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Of Monsters and Kings

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In a small cell made of impossible glass and greys and whites, the disgraced golden son of Asgard receives a visitor.

“Hello brother mine,” the man says. He stands tall, holding himself ever taller with long limbs taut and tight.

“I have no brother,” Thor replies, though his tongue feels heavy and dulled with whatever the people of Midgard have done to him.

“Ah, did our father never tell you?” the man asks.

A flash of pale, pale skin peeks out from the loose folds of the man’s green scarf, the one that pushes his dark hair out at the ends, like the feathers at the tips of a raven’s wings. The lines of the man’s face remind Thor of a nightmare he had long ago, or perhaps not so long at all.

“I, myself, learned the truth only recently,” he explains. “Though I had always suspected it.”

“There is no truth,” Thor insists. “Your tongue is made of lies.”

“If only, brother mine,” the man tells him. “If only.”

He steps forward, leans in close, and whispers with cold breath against Thor’s face, the sort of things that must be spoken of only in murmurings.

“When our father—“ Thor flinches, for he has no brothers.

“—returned victorious from the plundered home of the Jotuns, he left something behind.”

The man straightens and smiles down at Thor. His smile ought to have sharp teeth, each a tiny dagger, but they are blunt and white instead. The daggers are simply implied.

A thousand years, or perhaps only a few turnings of Jotunheim’s green moon ago two great powers were hidden in a temple of ice with their king and protector. The baleful lord of the Aesir steals but one of the temple’s treasures, the one to which he has no right.

Before the bifrost returns them to their gaudy home, the warriors of Asgard light fires against the frost and burn their honorable dead, including those they have felled. The Jotuns recoil to their broken homes and dare not exhale until the bifrost has taken away their enemies, small but jealous.

The green moon turns its scars upon Jotunheim and the treasure Odin left behind grows, but very little.

So small, so very small, no matter how Farbautí says, “My, Loki, how you have grown.”

The heir to Laufey wields power with ice and blade, but he discovers fire in his magic and so it goes that any who breathe the words “bastard” or “abomination” about Loki, heir of Jotunheim, die a terrible death with black upon their flesh.

The people do not speak of the war, do not mention the empty place where their world’s heart once rested, though with every turning of the moon Jotunheim grows a bit warmer, lives a little bit less. They are dying and cannot give it words for it is a death by small cuts, by finger bones and teeth, by the trickle of melting glaciers.

Loki, child of Laufey and Farbautí, wanders through shadows and hears what no one says aloud.

“Why do you not join us in our mourning, sister?”

“How can I when our brother’s spirit is no more at peace than we? He is not buried in the ice, not taken by the waters you know as well as I.”

“Do not think on it.”

“I think on it every day.”

He watches frost form along the lids of rich, ruby-colored eyes.

“I dream of it, being swallowed by terrible fire until nothing remains. No body, brother, there was no body only ash, god knows where his spirit wanders now.”

He hears a thousand names before the seventh turning of the moon.

“Father, who is the spear-shaker?” Loki asks.

“Who is the oath-breaker?”

“Who is the blind one?”

“Who is lord of the undead?”

“What is the flaming eye?”

The hanged one, the deceiver, the battle-blinder, the over-thrower, the slaughterer, all names these names cause Laufey to frown at his so small child.

“All are Odin, child of Bestla,” Laufey tells him and he draws his great hand over Loki’s dark hair.

The storm Jotuns are said to be smaller at times, to have hair so dark and so plentiful, but Loki has never met a storm Jotun as small as he and they all have great horns upon their heads to match their dark hair.

“Who is Odin?” Loki presses.

“Lord of Asgard,” Laufey says plainly, as though he feels nothing about the place or its king.

Loki nods.

Thinking of it — one man so terrible as to be a thousand monsters all at once — makes a fire burn at the back of Loki’s throat.

It takes many desperate, melting years for Loki to find a path the Jotuns may take into Asgard in hopes of regaining the heart of their world.

“I will lead them,” he says.

“No,” Laufey tells him.

“Our world is dying,” Loki says, putting a voice to the thing no one speaks of.

“And it will die further still to lose its heir,” Laufey answers

Loki’s dark lips curl over his teeth, but he settles them. His eyes look less like dark, beautiful stones than they do hot coals, waiting to burst forth again with fire. Inside him, hatred smolders but cannot be quenched with all the melt water in Jotunheim.

The golden prince of Asgard storms into Jotunheim to repay their desperation with violence. He proves, with the volume of his voice and the careless swinging of his hammer, every terrible thing Loki has suspected of the Aesir and their king. Loki’s whispers spark the teasing which sparks the fight.

He nearly drives a dagger between the ribs of Thor, son of Odin, when he is grabbed about the wrist. The warmth of the touch burns him and his skin goes terribly pale, the way it does sometimes when he wields too much fire for too long.

He recoils, expecting his blue flesh to be burnt black, but the royal color and his markings slowly return. His momentary retreat is enough for the Aesir, stupid and loud, to think they can get away.

Taking his largest, most terrible shape, Loki pursues them.

And is defeated, struck down by the weight of the hammer in the hands of a monster’s crown prince.

“I am small for a Jotun,” Loki says to Laufey, his sire and king, “But not for one of the Aesir.”

“This is true,” Laufey tells him.

“I am not your child, am I?” he asks, frost splintering in his throat.

“No, that is not true,” Laufey insists.

“Then I am not the child of Farbautí,” Loki says. “Tell me I am not.”

He is pleading for his father, his king, to lie to him, to tell him he is the child of two strong Jotuns and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr and the rightful heir of Jotunheim. Laufey, though, is silent and honest.

“A monster’s get on a king,” Loki spits.

How could Laufey have stood to look at him? How could Farbautí stood to raise him as her own? How could any proud Jotun suffered him to live?

“The war is over,” Laufey tells him.

Would that they left him in the snow to die. Would that they had given him to his monstrous father to be killed like any other Jotun child the Aesir murdered in the war.

Loki bows to his king and apologizes, not for what he has said, but for what he is going to do. There will be war, certainly, if a Jotun, even a half-breed bastard, kills the king of Asgard.

On Midgard, the child of a monster and a king wears a too-pale skin and many layers of black and green, like burnt skin and magic. He stands before the warmonger who is his true kin and imagines a life with this monster beside him as he always had Helblindi.

“Good bye, Thor Odinson,” Loki says. “Thank you for your assistance in finding my way to Asgard.”

Surely the golden child of the Aesir would always be heir, as Loki was the firstborn heir of Jotunheim. Raised as an Aesir, he would have no hope of a throne and, perhaps, he would hate himself less for what he is. How funny, the diminutive, trickster prince of the Jotuns, his whole life has been one big, monstrous joke played out on him. He knows so much and for all the ancient wisdom he has learned, he never learned the truth of himself.

He should have been raised like the monster he is, like a brutish, florid Aesir, the get of the lying Odin.

Would that he had been raised to love this creature, this fallen prince with golden hair and pink skin, as a brother, it would forgive him for all the years he has loved brave Helblindi and powerful Býleistr, as though he were truly their brother instead of what he is. Thor Odinson is as much his brother as the ones he was raised beside; Loki’s mind grinds this reality between sharp teeth, and he hates the Odinson for being such.

“I shall repay you with the throne of our father after I have returned his gift to the Jotuns.”