Disclaimer: All rights go to Marvel, etc etc.
A/N: For the next three weeks, I can't guarantee any updates because my WiFi will be kinda unreliable! In regards to this chapter—phew this is a bit longer than my usual. I churned it out in two days in a determined spiel of inspiration aha. I'm really happy with how it came out though! The story should really pick up from here, and I may have to change my plans for weekly updates considering that the chapters are going to get longer as well. We'll see. Anyways, hope you enjoy! Leave a review on your way out ;)
Warnings: language, violence, and the many, many liberties I have taken with canon and Norse mythology (oops).
"Mother, look! A Valkyrie!"
Brunnhilde had startled at the young voice, nearly dropping the sword in her grasp mid-swing. She turned to the sound, a sharp reprimand on her tongue for the child that disrupted her training.
Blue eyes, the color of shallow Asgardian waters, of melting Jotun ice, of crackling lighting at dawn, stared back. A crown glinted from within his tousled hair; it was the impossible gold of the Royal palace, gleaming as though the rays of a setting sun had been captured in its forging.
The fledgling god. Prince of Asgard. Odin's second attempt at an heir.
Thor, was it?
"Mother! She's looking at me!" He said, pulling at Queen Frigga's robes. The boy couldn't have been more than five, almost nothing to Brunnhilde's long, long life. She remembered the celebration upon his birth, a light in the terrible aftermath of Hela's war. She remembered the people rejoicing—finally, an heir of Odin's blood but borne from a kind woman's womb. She remembered Odin sweeping everything under a rug, and the people all the more glad for it. The murals painted over, the graves of a thousand soldiers buried in a cavern beneath the palace, never to be found. Her sisters, their sacrifice, forgotten.
Thor. Asgard's rebirth. It's clean slate.
It was painful to look at him.
"My queen. My prince," Brunnhilde said, kneeling. Fingers trembling on the hilt of her sword, she couldn't bring herself to look into those blue eyes, so close were they to the shocking intensity of Hela's grey ones. "What brings you here?"
"My mother, she tells me of the Valkyrie, an elite fighting squad for Asgard! I've always wished to join." The boy said excitedly before Queen Frigga could stop him. He glanced at her branded arm curiously then around them at the empty stadium. "Where are the rest of you?"
"Thor!" His mother hushed him, scolding. Odin's new queen was indeed kind. Her tone seemed sincerely apologetic. "I'm terribly sorry, Valkyrie. No manners or tact, this one."
Valkyrie. Yes, that was all she will ever be to the Royal family. Do they not even recall the name of their last warrior?
"Don't be, your Highness," she said, straining a smile on her face as she stared at their shadows casted before her. Once, she had kneeled before the Goddess of Death, had fought beside the relentless queen-to-be. At least then, amidst the bloodshed and death and fire, she belonged. She had purpose.
Who was the last Valkyrie servant to now? Certainly not Odin, the King that cowardly hid behind his soldiers, her sisters. Nor Frigga, his newly appointed queen, a young thing that could never truly understand the spilled blood trailing behind her husband's feet, the red in his ledger.
And certainly, certainly not Thor. How could she ever serve him, when he was a reminder of all she had lost? Would he even need a Valkyrie in this new era of peace?
Who am I here? She thought angrily. What use am I anymore?
The boy laid a hand on her shoulder, and she looked up in shock at the sudden buzz that rose in her blood from his touch. Even at such a young age, the royalty of Asgard calls to her.
Of course, heeding the command of the throne was what the Valkyrie were bred for. Forged in the iron grip of a fearless general, bonded by loyalty to the king. Her life was subject to the beckon and call of Asgard. And what did it lead to? The death of her family, of her first and last love. And perhaps soon, if Odin willed it, her own demise.
The prince's fingers, soft and uncalloused with the plush treatment of youth and wealth, carelessly wiped at the tears that strewn down her face. Since when had she ever wept so freely? How low she has fallen.
