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*

His punishment is this: He is sent to Nidavellir, there to mine for minerals alongside the Dwarves, but with a spell placed on him so that every day seems to him to last a year. There he will serve until Odin All-father decides he is reformed.

It could be worse.

*

It is terrible. He is taken directly to the mine, there to labor, bound and gagged, for a year without sleeping or eating. His bodily needs intensify over the year as they would over the course of a day. This means he spends months needing a toilet, his stomach gnawing with hunger. The dwarves around him move in slow motion. His hands continue to dig whether he wills them to or not. He is not even digging up anything interesting; this is a red crystal mine.

At the end of the yearlong day, he is terribly glad to see Eitri Ivaldason. Even gladder when the dwarf escorts him to the retiring room and he can empty his bursting bladder for the first time in months.

Is this Odin's plan, to make him so preoccupied with his body that he forgets the wrongs that have been done to him? It shall not work. He will rearrange his organs. The shackles prevent him from working magic externally, but his magic runs through his very veins, and nothing can prevent him from manipulating himself.

Eitri's home is small, like all dwarf homes, but well-crafted, as befits a master maker. Eitri removes his gag and serves him food with his own hands. "Thank you, Son of Ivaldi. I am thankful for your hospitality. Others would leave me to sleep in the mine, I am sure," Loki says.

"You are a prince," Eitri says. "Even a chastened prince must be well-treated."

"I will remember this courtesy."

He eats, he sleeps, and then he engages in another yearlong day.

Eitri does not replace the gag. He is more comfortable this time and more bored. His hands chip away at the rock walls like a clockwork toy. He is silent with his thoughts.

He thinks first of slights and vengeance and insults and murdering Thor. Over the course of the year, though, he begins to think of music, which he has not heard in a very long time. He begins to wish that he had something to look at other than gray stone.

When Eitri retrieves him at nightfall, he opens his mouth to speak and coughs instead. His throat is unused to speech. "I have many useful skills," Loki says. "Please let me do something else."

"This is useful work. Robots are not gentle enough with the crystals."

"Please," Loki repeats.

"Forbidden by your father. You're not trustworthy," Eitri says. His voice is not unkind.

Eitri's eyes are a rich golden-brown and his skin and hair are the same shade of dark earth brown. His voice is low and calm and soothing. He gives Loki a plate of meat with brightly colored vegetables alongside and it is such a wonderful sight that Loki can only stare for a moment.

But then he eats, he sleeps, and he returns to the mine for another year.

He sees Odin's face in the rock. No, Loki. When victory over Jotunheim was the dream of Asgard for a thousand years. When frost giants were the villains of every story and the monster behind every rock. Thor was wrong, Thor was banished for invading so very badly, nearly getting Fandral killed, and risking retaliation from an enraged enemy, but Loki's plan had been perfect! A bloodless victory.

Loki always does wrong in Odin's eyes. He is a mighty sorcerer, just as Odin is, but Odin values Thor's prosaic hammer-work far more highly. Why? What does Thor have?

Apart from the ability to make friends.

Apart from an engaging smile and a laugh that draws everyone in, even Loki.

Apart from a generous heart.

Loki killed him. He watched it through the eyes of the Destroyer. Thor sacrificed himself for his mortal companions, which restored his honor and worth, and he was restored to life by Mjolnir, and he still loves Loki.

He is a villain. He has done wrong, very wrong, and his tears make charcoal splashes on the rock.

His eyes are dry by the time Eitri retrieves him, though. He is quiet at dinner.

That night he dreams of Thor.

Then the fourth year, and he recalls his teaching and begins to reason aloud. "Thor is still not a good king," he tells the rock face. "I was not wrong. I was not given the opportunity to prove my worth."

The rock face yields a shower of red conducting crystals. "Yes, you see?" Loki says. "Thor..."

He gives the rock wall an extensive list of Thor's many misdeeds. It takes him three year-long days. It takes him ten years in all to tire of lambasting Thor.

"Are you speaking to the wall, my lord?" Eitri asks.

"As a boy I learned the best way to construct an argument is to speak it aloud. Thoughts are muddled but speech requires precision."

Eitri nods. "Just so."

The next ten years, he tries to work out his next move. He will escape, and then attack a different part of Midgard? He learned during his catastrophic trip that the land of America which Thor has adopted does not have a king, but England does, and England is a powerful realm, the mother of America. He has visited England recently, only some forty years ago, and a few centuries ago he raided the gentry of England with Fandral for some twenty years in the forest called Nottingham. He knows the people of England well.

