ASGARD - The Distant Past
Green eyes from a young face flicked to the left as a figure sat down next to him on the bench. She had a slight form with unusual coloring for a light elf. Her pale skin was quite common but her hair was long and an unusually dark shade of black. She was wearing the correct clothing for someone of a noble class but her posture was just a little too relaxed. A little too casual. Which could mean she wasn’t a noble at all. Or perhaps it meant that she simply didn’t care about standing on service.
“The prince seems discontent.”
Loki straightened a little on the bench at what could be taken as a casual observation, hastily scrubbing at the moisture on his face with the back of his hand. He was only six seasons old, which was roughly fifty years old by a mortal calendar. No one but mother paid attention to him so her voluntarily interacting with him surprised him. Well, his brother did, of course, but just to encourage him to come to the training yard with him. As soon as Thor had turned eight seasons, his focus had shifted entirely to learning to be the best warrior of Asgard.
He was dressed exactly as he should be, but the dirt clinging to the knees of his breeches silently spoke of a recent fall. His fingers toyed with the hem of his dark green tunic, voice quiet and refined. “I am well, thank you.”
She made a soft clucking sound with her tongue, but her green eyes just a shade darker than his own sparkled with amusement. “My, my…did no one ever tell you it is impolite to lie to a friend?”
Loki looked up with a small frown, confusion dancing across his face. “What friend?”
“I will be your friend if you like.” She tilted her head a little towards him, a slight smirk tugging at her lips and her eyes full of secrets. “I have watched you for the whole of your life and I find you quite entertaining.”
“You do? Have we met?” Loki’s green eyes widened in surprise as he asked. She didn’t look familiar, but then again he was just old enough to start attending official feasts. He’d had a lot of people introducing themselves recently.
“We just did.” Her reply was accompanied by another smirk, this one warm and welcoming.
Loki giggled, a light sound that delighted the senses and caused an unconscious grin to form on both of their faces. “Do you have a name?”
Again that amused quirk of her lip created a smirk as she spoke. “Well I should hope so. My name is Hela.”
Loki gave a proper nod of acknowledgement to her. “A pleasure to meet you, Hela.”
Hela returned the gesture and was obviously highly entertained by his manners. “Likewise, I am sure, Loki.”
Slowly his face formed a frown, cheeks coloring just enough to indicate embarrassment. “How did you know I was lying?”
Hela didn’t take offense easily, and certainly not to lies. Some of the people that entertained her the most were magnificent liars. Her tone was dismissive. “It is a gift I have carried since my creation. Would you like to share it with me?”
“That is impossible.” His young voice was full of confidence that he was right.
“Nothing is impossible. Improbable. Unlikely. But never impossible.” She slowly lifted an eyebrow and gave him a strange look. She couldn’t help but ask the question that followed. “Haven’t you learned that in your magical studies?” His face falling caused her own to mirror him. Curiosity forced her to ask, “What is wrong?”
Loki looked down, letting his frizzy black hair fall into his eyes, his voice quiet. “They make fun of me for learning magic, so I stopped.” His finger unconsciously brushed at the dirt clinging to his breeches.
Hela made an irritated noise to herself. AEsir. Such powerful creatures but so stagnant. So BORING. Their mockery of a male witch was so predictable. They were little more than over-muscled bullies, in her opinion. Just by looking at him she knew he would never be as robust as the other children here. Yet more reason for them to mock him. He may not understand yet at such a tender age, but magic would be his greatest ally. Perhaps at times his only ally.
She held out her palm and a ball of fire filled the space. He watched in fascination, green eyes large from his small, pale face. Her tone was instructive but passionate. “Never let them take away who you are. Magic chose you, the most powerful seidr ever born who bends Yggdrasil to your will. Fight for who you are, Loki.”
His brow furrowed, unconsciously his lower lip pursing out just slightly in a pout. “They’re bigger than me.”
Hela hid her amusement but couldn’t help tapping his lower lip with her index finger, letting the fire in her other palm dissipate. His eyes widened further in horror, his entire face flushing as he sucked in his lower lip. Mother had been warning him repeatedly that pouting was unbecoming for a warrior.
Her lips tilted upward in amusement. “Well then I will teach you a trick that will help you with big bullies.”
Loki studied her for a moment as the red faded before he nodded decisively. “Okay. We can be friends.” So she showed him a few tricks, things that the arms master wouldn’t approve of since most of them involved injuring an opponent’s balls. They returned to the bench but he knew the answer before he even asked the question. “You have to go now, don’t you?”
