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Snowflake

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Shock is the foremost reason of why Loki does not immediately move upon the completion of the spell-casting that he has just read up on a travelling book.

 

Well, shock and a sudden, acute exhaustion. But the latter plays a smaller role, considering where he ends up: His “landing pad” is cold, albeit not as unforgiving as stone or packed earth.

 

But most importantly, it is blue and alive.

 

Humongous arms, wiry but each still the size of a tree trunk, wrap round him in a similar delayed reaction. However, while his lag of reaction does ill for his chance of freedom, the same does not seem to disadvantage his newfound captor: The owner of the arms needs not spend any effort at all – or so it seems – in restraining him.

 

Afterwards, even more shockingly, he does not end up an ingredient of a soup or a slave or a gladiator for the amusement of barbaric blue giant monsters.

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It is highly peculiar in so many aspects, in Loki’s opinion, that the first question his captor asks him is: “How old are you?”

 

An Asgardian intruder has just barged into wherever this is – in Jötunheim, though, most likely, given how cold it is and the prevalence of ice… decorations… – and his captor bothers about his age instead? Is there a certain rule in such a barbaric culture that says bitter enemies of a certain age should be disqualified from torture and the like?

 

Odder still, his captor immediately gets up from the ice chair it has been occupying and rushes… somewhere else… with him still in its arms… without waiting for the answer. Is he or is he not a dangerous, highly loathed captive here?

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Blue, lined skin. Black, sharp claws. Black, sharp teeth. Small, vertically conical ears. And they are just the visible changes forced upon the hapless young Asgardian, after his captor has dumped him on what may be a scanning table – doubling as torture devise, most likely.

 

Something has also shifted inside of him during the long series of spells he has been subjected to, cast by his captor and one other – even larger – frost giant. And that feels even more – much, much more – unnerving than almost anything else, including the physical changes.

 

Almost anything else, indeed. Because, until now, he has not been able to free himself from his captor by any means. And presently, they seem to be heading towards a kitchen, judging from the clacking and clanging and other vaguely kitcheny sounds emanating from somewhere yet unseen ahead. Truly, he does not want to be some frost-giant meal!

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How relieved Loki feels that he is brought not to the kitchen, after all.

 

Their destination is deeper under wherever he landed and farther than the source of the kitcheny sounds. It takes the form of a large pool of blue-green water, which laps mesmerisingly with gentle waves against blue-white smooth boulders that decorate its edges. The peaceful, admitedly beautiful scene is reflected on the smooth ceiling in blue-green wavy patterns and flickers.

 

The water feels soothingly warm on his skin, as well, when his captor carefully slips him into it, up on one of the shallower parts. Moreover, it lends a pretty shade of richer blue-green to his new skin when he feels calm enough to look about and down.

 

Unfortunately, however, then his captor attempts to drown him….

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With how much he flails about and panicks, it takes Loki quite a long time to realise that he is actually not drowning. The pool’s bed is still shallow enough for him to stand on tiptoes, as well.

 

If he could, that is.

 

Well, his captor seems determined to keep him under, regardless. So, currently, he cannot do anything but to breathe.

 

And breathe he does! Apparently, it is not only his outer appearance that has been changed by whatever spells his captor and that other jötun cast on him. Breathing underwater is a good advantage to have, at least, practically speaking, even if he must don the skin of a monster in the process.

 

He still struggles, hoping to eel out of his captor’s arms and up abovewater, but…. – `Eh, what are those lights? So pretty….`

 

And, mesmerised by the constellation of pretty silvery pinpricks of light bobbing in the water a way’s away from him, he does not realise that the arms round him have tightened considerably, now cradling him close.

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A drowsy Loki is proffered a plateful of odd pebble-like things, coloured silvery blue, once he is freed from the actually-not-so-bad pool of blue-green water. `Ah, the poison, at last,` he thinks, as his captor tries to coax one of the pebbles into his clamped-shut mouth. Its claim that the pebble is just some iced milk would have made him laugh, if only the act would not open his mouth and allow the poison to come in.

 

Well, he may be young, but he is not that gullible!

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`I was right,` is the last coherent thought that Loki is able to process, once his captor has managed to insert the pebble and its subsequent friends into his – initially unwilling – mouth. The poison has at least been tasty and addicting, and the forever slumber that is greeting him right now is padded further by a thick, cosy patchwork blanket that somehow smells like… home – in a much more visceral sense than what he got from his quarters at the palace in Gladsheim, at that.

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Waking up with ones lips latched round a nipple and suckling is the most bizarre thing that Loki has experienced to date.

 

But, well, no, he has to retract his assertion once he is truly aware of his state of being, and even more when his memories of prior to unconsciousness surface. Waking up at all is a sheer marvel, given what he endured.

 

It is even more a marvel, though, to him at least, when he becomes aware of a huge hand with hardened fingertips softly and carefully raking through his hair.

 

And when his captor cuddles him close, and the sense of home that he got from the patchwork quilt from earlier ambushes him with the act….

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A very beautiful – if half-finished – needlework, made up of delicate blue and green wavy lines running in artful chaos on a deceptively soft piece of silvery cloth, lies somewhat haphazardly beside a rugged, ordinary-looking piece of brown rock. A half-frost-crusted, drink-stained wooden mug is parked near a beautifully carved, pearl-inlaid stone box containing various chipped and worn tools, with both acting as paperweights for a detailed map of – most likely – Útgarð and its surrounding lands. What looks like a stack of high-tech writing repositories is used to prop up a large, white stone tablet full of scribbles and crossed-out lines done with what looks like bright yellow wax – of all colours. And these, as seen only from a very limited vantage point: the “bed” that is a hollowed-out stone dace filled with soft furs and leathers and fluffy pillows, with Loki himself still trapped in it; in his captor’s arms and unable to move his head much, to boot, let alone his body.

