Loki was getting desperate, since his fall from the Bifrost and his arrival on this Norn forsaken planetoid, first as an unexpected guest and then, more forcefully, as a potential pawn in the plans of the leader Thanos his resolve, and various parts of his body, had been chipped away at relentlessly as his captors tried to mould him to their will. The torture never seemed to stop long enough for him to regain any strength and it seemed that Asgard was not mounting a rescue mission because surely they would have found him by now!? He hadn’t sensed an abundance of magic on this grey, rocky excuse for a base so he wasn’t sure why no one was coming. Though still young he was proud and hadn’t given his torturers the satisfaction of making him articulate any sound above a moan but he knew it was only a matter of time.
Once his captors had discovered he was from Asgard, and wasn’t that the biggest lie of his life, they set about trying to extract information from him, specifically about something called the Space Stone. Loki had never heard of it let alone know where it was but his jailors seemed to think he was being economical with the truth and were employing worse and worse methods to get him to talk. Weakened as he was from lack of sustenance and all the beatings he’d endured he was also determined that they would not win. Not for Odin or Thor of course, they had already shown what they thought of him, but for Frigga and the common folk of Asgard who had always had a soft spot for their Trickster Prince, for them he would hold on as long as possible.
He had decided that, on his return to his filthy, rank cell, he would make his last attempt to try and break through whatever barriers there were and contact his mother. As his main magical tutor his link with her was the strongest among the family he’d been raised in, and so any message to her had the best chance of getting through. He’d been hoarding his seidr for what seemed like days, only letting it heal him the bare minimum when he was left alone so that he would have reserves for this final attempt. Dragged back to his cell he didn’t resist as the heavy collar was wrapped around his neck to chain him to the wall, no other restraints were needed; he was too weak to walk unaided so his captors assumed escape was not an option. They knew he had magic of course, one of their main torturers, a creature named Ebony Maw had discovered that very early on and had created a pair of seidr dampening cuffs which controlled the amount of magic available to Loki. They hadn’t yet discovered that he wasn’t Asgardian however and though that knowledge made him sick to his stomach he was enough of a realist and strategist to understand that it was better if they didn’t. He could still feel some unrestrained magic pulsing inside him when he concentrated, not quite the same as he was used to but it felt biddable and safe enough to try and use.
When he was sure he’d been left alone for the night he hastily but precisely drew a double rune circle in the detritus that made up the floor of his cell. It had to be small so as to be hidden by his body should anyone chance to check up on him but Loki knew that a small circle would still be powerful and the fact that one circle was inside another would actually help to narrow the focus beam of the spell and ensure that nothing was lost in transmission. Ordinarily a rune circle was quite large so that the runes could be written big enough that there was no margin for error (a misplaced line on a rune could alter the whole spell if one was not careful after all) but Loki had discovered in his studies that size literally didn’t matter and precision was the only thing needed. Circles complete he activated them with a little of his own blood, he didn’t even have to make a special cut, and sent a quick prayer to the Norms for help as the runes began to glow green with odd flashes of blue and white. He took a couple of deep, stabilising breaths knowing he needed as much focus as possible for the spell to have any chance of working. Once he felt centred he wasted no time and sent his message through the Void hoping against hope the intended recipient would receive it.
Asleep in the Royal chambers Frigga dreamed. She dreamed of her second son, her baby though not by birth, and how the family had let him down just when he needed them most. In her dream she saw a glint of green, the precise shade of Loki’s seidr and smelt the crisp scent of a perfect winter’s day that reminded her of Jotunheim. She also heard an achingly familiar voice calling to her
‘Mother, Amma. I am sorry. I am not strong enough. I need your help. Make haste. Please. I cannot… cannot hold out much longer.’
Frigga sat bolt upright in bed, one word on her lips “Loki!”
Her abrupt movements also woke Odin who immediately wanted to know what was going on.
“I heard Loki” Frigga told him “he is calling me to help him.”
Odin sighed to himself, having already learnt in the weeks since Loki’s fall that when it came to her second son, Frigga would clutch at any straw if she thought it would bring their wayward prince back. No matter his personal thoughts on the matter Odin couldn’t bear to see his wife of so many years so distressed but he also knew there was no hope for Loki and didn’t want to get Frigga’s hopes up by offering false platitudes.
“Loki is gone.” Odin said gently, putting an arm around his wife and rubbing her shoulder. “We held his funeral two sevendays ago, He’s in Valhalla now.”
“NO” Frigga insisted “I heard him loud and clear. He needs our help Odin!”
“Loki is dead” Odin reiterated “I regret it greatly but it is the truth.”
Frigga wasn’t listening; she shook off Odin’s soothing arm and hurried to her ante room where she kept some magical artefacts. The only thing she’d permitted herself to take from Loki’s room after his funeral was one of his daggers that she’d taught him to fight with hundreds of years before and she knew it was imbued with both their magic. Using it as a focus she quickly cast a spell not to trace the whereabouts of the caster, as they may be shielded somehow but to trace the trajectory of the spell itself. Odin was trying to dissuade her, to get her to come back to bed and not try this fool’s errand when there was a loud knock on the outer door to their suite of rooms. There was only one person in the Realm who would dare to wake the King and Queen at this time of night and sure enough the door opened to reveal Asgard’s Gatekeeper, Heimdall. He bowed respectfully but perfunctorily to Odin and said.
“Allfather, my apologies but I must speak to the Queen immediately.”
Upon hearing the unmistakeable voice at the entrance the Royal Suite Frigga hurried towards her husband.
“My Queen” Heimdall said gravely “I have news.”
Frigga gasped “You heard him too!”
It was a statement not a question but nevertheless the Gatekeeper answered.
“I did, my Queen.”
“And, can you see him?” Frigga continued, nearly breathless with anxiety
“I am afraid not Majesty.” Was the sad reply.