“Yes, but I wish to give you a gift.”
Her hand moved in a way that he thought might be sleight of hand, except he knew it wasn’t. She pressed what was in her hand in his palm. He carefully examined the small disc made out of some type of metal with intricate runes carved in it.
“What is it?” Loki asked with a frown of concentration on his face as he studied both sides.
Hela shrugged casually, eyes drifting outward. “The midgardians have a saying.” She frowned delicately for a moment. “No…I always get the past and the future mixed up…they will have a phrase. This is a ‘get out of jail free’ card.”
Loki looked back down at the item that resembled a coin, voice thoroughly confused. “Card?” He’d seen the cards the warriors played with and this looked nothing like them.
Her customary smirk changed to a grin, obviously pleased with all his interesting questions. “In a manner of speaking. Should you die, you can use this for a second chance.”
“How?” Loki was very familiar with Valhalla, reading all that he could about it and any other subject spoken about. He’d never heard of a way to come back from the land of eternal glory.
She smirked and faded from sight, causing his jaw to drop and his eyes to widen in wonder. Yet he heard her voice echo her words. “Come find me and find out.”
SVARTALFHEIM - Present Day
Loki looked over his own body silently. That is not to say that he was simply looking down at his torso and limbs. To be more accurate, he was standing less than two feet from the prone corpse that he had once inhabited.
He was dead and forgotten on a barren plane in Svartalfheim, his body run through by the creature who had killed his mother. At least he had managed to avenge her with the elf’s life in return. But still, it was so disrespectful for his body to just lie here and slowly rot. If he were alive he’d be pissed about it. At least Thor had the decency to arrange his body properly before he went off to save the universe with his mortal lover in tow. He doubted if the thunderer would return to collect him for a proper burning.
But he was dead so it didn’t bother him. Right now he didn’t feel much of anything. The rage that had consumed him since he had learned of his true origins no longer mattered. Thanos’ manipulations of his own emotions so that he hated all that Odin loved were no longer of consequence. Indeed all that he had once cared so passionately about were of no concern.
He glanced to the left to see a path of gold opening before him. In the great distance was the feasting hall where all those worthy of Valhalla drank and toasted their eternity. Mother would be there. His mouth may say nothing except lies but he couldn’t lie with his heart. And she above anyone else had always understood that heart. She was his mother. She always would be. He was birthed by some unknown female on Jötunheim but Frigga was the woman who raised him. She taught him his first spells and was always there when he needed her.
There was a deep longing within him to join her, to turn his back on the living for a reward well earned. He could feel the running of hooves under his feet. No doubt the Valkyries were arriving to collect his soul and escort him to Valhalla. He found it funny in a distant way. That the trickster was found worthy.
Every AEsir warrior who had mocked his less than honorable tactics in battle, they all so certain he was destined for Niflheim because he wasn’t a proper warrior of Asgard, were no doubt raging through the halls of Valhalla right now. It would almost be worth it to go and rub his acceptance in their arrogant faces.
But he looked to the right as a subtle darkness opened. It was a soft darkness, caught between twilight and true darkness. There were no shapes to discern a destination but there didn’t need to be. He knew where it led.
There wasn’t much left worth living for. All but a question he desperately wanted answered. It was his choice to make and with a soundless sigh he slipped through the second passage that had opened for him before he had no choice. No one escaped once the Valkyries had their prize.
He followed the dark path through to the underworld, stopping in front of the entrance to Helheim. Garm guarded the way. The immortal creature acted as the barrier that kept those not welcome in Helheim out. Those not welcome being the living, for Helheim and Niflheim were the lands of the dead, depending on what fate was deserved.
Garm held the body of an enormous black wolf and four golden eyes glared down at him. But Loki always had his tricks even in death. Grinning broadly, Loki produced a Hel cake silently and put it down on the ground with a flourish. It was said that the dead would be given Hel cake to appease Helheim’s guard for giving bread to the poor during life.
The large sentinel gave Loki a distrusting look before moving aside to sniff at the cake.
Garm’s large head jerked up a second later, smelling nothing, and with a laugh both the copy of Loki and the cake disappeared in the same instance. As if he had ever given the poor bread. Gold was so much more practical to offer them and Loki had never been partial to it. The guardian snarled but was appeased quickly, lying back down across the entrance.
Loki knew why. The Queen awaited him.
He walked forward soundlessly, down the singular path that led to the entrance. The palace of black rock loomed before him, a colossal structure easily seen even from miles away. It was the home and lair of the Goddess of the Underworld. Lady Death. Or as she had been introduced to him just before his sixth season, Queen Hela.
