because Fraki got himself wounded, you know. I'd been stupid enough to try challenging a pack of flying wolves all by myself. If it hadn't been for Fraki I would have stumbled right past that clearing. Instead I fell toward it and she came to investigate the sound. I thought I'd died and gone to Valhalla she was so beautiful. And you are still the Goddess of Beauty to me, my love."

"That's still nonsense, you clearly haven't gotten enough sleep yet."

"Father, you're awake !" With that exclamation, he crawled into the bed to hug Father. "I missed you. I love you."

"I love you, too." Father kissed his forehead.

He wrinkled his nose and held in a series of sneezes. Father's beard was itchy, Grandfather's beard had been itchy, so all beards must've been itchy. Please tell him he didn't need to have one when he grew up ?


August 974 A.D.

"Etieri Forge-Heart, King of Nidevillir, this is my youngest son, Loki, Prince of Asgard."

Loki knew his neck was going to be sore tomorrow from craning it to look up and up and up at the Dwarven King. The stories had never mentioned the Dwarves size, he'd always thought they were Asgardian-sized or, well, smaller. Did female dwarves really have beards or was that just an ancient tale to dissuade intermingling and technique thievery ? An urge to ask burned him. Unlike Thor, he held his tongue for the likelihood of offending Etieri.

"It is nice to meet you, Prince Loki."

"The pleasure is mine, Your Majesty. Asgard is fortunate that your ancestors forged Gungnir and Mjolnir, they have helped us many times."

Etieri laughed. "I am glad you know more than Thor did. Asgard have also helped my people many times. Now, what brings you, Allfather, apart from the young prince ?"

"There is something I wish to have you forge for me. Perhaps you might go ahead, friend Eiteri ? I wish to speak to Loki privately."

When the dwarf had gone he rubbed at his neck. "Did I say something wrong, Father ?"

"No, that was fine. It is just that the forge is very hot and I think you would be safer if you stayed where it is cooler, here."

"I could turn into a snake and coil up on your arm." Why would Father even bother to bring him here if he couldn't even see the forge itself ? Yes, he was a bit more heat sensitive than Thor but that shouldn't've been an excuse because he was a shapeshifter.

"Except then there would be every chance you would slip off and be crushed to death under someone's boots. I won't have it. You will stay here and wait for my return, that is an order. Heimdall keep an eye on my son."

Mrrr, humph. Not only was Father ashamed of him but Father also thought him too stupid to avoid a bunch of dwarves. Even Thor wasn't that stupid ! Honestly. So Father'd brought him here not because he wanted to, but because it was ceremonial. What a waste of time. Well, at least he could finally finish The Saga of the Owl Clan since Mother'd taught him how to summon books.


March 985 A.D.

"Did you want a piece, Mother ?" Innocently, Loki held out a second plate of golden apple and blackberry pie. Thank the Norns and God for Xandar. Of course he'd never actually been to the Realm of Xandar, Father said it was too dangerous for him to travel outside Yggdrasil until he was 60, but he liked their pastries.

Mother chuckled, rising from her vanity to accept plate and fork. "Did Baker Liefson say you could ?"

"He did." If one counted overhearing Baker Liefson say that he and Thor could have the first pieces, at supper, as permission. "But I couldn't let him leave you out, you're the best Mother ever."

"You are a charmer, my little one. I'll tell you what, why don't we eat these and you can show me how your fire summoning is going ?"


15 minutes later...

As Mother banished the dishes to the kitchen, he took a deep breath. Magical fire or not, it still scared him. For a moment, he stared into the silver mirror. It should've been easy. He exhaled slowly, cupped his hands, pictured a dark emerald ember in his palms and summoned the magic. It shivered to life, for the first time it kindled and stretched into the air, lightening around the edges as it expanded. Maybe it was ragged as a raven's wing but it was functional. Yes. Take that, Thor ! Stupid mouse brain couldn't hope to appreciate the effort, the intricacies. Now he just had to...,

Bang !