“Gatekeeper” Odin started “are you absolutely sure you heard Loki?”
“Indeed I am, my King. Over the centuries I have become well acquainted with The Prince’s magical signature and the message was accompanied by magic that could have only come from The Prince himself. It was definitely him.”
“What did he say?” Odin asked, curious now that both his wife and Gatekeeper had supposedly heard his second son.
Without looking at each other Frigga and Heimdall recited word for word, and pause for pause what they’d both heard. Odin was slightly more convinced at the end of the message but still wary.
“How do we know that it is not a trap?” he asked.
“We do not” said Frigga simply “but if there is the faintest chance of getting Loki back alive then I am taking it. Good Heimdall might I prevail on a moment or two more of your time?" When the Gatekeeper assented Frigga led him back into her ante room and explained the spell she’d been casting.
“I believe” she said in conclusion “that if we combine our powers we might be able to divine Loki’s location.”
Heimdall happily agreed, for all the trouble Loki had caused throughout the years he had a soft spot for the second Prince being one of the few who knew exactly how he had come to be in Asgard in the first place and seen first-hand how he had been treated since. It was no wonder the Prince’s mental state had taken a dive when he found out his true heritage.
Frigga clasped Loki’s dagger in her hands once more and felt Heimdall’s larger ones cover hers to amplify their powers. She cast the spell again and even Odin, standing at the threshold to the ante room could see the thin ribbon of colour that emerged from their joined hands and headed out of the palace. The ribbon was quite remarkable having strands of Frigga’s light gold, Loki’s signature green, a dark copper strand that could only have come from Heimdall and a curious blue and white strand that Odin couldn’t identify.
“Can you trace it Gatekeeper?” Frigga murmured softly.
“I can, my Queen” Heimdall responded “but the magic traces back to a planetoid far outside the Nine Realms. Prince Loki must be there somewhere.”
“Then we must go and get him back.” Frigga said decisively.
Odin felt he had to put his point of view across. “Wife, are you sure you want to do this? It may be that Loki is happy where he is now and trying to retrieve him would only cause more upset than has already happened."
Frigga turned slowly to face her husband as he finished his little speech.
“You would not be saying that, Odin Borson, if you had heard the message first hand instead of a recitation. You and I both know that you are only the most powerful mage on Asgard at the moment because Loki is not on Asgard at the moment. His acquired and inherited powers combined outstrip each of us individually and yet he is in desperate need and does not return, when he surely would if he could. We have let our son down far too many times in his life already and I refuse to do so any longer. Loki needs us and I will do everything in my power to see that he is returned to us safely.”
Odin had to acknowledge the truth in her words. He wasn’t sure exactly when things had gone so wrong with Loki but gone wrong they had and he mourned the mischievous young man who had drifted away from them into bitterness and malice. Maybe this was a chance for a fresh start, to mend broken bridges and they could be a proper family again. Thor would definitely need Loki’s wise counsel when he became King. Odin could see now that Loki was right in his assessment that his big brother wasn’t ready to be king when the Coronation was postponed by the Jotnar incursion in to the Weapons Vault. And diplomacy really wasn’t the Crown Prince’s strong suit either. Odin also knew that Loki had to want to help Thor, to effectively be the voice and power behind the throne whilst getting none of the glory of being King, coercing him would do no good and just cause even more problems down the line if Loki though he’d been manipulated.
Realising the Frigga was getting irritated waiting for a response from him, and knowing that she would go with or without him, one way or another he made his decision. Turning to Frigga he said.
“We will take a small force, you, me, and Thor. You will need my abilities with dark energy to travel safely, and Thor, for all his faults, is a warrior without equal. I will collect a couple of items from the Weapons Vault and meet you and Thor at the end of the Bifrost as soon as possible.”
Frigga nodded her assent at the practicalities of the plan. The wreck of the Bifrost extended out to a promontory so would be well away from curious eyes. Odin then turned to Heimdall.
“Old friend, I ask just one thing of you whilst we are away, though I hope we will be not gone long. You and the Council are in charge. Do not tell them where we have gone or the reason why, and most decidedly do not let them pass any laws when I am away. I am hopeful that it will be less than an Asgardian day but it pays to be prepared.”
“It will be as you say, my King” Heimdall vowed.
“Good” the Allfather replied simply and using his magic to cloak himself from prying eyes as he hurried towards the Vault.
Frigga, casting the same spell on herself, headed towards Thor’s chambers. The Crown Prince had been distraught for days following Loki’s fall though he was sure that he was the only one who knew Loki had actually let go of Gungnir as opposed to it slipping through his fingers. He had spared his mother and father that detail not wanting to burden them with even more grief and so had shouldered the knowledge alone, the one whom he would have readily shared such an intimate detail being the one person he literally couldn’t tell. He had spent the days since Loki’s funeral sequestered away in his rooms, even Sif and the Warriors Three couldn’t lift him from his apathy. Odin and Frigga had finally shared with him Loki’s true parentage and species and Thor had felt ashamed of all the times he’d told his Jotunn baby brother that he would kill all Jotnar given half a chance, he’d even started to prove it on that disastrous trip to Jotunheim and he found himself wondering for the first time in his life if things would have turned out differently if he’d taken the time to listen to his younger sibling instead of telling him ‘Know your place Brother’. The answer, he knew, was of course they would have but now he could only mourn those missed opportunities like he mourned his beloved brother.
Frigga’s sudden appearance in his bed chamber startled him as he hadn’t heard the door open. Thor’s mouth gaped open as he took in his mother’s raiment, gone were her beautiful robes from Vanaheim and in their place was battle armour, not the ceremonial regalia she wore for feasts to commemorate valiant battles of days gone by but practical, versatile and effective armour that had clearly been made for her, though Thor was certain he’d never seen her wear it.
“Thor. Get up,” Frigga said forgoing all pleasantries “put on your battle armour and bring Mjolnir. We are going to get Loki!”
