"Hullo, Valföðr," the stranger says, slouched in Odin's throne.
Nothing has been disturbed. No alarm has been raised. And yet there is a stranger in Odin's throne, and his fingers are splayed across Gungnir.
"Well met, stranger," Odin says, readying himself for whatever move he makes. "Who are you and how came you to be here?"
The stranger laughs. "You'd think language and culture would move with the times, Valföðr," the stranger sneers. "But you and yours are still stuck a thousand years ago. Explains the boy, at least."
Odin does not react, cannot. If this man is here for Loki... "Who are you?" Odin demands, every inch the king he has been since time immemorial. He is the All-Father, the most powerful warrior and sorcerer in nine realms.
(Lie, whispers a voice in the back of his mind. It sounds like Loki.)
“Who I am is of no consequence,” the stranger snarls, lunging to his feet, fingers clenched around Gungnir. “What I can do is far more important, little king of petty children.”
Odin’s eyes widen. “How dare you come here!” he thunders, flinging his most powerful, dangerous spell at the man’s face.
It hits the man dead-center and he doesn’t react at all. “You should know better,” the man says, calm and cold. Odin shudders; he remembers this man, remembers blood soaking into the ground, remembers a command that reverberated in his bones.
“You stole a child and raised him to hate himself,” the man says, stalking down the stairs towards Odin. “You denied him when he needed you most, lied to him in every memory he has of you, and did not search when he fell into the void.” Gungnir flashes, power building, and Odin tries to prepare a shield, but he cannot do anything except listen. “You let your All-Seeing Gatekeeper withhold information, told your firstborn half-truths to stoke his betrayed and despairing rage, and threw the child you stole into a cage without even asking why he’d done anything.”
Gungnir rests against Odin’s heart and he looks into the stranger’s eyes. “So tell me, little king,” the stranger croons gently, a blood-curdling lullaby, “what should I do with you?”
“I have done my best,” Odin says, as strongly as he can.
The stranger laughs. Gungnir pulses and brilliant light flashes, and Odin screams –
He comes to on the floor of his throne room, Thor and his guards asking what has happened, if he’s alright.
“Loki,” Odin gasps, holding his chest. His heart aches. “Check on Loki, he came for Loki –”
Of course, Loki is gone. So is Gungnir, Sleipnir, and so is Mjölnir, when Thor thinks to call it next.
“Father, what happened?” Thor asks, standing in Loki’s empty cage.
Odin closes his eye, feeling so very old, and replies, “I made a grave error, Thor. And an enemy.”
(Two enemies, little king, a voice whispers, as cold and dark as the void. Well done, Valföðr.)
“Will Loki… is Loki safe?” Thor asks hesitantly. “Is Midgardr?”
Odin flinches. Every accusation the stranger made… if Odin can rectify those that can be rectified… “We must speak to Heimdallr,” Odin says. “Come, Thor.”
When Odin was young, having just ascended his father’s throne, he fought a foolish war. It is not in any song, or history, or story told in Asgardr. It exists only in Odin’s memory; he is the oldest in Asgardr. No one else still living was there to witness how he fell to his knees before his enemy. How he pled for his life. How he swore anything in his power, if only he survived.
His enemy laughed, and sliced Odin’s cheek with the sharpest blade in nine realms. His enemy let him live, with a single command: raise the child well, little king.
Odin did not know which child, or why, or when.
By the time he found an infant in a temple on Jötunheimr, he had long since forgotten.
“What is your greatest desire?” Adam asks Loki.
“Thanos,” Loki answers. “Thanos with his guts spilling on the dirt. His heart in my hand. His eyes, staring unseeing at the stars.”
Adam laughs. “He seeks Death, doesn’t he?”
Loki nods. “Thanos hopes to woo Death with the charred remnants of a thousand worlds.”
When Adam finally controls his laughter, he says, “Then let him meet Death, boyo. I assure you – he won’t regret the meeting for long.”
Loki smiles at him, madder than a hatter, and Adam wishes he’d acted sooner.
But wishes are horses, and Death does ride, and their first stop is Thanos.
Their last stop will be Asgardr, and Odin will be king of all those slain.
There was one command given, on a bloodied field.
There was one command ignored, in golden halls.
The greatest villain is the one created by the hero’s hand.
On a thousand worlds, the greatest villain of all is Death.
Death’s fine with that.