Chapter 1: Oath of Blood (Prologue)
Loki Laufeyson, crown-prince regent, lowered his head and breathed out slowly. His breath displaced sleet and the thin threads of wind passing through the broken temple like the soft brush of Mimir’s eyelashes against the future strands of fate and knowledge.
Seidr crackled beneath his skin, crawled like the water beneath ice, dead spots like bubbles of air beneath ice-slick blooming in the numb areas where he’d beaten himself in his own morning for his second sire’s death. Extending a hand, he brushed the fresh snow from the altar, pulled himself up just that little bit further until he could sit facing the window high above cast of clear ice and blood. The Casket’s last remaining depiction.
And how he hungered to know that power. His seidr reached for what should have been where he sat at this very moment, but no, there was nothing but the old ice and new snow-fall.
Cheated, was he not, to never feel the caress of his ancestors, to restore this place to its glory. His people, his sire’s people, smelt like shame and defeat. It had rankled since the first time he’d took in the frigid air of Jotunheim, the foul stench of this place, the destruction and once-glory chaffed like the too-tight jewels bestowed by court. Yes, yes he was cheated. Cheated of the knowledge, and wasn’t that the truth that hurt most. His own birthright was denied to him because of a war lost not moments after his birth.
What a shameful way to claim your victory, Aesir Odin, son of Borr, he wanted to say. To take your victory while my sire, the King, was on his back giving birth. What could he do but surrender. Farbauti had all but lost himself to the madness in that moment, trying to keep Odin not only from his King, but the Jotun carrying his child.
He curled a lip in a snarl, wrapped himself tighter in his wolfskin. Felt the cut of the bones laced around his neck on tendon-string cut into his flesh, felt the cold press of the royal finery against his skin like a comforting caress from Mimir herself.
“Ancestors,” he called, even though this temple was long-since destroyed, to those dead to him. “Mimir, Ymir, Farbauti... this I swear on your restless spirits.”
The green glow of his seidr burst from him like a flame, lighting the nothingness and dim light of the night, turning all that surrounded him. His general, his brothers, their legions of soldiers and peoples of Jotunheim all. Rows and rows extending past the broken boundaries of the temple, faces lit with the green light of their only hope. Loki shone like a star as he stood, and the seidr poured from him like mist, crackled through the air like a stationary shooting star, ozone and blessed cold all at once.
He threw his head back, black hair of Farbauti’s line snapping through the air like an uncoiled whip after. “The casket will be ours again! By these bones you shall not rest in shame, as we shall not live in shame, as our King mourns for the last death he can bear from this broken home of ours! We shall have, our lifeblood, our Casket once again!”
And the soldiers, the common-folk, the lesser slaves and Generals all, distant royal cousins to his very brothers, let out a roar, a cheer, a resounding cry echoing his own, a single oath to their fallen that they would not take this anymore. They would have their battle again, and they would have their Casket, their glory and honour.
But, most of all, they would have their now Prince-King appeased.
Because, well, the King, he’d been taken by a strange depression, hadn’t he? Not been from his chambers in weeks, months even, perhaps. And the Prince-King had insisted that he’d spoken with Laufey-King, assured his bodily health.
Loki Laufeyson lowered his arms, the bright sting of his seidr lighting his eyes as they rolled back in his head and he basked in his other birthright.
The wonderful beginnings of deception, and the game that would bring the whole life-tree crashing into nothingness. He revelled in the chaos, the soon-death that would out-weigh the stink of this hellish, half-finished, broken and marred relm.
Chapter 2: Patricide
A king in mourning makes for a bad king, and then a dead king.
General Thrym marched down the halls of the royal family’s Utgard keep in the cave system beneath the temple. But a day ago had the Crown-Prince made his oath to the people, his coronation, if it wasn’t too presumptuous to say. The King had been silent as the grave for the past moons, leaving everything to his first once-bastard son. The soldiers had thought, at first, that it was strange, but it was a strange time, and the King had the weight of a broken realm on his shoulders. Bloodthirsty and ruthless he may have been, a great King, he was not infallible.
Passing through the thinner wall of ice, Thrym cast his eyes about the library. All of the books in Jotunheim had been brought here in deference to the Crown-Prince’s promise, his oath. He was a wise and wicked leader, or soon to be. For all he was small, a throwback in Farbauti’s line, he was no less sharp of mind. Finding him huddled in the corner astride a pile of ancient books, furs about him as he consulted the most ancient leather tome on his slight lap, pages open and resting over a thigh each. The boy had imbued his magic in the crystals along the walls, along with the plants that glowed in the dark like the creatures of the deep, making their own light to spirit their way.
Thrym came to him, knelt, and yet he still towered over the boy.
A sigh, and then with a creak of frosted leather, the book closed with a thump. Shards of ice sparked under Loki’s fingers as they crossed over the tome. “General, you needn’t be so...stiff around me.”
Thrym relaxed a little, raised his head enough to meet the prince’s eyes. Yes, this boy was kinder than his predecessor and that would have been a cause to worry but for his ambitions. Indeed Thrym would have had reservations on his rule, on the entire royal kin. Not so, however. His lips turned upwards a little, and his eyes narrowed. The smile was body-wide, touched the edges of his heart. Bowed his neck. “At times I fear we’ve nothing but ceremony left, Kingling.”
Loki stared a moment, expression impassive, and then he frowned. The boy's face was so well sculpted that it almost appeared a pout, and he dropped his eyes again. The comforting chill of coupling was one of the things denied him when their true-King had gone into his seclusion (as was proper for those in mourning).
“I would change that, Thrym. Now sit with me, you needn’t stand on ceremony. You shall be my advisor as you were to my dam. You alone shall have ear to my plans.”
Boy he might be, but those words were the words of a man. Thrym thought, at night, staring up at the abyss of the sky so much like the sea, that their Crown-Prince was sure to live among the great ancestors. He was likened to Mimir, in Thrym’s heart. He’d follow the boy to the very roots of Yggdrasil.
He sat by the pile of books, and turned his head to watch the prince as he scowled and tossed his head.
Dark, messy hair covered Loki’s face a moment before he pushed it back. “Fool. Hold still.”
And then his lap was full of the royal kingling. So small was he that he had to straddle Thrym’s thigh, and yet he made only to Thrym’s chest. Cool fingers touched his arm, and he gave it willingly, holding it before the boy. Taking his arm, Loki wrapped it around him in a parody of a hug. The furs were soft under Thrym’s fingers, and he wasn’t sure he liked them. Such a sweet touch of the dead was unnatural. Morbid, in a way. Bones, at least, were hard and cold. A wolves fur should not have been so pleasing when worn by another. Gold was one thing, it was cold and hard, soothed the skin, but fur? Too soft.
“Why do you wear these?” Thrym asked, taking a liberty, perhaps, and yet it seemed innocent enough a question to begin this...odd symbiotic relationship with the kingling’s plans and the kingling himself. If he were but a sounding board for the boy’s magnificent mind, then he would count himself having well-served his people, his soldiers and most importantly, his king. Or Kings, as it were for now.
Loki’s eyes flicked up to him for a moment, the brightest ruby he’d seen in aeons, and a smirk caught his lips. He squirmed a little as Thrym tucked the furs around him tighter. Pulled him closer against his chest until the tarnished gold necklace that spilled down his chest pressed against thrym’s belly. “Ah, dear Thrym, that too is part of my plan. I hear Gladsheim, the Aesir keep, is hot enough to make one of our Kings ache for days. I’ve been accustoming myself to the heat in preparation.”
One of Thrym’s eyebrows went up before he could stop it. Though the prince had gave him leave to be less rigid, he still worried about taking liberties. He was a soldier, after all. Not a politician. “You expect a sojourn under such heat sometime soon?”
Again, not the best choice of words. But again, he was not kept for his words, but his actions. After all, Jotnar had not been in Asgard in...well he truly was not certain if they had ever seen the fabled golden towers and sprawling fields.
Something like excitement woke his old bones, crawled through his sluggish veins. Yes, yes, another Ymir. Someone to go where naught had gone before, to create something new for all of them as Laufey-King had tried so valiantly to do in the Great War.
Tried and failed, of course, but Loki was of a potent line and his cunning had been known since the day he’d taken his first step.
“Oh yes,” the boy said, leaning back in the cup on Thrym’s hand, back bowing over his fingers as he threw his head back and flung his arms wide. He was the very picture of joyous ecstasy. “I shall be invited. Honoured as a guest!”
The glimpses of madness, of genius, he could see in Loki was disconcerting, and yet Thrym felt the hunger for blood and war swell beneath his skin. It cooed to him like the viper quick and iron tongued rasp of the ancient ghost of Ymir. “And how would you do that?” he asked, scarred eyebrows rising once more.
Loki curled back into himself, settling. He placed his hands on Thrym’s chest and slid a little closer, bid him to bend down as he pressed his body against Thrym’s chest. Such a lithe young thing. Loki whispered into his ear, low and drawling as began to tell of his plans, fingers spanning over his chest and gripping at his arms.
Distantly, Thrym felt the prick of something. The feel of being watched.
Here, there should have been eyes naught but their own. Loki, too, seemed to note the change, the stiffness in Thrym’s spine, and his words seemed to flow into something else entirely. Silly things, nothing about his plans at all.
It was said that on Asgard stood a man, a good, born of nine mother, that could see all. Not as the norns could, as no other could wield such a thing, but many were wary. Secrecy when planning treachery against the Aesir was most difficult because of this. but Loki, wonderfully intelligent, crafty Loki, was like the sky and the snow and the see, and swept past all obstacles.
Eventually the faint prick passed, and Loki he returned to speaking of his plans, whispering ever quieter. “I have, oh, I have so many plans, Thrym. My mind spins with them at night. Sometimes I think I’ll go mad if I don’t get them out. Put them into action. But there has always been one misplaced fact, see.” He shifted in Thrym’s lap, pressing closer, words blurring together. “I want the casket so bad I can almost feel it’s knowledge running through my veins already. I can hear it calling, calling to me. Like a soft wail in the night...”
Thrym reached for Loki’s head and stroked his hair slowly, something deep inside realising that yes, the son of their king was indeed smart and sly and so very ambitious, he was also well on his way to being as mad as his sire, and all of the ancestors of the sorcerer’s line.
At the soft touch, the temporary king whimpered a little and his tone turned almost pleading. He wanted the casket so bad, he wanted to prevail, to prove that despite his size he was no weakling. Thrym hushed him, softly, fingers winding through the long inky hair of his lover’s son.
The kingling fell asleep cradled in his arms, and Thrym remained still for an hour, possibly two, then rose slowly and took the boy to his chambers. There would be blood, eventually, but not yet. Not tonight.
It was, perhaps, sometime in the early morning when the softness of Loki’s bedding dipped and there was the cool press of a larger body against his. It took Loki a moment to realise that the press of the body was not Thrym’s, but Helblindi’s. Though Loki might have been the smaller of the two, his brother still wormed his way under his arm and pressed his forehead against Loki’s shoulder and neck. Loki was considering, for a moment, kicking Helblindi out, off the raised section in the floor and the swathe of rugs and pillows that made his bed and going back to sleep. However his brother was...
Aware. Aware of more than he should have ever been, at times. How was unknown to Loki. He wasn’t of Farbauti’s line, nor any other that held seidr in the blood.
Loki wondered, idly, if he knew of the plan Thrym and he had spoke of in the library earlier that night, whispers and hushed voices licking the stacks of books and the glowing crystals like the heat of a flame. Dangerous, yet beautiful.
