Disclaimer: Angela and Gamora are the intellectual property of Disney. Sif, Thor, Loki, Odin, Frigga and Asgard might belong to Disney, or they might belong to Norse mythology, I'm too lazy to find out exactly. No copyright infringement intended.

Angela/Loki/Sif friendship fic. Angela/Thor/Frigga/Odin family drama. Angela and Gamora romance, eventually.

Content warnings for some light gore and violence.

The Tramp of Asgardia

Chapter 1

There was a vagrant, living on the streets of Asgardia.

During the day, she could be seen wandering through the city. She rambled through the marketplaces and the open squares, through the gardens and promenades, a constant dark scowl on her face. When night came, she slept in the woods and the alleyways, her own elbow serving as a pillow.

The people of Asgardia thought her most strange. Everywhere she went, they stopped and stared, gazing queerly at her as she trudged by. They looked questioningly at one another, and wondered who she was. She was dressed in rags and tatters – a sleeveless brown tunic, tied at the waist by a length of cord, and a pair of roughspun trousers that reached as far as the calves. She was barefoot. She drifted through the streets on the naked soles of her feet, wandering for miles every day.

Once, a passerby took pity on this peculiar, decrepit stranger, and tried to give her some coin. A rageful fire sprang to life in her eyes at once, and she snarled at them.

"The first Asgardian who so much as tosses a penny my way will have their arm cut off!" she hissed.

()()()()()()()()()()()

One morning, Loki set off in search of the tramp.

Asgardia was not the friendliest place for poor Loki, at the moment. Everywhere she went, the people peered at her with narrowed eyes and clenched fists. Everywhere Loki went, mothers and fathers hurriedly ushered their children out of sight. No, Asgardia was not the most welcoming of cities for a God of Mischief.

She kept her head high, all the same. She strode through the streets, cocksure and uncaring.

She found her, eventually. The tramp was in the depths of a forest, away from the attentions of the Asgardians. She was pulling berries from bushes, and shovelling them into her mouth. She did not seem to be aware that Loki was approaching.

"All of Asgardia is talking about you, you know," Loki called out, as she drew near. "You are aware that Asgard eliminated homelessness thousands of years ago, aren't you? You are literally the only vagabond that has existed in this city for millennia."

The tramp spun round, and peered warily at Loki. She chewed a few times, and then swallowed the berries that were resting in her mouth. There were streaks of red juice dripping down her chin.

Loki stood in place, and appraised her for a few moments. "Aldrif Odinsdottir – the Hobo of Asgardia," she grandly proclaimed. She couldn't quite keep herself from grinning. "I must say, when father intended for you to join our little...pantheon...this can't be what he had in mind."

The hobo's nostrils flared. "My name is Angela," she said, her voice laced with steel and poison.

Loki backed away, and raised both hands, sorry, sorry, meant no offense, no offense in the world.

The two figures stood some distance apart. There was quite a marked difference between them – Loki, in her cloak and robes and jewels, and her golden horns, and all her regal finery, and Angela, in her rags. Loki, her hair black and flowing and luxurious, and Angela, her hair red and faded and greasy and stringy. Despite these differences, however, it was clear that both women were also both very alike. They were proud women, stately and majestic. You could see it in the way they stood. You could see it in the way they held themselves. The way they kept their shoulders raised. They way they kept their backs straight.

"Angela," Loki said, weighing the word with as much reverence and respect as she could muster. "Sister. You are such a proud creature, such a noble and dignified woman, a soldier of Heven...and yet...here you are, utterly debasing yourself."

Loki spread her hands wide in a theatrical show of puzzlement. "Why? Why do you demean yourself like this? You dress yourself in tatters, and yet mother would give you her entire wardrobe, if you asked her! You feed yourself on berries, and yet Thor and father would throw the most ridiculous feasts in your honour, every damned night, if you asked them! You sleep in gutters and beneath bushes, when you could have any room in the entire palace that you wanted!"

Loki's arrogant façade faltered, momentarily, and the slightest hint of frustration and jealousy found its way across her face. "Why?" she demanded. "Why? Why are so intent on rejecting our family's hospitality?"

Angela stared at her sister in silence for a few moments. Loki noticed that her caste marks – the red markings around her eyes – had almost all flaked and faded away. There were still a few fragments left, streaks of red dotted about.