 

Even with this brief look, though, his feet already itch to wander among such homey amalgamation of varied items, and his hands already long to try at some of the things he sees. If only his captor would let him go, even for just a while!

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Being delivered to the kitchen – at last – is a very, very terifying experience for Loki.

 

At first, at least.

 

The giants working in it are surprisingly warm and doting towards him, in addition to being familiar with his captor. It still does not diminish the terror factor, even by a quarter, but at least he knows he is not going to be a soup ingredient or some such.

 

Better yet, one of the kitchen workers then, after getting some kind of non-verbal permission from his captor, puts him to work on their strange mechanism, adjusted to his size; to take the unfrozen water from the depths for their meal of the day, it says without him asking what for. Putting his hands and feet to task reduces the scariness of his current situation by half – finally – and, as the bonus, allows him to think up some vague plan to escape this traphole he has unwittingly fallen into.

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Being called “Loptr” or “Loé” instead of “Loki” is a peculiarly unnerving experience to endure. Being asked to call one’s captor “Amma” – which sounds suspiciously like “Mother” – is even more disturbing. But still, Loki does not stop it when the said captor rewraps him in the patchwork blanket, just allowing his arms some room to wiggle free if he so wishes, and picks him up, blanket and all. He is seven hundred years old, for the Nornes’ sake, and yet some part of him, thirsty for so long without even himself knowing it, relishes in this closeness, this adoring attention, this gentleness from a brute, this baffling affection to one who donned the skin of an ás mere hours – or days? – ago.

 

If he unwittingly stole the identity of a runty brute named Loptr to have gained all these… well, that runt should not have gone away. He certainly does not wish to be seen like this in public, or when in his æsir form, or a combination of the two; but as a brief distraction and while in this cluttered bedchamber, he welcomes it gladly.

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“Amma knows Loé has a good grasp of seiðr. Come now, show it to Amma? Amma will guide Loé with making the details if Loé hasn’t yet learnt how to do it; do not worry about that. Now come… make a cup for Loé’s own use? Or maybe just for display?”

 

The coaxing tone, free of any patronisation or mockery or scepticism, throws Loki back just as his current placement in his captor’s lap does.

 

A chunk of brown-grey stone, big for him but pretty small for his captor, sits innocently before them on the “small” table that his captor has dragged to the edge of the pit of pillows and furs, ready to be manipulated with the aforementioned skill. But, compared to the other aspects of this surreal déjà vu moment, this part is familiar. None of his previous tutors have ever cuddled him while making the request for a seiðr display, otherwise, nor have they been so warmly, hopefully encouraging without straying to more negative tones, so the surreality is still the dominant factor.

 

And it bleeds into the design of the requested water repository, to his captor’s sorrow, instead of indignance or scorn or discomfiture.

 

Surreal, indeed.

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Languid heaviness of muscles from vigorous use of seiðr and/or physical exercion is rarely paired with comfort, in Loki’s experience so far. But, yet again, this time is different. He has been consuming more of the so-called iced milk in-between ventures into various forms of art, although his body can sadly not likewise venture out of the ring of his captor’s arms. And, just like the one time before, lethargy creeps on him like a cosy blanket.

 

If he is not careful, he could so easily get addicted to this treatment, as smothering and strange as it often is…. `I must escape soon, or I will never do so.`

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The field below the balcony is a sea of blue, surging and undulating beneath the silvery light raining down from the expanse of cloudless sky. Loki’s captor talks and talks and talks, passionately for once, tinged sharply with anger, with Loki himself still held captive in their arms.

 

And then he is lifted high by his waist like a trophy won in a competition, and a roar builds up from below, leading into a tumultuous breakage on the castle walls that rings in his very bones. Various chants sputter like sprays afterwards, then solidify into yet another build-up, until he can clearly hear what is being roared to the heavens – or maybe to him – despite his total unfamiliarity of the language used: “Áðkonnar Loptr.”

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In Asgard, Loki was – is – famous… or probably infamous… for his seiðr workings. It becomes his only comfort now, when he is paraded around, fawned on and praised as though he were this realm’s version of Thor, if younger and maybe more delicate – as the body language and expressions of those blue monsters seem to suggest. He gives out fist-sized stones, carved into abstract sculptures by his seiðr right on the spot, in order to shut up and get rid of the more adoring audience, to show them that they are fawning over the wrong person: a weakling seiðrmandr.

 

But then, somehow, he gets gushed on more instead, to the delight of his “Amma.”

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Loki has been dining on milk for however long he has been trapped in this confusing, alien, supposedly wretched place. But right now, his captor seems to think that he is ready to be introduced to solids. There is a flattish stone container before him, at any rate, filled with a healthy mound of little, round, purple, aromatic things that might be fruit, or maybe some kind of vegetable. He is much more interested in the container itself than the meal, however.

 

Deeply, delicately, complicatedly carved, with artistically uneven rim, but with none of the sharpness he would expect from such sculpture: it is a work of art, not anything supposed for eating!

 

To think that, according to his captor, this is a gift for him from his “Amma,” to do as he wishes….

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Asgard in summer is a place of hot, shimmering air and hot, blinding light, especially in Gladsheim, where Loki and his family lived – no, live. Its people, with colours representing the summer itself, are ruddy-cheeked and more spirited in it than in any other seasons, adding to the overabundance of heat that scorches down to one's bones.

 

Loki was in fact thinking of – longing for – a cooler place to visit amidst such season in Asgard – at home – when he was casting that spell from that wretched travelling book. Not that he would like to come here, though. That stupid, stupid spell.