They lay like that for a long time, silent, and then Helblindi said, “Tell me about Farbauti.”
Loki, who had been nigh asleep again, grunted and pulled his arm from Helblindi’s waist and rubbed at his eyes. A little awkward since he had to work around Helblindi’s head and horns to do so. He managed. “Why?”
Stubborn silence was his reply.
Loki sighed heavily, gazed up at the ceiling. “Farbauti the Seid,” he began, knowing he’d have to keep at it until either Helblindi fell asleep or Loki finished. “Eldest of nine. One of the more notable sorcerer lines... His line is one of the few to have hair.” Or to keep it, rather. Jotun shaved their heads nightly. The heat became too unbearable, otherwise. Farbauti’s line had to be discernible, since they were also oddly fertile and prone to bastardry.
“The war between the stone giants and our own humble kind found him taken as a prisoner. Laufey-King and several other men rescued him. His was an asset they could not afford to lose, but by the time they had retrieved him, Farbauti had already been...touched. His mind was shambles and never pieced back together quite right. It was said that he’d done odd things before, yet his behaviour only became more so. Sire--”
“Dam,” Helblindi snapped, sounding sleepy but also annoyed.
“He was no mother to me—”
Helblindi’s fist against his shoulder nigh knocked the breath from him with his insistence, and Loki spent a moment simmering in something like loathing before gritting his teeth and continuing. “Dam, was furious. Yet, though Farbauti the Seid had become Farbauti the Mad, they remained close. I was born unrecognised by the court; a bastard. It wasn’t until your conception that I was recognised. Turned from bastard to Prince.” He paused. “Farbauti had set fire to the palace, and continued to destroy all Laufey loved until such was made so.”
There was a soft, sweet sound. Like a sigh and a moan all in one. Helblindi was pining a little.
Loki rolled his eyes.
“Sire loved him so to allow it,” Helblindi cooed.
Grudgingly, Loki accepted that. “Yes. Farbauti had destroyed most of the palace at one point or another. He very nearly made the palace shambles and Laufey only built another. One of the Casket’s creations this time, and it was that palace we lived in until the great war. You’ve seen the ruins.”
Helblindi nodded. The palace had already been destroyed the day of Loki’s birth, the day of Jotunheim’s fall from grace, and so as Helblindi had never seen it, so too had Loki missed their chance.
The palace could be re-built, of course, but the casket was needed for such sustained and deliberate ice-shaping.
Helblindi went to speak, hesitated, but forged on. “I’d wondered, sometimes, if Farbauti really loved him. If he was coherent enough to know whether he loved or hated Father.” He shifted against Loki and wound his hand through Loki’s hair, and Loki let himself be Helblindi’s link to the ghost that kept Laufey-King in seclusion. In doing so, Loki realised why Helblindi was here. He missed Laufey-King.
He would miss him more, soon. Loki vowed it.
Eyes shining bright with something just shy of cruelty and tinted with amusement, Loki turned his head to whisper into his brother’s ear. “They say seidr turns Jotun mad. That they can’t tell what is wrong, what is right. That they come under the Norns’ control until there is nothing but death...for them, for others.”
Helblindi paused, and pulled back. His eyes glowed a little in the darkness, but theirs was not a light like Loki’s, lit with the inner fire of Seid. Helblindi could likely see little of Loki, but Loki could see the curiosity Helblindi displayed clearly. He pitied him, for a moment. “Are you?”
“I will need to be, if I am to bring life back to this land,” Loki answered, and it was with a measured kind of risk. Helblindi would know, from then on, that Loki would be like his sorcerous sire. Loki’s bones were born of Farbauti’s madness (and in so his infinite cunning) and Laufey-King’s kingly grace and willingness to do whatever it took to reach the right end—the true end. It was a dark time now, oh yes, but there would be glory under Loki’s fingertips.
If not glory for Jotunheim, then certainly for Loki himself.
Helblindi settled again, cheek on Loki’s chest, soothed. “I would have you be rabid, then, brother.”
Loki sighed, smoothed his hand over Helbindi’s skull, and he thought of his and Thrym’s whispered words. His plans and how Laufey–King was an obstruction but a little too great to move around. And so, he would have to be removed and Helblindi would miss him so much more.
And Helblindi would miss Loki, too.
“So it shall be thus, Helblindi,” Loki whispered, and his resolve solidified. Turned to hardened stone and became all that he was, a living, breathing creature of determination.
Loki was in the Outlands when there came an attendant, Loki’s personal attendant since he’d been but a youngling. Small for a jotun, like he, and ill suited for war. He shuffled through the snow up to Loki’s side where he stood, staring over the canyon of broken ice and all around the pillars of greatness crumbled. The light of the day-star shone only enough for him to make out half the way down the ravine. The surface world just outside of their grand Utgard palace was not great. It was raised sections of snow covered ice and fissures marking the way all along the destruction that had once been wrought by Odin.
“My Prince,” the attendant said, and it was then that Loki knew that his brief taste of kingship was over.
“Laufey-King has extracted himself from his exclusion, then?” he asked, closing his eyes against a swell of snow and sleet as it teased his eyelashes and the longer strands of his wolf’s pelt.
The attendant nodded, audible by the clink of bones strewn through his ears. “He requests your presence.”
His sire was but yet mad, and once he had been a loyal rabid king, but now he was useless and he stayed his hand for strange reasons. He waited for the opportunities to come to him, and Loki knew they would never come. The man wanted the casket as badly as any jotun did, but it was a fool's hope, and Loki’s love for him grew less each hour. “Very well,” he breathed, and turned. “Walk with me then, Vafthrudnir.”
They turned, and made their way through the snow towards the palace and the caves beneath Utgard’s ruins. After a while, Vafthrudnir looked over to Loki and sighed. “You are deep in thought, prince.”
“Aye,” he said, staring forward stubbornly.
“This business with your father troubles you?” The other jotun had always been good at weaning things from Loki, and it had been from his attendant that he had learned the advantage of a sharp mind. Vafthrudnir was not, however, sly. Merely wise, for all his years. Wiser than their king in but a few aspects.
Loki paused and looked to his attendant, who stood and returned the gaze. The red of his eyes was dull with something like age though he seemed fit and young. Vafthrudnir Imson could be, Loki thought, the spitting image of Mimir, and it was those eyes that brought on the likeness. Loki snorted, and turned, began to make his way again. There was but a moment before the sound of his attendant shuffling through the snow followed. “I grow weary under the king’s rule,” Loki said, well aware he spoke of treason.
But there was no rebuttal, just companionable silence.
And then, “If the case be that you decide to act on this, know that I was given to you when you were but a young thing, and I would see you through to the end. Regardless of what that may be. This stagnation grinds on my soul.”
Appeased with the lack of impending betrayal and concerns proven unfounded, Loki sighed and looked towards what remained of the Utgard palace-spires. There was, for a moment, a sense of peace. He imagined what could be, how his land, his people, would look. He imagined the knowledge of the Casket thrumming through him, imagined the Odinson mewling against ice and furs and thought, yes, no longer.
“I intend to be weary no longer.”
Vafthrudnir chuckled, and thumped his fist against his chest, ever the loyal subject. “All hail, Loki Laufeyson.”
Standing at the atrium of the Utgard temple, above ground by the high pillars near the entrance to the cave systems, General Thrym breathed in the cool wind and sighed. On the horizon he could see two figures making their way closer, small enough to be the prince and his attendant.
“Do you see?” his commander, Thiassi, asked.
“Aye. They come.”
Thiassi stood from where he’d been seated on a snow drift, brushing his leather kilt off and raising his chin as he took to his side. “Ah, yes. They come.”
They waited a while longer in companionable, comfortable silence. Thrym’s thoughts churned and his belly fluttered with something like excitement. Today was a day that things would change. He’d felt it in the cold and dark morning’s kiss. There had been an eclipse over night, their far off moon hidden by a far flung planet. The Norns had favoured the day, likely. The year was at its darkest and the days its shortest.
Meeting his eyes, Thiassi gave him only utter faith and he would demand it on this day. “You are loyal to me.”
Thiassi inclined his head a little.
“You would follow me into the most dimly lit of caverns with only the sound of my feet as your guiding light, would you not?” he asked, and held Thiassi’s gaze steady when the jotun looked perplexed a moment, then turned to face him completely.
“Aye. General...if I may ask?”
“No.” Not when all Thrym had to go on was his battle-hardened gut. Renowned though his instincts were, it could be yet days before their prince decided to enact on the plan he’d spoken of in the Library that day.
Unfazed, Thiassi turned back to face the prince and his attendant, closer now. They could make out the two of them through the light sleet as it began to fall. The prince’s hair was peppered with it, though it faded into the ink of his long hair quickly, his eyes and the dim shine of his gold like stars shining brighter than the snow itself.
The clouds overhead rumbled. Thrym ground his teeth a little.
Such a sound sat ill with the jotnar, for all it made itself known constantly. The thunder, the lightning, were reminders of the Aesir. It was like the Wild Hunt was only just overhead, and the hooves of so very many steeds passed right over them.
Loki-Prince pulled his animal furs closer around himself, bright eyes blinking out in the dim light as he narrowed, then closed them. His lips barely moved as he spoke to Vafthrudnir, dark as the scars would be on his cheeks and forehead, his throat. He would look beautiful with scars, at his first kill.
Thrym jolted at his own thoughts. It was a bad, bad idea to let his gaze linger upon the prince for so long, to enjoy the sight of him like one would have the winding spires of their grand city before its fall.
Something, however, told him that the prince knew, had always known, that he was something rare. Beautiful and ugly all at once. No jotun could help but be perplexed by his paradox. His utter devotion to this realm was also something that the soldier inside Thrym respected and was attracted to. This boy-prince, born kingling, was something that came along once in a millennia. Something special and world-shaping.
The catalyst of the chaos of change.
Thiassi’s voice jarred him a little from his admiration of their prince and his deadly, strange brand of beauty. “I trust you.”
“Such is all I ask this morn and on the morrow.”
They fell silent as the prince came in ear-shot. Stood a little straighter as his gaze fell upon them. Thrym heard Thiassi’s nervous swallow, saw the shake in his hands. He would have chuckled had he not reacted the same in the presence of Loki-Prince at first too. Thiassi and Loki had not yet met but doubtless the jotun had heard of the prince’s viper tongue and quick temper (displayed only through long, festering grudges and painful retribution) and was wisely moved to something like fear.
“Hail, General Thrym,” Loki purred in a silky tone afore his eyes slid to Thiassi. “This would be the yet as met Commander Thiassi, then.”
In the corner of his eye Thrym saw Thiassi nod curtly. There was no trembling now, only duty. “Aye,” he replied, and permitted himself to lower his chin a little to meet the prince’s eyes.
They were the kind of eyes that Thrym had seen on the battlefield many a time in the calm before the battle. The prince extended a hand, palm up, towards the cave entrance. “We shan’t keep Laufey-King waiting then, shall we?”
Thrym and Thiassi parted, allowing the prince and Vafthrudnir to pass between them. The attendant a step behind, looked over his shoulder at them and winked slowly, then turned to face the back of his king. Thrym’s heart jumped and settled itself in his throat. He had been right, then. Falling into step behind them, he and Thiassi breathed in deep and sighed for differing reasons though the cause was the same. Their crown prince was exuding the kind of killing intent, battle-lust, that only veterans of war spoiling for blood gave.
It vanished like a star blinking out as they passed through the threshold of the halls of the royal caves and passed into the smaller reception hall.