Then, Angela answered her sister's question.

"I would rather die," she said, "than be beholden to an Asgardian."

()()()()()()()()()()()()

Seven days earlier, Angela and Gamora had found themselves prisoners of the angels.

Angela had ventured into Heven in search of her mother – the angel that had raised her from the time she was a helpless infant. Now that the angels knew that Angela was an Asgardian, her mother was in extreme danger, Angela knew. They would be searching for her. They would be hunting her, all across Heven.

An angel would be punished mercilessly for harbouring a demon. Angela knew that she had to go and find her, quickly. She had to save her.

"I'm coming with you," Gamora said.

"I do not require your assistance," Angela had brusquely replied.

"Well, you're getting it, anyway," Gamora said. Gamora held Angela's gaze defiantly for a moment, and then her expression softened. "You saved me from the Badoon," she said, her voice low. "I owe you. We'll find your mother, Angela. I promise."

()()()()()()()()()()()()

The rescue mission did not go very well. Not long after they entered Heven, Angela and Gamora were discovered. The angels realized that their once-sister had returned to their sacred realm.

A very long and very bloody battle ensued. Squadrons of angels were summoned from all across Heven, and swarmed the two intruders. Angela and Gamora fought in the streets, and the alleyways. They fought in the shrines and the cathedrals. They fought in the courtyards and on the rooftops. They even fought in the air, Angela looping her arms around Gamora's waist while Gamora fired away with a pistol in each hand, dead angels plummeting to the ground thousands of feet below.

Over the course of a day, Angela and Gamora slew hundreds of angels – but it wasn't enough. Eventually, they found themselves on their knees, their hands behind their heads, dozens of weapons pointing at their throats and their heads and their hearts. They were bleeding and wounded in dozens of different places.

Still...at least they had put up a good fight. Angela and Gamora looked at one another, and grinned in satisfaction.

()()()()()()()()()()()

The angels took Angela and Gamora to an enormous subterranean prison that descended for hundreds of miles beneath the surface of the ground. They placed enormous shackles on their wrists and ankles, and around their necks, and forced them to pull heavy chains that dragged loudly across the ground when they moved. They led them through countless dark passages, and then they locked them together inside a dark cell.

The angels had taken away Angela's ceremonial golden armour, as well as her enchanted ribbons – you are no longer worthy of such things, they told her. You were never worthy to begin with. Gamora's hi-tech armour was taken away, also. They were dressed in brown prison rags, now – sleeveless tunics, tied at the waist with lengths of cord, and roughspun trousers that reached as far as the calves. They were both barefoot. An enormous steel door slammed shut upon them, and Angela and Gamora sat in the dark as the locks clicked, one after another after another.

Click. Click. Click.

Gamora looked around at the stone walls of their cell. She raised her arms, and gave her chains an experimental rattle. "So," she remarked. "This is where you grew up, then."

Angela gave a slight smile. "At least you had a good tour of the place, Lady Gamora."

()()()()()()()()()()()()

"Do you hear something?" Gamora eventually said.

Angela pricked her ears, and listened. After a few moments...yes. Yes, she could hear something.

Shouts and screams. Crashing and smashing. Metal ringing against metal. Bodies slamming upon stone.

A fight was taking place, not far away. Angela strained to hear, and she could dimly make out the sounds of angels crying and screaming, and barking out orders.

"It's coming closer," Gamora said, after a while.

Indeed it was. The sounds of battle became clearer and less muffled. Angela could hear an unfortunate body tumbling loudly down a flight of steps. She could hear an angel screeching out for reinforcements. She could hear angels hurrying down passageways, shouting messages to one another.

"We are not properly armed! We are not properly armed! Find a weapons cache!"

"Raise the alarm! We must warn the entire city!"

"Goddess, she's a demon! We cannot stop her!"

"Are there more of them? Is there just the one?"

In the darkness of their cell, Angela and Gamora both rose from the ground, and took position at either side of the door. At any moment, they both knew that they might hear the sound of the locks being undone. At any moment, they both knew that an enemy might come through the door.

They were both unarmed. They were both heavily shackled, and their movements were horribly restricted. They could use their chains as weapons, they supposed. Angela and Gamora could both strangle multiple enemies at once with those chains.