 

However, he cannot deny that the lack of heat is very, very gratifying, especially coupled with this cool, soft bed and its cool, soft pillows….

 

And the cool, all-too-familiar, all-too-cosy body wrapped round him…, too.

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Having only ever seen the jötnar on a few pictures, on a couple of wartime manuscripts at that, all that Loki knows about the said giant blue brutes are how scantily they dress and how hairless they seem to be. But naturally hairless people cannot possibly know how to style one’s hair and do it well, can they? And for a folk who is terribly fond of donning just a loincloth for all occasions, somebody has made him a very, very pretty – if rather sheer – silken attire, looking suspiciously like a girl’s gown but beautiful nonetheless in its unadorned simplicity.

 

Clad in this delicate white robe, with a circlet of colourful small crystals tastefully braided into his otherwise flowing hair, he feels most like a prince, if a young and delicate one at that. He does not miss all the heavily brocaded, constricting, itchy layers required for an Asgardian prince and the heavy crownlet with its large, gaudy jewels.

 

Ironic, he thinks, that for a people who claims to be foremost in all things beautiful and strong, the æsir come out… less.

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For one who seems to be the leader of all the frost giants, Loki’s “Amma” seems to be pretty fond of nooks that neither Odin nor Frigga would visit in a thousand millennia. Right now, for example, they are back in the kitchen, partaking on some kind of somewhat savoury soup from the same huge bowl, with him still entrapped in his captor’s lap, and with the said captor chatting amicably with the kitchen staff in a language untranslatable by Allspeak that he is yet to learn.

 

To think that they have just been from what may be the throneroom, after long hours of audience with various frost giants, and his “Amma” was the King – or Queen? – there….

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Beholding the non-tumultuous outside world for the first time in this place during his captivity, Loki longs to run run run run.

 

A thick-seeming blanket of snow on the rugged surface of the land below greets him from outside of the large window – one of several in the room – that is finally opened by his captor. The air is brisk and damp and earthy and so inviting, and the seven-hundred-year-old finds himself scrambling up the windowsill, about to join the world at large.

 

The whine that escapes his mouth as his captor catches him round the middle, before he can tip out of the window, is loud and heart-broken and the first real complaint he dares utter in the presence of the frost giant, however unintentional it is.

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Being proffered a naked, milk-heavy breast when one complains about thirst is still a brand-new, freaky experience for Loki, even now, even after several times experiencing it beforehand. – He is seven hundred, not seven! And yet, his “Amma” is one clever beast who refuses to provide him with any other kind of drinkable thing or any other way of drinking it.

 

He cannot deny that a jötun’s milk is somehow addictively awesome, both in texture and taste, but the way he must get it, it is so…. It is too…. It is…!

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The longer the regular audience in the throneroom goes on, the more apparent it is that something has… shifted, for lack of a better word, making it decidedly irregular.

 

Loki, once more trapped in his captor’s lap in a set of light, shimmering, nearly transparent strips of fabric mascarading as decent clothing, notices that the supplicants have increasingly been far better mannered, far better clothed, and far too interested in him. His “Amma” seems to notice the same thing at the same time, for they stiffen and almost immediately warn those who seek audience with them not to gawk at him. Or at least it is what he thinks they say, in that language untranslatable by Allspeak. And, apparently, there is some serious threat slipped in the terse, somehow protective-flavoured command, for the courtiers mascarading as common supplicants either hastily excuse themselves from the throng or straighten up and look anywhere but the… throne? Ice chair?

 

In any case, the guilty party look so much like chastised children that Loki has to stifle giggles with all his might.

 

But, well, then he overhears his “Amma” grumbling in a tone scarily similar to that commonly taken up by mothers on the streets of Gladsheim, when castigating the honour and decency of men who dare gawk at their almost-of-age daughters…. He cannot help it!

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“Ah, why would Loé cover this lovely hair? Amma could arrange Loé’s hair to look as if Loé were wearing a head-cover. Would Loé like that instead?” the huge jötun gripes rather playfully in their next bath session, which is far sooner than the habit of most Asgardians. Loki, feeling bold and subsequently trying to test his boundaries, objects strenuously to that, with inane reasons that are nonetheless delivered impeccably.

 

And, wonder of all wonders, despite the apprehension he’s been having about this small act of rebellion, his captor gives in, chucklingly at that.

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The strange bit of leather, as large as an expansive bedsheet for Loki but perhaps just a cosily sized blanket for his captor, lies underneath much of the layers that make up the bedding he and the apparently not-so-huge jötun have been occupying these however-many days, as if hidden away by purpose. The sadly yet-entrapped Odinson discovers it as he burrows deep into the bedding, desperately trying to escape yet another nursing session with “Amma.” It makes the dreaded yet awaited humiliating torture fly out of his mind, with how alien it looks and feels: one of the few things in this bleak realm that is not coloured either blue, grey, black, silvery white, purple or red; striped with some broad, some narrow streaky patterns of mossy green; thick and durable but as soft as calf-skin and just as tensile; and, above all, somehow feeling like something he should have known quite a long time ago.

 

The stricken look his pursuer gives him, upon uncovering his hideout and finding him wrapped in the aforementioned bit of leather, makes the nursing session totally forgotten, in turn, by both of them. And it is also then that he learns about… his sire?

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“Loé, these are your kin-siblings, older than you are by each a kraði, “Amma” says, and, perched once more in their arms, Loki has no other choice but to look at the two frost giants standing rather awkwardly before both of them, who look younger and smaller than his captor is by a good degree.

 

In fact, seated so high like this, he istaller than the aforementioned duo are in a way, and he cannot help the thrill of excitement that suffuses a juvenile part of his heart on that realisation.