Soldiers were dotted around the walls, mimicking the great pillars they stood between, sedated, dull eyes sticking to them as they passed and came to a stop before the small dais and the throne on the very edge of it. Sage was burning somewhere, and Thrym could see how Loki-Prince’s shoulders were stiff with it. It had long been known amongst those close to Loki that he was never fond of the smoke it gave. Repellent of bad spirits, of mischief and chaos. in time, Laufey-King had taken to burning it when he truly did not wish to be the butt of his eldest son's and partners odd ways.
Now, perhaps, he burned it for Farbauti. His was a ghost that would never be soothed, after all.
They knelt as a group before the king who sat upon his throne, leaning against one of the arms, tired and dull-eyed with lack of interest and grief. “Rise,” he said, low and easy. The king had always had a slight drawl, but now it was like he was encased in ice itself, struggling to speak, to move, to live.
Loki-Prince stood, while the rest of them, but for the guards, remained on their knees, though they straightened their backs and unbowed their necks.
Laufey-King brought a hand to his forehead and rubbed between his eyes with fingers tipped with claws. “Your sire pains me still with memories. I see him in your face, in his eyes. Such proud regality...”
Loki-Prince tilted his head lightly. “If dam is pained still, then mayhap I should manage a while longer so he may rest.”
Laufey-King waved a hand at the boy, a dismissal of his offer, and scowled. “Stop the silver-song, boy.”
A laugh. There was bite to it, bitterness. “You’d hoped to ward it off with the sage, had you not. As if I were a voice in the walls. It does naught but insult me and this kingdom that my dam-King is afraid of his child’s words.”
Misplaced affection lit up in the King’s eyes and he leaned forward in his throne, reached out two large arms and swept them down. Thrym thought that, perhaps, loki incited the same amount of love and hate as Farbauti once had in the king. “Come here, wicked son. Afore I’d rip out your tongue if I thought it would cease the memories. Now I only wish to gaze upon my creation and rediscover it.”
Loki hesitated a long moment, then moved forward, took two steps up onto the dais and then was swallowed by the hands that could cover the whole length of his spine. Fingers pinched the ties of Loki’s furs and pulled, ripped the insulating warmth from the prince’s skin like a simple sheet of linen. Loki stumbled a little, but remained standing, jaw clenching as the furs were thrown aside. Several links of tarnished gold fell to the slick-ice stone floor. His long necklace had been rent in twain.
Hands cupped Loki’s face, pushed at the hair that had fallen before his eyes. Laufey-King seemed almost heartbroken all over again. They stared at each other, eyes flicking in the dim light of the day-star.
“For how long will you mourn, dam?” Loki-Prince asked eventually, tongue like steel, shoulders tight. The sage had been put out, but the smell still lingered. Loki’s voice was rough with it.
“As long as Farbauti remains close to my heart,” came the response, and Loki was picked up like a log and placed on Laufey-King’s knee. The prince, though indignant, settled there easily enough, broken jewellery swinging against his chest. He shifted, swinging a leg over Laufey-King’s and sliding closer, pressing his head against his dam’s heart, hands against his chest. Though there was no way for Laufey to have seen Loki’s expression, Thrym saw it, and it was one of discontent.
Laufey had answered wrong.
“You have not told Helblindi and Byleistr of your return?” he asked, and Thrym bit the inside of his cheek as his breath caught in his throat.
Laufey-King rumbled something like a laugh. “We have much to discuss, as yet, before others are informed of my return. Son.”
“Aye, and would these discussions have anything to do with your stagnation?” Loki asked, easing away from Laufey’s chest to crane his neck up to look his dam in the eyes.
Thrym swallowed thickly, and he heard Thiassi beside him hiss softly.
The guards all around averted their eyes. Their prince was speaking what had been on their mind for years, on what he’d vowed to do so the day he took his oath not so long ago now.
Laufey’s expression smoothed. The softness drained from his eyes, from his lips. Instead there burned an intense kind of cold fire. “And what would you have us do?”
“Rebuild,” Loki-Prince said, and it was such a simple word. The walls echoed with it, and it’s weight was felt by all.
Laufey was by no means an unintelligent man. His line had always be fearsome tacticians and had once ruled all of the land, all of Jotunheim before the stone-giants had eaten their way into their kingdom. The moment he came to the same conclusion Loki had, the only way to bring about movement and life to their broken world, was visible in his eyes.
Laufey-King did not want another war against the Aesir.
His fingers twitched, then curled around the prince as if he’d crush him like a doll made of brittle sticks and hide. Likely, he could.
The prince’s grin was quick and sly, spreading across his lips and disappearing behind displaced hair as his form contorted, turned to something entirely malleable (snow, Thrym realised, eyes widening) and pooled himself on the ground at Laufey’s feet. He crouched, ducked his head, and then sprang back up with a roar.
Laufey snarled, swatted Loki with a large hand and sent him sailing into the pillar to his right.
The whole of the once-palace shook, tremors crawling through the earth like a gentle breeze, and far off an avalanche came to life.
There was an awful crack, and then the horrid sucking sound, and Thrym turned his eyes from where Loki’s body was falling from the pillar, unravelling into snow and melting at once, to where the second, real Loki crouched atop the throne. A spear made of ice and crystal protruded from Laufey’s throat, formed around Loki’s hand. The prince tugged, and again there was a wet sucking sound as Laufey-Once-King fell forward, blood pooling between his bare feet.
“Sentimental fool,” Loki-Prince murmured, and straightened his back, raised his chin. His eyes fell on the guards who had hardly moved, and then Thrym, Thiassi and Vafthrudnir.
Thrym was overcome with emotion. In that instant, he could have pressed his forehead to the prince’s feet and wept. Oh to have a sovereign who was but a true, live Jotnar in all of the glory which they had once held. “Hail, Loki-King,” he found himself saying hoarsely.
“Hail, Loki-King,” Thiassi echoed beside him, sounding bewildered. In awe.
As if they had all but cast the first snow themselves and called forth the roar of an avalanche, the guards echoed, joined in as they spoke, the shouted, then screamed until they were like wolves howling at the moon, near wordless with their utter devotion to their new king.
He only tipped back his head and closed his eyes, raised his bloody hands and drew the mark of his adulthood in his dam’s blood on his forehead, cheeks and chin. Then he smiled and nudged Laufey-Once-King’s body from the throne with a foot and sunk down into it himself. Enraptured, he said, “Bring me my brothers.” He pointed to Laufey’s body. “And put him in the mausoleum for viewing. Summon a mason. I don’t give a wit where you get him or who you have to kill to get him.”
Vafthrudnir rose to acquiesce, bones beaded into his hair clacking against Loki’s hand as he pressed his lips briefly to his new king’s wrist. “My king,” he murmured.
Loki’s eyes were alight with pleasure and, in that moment, Thrym would not have been surprised had he purred like the snow leopards just outside of Utgard.
Chapter 3: Betrothed
Farbauti. Mad as they come, he was the precursor of all things. A Jotun who knew to much, and left it all to Loki when he fled this life.
Through word of mouth came the knowledge that when a human died, their skin paled from their Aesir-ruddy pink hue to a much more familiar shade of blue. Like they were remembering that they, as everything, were born from Ymir. Only for a short time, however. After that, they turned colourless. Their blood was red, as was jotnar blood, but the skin of jotnar was a stronger, thicker hide. It darkened in death. Laufey, rolled reverently onto his side and then his back, eased onto a long silver shield, was beginning to darken. His eyes were still open, and the hole in his throat was like a second mouth gaping wide. Blood still flowed from him, dribbled like watery molasses as four of the guards pulled the shield up, placed a corner to their shoulders and began the slow, swaying march out of the throne room. If they lamented the passing of the king, none of it showed. Nothing did. They were but vessels of duty and professionalism.
Young boys too weak yet to train for war came to start mopping up the blood. Young ones so often bathed in the gore of battle before they wrought it. They weren’t but ten yet. Something inside Loki ached for that age again, when Farbauti would still place a hand on his head and tug him close so he could press his face against his thigh and feel the strength of his sire’s muscles while he screamed at his dam. The sound of his voice in rage, his wickedness, the way he always seemed to have a plan behind all of his madness was soothing to Loki.
Loki had never even seen the gore of battle, much less cleaned the blood of another from the floor. He’d never had the time to stare at the red that seemed to almost glow, stark like the shine of eyes in the day-star light reflected off miles and miles of snow. Never had the chance to feel it dry on his cheeks, turn brittle and flake, as it felt like it was doing now. Loki’s eyes were wide and his hands trembled like the fur of a fox in the harsh winds. He stared at his dam’s blood on his hands, felt the strange urge to bring a finger up to his mouth and lick his hand clean not because the sight was disturbing, but because somehow, instinctively, he knew that the blood would give him yet more power.
Farbauti had always come home covered in blood, and Laufey had never ask him to eat with them at the wooden table in their grand feasting hall. Farbauti’s eyes would linger on each and every jotun around him, then settle on Laufey, and he’d smile and wave a hand in dismissal to the wordless question in Laufey’s eyes. Loki realised now, that Farbauti never ate with them when they feasted because he had already feasted. Always he remained on the battlefield long after the other jotnar had returned from their skirmishes with the other tribes in far off reaches of Jotunheim.
Once he’d excused himself from his meal, and he’d been certain that Laufey would have snarled at him, told him to sit, remain, finish. He did not. He only locked his eyes with Loki’s and stared for a long, long time like he was calculating the future, divining it, perhaps, and then nodded. Dismissed him with a wave.
Loki had stolen into his sire’s chambers and there was Farbauti, resplendent, bathing in the tub of chilled water he’d had brought to him. His horns were splattered with blood as was his face and Loki had come to stand beside the tub (a golden thing, with claws for feet and the curve of a rib cage for the tub itself) to stare and wonder. “Sire,” he’d greeted, and though he’d stood there in plain sight, took no pains to hide himself, it was like Farbauti hadn’t known he was there, though he’d looked directly at him at least thrice.
“Oh, my son,” he’d cooed, and long limbs had reached for Loki, claw-like fingers picking at the gold jewellery and his kilt, divesting Loki of all. “Join me, child. Come. I am so well fed and happy. Our enemy rests in my breast and lo I shall sleep well tonight, hands curled around my belly like I’ve another child to bear.”
At the time Loki had understood none of it, as few so often if ever did. Now, sitting in his dam’s throne thirsting for the blood on his hands, he feared he did.
Farbauti had lifted Loki and placed him into the tub, on his lap, and even then Loki had been too small. Farbauti had been the height he would reach one day if there weren’t a throwback of a gene in him.
Still placed in Farbauti’s lap, hands pressed to his sire’s chest to steady himself as his sire begun to clean Loki’s hair and his face and shoulders, Loki could see the swell of Farbauti’s belly. The jotun had feasted well but he ate nothing. Remained in the battlefield. He was not with child.
And there was always bones. Bones and bones and bones that Farbauti would spend days fashioning into various strange pieces. Weaponry, jewellery. All the like.
Loki stared at his bloodied hands and he realised. Farbauti had eaten the bodies of their enemies. Kept their bones for the powder used in his sorcery, for the small flashes of white he’d weaved into his hair, and wore at his hip as a blade. More than once he’d heard Farbauti called Farbauti Deathweaver, because never once had Loki actually known of Farbauti’s lineage beyond ‘Farbauti’s line’ and while Loki was truly Loki Laufeyson, as he was born of the king, his brothers, born of Farbauti, were also Laufeyson.
There was, apparently, much missing. Somewhere. Laufey had never spoken to him about it, had never actually spoken to him at length at all besides the official capacity as King and First Born Prince.