The noises became even louder. The fighting had now reached the corridor just outside the cell. An angel shrieked, and then her head smashed into a wall, and she was silent. An angel gave a battle cry, and then her throat was slashed, and she guggled and gurgled. An angel let out one final curse, and then her neck was loudly snapped.

The fighting was done. Gamora and Angela stood in the shadows of their cell, and then they could hear footsteps approaching the door.

Angela and Gamora readied themselves. There were three locks on the door of their cell, they knew. Three keys in three keyholes. Three clicks – click, click, click – and then Angela and Gamora would have to fight whatever came through that door.

Angela and Gamora crouched down in the shadows, and waited. They waited to hear the sound of a key entering a hole.

The door was ripped off its hinges, and flung aside. Light suddenly flooded the cell.

Angela and Gamora wavered, for a moment. Neither of them were particularly startled – both had been trained to adjust their eyes rapidly to the unexpected introduction of light to a dark environment.

They waited to see if someone would enter the cell. Then, a voice came from just outside.

"If you intend to ambush me," the voice went, "it won't work. Step outside."

Angela and Gamora leaned forward, and peeked out. A woman was standing in the passage just beyond the doorway, and they recognized in an instant that she was a warrior, no different than they. She carried an exquisitely-crafted broadsword, splattered with the blood of angels. She was dressed in red and white robes, with fur around the shoulders and a wide cloak falling about behind. She had long, black hair, and a gleaming white headpiece.

"Lady Angela," the warrior said, with a nod. She turned to Gamora. "And Lady Gamora."

The red warrior gave the slightest of bows. "I am Sif, of Asgard. Your father tasked me with your rescue, Lady Angela."

()()()()()()()()()()()()

Things turned ugly rather quickly.

"I would rather die than be beholden to an Asgardian!" Angela bellowed.

If Peter Quill were there, he might, at that moment, have chipped in with one of his favourite aphorisms: a save is a save. But Quill wasn't there.

Sif and Gamora were staring at Angela in a mixture of astonished disbelief and steadily-mounting exasperation.

"I do beg your pardon, but I did not descend into the midst of a heavily-fortified enemy stronghold so that you could refuse my help," Sif replied.

When Gamora spoke, it was through gritted teeth. Her voice was dripping with acid and bile. "Angela, we will have this discussion when we are safely far away," she said.

"There will be no discussion!" Angela snapped. "I will not allow myself to fall into the debt of a nothing one!"

"Debt?" said Sif, her wonderfully-expressive eyebrows scrunched in bewilderment. "I came here to assist you in escaping!"

"I would prefer to rot here than accept your help!" Angela turned to Gamora. "Go! Leave without me, Lady Gamora! I will remain here!"

"No you will not!" Gamora roared. "Angela, if I have to knock you unconscious, and carry you over my shoulder, then so be it! Do not make me harm you!"

A squad of angels poured into the passage. Sif parried a sword swipe, and then slashed an angel from her shoulder to her belly. Gamora leapt out of the way of a thrusting spear, and then swept an angel's feet out from under her, and cracked her skull open upon the ground. Angela threw her chains around an angel's neck, and crushed the life out of her.

The ladies resumed their argument.

"King Odin dispatched me to this realm to escort you back to Asgard, Lady Angela," Sif said. "If you were to arrive in Asgard with blackened eyes, and a cracked jaw...I daresay it would not trouble him overmuch." Sif drew herself up to her full height, and doubled her grip upon her broadsword. "You are coming to Asgard with me, Lady Angela, whether you wish it or no."

Angela gave a snort. She tightened her hold on her chains. "Run along, my dear Lady Sif," she whispered. "While you still have the opportunity. If you choose a fight with me, then Heven will be your final resting place." Angela gave her would-be rescuer a smirk. "You Asgardian scum."

Sif and Angela fell into fighting stances...and then Gamora defused the situation.

"I had your back, Angela!" Gamora said, the slightest hint of hurt evident in her voice. "I went with you into Heven to find your mother! The least you can do to repay me is help us escape!"

Angela peered at Gamora with wide eyes...and then she sighed, and her shoulders sagged, and all the aggression seeped from her body.