"Do not be sad, Valkyrie." He said, his face open and understanding and everything Odin should have been but was not. "Sometimes, I cannot find my brother too. But he always, always turns up again. You just have to wait!"
Brunnhilde's heart squeezed in her chest.
Damn his kindness. She could be angry at the Allfather for butchering her sisters' memory, for hiding history with paint and gold and unmarked graves, but she cannot say anything to Asgard's future, its prince meant for a reign of peace and glory. A protector, not a conqueror.
What need had he, or Asgard, for a Valkyrie anymore? She had no place here, in this new, shining kingdom, nor did she have anything keeping her there.
"Thank you, my prince," she said finally, bowing her head. "I will remember your wise words."
He giggled and laughed in the way only children can, clear and bright and without care. What could she do but smile back? Distantly, thunder rumbled. It was not much longer before his mother ushered him into the palace to resume his duties.
That night, Brunnhilde grabbed her sword, donned the blessed armor, and left Asgard. Heimdall had not the heart to stop her.
She shedded her name. Let it roll off her tongue one last time. Brunnhilde. "Ready for battle," was its meaning, graced to her so many centuries ago. A name that no longer was needed now that the battle had been won (lost).
And leaving behind her old moniker and taking upon that of her sisters in memorial—it was the least she could do. After all, Valkyrie was all that was left to honor them. The last of them in this vast, lonely universe.
"Ah, look what we have here. What did you say you came here in? Scrapper 142? Well, 142.
Welcome to Sakaar."
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" Thor asks skeptically as Loki conjures a gaping hole in the floor of his room. It shimmers and hisses, a bit too closely reminiscent of a snake. With his foot, Thor nudges in one of Loki's pens, and it disappears into the darkness with a ghostly whoosh. Not good news. "I'm not saying I do not trust you, but that is exactly what I am saying."
His brother rolls his eyes. "You wanted to go to Sakaar, a place which might I remind you, is meant for the lost and unloved. Do you think there would be a normal way in?"
"By all means, reject my generous short-cut to the shit hole of the galaxy. In fact, I'd be more than happy to stay here, in our nice and clean kingdom, where there isn't trash everywhere."
"I'm afraid that's not an option."
"Alright, then. Hence," Loki gestures to the hole. "The portal."
"You go in first."
His brother looks up in mock surprise. "The mighty Thor, praised for his valour in battle, trembles before a simple conjuring?"
"Since when has anything you've ever conjured considered simple?"
Loki considers that for a moment. "Fair point."
"Glad we agree. After you, brother."
"No. You're still older."
"Well now you're just being childish—"
And Loki pushes him into the hole.
Damn his siblings. Evil incarnate, the both of them.
Fortunately, it's really only a second of panic. His stomach drops for a moment, there's a blink of pure darkness, and whoosh—he lands squarely in a pile of trash.
Well, at least this is familiar. Thor thinks as pulls his leg out of something sticky and flicks away grime. Good to know Sakaar never changes.
He has just about finished wiping himself clean—or at least, as clean as one can get on Sakaar—when his travel pack lands on top of his head.
"Ow—Loki!" He calls into the dark hole still hovering above him.
"Oh good. You're alive," his brother responds cheerfully. "For a moment there, I thought I actually did mess up."
A second later, Loki materializes out of the hole. He must have used some sort of wicked combination of stealth and sorcery to land because there's not a slick of filth on his robes.
"Oh dear," Loki says, crinkling his nose. "Is it just you or does the entire planet smell this putrid?"
"The whole planet." Thor claps his brother heartily on the back, making sure to smother of his brother's garments with a dirtied hand. "And now you too!"
"I hate you."
"You could never."
"You'd be surprised."
Thor doesn't answer, lets the conversation drop as Loki carefully maneuvers his way to ground free of trash. For a moment, his brother slides on a stray piece of metal, and Thor reaches out a hand to steady him.
