Hel was worried. Thanos had found a powerful ally, one that could force her to submit to his will if he succeeded.
So when her youngest and most beloved brother Adrian asked for help through Kara, it took her a moment to realize what he was really asking of her.
"Are you sure of this, brother? The more you use this power, the more you step into my realm. If you go too far even I cannot stop the process," said Hel.
'I am certain sister. We both knew this would happen at some point... we just didn't know it would be because of a brother who has long since lost his way. I can't help the others with an assassin's craft, and my strength would only go so far before it ends. I need the power of the Crow,' said Adrian through Kara.
The power of the Crow was not something to be taken lightly. She only unleashed it under extreme circumstances, and she always reclaimed it once the balance had been restored.
The power itself was fairly benign, and alone it wasn't that dangerous. It allowed invulnerability, the ability to heal from any wound, do amazing feats impossible for any mortal and the one who possessed it could control her messengers as if they were their own.
But the price for the power was that the one who used it became steeped in death. She usually chose souls lost to violence and ended before their time because they could handle the strain. And the thing that fueled it was love. Love of one that was lost roughly during the same time period the 'Crow' had died. Usually a lover or a family member.
Adrian had never lost someone that close...except for his surrogate parents Lily and James. She wasn't entirely sure his body could handle that strain without it breaking down once the power left.
"Very well brother. But try not to get killed. I'm not sure if the power will keep you alive if that happens once it's all said and done."
'Yeah, and I'm fairly positive you would hold me down while my mother yells my ears off for being so damn reckless if I did. On an unrelated note, if I did die because of an overload is there any way you could turn me into your own personal minion or something should I end up back in your realm? It doesn't have to be much, maybe your favorite pet crow or something?'
Hel choked back a laugh. That had to be the infamous Tony Stark's influence. Even their father had commented on what an odd human Stark was.
"If you somehow end up here, I'll turn you into my own personal pet," she said, trying not to laugh at the idea.
Mostly because if he did die during this battle odds were pretty good he would end up in Valhalla and not Helheim.
Loki's eyes were wide as Adrian's skin turned pale and his eyes turned cold. Thousands upon thousands of crows descended upon him and his body automatically shifted into one as soon as they touched him.
~Okay, why the hell are there thousands of black birds all over my tower?!~ asked Tony irate.
Loki's mouth went dry as he told them what Adrian had done.
"He... he invoked one of Hel's powers over life."
~HE DID WHAT?!~ surprisingly enough, it wasn't Natasha who shouted this but Thor.
"Adrian invoked Hel's Crows. He can use their full power as if it were his own," repeated Loki in shock.
~Explain, NOW,~ said Natasha.
"Hel has several powers that she can...gift, I suppose you could say...to mortals. These powers are so strong that she only hands them out under very extreme circumstances because Odin would throw a fit otherwise. The power of the Crow is one she almost never hands out to the living."
~Why not?~ asked Clint.
"Because the power involves the sacrifice of a soul. The Crow's power is fueled by the sacrifice of a loved one, such as a close lover or a family member. However Hel has only ever given this power to the souls of those lost to needless violence and pain. She has never given it to a living mortal. I'm not sure if Adrian can handle the strain," said Loki.
~Wait...if this power is fueled by a loved one, then how can Adrian use it?~ asked Tony.
Natasha was the one to answer this time.
~I'm guessing Hel is using Adrian's mother to fuel it.~
~I thought you were his mother?~ asked Bruce.
~Adopted mother. Loki left him in Russia in November and I was the one who found him first. His birth mother was killed by the same mad man he had his scaly brother eat,~ explained Natasha.
~So what sort of power does this Crow thing have?~ asked Tony.
"The Crow is invulnerable to damage and pain, can use the messengers of Hel as if they were their own familiars, and can do things no mortal could do normally. But like I said, this power has only ever been given to the dead. I have no idea what would happen in a living user," said Loki.
Adrian felt so much power at his fingertips. Like he could do anything. His feathers felt as if they were lighter than air itself.
He saw Arathorn and like a bird of prey about to swoop in on a kill, he dove. Down, down, down he went until his eyes filled with the sight of the one who had caused so much pain and destruction. He spread his wings and angled his talons at Arathorn's eyes.
His raucous caw was all the warning Arathorn had before the crows descended upon him like an avenging angel bent on retribution.
Arathorn cried out in pain and shock as his flier clipped a building. He hit Adrian's form and while his wing hurt he could still fly.
Seeing his mother about to be swarmed by Chitauri from behind, he abandoned Arathorn to help her.
The murder of crows angled their wings like a black cloud against the wind their beaks and talons sharp enough to rip the Chitauri to shreds. Natasha's eyes were wide as the crows cut the beast to pieces.
Tony took one look at the scene and whistled.
~Damn...and here I though the movie 'The Birds' was just fiction. That's scarier than facing the Big Guy when he's pissed!~ he said.
However the force behind the Chitauri also saw this display...and he was pissed.
Thanos sought to court Death, yet here Death openly favored another above him. And that was something he would never permit.
Loki watched as the Chitauri went from killing as many as they could to turning their focus entirely on the crows.
Thanos knew that the one who had invoked Death was in crow form, and that to end them he had to destroy the crow powering that mortal.
The problem was that Adrian wasn't being powered by the crow Hel had specially created solely to favor the souls of the dead with a chance of retribution.
He was being powered directly by Hel herself.
Erik Selvig woke to a hellish scene below. He gasped as he came out of whatever Arathorn had done to him.
"About time you woke up. We need to close this portal before everything really goes to Helheim," said Loki irritably.
"Where... Where am I?"
"If you're afraid of heights then I would avoid looking below. How do we close this portal?" repeated Loki.