Angela looked at Gamora. Angela looked at Sif. Angela raised her hands, and then Sif brought her sword to bear, and hacked the shackles from Angela's wrists.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()

A legion of angels arrived at the prison, massive hosts of winged soldiers descending from the skies and alighting upon towers and ramparts. They began marching down into the depths of the stronghold, thousands upon thousands of troops flooding through corridors and hallways, searching every crack and every corner for the red-clad warrior that had invaded Heven.

"How do we intend to escape?" Gamora said.

The three warriors were scurrying along a darkened passage. Sif was brandishing her enchanted broadsword. Gamora and Angela had armed themselves with weapons that they had scavenged from fallen angels – an axe for Gamora, and a sword for Angela. The dungeon was far, far noisier, now – the entire place was echoing with shouts and footsteps, and the incessant beating of angels' wings.

Sif gave a grunt of aggravation. "Normally, I would be able to transport us directly to Asgard," she whispered. "But something is hindering my magic! I cannot teleport anywhere!"

"It's the prison," Angela muttered, from her place at the back of the group. "This entire place is endowed with wards that suppress the use of magic."

Sif grumbled in response to this.

"So if we escape the confines of this dungeon, then Sif will be able to teleport us out?" Gamora said.

Angela nodded. "Yes," she said.

At a junction, the three flattened themselves against the wall, and Sif took a peek around the corner. The way was clear – for now. She looked back at her two companions. "Very well," she said. "We shall find a way out of this place."

()()()()()()()()()()()()

It wasn't long before more blood was shed.

Sif, Gamora and Angela ran into a dead end. On their way back, a squad of angels was waiting for them.

An angel raised her mace to shatter Sif's skull, but Sif lopped her arm clean off.

An angel tried to tear at Gamora's flesh with a barbed whip, but Gamora threw a dagger, and buried the blade in her assailant's eye.

An angel tried to bash Angela with her shield, but Angela kicked the shield with such force that the angel's arm shattered in a dozen places.

"Should we leave one alive?" Gamora said. "They might know the way out."

"They'll probably give us the wrong directions on purpose," Sif said, with a scowl. "We will end up even more lost."

Gamora rolled her eyes. "Very well," she said. "We'll kill them all, then."

An angel tried to impale Angela on a lance. Gamora pushed her out of harm's way, and then sunk her axe into the angel's abdomen.

"Why, thank you, Lady Gamora," Angela said.

"Think nothing of it, Angela," Gamora replied with a smile.

An angel tried to use a strange magnetic device to wrench away Sif's sword, and leave her unarmed. Gamora sent her axe spinning through the air, and then caused a chandelier to plummet from the ceiling, crushing the angel underneath.

"Much obliged, Lady Gamora," said Sif, with a thankful nod.

"Any time," said Gamora.

An angel took aim at Angela with a longbow. An arrow flew through the air towards her...and then Sif leapt into its path, and struck the projectile out of the air with her sword. She bounded up the passage, and slew the angel with a single mighty blow.

All of the angels were dead. More were sure to come. Sif wiped the blood from her blade, and then she turned, and looked at Angela.

There was no malice in Sif's eyes. No arrogance, or triumphalism. Nothing but generosity.

Sif gave Angela a welcoming nod. Glad I could help.

Angela stood, and stared at Sif a moment. Her eyes were utterly blank.

Then, Angela took the sword that she held in her hand, and pointed it at her own heart.

Gamora froze to the spot. Sif's eyes widened in horror and astonishment.

Both hands gripping the hilt, Angela drove the sword through her own chest.

()()()()()()()()()()()

"Are you mad?" Gamora roared. "What the krutack were you thinking?"

Angela was leaning heavily against a wall. Her tunic and her trousers were soaked with blood. There were streams of blood down her legs. There were puddles of blood on the ground.

The sword had been pulled out. It lay on the floor, now, the blade slathered with red.

Angela was gasping and gulping at the air. Her voice sounded horrible – ragged and seared. The world was spinning around her, the walls and ground and ceiling all seeming to pull her closer.

"I...would rather die...than be beholden...to an Asgardian," she said.

Angela retched, and then spat a mouthful of blood out onto the floor.

Sif was standing some way off, her arms folded. She was staring at Angela with...pity? Fear? Revulsion? Incomprehension?

Perhaps she simply could not believe that this woman was the firstborn heir of Odin.

