CHAPTER 14 - Time Stone or Soul Stone?
"My Prince, your mother wishes me to inform you of a guest waiting on you," called the once familiar voice of Loki's personal guard, Hafr Tokisson. He was a trusted confidant who knew more about Loki then much of his own family. Hafr was a very caring soul. Loki sat up from his desk chair so quickly that he almost tipped it over. Blinking rapidly, the trickster tried to mentally process what had just happened to him. He had been only seconds before verbally sparring with Dr. Stephen Strange and now suddenly he was here. And here seemed strangely similar to his bedroom on Asgard. His destroyed bedroom on Asgard. "My Prince?"
"Yes, Hafr, I heard," Loki replied, keeping his voice steady so as to not betray that he was shaken. He could still feel the immense magic that brought him here but he couldn't trace it back. It seemingly vanished in thin air. Distracted with trying to figure out what happened to him, Loki lost track of time.
"The Queen calls for you," Hafr repeated, waking Loki from his thoughts again. Loki stilled. He hadn't really heard the words Hafr had first said. But now he ran it all over in his head again.
"The queen?" he couldn't help but call.
"The All-Mother, Lady Frigga," Hafr answered, his voice turning confused and worried. Loki shook his head. Might as well go through with this plot.
"Inform her I will be along shortly," Loki ordered, his voice turning to his normal tone when he spoke to Hafr.
"Yes, my Prince."
Loki waited at his desk until he heard Hafr walk away from his room before getting up and looking around his room for clues as to what was going on. Everything looked as it had been long before Thor's coronation. Could Strange have used the Time Stone to send him back? No, certainly not. Strange wouldn't dare send someone back to a time when they were certainly stronger than him. Could something have happened? Something he could not remember? A fight? Did someone else steal the Time Stone?
Knowing he wasn't going to get answers just sitting here in his room, Loki raised up his concealing spell, vanishing from view. He knew now that Frigga could see through such spell but he didn't dare make adjustments to it... yet. He may need her on his side for whatever was going to happen. Slowly and carefully, Loki exited his room and headed off to his mother's quarters, the only place she could have called him from. Like he expected, no one saw him passing them. He arrived at Frigga's waiting room to see Hafr standing right in the entry way, talking to someone inside.
"Yes, All-Mother. I shall speak with him again," Hafr stated before bowing and then turning to leave. Loki had to dodge him so that the guard didn't crash into him and ruin his spell. Hafr didn't even notice and just continued down the hall like nothing was the matter. Loki watched as the guard headed toward his own room. For a moment he paused at the door to his mother's room, waiting by the side of the doorway, spying, listening.
"I'm sorry about that dear. My son has always been a bit..." Frigga trailed off. Loki could tell she was trying to find the right word or words to use next. He pretty much was certain that she already knew he was there. There was a tink of ceramic running into each other. She was serving the guest tea. He couldn't help but smile at that.
"Independent?" came the voice that Loki knew he should never hear on Asgard. The shock of hearing it along made him loose his concentration on his spell and it rapidly dropped even as he stepped into the doorway to look at the owner of the voice.
"Clint Barton?" Loki incredulously cried, staring at the archer. Clint was dressed in his original S.H.I.E.L.D uniform that Loki first met him in. He looked a bit younger than Loki had last seen him and he also seemed a bit tired. Upon Loki's words, both Frigga and Clint looked up to see him. Surprisingly both of them had relieved looks on their faces. Clint's was easy, a face he knew. Maybe even that Loki admitted to knowing him. Frigga though, she was harder to figure out.
"Oh good. You do know this Midgardian. He had claimed that Thor would know him as well but..." Again Frigga did not finish her statement. But the purpose of it still came through. Thor did not recognize Clint, but somehow Clint knew of Thor and himself. So this wasn't the Time Stone's doing. Something else was at play.
"Yes, mother. I... I know this man," Loki agreed, his eyes never moving off of Clint. His features changed to giving Clint a look that begged him to keep silent. Clint slowly closed his eyes, knowing that Frigga was looking between them both. Loki understood that this was his sign that he understood what Loki was asking.
