Once upon a time there was a Prince of Asgard, second son of Odin, known as Loki, God of Mischief. Though sometimes overshadowed by his older brother, Thor, Loki was content with his life as a Gifted Magician and Prince. Until one day he discovered everything he thought was true was a lie . . .
Loki stared down at his arm in horror. The skin had turned blue after he had touched the Cask of Ancient Winters, the Jotun artifact in Asgard's vault. "What is happening to me?" he hissed, fear tinging his tone and skittering down his backbone. "Am I cursed?" He jerked his hand back, but the skin remained the same.
"Loki," he heard Odin call his name.
Loki spun about to face his father. The aging king, despite his eyepatch, still moved like a warrior, striding into the vault. "Father, what is this?" he asked, holding out his arm.
Odin caught sight of his son's arm and he froze, a look of dread and recognition upon his face that made Loki's blood run cold.
"What sorcery is this?" his son demanded. "You know, don't you?"
"I . . . " the king hesitated for a very long moment, and looked at everything in the room except his son. "I . . . had hoped never to tell you."
"What do you mean?"
Odin went silent, unwilling to reveal what he knew.
A frustrated Loki finally snapped, "TELL ME!"
Odin took a deep breath when he suddenly felt the start of the Odinsleep and prayed to the Norns he wouldn't fall asleep until he explained everything to his son.
"It was the final battle of the war. We had defeated Laufey's armies and I had gone into a temple. I was expecting to find treasure. Instead, I found an infant. He was small. Much too small to be a Frost Giant. He was ill, hungry, cold and scared. I knew he would not last if I left him there. So, not knowing what else to do, I picked him up. As soon as I did, the babe changed his appearance. His skin was no longer blue. His eyes were no longer red. He looked like a normal baby. So, I took him with me."
"Was that babe me?!"
"Yes, it was you."
Loki started pacing. His anger and pain were overwhelming. He had been lied to his entire life. He was something parents told their children stories about so they would behave. He was a monster.
He gazed at the man he had always thought was his father and his eyes flickered from his normal emerald green to a bright crimson. "All this time, I thought I was your son . . . even though sometimes I wondered why I looked nothing like you, or Thor, or Mother. But I was too ashamed to ask. For I feared that I was your byblow, gotten on some other woman. Instead I find out that I am not even Asgardian! I am the monster mothers tell their children about at night! I am a creature that Thor would kill without batting an eyelash. YOU taught him that! Yet you saved me? Why, damn you? WHY?"
Odin shuddered at the raw agony in that plea. "I . . . I thought if I saved you--Laufey's son--that I could raise you here and make peace between our two warring realms."
"I see. So I was the pawn in your game of thrones," Loki declared bitterly. "Once you told me and Thor when we were boys that we were born to be kings--but only one of us could inherit the throne. I didn't understand then what you meant. But now I do. You meant for Thor to become king of Asgard and me, the cast-off reject, to be your puppet king of Jotunheim! How very ingenious!" Loki sneered, his words dripping venom.
"Loki, it wasn't like that--" Odin protested. "You are still a prince--"
"No!" Loki's hand slashed down, the blue skin glittering in the light of the ancient artifact. "I am the prince of nothing! It is all a lie! Laufey threw me away to die! And you picked up a pawn to use in your scheme of houses. And they call me the Trickster? You played the greatest trick of all--upon everyone!"
"Loki, my son--"
"Do not call me that! You are not my father! I have no father! I am no one's son!" Loki howled. "I am the monster of nightmares." Pain erupted within him, a pain so dark and deep he feared he might die of it right then and there.
In the span of a few moments his entire world had collapsed, and he could not even begin to mend what had been shattered. Lies! All lies! I am not a Prince of Asgard! I am nothing but a Jotun beast!
"Loki, listen--" Odin gasped, reaching out for his son as the OdinSleep took him.
Loki stared in horror as the man he called Father crumpled like a paper doll at his feet. "Father!" he cried, unable to stop the habit of a lifetime.
He knelt and felt for a pulse. The king still breathed, but he would not wake. Alarm shot through him. "Guards!" he cried. "Guards!"
Soon three of them came in answer to his summons.
"My Prince, what has happened?"
Loki paused, then gave his last command as the Prince of Asgard. "My father is ill. Please take him to his chambers and call Healer Eir. Quickly!"