“What do you mean Mother? I do not understand, Loki is gone as much as it pains me to say it, but he is in Valhalla now, the Norns be willing.” Said the Crown Prince, confusion all over his face.
Frigga resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Mustering her patience she tried again.
“Thor, listen to me, both Heimdall and I received a magical message from Loki tonight. He is in danger and requires our help.”
Thor’s whole demeanour changed then. “Of course Mother, does Father know?” He added the last bit hesitantly, knowing how well the last interaction between Loki and Odin had gone.
“He does.” Frigga confirmed. “He will meet us at the end of the Bifrost after he has retrieved some items from the Weapons Vault. Now will you make haste please!”
As he tapped his trusty war hammer on the floor Thor’s night clothes transformed in to his battle armour, cape billowing in a non-existent breeze. “Let us go Mother, Loki needs us!”
Frigga sighed in relief; obviously the fact that the Allfather knew and was even planning to take part in the rescue bid had swayed her eldest son’s mind. She quickly cast an invisibility and sound deadening spell over both of them and the pair hurried through the Palace toward the place where her beloved boy had fallen. Heimdall and Odin were waiting for them but Thor failed to see any weapons on his father’s person, apart from Gungnir of course.
Odin acknowledged his heir “Thor. We cannot make any plans until we get to our destination so we will not waste time here.”
The trio gathered close together and Thor felt an unfamiliar sensation flow through his body. He’d travelled by Bifrost many times and knew exactly how that felt but this was totally different, it felt like every part of him was being teased apart and then put back together again. There was no chance to exchange brief words like in Bifrost as it was practically an instantaneous transfer from one place to another. It did make sticking the landing a little easier though; it took a great deal of practice to stroll out of Bifrost as if nothing had happened. Upon landing Odin, Frigga and Thor stood back to back and visually scanned their immediate vicinity and then the horizon. There seemed to be no signs of life on the surface of this poor excuse for a planet. Thor wasn’t even sure they were in the right place, Frigga however was a strange, and frankly scary, mixture of elated and determined.
“There is no life on the surface,” She said quietly in case they could still be detected “but I can sense Loki’s seidr. He has been here.”
Odin used dark energy to cloak them from sight. The good thing about this energy was that it was practically limitless and undetectable but it took a heavy toll on the wielder, knocking years off their lifespan every time they used it. Under the safety of the spell they moved forward, Frigga in the lead, following a trail only she could sense and Thor in the rear to protect their backs from any danger. The trio moved as quickly and carefully as they could over the barren ground. There really was nothing here, not even vegetation seemed to be able to grow. Suddenly Frigga stopped and put one hand over her mouth to stifle her cry of shock. In front of them was a largish crater, not too deep but wide, showing whatever had caused it had hit bedrock not far below the gritty surface, and at some speed judging from the diameter of the hole in front of them. They skirted the edge until Frigga stopped them once more and bent down to pick up the only thing with colour they had seen on this thrice bedamned rock. Her hands were trembling as she held the scrap of fabric up for them to see. It was a bit of Loki’s cloak; the shade of green he’d claimed as his own unmistakable.
“He was here!” Frigga whispered then, taking hold of her emotions, she cast a quick spell.
“That cannot be!” she said suddenly “This piece of fabric is telling me that it has been here months but Loki fell just a few sevendays ago. Oh Odin, what has happened to our boy in the intervening time?”
Odin gave Frigga’s arm a reassuring squeeze. “Hush wife.” He said softly “Loki is strong. I am sure he will be fine.”
Thor privately struggled to believe that, if months had passed here how much trouble could his brother have gotten himself into? Frigga however was resolute. “It will be easier to find him now,” she stated “I imbued all of your cloaks with spells of protection and warmth to name but two when you got them, now I can just follow my own seidr.”
They continues onwards, Asgard’s Queen leading them unerringly now towards some distant rock formation. As they got closer they could see the mouth of a large cave and Frigga stopped their little party just outside. Odin narrowed his eyes in concentration and then inhaled sharply.
“I sense a great evil here,” he said “one I have not felt since I was a young man, but I thought that creature was only a myth now.”
“Who Father?” said Thor, eager as always for battle, his time banished to Midgard not tempering him as much as Odin had hoped.
“Thanos, The Mad Titan” Odin said somberly “His own people exiled him when he proposed killing half of that planet’s population so that the other half might thrive. There has been the odd story that has made it to the Nine since then of similar occurrences but no one has ever discerned a pattern. If it is him, Loki may be in more danger than I originally anticipated.”
Thor and Frigga looked at each other worriedly as Odin spoke; this was not good at all. Suddenly the ground shook as a spaceship took off from a hidden launch pad and streaked away in at the atmosphere.
“With the Norns blessing we may have fewer enemies to face now.” Frigga said optimistically
“With The Norns blessing” Odin agreed. Reaching into the empty space beside him he manifested a thin black bar with four holes in it and spikes along one edge, positioned on top of the holes.
“This is the Ring of Entanglement” Odin started. He would have said more but for the identical raised eyebrows of his companions. It was a look so reminiscent of Loki that Odin took a second to ponder just who had learnt what expression from whom, and wonder if Loki realised how alike they were deep down.
“I did not name it, I just acquired it!” he said defensively as he handed it to Thor. “Put it on son, you will be able to use it instinctively as it will mesh with your natural seidr.”