 

The concept of any kind of siblinghood that he might share with these brutes is riddiculous, bizarre and unsettling; nearly as much as the idea of having “Amma” as a parent figure for him is, or the notion that his sire is implied to have been a jötun – a bigger jötun than “Amma” is. But still, however brutish the duo look, and however guarded they are behaving at present, they do look somehow gentler than Thor has ever regarded him in the latter’s most caring mood; without any whiff of I-am-deigning-to-speak-to-you-now-you-tiny-delicate-creature-so-you-had-best-behave-yourself air that he has always despised from many, many people in Asgard including his own brother, at that.

 

So, when “Amma” orders the three of them to spend time together and provides them with a huge mound of pristine snow to play with….

 

Well, he would like to see whether these purported family members of his will be as mad as Thor usually is when met with a faceful of snow, in the least.

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The jötun, an ambassador from “the southern plains,” far too large and far too persistent in pursuing “Loptr Laufey-childe” and far too flabbergasting in their not-so-secret political views and their desire to enter a marriage with him in the future, turns various shades of blue and purple and white within moments of their far smaller, possibly far younger, and definitely far too vexed target speaking.

 

Deceptively sincere tones mask so many barbs and pieces of sarcasm that Helblindi, Loki’s self-claimed eldest kin-sibling, can be heard stifling snickers. Fortunately, he doubts the jötun he is abrading might here, as he is – just as unfortunately – trapped high up in Helblindi’s arms at present. “Amma” might have to be involved, if not, as Odin-King and/or Frigga-Queen had to in Asgard, when people complained to either or both of them for the sharp wit and barbed jokes of the one that they secretly called “that little, ergi blighter.” And Loki would rather avoid that, since… their? Her? His?… one instance of disappointment, when he was caught trying to run away yesterday as neither of his “family” was watching, apparently stung worsed than Odin’s and Frigga’s combined. He blames the odd link he seems to be having with… well… her, which has apparently always been there but got rekindled from its dormancy some time after he had plopped into her lap like a piece of fruit thrown by a careless child; but still.

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If he could choose, Loki would rather be punished as is in the custom of his parents; even Odin’s version of it. Then again, if he could choose, he would rather suffer the ambassador’s advances and bring the matter to his “Amma,” as belatedly – unfairly, he thinks – pointed out after she received the report about his encounter with the said ambassador from an amused Helblindi, so as to avoid the punishment altogether.

 

Hindsight is the clearest sight of all, truly. Because, ever since that encounter and promised to last for an indefinite length of time, he is to be escorted wherever by his “Amma” or a trusted underling of hers, who is also promised to be “firmer” to him in regards to discipline and courtesy even to a person he despises. And he thought being left alone only when he is within sight of his “Amma” or in the bedroom they have been sharing – locked, of course – was quite bad already!

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All kinds of pleading and bribery refuse to work on “Amma,” whom the jötnar largely call “Konnar” or “Ðolakonnar,” whom Helblindi and Býleistr their younger “womb-sibling” largely call “Abý,” and whom some elements secretly call “Laufey” in a cursing tone. Loki has not expected any of his efforts to bear fruit, true, since neither of his parents – his true parents in Asgard – could be dissuaded to lower or even negate his punishments once they were set, but… well… still. Given how indulgent “Amma” had previously been to him, he thought….

 

No matter, though. Leí – as Býleistr prefers to be called – has told him about the ventures “Amma” still conducts to Midgard to help support their lives, and there is one piece of Midgardian food she so likes to indulge in.

 

It will not be easy to create a small cake moulded in a cup from scratch, especially when he does not really know how it truly looks or tastes, and given the fact that many – if not all – of the ingredients must be replaced anyway, but Loki Odinson is nothing if not persistent. Life in Asgard has taught him to be so, and apparently it applies here, as well.

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Loki cannot help squealing – no no, yelling in fright – when, as payment for his cake-in-a-cup present to “Amma,” she brings him to the ingredient kitchen and plops him bodily – as if just another ingredient – into a very big, very alive thing that is floating lazily in a huge tub of unfrozen water. It looks like a pair of decorative, elongated, flattish bowls that are hinged on one side and can flap somewhat like a flying insect’s wings, if quite slowly. And it is about to fall shut like a mouth with him still inside of it. So of course he… yelps… and frantically tries to escape, even by leaping into his captor’s arms, who began this torment in the first place.

 

And all that, apparently, just to stop him trying to get out of his due punishment, especially by bribery, as “Amma” then explains, while they dine on the soft, somewhat slippery, somewhat gummy flesh of the very thing that has just frightened him so.

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“You will be in trouble again,” Helblindi – or Dié, rather – points out, after not managing to convince Loki not to proceed with what he is about to do for the sake of not getting other people in trouble. But to this argument, Loki gives the same answer, namely nothing; and of course, he keeps going with his preparations.

 

And in short, reluctantly accompanied by his purported siblings – although he is still very much in firm denial about this ludicrous notion – and also by Slúða his captor-assigned minder, amidst a gently falling snow, he begins to explore the cliff to the west of his huge, baffling – in more ways than three – prison; by climbing it, of course, with the aid of a crude harness , a pickaxe, and his own – or rather, this monstrous, hideous form’s – detestable claws.

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“Amma” is fed up with her little prisoner’s continued defiance, with his continued escapism, with his continued reluctance to do anything with her or the others or this land, apparently. But not in a thousand millennia would Loki have guessed about what has actually made her so upset.

 

Or rather, he could guess, and he did guess, but all those guesses have been thrown out of the figurative window the moment she talks. And what a concept!

 

Him, her only surviving womb-child? Him, her only viable heir to the throne? Him, Loki, the second prince, the spare child, the ergi trickster, the delicate would-be warrior, the pretty boy, the “bookish little cub,” the unmanly seiðr-worker, a crown prince?!! Future ruler of a realm that would accept him???