"The Cube is pure energy, but you can't defend against yourself," said Erik.
"That's all I needed to hear," said Loki. He looked around the roof until he found Kara who had flown up beside him.
Loki knew basic crow, mostly because he had been bored one century and Hel had taught him as a joke.
He picked Kara up carefully and made a series of caws that only a bird would understand.
Kara cawed back, before she spread the message to the others.
Suddenly the mass of birds veered away from the Chitauri and straight for Arathorn who was busy with the Hulk. Thor was keeping the Chitauri from coming near the two with his lightning.
Loki didn't need to see what happened next to wince. A massive cloud of birds descended upon his errant 'son' and there was a loud roar from the Hulk as they managed to successfully steal the staff from him. He knew that Arathorn would have multiple cuts from the beaks and talons.
Five minutes later the cloud spiraled above him and Erik, who ducked out of instinct mostly. Something dropped from the cloud and they perched all around Loki expectantly.
Loki walked up to the staff and grasped it firmly. It bucked under his hand as if to return to Arathorn.
"I have the staff and I can close the portal! Does anyone copy?" said Loki.
~Don't! Fury said the Council overruled him and is sending a nuke. It's set to detonate in under three minutes!~ said Tony.
"So aim the damn thing through the portal and we'll close it once you have it through!" said Loki as if it were obvious.
It took Tony a few minutes to find and aim the missile through the portal. But on the way there he failed to make a small, rather obvious calculation.
His suit wasn't designed for space travel. And the suit could only keep his air in for so long before he passed out. He was lucky he didn't die immediately.
The crows saw Tony fall...and since they were all connected to Adrian they took off and slowed his descent since he couldn't. At least enough that when the Hulk caught him he wasn't too badly jarred.
Arathorn found himself surrounded by several not-so-amused Avengers and a rather pale Adrian who looked like death warmed over.
Arathorn took one look at Adrian and flinched. At that moment he looked like a demon more than a god.
Everyone gathered around Adrian. Loki was nearby, mostly out of concern.
He took a deep breath...and let go of the power Hel had given him. Usually this happened naturally, as the dead had no desire to remain among the living, only to pass on once their task was over. To see their loved ones again.
However Adrian was still alive, and this power came direct from Hel instead of through an intermediary.
So there was really no telling what would happen.
Color rushed back into Adrian's features. Most of the crows, barring Kara and Su, vanished with a racket back into Helheim's embrace. Adrian sagged into the first chair he could find. His magical core was drained almost dry trying to maintain the amount of power he had gotten from the Crow.
Loki immediately went into mother hen mode, checking him over with his magic.
"I don't believe it. Aside from being drained magically, there's no side effects. At most he won't be able to do anything for a while with his magic for a few weeks. This doesn't make any sense," said Loki in surprise and open relief.
"Not quite," said Natasha. Loki and the others looked at her, and she explained. "You said that this power comes from his sister Hel, right? Didn't she give Adrian Kara and Su as familiars back when his core was still settling in?"
"Come to think of it, isn't Adrian's animal form a crow anyway? Exactly what changed when he got that power boost?" asked Abigail.
Everyone did a collective blink.
"Actually that is a good question. Adrian's form is a crow...so what exactly did this power boost do to him aside from drain his magic dry for a while?" asked Clint.
"In any event, you had better not do that again any time soon Adrian, or I'll block your magic for a year," said Loki.
He was surprised his son had survived that strain on his soul without being killed. Then again, from what he had seen Adrian hadn't needed to use the 'resurrection' ability that Hel had given the Crows.
Probably afraid of what Natasha would do if he had been killed even once.
Thanos was furious. Death had not only granted favor to another, but the brat didn't have the decency to die from using her power. The living should not be allowed to use Death's power as if it were their own. He had no idea who this...Adrian Romanov was, but when next they met he would not live to see another rising of his planet's sun.
His rage towards Arathorn, the arrogant brat, was tempered by the fact that he could never hope to match Death's power over life itself. He was doomed to failure the moment she blessed that man as her avatar among the mortals.
Adrian was sulking.
Ever since he had invoked Kara's true nature, he had been bed-bound and forced to stay there by every Avenger in the tower...once Loki had fixed the place with magic anyway.
He wasn't even allowed to get on the internet or do anything outside of read...and to make matters worse, since they had captured Arathorn and Fury had agreed to let Adrian return the Cube to where it wouldn't do nearly as much damage (as in he was taking it back to Asgard) that meant he would have to present himself to the court of Asgard as Loki's heir.
Thor was having entirely too much enjoyment forcing Adrian to suffer through the same boring lessons on the Court he had to go through when he was a child.
Phil, when Adrian's magic had slowly released him, had taken to dropping by the room to enjoy his misery. Revenge was sweet.
Of course there was some comfort to be had.
Abigail, as Adrian's girlfriend, had to suffer with him. Mostly because as Loki had so helpfully pointed out to an amused Clint and Natasha, she had the highest potential to end up his wife. And if that happened, she would have to know the ins and outs of Asgard's court just like he did.
The fact she later used said trickster god as target practice for six hours was just a bonus for Adrian to enjoy. And Thor, who found it hilarious.
There was also the fact that Tony and Erik almost had a container ready for them to transport the Cube back to Asgard, with Arathorn in tow.
Loki had spoken to Frigga via dream-speak so Odin was well aware of the fact that it was Adrian's doing that Arathorn had been captured...and at what risk he took.
Because Adrian was returning to Asgard under his real name with the true culprit behind the attack of the Jotuns and the one who attempted to kill Baldur and assumed the throne...as well as returning the Tesseract to where it really belonged, he had to be ready.
But just because he was finally coming out into the open among the realms as Loki's heir didn't mean he had to like these particular lessons.