Angela pushed herself off the wall, wincing as pain shot through her entire body. "I am ready," she breathed, her voice a hoarse whisper. "Let's go." She shot Sif a dirty look. "I will never be indebted to you, Asgardian. Do not forget."

Sif peered disapprovingly at Angela for a few more moments, and then she set off down the passage. "I will lead the way," she said.

Angela staggered down the corridor after her. Behind her, she could hear Gamora's voice.

"Well done, Angela," Gamora said. "Now that you've intentionally injured yourself, you've reduced our chances of escaping alive."

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

More angels appeared, naturally.

Much to Sif and Gamora's surprise, Angela could still fight rather well. All she needed was a little adrenaline bubbling in her blood, and she could fight with rather startling fluidity and fierceness.

Angela, Sif and Gamora battled their way through the dungeon. Hundreds of dead angels lay in their wake.

Unfortunately, Gamora was soon to learn that there were worse things than angels in Heven.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

"Do you hear something?" Gamora said.

The three women juddered to a halt. They stood, and listened.

There were the shouts and calls of distant angels, elsewhere in the prison, as usual. There was the flapping of wings, far away. There were feet pounding on stone, and doors opening and shutting, all throughout the place.

There was something else, however.

Clack, clack, clack.

Angela, Gamora and Sif listened carefully, and they could hear the sound of sharp points striking against a hard surface. They could hear the sound of something heavy and massive moving through the dungeon.

Clack, clack, clack.

Clack, clack, clack.

Clack, clack, clack.

"It draws closer," said Sif. The three retreated into the shadows.

Clack, clack, clack.

Clack, clack, clack.

CLACK, CLACK, CLACK.

Angela listened intently, and then recognition took form in her mind.

"I know who that is," she said, a wicked, leering grin breaking across her face.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()

An enormous pair of reinforced metal doors were smashed to the ground, and a great, horrible, black form came scuttling through.

"Bestla's broth," Sif gasped.

"Najka," said Angela, simply.

"Aldrif Odin-spawn," the creature replied. "My, how you have fallen! Once, you were the proudest, most magnificent huntress in our wondrous queen's army – now, you are nothing but lowly vermin, wrapped in rags. Oh, you're hurt! You are bleeding! But I am grateful there are a few beats left in your heart for me..."

Najka had the upper body of a woman, and the lower body of a gigantic black scorpion. The upper part of her was clad in thick mail armour, and in her hands she bore two large battle axes. The scorpion part of her was covered with hard, black chitin, and Angela knew that her massive pincers had enough strength in them to crush and tear them all apart. She had two grossly engorged tails, and at the ends of each, a cruel, barbed stinger, dripping with acidic poison.

Najka was a highly-decorated soldier in the armies of the Queen of Angels. She was, of course, not an angel herself – one needed only a glance to understand this. She was, however, a native of Heven, the tenth realm – over the centuries, she had risen through the ranks of Heven's armies. She was an outcast, an outsider, just as Angela had been, and just like Angela, she had distinguished herself in the service of her queen.

"Out of our way, Najka," Angela said. "We are leaving this place, whether we kill you, or not."

Najka had a horrible, alien voice. "No, Asgardian," she said. "For you, treacherous Angela, Heven shall, for the rest of eternity, be nothing but a dank, dark cell, where the light of the sun never falls."

Najka charged at the three women.

Sif was tired, now. She had fought her way into a heavily-guarded prison, and then spent several hours trying to fight her way back out. She had been wounded a few times.

Gamora was tired, also. There was a nasty gash on her head, green blood mingling with her hair and oozing down her face. She and Angela were barefoot – why had they not thought to strip the boots from the corpses of angels that they had slain?

Angela was exhausted. Her movements were sluggish, and laboured.

Najka caught Gamora in one of her pincers, and Gamora cried as she began to crush her in her grip. Sif leapt in, and forced the pincer open, Gamora collapsing onto the ground.

Sif tried to crawl underneath Najka's body.

"Don't bother attacking her underside!" Angela yelled. "It's as hard as rock, you'll never penetrate her armour!"

"Well, you could have told me that at the beginning!" Sif shouted, rolling and tumbling to avoid Najka's thrashing legs.