The memory hits Thor like a plunge into ice water.
Wheezing breaths—his little brother's face turning blue—the clean snap of a broken windpipe in large, powerful hands—
"So, where to?
Thor blinks and shakes away the image of death shadowing over Loki's face. Pushes away the pain and loss. It's what he's done in the past and it has worked thus far and everything is perfectly fine.
Why does he still mourn, when his brother is right here, alive and well? He swallows down the burst of power that flooded in his veins alongside panic.
Later, I'll deal with it later.
"Now, we request an audience with the Grandmaster."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Do you know who we are, you blasted wench? Princes of Asgard, protectors of the Nine Realms, and you dare deny us—"
"It's fine, Loki." Thor says, putting a hand on his brother's arm. This was going very bad, very fast. He could see his brother's fingers twitch towards the knives at his disposal. "She is not going to let us in."
"It is decidedly not fine!" Loki hisses. "The sheer impudence of it all. I demand you give us an audience with this so-called 'Grandmaster.' I command it."
"I quake in fear and subservience." is the monotone reply. Topaz looks at the two Asgardian princes with as much interest as watching paint dry.
Loki's eye twitches.
And now is the time to leave before his brother gets any more stabby stabby.
"Thank you for your time," Thor says with a smile, one hand gripped around the back of his brother's robe. "If you'll excuse us."
Me, getting us out of trouble? Oh how the tables have turned.
"We could've gotten in," Loki says sulkily as they emerge back outside. Norns, Thor forgot how much his brother complains when things don't go his way. "It just had to be made clear who exactly is in charge here."
"We'll find our way in somehow."
"Remind me again, brother, what exactly we're trying to accomplish here?"
"I told you," Thor says, inspecting the palace walls. Would they be that hard to climb? Last time, out of sheer chance and perhaps divine intervention, Valkyrie had found him. But now, with the vast piles of junk that surrounded the palace, it'd take ages and more than just blind luck to come across Scrapper 142. "I have business here."
"Ah, yes. Your ever elusive romance that takes you from the misery of Nifelheim to Sakaar—may I ask who your matchmaker is?"
"One word about your love life, Loki. Horses."
His brother bristles. "That was one time, Thor."
"You had children."
"Yes, whom I am very proud of."
"My point is made."
They lapse into a silence, squinting at the blazing Sakaar sun.
How could he get Valkyrie to see him? The Grandmaster had been his best bet, after all that man had seemed rather enamored with both him and Loki the last time around.
Norns, not only that, it was hard enough to convince Val to return to Asgard the last time—and that was with the entire realm on the line—what could he even say now?
Yes hello there, estranged warrioress friend of mine. Remember Hela, that woman who destroyed your whole life? Yes, well, she rather ruined my life as well—but not yet, technically.
He was screwed. So, so screwed. But he can't just leave Val here.
'Let me have this.'
No, Thor cannot in good conscious meet Hela without giving Valkyrie her choice.
But how the hell was he supposed to do that?
Loki nudges him. "Thor."
"You want the Grandmaster's attention, correct?"
"You can say that."
His brother points at one of the gaudy banners unfurling down the side of a building.
MISERABLE? EAGER TO ESCAPE THIS PLANET?
BE A CONTENDER!
BESTING THE GRANDMASTER'S CHAMPION GRANTS YOU FREEDOM!
"Then I hope your reputation on the battlefield is an accurate one."
A grin spreads across Thor's face. Power rises and flexes beneath his skin in anticipation, blood practically singing with glee in his veins. Loki, you genius. Why didn't he think of this himself? There is no better way to guarantee an audience with the Grandmaster than to best his Champion, no better way to relieve Thor of his flaring power.
"It's not accurate," Thor says, and his eyes flash the blue of dying stars. "I'm even stronger."
Terrible. It was a terrible idea to come with Thor.