His concentration and the flow of magic broke as Thor stormed into the ante-chamber.

"I can do what I want ! I'm a Prince of Asgard, Volstagg is just a stupid fat F...ilge snipe. Mother, tell him I can go swim if I want to."

The red haired and bearded warrior puffed into the room and bowed. "Ah. My sincerest apologies for interrupting you and Prince Loki, my queen."

"Your apology is accepted, Volstagg. Thor, you know that Loki and I train at this hour. What is this about ?"

"He wants me to do dumb stuff like arithmatic, I wanna swim instead !"

"Why don't we compromise ? You can go swimming if you promise to tell him how many fish or shells you see every few minutes."

"Would the Kraken count as one or a whole bunch ?"

Already angry at the interruption, he got up, turned and snarled, "It is far too big to swim anywhere you'll find it. After all, its the only thing bigger than your ego in all the Nine Realms."

"It is not !"

"It is too ! Now get out so I can practice."

"I'm older, you get out."

"I wish you weren't my brother because you're stupid !"

"Yeah, well, I hate you ! You're a cow. Cow head !"

Triumphant, he retorted. "The insult is cow-face, a cow head is a severed cow's head or a mask."

"Shut up, Loki !" Thor turned and ran back out of the room, Volstagg followed.

Mother sighed then shook her head. "Before supper you will apologize for calling Thor stupid and Thor will apologize for calling you a cow. Both of you will do this or neither of you will go to The Tragedy of Varisa the Valiant tonight."

Say he wanted about Father's lopsided disciplinary action, but at least Mother was fair. He loved watching the Royal Theatre's plays, the acting, the props and the choir were always perfect. They were also some of the only fields, apart from healing, that didn't involve violence in any capacity. Sure, everyone still ignored him, but no one paid Thor any attention then either. God knew when Thor became king the Theatre and Choir's funding would get smashed to bits in favour of the Security Council and Army. What use would war, battle and death be without joy, jesting and gaming to offset it ? None. That would require a somewhat amicable relationship with his dear brother, so it seemed he would have to apologize. Even if he still didn't mean it.

Chapter Text

September 9099 A.D.

 

Pale blue stole across the horizon like a fleeing thief as Loki pushed the skiff's throttle forward. Much as he enjoyed flaunting his shapeshifting, it was physically exhausting if he wanted to fly somewhere, thus he'd taken the flying course as soon as he was able. A skiff offered far more manuvouerability and speed than longboats, barges and spaceships. Thor had crashed a total of 27 skiffs, 10 longboats, 5 barges and 7 spaceships while he had yet to crash one once.

 

Ravens suddenly flew out of the oaks at the shore and headed straight for him. "Ila's in trouble, Ila's in trouble." was all that they would say as some turned back toward the forest and others landed on the skiff's edge.

 

If Huggin and Munnin had taught him anything it was that ravens in particular were shrewd, lying was beneath them. He followed the flock to a clearing the sun's light had yet to reach, below he could see the patchwork armour and weapons that defined the Marauders. Most Marauders had the decency to leave elders in peace, not these ones. An ancient crone hobbled toward the trees, leaning heavily on a walking stick. When the throttle of a skiff was pushed back it entered descent mode and even when controlled it did so at a very rapid rate; utilizing that and an illusion of two full-capacity skiffs the Marauders fled without a fight.  

 

He leaped over the skiff's side, mentally noticing it was much easier than a few months ago, before walking to the elder's side. "Are you well, elder ?"

 

"As well as one my age can be, o' Sly One." The crone straightened her black cape and dress then stumped on. "Ila the Ancient thanks you, Prince Loki. Let me repay you with breakfast, my hut is not far from here."

 

"Have you perhaps seen something ?" Only witches and sorceresses could see the future without ethereal help or the Waters of Sight. It was rude to ask about one's future without tact and even ruder to demand details. Their ancestors had actually had to exile people for continual pestering of witches.

 

"Yes, I have seen something of your future. It is great, sad but great."

