"Take a look around," Tony challenged. "In case you haven't noticed, you're kinda outnumbered. Give up and spare yourself the humiliation of getting your ass kicked today."
The Avengers had set down to face off with a man dubbed the Menace of Miami who was reportedly in possession of some kind of weapon that rendered people unconscious. Once his victims were down and out, the Menace proceeded to steal everything of value off his victims. More recently he'd taken his gig into banks.
Oddly, there were few details as to the nature of the weapon used.
"I am not out numbered Iron Man. You will not defeat me," the Menace called back across the parking lot in front of his latest target.
"Cripes, is this guy high, or what?" Clint wondered.
They watched as the Menace produced a small object from one of his pockets. It looked like...a rock?
Tony laughed. "Seriously?"
"Go ahead and scoff!" the Menace shouted. "This sacred stone holds the power of the ancient Incan gods."
"Friends of yours?" Clint asked Thor.
Thor shook his head. "I have never made their acquaintance."
Natasha's warning came too late. Before the Avengers could react, the stone suddenly took on a harsh red glow and Menace held it out in their direction.
Natasha, Clint, and Tony dropped to the ground, unconscious. Thor remained on his feet. He looked to his comrades with concern. Once satisfied they still drew breath, he turned his attention to the Menace.
The Menace of Miami visibly gulped. The stone flared red again. He held it out once more, pointing it at Thor.
Thor glared at him. "Perhaps you would be wise to yield to the wisdom of Iron Man and surrender, Man of Menace."
"It's the Menace of Miami! Why won't this thing work! It's supposed to render all but the one who wields it out-cold within a fifty foot radius!"
The stone glowed red. The Menace pointed it.
Thor still stood upright, very much conscious, and starting to look annoyed. Thor crossed the distance between them in four strides, snatched the stone away, and crushed it in his hand. He let the gravel and dust fall to the ground at the Menace's feet.
The Menace of Miami stared at the remains of his weapon. "Cheap piece of shit," he muttered.
"Surrender," Thor ordered.
* * * * *
Steve approached the armoured man known as the Retaliator cautiously, one hand raised in a placating manner as the other held his shield close to his side. "Look, this doesn't have to get any worse. Just put the sword down, okay?"
The Retaliator had been on a one-man, sword swinging rampage for the better part of the week before the Avengers finally caught up to him. He hadn't killed anyone -- yet -- but the property damage was escalating into the millions of dollars as anything he hit with his sword was either destroyed outright or severely damaged. There were sporadic reports of him holding his sword to the throats of his victims demanding confessions to their misdeeds.
"Worse?" the Relatiator replied, sword raised. "How much worse can this foul society be if those who steal and harm with their relentless greed go unchecked?"
"Great," Tony said sarcastically from his position, holding back with Bruce and Thor while Steve tried to talk the guy down. "It's always so much better when they have a cause."
"There are a lot better ways to champion a cause than to run around in a suit of armour waving a sword, destroying things, and threatening people," Bruce said.
"Look," Steve continued. "We can't let you continue with what you've been doing. You have to put the sword down. We can talk more then. I promise I'll listen. But please, put the sword down."
"Very well." And the Retaliator lowered his sword to his side.
Steve took a step towards him.
Bruce raised his eyebrows. "It can't be that easy. Can it?"
"No!" Tony yelled. "Shit! Steve!"
No sooner than the words left Tony's mouth than the Retaliator raised his sword again and swung it hard. Steve got his shield up in time. There was the fierce clang of sword meeting Captain America's shield.
It was followed by the sound of the shield falling to the ground, having been cleaved in two pieces. Steve, now weaponless, jumped back out of the Retaliator's reach.
"You fool! You think your puny shield is any match for the mighty Fragarach! The sword forged by the gods themselves. No armour can stop it!"
The Relaliator raised his sword again and moved in on Steve. Tony surged ahead. Bruce Hulked out.
Thor got there first.