Loki hates himself for this—for blindly following his brother to the edge of nowhere. Again, he renders himself a weakling. He should have let Thor come alone, let Thor find some way to this hell on his own, let Thor experience loneliness, helplessness for once. And yet, he still came. What a pathetic, witless fool he is.
How predictable. Loki thinks bitterly. The family disappointment can't even avoid disappointing himself.
He's lingering near the gate of the stadium, waiting for Thor to emerge from the Contender's changing room. There's excitement and bloodlust in the air as the noise of battle rises from beyond the metal gate. Crashes and attacks send tremors through the arena, causing dust and debris to fall from the open cracks of the room. An opening ceremony to the main show.
I don't even know what Thor is doing here, let alone me.
He can leave. Just a quick conjuring and poof—no more Loki. If Odin gets to worked up over it, it's a simple matter to just come back, search for his idiot brother, and come home. It would be easy. Less messy. He'd still have a chance to prove himself better than Thor for the throne.
But the frustrating thing is, he doesn't need to prove himself anymore, not when Thor himself has already rejected the crown. So what is Loki then, without his ambition? Without the familiar burn of anger? What was he before he realized how inadequate he was? He doesn't know. Doesn't remember.
The door to the Contender's changing room slides open, and in the dim, flickering light that filters through the cracks of the stadium, Thor...looks strangely like a king.
His hair is cropped short, no longer the long locks of a soldier, but the clean, sharp appearance of a strategist. It makes his brother look fiercer, more mature, but he's surprised that Thor was willing to part with the hair that marked him a warrior. His brother has also traded his Asgardian royal garb for lighter leathers, leaving his arms bare and only one shoulder donned with a cape. Red lines are drawn vertically across the left side of his face from his hairline to the middle of his neck, imitating dripping blood. It's a mismatched, unceremonious look, but his brother has never looked more like the warrior king Odin once was, has never exuded power like this before.
Still, Loki has the responsibility of keeping his brother's ego in check.
"You look like a beggar."
Thor shoots him a withering look as he straps on two blades to his side. Curiously, Mjolnir is nowhere to be seen.
"Where's your hammer?"
"I'm not planning to use it."
Did...did Loki hear that right?
"Run that by me again because it appears my hearing is failing me. You're not planning to bring Mjolnir, your best weapon, to a battle of life or death?"
"That's where you're wrong, Loki," Thor says, heading towards the gate as the sounds of brawl die down. He rolls his shoulders back and cracks his neck from side to side. "A god is more than just his weapon."
Before Loki can respond—how oddly cryptic of you, Thor— thunderous applause rises from the outside. A call for blood and violence. The metal gate slides open.
"-sent to you, the Lord of Thunderrrrr!"
"Wish me luck, brother." Thor says, and he steps out into the stadium, an arm raised, his silhouette outlined in the angry red and gold and ice blue of the arena. The metal door shutters shut. The increasing volume of the crowd becomes muted, and Loki is left alone.
"Good luck," he mutters in the sudden, cloying darkness. How strange, when Loki has always preferred it to light.
He makes his way into the audience, squeezing his way past the roaring spectators. Spit flies through the air as they jeer and howl, eager for bloodshed. He sees Thor has made it into the center of the arena, his blades now extended to their full lengths. His brother has foolishly removed his helmet, left it discarded in the dirt next to him, and the crowd goes wild at the arrogance of it.
Oddly enough, they are all also dressed in shades of blue. Variants of the color, ranging from the near white shade of pure ice to the dark, opaque navy of a brackish sea in storm. Plumes of blue powder explode in the air. Masks of a hideous, horned monster are donned.
The masks are strangely familiar.
"And now, welcome the fan-favorite—"
From opposite of Thor, ice crawls over the metal gate. It splinters and cracks from some force behind it.
"Your reigning champion—"
The metal gate shatters as an unnaturally long arm shoots out from the darkness.