"That is good to hear. You know how the All-Father would react to his being here. Please, keep a better watch on him," Frigga warned, her voice light hearted. Loki frowned. Frigga hadn't spoken like this in a long time. She was the one who made him interested in Midgard in the first place. Yet now she was speaking like any Asgardian. Like Midgardians were to be treated as simple pets. Frigga turned to Clint with a smile. "It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope to see you again."
"You as well," Clint replied, quickly standing with her and bowing as regally as he could manage. Frigga chuckled at him even as she nodded and headed to leave the room. Her path brought her by Loki's side and she paused.
"Be careful how you act, strange magic is surrounding this one," Frigga told him, her voice edging on dangerous. Loki nodded, knowing the full meaning of what she was saying. Clint was still affected by everything that had happened to him. He was soaked in power that was not his own. Frigga left quickly after her warning. Once she exited the room, Clint moved to speak but Loki held up a hand. He got most of his ideas in sneaking from her. He waited a bit. Nearly five minutes before he entered the room further and waved his hand to cast a spell. Clint stiffened at the sudden display. Loki frowned at him. Did the archer sense what he did? Or was it simply the movement itself that unnerved him?
"I have cast an enchantment on this room so no one can hear us speak," he explained, wondering if Clint could now feel magic and he was disturbed by this. Clint simply nodded. Loki would have to study this more. "What is going on?"
"Hela," Clint answered before pausing. Loki nodded. "I think."
"Should have figured it out myself," the trickster cussed, turning away from Clint. Clint simply watched him. This wasn't the Loki he remembered. Something had changed.
"She's been trapping me in my memories. But each time distorting them just slightly so that it would make me die, or so that I'd want to stay in it," Clint said. Loki frowned having not expected that. It did explain why everything was just exactly as he remembered. It was cause it was all from his own memory. "She's been doing it to distract me. Keep me busy from trying to get free."
"How do you fight your way out?" Loki wondered, knowing that the only reason they were trapped like this is because Clint did what he always did. He fought, he woke up each time. She couldn't keep him under. It was as he had explained to Hela before. Clint was a strong soul. But looking the archer over now, Loki could sense something he hadn't really noticed. Clint shrugged, having never really thought about it before.
"I... I guess I realize that the memory is wrong and then... I don't know, I remember?" Clint guessed. Loki frowned, realizing that was not what he was going for.
"So you typically don't remember everything before getting trapped?"
"It's more like... I seemingly wake up from a dream, both going in and coming out. Seconds before and after it's like a dam..." Clint decided. Loki muttered something under his breath that Clint couldn't hear. "I can sometimes remember as the memory goes on, but it never makes sense until I go to get out."
"Damn it. That doesn't work," Loki snarled, growling more to himself than anything. Clint frowned, distracted.
"I can't get out. I've tried. There is some sort of block..." Clint continued. Loki shook his head and faced Clint.
"You've been stuck in your memories before. This time, it is not your memories. Breaking out of here is going to be different than what you are used too," Loki hissed. Clint sighed, understanding what Loki was meaning. "You've never been to Asgard. You never met my mother. My personal guard died long before you were even born."
"This is..." Clint began, trailing off as it really made him aware of what was going on. He had arrived in the cities outer limits. A random Asgardian had found him, demanded to know who he was. Clint had claimed he was friends with Thor, so he was brought to the palace. Thor took one look at him and scoffed 'why would I know a Midgardian? Never mind be friends with one' the thunderer had claimed. Considering everything, Clint hadn't really stopped to think about it.
"Yes. This is all my memory."
"I thought... Jesus... I thought maybe hers... Not you..." Clint bemoaned. Loki sighed, looking around his mother's room. Frigga tended to change her waiting room depending on her moods. And more importantly depending on the seasons. Small details stuck out to him, things that only he might notice. Things he had once noticed before but was never concerned with.
"We are before even Rogers' time," Loki mumbled almost more to himself than to Clint. Thankfully Clint heard and understanding dawned on him. Thor and Loki were thousands of years old, there were bound to be many memories of Asgard before Clint was born. Heck, even before the oldest Avenger, Steve. Loki slowly began walking to the far side of the room, behind where Clint had been sitting drinking tea with Frigga.