Just as the Retaliator brought his sword down again, Thor threw up his forearm in defence. There was another mighty clang as sword hit the vambrace protecting Thor's arm.
It was followed by the sound of the sword blade falling to the ground in pieces.
The Relaliator was still staring in disbelief at the hilt, all that remained of his broken sword, when the Avengers took him into custody.
* * * * *
"Prepare to meet your deaths, Avengers!"
"Yada, yada. Why do they always have to say shit like that?" Clint complained.
"Please surrender, Ma'am. This isn't going to end the way you want it to," Steve called out to their opponent, standing across from them in the park.
She called herself Eris and thus far had been living up to the namesake as she disrupted power grids, satellite signals, stock exchanges, and governments throughout Europe over the past eight months. Most recently she'd brought her brand of chaos to North America. The Avengers finally caught up to her in a San Francisco park after she'd knocked out the power to much of the downtown and surrounding areas right at the beginning of the rush hour. Eris held at her side a tall staff with a trident at the top. The staff dwarfed all 4'10" of her.
"Ha! You think you can defeat me!" she cackled. "I hold the sacred staff of Poseidon himself. None will ever be able to stand against me. Behold and prepare to meet your doom!"
"For christ sake's, after we arrest this goddess wannabe, can we bust her speech writer, too?" Tony asked. No one answered
Steve clutched his newly repaired shield in front of him. "I thought Poseidon's spear was supposed to bring water and earthquakes?"
"Don't forget horses."
They all stared at Clint. "What?" he said, defensive. "I know stuff too."
"Still, how is she generating all this mayhem with a mythical spear?"
Tony sighed. "Anyone want to guess magic? I guess magic. I hate magic."
Eris shifted her stance to take up the spear in both hands. The Avengers tensed and took up defensive positions, preparing for whatever their opponent was readying to level at them.
And Thor burst out laughing.
Eris gaped at him for a moment before aiming the staff at Thor.
"You dare laugh at the power of Poseidon? You may die first!" She leveled the staff at Thor.
Thor laughed harder.
Eris went purple in face as she shouted at Thor. "Stop it! How dare you laugh in the face of Poseidon's great weapon!"
"Um, Thor? Are we missing something?" Tony asked. He turned to Steve. "I feel like we're missing something."
With a cry of rage, Eris rushed at Thor. When she was in reach, she slammed him across the face with the shaft of the spear.
"Oh, that was a bad idea," Tony said.
Thor straightened up, his shoulders still shaking with mirth. He plucked the spear out of Eris' grasp and slung an arm around her shoulders. Eris squawked in alarm as she tried to wiggle free, but Thor held fast.
"I thank thee, tiny mortal," Thor said to the top of Eris' head. "It is long been since I gazed upon this mighty weapon. I know not if this spear ever truly belonged to your god, Poseidon, but I do know it once was held by the mighty warrior Aegir. When we were but youths, we would often test the power of our weapons against one another. We had many fine fights indeed."
Thor sighed fondly at the memory. Eris stamped on his foot. He seemed not to notice.
"When I discovered I could easily disable his weapon by placing Mjolnir on top of it, he was most perturbed. He refused to spar with me for many centuries afterward. I was most grieved when he fell in battle. I did wonder what had ever become of this fine weapon."
Thor gave Eris a friendly squeeze. "I thank you for returning the weapon of my fallen comrade."
"So, Thor, no danger from this thing, huh?" Steve gave the spear a dubious look.
"None to me, no. It is fortunate she did not use the staff against you. You likely would have been dissolved into water where you stood." Thor frowned thoughtfully. "Or perhaps turned into a horse. I cannot remember its effect on mortals now."
"You know what," Tony announced. "I put on the suit. I come out. I do nothing. I go home. I take off the suit. The end. I'm sitting the next one out."
* * * * *
The mortal sorcerer known as the Wizard Master stood on the steps of City Hall holding a silvery, glowy box. He smiled at the appearance of the Avengers -- minus Tony and Steve. Tony had made good on his declaration he was staying home this time around, promising to come out if they needed him. Steve, or rather, Captain America, was touring schools in Brooklyn and talking to kids about the importance of looking out for one another and their communities.