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Boluðúrna, called Bolthorn in Asgard, the sire of Laufey (“Amma”) and Bestla (her elder womb-sibling, mother of Odin Borson), is old, judging from the somewhat papery feel of… their… skin, and the look in their eyes, and their even-more-gravelly-than-an-adult-jötun voice, but they don’t look it, at all.

 

Some whisper that their seiðr (called “elða,” here) were wounded severely during the abrupt uprooting of the Anchor (the Casket of Ancient Winters) during the end of the war with Asgard (an invasion, people here call it), as they were building up a massive Working to shield a whole village from the æsir at that time, and they were subsequently incapasitated for centuries, but they don’t look it, either.

 

When Loki blatantly asked them, in the “family dinner” just now, they said that they are fifteen-millennia-and-four-centuries-old. But he doubts it.

 

One does not reach fifteen millennia in Asgard while still being able to swing and swoop a hapless seven-century-old – not even a baby! – round and round. In fact, people of that age are supposed to be… very, very, very old… or dead!

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Stuck on the top of a flight of stairs, Loki glares down at it, with so much heat that would have melted that pesky patch out of the way if mere wishes could have ever come true. Built for giant feet, and lacking any kind of railing as in other stairs round here (so forget one ever made specific to his height), the giant and giantly spaced steps could pose a real danger to his bones if he dared try navigating down them on his own. He was usually carried like a toddler in places like this; or went down on a temporary slide he fashioned himself with his seiðr, actually, but that is toddler-like, as well, and, since he got treated like a little child by his purported grandparent last… morning? Afternoon? Evening?… well, last time, he is determined to behave his age – his real age, as acknowledged in Asgard, not here.

 

In Asgard, as a prince of the realm, he could lead a company of soldiers in three more centuries, and, right now, he is already eligible to lead a battle group. Mere flights of stairs will not defeat him.

 

So, here and now, with grim focus and tenacity, utilising the very, very rare chance of being left alone such as at present, he builds a permanent addition to the side of the stairs using the water that he gathers from the air round him, packs into blocks of ice, then sticks and fuses with one edge of the stairs, all with his own seiðr. The railing comes next, of course, fashioned similarly and on his height. And then off he goes, down the stairs of his own making, carefully leaning on the brand-new railing since his head feels a little woozy from the intense seiðr-work and concentration….

 

Only to realise that his “Amma” has been there the whole time, as that woman reveals herself once he is safely at the bottom. So humiliating!

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Taverns in Jötunheim – or maybe just here, most likely in Útgarð, given how Laufey is here – are strange, Loki decides. Or at least, the one that he has managed to slip into after ditching his “family” and guards is.

 

The main room is… clean, and not packed with people, drunken or not, and the things that people order for are not all drinks – or alcoholic drinks, for that matter – and… well, with how hideous the jötnar are, there cannot possibly be any tavern wenches around, right?

 

He scrunches up his nose. He must remember: He is in the body of a jötun, now, as distasteful as it sounds – and, apparently, looks, too, from what he observes thus far. He must find a way to change back to his æsir form and go home.

 

But firstly, he is going to sample what kind of alcoholic beverage that might be offered in this place. In Asgard – at home – he had – has – no taste for the ale and meed offered in the taverns, which Thor introduced to him after his first successful command of a battle group in a war game, or the overly sweet red wine that accompanies Asgardian meaty fare. `That yellow thing in that crystal tankard smells nice….`

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“Loé,” Laufey begins, but then stops, sighs, and closes her eyes.

 

Loki refuses to feel guilty or, Norns forbid, sympathise with her. He did no wrong by going to that odd tavern and trying to sample some alcoholic beverage. He did not even manage to do the latter before Laufey herself marched into that place, shocking all the occupants in it including Loki, and marched back out without a word while dragging him by the ear. He is seven centuries old! If he is old enough to lead soldiers, then he is old enough to drink with them, and he is not going to budge on that point. She is not his mother, besides, so she cannot tell him what to do and how to behave.

 

But then, she changes right before his eyes, shifting into a form much more familiar and palatable to him, with hair the same black as his and eyes just a few shades paler than his and face just a touch different than his, and she looks so tired and heartsick that his caustic rebuttal dies a choked death in his throat. She looks too much like him and so damn sick.

 

Apparently, he is a disappointment everywhere he is.

Chapter Text

The blizzard has just blown away, or so it somehow feels, so Loki, who is even more tightly guarded now, utilises every trick in his repertoire to escape outdoors.

 

In the end, he does not manage to do so without being escorted by his two so-called “kin-siblings;” but, the moment he claps eyes on the main ground of the palace, the irritation vanishes like a sliver of mist in a brisk breeze.

 

It is as if an invisible hand had repainted the scenery, turning it wilder but at once more beautiful – much, much more beautiful.

 

A blanket of pristinely white snow hides any imperfections on the stone layering of the “lawn,” while a coating of blue-green ice clings smoothly to all other structures, including the walls of the palace itself. The sky above seems brighter, also, with the dense bands of stars and star clusters twinkling even more brilliantly than the usual, as if one’s diamond-coated dress had just been polished to a shine.

 

The young ás gapes, and does not even stir when a pair of arms picks him up into a cuddling embrace. Mesmerised as he is, he does not even notice – or care to notice – that he has been avoiding this particular person ever since their last altercation over his visit to the tavern.

Chapter Text

“Do not go outside, Loé.” Helblindi – Dié, the eldest “kin-sibling” – does not even look up from the book they’re reading using a humongous contraption; some kind of reading projector, it seems.