And now, he was dead, and Loki was left to the revelation that Farbauti’s line, as well as carrying the seidr, were also those who craved for the flesh of their own kind, and whether it carried the power of it was a vehicle for the mad ingenuity, he knew not.
Though it was taboo, something horrible and shunned amongst those common jotnar not of the royal family, Loki lifted his hand to his lips and licked Laufey’s blood from his fingers.
It tasted like the golden tang of metal and iron, of the stone of the earth. And yet, there was a sweetness, a certain something more. A promise of more, and Loki wondered, briefly, just how far he’d have to search to find that something. The tingle of seid danced on his tongue and sank into his flesh. Promising, but not enough. Loki’s skills were only budding, and Farbauti, his teacher, was now long dead. He had to discover this on his own if he were to find the unedited, rawness of seidr knowledge.
And so he was to become a cannibal, in time. The realisation was no less shocking than the fact that in time he was to be crowned king, though he sat in the throne and stared out at his soldiers and guards, his advisers, and knew that he was already, in their minds.
Loki cleaned both of his hands with his tongue, and when he raised his eyes again, no one seemed surprised, though it should have been repulsive to them. Thrym, of all, looked like he had suffered a minor epiphany. A realisation that oh, Loki was his father’s son. “I reasoned that now was the time, if ever, to retire my dam,” he said, thinking of how Helblindi had detested that he had never acknowledged the man as such. ‘Honoured mother’ it meant, in old jotnar words, so much more polite than ‘mother’, so much more meaningful than ‘sire’. There was an emotional attachment to ‘dam’ that Loki did not have. He would have preferred Farbauti was his dam, but he had not carried him in his womb, and so, it was almost strange for him to call Laufey sire and Farbauti dam. No matter how much he wished it were true.
In death Loki thought it fair enough to mock his dam. Let Laufey be his dam now that he stood in his place as King. Let all know that Farbauti had pulled the strings and spat vitriol at the man until it was changed so that Loki was no longer bastard, but Prince and thus now King. It was for Farbauti he called his royal dam thus.
Thrym took a long moment to shake himself from his stupor, but once he did, he acted immediately and there was nothing in his eyes but loyalty and admiration. He knelt at the very edge of the dais that lead up to the throne. Sitting in it Loki felt too small. Yet let them know that though he was small, a runt. Loki was now King, and he’d killed the man who had lead them through the Great War and he would challenge all who thought they could take such a position from him.
Thrym reached out a hand, touched fingertips to Loki’s bloodied toes. He said, “You’ve done a brave and wanted thing, my king.”
Loki wondered if he knew well enough to fear for his own life as well. The promise to be rabid was one that he did not take lightly and those who were rabid knew not those who stood beside them from those who stood against them. The touch of Thrym’s hand to his toe, so slight and small, had Loki wondering what the older jotnar tasted like. Not just his flesh, but his sex.
Having killed, he allowed himself to ponder on such things now. He was an adult though he hadn’t yet his scars. He would have them soon enough. Oh yes.
Loki smiled at Thrym, and it was a wry and dying creature on his lips. “Not yet,” he said. “I am not yet King. Not until coronation.”
“You have always been in a king in my eyes, Loki.”
Loki searched Thrym’s eyes, his expression, a little desperately. “Strange,” Loki said, “that I would find acceptance in the eyes of a general rather than my own kin.” His brothers didn’t know any better to be wary of what Laufey-Once-King had called the black stain of Utgard. Loki had been intended as an offering for Odin, due to his bastardry, but Farbauti had plucked at the marionettes strings until the Casket had been taken in his stead. Farbauti had not merely stopped there, though, oh no.
And didn’t that grind Loki’s bones most aggravatingly. Farbauti pushed as Laufey pushed until Loki ended up nothing more than a shivering wreck that wanted to lash out like a starving wolf. These fetters did not become him in his own mind. After all Loki had better things to be doing than sitting on the throne, all but chained to it and its duties.
There was the Casket, for one.
The general lowered his head a moment and then stood. “Come,” he said, “let me make those markings permanent. Then you may go see your brothers.”
Helblindi would not react well. He was the true First Prince, and the true descendent of Laufey by sire alone. The way Jotunheim laws worked, should have worked, was that only a son begot could be king, not one birthed by the king. Loki was, apparently, the only exception. However, Helblindi loved his sire, and he’d allowed it. And now Loki had killed him.
“I may do nothing but what I and I alone am spurred to do by my own winds,” Loki snapped, and yet he rose. Cast his eyes about the room. The soldiers, guards, servants around the room bent their necks toward him. Subservient only to him. He swayed a little with the power of it. Found he liked it as much as he’d liked having them take him seriously with his increasingly deadly games.
Gathering himself, Loki made his way down the dais, walking through thick blood and a thicker stench of death. Thrym fell into step a pace behind him silently and they left the throne room, walked almost automatically through the long hallways and lesser used passages until they came to Loki’s quarters. Solitary and hidden away, they were. Nestled at the back of the cave system. Laufey’s room was but two, perhaps three, lunges across the hall.
“Will you move into Laufey-Once-King’s rooms, then?” Thrym asked, starling Loki a little as he paused at the threshold to his chambers.
He leaned against the door, carved with the tree that had spurred all things, and at its base was Ymir, suckling. The ancestor of all things, the god usually provoked a sense of peace in him, but not now. Now Loki felt like he could laugh and dance and cry and rip at his hair and yet did nothing. He merely stood and said, “I don’t know.” He shook his head and pushed at the thick ice and the door swung open. “Not yet. I have a year to mourn before I must take the throne.”
Thrym made a slightly annoyed sound. “Prince, who would sit on the throne afore that? Who would deal with the tasks that Laufey-King turned his last eye on, neglecting all else? And what of your other plans—”
Loki spun to face Thrym, eyes wide in rage and for a moment he thought that Thrym shied back, but no, it must have been his own unstable mind because no soldier would shrink back from a child jotun yet to have even gained to stomach for murder. “Do not speak of them,” he hissed, stabbing at the air with a finger tipped with a claw of ice. Loki’s eyes then jumped, leapt up to the ceiling and darted across the room. Tapestries and soft materials lined the walls, ice sculpted in wonderful, forgotten ways. Nothing more. Nothing less.
He could not feel the Guardian of Asgard’s eyes on him, but he did not feel their lack. Now, he felt nothing. Nothing and yet everything.
He felt, for once, alive.
Turning back to his chambers, Loki moved further within, left Thrym standing unsure and stark within the dark room full of soft colours of earth and sky. Loki took a seat before the polished obsidian and looked at himself for the first time since he’d killed another. Nothing different. Still too thin, too small and too wily. He parted his lips in a snarl, clenched his teeth. His pale teeth glinted in the dim light from the crystals wedged in his ceiling, catching the light of the day-star and throwing it down below ground.
Thrym approached slowly until it was like there was little else behind him but Thrym’s waist. He bent and took Loki’s chin in hand with a rough palm, turned his face up gently. They met eyes and there was a moment of stillness. The roiling in Loki’s stomach calmed. Nothing but acceptance in those eyes, he saw. It eased him.
A finger came into view and it was one of Thrym’s, tipped with a blade of ice. It pressed against his forehead first, making one long arch of a cut, slicing through thick skin and thicker restlessness. Loki took a deep breath and let the slight tickle of pain distract him. This was his rite of passage, after all. Now with the makings of what would be raised scars it was said he was an adult. Right to marry, right to fuck, right to kill.
Right to rule.
Loki wanted to rule nothing.
He wanted to be Loki-Void and Loki-Nothing. Loki-Abyss.
Loki of the Casket of Ancient Winters.
As Ymir was the First, so Loki would be the Last.
After, once Thrym had finished his face and moved to his chest and stomach, his arms and his throat, Loki stood and reached past the general, his general, and palmed salt from the bowl on the table before his polished obsidian mirror. He ground it into his skin, hissing a little as he did. The wounds would never heal as anything but raised scars now. He snarled a little as Thrym took a pinch and began working grains of salt into the finer scars on his forehead and cheeks, his throat, taking care to distribute the salt evenly.
Loki’s blood dripped to the floor slowly from their fingers and Loki’s elbows, his chin.
He would have rested, but he had brothers to see and attend to. Now was not a time to lock himself away in his warm furs and the soothing caress of dreams. He had Helblindi, star-crossed Helblindi, to deal with. To shape and mould. Another plan lay there, waiting, wanting. He would nurture it, feed it and water it. Helblindi would grow and grow.
And yet his younger brother was atypical in the scheme of all things, and because of that he was all the more interesting, all the more needed, to Loki.
There was a knock on his chamber door.
Thrym straightened from where he was passing fingertips over the smooth gashes on Loki’s forearm and wiping away the blood with water and a smooth cloth that had been brought by the young servant boys. He went to the door and opened it a little, spoke in hushed tones for a moment before turning. “Prince, your brothers are in the mausoleum with Laufey-Once-King.”
“Yes,” Loki murmured, eyes transfixed on the way the scars twirled around his forearms. He looked back up to the reflection of his bleeding face and gave a soft smile at Thrym’s own reflection. “I should see to them, shouldn’t I?”
He stood and turned, the furs on his bed catching his eyes for a moment. He took one of the long cloaks made of bear-skin and tendons and placed it on his shoulders, slipped the ties beneath his arms and tied them behind his back. This fur, unlike his other, now ruined one likely still in the throne room, was long and brushed at his feet as he walked. He placed a hand on Thrym’s shoulder as he passed. Vafthrudnir was standing just outside his chambers, having came to deliver the message.
Loki crooked a finger at him, bidding him to come silently while he looked at Thrym over his shoulder. “Return to your duties, Thrym. I would have words with you later.”
His general thumped a hand against his chest and nodded.
Loki left him standing there, making his way down the hall with Vafthrudnir beside him, yet a pace behind. He turned his head a little, looked at his attendant past the long fall of his hair. “Helblindi is...?”
Vafthrudnir looked at him briefly, then turned his troubled expression back to his feet. “The news came as a shock.”
Loki’s stomach churned lightly. “Ah,” he said, looking forward again. The faint echo of a bereaved scream had him wincing. That was definitely his brother.
Long before he confronted his middle brother though, there was his youngest. The boy had made a small ball of Laufey’s golden link-cloak (or what remained of it) and was curled around it, sitting outside the grand entrance of the mausoleum. The walls were etched with crude pictures of the Norns and the sea deep beneath the ice. Ymir watched over all, two statues before the large doors crafted in his image, doubled over as he died at the hands of the Aesir Odin and his brothers.
Byleistr sniffled quietly and didn’t look up as Loki came to stand before him.
“Brother,” Loki began, crouching down before the youngling. He reached out to him, but once Byleistr looked up as saw the budding scars on his arms, he only let out a low sound of sorrow and buried his face back into the gold. Jotun couldn’t cry, but at times it seemed like they could. The boys shoulders shook as he moaned slurred words of grief. Nonsense, mainly.
Loki’s eyes closed a moment. He’d known that Byleistr would react unfavourably to the death of his sire, but he had been, in a way, unprepared for the reality of it. He placed his hand on the smooth skin of Byleistr’s head a moment, then let it slip free as he stood. “Heal well.”
Gathering himself, Loki stepped to the side and pushed at one of the double door that opened into the darkness of the mausoleum. Here was the only place in Utgard there was fire. Rather than being shaped from ice the walls were made of stone and mountainous rock. The centre was reserved for the viewing on the newly dead, an altar atop a dais. Laufey was laid out over it, naked of his gold and with his throat covered with the cloth that marked the killing wound. The blood had stopped, and Loki’s dam seemed to have skin made of pure night now—all but his markings had faded into darkness.
