THE THAWING

Chapter one

When King Laufey and his Royal Consort Farbauti received the first signs of a pregnancy, it was greatly rejoiced, as anyone could imagine. The Norns were sending them the blessing of an heir after a long time of a fruitless, although happy, marriage.

So when the offspring presented itself, it was a disaster and a huge disappointment.

The child was a runt, too small for a Frost Giant and with black hair. No one heard of a Jötunn less than four meters high and dark glossy hair on their head !

Laufey could not say which was worse.

So they quickly named the spawn Loki, gave him to a wet nurse and put him away in the farthest wing of the palace. Indeed, with a proper retinue and servants, so no one would accuse them of abandoning their newborn heir. Nonetheless, if Loki was well provided for, there was not much love and warmth from his real family.

Luckily, he had good, affectionate nannies and clever teachers his whole childhood. This prevented him from being either a spoiled brat or a bitter and angry individual. Loki proved to be more affectionate than any Jötnar prince-ling and, indeed, cleverer. He might have been the smallest prince ever in Jötunheim but he appeared, by and by, to be undoubtedly the most brilliant. Too bad that the proud reports his caretakers gave to his parents did not soften their disposition towards their incomplete child. Yet, all took care that Loki never felt that resentment. So, he grew unaware of his parents' plans for the future... Which was a big mistake on their part.

Things went better between Loki and his family only with the birth of two other princes in a row. Helblindi and Býleistr. Proper frost giants this time, tall and hairless. Those, indeed, were paraded in the whole country to assert Laufey's authority.

Loki was still Crown Prince, according to Jotünn laws, but there was no doubt his father and his dam would do anything to put one of their more suitable pups on the throne. And no one would have protested in favor of the legitimate, but inappropriate, heir. They wouldn't go to murder, of course, Jötnar had their own code of honor after all. But, still, anything...

Sadly, Loki guessed it, ultimately. He took it with dignity, avoided useless whining and tried harder to please his parents. He wasted no time. He worked on his biggest asset, his sorcerer's skills. He was becoming the most powerful of all and most of his tutors had nothing left to teach him. He also had undoubted capacities as a warrior and fighter but there were less obvious. In short, he became a little too good to Jötunn's tastes.

So much effort backfired on Loki. Instead of gaining his parents' trust, he made himself so unusual and peculiar that they really started to be wary of him. So, not only it didn't change much their opinion of him but it made them even more determined to get rid of him. They loved him, but they were royals and leaders before being parents.

Furthermore, at this time, Odin All-Father, better known in Jötunheim as "the Scourge", was at war with the Frost Giants, again. For the duration apparently. The threat made Laufey and Farbauti stick to their priorities. Jötunheim, first. Family bonds, second.

A tiny puppet of a king would be no match against the Aesir Plague... No matter how gifted he was...

Loki was not aware of this, not at first. Everybody was playing the admiring part, on Laufey's orders. In his youth and inexperience, Loki bought it. He was too happy to be part of his family again. He had made a close connection to his brothers. Helblindi was a little bit too spoiled and sometimes even mean to his eldest brother. Yet, Loki was fond of him because his birth had permitted him to feel less cast-off. Loki was closer to Býleistr who was also clever and skillful. He was also less of a prick because he knew that as long as Helblindi was alive, his chances to the throne were even scarcer than Loki's. But no one would have make him say that out loud. He knew better.

Like this, Laufey and Farbauti had control over all of their various offsprings. In time, they would find a way to make Loki cooperate and abdicate in favor of Helblindi in a peaceful and nonviolent way.

Unfortunately, as Loki had come of age, Jotünheim went to war with Asgard. Yet again.

In fact, Asgard took the excuse of an unreported Jötnar expedition in Vanaheim to attack Jotünheim. Nothing unusual.

Yet any plan for the future was set aside.

Of course, none of this would have happened if Laufey didn't have to leave court for a considerable amount of time.

The Frost King was on the front and had left the matters of the palace and frost capital to his royal consort, Farbauti. Odin the Scourge was attacking the west and things could go ugly if Laufey didn't come to settle the matter in person. According to Laufey, there were good chances that, this time, the crazy one-eyed Scourge could be reasoned. Yet, he never told Farbauti the reason why he was so sure of that. Farbauti always trusted Laufey's political instinct.

So, as Laufey was away, the court's protocol loosened a bit and Loki could focus on more royal duties alongside not only his brothers and dam but also new young faces from various stations. That's how he met Angrbodr.

Unfortunately.

Angrbodr was the youngest son of the Palace's Grand Stewart and a highly possible candidate to his father's succession. An envied position. As such, he was entitled to participate in the daily life at court for training. That's how he came close the royal family and in particular Loki. What might have made them get closer could be the fact that Angrbodr was also a runt.