 

That seemed fitting seeing how when he and Thor finally swore their Warrior's Oaths a few years from he'd likely continue to get overshadowed. If anything it would just get worse since Thor's visible muscle mass complimented his strength whereas he'd never have such obvious muscle. Not that he would have liked lumbering around like a dwarf, he much preferred being able to move quickly. The air was fragrant with the smell of cooking porridge and golden apples as Ila took him into a hut not far away.

 

A small cauldron stood in the middle of the room, which contained the food, and a middling cauldron was set off to the right side. Dried herbs hung in bunches from the ceiling and lay on shelves enchanted to float around at hand height. It was honestly the smallest dwelling he'd ever been in and he found it a bit claustrophobic.

Ila filled a bone white bowl for him, handing it off with a chuckle. "I don't have visitors often since I retired from being Court Sorceress. Although, that was thousands of years before Thor's birth and yours. Commoners are wary of all magic, but especially witchcraft, they avoid this part of the woods like I have Creeping Frostbite."

 

Finally the niggle at the back of his mind made sense. "You're Grandfather's older sister, Ila the Illustrious. You were the first sorceress to kill a dragon by yourself ! You helped repel the Invasion of Vanaheim with only three Valkyrie at your side. Great Aunt, please say you'll teach me something of magic. Please."

 

"You haven't even left the Nine Realms yet, not to mention you're not an Adept and the magic I would teach you is very powerful. You can start, however, by helping me with some potions after breakfast. Even if you never use it, every good witch and sorcerer of Asgard should know how to make a mild Healing Draught."

 

Well, potions did require some skill at magic to make properly. Ah. Just a few more years and then he'd finally get to explore the galaxy.

 


April 11th, 1020 A.D.

 

"Loki Odinson, my secondborn, do you swear to defend your king, your queen, the people of Asgard and all the Nine Realms faithfully until you draw your last breath ?"

 

"I swear." Exhilaration flooded through Loki's veins as he finished the last of his Warrior's Oaths. There were a hoard of deadly, beautiful knives that Father might have chosen for him. Could it be Blodletr, the ancient blade with an emerald pommel stone and silver hilt that had slain 20 werewolves in a single night ? Or Rippr, that great obisidian hilted blade which had sundered the jaws of dragons and giant bears ? Something grand, surely, since Father had given Thor the blond's long desired Mjolnir.

 

Father turned, took an unfamiliar golden hilted dagger with an uru blade from an Einherjar and presented it to him. "When you wield this blade know that all Asgard stands with you. Let your destiny choose a fitting name for it."

 

He accepted the dagger answering, "I will remember. I only wish to protect you and our people from harm." while he rose from kneeling. Disappointment and anger replaced his joy as Thor clapped. Why did Thor get a historied weapon when he got nothing more than a piece of gold and sharpened uru ? Father must've truly despised him. Sometimes he just wanted to change into a snake or a raven, even a bilge snipe or goat, and just disappear into the forest. At least Mother would still visit and Father could finally fawn over Thor in peace.

 

Thor clapped him on the shoulder. "We finally did it, brother. Warrior Princes at long last."

 

"For you maybe, I'm only 55. What, were you not even trying the 400-some years before I was born ?"

 

"Why would I ? Before you showed up no one tried. It's like they thought I was made of glass."

 

More likely they'd just thought Thor would throw a tantrum if he lost, which he had many times. After one of which he'd taken the pleasure of cutting Thor's precious hair while he napped. Not the front or back, that would've been far too noticeable. No, he'd just trimmed the sides down to fuzz...and added, "I love Baldur." in ancient runes. That scream'd been so gratifying, yet disappointingly fleeting.

 

Later that day...

 

"I want to go now !"

 

"Thor, you just barely swore your oaths. Have patience, you can wait one more night for your first battle."

 

"Wait, wait ?! You and Loki wait all the time, skulking around like a pair of Frost Giants under a bed. Someone has to do something in this damned family !"

 

"You will go with the Einherjar patrol to Vanaheim tomorrow and that is final."