Loki looked around as he walked through Hela’s throne room. He kept a dangerous smirk on his face and sauntered forward with confidence. There were souls off to one side in chains, no doubt bound for Niflheim when Hela got around to them. The dishonorable. The damned. The souls that would spend a painful eternity finding regret that would never be enough to pay the debt of a wicked life.
She was lounging on her throne, not wearing the elven disguise he had been introduced to but in her natural skin. The right side of her face was porcelain beauty, the left side skeletal horror. No one knew how she had come into being. There were stories that she was his daughter. Obviously untrue since she was far older than he was. She had been reigning over the dead since long before Borr had been born, Odin’s father. Perhaps it was just because they were such similar creatures was where the confusion was bred.
She smiled at him slyly as he stopped a half dozen steps from her. “Well…Prince Loki, what a surprise.”
Taking the coin out of his pocket that she’d given him as a child and flipping it towards her, his smirk growing. “I fail to see why you are surprised.”
She caught the coin effortlessly without turning her head, still watching him. “I have never had anyone destined for Valhalla choose to stay.”
“I pride myself in being unpredictable.” Loki shrugged dismissively as he offered a convenient reason. There was only one reason he wanted to cling to life for just a little bit longer. One answer he would have at all cost.
“Indeed. It’s what I enjoy the most about you.”
Loki’s eyebrow quirked upward, head tilting slightly in curiosity. “So that’s it? Back I go?”
Hela shrugged a single shoulder, holding out her goblet for it to be refilled. Her eyes, however, didn’t leave his face. “Essentially, but I am curious. What are you going to do with it?”
Blankness fell across his face, hiding everything. “To find out the truth.”
She nodded to herself, pursing the fleshy part of her lips, her head turned to hide bone in the shadows. “Mhmm…a sharp sword at times.”
His brow slowly furrowed as he studied her eyes. Those deep, secretive eyes that held so much knowledge. She hoarded her knowledge with the same ferocity that he hoarded secrets but the pair of them had always had an understanding of sorts. “Do you know…”
She could see by the slight movement of his eyes that he stopped himself from continuing because of the dead that drifted through the walls of the throne room. Hela waved a dismissive hand at them. Most of these spirits had been dead for so long they were no longer aware of what went on around them. Even those that were younger and listening--what did it matter?
She shrugged slightly. “They’re dead, Loki. Ask.”
His lips tightened for just a moment before relaxing. “How well do you know the AEsir?”
Her green eyes flicked to an AEsir warrior mumbling to himself, slumped against a wall. “There is not a singular species that has not had at least a few of them wash onto my shores. I know the AEsir as well as any other.”
“Odin.” The word was said sharply. So many emotions boiling around that singular word. He knew he wasn’t alive yet, his body still on Svartalfheim, but he suddenly felt a re-established connection with those spiraling emotions that had nearly driven him insane. He could almost taste his own rage.
She was not surprised at all that he was the topic. Hela nodded affirmatively. “He is known to me.” It’s not that she knew the AEsir’s thoughts, but she knew him well enough.
“Why would he…why?” Loki’s brow furrowed as he left the question as it was.
Why would he lie to me? Why did he take me?
Loki knew that Hela could only guess as much as he could. But she had been around a great deal longer. He was more inclined to give her suspicions credence over his own. He was almost hoping he was wrong.
Hela studied Loki for a moment, considering him carefully before speaking. “Why would he take a young Jötunn, raise him by impossible standards in secret and conveniently fall into Odin sleep when the truth was revealed?” Loki only flinched once, but he was clearly listening carefully. “Initially, I would think pity would have something to do with it.” He blinked at her in surprise. “At least until he saw that child’s markings and identified him as a child of Laufey.” She shook her head slightly. “After that…hiding that child’s origins would be an act that would cover his kingly ass as much as it would be an act of protection for that child. I can well imagine the AEsir would be unamused to learn that their king doesn’t even follow his own edicts.”
Loki shook his head, asking softly, “Why would he keep this from me?”
Hela’s lips curled slightly in amusement. “As much of a fool as I find him, I believe that Odin was at least aware of your initial reaction to such news. You were more useful as a competitor with Thor for his affection. There was probably also the want to protect you from such information as it would be troubling to you.” Loki made a scoffing sound. “I am merely giving my opinion, little princeling. What you choose to believe or do with such thoughts is in your hands.” Her amusement faded as she asked him carefully, “How well do you understand the AEsir?”