Actually, he could hide it. He was indeed taller and larger than Loki and he had less hair, but he still counted as one. Runts were rather scarce (thanks the Norns, according to Laufey) but they had to work harder than any other Frost Giant to make their way into this particular society based on the praising of sole strength. So, he was educated, maybe not as much as Loki, but still more than the average jötnar.

Naturally he caught Loki's eyes and they both made acquaintances.

In spite of the troubles the country was enduring, Loki was finally starting to be happy. Angrbodr was the funniest, most entertaining companion he ever had. Not that he had had much anyway... He was spending more time with Angrbodr and less with his brothers. Loki thought they wouldn't mind but, eventually they did. Býleistr and particularly Helblindi, being a bit too much pampered by Farbauti and their entourage, didn't like not to be the center of their eldest brother's life anymore. Farbauti did complain that Loki was too much involved with someone that was their inferior in the Jötun hierarchy, not to mention a runt as well.

"Am I not a runt, Dam ?" Loki simply replied.

Farbauti clenched his teeth and didn't answer. He needed his eldest's trust if he ever wanted to get him pliable. If Loki wanted his Angrbodr toy, then be it.

Days passed and though the situation on the battlefront was stationary and stressful, it was a fine life at court. Loki was strolling in the winter gardens with Angrbodr. It has snowed the previous night so the whole sight was freshly white. Only their footsteps could be seen on it, all the rest, the waterless fountain, the dried trees covered in shiny blades of ice, the flower-deprived borders, was colorless and smooth. Even the silence was eerie.

Loki was happily jumping left and right trying to make figures with his footsteps, as if he was still a child. It made Angrbodr smile.

"Say, do you ever think of the future, Loki ?

Loki stopped and smiled at his friend.

What is there to think about ? At best, Father will win this war, he will recognize my worth as a king and abdicate in my favor. I'll be a great sovereign and you'll be my head Stewart !

Angrbodr smiled back, more sadly.

And at worst ?

Loki resumed his artistic little jolts and avoided Angrbodr's face.

Father will loose the war. We'll be under Asgard's control and me, or one of my brothers, will be Odin's puppet on the throne so he can control Jötunheim once and for all.

Angrbodr reached out to loki and touched his shoulder, making him stop. His friend never tried to do something so personal. There still was the social barriers between them. For unknown reasons, it made Loki's heart beat faster.

I am not talking about Jötunheim or your family ! I am talking about us !"

Loki couldn't believe his ears. He forced himself to remain still. Was this perhaps... a confession ? In fact, he dreamed about something like that. At his age, he started to feel the pressure of his hormones. Even his brothers, as young and clumsy as they were, had already had sweethearts amongst young Jötnar aristocrats. Of course, they were too young to go further than the usual amount of love letters, clandestine meetings in the winter gardens and occasional kisses. But still, they had something. Due to his physical difference, Loki was no love interest to the average Frost Giant. Loki longed for something deeper and more significant. Maybe not the rosy-colored true love that Jötunn poets of old glorified, but at least something close to it...

Yes, in spite of their renown ruthlessness and thirst for battle in front of other species, they were adepts of courteous love inside their own territory. Poetry and gracious lovemaking were fashionable before the wars with Asgard began, when life was easier... Still, Frost Giants had a liking to fine language and proper ritualized wooing even more than Aesirs did. Said Aesirs would laugh to your face if you declare something so absurd as gigantic ice monsters doing courtship to each other.

Yet, if Loki was sensible to sentiments, he was not a fool.

True enough he had thought a lot about Angrbodr recently. Since he had met him, Angrbodr had started to take an important place in his life. Loki even had weird dreams, embarrassing warm dreams about his best friend. He didn't know what to do about it and here came said best friend with ambiguous words.

" Loki... I... We don't know what is going to happen... But let's say we win this war... Will you consider … ?

Loki felt himself blush, not red, as Aesir did, but indigo.

You mean... Us, together ? Good and proper ?

Angrbodr smiled and grabbed Loki's hands in his. Loki thought it was the cliché gesture of the lover to his beloved, but despite its naiveté, he find it endearing and exciting. Still, Loki wondered.

- But what if we loose ? Could we be still together ?

Angrbodr just smiled again and kissed Loki's hands.

- You'll always find a way...

Like this, Loki considered himself engaged to Angrbodr, a runt like him, though inferior in rank.

To avoid troubles, he decided it was better to keep it a secret from now.

Loki kept this memory alive for a very long time. To him, the romantic declaration was so deeply settled in his mind along with the enchanting white scenery that it became something unique no over event could equal.