 

He followed Thor out of the upper throne room and into the courtyard. Stars dotted a green-tinted sky, thick clouds circled the palace. Thunder rumbled.

 

"Go away, Loki."

 

"You insult me and then you expect me to just go away ? That's not how brotherhood works. I just think Father has the right idea; I mean, yes, we've sparred, but we've never taken humanoid lives before. You can't really want to rush into that, can you ? There's no going back to innocence."

 

"Who wants to be innocent forever ? We just got some of the best weapons Dwarves can forge and you want to let them rust ?"

 

"If I meant that I would've said that. You really want to roast someone alive come tomorrow morning if there are Marauders ?"

 

"Are you kidding ? If there are of course I do. We're going to leave Asgard as mere Princes and return as Warrior Princes. The youngest pair in 15, 000 years. Isn't that exciting ?"

Idiot.

 

"Yes. Let me count the hours. Can we just go to sleep ? You can make storms to your heart's content tomorrow."

 

One thing, at least, was clear: Should tomorrow turn into a battle no other had earned the right to stab Thor, much less kill him.

 


Evening, April 12th

 

"So there I am helping Loki limp into this little hall and I spot a group of people coming toward us. I shout at them to get help but it turned out they were actually a reserve of Marauders. Oh, you should have heard Loki scream as I threw him into them. Either way, they didn't get up again."

 

The thick smoke that wreathed the drinking hall made Loki's eyes water as he sipped his ale. It wasn't like he'd had to slash that Kree's throat while it'd been sneaking up on Thor. He was lucky he even still had a foot after that three-headed giant's equally gigantic sword had hit him. Thor'd only killed that damned thing because he'd turned after hearing the Kree in its death throes. Stupid stinking bag of goat's breath didn't care about due honour, the giant was just one more way for Thor to humiliate him. The good thing about getting 'drunk' any time, much less for the first time, was that no one questioned a spill or two. Thus him knocking his mug over, so the contents spilled into Thor's lap, just looked like an accident. "Oops."

 

Maybe Thor would finally ask Baldur to help him clean up ? God knew it seemed like Thor'd barely kept from saying, "Loki go ask Baldur if he wants to watch me bathe." a handful of times. If everyone wasn't obsessed with Thor then they were going mad over Baldur, except even Thor had fallen in lust for the dark blond adolescent. What was ironic was that while nearly everyone wanted Baldur, Baldur wanted him.

 

Thor slapped his back and roared with laughter. "We got bloody today, brother, what's a little drink to go with it ? To the Allfather and Allmother, may they reign another 6000 years !"

 

"Hear, hear." It wasn't like he was going to miss a toast even when he was missing a mug. "Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some studying to do."

 

"Let me help my prince back to the palace." Baldur interjected standing from his spot between Fandral and Sif.

 

Sif muttered, "Why doesn't our prince just squirrel his way back home ? He's still a shapeshifter, isn't he ? Unless he's just nuts now."

 

Rrr. He'd been an Adept of Magic for just over 18 years and Mother still hadn't taught him any curses yet. Maybe he'd get around that by trying to turn Sif into a newt one of these days. Even better, a frog.

 

Thor growled, "Bleeding son of a Frost Giant." as he banged his knee in drunken haste. "I've got a better idea ! We can go to Midgard, they'll believe anything if you show them a bit of magic. We'll be Gods, brother, and make no mistake."

 

"They maybe idiots, brother, but you still need a cunning plan, a guileful plan, and I've got just the one."

 

Some lightning, a giant snake, maybe a bear or a few flying wolves. Maybe he'd throw in a fireball or two from time to time.

Chapter Text

Early morning, April 13th, 1020 A.D.

"Shall I wear my silver and emerald armour or the gold and emerald armour for this oh-so momentous occasion ? What say you, Baldur ?" Loki had to admit that he loved watching Baldur squirm.

"I, um, I would say the silver and emerald armour. It would reflect the moonlight more than the gold and make your eyes stand out more. Not that you need to stand out more, you're already the smartest one here, after all."