So, he conquers England. Its aged monarch will bend the knee readily. Then what does he do? Midgard, even the whole of Midgard, doesn't have the strength to challenge Asgard; he will have only enough leverage to prevent Asgard from attacking him and returning him to this useless bondage.

Having gained a throne, he will?

What will he do?

Build Midgard, he decides. Short-cut it into the modern age. Midgard's grasp of science is sorely lacking. He will implant the manipulating particles into the smartest of them and teach them how to interact with the world without the clumsy tools Midgard is still tethered to. He had given a brief explanation of the particles to Barton and Selvig, just enough to orient them to their task, and Barton said the Midgardian name for the particles was midichlorians. Names are the first step to understanding. This is a good sign.

He will teach them. He will be the founder of a shining new land, the envy of all. Odin will look upon him with admiration for his achievements.

He is smiling when Eitri retrieves him. "You are in high spirits, my lord," Eitri says.

"I am considering plans for the future."

"No violence against Nidavellir, I hope."

"No. I promised you I would remember your courtesy, my lord."

He eats, he sleeps, and he returns to the mine.

He should marry again, once he has built his shining civilization. No, he should marry first, and have children, and teach his children along with the smartest humans. Then his children can lead the humans into the future.

And...more fundamentally, he will be able to raise his children to adulthood on Midgard. His younger children were all taken from him, one by one. Sleipnir, his oldest, was raised in the stable as an ordinary horse.

"But he is not just a horse," Loki tells the wall. "I carried him in my body and fed him from my breasts. He is half Aesir, a mighty warrior, but he is known only as Odin's freakish steed. Why did I let him go so easily?

"Ah, because I was ashamed, wall. I was ashamed of lying with a horse, I was ashamed of bearing a child, I was ashamed to seem female. I was too afraid to stand up in Father's court with an eight-legged son. Ha. At least he wasn't a frost giant. I wonder if Father has admitted that to Thor even yet?"

His hands continue to work. "But he is not my father, wall. He is not my father."

Not his father at all. "He is not my father," he murmurs.

Odin has no hold on him.

It is a dizzying thought. For once he is thankful for the mindless work.

He finds that he misses Sleipnir. He has always been loathe to call the horse his son, but the creature knows him and loves him. He bugles happily and charges across the field to nuzzle Loki's chest. Loki in his turn admires his son's muscles and marvels at his swiftness. Sleipnir is well taken care of, but Loki thinks the horse will miss him.

He does not like to think of his other two sons. The anger swells within him too quickly and too harshly. He does not dare think of Angrboda's anguished face as her sons are declared monsters, too dangerous to remain free.

He failed his wife and children. A prince and he cannot save his own sons.

Or daughter.

He saw his daughter's grasping hand coming toward him when he lay pulverized by the green giant. Only a quick gasp of will brought life into his body and saved him from her judgement. He must think of what to say to her when they meet again.

At this point he has been working for sixty-one years. He has become indifferent to his body and its workings. The idea of ruling anyone makes him tired. He has had enough of princedom. He was rejected from the house of Laufey and never really part of the house of Odin, so why should he bear the burdens of power? He decides he should have more sex and drink more wine instead.

He realizes, that night after dinner, that he has not engaged in sex since before Thor's coronation. His cock roars to life. He flings the fur cover off, exposing his naked body to the chill night air, and the prickle of the air feels like the hands of a lover. He writhes, rubbing his thighs across each other, stroking his hands up to his chest and down to his belly.

The last person to touch him so intimately was the green monster, he thinks, and he laughs under his breath. The giant seized both his thighs in one hand. He strokes his thighs in that selfsame spot, where the massive finger-bruises had taken a week to fade, and then pulls his thighs up, imagining him offering himself to the giant instead. He opens his thighs and rolls his hips against the linen. Massive legs between his own, he thinks. He would be afraid and excited. A penis the size of a tree, which would require him to rearrange his anatomy to accommodate it.

He shifts his shape, giving himself a vulva, vagina, womb, shoving his stones up out of the way. His penis stands erect above these new features. The giant cock would batter into him all the way up to the cervix, he thinks. He strokes his hands over his chest, his flat chest, and thinks he would like to have breasts; he swells them beneath his palms. The shackles against his tender skin heighten the fantasy.