Thor eyed the ‘Ring’ sceptically, the holes looked far too small for his fingers it seemed much more suitable for a woman, or perhaps Loki who was slighter of build all around. He could feel the naked power emanating from the bar as he brought it nearer to his left hand; he could use both fists equally well but suspected that his right would be predominantly using his beloved Mjolnir. To his surprise the band grew until it slipped over his fingers neatly and came to rest snuggly just above the webbing at their base. He wiggled said appendages and to his delight the Ring seemed not to impede the range of movement in his hand at all. He could feel the foreign magic reaching out to touch his own seidr. For all Thor teased Loki about his ‘tricks’ Thor knew, deep down and hidden away, that he possessed magic too. granted he could not, as yet, wield it with the finesse of his younger brother but Thor’s lightening could be just as effective on the battlefield as Loki’s illusions, though Thor preferred to think of it as simple harnessing the elements as opposed to conjuring it himself, magic was only for women and weak men after all.
The family proceeded into the cave which soon turned into a tunnel that was obviously not natural. It sloped down gradually and soon Frigga realised that they must be deep underground. They had met no sentries or patrols as yet as it was surely just a matter of time, Frigga stopped the little party for the last time to cast a spell that would allow them to hear each other’s thoughts and so communicate when they inevitably split up.
“No verbalising from now on” she warned Odin and Thor “speak in your head only and we shall all hear, if you want someone specifically think their name first.” After checking they were all cloaked in her invisibility spell, Odin having dropped his to concentrate on manifesting the Ring of Entanglement from his dimensional pocket, they moved forwards once more.
In his cell Loki was crumpled on the floor, he didn’t even have enough strength left to keep himself upright but he hadn’t given in, he may have quietly given up hope of seeing his family – not family again but he was still resisting Thanos and Ebony Maw. Loki grimaced to himself, if the Purple Raisin and Grey No-Nose thought that a little deprivation would break him they had another think coming. He was also carefully not admitting to himself that if he wasn’t feeling so tired and weak he could have come up with better monikers for his chief tormenters but as it was Purple Raisin and Grey No-Nose would have to do. If they couldn’t do him the courtesy of using his given name and title he refused to use theirs, they had taken to calling him Godling and Little Prince to name but two and though it was humiliating it was nothing worse than he had been called on Asgard and as such he simple let them see that name calling had no effect on him.
They had at least taken the gag off a couple of days ago, at least he thought it was a couple of days- time seemed to be strange here, though if they thought they would then get to hear his screams they had been sorely disappointed, his tongue had healed from the spikes on the depressor but he still wasn’t about to give them that particular satisfaction. He slipped into a fitful doze hoping to have enough energy to resist all over again the next time.
As Loki was stuck in his cell unbeknownst to him his mother, father and brother were slipping through the tunnels of the very planetoid he was being held on. He couldn’t sense his mother’s seidr, weak as he was, but she could definitely sense his and she was aching to go to him and assure him he was safe and would be well again. Frigga was normally a very placid and calm person which led those who did not know her very well to believe that she was simply the Queen and only served as a provider of heirs and a companion to the real power, the King, Odin. There were some people, though not many, who could testify differently; before she had married her King she had trained as a warrior on Vanaheim and was extremely skilled, in fact she had taught Loki all she knew when it became obvious that he would never have the prowess and power of his older brother. Although she was sad that particular fighting style had laid her precious boy open to taunts about his womanly style and that he wasn’t a ‘true warrior’; she also knew that many who had slighted him on the training grounds had paid the price one way or another for which she could not, and would not fault him.
Odin, Frigga and Thor reached the end of the tunnel without incident which they were surprised at but grateful for. Peeking around the corner they saw a large cavern with a raised dais at one end topped by a crude stone throne. There were two figures in the cavern; one was a huge purple being in golden armour with a very large two handed weapon by his side, and the other was a slender grey skinned figure with wispy hair and very few facial features.
On seeing the purple figure Odin ‘thought’ to Thor and Frigga “That is Thanos. I had hoped never to have to deal with him. He does not possess innate magic of his own but can use magical objects and twist them to his own ends. I do not know the other figure.”
Thor adjusted his grip on Mjolnir as they crept closer still, here was a worthy opponent indeed, a Titan no less, the songs sung about this victory would be wondrous indeed. On approach to the dais they realise they could hear a conversation.
“Ebony Maw, my son, how is our little godling guest today?”
“Still resisting oh great Thanos. I have never met one as determined as him not to break. Rest assured though Sire when my siblings return with the Mind Stone it will soon be a different story.”
“It is well for you that I am patient Maw, it has taken far too long already. At least the Chitauri are a hive mind and can remain dormant until the Princeling is ready to lead them into battle against the Midgardians."
All three Asgardians narrowed their eyes at this news, it did explain the lack of beings they had encountered on this planetoid but of more concern was the fact that the only person Thanos and Maw could be discussing was Loki, and they wanted to send him to conquer Midgard! Well that was definitely not going to happen, not whilst they could stop it.
“My King” Frigga thought to Odin “You and Thor tackle Thanos, I will deal with Maw. I sense magic on him but mine is stronger. He will be no match for me” Her confidence was infusing her thoughts and Odin shot his wife a fond glance as he, once again caught sight of the woman he had fallen in love with centuries ago.
“As you wish, my Queen. Battle well but stay safe.” Was the heartfelt thought sent back
“And you, my husband and son. May the Norns grant us victory this day.”
The trio separated, Frigga preparing spells to take down Maw and Thor and Odin heading towards the throne. When they were all in position, Frigga behind Maw and Thor on one side and Odin on the other side of Thanos, the cloaking spell was dropped and chaos let loose.
The queen hit Maw with a stunning spell that didn’t do as much damage as she’d hoped and he spun around to face his unexpected adversary, manifesting needle fine shards of glass as he did aiming them for the vulnerable points on Frigga’s body. She was quicker than him though and a word from her lips made the needles coalesce and turn on their creator even as she spun and twisted out of their way. It seemed Ebony Maw had always relied on his magic to beat or subdue his opponents and hadn’t cultivated a physical fighting technique of his own so the sight of his glass needles turning into shards and heading straight towards him had him momentarily stunned. Quickly he used his magic to cause the floor under his oppose to shake but, with years of warrior training behind her she managed to keep her balance, even as she danced off the spot and drew her swords in a blur of metal and silk. There was nothing in the cavern to bind the woman in front of him and bringing down the ceiling would not be his best idea ever so Maw was stuck desperately conjuring shields to keep the swords at bay and retreating relentlessly away from his own shards. He knew he was outmatched but he couldn’t allow himself to be beaten like this.