"An excellent reasoning, my friend."

Was it his imagination or was Thor glaring at Baldur ? It seemed Thor's own obsession took a seat at the thought that he might reciprocate the feelings. Oh, that was good. He couldn't have planned it better himself.

Thor growled, "You should get going or they'll be abed before we get there."

While Baldur hurried off, he walked up to Thor and cupped his nape. "Are you jealous ?" Thanks to Father, pressing their foreheads together for honesty had become ingrained as anything. Good God, Thor's breath stank like a goat with a urinary infection had pissed in it. Well, at least, he hadn't actually drank that much.

Blue eyes struggled to focus in the moonlight, "No. That'd be stupid. Frost Giants're stupid, the Mighty Thor wouldn't stupid. Blah, son of bitches. Uh, no offense meant, Heimdall. Your mothers are prefectly, nuh-uh, perfectly nice ladies."

Even with his enormous self control, he couldn't supress a snicker. "You're a terrible liar, brother, you always have been. Come now, you know I'll never love anyone as much as I do you." He shivered as a warm, calloused finger slid over his cheekbone. "Except for Mother and Father, of course."

"You'll get there yet."

"I'm sorry, did I some part of this conversation ? Because you couldn't give less of a shit about magic, much less nonverbal communication." 

"Fandral has a goat's beard and Hakem, Haki, whatshisname, Heimdall's nephew anyway, has a bunch of stubble, but you don't have anything. You wait a few more months and I'm sure the bilge snipe will be jealous of all that hair." 

"If I ever wanted a beard I'm sure it would look better than the mange-ridden bear that's smothering your face. Try not to drown before giving your speech, yeah ?"

"Drown ? Fuck water."

"Fish already put their sperm in it. Why would you want to, too ? Unless you want everyone to remember you as Thor the Fishfucker." Just to amuse himself, he shifted his voice into that of a male elder. "Did you hear about the Mighty Thor ?" A little girl. "Who ?" Back to the elder. "The guy that had sex with a fjord." Back to the girl. "Oh, that guy. I heard he was weird." 

"Remind me to punch you tomorrow morning. Ow, ow. Bloody Hel." The branches of an ancient oak rained down as Thor flew off.

It was too bad he was going to forget that. Memory was such a fickle thing.  


10 minutes later...

He rolled his eyes as Thor swayed on the dock. He'd already played a game with Thor's hair shifting it to dark red from the perfect blond. The sack of sentient hammers hadn't even noticed. If Baldur had done his part perfectly he'd stumbled into the village claiming a giant snake had injured him while it battled a giant bear in a nearby fjord. Some of the villagers had doubtlessly prayed to Odin for protection and Thor had come down to 'answer' the prayer. 

"In these last years you may have forgotten Asgard but Asgard has not forgotten you. I am Thor Odinson, Crown Prince of Asgard and the mightiest of her warriors. The powers of the storm are mine and so are your enemies !" Thor thrust Mjolnir skyward, lightning struck the ancient hammer and thunder roared as storm clouds scudded across the half-moon. The Midgardians gasped collectively and stared in awe. 

If such unimpressive magic had wowed them then he was going to send them all to Hel from shock. After all, they'd never dreamed of seeing a Giant Asgardian Fen Snake in their worst nightmares. Male Fen Snakes had dark brown body scales with a cream underbelly and a bite capable of poisoning a Giant Moose, its preferred prey, to death in a minute flat. The fjord was still as Xandarian glass until he shifted form and slid into it, even then he barely caused a ripple. As he approached the village, he impulsively snapped up a waterfowl that had landed on the surface. His part was simple but far more fun: Launch himself from the water at Thor, wrap himself around and take an, of course, illusory bite while Thor unwound him and he turned back into Asgardian form. So he came to stand beside Thor as an elderly woman fainted. "I am Loki, brother of Thor, Prince of Asgard and cleverest of all her sorcerers." Of any one, really.

