Eleven Years Ago…
“So,” Loki of Asgard drawled, looking supremely bored with the whole thing, “you’re the infamous Dark One.” One side of his mouth quirked upward in a knowing smirk. “You certainly don’t look like much, I have to say.”
The Void Wizard said nothing. Because Loki’s words meant nothing more than an attempt to rile him up, to get under his skin, to throw him off before the duel to come.
The Dark One was anger and hate, fire and fury. This pissant meant nothing to him, and he would gladly destroy Loki to get the Hawk back.
Loki had taken Clint Barton. Clint belonged to the Dark One. And no one stole from him and lived to tell the tale.
When the Widow had come to him and Marcus, where they’d been laying low in Barony Great Lakes after returning to the Western Lands after the razing of Buda-Pest, telling them the tale of their run-in with Loki of Asgard and how the Wizard had used magic to subvert the Hawk to his will, the Dark One had been so very incensed…even more so than usual, because Clint meant something to him, something that he would never admit to.
The Dark One didn’t love. He didn’t deserve to love, and be loved in return.
He’d wanted to track down Loki immediately, but Marcus’ cooler head had prevailed. The Widow had gone ahead in order to find Clint among Loki’s sycophants, while Marcus had decided they’d needed to scope out the extent of the mad Asgardian’s forces. The Dark One had recognized them immediately as the Chitauri, an ancient race of demons that had been distantly related to the Nameless Demons that had once descended upon the United Kingdom over a thousand years ago, and just as deadly. How Loki had managed to call them up, the Dark One couldn’t say, but if he set them against the armies of the Western Lands, it could have very well been a disaster.
Not that the Dark One was necessarily patriotic. No, he only wanted what he’d claimed as his. And this trumped-up would-be invader wasn’t going to stand in his way.
Taking a good long look at his opponent, the Dark One could see the Void swirling about him, and it was obvious that he wasn’t nearly as strong as the Dark One. He could take the Asgardian easily, he was certain of that.
It was the spear that Loki had that was worrying.
It was silver metal, a little shorter than a traditional spear, with a curved blade that reminded the Dark One of a halberd point. There was a gemstone mounted just under the base of the blade, and it glowed blue, obviously magical, and yet it wasn’t any sort of magic the Dark One had ever seen before. It wasn’t Void…but it wasn’t Cardinal or Great, either; its magical aura was faint, as if it was hiding itself from any sort of scrutiny, but the Dark One understood just how powerful that thing was, having seen what it could do to even the strongest minds. He wondered vaguely where Loki had gotten such an Artifact, but then decided it didn’t matter. He was going to take that thing away from its current owner and destroy it.
Loki seemed a little nonplused by the lack of response to his comment, if his fine brows drawing down a little over his nose was any indication. “What…nothing to say?” he pressed, taking a step toward the Dark One.
They had come across each other in this small town in Barony Shandling; he didn’t even know the name of the place, only that it had been obvious that Loki and his forces had been heading in this direction. Marcus was still out, scouting the territory; the Widow was still attempting to locate the Hawk amid those selfsame forces, hoping to get him out and then find a way to break the spell that Loki had put him under.
That had left him to face Loki in a duel of magic.
Not that the Dark One cared. He wanted to end this bastard, the one who’d warped the Hawk to his will. That was inexcusable.
Loki would pay for that outrage.
The Dark One still didn’t speak. He had no reason to. He was here to kill this invader, and that was what he was going to do.
The first spell he cast was Fire.
Loki managed to block it, sending the fireball into the side of a building, which promptly burst into flame.
The Asgardian was grinning as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “Surely you can do better than that,” he taunted once more, lazily spinning the spear in one hand, the other curling into the hand movements of what the Dark One recognized as an Ice Spell, as if Loki was doing whatever was the opposite of what the Dark One had done.
He easily shrugged off the spell. He didn’t even feel cold.
He let a smirk tick his lip upward. He’d wanted to test Loki with that last spell, and he’d watched as the Asgardian’s own magic had reacted, and what he’d seen had been only a little interesting. Loki was confident in his magic, confident enough that he didn’t use a wand, but his connection to the Void wasn’t as strong as the Dark One’s own. It would be easy to tire the Asgardian out, quickly gaining the upper hand.
That was, if the Dark One had any interest in spinning the fight out any longer.
Which he didn’t, as the longer that Clint was under Loki’s thrall, the angrier he became.
The Dark One let out a flurry of spells.
A Stunner, even though he had no reason other than making Loki as helpless as Clint must have been.
The magical strikes forced Loki back on his heels, and he threw up the spear in an attempt to block the spells. For the most part, he managed to do that, but the Brainfire and the Smother spells seemed to take a toll.
The smirk widened into a full-blown smile as the Dark One watched Loki’s reactions. The attack seemed to make the bastard that much angrier, and he sent his own magic against the Dark One… who easily brushed them all aside with just a wave of his hand.
He heard Lola scream in challenge, but he couldn’t let any of his attention waver from his own fight. The Dark One trusted his dragon to take care of business, and focused on Loki solely, Lola’s fierce emotions roaring through the part of his mind that was dedicated to her, and that fierceness buoyed his own.
Loki snarled in frustration, sending more magic after what he’d already cast. Once again, the Dark One deflected it all, not caring that they were doing more damage to the surrounding buildings than to each other. A part of him really did want to spin this out, to make Loki see just how futile challenging him was, but his main thoughts were of the Hawk, still out there and under thrall. If Clint hadn’t been in such immediate danger, the Dark One certainly would have played a little, let Loki believe he was actually getting somewhere. But that wasn’t going to be the case now.
It was time to end it.
The Dark One pulled the Void around him, summoning it to him as easily as he could breathe. He could see Loki’s eyes widening in surprise as he must have seen the power that the Dark One could control; the Asgardian waved a hand, barked a single word.
It was a Blinding spell.
For the most part, the Dark One was able to block it. However, for an instant he was blinded, and he blinked quickly to dispel the spots in front of his eyes. It only took a heartbeat, and Loki hadn’t moved, so he snarled and readied one of the many killing curses he knew, to hurl at the bastard in front of him.
There was a sudden pressure in his chest.
The Dark One glanced downward.
The tip of Loki’s magical spear was protruding from his chest.
The image of the Asgardian in front of him wavered like smoke, vanishing on the wind.
It had been an illusion, the Blinding spell a cover in order to cast it.
Loki had then gotten behind him.
The Dark One felt his heart begin to stutter in his chest, pierced as it was by that awful metal spear. His breath caught, the sudden wave of pain making it impossible to get his lungs to move. He could feel warm air on his cheek as Loki leaned in. “I have been gifted with glorious purpose,” he whispered in his ear. “And you are not going to stop me.”
“You’ll…fail…” the Dark One managed to get out, even as he was sliding off the spear’s tip and falling to the ground.
Loki leaned over him, his faced twisted darkly. “Seems as if I have already succeeded.”
The Void began to encroach in his eyesight, coming to finally claim him. In that moment, the Dark One felt at peace, knowing his struggle was over, that the fear and anger and hatred that had long fueled his need to destroy was fading away with his life’s blood. He could finally rest.
There was one thing he wanted to do.
With his last breath, he let loose his final curse, the blast catching Loki in the chest and sending him flying backward.
As the Void came for him, the man who’d been born Phillip J. Coulson sent up a prayer to the Gods he wasn’t so sure he believed in anymore that Natasha would succeed, that she’d find Clint and bring him back.
The Void was calm.
The Void was peace.
The Void sang to him.
And then, after a passing of time, the Void kicked him right back out again.
Only, he could not remember actually dying.