"Avengers!" the Wizard Master called out. "You are too late to stop me! I have found the ultimate treasure! With this magic contained in this vessel of the Ancient Egyptian gods my power will increase a hundred-fold! I will be free to take control of the weak government behind me and build this city to glory! This will be my base of power from which none will be able to oppose me!"
"Wow. And Tony thought the last one's speech writer was bad," Clint said.
"You found a magic box and you're going to use it to take over Tallahassee?" Bruce asked the Wizard.
"Silence!" the Wizard Master yelled, holding up his box. "The magic I have uncovered after a lifetime of searching will crush all who dare oppose me! Behold and tremble at my power!"
"Why do so many of the bad guys always have to say 'behold' before they do anything?" Clint wanted to know.
Natasha shrugged. "Our cue to tremble at their power, I guess."
"Um, maybe we should take cover," Bruce backed up a step, reaching out to touch Natasha's shoulder lightly to encourage her to move with him. "That guy's flashy magic thing looks like its lighting up."
He was right. The Avengers ducked behind cars and security barriers as the Wizard's magic box grew brighter and brighter.
Except Thor. Thor remained standing in the open, watching the Wizard curiously. "What manner of magic is this?" Thor asked.
"It is the magic of the most powerful of the ancient gods, Avenger! May you serve as an example to those who would oppose me!"
"Big on statements, isn't he?" Clint muttered and was soundly ignored.
The light from the magic box overwhelmed Wizard Master entirely before going out completely, giving the man's appearance the same silvery glow the now-dark box had held. He dropped the box and raised his hands menacingly.
"Uh, Thor, maybe you want to get to cover?" Bruce called out.
Thor stayed where he was. The Wizard pushed his hands out towards Thor and a blast of light shot out.
The blast bounced off Thor harmlessly and hit a streetlamp that promptly blew up.
Thor raised an eyebrow. "This is the great magic you spent your brief mortal lifetime coveting? It is but the magic of children! My little brother could have deflected such an attack when he was of the age he could not yet walk upright."
The Wizard Master's face crumpled in dismay.
Clint whistled low. "Burn."
* * * * *
"Oh come on already, it's our day off!"
Tony was indignant. Not only was it the Avengers day off, but they had plans for the day. Important team building plans. There were still two members of their team who had not yet seen the original Star Wars trilogy in all its original, unaltered Fuck-you-very-much-George-Lucas glory. It was movie day. He'd been looking forward to watching movies and stuffing his face with crap food all week. Not having some arch villain wannabe standing in his living room making threats against their lives. Day off!
"You will soon have as many days off as you please, Iron Man," said baddie-of-the-day, Destroyer of something-or-other. Something to do with time. Tony hadn't quite caught his name when he introduced himself after crashing through the windows and knocking over the snack table he'd just finished setting up.
"What do you want?" Steve demanded, still managing to look imposing barefoot, with his hands of his hips, and wearing an oversized t-shirt and sweat pants. The other Avengers gathered behind him, as they'd rushed into Tony's living room upon hearing the commotion.
Destroyer-of-whatever laughed. "I want what many do. To see the Avengers brought low. Only I will succeed where so many others have failed."
"Oh? How do you figure?" Steve challenged.
"My brethren fail because they seek your deaths. I have no desire to kill you, nor do I need to for I have unlocked the secrets of time."
"Can we hurry this up, please?" Tony begged."We have three movies to get through today."
Destroyer smiled. "As you wish. Enjoy your lives over again."
From under his voluminous midnight blue robe, Destroyer guy pulled out a large gold, rectangular shaped pendant with a crimson jewel in the centre. He chanted in a strange tongue, the jewel took on a glow in response, and then a pulse of light and sound flashed through the room.
Thor looked around him. He and the Destroyer stood across the room from each other. The villain seemed surprised to see Thor still there. Thor suspected he knew why that was so.