The three women tried to surround Najka. Angela and Gamora engaged Najka at the front, distracting her so that Sif could work her way around to the rear. Sif manoeuvred herself behind Najka, and then leapt onto her tail, and tried to climb up it. Najka simply gave a powerful flick, and Sif was sent hurtling into a pillar, a deep crater left where she struck.

Angela raced up a wall, ten, twenty, thirty feet, and then she leapt off the stone, and somersaulted over Najka. Had she not been horribly, grievously fatigued, Angela would then have been able to lop one of Najka's tails clean off with a graceful slash of her blade. As it was, however, she missed her target, and simply sprawled on the ground with a painful bump.

Sif groaned, and pushed herself to her feet. She shook the cobwebs from her head, and brushed the dust from her cloak.

Angela moaned, and forced herself to stand. She pushed strands of red hair from her eyes, and spat a bloody glob from her mouth.

Sif and Angela focussed on their opponent again.

Sif went pale. "Volund's nails," she breathed.

Angela's eyes widened in horror. "Oh no," she gasped. "Oh no..."

Gamora was hanging in the air. Najka was holding her aloft, her toes tangling a dozen feet or so above the ground. Gamora's arms and legs were limp, her head flopping grotesquely about. Both of Najka's stingers were embedded in her chest, their venom flowing into her blood.

"Gamora!" Angela cried.

()()()()()()()()()()()

Somehow, Angela and Sif were able to escape. Somehow, they were able to drag Gamora away, and vanish into the bowels of the prison. They raced and blundered down corridors and tunnels, fleeing where Najka could not follow them.

Najka was still chasing them, of course. Angela and Sif could hear her screams echoing throughout the dungeon as she searched for them.

"Yes, yes, crawl about in the dark like the rat that you are, Aldrif Odin-spawn!" she screeched. "For thousands of years, you lurked in Heven, no different than vermin, and we did not know that you were there. Oh, but we know NOW, Asgardian! We know now, and we will never let you escape!"

Angela was carrying Gamora's limp body in her arms. Her skin had gone a horrible pale colour. Her breath came in dreadful, frantic wheezes, foam was bubbling out of the corner of her mouth, and her eyes were bulging out of her skull.

"Gamora?" Angela said, her voice wavering. "Gamora, can you speak? Can you hear me?"

Gamora did not respond.

Sif kicked her way through a locked door, and then they took refuge in a small, dark room, and waited a while. Angela set Gamora against a wall, and Sif knelt down to examine her. She checked her pulse. She checked the whites of her eyes.

"In all her hundreds of years, serving in Heven's armies," Angela said, in a haunted voice, "no one has ever survived Najka's poison. Her venom brings death."

Gamora coughed and gagged. They laid her on her side, so that she could better breathe.

Sif stood, and faced Angela. I know you despise me, her eyes seemed to say, but now, you must put your hatred aside. For your friend's sake. For all of our sakes.

"My people can help her," Sif said. "If we bring her to Asgard's healing chambers, then we can save her. She will see this through...I know it. But we must go to Asgard, Lady Angela. You must accompany me to your father's domain."

Angela looked at Sif, and then at Gamora.

She had a choice to make.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()

They found their way out, eventually.

They climbed their way to the surface. Angela was allowed one last glimpse of Heven, and then she could feel the entire universe rushing by her in a dizzying flurry. Angela, Sif and Gamora travelled trillions of miles a second, worlds and stars and galaxies and nebula flying past every moment. They flew through the ten realms, through Alfheim, and Helheim, and Jotunheim, and Nifleheim, and Midgard, and Vanaheim, and then, just as suddenly as it began, the journey ended, and Angela, Gamora and Sif came to a halt.

()()()()()()()()()()()()

They knew that she was coming.

Frigga promised herself that she would remain composed. She promised herself that she would not betray any signs of excitement or delight – not in public, at least. She was the All-Mother. The Queen of Asgard. A ruler must comport herself with dignity and gravitas at all times.

When Angela appeared for the first time in Asgardia, Frigga's heart leapt at once into her throat, and her blood raced through her veins. Her breath caught in her chest, and her legs went unsteady beneath her.

That red hair. That cherubic face.

"Aldrif," she breathed.

Angela, Sif and Gamora had materialized in a courtyard in the palace. A crowd was surrounding them. As soon as they appeared, Thor marched forward.

"Lady Sif!" he said "Thou hast delivered our sister to safety. Our thanks. Ah! Her companion is stricken!"