A male elder clad in a dark brown, mink-collared robe knelt on the packed dirt. "Hail Thor and Loki, sons of wise Odin. What can we offer our Lords ? Drink ? Pleasure ? Games ?"

God, the Midgardians were tiny, they barely reached his mid-chest. Thor would go for pleasure to join his first battle and drink, of course. It set his teeth on edge. Whether Asgardian or Midgardian, some peasant woman did not deserve to sully the House of Odin through Thor. Still, he amused himself for an hour by winning every game of Tafl set before him, lighting random goblets on fire and loosing illusionary birds for the children to admire. Then he decided to go see the temple in the flesh, having only seen it through Mother's illusions. A path had formed over the last ten thousand-some years of hunting, raiding parties and pilgrimages to the forest enclosed temple. A lone, grey furred wolf slunk beside the path keeping him company through the darkened underbrush. Something dull brown and black lay half on and half off the path.

The wolf moved to sniff it then yipped. "Man's pup." 

What would a child be doing out here ? Unless it'd been left alone to die, one of Midgard's most atrocious traditions. It was a black haired boy clad in tattered brown rags, a large, bloody gash glimmered on the tanned forehead. The Kree had lain just like that. The awful gurgling the Kree had made while thrashing, choking on its own blood, came back vividly. All the blood on its front as Thor had turned it over after the battle's end and laughingly bashed in its skull. Bile rose in his throat, he disgorged it then wiped his lips with a shaking hand. Maybe if he'd actually been drunk he wouldn't have cared. Unfortunately, he wasn't and he was starting to hate the sight of blood, not the smell, just the sight. Thankfully, he'd been too far away to see the others because he'd used his throwing knives and fire.

Was the boy dead ? Cautiously, he approached. Such a vicious wounding suggested an atypical abandonment for a child. As he crouched he saw a metal collar encircling the boy's throat. A thrall, not some warrior or boat builder's son, a thrall. Thralldom hadn't been practiced in Asgard since Great Grandfather Burri's time, obviously Grandfather hadn't felt obliged to end the practice on Midgard. Something he'd thought Father would have mentioned due to favouring peace in all things. Impulsively, he picked up the boy.

The temple's weather-blackened stone appeared through the lower and middle boughs of the trees. It'd originally been built by Great Grandfather Burri then expanded on by Father for hiding the Tesseract. The double doors were plain oak, as Great Grandfather had preferred. Even if he hadn't had full arms or a love of theatrics, he still would have thrown them open telekinetically. His boots clicked on the pale brown stone as he entered, an elder in the Head Priest's orange robe turned to look at him from across the human king's tomb. He didn't know how Father could have befriended the human, but he didn't particularly care, either.

"What can we do for you, my lord ?"

"I am Loki Odinson, the...," Since he'd always loved causing trouble, why not ? "God of Mischief, and you will train this boy to become my priest."

The priest stepped around the tomb to kneel before him. "Forgive me I pray, but he is a thrall, my lord. Thra-"

He cut across the elder, "This boy is a thrall as much as I am one." To punctuate the point, he slid two fingers under the collar and pulled gently. It snapped like a dry twig then clinked on the floor. "Fail to do as I command and I will curse your sons, your daughters, your grandchildren and great grandchildren. Each more horrific than the last until they are ugly enough that even a Frost Giant would be repulsed by them."

"I am free ?" A tremulous whisper left the boy's lips. 

Never in his life had he heard such piteousness, such fear, from one so young. "Yes, child, you are. If you wish you may live in the village or in time become the hand-picked High Priest of Loki."

"The Gods have answered my prayers at last." Tears spilled from the bright blue eyes and cleared tracks in the dirt on the tanned cheeks. "I will serve them."

He put the boy on his feet, "Do you know your name ?" If the adults were tiny than the children neared miniscule.

"I know that I was Tor's son, but Master killed him long ago. Master, Nidall of Helmir, called me Torson when he was angry and Fishgut when he wasn't." 