A chill immediately washes over the crowd, and the audience screams in delight. Loki's stomach drops as red eyes emerge from the pitch black.
A blue creature steps out. The color of death, of a dark, cold realm. Its features are hideous and grotesque, covered with raised markings. The monster's mouth stretches into the semblance of a grin as it sees Thor, and oh Norns—
"The natural enemy of Asgardians—ooh like our Lord of Thunder here!"
What was a Jotun doing all the way out here?
"A round of applause for our Frost Giant!"
Fate, the cruel maiden, must truly delight in ruining Thor's day.
Out of all opponents, the Grandmaster's Champion just had to be a gods-damned Jotun, the only creature in all the Nine Realms that would make this mission just that extra bit more complicated.
Norns, Thor hasn't even begun to think of how he should broach the sensitive subject with Loki.
Really, he was just blessed with bad luck.
A dagger of ice shoots pass his arm, nicking the bare skin above his elbow. The Jotun sneers at him, its eyes alight with amusement as another javelin materializes in its grip.
"Your Majesty," he croons and there's a throaty, warbled quality to his voice. "You are far, far away from home."
Thor rolls to the side as the javelin hurtles towards him, but he isn't prepared for the barrage of ice that follows it, washing his left side with brittle cold. His leg is encased in a cast of ice, and it crawls flush up his body. A flash of pain bursts at his hip as he attempts to yank his leg out. The Jotun cackles.
"I smell the cursed blood of the Allfather within you, Son of Odin. They call this planet Lawless Sakaar—Godless Sakaar. You are arrogant to have come here."
Thor splinters the ice with the hilt of his sword and spins out of the way as a flurry of icicles plunge towards him. He doesn't get a moment to pause as the next wave of the Jotun's attack is upon him—daggers of ice peppering the ground, licking at his heels with their proximity.
'Damn it. I can't just murder him in cold blood—the mess it will make when I have to talk to Loki," Thor thinks frantically as the edge of the Jotun's newly crafted blade nearly misses an artery. He dodges another a swing. 'But what the hell am I supposed to do but kill him?' A spear lances past his calf, and Thor winces. 'If I can even manage to kill him.'
With a flick of his wrist, Thor flips the sword in his hand and plunges it into the Jotun's thigh. It doesn't go very far—Jotun's have skin with the density of an iceberg—and a second later, the giant flings him across the stadium. Thor's back hits the arena wall like a meteor, denting the surface, and part of the scrap metal rips through his fighting leathers and into his skin. Pain flares from his lower back. He wheezes from the impact, wipes away the blood that dribbles from the corner of his mouth. The audience roars its pleasure.
Thor charges forward, swords swinging in his grip with deadly grace. There's a rhythm to it all, and he lets himself fall into the heady dance of battle. The Jotun meets him blow for blow, laughing. With the waft of his hand, a wall of ice forms in the air and presses Thor back, pushes him into the dirt.
"Do you know who I am, Odinson?" The Jotun demands, marching forwards with the slow, deliberate approach of a predator. Its limbs move with fluid grace, stalking towards him with elegant brutality, a power move to remind Thor and the audience that he has all the time in the world to play with his prey. Each step burns the ground beneath it a sooty black. "Years I have spent here, the equivalent of millenia for the rest of the world, and still my power does not dwindle."
Thor stands. Retracts his swords back into their smaller form. Sheaths them. The air thickens as the Jotun walks closer. There are millions of icy knives floating behind the creature, their sharp points glittering in the white of the stadium lights, and even the audience hushes as the Jotun smiles.
"I am legend," he says softly. "Ancient and powerful. Your people remember me as Ymir."
A chill crawls up Thor's spine at the name. Ymir, the ancestor of all Jotun, a powerful being from the times of Odin's bloody conquest. Then, anger.
My father has bested you before. Do you think me a lesser king?
"Give my regards to Hela," the monster says, and with the slightest twitch of a finger, the icicles plummet, an ending move.