Every other Avenger had disappeared and in their place were children. There were two infants -- who immediately began to squall -- and three older boys. Thor found Midgardian children's ages difficult to judge, but he thought two of the boys were roughly the same age, and older than the third. The three boys stared up at him. Thor thought he saw traces of his mortal friends in their faces.
The Destroyer looked at Thor. Then at the children. Then he looked at his pendant. And then back at Thor.
Thor tried to smile reassuringly at the children. "Have no fear, young ones. I will dispose of this villain and return you to your true selves in due time. In the meantime, please hide yourselves."
The two older boys, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner he thought, scooped up the infants that must have been Natasha and Steve and ducked behind the sofa. The smaller boy, Clint, scuttled off in the opposite direction toward the home entertainment centre.
Thor took a menacing step forward.
The Destroyer held his pendant up again, chanting louder this time. Another flash.
Thor's hair was somewhat shorter.
More chanting. Another flash.
The chanting began to sound a little frantic. Another flash. Then another. And another.
Thor was unchanged, though it had been many years since he'd worn his hair in such a short fashion. He did not like it.
"But, but -- I -- what?" the Destroyer looked truly perplexed.
"You're a bad man!" young Tony Stark shouted from behind the sofa.
Thor took advantage of the Destroyer's confusion to grab hold of his pendant. The Destroyer tried to snatch it back. Thor held it up high over his head with one hand. The Destroyer made another grab for the pendant, but couldn't reach. With his free hand, Thor took hold of the villain by the throat and squeezed just enough to make his meaning clear.
"You will undo what you have done to my comrades, after which time you will surrender yourself to be punished for your actions. If you do not do either of those things, you will leave me no choice but to take vengeance upon you myself for your transgressions. Do I make myself clear?"
The Destroyer nodded the best he could with Thor's hand wrapped around his throat.
"Then we have an understanding."
A remote control suddenly flew across the room and bounced off the back of the Destroyer's head.
"Caw, caw motherfucker!"
* * * * *
And the one time it did:
"Thor, look out!"
The Avengers could only watch helplessly as the woman known only as The Sorceress unleashed a massive blue fireball straight at Thor. Winds howled around them, throwing up dirt and debris, forcing Steve, Natasha, and Clint to throw their arms up to protect their eyes. Tony's sensors went inexplicably haywire and it was all he could do to take up position to try and shield his teammates from the force of the winds with his suit. Just as abruptly as it began, the winds stopped. The Avengers looked to their foe.
"Sweet mother of balls," Tony whispered.
"Thor!" Natasha called to him.
Thor was down. He did not respond.
The Avengers rushed forward as one, taking up defensive positions around their fallen comrade. Natasha dropped to one knee beside Thor and checked his vitals.
"He's alive. He's breathing."
"What did she hit him with? What could do this?" Clint asked.
Steve took up a position directly between Thor and the Sorceress. "What did you do to him?
The Sorceress laughed. "Why, it's a spell of my own creation, my dear Captain. I found a book that tells of spell castings that work even against the gods. How delightful to see it succeeded! Too bad you did not bring the green beast along with you. I had prepared a spell for him also. Next time, perhaps."
"Fix him," Steve said. It was not a request.
She arched an eyebrow. "Why should I?"
"Whatever you think you're going to accomplish, it's not going to work out for you. I can damn well promise you that."
"As do I."
The Avengers reared at the sound of a new voice. A disturbingly familiar new voice.
Loki stood less than five feet from where Thor was laying on the ground. Clint, Natasha, and Tony all clustered around Thor, as if to defend him from whichever direction the next threat would come. Steve took a couple steps closer to his teammates, adjusting his stance to take in Loki as well as the Sorceress.
The Sorceress looked unbothered by Loki's appearance.
Loki looked at Thor, then moved away from him, getting closer to the Sorceress. His expression was unreadable. "It's not many who can overcome the defences of Asgard's golden prince."