"I shall name you, then. Allin Torson, to honour the Allfather and your father." Plus, when one went all in for a sheep, one had to go all in for the wolf. Returning to seriousness, Grandfather had told him of Helmir. That the Midgardians who lived there worshipped Ymir, that they waited until winter to throw their prisoners into the frigid ocean, and claimed Hel was a Goddess. How a Realm could be a Goddess he didn't know, but it cemented their gullibility.

Still crying, Allin hugged him. "Thanks be to you, Lord Loki."

"Of course. Now, the High Priest will have someone tend your wounds. Rest assured, Allin, that I will tend to Nidall of Helmir." With that said, he stepped back, walked to the carving of Yggdrasil across from the tomb and pressed the knot on the World Tree's trunk. Stone rumbled beneath his feet before the door to the hidden chamber swung open. At least the Casket had glittered and glowed like ice under the sun, the Tesseract, the Cosmic Cube as Grandfather had called it, just sat on its shelf seeming nothing more than a painstakingly carved cube of cobalt. Except that even Asgard had yet to discover what the Space Stone's casing was made of, because Father said that to study the Stone invited the temptation to use it. Why was Father so afraid to wield its power ? To study the Stone, which made every method of teleportation possible, could only better their people. No longer would there be a need for Einherjar to waste precious time and energy running to Bifrost when Marauders attempted to raid Nidavellir, they could teleport directly into the Forge and kill any intruders. Someone lost a hand in sparring or battle ? Just teleport both into the Healing Room and they could be reunited. 

To look at the Tesseract was one thing, but Heimdall would immediately tell Father if he tried to pick it up. Nrr, the Watcher always had to ruin his best games and jests by telling Father. If only there were some way he could escape that all-seeing gaze; a spell or an enchanted object of some sort. Hmm. Illa would know if no one else. Had she not hinted at teaching him something interesting last week ? Cryptic as they could be, he loved witches and sorceresses, not in a romantic way. Emotional attachments of any sort were a weakness that Marauders had no qualms about exploiting. With that thought in mind, he teleported to the Fjord of Falia, which he could only because Mother had described it in good detail. Jagged grey rocks and wind blasted pines still clung to the shore, meanwhile a strange, icy path wound from the ocean toward a fortified village. 

 

Afternoon, April 13th, 1020 A.D.

"You destroyed a Midgardian's home, Loki. Burned it to the ground ! You could have killed him."

Loki stopped pacing the red carpet to glare at Father. "So what ? He's still alive and it's his fault anyway. I wouldn't have done it if he hadn't been a slaver ! He let his own people starve. I am...,"

"You are a Prince of Asgard...,"

"And you are Allfather. How is Midgard protected when filth like Nidall roam free ? It's not !"

"That is my responsibility as Allfather, not yours. You're far too young to decide punishments for others."

"How can I be too young ?! How can I when at the same time I am old enough to kill in your name ? To defend our home, the other eight Realms. Or did you make me a warrior just so that I wouldn't bring shame upon your House ?! Actually, it doesn't matter. Since my father doesn't care, the Allfather may find me in the library."

Later, much fucking later. His blood felt like it had turned to fire from his anger, it started to cool when he shifted into crow form and took flight. All the ancient sagas, lays, tales and ballads said that heroes got rewarded for helping the oppressed, yet here Father was trying to punish him. At least Illa understood his frustration somewhat. When she and Grandfather had fought off some intergalactic thieves called Ravagers who had gotten the most honour ? Illa for frightening the thieves into retreating to their ship or Grandfather for decapitating a Skraeling ? Grandfather, of course. Pfft. A 30 year old with a sharp sword could decapitate one of those stupid, bipedal, swamp loving lizards. Which was not to say that he didn't love Grandfather, he did, but Asgardian history was not kind to those it deemed untraditional. The most Illa would get when she died was a ballad about how she was Grandfather's sister and a good witch. History wouldn't even mention that she should've been Allmother of Asgard. As it stood, every single one of the Allmothers, which were double or triple the number of Allfathers thanks to junior wives, were merely spouses. 