Loki had never seen a dead body. He found it, for the moment, oddly fascinating.
Helblindi didn’t give him the chance to indulge in his curiosity, however. Even bent over Laufey, the giant was still taller and thicker than Loki, and Loki had but a moment to witness his brother’s grieving before it turned to rage. He pointed a finger at Loki and hissed. “I had hoped it was all lies, but you come bearing the marks of first blood,” he said, and his voice was a hoarse and broken thing. “My brother, the dam-killer.”
Loki took a deep breath, noted Vafthrudnir making himself unobtrusive in the corner of the room to the right of the door. “You said to me not all that long ago, Helblindi, that you would have me rabid—”
“Not like this!” Helblindi screamed, arching over Laufey and cradling the Once-King’s head in his lap. His brother had all but crawled onto the altar, by now, as if the closer he came to his sire, then the easier his grief would be to bear.
Loki was having none of it. He found himself, as he did so often, flipping his mind over. He turned from the sullen runt son of the king to the sly son of the rabid Farbauti. In the space it took for a star to fall, Loki suddenly had no heart for his brother’s grief, his sorrow, nor his loss. Laufey had never been a father to him, never once shown him kindness as Farbauti once had. Had kept him from the sight of blood, the smell and touch of it, so that he could stay the growth-stunted first born bastard of Utgard’s royal family. He snarled. “You sire was weak and useless!” he screamed, loud enough have Vafthrudnir the unflinchable jump lightly. Helblindi himself reeled back a little, either from the volume or the content of his words, Loki didn’t know. Didn’t care.
Once-shy should-be King Loki turned, wrenched one of the swords from the wall above the tomb of his great grandfather and pointed it at Laufey, at Helblindi. “Your sire felled Farbauti, and you think I would stand idly by and watch this farce of mourning? The wretched thing had done nothing for us, for Jotunheim, for centuries and yet I must still stand idly by, must I? Take his insults and his distant nature all in the trust that it was just how my ‘dam’ was?” he screamed.
Helblindi’s eyes were wide. Slipping from the altar and rounding the dais he came forward cautiously. “Madness! This is nothing but madness, Loki! Sire loved you and ne’er once have you acknowledged—”
“Loved me?” Loki’s eyes flew wide. “What has love to do with this—”
“Everything!” Helblindi screamed, stabbing a finger at the ground as he advanced. “This place is cursed! This house, royalty—oh what a mockery it is!—this royal house has missed anything resembling kindness and sanity ever since my birth! The once mighty have abdicated from this place! Nothing but madness and sorrow runs through these veins!” Pressing fingers to his chest, Helblindi tore his own skin open, leaving rows of blood and suddenly Loki knew.
Knew what would stop this.
He stepped forward and though Helblindi was just so much larger than him, shoved him aside in his rage, advancing on the Once-King. He shifted his grip on his sword, eyes fixed on Laufey.
“Brother,” Helblindi called from behind him, broken, shocked. “Brother, what are you doing?”
“Loki-King,” Vafthrudnir echoed in concern, stepping forward.
Loki stepped up the dais and stood at the altar, paused a moment before raising the shining blade he eyed Laufey’s cold and expressionless corpse.
“I beseech you! Loki-King!”
There was no blood this time. All that remained of it was on the altar itself and in the throne room, along the halls in a slick, dark trail. He was unprepared for the sound, however. The stroke of his sword was fierce enough to cut through bone and hardening muscle. Sounded something like carrot snapping in twain.
Laufey’s head rolled to the side, onto his ear. Faced Loki with eyes half open and red eyes dark and listless. Prying his fingers into Laufey’s mouth, thumb beneath his chin, Loki hefted his head, heavier than he’d expected, and turned to face his brother.
His brother who had fallen to his knees not three paces away, and Vafthrudnir who stood not far off, hands covering his mouth, eyes wide with horror. It took Loki a moment to realise that the broken wail, the sobbing, was coming from both of them.
Raising his chin, he hefted his dam’s head. “This creature outlived his reign, Helblindi,” he said calmly. “And you knew that this would happen. I know not of how, but you did. You haven’t crawled into my bed in decades, but you did not too long ago. And on that night you spoke of Farbauti and this.” He shook Laufey’s head.
“Stop this. Stop this brother,” Helblindi moaned, falling forward onto his hands before him, pressing his forehead to the cold stone. Firelight glinted off his horns. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I had dreamt...”
Loki lowered Laufey’s head to his side. His eyes flicked to Vafthrudnir, whom was composed once again. He shook his head gently, as if to discourage Loki.
Loki the runt, the shy son of Laufey, resurfaced.
Yet, he was insensate to Helblindi’s pain. Growling, softly, Loki stepped down from the dais. Made his way to the doors and when Vafthrudnir made to follow, to leave Helblindi alone with his cries and his sentiment tainted weakness, Loki growled, “Do not follow.”
Loki made his way out of Utgard and into the Outlands. Here the world descended into great yawning tears in the earth. They were like wide open maws, hungry to swallow all that stood too close to the edge. The ice was slick with the last fall of sleet and in a way it felt like Loki himself was being drawn towards the dizzying height at the very edge of the broken land to be swallowed up by the very world he served.
Once, it had not been so. He’d been told, at least.
Laufey’s head, after a while, began far too heavy to carry by the jaw, and so he curled his fingers and called ice from the air, from the very moisture of the earth, and it caressed the skin of his palm like a gentle lover before shooting passed Laufey’s lips and through his palate, out the back of his head. Frosted around the entry and exit wound to keep the head itself from slipping.
Placing the lance over his shoulders and holding it steady, Loki continued on. He walked for, perhaps, a full turn of the day-star, and when it was high and far, a mere token of what it would come to be later in the day, Loki stopped.
This was the bifrost site, and for miles on miles before it there had been nothing but Aesir armour and weaponry peeking out from the snow. An occasional skeletal hand or frozen solid and perfectly preserved Aesir in its entirety. Here, where he stood now, before the widest gaping chasm he thought he’d ever seen in his life, though, there was nothing. Nothing but the ghosts of war and soft snow that squeaked beneath his bare feet. The storm had passed, and now there was no wind, no snow. No protection.
Loki hefted Laufey’s impaled head and jammed the spear into the stone and ice before him. Looked upwards at the utter dark sky and the shining stars, the small smudges of far off worlds. He narrowed his eyes and pulled his furs around himself. “I know you can hear me, Gatekeeper Heimdall. The sorcerers of Jotunheim have always known your name. Farbauti passed such knowledge on to me, as well.”
That faint prick of a sensation, the feeling of not being alone, seemed to double.
“Ah,” he said, and his lips curved into a smile. “Do I have your full attention now?” He gestured to Laufey’s head. “Then you see that there has been a change, as of late, and I would speak with your King.”
Aesir King did not appear immediately. Loki had not expected him too.
There was only silence, the howl of the chasm before him, and the utter stillness, the dead listlessness of his world. Loki did not take his eyes off the sky for as long as he stood there, waiting. The sensation of Heimdall’s eyes, his attention, did not leave. He reasoned that the King was being fetched. Coaxed into meeting with the as-yet King of Jotunheim.
Loki, who had a plan for everything, knew not exactly how this would go. He had a goal, of course, but he’d never met Odin before, and all he’d had to go on was hearsay. Hearsay was never a thing to base a plan on. Never a thing to trust a life or a game on. His plans spanned yards and yards of notes in his own mind, and of course he could pick and choose, but for now he thumbed through all the possibilities and found himself resigned to requiring more information on the enemy of his people.
And oh, wouldn’t all of his new court, his new favoured closest ones, be most upset that he had called the King here and had not taken an aptly sized Jotun with him, nor, at least, a small envoy of attendants. Despite the fact that he’d cut off his dam’s head and stormed out half-mad, was still likely acting on the impulse that Farbauti had once called the ‘oneness of self and seidr’.
It started a small prick of a star in the sky, like the slow swell of blood from the finest of punctures in the flesh. The speed with which it neared was dizzying. The sky was black and lit only with the stars themselves, and then there was colour. Golden, bright and shining. Reflecting in all manner of hues, a direct line from Asgard to Jotunheim. It left the taste of flavoursome citrus on his palate.
And then it faded, and the sky was dark again, the pillar of the Bifrost’s reach retreating into the ether.
Loki dropped his gaze to Odin. He was amused, briefly, that they were nigh the same height. Loki, however, was perhaps a palm’s width taller.
The Aesir was ruddy of flesh and my, how curious that was to see, despite how he’d heard tale of it. The gleam of his armour, silver and gold, along with such strange skin only made the creature more bright and shining. Terribly out of place here.
Loki found himself laughing lightly, delighted that the King had come. And come alone.
He bowed, bending at the waist, though he kept his eyes on the monster. “All-Father. How good it is to meet you, at last,” he said, because Laufey, if he’d taught him nothing else, had at least imparted on Loki the wisdom of giving your enemy the service of politeness.
“You’ve grown, King Loki,” the Aesir said, and his voice was so much more in tune with Vafthrudnir and his own, rather than those of Loki’s jotnar kin. In a way, Loki wanted to do nothing more than command the king to stay, to speak. To allow Loki to pry and pry until he discovered all about this enemy that was spoken of with such hate. And their strength, oh yes, their strength held such secrets, such knowledge.
“Ah yes,” Loki said, tilting his head and narrowing his eyes but a little. “Last you saw me I would have been but a babe. I should assure you that I cannot think any less of you for taking your victory of the Great War on the first day of my life. It’s quite a paradox, thus. ‘The Prince’s Day of Birth is the same as a Day or Mourning! Scandal! Outrage!’” he hissed, thinking back on all those times, all those awkward moments. Laufey’s dislike of him had surely come from such bitter memories, for all the jotnar had were memories.
For a moment, the Aesir King looked pained, and Loki paused in his gestures, arms falling back to his sides and head tilting with interest. Strange, that such a man, and of whom of such stature, would show such an expression here. “Something on your mind, Odin-King?”
The aesir’s eye was blue and white, and Loki wondered if this was so for all of the golden shining sons of Asgard. “You are quite a lot like your father.”
And oh, Loki would have tackled the miserable, hateful cur into the chasm had he not a single shred of calm to cling to desperately. “Do not speak of Farbauti! You know nothing of him,” he growled, fingers curling into fists tight enough to stain his furs with blood.
Odin looked only calm, patient. He raised a hand, palm forward, in a gesture that asked for pause, restraint. “I know that you wear furs as Farbauti once did. That you have the same strength of seid as he once did. Perhaps more.”
Loki merely bared his teeth at the creature, hissed like a common animal. This man, this thing, rankled all of his senses. Drew up deep hate with such a single, easy few sentences. Oh, what he wouldn’t give to have his head on a spike of shining ice too.
Silence fell, and Odin only watched Loki, taking in his changes, his new scars. All that he was as jotun.
“A very long time ago, when you were still young, Farbauti and I met in secret,” Odin confessed, and Loki, Loki only could feel the air rush out of him.
“What?” he croaked, a sorely broken sound of pain and shock. Eyes wide, and mouth agape, he felt the most off-balance he had been in his entire life. “No,” he said, quickly, refusing to believe it. After all, how? “No. I will have none of this.”