“Witch!” he hissed at Frigga
“Yes.” She replied amiably “and this witch will see your end this day.”
“I am a sorcerer” Maw countered “You cannot hope to beat me!”
“You” Frigga spat at him “are nothing but a bully with a bit of magic which you use to coerce others to do your dirty work. Well not anymore!”
Ebony Maw was getting frustrated, no matter how hard he tried to deflect them by his own magic or making that witch in front of him lose focus and so control of the shards he couldn’t affect their trajectory. Slowly, oh so slowly he they were coming for him and he seemed powerless to stop it. That witch just stood there with a vaguely familiar smirk on her face as Maw backed himself against a wall in complete bafflement that a mere woman could have bested him. As soon as he was fully against the wall Frigga saw her chance and with a quick flick of her wrists Maw’s arms stretched out to his sides and his wrists were impaled by the shards with such force, from a dramatic burst of speed, that they buried themselves in the rock behind him. Maw shrieked with pain and immediately a large and painful looking gag appeared on his face, cutting off his voice.
Frigga stalked towards him warily, she knew that immobilising a sorcerer’s hands and voice made him essentially powerless but she was taking no chances. When no bits of the cavern came up to meet her, or down on her still raised magical shield she was satisfied that Maw was vanquished. He had unadulterated fear in his eyes as she looked at him.
“You death is not for me to take.” She told him calmly “You can wait here for it though; I do not think it will be too long in coming for you.”
With that she turned her back on him and walked away. He assumed she would head towards his Lord and Master to help in the battle against him but she didn’t. Instead she took a scrap of fabric from a pocket and studied it intently before casting a quick glance at the other combat and heading in the opposite direction, towards the cells. With nothing else to do; pulling on the shards was impossible as they tapered from a point that was deeply buried in the rock behind him to a blunt end that was thicker than his arm, he turned his attention to the other battle and immediately wished he hadn’t. Thanos was losing ground too.
As Frigga dropped the cloaking spell Thor and Odin both leapt towards their opponent. Odin’s speed belied his great age though, as with Frigga years of training and muscle memory helped a great deal. The fact that he was the God of War may have had something to do with it as well, though this far from Yggdrasill his Godly powers were inherently weaker. Still he had a trick or two up his sleeve that the Titan would not see coming. Odin managed to swing Gungnir at Thanos before the titan could react but it hit his pauldron and bounced off. The distraction on that side left the Mad Titan open to attack by Thor and Mjolnir, and the dent the war hammer made in the vambrace was satisfying indeed. Although Thor and Odin had never fought a battle as close together as they were at that point Frigga’s communication spell let them ‘think’ to each other what their next move would be, working in concert they could keep the Titan off balance as he stood to his full height to try and fend them off.
“We need to get him down again” Odin ‘thought’ to Thor “If he cannot attack it will be a simple matter to bind him.”
Thor saw the wisdom in what his father was thinking; upright Thanos towered above them and was a formidable foe, seated he would be easily overwhelmed. With this in mind Thor sent a bolt of lightning to the top step of the dais the throne was sitting on causing it to crumble just as the Titan’s foot landed on it. This, of course, made Thanos step back quickly and in his haste he stepped too far and banged into his own throne. Thor was quick to press his advantage and a larger bolt of lightning to the chest of his foe had him falling back into his vaunted seat. Odin was quick to seize the initiative and Thor could only gape as out of nowhere his father, the King of Asgard produced the Jotunn treasure The Casket of Ancient Winters. There was no time to give it much more thought though as Thanos was already struggling to his feet only to be hit with an icy blast from the Casket which forced him once more into a seated position and effectively bound his right arm to the arm of his throne.
Speaking aloud now Odin said “Use the Ring, Thor. Before he tries again.”
Thor had paid no attention to the iron bar on his hand; it hadn’t impeded him at all and he’d practically forgotten about it. Now however he could feel its power, for such an innocuous looking thing it seemed to have energy to spare. He could feel it once more poking at his own limited seidr, seeming to like what it found there. The two magics melded together and suddenly Thor knew exactly what to do. Resting Mjolnir on Thanos’ left foot, knowing that only he or his father could dislodge it now, Thor raised his left hand towards his seated enemy. Immediately thin golden ropes appeared at the tips of the spikes above his fingers and raced across the intervening space. He watched in amazement as the seemingly fragile ropes bound Thanos to his own throne, and it didn’t take him long at all to realise that his hand movements directed the ropes and it was immensely satisfying to wrap a few strands around the mouth of the conquered Titan – not that he had said much really but Thor wasn’t about to give him a chance. Thanos’ struggling did manage to break a few of the fine ropes but to Thor’s surprise two more ropes simply appeared from the broken ends and made the bond stronger. There was no escape for the Mad Titan now, Thor found himself torn between looking to where his mother had fought the strange grey creature, to see if she needed his help or gaping once more at his father casually holding Jotunheim’s greatest treasure and using it to secure the Titan’s leg to the throne with more ice. With Thanos incapacitated he thought he should see how his normally gentle and serene mother was faring. The surprises just kept coming for the God of Thunder who, instead of seeing his mother engaged in a fierce fight, caught a glimpse of her clothing as she exited the cavern leaving her terrified opponent spread-eagled against the wall and definitely not going anywhere. Odin followed his son’s gaze and let out a chuckle at the perplexity on Thor’s face.