Loki slowly raised an eyebrow. “I was raised by them.”
She nodded and gestured slightly, her silky voice wrapping around him. “Then you would know that it is the dream of every AEsir warrior to fall in battle. Five thousand years and Odin never fell. But the prophecy of Ragnarok--ah. Now that would be such a glorious battle with a no doubt fatal end.”
“What prophecy?” The blankness on Loki’s face and the blandness in his voice were very easily dismissed if one was foolish. Hela was not. She knew that what lay beneath that forced blandness was a rage that could destroy the nine realms. Odin was such an old fool for not realizing just how dangerous a game he was playing with this brilliant, volatile son.
She steepled her fingers together, each digit touching, and spoke carefully. “The prophecy that foretells that you will bring about the fall of the AEsir. It gets a little whimsical even for my tastes.”
“A prophecy known to Odin.” A growl had entered Loki’s voice, but still that forced blandness.
Hela shrugged lightly. “He may not believe it, but it may have given him ideas.” Her green eyes flicked to an undetermined direction, as if she could see Asgard from her throne. Perhaps she could. “A child like Thor could never be pushed hard enough to instigate war with his own people.”
Loki’s lip curled slightly, teeth gleaming as he bared them to speak. “But a child like Loki--…”
Hela nodded and continued the thought. “Who already feels rejected and cast out…”
One of his fists clenched and shook as he finished. “Would welcome it.”
She shrugged again. “That might be what he, in his foolishness, is counting on.” For an AEsir to die honorably in battle, or as an act of self-sacrifice would gain instant admittance into Valhalla. “Nothing is more frightening to an AEsir than to face dying peacefully of old age rather than in glory.” An AEsir dying from age or disease could still gain access to Valhalla, but magic and Yggdrasil would judge all of their actions. Idly Loki wondered what actions Odin was concerned about that might bar the old king from Valhalla.
Loki nodded slowly to himself, eyes distant. It made a sick, logical sense. He would press the issue just to be sure. There was probably some small glimmer of affection that Odin felt for him, but it was buried under how useful Loki was to him. A hundred years ago he would have accepted that small glimmer gratefully and arranged for a way Odin could die with honor and glory.
“Then I won’t do it.” He smiled slowly, cruelly. “In fact…I have something else in mind.”
Her smile slowly matched his in cruelty as much as it did in amusement. “Will you be sending many to keep me company?”
It was only fair, after all. Of anyone in the nine realms she was the only one who had remained his steadfast friend. Perhaps the wrong descriptor for Hela but ironically he felt closer to her than anyone else in his life.
…and Hela was ever so lonely.
His eyes flashed green, baring his teeth in a feral mockery of a smile. “At least one more.”
“…Loki…” Loki let the disguise over his face and body fade, a form that allowed him to pass as a lowly guard. He looked down almost dispassionately at the sprawled form of the man he had once called father. That had been the last thing Odin had uttered before he collapsed.
No speeches. No angst. All it had taken was the confirmation of his own death. Loki hadn’t even been cruel in delivering the news while under disguise to the old king. He had just wanted to see Odin’s reaction. And the picture had painted itself eloquently over Odin’s face. The regret. A brief flash of pain. But before his body had crumpled down the throne steps Loki had seen the rest in his eye. The disappointment. The desperation.
The trickster had the answer he’d returned for, but he wish he didn’t. Hela had been right.
Loki didn’t move just yet, looking the man who was a better liar than he was over with his eyes. Odin was just sleeping, for now. Which seemed to happen more and more frequently lately. Frequently enough that anyone with sense would know Odin’s time was nearly up.
The rage was still a howling beast in Loki’s mind, pushing back any shred of sentiment and regret. He debated the merits of giving Odin the death he desired for the briefest of moments. A dagger to the heart would be a quick, clean kill. But then he shook his head. Such an act would no doubt send Odin to Valhalla. He was too vexed with Odin to ever be so merciful. There was another possibility. He could disguise Odin with his own face and throw him back into the dungeons. No one would ever know or question the quiet passing of the second son.
But Loki was smarter than that. He coveted the throne to prove Odin wrong. But truly becoming the man that he both hated and loved would push him into a madness he wouldn’t recover from. As it was he was barely holding onto what shred of sanity still remained.
After a silent moment he stretched out next to the old king on the steps, knowing he would be heard. Like a coma, words would still reach Odin during his Odin-sleep. They were alone at the moment so it didn’t matter. Loki smirked and spoke, “As I had been about to say, All-father, the body was on Svartalfheim. But then Loki spoke with Hela and reclaimed his flesh back as his own. And no, I had been granted access to Valhalla but I returned as a matter of spite.”