The Sorceress looked smug. "It was the work of but a few extra moments to adjust my casting to overcome the protection spells woven into the Thunderer's armour. Pathetic spells cast by some weak-minded witch, no doubt."
Loki's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Those protective spells were cast by the Queen of Asgard herself, you pathetic excuse for a sorceress."
"Oh shit." Tony said.
"I'm pathetic?" the Sorceress was incredulous. "That's quite the accusation coming from you of all people."
"I beg your pardon?" Loki's tone made the Antarctic look like a warm vacation spot.
"Look at you, Loki of Asgard," she taunted. "You invade this world because your brother likes it here. You stay because he is here. Endlessly wandering a mortal world you profess to hate, which loathes you in return, just for the occasional chance to harass your brother. And why? Because Daddy likes him best."
Loki clenched his hands into fists.
"Ohhhhh," Clint breathed.
The Avengers all took a step back.
"Mortal witch," Loki snarled. "I will rend you."
"You may try."
The challenge laid down, their surrounding were quickly being engulfed in flames and explosions.
Tony grabbed one of Thor's legs. "Everyone grab a limb and let's haul ass!"
The Avengers scrambled to pick up their comrade and get away from the magical firefight going on around them.
When Loki caught up to them a very short time later, they weren't so much hauling ass as they were doing an awkward shuffle down the street. They were partially carrying, but mostly dragging, Thor along with them.
"Why is he so heavy?" Clint whined.
"I think it's the armour." Natasha gasped out, sweat beading her brow from exertion.
"Your weak mortal forms move slowly, Avengers," Loki groused.
"Loki, back off," Steve snapped. "We're not interested in getting into it with you."
"Yeah," Tony said. "Can't you see we're busy carting Thor to safety?"
"This is how you flee to safety?"
"Your brother weighs a ton, okay?"
"He is not my brother! And it's his armour. Perhaps you should have removed it first."
"Gee, why didn't we think of that?" Natasha said snidely.
"We tried. We couldn't figure out how to take off the magical armour he summons to magically wrap itself around him. With magic." Tony sighed, "I hate magic."
Loki rolled his eyes, muttering "mortals" under his breath. Before anyone could stop him, he reached out and touched two places on Thor's armour, just behind his left shoulder and on his side near his waist. There was a soft "pop" and Thor's armour shifted, the metal arm coverings seeming to dissolve away. Loki gripped the chest piece at the neckline and bottom edge and pulled. Thor's armour came away easily in his hands. The Avengers staggered at the difference in weight.
"Yeah, this is better," Tony decided.
"He's still freakishly heavy," Clint complained.
Loki dropped Thor's armour on the ground. "He can retrieve it when he does Mjolnir. You may continue your fleeing now."
Steve gently set down the arm he was holding onto so he could face Loki. Looking back at the sight of the battle, he saw no sign of the Sorceress, just a blackened ruin as far as he could see. "I don't suppose you can help us figure out what she did to him?"
Loki looked at Steve like he'd just asked Loki to show him his underpants. "It is but a simple sleeping curse!"
He looked at them expectantly. They gave him blank looks in return. Loki sighed, sounding terribly put-upon. "It's meant to trap a mortal in a sleep that mimics death, but for one such as Thor he should only sleep for three, perhaps four, days. It is a draining form of dark magic. I suggest you have your larder well-stocked for when he awakens."
Loki cast a long look at Thor's still form before he turned away. They caught a few words he muttered under his breath, "never listens" and "thousand times in a thousand years" and "oaf". And Loki disappeared.
Thor awakened mid-way through the fourth day of his magic-induced coma and, as warned, promptly ate his way through the refrigerator and cupboards. They were waiting on an emergency pizza delivery while Thor devoured handfuls of dry cereal as Steve filled him in what had happened.
Thor said nothing as Steve described what Loki had done to help them. He only nodded his head and turned his focus back to the cereal box. Later, when he thought no one was watching him, Thor smiled.
He was still smiling when Tony deposited a stack of pizzas in front of him.