 

“It is the storm season, now,” Býleistr – Leí, the younger one – explains when, practised in ignoring everyone here by now including the both of them, Loki keeps his trajectory to the door to the bedroom, which he now knows as more than just a place for sleeping but also for relaxing, holding family meetings, and even to serve as a makeshift training salle.

 

He tells them and himself that he terribly wishes to see the grounds transformed by the storm again. But, well, really, he can do better by spying on Laufey’s court, for pertinent information that he can bring home to Asgard. These two brutes need not know about that one, though.

 

However, unfortunately for him, Leí has much longer legs than he does, and good reflexes as well despite their size, and he does not manage to evade the pair of claw-tipped hands snagging him away from the door.

Chapter Text

“What is that?” Loki demands in his brattiest voice, hoping that, by annoying his constant minders, they will get fed up and leave him be.

 

Unfortunately for him, Dié, who is in the process of eating some kind of crunchy, dark-green stick the size of his æsir-form’s forearm, just shoves the said stick into his mouth and retracts it only after he has chewed and swallowed a mouthful of the thing, which shockingly tastes like the stalk of some vegetable when eaten raw.

 

“It is just some krachu,” is Leí’s explanation, then, as per usual. “To stave off hunger before a meal. Could be a walking meal, too, if you are in a hurry or in a journey. Usually a parasite on the trunk of a bush or a tree or a ploughed field or – mmh!”

 

The stick has found a new home by force in their mouth, courtesy of a scowling Dié, and their bug-eyed look of surprise and outrage is so comical to Loki that he laughs out loud.

 

He is quick enough, though, this time, and manages to dodge most of the pillows and cushions the irked youngish jötun throws at him. He throws the ammunitions back, albeit to a slightly different target, when the usually silent Dié laments out loud – for once – why Ýmir has given them such pesky younger siblings to care for.

Chapter Text

“Are there storms here?” Loki wheedles in his most innocent tone, as one finger (He tries not to notice the fingerclaw at the end of it, truly he does!) traces the coastline at the end of the continent that bears the capital city of this boring, barbaric, stormy realm, projected on an illusory three-dimensioned map from a strange contraption sitting on the floor by his feet.

 

“Abý won’t let you go anywhere any time soon,” is Dié’s blunt, indifferent answer, without looking up from yet another book.

 

Loki glares at them. He approves of studiousness in people, usually, but now….

 

“I want to see what is a beach here like,” he demands in the bratty tone he used before, admitedly with little to no effect.

 

Sadly, all that that jötun says (still without looking up, although it is the longest and most emotive that Loki has ever heard them say since the beginning of their forced acquaintance) is, “Then you should have considered your behaviour and mannerism more carefully. I and Leí wouldn’t have gotten away with this much without a very, very sound punishment from both of our parents, each time, when we were your age.”

 

He needs no lecture from a barbaric monster of a giant! Worse, there is no Leí to land all his frustration on, seeing that they have been called to have an audience with his captor… and he hasn’t….

 

Damn. He shouldn’t envy anybody for meeting with a frost giant!

Chapter Text

Loki looks uncomprehendingly at the black, huge, somewhat ellastic ball he is supposed to….

 

“What am I supposed to do with this?” he asks in his politest, most mature voice. Considering the fact that it is his pretend childish whinging that has brought him here, to the packed training salle, by force at that (namely by being picked up on Dié’s way out of the… naða – the “family nest” that he once took to be just an ordinary bedroom – as though he were a little child), he figures that an indirect apology might bring him back to the safety of the room they – or rather, Dié – have just stormed out of, away from all the red, glowing eyes from huge, blue monsters that are now locked on him.

 

But, to that, Dié just gives the ball a few lazy nudges with their strong, humongous, long-toed, bare, clawed foot, shifting the looming sphere a few hand’s breadth without much effort, and his heart sinks. His so-called elder sibling wishes him to fail in front of eager audience, apparently. Dié is no different from Thor in a bad – or overly good – day, then.

Chapter Text

The slab of stone is sturdy, even and already rather glossy by nature, in addition to being a nice dark, silvery colour. It is supposed to be somewhere Loki can doodle to his heart’s content, instead of him vandalising the walls of the naða or other, “even less acceptable” places. Leí gave it to him just now, before they and Dié  left him here to fulfill their own errands, after they had caught him trying to doodle on one of their spare loincloths.

 

But maybe, he could make it serve a better purpose than such a childish passtime he has recently resorted to doing.

 

So, with that in mind, he carefully begins to work, carving delicate things on the surface of the slab with a tendral of his seiðr;something that will never be achievable otherwise, especially by the current available technologies in all the Nine Realms. Once done, and after fashioning a pair of – stylish, if he says so himself – stone handles from a stray stick lying in a dusty corner with some intermediate-level alchemy, he sneaks to the kitchens. Figuring where the meal that is intended for the Monarch is prepared (by asking some hopefully unintrusive questions to the kitchen staff), he replaces the tray that is supposed to serve it with the one of his own making. “Do not tell anybody!” is what he last says, before making his succuitus way to the training salle, hoping he will be able to blend in among such multitude of jötnar and avoid being caged in the naða for the far foreseeable future for this latest semi-successful escape of his.

Chapter Text

Running and leaping and shooting and sliding and slipping through throngs of fighters training on their own specialties is familiar and, in a way, peaceful. A fierce grin never leaves Loki’s face as he moves and shoots out blobs of coloured seiðr at random targets, both delighted and terrified with the full knowledge that he is antagonising not the familiar, nearly-of-a-height Asgardian warriors at home, but frost giants in their own land, in their own place. The experience is made more delicious by the evident lack of any keeper and/or watcher scrutinising his every move, his every word, his every perceived intention. The sudden squawking, clinking, clattering, crashing and thumping sounds that he causes just egg him to new heights of creativity and agility in tagging his targets.