"You talk too much," Thor mutters, scowling. There's sparks dancing across his knuckles, spiraling at his palms. And the lightning bubbling within his chest, the need for freedom, the anger and grief and anguish that had boiled silently within him—releases.
There's a crackle of electricity, and the sound of water poured on ice, the sound of shattering glass, fills the arena.
Death had come swiftly for Valkyrie.
It was but a flash of pain as the spear split through her breastplate, through her. She had died happily, having given retribution to the woman that murdered her sisters. Hela was dead, and she, now the sole memento of a time long past, would die with her.
Hell, even her last thought had been a great one, as far as last thoughts go.
I am ready..
And that was that. All good and dandy. A nice, clean ending to a long, messy life. She was eager for Valhalla, eager to see her sisters once more. To see her lover for blessed eternity.
So why the fuck did she wake up in a time when her family was already dead and Hela was still alive?
"Welcome to Sakaar." Valkyrie wanted to punch the Grandmaster in the throat.
Out of all times and places for the universe to spit her out in—she lands here? In stupid, nowhere Sakaar? She can't even return to Asgard. Why? Because no one fucking remembers her.
Thor is probably still an arrogant dunce. Loki—Valkyrie doesn't want anything to do with the complicated mess he is at this point in time. Worst of all, Odin is still alive. She can't get revenge on Hela even if she wanted to, and the Allfather would sooner use Valkyrie in his army than grant her any wishes.
So what? She's just stranded here? Waiting for Odin to die, waiting for Thor and Loki to drop out of the Devil's Anus? Spend another—decade or century? She's always hated how time flows here—finding contenders for the Grandmaster?
Well, it's not like she has any better ideas at the moment. What else could she do—kill the Allfather?
Actually, that's not a bad idea. She considers a plan.
No. No that's a terrible idea; Odin would smite her on sight. She's a relic, a reminder that the Allfather is flawed and that Asgard has crumbling bones in its foundations.
Might as well train with some worthy captures this time around. At least the alcohol on Sakaar is always decent.
Really, though. She's had it to here with Fate.
Her first target: Ymir of Jotunheim.
Valkyrie has just settled in Sakaar, hunkered down for the long wait before Thor and Loki arrive with news of Odin's death, when the air pressure drops. Dark, swollen clouds roll in with a speed too quick for nature, and thunder rumbles like a giants groan.
Lightning strikes. Perfectly center in the Grandmaster's Arena.
Holy shit. Valkyrie can't get to her scrapper fast enough.
When she gets there, the first thing she sees is the red cape. The dance of electricity fizzling across the stadium. And no fucking way because this way too early, way too convenient, impossible—but time has always been a strange, fluid thing on Sakaar. Unpredictable in its passing relative to the rest of the universe.
She entertains the thought that maybe this is real, maybe her luck hasn't truly run out.
But no. That's impossible. Thor didn't come until after she captured the Hulk, until after Ymir had been defeated.
Yet, despite knowing this can't be real, that this must be some stupid trick or mirage, she knows it in her blood that it's Thor Odinson. The Valkyrie are, after all, first and foremost made to respond to the crown, and that rising in her blood is undeniably for the return of her king.
He's here—Asgard's king is here. Against all odds, he must have somehow escaped off that treacherous ship and came back for her. Or, Heimdall's all-seeing vision extends more than just this time line. Or—oh what does it matter at this point? For the second time in her life, Valkyrie is on the brink of tears because of Thor's kindness.
Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a quick flash of green and gold. A terrible feeling settles in the pit of her stomach as she identifies the flash as Loki as he leaps out of the audience and into the stadium. Even from up in her scrapper, she can hear the bloodthirsty audience's joy at this turn of events.
Ymir, the ancestor of all Jotuns, against the future of Asgard? This can't turn out well.
She sighs, takes a swig out of her flask, and grabs her blade. Smiles.
Valkyrie has missed her boys.