Gamora was fading quickly. "She is poisoned, my lord," Sif said.

Thor jabbed a finger in the direction of a distant tower. "To the healing chambers with her!"

A group of guards stepped forward to carry Gamora away. Angela was rather reluctant to let her go.

"They will help her, Lady Angela," Sif said, as softly and as reassuringly as she could. She nodded, wordlessly pleading with Angela to cooperate. "You have my word."

Angela peered warily around at the Asgardians around her...and then she hesitantly handed Gamora over to the guards. Gamora was carried away.

Frigga took a step towards Angela. "I bid thee welcome to Asgard, Angela of Heven," she said, her voice laden with all the esteem and cordiality that she normally used when speaking with diplomats and ambassadors. "You are now under our full protection."

Angela stood where she was. Every single soul present could perceive the suspicion and mistrust in her demeanour. She stared guardedly at Frigga, and said nothing at all. From her posture, some of the guards wondered if she intended to pounce upon their liege.

Frigga carried on. "I am All-Mother Frigga, Queen of Asgard, and..." Frigga paused a moment, and gave a faint, nervous laugh. "...and your mother."

Angela's lips moved, but no words came forth. She was clearly conflicted about many, many things.

Frigga smiled, and gave a dismissive wave of her hand. "But we shall not trouble ourselves with such matters at present! There will be a time for such things later. For now, Angela, we would very much like to show you what hospitality Asgardia can offer its visitors..."

"What is this?"

All heads turned. Odin had arrived.

He marched into the courtyard, cloak flowing behind him, all his attentions upon his newly-recovered daughter.

"Angela of Heven stands in Asgardia in rags and tatters?" he thundered. "This will not stand! We shall provide our guest with the finest raiment in all Asgardia! Guards, lead Lady Angela to her new chambers – she shall have the most luxurious accommodations in the entire palace! And, tonight...a great feast shall take place, to celebrate her arrival! I declare now that a hundred hunting parties be dispatched across the forests, and a banquet hall laden with the finest food! To the cellars, and bring forth a thousand barrels of our best mead, and our best wine, and our best ale! Summon every noble, every hero in Asgardia to the palace this evening! Tonight, we shall have a great banquet, and at the head of our table, Lady Angela shall sit!"

Cheers went up. Hundreds of Asgardians whooped and applauded, and then began milling around, setting about the task of organizing an enormous feast. Thor rumbled with laughter, and struck a fist in the air. "I shall hasten to Midgard, father!" he said. "I would invite some humans to this revelry!"

"No."

Odin blinked his one eye. Thor's face fell in bewilderment. The entire courtyard froze in place. They gazed at Angela in baffled silence, and waited for her to continue.

Angela peered at her brother, and her father, and her mother, and they could see nothing in her eyes but ice and frost. She straightened herself, and her bearing made clear to all that she was not here to make friends, that she had not come to Asgardia to make merry.

When Angela spoke, her voice was unfeeling and pitiless.

"Lady Sif saved my life, and now I am beholden to her," she growled. "But let me be very clear on this, Asgardians...from now on, I will accrue no further debts."

Angela began pacing back and forth in front of her family. "You will not feed me," she said. "You will not clothe me. You will not bathe me. You will not place a roof over my head. You will not build a fire for me to warm myself."

Thor stepped forward, a wounded look in his eyes. "Sister..." he said.

Angela ignored him. "I will not be indebted to one more Asgardian. I will not take on any debt, no matter how small, no matter how insignificant. I will not accept one crumb of bread. I will not accept one drop of mead. I will not accept one pitiful coin. I will not be beholden to any of you."

Frigga seemed as though she wished to shatter into a million pieces. All her fantasies of a joyful mother-daughter reunion had suddenly turned very bitter indeed. "Angela..." she said, moving forward. "We...we simply wish to make you feel welcome."

Angela faced away from her family, and turned her focus to the surrounding crowd. A sea of sullen faces peered back at her. She had done a rather good job of puncturing the party mood.

"Drink yourselves into a stupor without me," she said.

Angela turned to leave, and the crowd watched her stalk away into the streets of the city.

Read the last issue of Tenth Realm. Notice how Angela's outfit changes in the middle of the scene for no reason at all, and then back again? Pay attention, Marvel.