His question was more or less answered. Odin loved the boy he had been but was shamed by the man he had become: a mage who didn’t fight like an AEsir warrior. A man who didn’t think like Odin and refused to be boxed and limited like everyone else here. Loki balked at tradition. Balked at doing what was expected or allowed. Rules were ever so tedious.
There was still a glimmer of that old affection Odin carried but it was overshadowed with Loki’s usefulness in bringing about the old king’s end. An end that would gain him the access to Valhalla he craved as well as an end to the grief with Frigga’s loss. Loki could easily guess the rest. Odin was disappointed that Loki hadn’t grown up to be the sycophant he’d hoped for. Further shamed that he’d raised a suicide, even if the truth had been covered up so the rest of Asgard would never know. Most damning of all, that Loki was too clever and strong-willed to ever be a grateful puppet king for Jötunheim like Honir foolishly was for Vanaheim.
That and he would never be the obedient footstool for Thor’s glorious ascension as king of Asgard. The time for that possibility was long past.
“I know you can hear me, Odin. I know that even now your conscious mind struggles against the crushing tide of your own magic. You will sink further and further away, your heart will slow and eventually…it will stop. This time there will be no one to fish you back out.”
It was why mother always stayed at the old king’s side during his Odin-sleep, after all. She was there for protection’s sake, of course, but also to assist Odin should he drift too far away. With her death there was only himself if he were inclined. He wasn’t.
“If you awaken then you and I will deal with matters…but I doubt that will be the case.” Loki just wasn’t quite certain how matters would be dealt with if that did occur. He no longer feared death, and he had little love for life left within him. Green eyes flicked down the prone form, smirking to himself. “I will not kill you nor in any way help you along the path towards death. I will leave your fate to the judgment of the world tree and be satisfied with what is just…as you once did for me.”
Loki grinned maliciously, but there was something else blended with it. Something in his eyes that eloquently displayed a hesitation. A shame. For no one spoke of suicide. He may strive to be limitless but even he could succumb to the perceptions of the people that raised him. Only because Odin was not awake and couldn’t rebuke him did he speak further. “It must be so delightful for you. The suicide that you sheltered and are shamed by has beaten you. What is it that Tyr had said? Better to have died a coward than to die a suicide. Oh. No, that was you. Tyr is a bit more colorful than you. Better that the dam carrying a suicide dies in childbirth than to allow such shame to pass over the rest of the family.”
He shrugged suddenly as if he didn’t care, mind moving back to the topic at hand. “Eventually Thor will come and when he does I will let him decide. Not about your fate, of course, but he will decide who will rule.”
It would only be a matter of days before Thor returned to Asgard, and Loki would sit on the throne in disguise until then. If Thor agreed to take up the mantle of king then Loki would bow out gracefully and devise a fitting end for himself since he had little interest in living now that his question was answered. If, however, Thor chose to turn his back on the golden realm then Loki would take the rest of the AEsir with him.
“Mortals have made him so soft lately. He is worthy of the throne by your standards, but now he does not want it. Ironically funny. Not to worry. I will take good care of Asgard if Thor so foolishly abandons her as I suspect he will.” Loki sarcastically emphasized the word good. The AEsir wanted to perish in glory. As king he would see that their wish was granted.
His hand moved and hovered a small distance from Odin’s temple as if to brush away a stray white strand before lowering again, the action incomplete. “You may even wonder why I don’t gain the satisfaction of your death and the answer is simple. You took your time teaching Thor honor and love.” Bitterness entered his voice, thinking of all the time set aside for Thor that he was denied. “All of your focus was for your trueborn son. There wasn’t enough time to properly teach a trickster fosterling that shamed you. But I did learn hate, you gave me that much.” Loki shrugged lazily. “So the answer is simple. I hate you just enough to not aid you in achieving what you want.” Loki bared his teeth brightly as if he were smiling when he truly wasn’t. “Now, off to bed with you while I await your heir.”
Hello everyone. This is just a quick note to reassure that this will not be a 80+ chapter epic tale. There will however be small attempts of humor thrown in because that's kind of my thing. There shall be some much deserved verbal Odin-slaps and some Thor-chastisement, 'cause TDW showed a really ugly side of Asgard that needs addressing. You might need a Kleenix by the end.
The prodigal son returns; Odin learns his fate