Loki walked a few paces ahead of Sif as she had her double edged spear aimed at his back. He so wanted to hide the weapon from her hands, but that would only make things worse for him. His foot slipped slightly on the blue rocks and sand under their feet. He stopped for a moment to make sure Sif knew he simply lost his footing and was not trying to attack her in anyway. He literally heard her footsteps stop. He raised his hands in surrender and waited for instructions to move again.
"Carry on, Loki," said Sif.
Loki began walking again.
"I will not harm you, Sif," he said.
"I know," she said confidently.
He smiled. He wouldn't have it any other way. If there was a woman to admire, it would be Sif. She was strong, cynical and he would guess untouched. He frowned slightly as he thought of his brother, Thor. Even, Sif, a woman who didn't swoon, would swoon for Thor. Thor may have given his heart to a mortal, but Sif may wait an eternity for his dear oaf of a brother. He wanted to shake his head at the thought, but he did not want to be stabbed in the back.
Sif's eyes roamed from Loki to the desert waste land around her. Even though she heard weary stories of this place, no danger compared to Loki. He was able to fool all of Asgard for three years. Under Loki's rule as Odin, Asgard was rebuilt in ways she could not possibly imagine. Loki fostered education in all forms of skill. Children who were not warriors found their own sense of pride. False Odin had inspired many. She suddenly felt nauseous.
Loki turned around to face her. He saw her place her free hand on her stomach, her face looked unpleasant. He took a step towards her. She quickly recovered and put her spear to his neck. He lifted his neck higher to give himself some space between the blade and his neck. She only pushed the blade closer to him, but she did not break skin.
He regretted hurting her. She was a very loyal warrior. His new kingdom would not have been as glorious as it became if it wasn't for her leadership on the battlefield. After Malekith destroyed their city, Asgard was tasked with restoring Odin's rule yet again. Thor would not be returning nor did Loki want Thor to return to Asgard. Sif volunteered to take up arms and fight for Asgard. At first, Loki, did not want her involved. He was afraid of being discovered, but Sif was blindly loyal to Odin. She did not question him once.
"How many times do I have to threaten your life," she asked as if she was genuinely curious.
"You did not look well," he said.
"What if I was unwell? What could the false king of Asgard do?"
He held back a snarl.
"There are signs of life ahead, we should rest there or you can just kill me here for being a gentleman," he said.
She half smiled at him. He knew that her smile was not for his benefit. She truly wanted to kill him, but something was keeping her emotions at bay. He knew it was not honor that kept her from killing him, for it would be honorable to kill him. No, something else was keeping him alive and whatever it was, he was grateful for it. She removed her sword from his neck. He touched his neck and looked down at his fingers to see if there was any blood. She did not cut him, yet. Next time he planned to let her at least fall first before he went to her aid, that way he would know for sure she needed help.
"Carry on, Loki."
"Must you say my name with such disdain," he said with an annoyed tone.
"Shall I bow and call you Odin," she mocked.
Loki turned around and began walking again. He had nothing to say. Her last words stirred a fire inside him. Yes, he lied, but look at all the good he had done. From what Thor told Loki, their father was mad with grief. Who knew what the real Odin would have done?
In order for Loki to play Odin well, he had to open himself up to his memories of his father. Odin was a powerful man with a gentle heart. One night during his third year of ruling Asgard, he realized that his father truly loved him. Loki imagined how his father must have felt that day when Loki shouted and scolded Odin for not leaving him to die.
Loki jerked awake that night from his sleep and fell on his knees. He wanted to yell, but he knew that would attract the guards so he balled his hand into a fist and bit down on it while he cried.
Father, I am so sorry.
As the days passed, ruling as Odin, reminded Loki of how unworthy Loki was as king. He was meant to rule, but not as a false monarch. He simply could not live as Odin any longer. Nearly before dawn, he walked to the cave he had hidden from all of Asgard and released his father. His father was placed in a false Odin sleep from a white crystal that was tied around Odin like a necklace. Loki watched his father for one last moment as Odin laid still on a large wooden slab. Loki raised his hand towards the necklace and yanked it off without hesitation. His father jerked awake and began breathing hard. Odin saw Loki and rushed towards him and pushed him against the wall of the cave.
"How long," asked Odin.
Loki opened his mouth to answer. Odin growled and pushed Loki against the wall again. Loki went hazy for a moment. His father was a very strong man.
"Three years," said Loki.