“Come now Thor, did you not realise your mother could fight? You know she taught Loki and really, why would the God of War be interested in a wife that could not hold her own in battle? The first time I saw her fight on Vanaheim she was beautiful. Graceful and powerful coupled with a mind so sharp that even seasoned politicians sung her praises. I knew then she was the one for me.”
Thor quite honestly was wondering how many more secrets his family was keeping? He’d realised as soon as he saw Frigga’s battle armour that she would be able to fight but even though he hadn’t seen any of the action he hadn’t expected such an emphatic victory. Frigga’s voice was suddenly in their heads “I am going to find Loki. I will let you know when I have him safe.”
“So now we wait.” Odin said aloud, ignoring the struggling Titan on his throne.
“Yes.” agreed Thor
Both men lapsed into silence into silence, neither of them wanting to talk about how Loki might be, or react to seeing them again after all that had happened after the aborted Coronation. For his part Thor didn’t even know where to start with the fact that Odin had wielded the Casket of Ancient Winters with such accuracy and ease. Something was nagging him about that but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what.
Frigga hurried along the dimly lit corridors of the base. She had beaten her enemy and from the quick glance she’d taken at her husband and eldest son they had their opposition firmly under control. Now was the time to find her darling boy. Using the piece of his cloak like a compass she followed the path it directed until she came to a bar covered opening in the rock wall where the cloak fragment brought her up short. Peering into the gloom she could see nothing to warrant such a sturdy barrier so she sent a small witch light to illuminate what could only be described as a cell, with a figure slumped against the wall in the filth that coated the floor. A swift blow of her sword on the locking mechanism had it in pieces and the door of the cell swung open at her touch. Putting more power into her witch light, so that she could see better Frigga hurried towards the figure. In her heart she knew it was her baby, the cloak fragment wouldn’t have stopped her here for anyone else; but this body looked so pitiful that she hoped the cloak was wrong. As soon as she saw the heavy collar on the prisoner she deftly undid it and threw it as far away as she could. Only then did she dare look to gently raise the head of the mostly naked humanoid in front of her; only to look straight into the eyes of her darling Loki.
Holding back her gasp of dismay only by great effort she gently pushed his matted greasy hair away from his face surprised at how much longer it was than when she last saw him and cognisant of the fact that it meant the cloak had been correct and Loki had been here months not sevendays!
For his part Loki was panicking. He had very little strength left and his magic had not even started to replenish after his spell message. He scrabbled away from the intruder in his cell as best he could, adrenaline giving him momentum but soon he was completely exhausted again. What new torture was this? He was convinced that Thanos and his minions hadn’t managed to break his mind yet, his body definitely bore the evidence of his prolonged stay in this miserable place but he was sure his mind was still his own. How then could his mother be here? It had to be an illusion cast by Maw or an hallucination brought on by sheer desperation, nothing else made sense, surely his family – not family would have either found him quickly or not bothered searching at all for the Jotun cast off he knew himself to be.
“G’wy” he slurred, mouth dry and tongue lumpen after so long without even water. He shut his eyes tight, hoping that when he opened them again the apparition would be gone and he could go back to fitfully dozing. The apparition seemed to have other ideas though, moving slowly towards him arms out to its sides, palms of the hand on show in the universal language of ‘I mean you no harm.’ Loki had a hard time believing that though, he’d encountered nothing but harm since he ‘fell’ and this being (for it couldn’t possibly be his Mother) was probably intent on causing more pain and distress to his already beleaguered body.
“Peace Little One” the apparition said gently “You know me, My Little Loki.”
That gave him pause, the only person in the Nine what had ever called him that was Frigga, even when he’d grown taller than her he was still My Little Loki when there was just the two of them around. He secretly loved the nick-name, it was definitely the most affectionate one he had and he found himself beginning to wonder if the Blessing of the Norns had finally been granted to him. Licking his lips as best he could to try and get non-existent moisture to them he tried speaking again.
“Amma?” it came out as a mere whisper but the apparition, Mother, heard him and her face lit up into the beautiful smile he knew so well. She crossed the small gap between them and wrapped her arms firmly around his shoulders.
“Oh Loki, I am so glad we found you.” She sobbed as she hugged him tight “I thought I would never see you again.”
Loki couldn’t have answered even if he had the means to, his body was being wracked with sobs though he was so dehydrated that there were no tears to shed. He knew with bone deep certainty that this really was his Mother on her knees cradling him to her body as he shuddered through his sobs, there was no way that anyone would ever prise that particular nick name from him, it was for him and his Amma alone.
It was then Frigga found the magic supressing cuffs he’d been forced to wear, they were digging into her sides as Loki clung to her. She gently disengaged from his near stranglehold, making sure to keep bodily contact with him at all times so that she could examine these new instruments of torture. To bind a mage’s magic like this was tantamount to withholding food and water (though that looked like it had been done too) especially if that mage had been born with magic and not just learnt it, like Loki had. It took a bit of doing but Frigga managed to disable the magical lock and the cuffs fell away. She recognised Maw’s magic on them and thought briefly of him, pinned to a wall awaiting his demise and she was immensely satisfied.
If she was hoping for a surge of magic for her beloved son though she was disappointed, so far from Yggdrasil and so weakened by starvation and dehydration Loki barely felt a trickle of his Aesir seidr flowing in to his system again, nowhere near enough to heal him yet but enough to get him, very unsteadily to his feet. He could feel that other, strange and unrestrained magic better now but dared not tap into it again without understanding it better and this cell was definitely not the place for experimentation.
Once Loki was upright Frigga got her first good look at him and was aghast at how much he seemed diminished. Loki had always been lean but lithe; never managing to build muscle like his brother but now he was practically emaciated. He leaned heavily on her as they made their slow way back to the throne room. Frigga keeping a steady trickle of her own seidr flowing into her son by her side, hoping it would give him strength to do what was necessary to his chief tormenters. Frigga, Odin and Thor may have incapacitated them but the killing blows belonged to Loki, only when he knew for a fact that Thanos and Ebony Maw were truly dead would he be able to start his own recovery, or so Frigga hoped anyway.
