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Scold's Bridle.

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The funeral for a traitor - liar - Prince of Asgard is gorgeous and awful, as to be expected. Loki's self-loathing war crimes, a Laufeyson's attempt at Jotun genocide, a little liar boy's guilty suicide before his brother's eyes: the stories all pale in the light of an afterimage, tattooed inside Thor's eyelids as penance. Loki falling with a terrible peace in the final refusal, a kick of spite flashing in inscrutable obsidian eyes. Farewell, brother mine.

The gilded halls of Asgard are swathed in black; in raven's wings and jet and oil-coloured silk that ripples like the dark portals of the universe. Still, there are few who truly mourn the late liesmith as someone dear. Frigga cries glass-pale tears, washing her face pink-shell and translucent by turns. Odin sits as granite trapped in ice, grey and immovable. Thor, beautiful sunflower child Thor, with cornshone hair and a new, painful humility; Thor weeps as a child might, weeps alone, weeps blood.

In the darkened palace, an empty coffin lies in enchanted state, sombre in its death-glory: the final and best lie of Loki Odinson.

Loki had his mouth sewn up,
Tight for every time he tried -
Loki had his mouth sewn up
So he couldn't tell no more lies.

Outside the prison chambers, Loki can hear the children of Asgard singing.

Loki had his mouth sewn up,
Stitch, snip, stitch, snip, stitch, snip,
Loki had his mouth sewn up,
Black thread between his lips.

When Loki is a princeling and not a war criminal, when he is smaller and more breakable and loved in a flawed, comforting way, he angers many. Silver-tongue hissing gilded through the gaps in keyholes, eyes wide dark sorrowful. Hiding skinny in corners and living vicariously through insinuation and suggestion. The boundaries of a solitary language cannot hold him.

(Loki sits, sits. He is the centre, the apex. The guards look askance at his silence. He used to talk so often, before. He lived a thousand years and more in the wrong skin happily, before.)

When Loki is younger, and bolder, and clever - oh, so clever - pin-sharp pupils stabbing into backs in place of a knife - he enfuries. He doesn't have the strength to kill you, but he'll engineer downfalls every day all the same. Odin's son, trickster boy, little Loki Liesmith; run, run, as fast as you can, you can't catch him, he's the -

Loki had his lips sewn up,
The scissors gleaming bright,
Loki cut her hair all off,
Ran away into the night.

Loki is first told to shut up by his brother. The time is inconsequential, the reason petty; they are running with his Warriors Three, with Sif, and he is tripping Fandral up in the noose of his own comments, how only women can build good magic. Loki, laughing with the thrill of pulling energy taut from the Bifrost, tinkering with the weft and warp of it – twisting apples to give them gilded skins, shrivelling flowers into marbled flame, darker burning joyous.

"Silence, Brother," Thor says, when Loki speaks of how in Midgard, immortals such as them - such as him, masters of the Bifrost - were worshipped, deified, sacrifices and mass slaughter in the name of their apparent miracles, "Why, for you speak only foolishness."

In a burst of awkward, adolescent intensity, Loki can only laugh fakely, brightly, and defer, hating, stung. Sif's eyes flick towards him, momentary burst of concern, but she turns away.

Thor had never tried to quiet him before, always let him talk, spin fantasies out of the lull and cadences of his own speech. Even if his eyes often drifted away, vaguely distracted, he always tried to listen. It was the trying where no others deigned that truly mattered, following Loki's yarns of thought as they unspooled into webs of design and malice and childishness.

It was Thor who chased away the nervous-eyed servants when they ran, whooping, down the corridors; the ones who gossiped about Loki Odinson in the spacious palace kitchens.

(Loki Odinson, unseen and unnoticed, hidden under a preparation table, bit his own hand to stay quiet, for once in his life to stay quiet. He cursed them with a vociferous plague of snakes, small, wily, biting, hiding in cupboards, that lingered for weeks.)

It was Thor who admired Loki's magic with an open, trustful manner, and laughed at Loki's tricks, and never, ever used words like devil or unnatural.

Even years later, if Thor tries to quiet him in jest, he flinches. Centuries later, Loki takes a certain satisfaction of talking back over him, just because he can, just because the stitches no longer tug pain at his mouth.

Sometimes, he wishes to see Thor laugh again, at him conjuring apples from air, but the time for pranks is gone.

Loki cut her hair, he stole it,
Where he hid it, none can say,
Loki had his mouth sewn up,
A year's bargain to the day.

In his books, he reads of all manner of contraptions on Midgard, on Jotun; sketchy diagrams of utensils, torture devices, intended to silence. Punishments for chattering housewives, for heretics proclaiming against institutions, for those who talked too much when they should force their eyes to the ground and their bodies to kneel.

Loki is angered by it, by this intended waste of the potential of voice, mortal, immortal. It is only later, as the needle pierces through his lip for the first loop and he forces his face into a mask of indifference, that he realises.

A voice is a weapon, and all kind fear a great weapon.

Loki had his mouth sewn up,
A wager he went and lost,
Loki had his mouth sewn up,
Never stopped to count the cost.

"Loki Odinson, Prince of Asgard and traitor to the throne, do you have anything to say in your defense?"

The Elders of Asgardian Council turn to him. The multitude of crowd hushes.

“Did my brother ever tell the Council,” Loki murmurs sinuous, “How he came about to possess the mighty Mjolnir? No?”

They have never wanted to listen, but he has always yet tried.

“I am a Laufeyson. I assume he mentioned that?”

They bind his mouth again; he knows their inevitable verdict in that alone.

Loki is a dead man,
With a dead, dead heart they say,
Loki is a dead man,
For he's to be hung today.

Outside, the children of Asgard are singing. He can hear the bells begin to ring. The guards shift uncertain.

Loki smiles.