“Loki-King, listen. This is...something that Farbauti had set in stone,” Odin said, taking a step toward Loki that had the jotun turning from the aesir and shaking his head. Walking a few paces from the Bifrost site in pure disbelief. Oh, Farbauti. Mad. So mad.
Never once had Loki thought that such madness would return to strike at Loki. Laufey had taken his lovers. As was his right as King, and so Farbauti had been free also. But Odin?
Not only an aesir but the King of them!
“What was set in stone?” he asked, eyes falling on the faint line of the mountains of Utgard in the distance, licking at the sky like desperate, aging crystals. Worn and ragged.
Odin’s voice came closer as he spoke, low and calm. “Your father was progressive, for his king. Through the seid he knew much more than he should have about the way the worlds turned. I believe he’d spoken with the Norns on multiple occasions. He’d said to me, once, through my Munin, that this was not how things should be. The current configuration of events was chaos. And lo, he had sired chaos. Seid is not chaos, Loki, you know this.”
Loki turned to face the old King, gesturing for him to get on with it. The pain in his breast at having discovered that his father, Farbauti had been consorting with the aesir, was sharp and not easily ignored. Worst, he knew, somehow, that all the old king spoke of was true. No matter how much he wished it weren’t. They sounded indeed like Farbauti’s words. Farbauti’s drunken monologues shouted from Laufey’s chambers.
“Farbauti’s solution to fixing this, to putting order back into not only this world but others also, was to arrange a marriage,” Odin said, meeting Loki’s eyes with a strange sort of determination.
Loki’s lips parted, and he stared.
Odin continued. “The marriage of his firstborn whom he was certain would carry destiny with him in his hands, to an aesir.”
“No.” Loki shook his head and backed away, slowly.
But Odin continued still, voice rising. “His firstborn was a bastard, but he and I worked to make it not so. And now you are to be King, Loki. King of Jotunheim, and deigned to be Consort of Asgard. Promised to an Odinson.”
“I refuse! Surely you must see the utter insanity in this! No Jotun will stand for it!” Loki screamed, bent over double, vision turning into a haze of colours as his vision blurred. “I will not have it!”
“Calm yourself!” Odin bellowed.
Outraged at the utter gall of an aesir that thought he could tell Loki how to behave, how to react, Loki lurched forward. His hand snuck out, viper quick, and the sound of the slap echoed in the sudden silence that fell over both of them.
The wind sang through the chasm by their feet, and Loki slowly caught his breath. Odin had yet to turn his head back to look at Loki, his cheek blushing a strange kind of blood-red. Loki could see his own fingerprints there.
“We had both regretted the way the war ended. Your people are crushed and hungry, and I was a fool to have made them so. It breeds nothing but a desire for revenge.” And now Odin did turn his cheek, and his lack of an eye seemed pointedly stark at that moment.
Then; Odin had been foolish.
Now; he was not so.
Loki took a step back, lips drawn back in a snarl. “You are still a fool, Odin-King, to have fallen into the trap of Farbauti’s whims. He never spoke any sense.”
Odin shook his head, and his strange white hair, shifted, brushed along his armour as he did. “Madness is often but brilliance.”
“Leave!” Loki shouted, gesturing to Laufey’s head angrily. “Take that with you.”
They stood for a long time in silence, once again, until Odin sighed and tilted his head gently. Backing up to the pike, and the head on it, he snapped the ice in twain and held it in hand. Called softly, “Heimdall.”
That flash of brilliant light was brief and gone as soon as it had come, this time, leaving the mark of the aesir burnt into the ice and snow where the Aesir King once stood.
The sensation of eyes left almost immediately, like a butterfly taking flight, and just as noticeable.
Loki fell to his knees and began to laugh.
Chapter 4: The Grimoire of Farbauti
Time passes, and both realms ready themselves.
‘Ve’ is one of a few possible gender neutral terms.
No sex scene because this is a Thorki fic, but I am doing an outtake which will be posted separately, eventually.
Betwixt the furs of Loki’s bed, he felt as if he were in the womb once again. Thus it should have had him brimming with hatred, with distaste for his dear departed dam. Instead he found himself wishing it were Farbauti’s womb, and then wishing Farbauti had only spoke a little more to him of the way things worked in his mind. His sire had possessed the strangest pair of eyes he’d ever seen. But not because of their shade, no. They were as red as any others.
But they saw through walls, beasts and Jotnar alike. Constantly, it was like he saw things on a level Loki could not, that no one ever could, and he’d laughed at the strangest moments as if someone had made a magnificent jest, would fly into rages without warning, would cry silently, would shut himself away for days and then weeks towards the end.
And that, Loki realised, huddling closer under his furs, must have been when Farbauti was speaking with Odin.
When he shut himself away and suddenly there would be feathers in Farbauti’s hair, and Loki had asked once, “Sire, from whence did they come?”
And Farbauti had leaned down, pressed his cheek to Loki’s temple and smiled. Reached a hand up toward the sky. Loki’s gaze following, Farbauti’s fingers had spread so that it was like the light of the day-star was coming from his palm itself. “From those who walk in yonder fields of golden light.”
When Loki closed his eyes these days he could see the light of the day-star shielded from his vision again so easily: the weak light peeking from between Farbauti’s bejewelled (bones, again, as always) fingers, thin and long. The darkness of the night. The soft press of Farbauti’s cool skin against his own. The muted caw of an otherworldly crow, that of their oppressor, as it swooped past.
And it was now, at that precise moment that Loki realised what that gesture had meant. Farbauti had been holding the light of Asgard in his palm—holding Odin in the palm of his hand.
Eyes flying open, Loki threw his furs away from himself and pushed himself up into a sitting position. His chambers were utterly destroyed. Every last piece of furniture broken, jewels rent in twain, walls scared with the burn of his seidr. Loki’s hair was in a state of disarray, he realised, now that he could see himself in the reflection of his polished obsidian mirror. Long sable hair bunched in odd waves and curls, tangling around his horns. Covered half of his tear-stained face.
Time for that later.
Vanity impeded knowledge. At least for the moment. He would tend to his vanity once his thirst was eased.
Loki slid from his bedding to the floor, padded over to his crumbled bookcase where his old leather bound books lay in a pile. He felt, for a moment, a sense of regret. Such mistreatment. They had done naught but treat him well, aid him, and yet he’d broken their shelving and had them tossed to the cold stone in his rage. He kneeled, the stone a comforting coolness against his knees, and began sifting through the pile. “Forgive me,” he muttered, “I shall arrange thee properly later...”
Fingers skimming over numerous books, Loki fell into a daze for a moment, eyes glazing over and then—
“Ah!” Pain shot up his hand. The intensity of the reaction the grimoire gave him was punishing and oddly schooling. It almost said, Silly boy, you’ve been ignoring me.
He gathered the grimoire in his arms, eyes regaining their sharpness once again as he shifted to sit on his bedding again. He laid the thick tomb over his thighs so he might open it to read. And as he did the pages were still blank. As they had always been.
At least all but one, the first page, and it read, damningly:
For when you are ready, my son.
Loki screamed in frustration and tore at the thick parchment pages.
A full turn of the obelisk later Loki was covered by his furs again. Farbauti’s grimoire lay shredded at the foot of his bedding and he could not stop glaring at it. He could see the tendrils of the enchantment upon it. It was one sealed with a sacrifice and thus unbreakable to any circumstance but the caster’s choosing. Such circumstance had confounded Loki since his tenth winter when Farbauti had burdened him with the damned thing. One hundred and fifteen winters later it still remained useless to him but for the memory of his sire’s handwriting.
Within lay all of his sire’s thoughts, his skills and spells. Aeons of knowledge. And it was still, as ever, lost to him because he could not meet the conditions needed to have the pages bleed their words into existence.
There came a knock at the door to his chamber.
“What?” he snapped, unwilling to be disturbed. He had not left his chambers in, perhaps, two days. Such had been the time that had passed since the cursed King of the Aesir had told him of his fate.
“’Tis Thrym, my King,” came the faint reply.
Ah. Thrym was another matter entirely.
Loki hesitated a moment. Yes, Thrym he would allow. “Enter.”
Thrym had to force the door open; pushing at the rubble of what had once been a desk to ease himself through the doorway. Loki watched closely, furs drawn up to his nose, as his general closed the thick door gently behind him and then turned to cast an eye about the room. When his gaze finally settled on Loki, he found himself ashamed for not having taken care for his appearance earlier. Rue the day General Thrym saw just how tattered and worn Loki was beneath the surface in this damnable place of stagnation where he knew not whether to advance or declare a different game entirely.
True, marriage to an Aesir would get him into Asgard, and thus closer to the Casket of Ancient Winters, but it would also befall him a husband.
And an Odinson, at that, of which there were only two. Loki had heard tell of them and by his reckoning one was boring and the other honourable. Neither were traits he desired in a lifemate.
Thrym, at least, had the taste of treason about him and was thus much more suited to Loki’s palate.
“My King,” Thrym repeated, though this time with a grave kind of emotion. Sadness in his eyes. Something hurt. He came to Loki’s side, treading carefully, and sat at the edge of the bed. “What has befallen you?”
“But a foul temper,” Loki cooed, shovelling his cacophony of emotions beneath the familiar veil of lies. The practised ease of the falsehood turned his voice to a light purr. Something wicked and ever tempting. “My brothers pain me so.”
“Even so, Vafthrudnir has told me you will see no one. He sent to me as a last resort, that if you did not allow audience I would break in.” Grave though he might have been, Thrym was amused at the prospect of having been ordered to do so by such a small and weakly servant. “Regardless of whether he had asked this of me or not, I would see you bathed and fed, at the very least. My King.”
Loki scowled. “I am not yet King.”
Thrym paused a moment. He turned to look at the foot of Loki’s bed, at Farbauti’s grimoire. Gathering the pages, he stuffed it all back within the bindings and snapped the tomb shut. It glowed for a moment, and then it was as if Loki had never shredded it in the first place. Standing, Loki watched him carry the grimoire over to Loki’s damaged shelves. He raised a hand, and the ice of the shelves began to straighten and right themselves.
Loki glared at back of Thrym’s head. “Don’t.”
It had Thrym pause and look over his shoulder, suitably chagrined. But an act, yet still just as irritating at it would have been if meant in sincerity. “It is no matter, my King—”
“If I had wanted grovelling I would have allowed in a thrall, not you,” Loki snapped, eyes glowing a sharp carmine as they peeked from behind the dark furs he’d cocooned himself in. “I do not need to be appeased at this moment. Now stop it. You are not a servant.”
Loki turned his head away from Thrym and from the amused and vindicated expression on the Jotun’s face. “What is it you need, Loki-King? What will it take to have you...” Thrym waved a hand while he sought for the right word, “mobile.”
Loki considered this a moment. “A sire that did not seek to confound me even after death, would be sufficient,” he answered wryly, and Thrym merely raised his hairless brow in question. Loki sighed and rubbed at his face with his hands. “I told you once that you would be my confidant, but you were lovers with Laufey-Once-King.”
“The king has that right,” Thrym said blandly, showing neither distain nor approval of the fact.
“I would trust you with a grave secret. One that must be kept from all Jotnar unless I wish it so. If ever,” Loki said sternly, narrowing his eyes at Thrym.
The general came to him again, his faint shadow cast by the light-crystals falling over Loki and his bedding. He sat by Loki’s side and ran his battle-worn fingers through Loki’s hair, straightening it. “Farbauti had the right as well, I held his confidences more often than Laufey’s.” He spoke as if he knew how severely Loki’s thoughts gnarled around his sire like the threads of fleece upon a spindle. The concession did its intended job though and Loki was hideously aware of allowing himself to be eased.