Odin let go of his son. Loki stood molded with the wall. Odin looked around the cave? Why didn't Loki kill him? He looked down at the wooden slab. Nothing was making sense. Odin looked back at Loki. Odin rushed towards Loki again. Loki looked away in shame. Odin grabbed Loki's face and made Loki look into Odin's eyes. Odin saw a vision. Part of Odin's son had returned. Odin let go of Loki.
"What have you done to my kingdom," asked Odin.
Loki disguised himself as a guard manning a small flying shuttle as he escorted his father back to the capital. Odin looked around at Asgard as they traveled on a small ship back to Odin's throne. Everything was rebuilt and he noticed kids playing together on the grass. Some of the kids wore light warrior armor while the other children were dressed in civilian clothing. Young scholars and warriors were playing together? This was not done. One of the civilian girls multiplied herself. Odin's eyes widened and looked at Loki.
"You shared your skills with the young," asked Odin.
"I thought it would level the play between them. It was a gift mother gave to me so I could play with…"
Odin could still sense Loki's jealousy. Odin could not understand it. Odin treated both of his son's equally. Thor simply had more in common with Odin; that did not make Odin love Loki any less. At best, he should not have let his beloved wife, Frigga, coddle Loki so. It gave Loki a false sense of his place in the universe. No man or woman was owed anything under the stars. The stars were simply there. As Odin thought more about his time with Loki, he could not remember a time that he and Loki shared together. Thor was always there. Odin had a lot of memories of his time with Thor.
Odin asked Loki when Loki began to hate Odin. Loki focused on manning the ship and did not turn to speak directly to his father.
"You always were so proud of Thor. He could never disappoint you. You never showed interest in me that way."
Loki felt petty saying such things, but he owed his father his honesty.
"I was proud of your skills, Loki."
Loki shook his head.
"It doesn't matter."
Odin walked up to Loki and squeezed his shoulder.
"I was proud of both of my sons equally. Your sensitive nature made you see things that were not there."
Loki wanted to cry again. He focused on keeping his façade intact.
Odin let go of Loki's shoulder and confirmed in Loki what he already knew. Loki was not forgiven. Some crimes could not be forgiven. Loki accepted his fate. If he was to live the remainder of his days in prison, he would do so. He deserved no less.
"Redemption is for those who desire it," said Odin.
Loki looked back as his father. What had Odin decided?
Lady Sif walked proudly towards Odin's private study. She had never been summoned there before. She knew this meant that he wanted to speak with her privately. He must have a very important quest for her. Clearly whatever she was asked to do, she was to complete the task alone. She stood in front of the large gold doors and raised her hands above her head. She said her name and the doors opened. She stepped through the doors and saw Odin in the middle of the room. She put her right arm over her chest and bowed.
"All-Father…" she said.
"Rise, lady Sif," said Odin.
"I received your message and I am ready to serve you. Tell me your command."
A green shimmer began to appear beside Odin. Sif reacted quickly, unsheathed her weapon and moved to stab the intruder. Odin grabbed the blade, just as Loki appeared beside Odin. Sif was shocked. Odin had protected Loki. Had Odin gone mad?
"All-Father, what is this," she asked.
"Loki will not harm you. He has proven himself worthy of some grace. Death will not befall him today."
"Is this a trick," she asked.
Was Loki showing Sif a deception? She wanted to stab Loki in his throat and be done with him forever. She was told Loki was dead! Thor would be very displeased that his dear brother lied to him again. She could spare Thor the anger and shame of Loki's lie right now. All she had to do was push harder.
"Sif," said Odin in a quiet, but harsh tone.
Sif lowered her eyes. She knew the real Odin stood before her. Odin let go of her blade. She took a step back, pressed a button on the stem of the weapon and it shrunk back down to a normal length. She sheathed her weapon and stood with her hands balled into fists at her sides. Loki looked down at her hands. Loki did not feel safe.
"Sif, you have been asked here for a purpose," said Odin.
"Do you want me to take him to the outlands and kill him," she asked.
Loki's eyes widened.
"Let us all sit together," said Odin as he pointed at a nearby table.
Loki and Sif looked at the table like it was some unknown trap. Neither one of them wanted to be near each other.
"Come children," said Odin.
Odin was the first to walk towards the table and sit down in a chair. Loki and Sif walked slowly and cautiously towards the table and sat down slowly in their chairs as they looked at each other. Odin wanted to smile at their foolishness, but this was not the time for smiles. Odin cleared his throat. Sif gave Loki a deadly stare. Loki pretended like the murderous rage he saw in the depths of her eyes did not frightened him. He stared back at her with an unreadable expression. Odin slammed his hand on the table, Loki and Sif jumped and looked away from each other.