Poplar, polar, flying wolf pup, oak, oak, flying wolf pup chasing a flying, squealing piglet, pine. Illa's ravens clustered in the thickly grouped pines and atop the hut. He alighted beside one of the oldest ravens, Grimm, who was half-blind and almost as old as Illa, being her familiar. "Good afternoon, Grimm." 

Grimm clacked his beak, "Good afternoon, little Prince. Illa is busy with a commoner." 

A commoner all the way out here ? Very unusual. "Excuse me, old one." With a dip of his head, he fluttered down onto the path and preened his feathers. That was one of few instincts he didn't mind, since even birds had to look presentable.

The door to the hut creaked open, a thin commoner with close cut black hair stepped out, clutching a small canister. "I know me dad'll appreciate it, thank ye, Crone." The commoner didn't look that much older than him as he approached, may be Thor's age or his own. "Well, 'ello, birdie. 'ow're you doin' ?"

He shifted back into his real form. "I am well, yourself ?"

"I am good, too, Your Sneakiness, uh, err, err, I mean, Your Royalness." If the commoner had thrown himself down any faster he would've sprouted petals.

"Mm-hmm, the Allfather likes his citizens happy and in good health. What brings you out here...?"

"Oh, me name is Skurge Skaanson. Me dad is Chief Stonemason on the Grundfall Bridge Project. Some bloody Frost Giant smashed 'is hands up good in the War, ye see, so 'e needs a salve to keep 'em from stiffenin' up too much."

"He does good work, your father, I've observed it often from above. I shall have to ask mine and Councilman Kirgson about a fitting raise." It was meant too. Under Skaan's supervision the Grundfall Bridge, which connected the mainland to an outpost on the Isle of Jarnogg, had come up smoothly in just a month's time.

"That's real nice of Your Highness. I s'pose you're 'ere to see Illa ?"

"Indeed."

"I'll just get out of the way, then, shall I ?"

"Please do." When he entered the hut Illa was tapping an emerald topped staff on the floor. "Can I help you with something, Aunt Illa ?"

Illa didn't turn to look at him. "You took your time, Odin. You're always trying to impress young Frigga or horsing around with that Frost Giant Prince when you should be helping your family, it's not proper behaviour for a Prince of Asgard. Help me find that hemlock and shred it for the stew."

"Of course, Aunt Illa." Had Illa really just non-jestingly called him by Father's name ? Yes, her mind had seemed a bit afield last week, but it'd only been for a minute. Could her mind finally be starting to wander for good ? It seemed so. The hemlock had ended up mixed into a small basket of golden apples, which never would've happened before. Carefully, he picked it out and found some apples that were quite soft at the bottom. Normally, she would've gone through and tossed those out for the deer and bilge snipe herds. 

"Loki, what a pleasant surprise." She stumped over to him. "Did you want to learn the nullifying spell before or after stew ?"

He glanced over his shoulder as he finished shredding the hemlock. "Perhaps you could tell me the theory as it finishes stewing ? Who discovered it, why ?"

"Olgin the Afraid, 5th Allfather of Asgard. According to the records, what scraps we have, he was paranoid about everything and war prone as an extension. He didn't like the thought of anyone scrying on him, no matter if they were on his side or not. So he devised a spell to protect himself from every conventional scrying method and even the Allsight. It's a complicated spell but it'll be a breeze for you. You had only a few months long Apprenticeship thanks to that clever mind, and Frigga's good teaching, after all. You must first visualize the Warrior rune, the Sun rune, the Hunter rune, the Moon rune and the Eclipse rune. You must combine and conjure them to complete the spell: The warrior who stands before the sun to block prying eyes during the day, the hunter who blocks the moon at night and both will stand before you during spell casting, symbolizing the eclipse of ignorance by knowledge."

He'd barely been, like, 10-ish when Grandfather died. He remembered the stories well enough and what Father and Mother told him, but hardly anything aside from that. When it happened, Illa would be his first real loss.