The Jotnar had, after all, proven himself when it came to murdering Loki’s dam. His trustworthiness was not in question.
Only Loki’s confidence.
And that annoyed him greatly.
“Farbauti has, ever since I was born, seemed to exist purely to confound and infuriate me. Yet I do love him so,” Loki said, turning his head to stare at the wall while Thrym moved on to another section of his hair, working at the knots around his horns as he did so. He bent and collected a comb from the floor, began to brush Loki’s hair as well as any attendant. Listened silently.
“And yet even after his death, his lessons are still being delivered. If they could be called lessons at all.” Loki paused a moment, running fingers through the softness of his furs idly, revelling in the press of them against his as he lay, and Thrym bent over his to bring him to a much better state of appearance. “I discovered that he had set up a betrothal. Apparently to be revealed to me on my first blood.”
Thrym paused now, going still. His hands, large and almost intimidating, hovered over his shoulder. “Betrothed?”
“Aye.” Loki stared stubbornly ahead.
“To whom?” It was not, if anything, a gentle inquiry.
“Likely Thor, the elder Odinson,” Loki said, and now there was movement.
Loki was whipped around and pressed against the bedding, now on his back looking up at his General. Thrym’s eyes were wide with rage and his teeth were clenched. The gold in his ears glinted, drawing Loki’s attention briefly before he returned it to Thrym’s displeasure. It was an odd moment for Loki to think of how beautiful the war-torn Jotnar was when in protective, nay, possessive mind. “No,” he declared, as if to order his king so.
Loki could only find amusement in such a reaction.
Thrym continued. “They are our most hated enemies. How could Farbauti hope to think that such a thing could be well received by you, much less the entire Jotnar race,” Thrym raged, hands tightening on Loki’s arms. It felt, strangely, like he was being cradled. True enough Thrym gripped him and held him pinned beneath him, but it was not without care for his small and weak disposition.
“And thus my seclusion,” Loki replied, staring up at Thrym without fear. “I have been thinking, Thrym.” He wrenched one arm free and slapped at Thrym’s hand lightly until he retreated, and then he pushed himself up to sit. Thrym drew back to a respectable distance once more, though he did not seem chagrined. They still remained close, sitting on the bedding that was size enough for a prince, let alone one whom was nigh dwarfed by the true height of other, regular, Jotun.
Thrym waited expectantly.
“My marriage need not be announced. Least not yet. The Jotnar will not react well, this is true, and so why tell them at all? I will be King, it is enough. No one need know that I will be in Asgard, either.” And oh, there was the spark in Thrym’s eye. The moment where Thrym remembered that oh, Loki had planned this, even if he’d clearly not planned the way it had come about. Farbauti had been, and was, meddling but see how it marched to the sound of Loki’s drum now.
Perhaps because no one had ever known what beat it was Farbauti marched to, if at all.
Thrym parted his lips and took a breath. Loki glared fiercely, and Thrym nodded. The Jotun still remembered that there were eyes in Asgard watching, always watching. Eyes and ears and how clever of Loki to have revealed such to him without needlessly revealing his deigns on the Casket.
But then of course was the issue:
Thrym frowned, and said, “Is Odin-King mad?”
Loki chuckled. “Many think him wise beyond sanity. He did, after all, bargain with the Great Mimir.”
“Even so; why would he allow a Jotun so near the Casket of Ancient Winters? Let alone the King of Jotunheim?” Thrym asked, sounding perplexed.
Loki had no clear answer for that. He merely shook his head. He’d planned around it, in any case. The matter of the Casket was not something to be dealt with lightly. Most of his past days had been spent going through various stages of victorious wails and defeated cries as he realised the advantages and disadvantages of these new developments. There was, of course, something that he had come to realise a long time ago. Good plans, good schemes, were always evolving, always changing. The mutable nature allowed for the unforeseen events. And thus, through this, Loki could create something perfectly still from chaos, and chaos from something perfectly still.
It was, perhaps, what Farbauti had been talking about when he’d told Odin that he had the ability to ignore the a single thread of fate the Norns set for him, and tangle all threads together bad enough, that when the Norns finally straightened all of their lines, he would have skipped threads completely. But Farbauti was a fool to think that something so removed could be accomplished. The world tree, Yggdrasil, would not allow it. The world, the lives the gods and mortals went through, the fates of all, were governed by universalities that were set in stone. Parameters for the way things were.
And Loki knew, instinctively more than anything, when something was a universality and when it was not. It was like the taste of seidr on his tongue, the soft welcoming tingle in his veins. An intangible brush of a kiss on his brow from the completion of all things.
No matter how wise Odin was, there was no way he could predict chaos.
“Perhaps he is confident in whatever measures he has taken in squirreling it away,” Loki answered, finally.
Thrym made a thoughtful sound. “Yes,” he said. “That must be it.”
Loki sat up and gathered his hair. Let it fall over one of his shoulders. He said, quite suddenly, looking irritated in his own skin, “I would speak with you as I bathe.”
Thrym nodded and rose.
There was another door hidden behind a tapestry bearing the symbol of the Casket of Ancient Winters, the signet of their people. Ducking through it, they descended down a long and steep staircase and then came to the very depths of the chasm that the royals had taken for their own. Here the ice reached only enough to cool the waters and yet not have it freeze over as it so often did on the surface.
Loki disrobed himself of his single garment, his kilt, and Thrym did so beside him as well with a stark lack of embarrassment. Such was the way of military life.
When they sunk into the water, so rare anywhere in Jotunheim, Loki sighed a little and let himself fall to his knees and dip beneath the slow natural current of the cool spring. When he rose it was with a sudden break of the surface and he gasped for air as he smiled and combed his hair back from his face, blinked past the water sleuthing from him still. He opened his eyes and faced Thrym as he sat before him on the seat carved into the edge of the spring.
Loki allowed himself to enjoy the feel of water against his skin, the gentle weightless caress of his own long hair against his shoulders and back as he rose to his feet.
Quietly for his echoing voice, Loki said, “I would take a year of mourning and thus afterward be crowned. Though I am King in station I will not be so until I am thus in record. While in isolation I shall be in Asgard. A year shall be plenty of time to sort out this...mess.”
Scooping his hair back from his face, Loki surveyed Thrym. He seemed thoughtful, though still and his eyes were permanently affixed to the water’s surface. He would not meet Loki’s eyes, and like a shark scenting blood, Loki’s thoughts turned tides. The male was, of course, much older and larger than he. There was, however, a curious kind of pull he felt. Attraction. Thrym was battle hardened and by no means was he handsome as some called Loki himself, as they’d once called Farbauti, but there was still charisma there.
He’d long admired Thrym, though he’d ne’er allowed himself to indulge in it. Not even to acknowledge it in his own mind, this budding attraction. The want.
Now he could. Marked of first blood and adult as he was.
“It’s a gamble, Loki-King.” Thrym said, leaning back against the edge of the spring.
With his dark hair clinging to his cheeks, paling from the comforting coolness of the water, Loki tilted his head and hummed lightly, pondering. “You should know that I have never shied from a gamble.”
Thrym seemed to draw back further as he neared, and so he paused and waited a moment. And yet, when he made to move forward again, Thrym tensed like a wild animal under the eyes of a predator. No longer a General, a soldier; he was but a doe, and Loki the starving wolf.
Loki huffed and held up long-fingered a hand. “Hush, Thrym,” he said. “Don’t be so wary.” His hand dropped back into the water, sank weightlessly to land on Thrym’s knee gently, cautiously. The skin there was smooth and hard with muscle. Firm beneath Loki’s fingertips as he trailed them up Thrym’s thigh.
“I wish I could calm so easily, my king, but the look in your eyes was one I knew well from your forebearers,” Thrym said warily. A hand came down on Loki’s, and Thrym held it there lest it travel any further up. Loki might have been King, but he was oh so young.
Loki’s eyes turned hard and cold, his fingers flexing beneath Thrym’s, digging into that muscle. “You are General, I’m sure you could have fought off their advances if it pained your honour so to be subjugated to the level of a royal consort when you are Jotnar of station in your own right.” Loki narrowed his eyes as Thrym remained silent, his eyes falling to Loki’s chest and remaining there as a muscle jumped in his jaw.
There was a nerve there, somewhere. One raw and hurtful, and by Graceful Ymir, Loki intended to stomp all over it until Thrym gave him what he wanted. “Have you not seen how I have grown over the past years, Thrym? You gave me my markings, and so I am fit to take or be taken by whomever I like. And you deny me? Me? After having served both of my...progenitors?”
To even think of calling Farbauti or Laufey a parent was laughable. No, ‘progenitors’ was fine. Neither of them had been the family sort. Oh they might have imparted wisdom and had dreams for the both of them, but in true Jotun Royal fashion, neither had thought of their offspring as anything but another branch of themselves. To them, Loki was nothing but a tool to be wielded. It was just the way it was, and while Loki might have been bitter, he was also resigned. Ancestors, dams and sires were everything to the Jotnar, enough so that Ymir was elevated to god-like status in their eyes.
“Yes,” Thrym said, inclining his head a little. His fingers curled around Loki’s but it was of a much more patronising than soothing lilt, in Loki’s eyes. “However I don’t know of your reasons for this sudden interest. Loki-King, you’ve decided to impart on me all of your plans and now your desires quite suddenly. I can’t fathom the reasoning behind it and it worries me, since you seek none of my strategic, war-like advice, and yet you say I am your adviser. You treat me more as your attendant than your Vafthrudnir, who is surely better suited.”
Loki snorted. “Why is he better suited? Because he is as much of a runt as I am? Because he wouldn’t harm me, nor would be affected by my strange moods, trained by my sire as he was?” Narrowing his eyes, Loki laid both of his hands on Thrym’s knees and pushed himself up. The water shifted about his chest, sloshing around him as he settled himself in Thrym’s lap, legs either side of Thrym’s own, bent at the knee so that he was kneeling, though his knees had no hope of touching the step Thrym sat on. The Jonar was simply too large for it. “He’s been tainted by the death seidr, just as Farbauti had. You’ve seen the bones he wears; you can’t tell me that he is innocent of coveting my sire and my sire’s apparently meddling ways. Who is to say that he hasn’t an agenda of his own?”
Thrym seemed terribly uneasy with Loki in his lap. Enough to have both of his arms rise up out of the water, and to have them hover by his shoulders, very pointedly not touching Loki, and making sure that Loki knew that he didn’t intend to, as if Loki had levelled a weapon at his throat and threatened him against it. “And yet you assume that I have no agendas on part of Farbauti and Laufey.”
Loki chuckle echoed around the bathing chamber. “No, Thrym. You are a soldier. You do as you’re told. It’s not in your nature to do otherwise but as the royal house commands. And as of this moment, I am the royal house, and when I say that their wishes and hopes and dreams died with them, I know that you will understand that I do not say so lightly.”
Thrym stared at him for a long, hard while. And then his arms began to ease back into the water, but still they did not touch Loki. Not even the whisper of the water’s current to betray even such a slight change in proximity had been granted. If Thrym was insulted by the truth of the statement, he said nothing on it. Instead he said, “Aye,” and continued to eye Loki warily.
“Truly, Thrym,” Loki snapped. “You think I have anyone else I’d wish to confide in? I tell you only the bare necessities of it, and I wish for us to be...advantageous to each other. I don’t wish us to become embroiled in petty court-like monstrosities. When I take the mantle of King, if ever,” and here he held up a hand and glared sharply to still Thrym’s tongue against adamant protests that Loki must, “I would see fit to abandon this idea of ‘court’ altogether. If fools wish to vie for the favour of their King they may do it through the proper Jotun channels, and not snivelling at my feet as Laufey had enjoyed.”