When Loki realised where they were heading his footsteps started to falter, he really didn’t want to face the Purple Raisin now, was his mother by his side really his mother or a glamour cast by Grey No-Nose to lull him into a false sense of security? Would he get to the throne room to have even more humiliation heaped on him? He found that harder to deal with than the torture sessions, probably because it hit a little too close to the truth sometimes. Frigga felt him shudder and stumble as they moved towards their destination.
“It is well, My Little Loki, do not be afraid. Your Father and Brother are waiting for us and we can go home soon.” She said softly.
Hearing her pet name for him soothed Loki some but then the rest of her sentence parsed. Odin and Thor were here! Thor who had promised to kill all Jotnar on sight without ever knowing his brother – not brother was one, and Odin whom he could never seem to please no matter how hard he tried.
“Father and Thor?” he asked timidly not really knowing if he wanted the answer.
“Yes My Little Loki” his Mother said kindly “You didn’t think they would not come when you needed them did you?”
Loki couldn’t reconcile her words with what he knew of Odin and Thor. Thor had stopped helping him years ago, as they grew into young men with very different interests and outlooks on life. And as for Odin, well Loki couldn’t remember a time the Allfather had ever helped him.
By now they were at the entrance to the throne ‘room’ Loki pulled gently away from his mother’s grasp as he crossed the threshold and though she worried that he wouldn’t be able to stand she completely understood completely the need not to look weak in front of Odin and Thor. She watched as her beautiful, brave boy pulled on the demeanour of the Prince he was like a cloak, in the end the only thing that looked wrong was his tattered and haggard appearance. He paced as steadily as he could into the centre of the room, Frigga right behind him ready to bolster his magic or catch him if he fell. He stopped abruptly as he took in the sight though. There, pinned to the wall like a particularly ugly bug in a collection was Grey No-Nose who wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon with those massive shards in his wrists and pinned to his own throne by what looked like a combination of ice and gold sat the Purple Raisin, Mjolnir resting on his foot. How the pair of them had ended up in those positions was a tale he really wanted to hear but for now he recognised that his not family (though he might have to rethink that designation after this) had left him to deal the killing blows to his tormenters. He was glad the other members of the Black Order had been sent to find the Mind Stone; Grey No-Nose had been taunting him about it for ages how they would use it to break his mind and make him Thanos’ puppet.
Still doing his best to act composed he strolled towards Maw on the wall. Loki was acting on pure instinct as he had no idea how he would kill this sorry creature but he would die this day. Despite his best efforts he stumbled and threw out a hand to balance himself and was completely taken aback then he heard the far too familiar sound of Thor’s hammer flying through the air towards him and land gently in his outstretched hand. He automatically grasped the handle though expected to be dragged to the ground by the immovable weight at any second but Mjolnir seemed as light as a feather to him, not unbalancing him in the slightest. He heard Thor’s gasp of disbelief across the cavern and also thought he heard Odin chuckle but that must have been a mistake.
Loki took a moment to savour the feeling of power that emanated from the weapon that he had last felt pinning him to the Bifrost. What had caused him to be able to wield her would have to be dissected another time; she was the tool of Maw’s end now. Loki had taken lives in cold blood; long before he’d killed his biological parent Laufey there had been occasions when the person who’d slighted him deserved nothing less and Loki had not shied away from doing what he deemed necessary though he didn’t make a habit of it for obvious reasons.
Loki sized up Ebony Maw, pinned to the wall like a thin grey target, he had thought to prolong his death to try and inflict a modicum of the pain and suffering that had been inflicted on him by Maw but then he decided he couldn’t actually be bothered to spend the time. Turning sideways slightly he hefted the hammer in his hand to confirm the balance and swung it at Maw’s chest just once. He heard the crack of what passed for ribs on the ugly alien, a little more pressure and he felt them give, driving points deep into Maw’s vulnerable internal organs. If nothing else he would bleed out now. No help was coming for him.
Turning his back on Maw for the last time and still holding Mjolnir loosely in is grasp he headed slowly towards the throne and Thanos, Frigga keeping close but behind him, letting him do what she knew needed to be done. Closer to the throne Loki could see that it was indeed ice that pinned the Mad Titan to his stone seat and Odin was wielding the Casket of Ancient Winters! Thor seemed to be attached to Thanos by golden threads leading to Thor’s hand. They were undoubtedly magic; Thor was actively using magic to defeat an enemy. Would wonders never cease? Honestly, at this point Loki wouldn’t have been at all surprised to wake up and find that this had all been a dream.
The temptation to smash Thanos’ head in with Mjolnir was great but Loki could feel that foreign magic pressing on him again and this time he could understand it better. It was his Jotun magic that he could feel now no doubt brought to the fore by the proximity of the Casket and suddenly the part of Loki’s brain that revelled in irony knew exactly how Thanos would die. Loki would expose the last physical secret that the Mad Titan had never guessed. He would kill him with an ice blade like he’d seen the Jotnar warriors form on that ill-fated trip to his birth realm that started this whole mess in the first place. A small part of his brain wondered if it was really a good idea to show his Jotun side to his family, after all they had never told him the circumstances surrounding his birth until he started to question his origins himself and he knew that hatred against the Jotnar ran deep on Asgard. On the other hand Odin obviously didn’t have a problem with wielding Jotunheim’s greatest treasure and Loki also had to privately admit that his seidr was working hard at the moment just to keep him upright, calling on his learned magic right now would not go well. Innate magic it was then.