Odin ordered Loki to confess his plot to Sif. As Sif listened to Loki, she had to focus on not reaching across the table and breaking Loki's neck. Loki had ruled Asgard since Thor left for Earth. Sif closed her eyes, she had to do something. When she opened her eyes, Loki and Odin stared at her with concern.
"Is that all," she said.
"Yes," said Loki.
"You are truly a spoiled, rotten creature that doesn't deserve to live," she said.
"I have realized my faults, Sif," said Loki.
Sif smiled and slowly began to laugh. As the laughter filled the room, she became more hysterical. Even Odin was unnerved. Sif eventually calmed down and put her hand to her chest for a moment.
"Was that not jest," she asked.
"Loki could have destroyed everything, but he used his position to rebuild Asgard. He has made this kingdom… (Odin could not believe he was saying this) strong."
Sif was silent. If Loki was in fact an impostor all this time, Loki's actions were out of character. Yet, Sif was not surprised. He was simply a brat that won his way, of course he was content. He was also a devious hound. Why did he wake Odin? What was his plan now? Sif leaned towards Loki, Loki did not lean away, but he wanted to.
"What are you intentions, Loki?"
"I don't know, but my desire for the crown is no more."
Sif slammed the table with her fist.
"Careful," said Odin. "Loki is still my son."
Sif blinked and looked at Odin. Loki was shocked by Odin's words as well.
"All-Father, please tell me what you desire of me. I can no longer bare this," begged Sif.
"Loki will remain in exile until he has proven himself amongst the citizens of Asgard. I know he has changed, but I cannot expect Asgard to be blind to his transformation. I am sending Loki on a hero's quest and I want you to act as his personal guard."
Sif stood so abruptly that her chair fell behind her. She looked down at Loki, then at Odin. Loki was surprised as well. He would be better off with Volstagg. At least he would give Loki a quick death. If Loki was alone with Sif and she had the opportunity to kill him slowly, she was likely to take that chance. If Odin wanted Loki dead, then he should have had him executed.
"Father…" said Loki.
Odin raised his hand. Loki become silent.
"It is your choice. I will not force this upon you. Loki is still full of mischief, but I do not think he full of ill will. Not anymore," said Odin.
Sif looked at Odin.
"I will not deny my king. I am honored by your request," she said.
She looked at Loki.
"I will be Loki's guard and protect him on his quest; even from himself," she said.
Loki did not like her tone.
"It is settled then. Nothing will leave this room. You will rendezvous at twilight. Sif take anything you feel you need and can carry. I will offer you one small ship to carry you. Loki has his talents as well," said Odin.
Loki involuntarily cleared his throat. He cringed internally. It was truly the worst moment to have such a tickle.
"Yes," said Sif.
"You both may go," said Odin.
Sif turned and walked out of the room first. Loki stood up slowly and was about to speak.
"I do not have to explain my ways to you, Loki. Just accept that task I have given you."
Loki nodded his head and walked out of the room.
Sif ran through the outland forest and sliced through the bark of various trees. She jumped down from the top of a tree and landed on her feet. Odin stood in front of her. She quickly knelt down in front of him.
"My king," she said.
"I needed to speak with you privately. There is more I have to say," he said. "Rise."
Sif stood up and looked at Odin.
"My son is still capable of losing his way again. I have given him this task to assure he can grow into the man I know he is able to be. However, I am not a fool. As King, I have to accept all possibilities. If you discover that Loki is not worthy of the second form of grace that he has been given, then you are to remove him from this world."
Sif could not speak. She knew the All-Father was a stern ruler, but she did not know he was capable of ordering the assassination of his son.
"You will be Loki's judge and executioner. I will not fault you, I trust you to do what needs to be done."
"What makes you think I will not simply kill him?"
"You are an intelligent warrior. You will be able to sniff out Loki's intentions quickly and you will be able to enact punishment when the time comes."
"Would you want me to bring back his body?"
Odin closed his eye and looked down. Sif knew Odin wanted Loki's actions to be sincere. Odin did not want to kill his son.
"Yes, bring his body back to me. I will bury him as a citizen of Asgard …and nothing more."
Loki and Sif stood at the edge of a forest. Un-kept land was dangerous. Not even magic could conquer an infested forest. They would have to stand together if they were going to survive it. Loki glanced at Sif.
"Maybe father was wrong, why would he ask us to come here," asked Loki.
"I suggest you find your resolve, whoever or whatever is in there already knows we are here," said Sif.
Loki swallowed the lump in his throat.
"Remember your duty to me, Sif."
"Remember your pride, Loki."