A memory that would get him stuck in the past and would be cause of great sorrow.

The following days were in a rosy daze for Loki. He had a lover like the romantic tales of old his brothers and him used to laugh about (while secretly wishing for it.) All he had on his mind was Angrbodr. No one noticed about Loki's distracted attitude because news of the front were the only matter. Laufey couldn't track down the Scourge and the ennemy's moves were unreadable. Farbauti started to fear an attack on the Jötunn's capital. That was why he decided to move his sons to a more secure position.

Which proved to be a terrible mistake.

Loki was not separated from Angrbodr, luckily. They had transferred the whole young court to this fortress so it was pleasant, nonetheless. It was an isolated, secret place.

Or so the Frost King thought.

It started as an ordinary day. After lunch, Loki and Angrbodr had managed to escape their duties and avoid the guards. They were strolling idly in the very scarce garden enclosed in the inner walls. Not much of flowers or snow, it was almost bare but the two lovebirds didn't mind and enjoyed their mutual loneliness.

Loki was blabbering happily about what they were going to do after the war. Angrbodr was following him, smiling indulgently. Their last moments of peace.

Then hel broke loose.

Arrows of fire were shot all around the place, they hit the dried-up trees and produced an instant fire. They were screams and rushing of warriors all over the walls. Angrbodr screamed to Loki to take cover at once. Loki tried to follow him running but as it was chaos everywhere with soldiers, servants and court members dashing all around in complete confusion, he lost track of his lover and ended up in the kitchens. He never knew how.

Loki guessed this was very bad. Odin had made a surprise attack on an insufficiently defended and isolated fortress. He had set his parents up. And know the three potential heirs and the Royal Consort were under attack. The troops were sufficient to hold on for a while, even maybe a siege, but how long could it be before Laufey be made aware and send help ?

Loki could not ponder those problematic issues much while running through the halls in search of his brothers, dam and lover. It was dark and then blinding bright. They were throwing sulfur bombs now and it was exploding all around. Loki found the way to the fortification and ended in the open air, among soldiers running around to protect the ramparts. There were lines of fire in the sky from the burning arrows. Loki, still running wild, had a glimpse of countless Einherjars, Odin's special troops, a whole army approaching the walls, all in glimmering armors, aggressive horns, and loud yelling. It was deafening and Loki had to breathe to keep his growing panic under control.

He made it to his dam's personal quarters, hoping there would be all here. But the place was empty, only the scattered remains of an upside down lunch table was the proof that Farbauti and his brothers had left in a hurry and Loki had no idea where.

There was ruckus everywhere, chaos of crashing and battling metal all around him though he couldn't see it behind the tapestried walls. Loki could also feel his beating heart and the feel of bile in his mouth. He had to remember to breathe and THINK. But all he had on his mind was Angrbodr and where would he be and where to go and why has he ran away without Loki ?

Then Loki heard a crashing of glass behind him and a terrible thump. Some Einherjar had managed to enter the private quarters by the window. Loki turned around and regretted he had not carried his daggers. Now he had to use magic to protect himself and if this Einherjar survived, he would tell Odin all about the Crown Prince being a mighty sorcerer and his father would lose one of his major trump card.

The Einherjar had to die before he made one move against Loki.

Loki carefully turned around.

It wasn't an Einherjar.

Loki knew who he was, even if he had never seen him in the flesh before. He fitted the romanced description from traumatized Frost veterans and battle survivors.

He was crouching on the ground and slowly rising up. Confident that there was no hurry now that he was in the place.

He was huge, bigger than Loki and a little taller. He was surrounded by tiny lightnings, his bright red cape was sparkling from its force. He had a silver blue armor that sported luminous decorations on his chest. He had wavering blond hair up to his shoulders. His blue eyes looked like pieces of summer sky and they were glittering with ravenous greed and violence. It was a striking contrast with his handsome, regular features. In his right arm, the dreaded hammer born from the stars, Mjölnir.

Loki knew that as much as he could try, there was no way he could kill this one.

Thor Odinson, Crown prince of Asgard finally looked at Loki in the eyes, sky-blue against blood-red. His grin went wider and gluttony. Loki felt a terrible cold wash over him. This grin meant doom.

Before Loki could do anything, Thor was on him and grabbed his arm. Loki stayed still. He wasn't to make a move before knowing Thor's intentions. He had difficulties keeping contact with those piercing blue eyes. They looked as if they wanted to devour him. Loki feared that the Prince's desire was not to have Loki's head but something more … intimate.

"Prince Loki Laufeyson of Jötunheim, you are my conquest."

And on those words he pulled Loki to his chest and kissed him full on the mouth.