The guards leaped to obey and Loki watched as they took Odin away. A part of him knew he should inform Frigga about what had occurred, but another part, the part that still roiled with fury at the deception they had practiced, thought angrily that someone else could inform the woman who was not his mother of her husband's condition. He was done with all of them. They were no longer his family. Families did not keep such horrible secrets from one another, nor make one they claimed to love live a lie until forced to reveal the truth.
Loki took two deep breaths, controlling his anxiety, and slowly the color of his hand faded. He was lucky none of the guards had noticed. Then he spun on his heel and blinked into his quarters. He must pack quickly, and leave before anyone thought to look for him.
For he no longer belonged in Asgard, among the halls of the gods. He was Jotun, and if they ever discovered the truth, his own people would slay him.
He opened his knapsack, which could magically hold whatever he wished inside. He placed his clothing, daggers, armor, and spellbooks and potions within it. He conjured food from the kitchens as well, and added his journals and sketchbooks, his helmet and money had had earned from selling his enchanted items. Then he wrote a letter and left it where Frigga would find it, atop his desk. It said merely, The truth will out. I know who and what I am and I am not and never was your son. I will not stay here and pretend to a title I have no right to. I, Loki Laufeyson, hereby abdicate my title as Prince of Asgard. Find another pawn to use in your game of thrones.
He signed it simply Loki and then pressed his signet to the wax after sealing it in the envelope. He left the signet beside the letter. Then he vanished from the palace.
Down by the docks, he commandeered a small skiff and sailed it through the harbor and down the great river that led to the outlying settlements. Unbeknownst to anyone, on one of his lonely jaunts into the wilderness to fish and find magical herbs, he had discovered a little known secret--that the Bifrost was not the only means into or out of Asgard.
He set the boat on a steady course, the waves gently lapping at the sides as he steered easily towards the sunset--and the Gate that was hidden in a cave beside the river. It took fifteen minutes before he reached the cave, and he beached the boat and hopped out before he sent it back using a spell.
Then he found the Gate and activated it, putting a hand upon its rune covered pillar. "Take me far away from here, to a place where I may live without fear of being hunted, and where men seldom come."
The Gate shimmered and sparked and blue ripples spread out from it. Loki hitched up his pack and leaped through.
He emerged in a peaceful wood, thick with ash, hazel, and stately fir trees. Great oaks stretched to the sky and birds filled the air with their songs. Taking a deep breath, the exiled former prince began walking.
Soon he came to a large castle upon a high cliff. It was abandoned and in need of repair. But Loki's magic could handle that.
Spreading his hands, he chanted a few spells and the magic that was his birthright swirled about the stone edifice and restored it to almost its former glory. Loki entered the castle, finding that his magic had not only restored the masonry and wood, but also supplied it with furniture, tapestries, rugs, and other necessities. There were towels in the bathing rooms, soap, and scrub brushes. The great hall had a huge polished table with two throne like chairs at the head and foot and could seat at least twenty people. It bore colorful banners with Loki's double serpent crest, and the floor was shiny wood. There was a large fireplace crackling in the grate. The room smelled of applewood.
Loki found a room that had a thick carpet upon the floor, three large stuffed armchairs, and bookshelves with lamps upon the tables. He gestured and his spellbooks and other books were situated upon the shelves. He would unpack his potions and equipment tomorrow. He sank into an armchair, feeling utterly weary and sick at heart. There was a soft knitted blanket done in green and gold wool upon the chair back and he pulled it around himself.
Then, surrounded by the familiar smell of leather, parchment, and ink--smells that reminded him of the home he had lost, he put his face in his hands and sobbed bitterly. The sound echoed through the castle, but there was no one to hear, or care, save the wind that blew through the trees. He sat in the chair all night, nursing a throbbing head and an uneasy stomach, his eyes red-rimmed and aching, curled up on the cushion like a lost waif. There was a great gaping hole where his heart used to be, and he did not know if it could ever be mended.
In time, however, he would become used to his lonely exile, and the wood became known as Sorcerer's Wood, and the castle within it the abode of a powerful sorcerer that preferred to be left alone save for a few hardy desperate souls who came and volunteered their services to him.
The wood was almost always cold, frigid like the northern winters in the mountains, and snow and ice usually swathed the trees in a frosty blanket. Only rarely did the seasons change, and legend said the forest was cold like the heart of the sorcerer who lived there, who loved no one and no one loved him.
And those who entered the wood, it was said, never returned.