He rolls over and spreads his legs. Open, available to be taken. He thinks of Sleipnir's father now, stolid Svadilfari, entranced by Loki's scent. He remembers the forelegs over his back, then the hot breath on his ears, then the huge erection prodding at his rump. The horse was a simple creature but deliciously strong. He knew what to do when Loki was not sure of himself.

Loki takes his cock in hand and rolls onto his side. He thrust two fingers inside his passage and thinks of his dear wife, Angrboda, her large breasts, her wide hips, her smooth arms, her fine fat thighs. He misses her; she has been dead for several hundred years. He imagines her hand inside him and her body riding him. Her soft skin. Her firm hands. His own hands are terribly calloused from the mining.

He gasps, staring up at the ceiling, as he climaxes. His skin crawls with life. He brings his hand to his mouth to suck the seed from his fingers and all he can smell is sex.

Sex builds magical energy. If not for the shackles, he would have enough energy to take himself to Midgard now. Since the shackles contain his power, it fizzes under his skin like a hot spring.

He sleeps.

In the morning, he returns to the mine. His small breasts rub against his shirt. His vulva is tight and hidden in his trousers. He thinks about sex for several months. He thinks about femininity and masculinity.

Sex and magic. They go hand in hand. He should have constant sex and craft legendary new spells when he is released.

Odin has not yet seen him. Is he waiting until one hundred years have passed? That seems like him. Loki has no desire to wait for his favor; indeed, no desire for his favor.

But Eitri...

"Have you changed your shape, my lord?" Eitri asks.

"I have." Eitri knows that shape-shifting is intrinsic magic, so there is no harm in admitting it. "I grow tired of my male body. I have been female in the past and wish to return to that."

"I see. My lady?"

"As you like," Loki says.

"Shall I fetch you female garments?"

Loki smiles as a thought occurs to him. "Yes, please."

Eitri leaves and returns with a tunic and leggings of nearly identical cut, but of jeweled purple rather than black. A more feminine hue. "Thank you," Loki says.

He eats, he sleeps, and he returns to the mine.

Eitri treats him slightly differently in female clothes. His looks linger. Sex and magic, Loki thinks, and he begins to flirt.

It takes only two nights before he lures Eitri into bed. The dwarf's body is solid and luscious, broad and powerful. Loki howls his pleasure to the walls.

"Your father will not like this," Eitri says afterwards.

"He is not my father," Loki says.

They fuck every night. The men of Nidavellir are no more chaste than those of Asgard. Every morning, Loki returns to the mine, there to wait and ache for another year.

Until a baby catches.

He feels it as a flare of alien mind within him. Loki sits up, pressing his hand to his womb. His magic is swirling within him to feed the new life. "My lady?" Eitri says.

"My lord, I am with child," Loki says. He didn't intend this--at least not consciously. This would not be the first time his magic has twisted in his hands.

Eitri doesn't question how he knows. Instead, he sits up and asks, "Shall I call the healer for you?" Asking if he wants to abort.

"No. I want it. Our child would be magnificent, my lord." He looks at the dwarf's strong body and thinks of the dwarf's quick mind. "But what will happen when I go to the mine tomorrow? Will I bear the child in the dust?"

Eitri strokes his thigh. "No. Your body ages only one day while you are in the mine."

Loki lies down with him and Eitri nestles up to his breast. "Motherhood has not been kind to me in the past. Perhaps you do not want to be the father to my monster child," Loki says.

"I have two children," Eitri says. "Both fine girls, both full dwarfs. I am curious to see how my seed blends with the fertile earth of Jotunheim."

Loki caresses his belly. He imagines a seed nestling in the folds of his body, taking root and blooming. "I love all my children." Even the snake. Even the savage wolf. He loves them. "I want to nurture your seed and watch it grow."

Eitri kisses his hand. Loki still goes to the mine in the morning.

The spark inside him sleeps while Loki mines. The pregnancy does not progress. It is terribly strange to know there is a child within him without feeling it grow.

That evening, Eitri puts his hands over the shackles and their hold on Loki lifts. Loki instantly pulls an illusion over them to hide them from Heimdall's eyes. "I should not do this, but I am," Eitri says.

Loki leans down and kisses him hard. "My child's father is a compassionate man."

Eitri gives him a bag of gold. "Leave this realm. I will answer to Odin. He has no power over me."

"My child's father is a bold man." Loki kisses him again.

"Make my child known to me when the time is right."

"My child's father is Eitri Ivaldason," Loki breathes.

He departs. He is free. He served eighty-four years in the mine.

*