Thrym frowned. “Would that be wise?”
Loki shrugged. “It would be a most interesting experiment, would it not?” he asked, and leaned back, amusement shining in his eyes. His fingers twitched under Thrym’s where they were still held still, and it was becoming a little awkward to remain in Thrym’s lap with his arm twisted so, but he would not back down. “But do not steer this conversation away from the topic.”
Thrym sighed and curled his fingers around Loki’s hand until he could pry it from his thigh and lift it up to hold it aloft between them, still under the water. “I understand very little of your reasoning still. You are young and I have lain with your forebearers. Yet here you are, seducing me.”
Loki raised his chin, eyes catching the dim light. “Thus you have experience. Talent. That is what I want.”
It was such an honest and open expression of shock that Loki couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m a virgin, Thrym. I refuse to allow an Aesir dog take that from me.”
Now did Thrym’s expression change from one of confusion to utter compassion and loyalty. The hand holding his tightened a little, comforting, and another came up out of the water to cup Loki’s face. “My King. You had but to say such.”
Loki smiled and it was a slow and hardly innocent thing. “Then fuck me, Thrym. Teach me so that I may insult my husband with my own knowledge when it comes to consummation.”
Later, when Loki lay pressed against Thrym’s side, half asleep and aching terribly as Thrym ran his fingers through his mussed hair, he was teased back to consciousness by Thrym’s soft questions. “What of Helblindi?” he asked, shifting onto his side and pulling Loki close so that they could press against each other and Loki’s lips pressed to Thrym’s neck where he could whisper his ideas with relative safety.
Loki sighed and rested his cheek on the larger Jotun’s shoulder. Eyes closed, he traced his fingers along the raised lines of Thrym’s scars. “Let his bitterness and anger grow, and then, when the time is right, let him know of my betrothal. But, through it all, keep him loyal to the Jotnar. I would have him made suitable to be King, one day.”
He had plans for his little brother, after all. Oh, such great, wonderful plans.
It took a month before an Aesir herald came to Utgard. It was but a falcon, but was large and landed on the throne with a small scroll clutched in its claws and pecked violently at any Jotun that tried to touch it.
Vafthrudnir came to him as he was reading in his rooms, scratched and irritated. His blood was dripping to the floor sluggishly, froze before it hit the ground. “You have a missive,” he announced, unimpressed. “I can only assume it comes from Asgard.”
The falcon cried out when Loki approached the throne too large for him, but there had been steps carved from the ice for him, and the need to jump a little to sit had been removed. Crossing his legs, Loki sat back in his throne and the falcon hopped up the arm of the throne, turning its head this way and that to look at him with one eye.
The scroll was dropped in his palm when he held it out, and Vafthrudnir looked bitter as he unrolled it, read slowly. There was a commotion as another Jotnar entered somewhere around the second paragraph, but all Loki could see was the elegant writing. All speak and so he could understand it, yet he had yet to learn how to write and read it himself. He refused, as Laufey refused, to teach his people the heathen words. The Aesir would have to learn to read Jotnar if they wanted to make sense of Loki’s inevitable reply.
The letter itself was from the Aesir Queen Frigga, and it was long and full of politeness veiled with threats and tense mentions of their violent past.
The last paragraph had Loki tensing and clutching at the parchment, jaw working as he ground his teeth.
‘I had known your forebearers, Farbauti. Ve was a most wonderful and talented practitioner. On Husband’s quest for knowledge many centuries ago, it was ve whom had directed husband in his quest to become Seidmenn. I myself have had the gift since birth, and will be delighted to have a child in whom I could speak of my craft in confidence, as relations with Vanir are tense at best. King-Loki should know of our long war and our plight to seek of retribution with Vanaheim and Jotunheim alike.
I would ask of your wisdom in this matter, as a seidr yourself it would be an honour to take the clan of Farbauti’s words into consideration in light of the upcoming marriage to my son, Thor.’
She driveled on for a few more lines, but eventually she ended the letter with her name and a word that was untranslatable even with the All Speak, however it looked suspiciously a lot like ‘future dam-in-law’.
He scrunched the scroll in his hand and looked up at Vafthrudnir and Thrym, who had been the cause of the commotion amongst the guards as he entered. He took a deep breath and then smiled thinly. “Vafthrudnir, I would have you close the doors with ice that we would speak in peace. Time has come that you knew of the developments forming amongst the realms and I wish to know of where your loyalties lie.”
Vafthrudnir’s eyes widened a little, and he bowed. “With you, of course, my king.”
Loki raised his chin and sneered a little, anger still crawling through him. Not at the words of the letter, but what had been behind and between them. “Yes, yes. Seal the doors.”
His attendant did as bid, bustling to the four archways that lead to the throne room, standing before them and coaxing the ice to move to his whim, blocking entrance to the guards and any others. Such a thing wasn’t odd but neither was it common. Jotunheim had not had a reason to do so for a long time, and the guards looked more than a little surprised, and then eager as the doors were sealed on what could only have been a war conference, they assumed.
Loki stood as the Jotun came to stand before him, and Thrym, standing back a few paces, dropped to his knees. Vafthrudnir followed soon after. “Have I angered you, my king?”
He detested the title. It tasted all too much of a moniker, though it was right and lawful still. Loki was King, and yet he did not feel so. Didn’t intend to be so.
“No Vafthrudnir,” Loki said, descending the steps and pulling his furs about him as he did. He was hot, but he was coming used to being so, and he knew that he would need the tolerance to heat eventually. “But the unclear nature of your loyalty to my sire is another matter entirely.”
The Jotun flinched and kept his head bowed.
“Vafthrudnir,” he snapped. “Look at me.”
He did, and in his red eyes he saw only regret and betrayal.
“Ah,” Loki whispered, eyes flicking to Thrym briefly, who was careful to keep his expression neutral, his eyes on Frigga’s falcon as it hopped up to perch on the ornate arch of the throne’s back itself. “Farbauti had been to Asgard many times, hadn’t he?”
“Yes, my King.”
Vafthrudnir took his time in answering, seemingly at a loss for a moment. “Farbauti told me little, but from what I learned, it was to teach the All Father Seidr.”
Loki chuckled. “Not merely that, surely. My sire was not so simple.”
Vafthrudnir lifted his head a little further, bit his lower lip. “He wanted to amend the timeline. He said that on your birth, there was a conversion and a split of two times. He’d seen it in his trances, spoke of a Aesir named Loki who would be the fall of the Asgard rule alongside the Jotun. Said that on this path, in our time, there was nothing but blackness awaiting us. He believed that we are living a lie.”
Listening, expression slowly turning even more sour, Loki eventually snarled and turned to stalk back up the steps to his throne. “Farbauti was mad.”
“Aye, but he was consistently correct in his madness,” Thrym spoke, quiet and reproachful.
Loki sat and glanced at the Aesir Queen’s writing, gnawed on the inside of his cheek. “I am to be married to Thor Odinson, Vafthrudnir. Such is one of Farbauti’s ways in righting the wrongs my sire perceived.”
Vafthrudnir’s sharp inhalation was easily audible. He looked up to Loki, concern in his eyes. “Peace?” he asked, and Loki, feeling the curl of deception coil around him like a lovers embrace, smiled.
“I intend to accept on the terms that we gain true peace for a time, yes,” he acknowledged, leaning forward. “But you had best remember the oath I took while Laufey-Once-King was in his mourning seclusion. I mean to bring us back to glory. For myself and for other Jotnar, and not because of the meddling my sire seems determined to enact from beyond the grave.”
“Farbauti was a necromancer, Loki-King, is such really so surprising?” Thrym asked, tilting his head to eye Vafthrudnir’s accessories. Most were the small bones of children. Likely Aesir.
“No, I suppose it should not be.” Loki sank in the throne a little and rubbed at his forehead. “This,” he said, shaking the letter the Aesir Queen had sent him, “announces that peace negotiations are to be held prior to my joining with Thor Odinson. Likewise she has given me a puzzle, and I must solve it, as she apparently knew Farbauti and will not have her son married off to a stupid brute.”
Loki snorted, then chuckled a little.
Vafthrudnir’s head rose, and at Loki’s gesture, he stood. The jotun spread out his hands and leaned forward eyes alight. “Then show her your craft, Loki-King. Show her that you are indeed the son of Farbauti and Laufey-Once-King. Show her that you refuse to marry your right of the throne into Thor Odinson’s hands, as Odin-King seems to intend to do. He should know that it would only be a temporary marriage, and thus idiocy.”
Loki rubbed at his lips, turning his eyes to the falcon perched above him. “Yes, but Odin-King has drunk of Mimir’s. He is wise, and I have only the blood of my ancestors to rely on.”
Thrym grunted. “Loki-King, you are Jotun. You were born and have lived on much less than these pale-fleshed ‘gods’ have.”
Loki closed his eyes and smiled. “Oh yes. And we have triumphed with lesser tools at our disposal.”
Dearest Aesir Frigga-Queen,
Forgive the tongue of this letter.
I haven’t yet gained full ability to speak the All Tongue. Books are far and few here, I wonder where Farbauti managed to learn ves craft at all, so specialised that it was with death and the dead themselves. I can see the Odin-King’s attraction to such with his command of the mortal dead. I have no such interest in the dead if Odin-King wishes such knowledge of Loki. Farbauti was well known to be eccentric in ves living days. I have no need to be a King distrusted thus.
I have learned, amusingly, that to be seidmenn in Asgard was to be ergi, and as such I am curious as to the reception of Loki amongst thy Aesir peers. The Jotun are to have a treaty with the Aesir, are they not? A marriage to seal it with; myself and Prince Thor Odinson. I wonder if such is wise to marry a Prince to a King, and if Odin-King has fully thought out the implications such an insult would bring to the Jotun’s themselves. Defeated we may be, and prostrate before thee, we have no will to lower ourselves further to the Aesir’s will. Thee have our Casket of Ancient Winters, after all. Anything more would be petty and alike to sending a child to the slaughter.
Loki-King has, however, agreed to go along with thy past sire’s will and testament. I will marry Thor Odinson on the condition I retain the throne and purchase of both Aesir and Jotun royalty, Aesir in title and treatment alone. Other details may be sorted on speaking with the Odin-King. I will have true peace; not subjugation.
I am not my father, Laufey-Once-King.
In regards to the matter of the treaty between Vanir and Aesir, I would point out the poet Kvasir. He is the key; beloved of both tribes. I have heard though, that he has been subjugated and silenced. Slaughtered by dwarves, who then gifted Kvasir’s blood to a Jotun.
Loki-King gives permission for the eradication of the Jotun who keeps the blood to veself.
A wedding gift, mayhaps.
May thee have the skill of words like to thee the bards of Midgard.
I expect to speak with thee within three moons. Ve is eager to have peace and meet thy son.
A date was set.
Negotiations would begin in one moon. The Jotnar equivalent was 13 turns of the day-star.
Very little time for Loki to scheme. For Loki to plan on just how he would manipulate the prince into handing Loki the Casket of Ancient Winters and his dear, beloved brothers had to, of course, be spurred into acting just as he wished them to without anyone knowing, including Loki himself.
He had never been so entertained as the times when he stood in the snow storms and planned the destruction of all those around him.
Ah, Laufey-Dam, he thought. You would have been proud to see your ruthlessness mix with your lover’s rabid nature.