 

Shockingly – and shockingly delightful – though, instead of just raging at the invisible disturber to their serious training schedules and routines and/or retaliating with the weapons they’ve got in hand, the jötnar retaliate in kind, with no-less-colourful blobs of seiðr and even some that follow him wherever he goes!

Chapter Text

It is rather unsurprising, somehow, that the one that is most irate with Loki’s unplanned, simple, simply chaotic, childish prank is themself a child, judging from the height, and also the lack of craggy face and rumbly voice.

 

Getting a face full of neon-green blob of coloured seiðr, they squeal and promptly give him a hot chase, pelting him with spheres of hot water all the while, abandoning their target-shooting post by doing that.

Chapter Text

The offended jötun child turns out to be the spawn of Laufey’s state secretary.

 

Loki finds it out when, still neon-green-faced, scowling fiercely and spewing what must be swearwords in the pesky language these sly brutes like to use instead of anything translatable by Allspeak, they manage to drive him outside of the training salle and into a huge room where the dam is sitting with Laufey.

 

“Álti!” the said dam, introduced to him just some time ago by Dié and their younger sibling, squawks; and the exasperated, scandalised, reluctantly fond tone feels so familiar, to Loki’s perturbation.

 

It makes him miss Frigga, and… well….

 

He surreptitiously glances at the other jötun seated on the other side of the huge stone desk. Laufey is reading the holographic projection on the surface of the said desk from the large, bulky, complicated version of Dié’s usual reading machine, apparently, and not looking back at him in any way.

 

His heart twinges. – But is it not what he wishes? Not treated like a child? Not getting reprimanded as though she were his mother? Not getting touched by a frost giant? Not getting entangled with the ultimate leader of the frost giants?

 

But when, after berating the child severely, the State Secretary gets rid of the neon-green seiðr paint and picks the maybe-named Álti up into their arms, Loki discards all pretences of a blasé attitude and hastily excuses himself in a mumble.

 

Before he can turn round and flee the awkward scene and atmosphere in the room, however, Laufey stands up, gives instructions to the state-official-turned-mother from the sounds of it, and mimicks the latter with him as the victim as though it were the most natural thing in the universe. He gets casually kissed on the head, even!

Chapter Text

Laufey seems to take Loki being driven into the room where she and her glorified secretary was gathered as permission – or maybe some sign? – to get close to the latter again.

 

A part of the hapless ás (And he is not going to think about himself as anything else, no he is not!) relishes the gentle, affectionate physical closeness and oft undivided attention; however, another part of him – a much bigger part, he’d like to think so – feels even more caged than before.

 

Álti, who turns out to be indeed the child – the last child, in fact – of the state Secretary, is now his ally – temporary, he hopes – in getting himself further away again from her. Seeing that messing up with the foodstuff to embarrass and/or infuriate Laufey is out of the question, though, since he does not wish to starve should the stock he would use turn out to be the last or should the kitchen staff get angry with him, they have to improvise.

 

So, shortly before Laufey is to have her regular audience with the masses, they brew up a concoction that mimics the smell, colouring and consistancy of a fruit jam but much, much more sticky and slather it on the seat and back of the throne. Then it is Loki’s job to layer some undetectable seiðrwork over the whole mess to cover it up from anyone’s perception.

 

They hide at the very back of the throng of supplicants to watch, and… well….

 

Loki can only rue and gribe about that childish, emotional, touchy brat’s overexultance on the success of their joint venture.

Chapter Text

Loki would rather take being sent to bed without meals, imprisoned in the naða without any company or any way to amuse himself, or even imprisoned in a real cell in a real prison. This punishment is humiliating.

 

What is the use of him drawing about himself, if not to humiliate him? He is not that vein, to be fond of portraying himself in every occasion. He is not that good in sketching people, at that. And there is also the matter of his currently blue skin and red eyes and stupid, barbaric, scar-like silvery markings. He is not going to sketch himself being a jötun!

 

Even worse, he must endure the punishment while sitting in Laufey’s lap in front of all those jötnar, as she is resuming the rest of the audience.

 

Damn her shrewdness and cruelty, damn álti’s overexcitement and big mouth, damn him for recruiting that child in the first place and unable to escape his current predicament….

 

And damn Dié and Leí for laughing at him from the sidelines.

 

No, no, he is not going to have anything to do with these creatures. If he must demean himself like this, by the Norns, he will have his own choice on how he is going to do it, and he refuses to draw himself as other than an ás.

Chapter Text

Despite telling himself over and over again that nobody else’s opinion here is above his own, Loki still finds his heart pounding as Laufey looks down on his finished drawing – with strange, oily coloured inks seeping out of pen-like tubes with variously shaped heads, on a thin but sturdy chalk-white slate – and scrutinises it wordlessly.

 

There are only the two of them here in the naða, the audience has been concluded for the day some time ago, and Laufey does not seem to have any other pressing matter to attend to.

 

And Loki wishes – very, very, very much – that it were otherwise.

 

He should not feel this jittery! What is wrong with him? Laufey’s regard should mean nothing to him! It is Odin’s and Frigga’s that should matter, never Laufey.

 

But still, when those solemn, unreadable, monstrous red eyes are finally lifted up from the damning slate and trained right into his own monstrous eyes, he cannot help but swallow and ever-so-slightly curl into himself.

 

Shockingly, incredibly, disbelievingly, he feels his eyes prickling with wet chill that feels uncomfortably much like heat when he notices an unfeigned something in those alien, unnaturally coloured orbs that looks suspiciously like raw grief; damning, without damning him.