Taking a step forward and a steadying breath he reached out one hand for the Casket immediately he felt the power emanating from the artefact and briefly wondered why he hadn’t felt it when he touched it in the Vault. The Casket seemed to be helping him in some way for, despite never having tried before Loki was soon forming his very first ice blade. It grew naturally from his hand and although not as well constructed as the ones used by the Jotnar warriors it seemed effective enough. Odin seemed to look on proudly as his youngest son used his inherited magic. The Mad Titan who realised that his minutes were numbered writhed in his bonds as he tried to evade his fate but he was too securely bound. The ice holding him was too thick to break and the golden threads kept multiplying and now the Little Prince, the Godling that Thanos had wanted to aid him in his quest for universal harmony was advancing towards him with a look on his face that didn’t bode well for the Titan.
“My Lord Thanos” the traitor said condescendingly “I have had ample time to evaluate your offer of an alliance and I am afraid I must respectfully decline. In fact I have come to the conclusion that you should not carry out your plan after all. So I have decided to sever our partnership, and your body from life!”
As Loki spoke his last sentence he was pushing his ice blade through the golden threads and into Thanos’ body. The pain was excruciating, firstly was the blade was actually causing frostbite where it touched the Titan’s skin but also because it was slicing through said skin and the muscle beneath heading towards his heart. Of course as the blade touched that rapidly beating muscle that too froze and it was a combination if ice and haemorrhaging that did for the Titan in the end. Loki casually broke the blade from his hand, leaving it sticking out of the corpse in front of him.
“That is no more that you deserved you Purple Raisin” he murmured as he stepped away straight into his mother’s arms. Odin ceased the flow of magic from The Casket of Ancient Winters and shoved it back in his dimensional pocket. Likewise Thor managed to disengage his magic from the Ring of Entanglement and handed the item back to his father. They both turned to look at Loki in his mother’s embrace. His body had turned into his Jotun form whilst he formed his weapon of choice and his heritage lines could plainly be seen winding over his blue skinned body. The only difference apart from that were his eyes which had turned crimson red instead of his usual brilliant green, otherwise his bone structure and facial features remained identical. Thor made a move to protect his mother from the frostbite he was sure she must be suffering from having so much of Loki’s bare skin touching her but to his surprise she showed no signs of discomfort whatsoever.
The Crown Prince of Asgard jumped as his father tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention.
“It is a Jotun defence mechanism my son, their skin will only burn others when they feel threatened.” Odin murmured as he moved past his oldest son and towards his wife and youngest.
Loki tensed completely when he realised the Allfather was behind him but years of rigorous royal training had him disengaging from Frigga’s hold in order to face his King properly. To his surprise Odin pulled him into a hug just as fierce as the one he had just relinquished.
“My son, Loki, I am so very proud of you.”
Loki panicked, Odin was talking to him but his mind couldn’t make sense of the words. Things were just not adding up at the moment and Loki just started babbling at the King of Asgard.
“I did not divulge any secrets your Majesty, I swear to the Norns I gave away no vital information. I tried my hardest not to say anything, I promise.”
Odin saw his youngest son practically vibrating with his need to assure his adoptive father that he had kept all Asgard’s secrets and wondered, not for the first time where he had gone so wrong with the boy that the man before him was obviously terrified of what Odin might say next. He met Frigga’s eyes and using the thought spell she said clearly in his head.
“You are not his King now, after all he has been through he needs his Father. I hope you remember how to be that!” That gave Odin pause, had he really only been a King to Loki? Thinking quickly the answer was probably ‘Yes’ Time to start redressing the balance then.
“Peace Loki, hush my son.” He said hesitantly “All is well. I know you will not have given away our secrets and anyway it will not matter because the Titan is dead, killed by your very own hands. Oh the songs that will be sung at feasts in your honour, when you have recovered of course” Odin finished with a wry smile at his son who was visibly confused now.
“Allfather I do not understand” Loki stammered.
“Nor would I expect you to right now Loki, too much has happened in such a short time but rest assured I am proud of you, my son. There is much to discuss but it will keep until you are totally recovered.”
Loki’s mind was reeling. How often had he wanted Odin’s approval and pride just to have disappointed him instead and now, on this barren planetoid where he had endured worse than he ever had, and that included having his lips sewn shut, Odin was finally saying he was proud of his wayward son? It was too much for Loki to take in on top on everything else, too much to process for his brain so he did the only thing that made sense to him and gave in to the darkness that had been hovering at the edges of his vision since he’d hugged his mother.
Seeing Loki drop like a stone Thor leapt forward and managed to catch him, protecting his head whilst lowering him to the cavern floor. Frigga quickly checked him with her magic.
“It is just the exhaustion and shock on top of everything else.” She reassured her husband and eldest son “Hardly surprising really, considering all he has been through and actually for the best as travelling back to Asgard conscious in his state would be harmful indeed.” Saying that she gently laid her hands on Loki’s temples and whispered “Sleep”
There was no discernible change in his little brother’s features except a slight relaxing of his face and Thor took a moment to see how young his brother really looked.
“We must get back to Asgard” Frigga said briskly “Loki’s slipping unconscious is a product of today only, he has injuries that should be tended to by Eir as soon as possible. At least he will not dream, I made sure of that with the spell.”
The family quickly gathered any dropped weapons and Thor picked Loki up as gently as he could after Frigga has wrapped Loki in Thor’s cloak, explaining that it would make Loki feel safe even on the subconscious level. Thor privately thought that Loki would be mightily peeved if he knew he was wearing Thor’s colours and not his own but Loki was wearing the barest remnants of his own clothes. His leathers were nowhere in sight and what was left of his underwear doing his best to cover his modesty. When they were already to depart Odin called on the dark energy again and transported all of them directly to the Royal Wing of the Healing Halls. Each member of the Royal Family had their own designated room here and once he had gently laid Loki on the bed Thor was dispatched to find Loki’s personal Healer Eir as quickly as he could whilst Frigga fussed over her darling boy, happy that he was back on Asgard but fully aware of the long and painful road ahead for the whole family as they came to terms with what had happened.