 

The wet, burning chill transforms into water droplets when their owner then transforms smoothly into their… æsir?… form, without breaking eye contact with him, and gently takes his hand – his own greyish blue, white-marked, black-claw-tipped hand – into her own – so familiar, like Frigga’s – white, smooth, warm, pinkish-nail-tipped hand; without hesitation, without reservation, as gently as before, and….

 

Whether in this form or your true one, you remain my child, Loptr, child of Laufey, called Loki Odinson in Asgard. Or do you think that all who call themselves Asgardian are purely æsir?” she murmurs, with a sad smile on her face and in her voice.

 

Still in the same form but without a word, she props the slate with the drawing on it on the desk among her other cluttery little treasures, and, as if nothing but a breezy, casual conversation had occurred between them, wanders away to what he figures as her study nook in the multifunction room.

 

Left alone, Loki weeps bitterly under a mountain of blankets and pillows that nonetheless fails to smother him.

Chapter Text

Loki glares at the various virtual books open before him, projected on the wall of the naða that is indeed meant for such function.

 

The facts – as the jötnar view it – glare back at him.

 

The skin he has known all his life and believed to be his is actually an evolution of the jötnar millennia ago, grown and honed and perfected through generations and meant to facilitate their survival in “hot-weather” climates and places. More than a few of the jötnar have long been explorers to the other places in the Nine Realms and beyond for various reasons and breeding with the natives. There were three factions to the war at the end of which Loki was born. The family tree of Laufey’s bloodline shows Bestla, Cúl, Vili, Vé and Voðen on the line of inheritance right beside and tied to Laufey’s own line, which shows Loptr and Loki under her name.

 

They are connected to each other, he knows; Dié would not basically shove these seemingly unconnected tomes at him after Laufey suddenly stormed out of the room some time ago; but he refuses to delve further into what he might find in conclusion to all this.

 

Instead, he busies himself washing his hands with a bar of soap in the cleaning area of the naða, desperately trying to get rid of what he knows he cannot get rid of.

Chapter Text

“Not even Amma could hurt Abý that much, you know, and they led one of the opposing factions in the war, in addition to being Abí’s spouse at that time,” Leí says dryly as they drag away Loki from the basin (which is now opaque and bubbly with soap-suds and soap-oil) by the elbow (since his hands have been scrubbed raw a long time ago). “Can you not just be glad that you have a mother who loves you so? You were more amenable to them, before they told you who you are. What changed, Loí?”

 

But to that honest, accurate observation, if gently spoken, Loki can only open and close his mouth. No sound escapes him, still, even after many tries and a lot of effort, while Leí leads him to the middle of the pile of blankets and pillows that is usually occupied by him and Laufey.

 

The most that he can say, after all that, is ironically: “Don’t leave me here.”

Chapter Text

“May I go to the library?”
“May Loé go to the library.”
Loki frowns, trying not to scowl.

 

“Well, may Loé go to the library, then?”
“Yes.”

 

“May Loé go outside?”
“Where.”

 

“The city.”
"No."

 

“Please?”
“No.”

 

“May Loé go to the kitchen?”
“No.”
Loki fidgets, and now focuses all his might on not scowling.

 

“Why? You – all right, all right, Amma – allowed… Loé to go there, last time.”
“What did Loé do last time.”

 

“Well…. I – Loé – promise it won’t happen again?”
“No.”

 

Loki breaks first.

 

“Why are you suddenly so cold and distant to me?! Isn’t this what you want?”

 

But to that, Laufey only stares back impassively at him.

Chapter Text

Leí, after lots of cajoling and bribery from treats smuggled from the kitchen, courtesy of Loki’s knack for sneaking around, finally told the latter about the tunnels criss-crossing the underlay of the palace, which is – surprisingly, different from accounts kept in Asgard – more like a small, semi-underground town than a big house.

 

Dié, after a period of nagging longer than Leí’s bribery had been, partly because Loki had tried to bribe them also without any avail, at last agreed to lead him to one of the shortest tunnel leading outside that has the easiest access and route.

 

But now, as he – all alone – tries to navigate the tunnel on all-fours with slow, struggling success and lots of effort, he begins to regret trying to escape the palace – and maybe Jötunheim proper – this way. He never thought there could be any tunnel this low and narrow and fiddly and disorienting anywhere in this land of giants!

 

Worse, then sensations of disembodied hands ghosting over his bare legs and equally bare arms begin to bombard him, with no seiðrwork to be sensed all along.

 

He stops moving when the sounds of æsir dying brutally begin to reach his ears, although his eyes, already seeing no light since almost right after the start of the journey, do not catch any shred of light still, and his nose does not catch any whiff of blood.

 

`It is just an illusion,` he tells himself. But still, he curls up tightly into a ball and tries to constrain his frightened wail to the confines of his head.

 

Yet when a pair of real arms pick him up, he does wail, loudly.

Chapter Text

A scene plays before Loki’s eyes, overly bright after the lengthy, total darkness of his previous surrounding. It seems so real, albeit quite incongruous, as he knows that arms are wound tightly round him, and yet he witnesses nobody hugging him. There are only the clashes and screams of battle all round him, and the sensation of thumping heart and flying legs of his own, which is mostly drowned beneath acute fear of his own life and his little sibling and his unborn littlest siblings. His abý is running fast and fighting ferociously beside him, against a pack of those stinking æsir midgets, trying to defend them all – including that half-apparent rounded bulge on their belly. But then one of the æsir pigs bashes Abý’s belly with a spiky club and Abý is screaming and crunch goes the whole arm of the pig by Cousin Féna’s doing and little babies are screaming and Leí is running with the elder one and Amma’s henchpeople want the life of the younger one in exchange for Abý’s and… and… and… and…!