"What? When?" Clint asked, making sure he understood what Loki was saying. It was odd to be in such a random setting.
"This..." Loki started to say, pointing to a painting on the wall that he was moving toward. Clint turned to look at the painting and gasped in surprise.
"Baldr!" the archer cried in surprise. Loki stilled, glancing at the archer.
"The... It's Baldr. Your... Well... Thor's brother," Clint stammered, suddenly self conscious of what he was saying and certainly who he was saying it too. Loki turned to face him, his eyes narrowing. At this time, he still considered himself Asgardian. In fact, he'd rather have never learned about his true ancestry.
"I doubt my brother ever mentioned our younger sibling... So how do you know him?" Loki inquired, his voice dark and dangerous. Clint glanced at him before looking back at the painting. Somehow the archer could tell that Loki wasn't going to attack him. It was just that this whole thing was a sore topic.
"Baldr... He... He was in the Soul Stone world with me. He called himself the current King of Niffleheim," Clint explained. Loki frowned. It made sense that his daughter would put in an inter-rum King, but he never expected it to be his own brother. "He's been calling out to me. It's usually his calls that help me break out."
"You couldn't... He... No," Loki mumbled, trying to make sense of what had happened. What was going on and who else Hela had affected in her attempt at power?
"He told me that he died long before I was born," Clint added, his voice softer. Again he glanced at the painting. If he was trapped in Loki's memories in a time long before he was born, could...?
"He did... I... I accidentally killed him," Loki muttered, interrupting Clint's thoughts. Clint faced him, shocked.
"I was jealous of Baldr. Like me, he tended to dabble in magic. Unlike me, he was accepted. Loved. He honestly did both, fought with Thor and his band but also learned magic on the side. How come he could be accepted but I had to be shunned?" Loki described, shaking the negative thoughts from his head before he got too deep into them. Clint patiently waited, listening and searching his memory as to why this was suddenly familiar. "One day... Either it's gonna happen soon, or it just recently happened as mother removed the painting soon after, Baldr used his magic to see his future. It's a dangerous spell because most times just knowing your future draws you closer to it."
"Self fulfilling prophecy," Clint couldn't help but whisper. Loki nodded, ignoring the fact that Clint interrupted him.
"He saw his death. Didn't see what killed him or even who, just that he died. Mother feared any of us dying. She hadn't had to deal with any death of the family, yet," Loki explained. Clint gasped, making the trickster look at him. The archer knew this tale. Not long after meeting Loki and Thor, Clint had researched them. As he got to know Thor better, he learned a lot of the stories were true but slightly off as well.
"This is Norse mythology... She pleaded with the gods and goddesses of everything but mistletoe," Clint murmured. Loki sighed. Of course this tale would be brought to Midgard. It was an important moment in Asgardian history. "Baldr couldn't be killed by sword, magic, hands, rocks, nothing... Asgard... Well, the other gods and warriors made a joke of it all."
"Yes. She swore oaths with many items. Many Asgardians, giants and whoever visited, enjoyed months of attacking Baldr, unable to kill him. It wasn't for a long time before I realized Mother's error. By then, Baldr was as cocky as Thor, before he got banished. I couldn't handle it anymore. After obtaining a measly twig of mistletoe, I went to a blind warrior, Hodr," Loki said. Clint raised an eyebrow at the name, certain he shouldn't say anything. Loki smirked, knowing what Clint was thinking. While he had never seen it himself, when the trickster had used his magic to watch over the Avengers, he had learned of the show Game of Thrones. "Yes, I know how it sounds... I helped him aim at my brother. It was just supposed to go through Baldr's arm. That is where I aimed it."
"The Norns... Yes. The mistletoe went right through his heart," Loki replied.
"Myth said that the gods went to Hel to reverse his death. She agreed if everyone cried for him. But you, in disguise, didn't," Clint recalled. Loki snorted, shaking his head.
"My, my. I really was always cast the villain," he called, bemused. Clint shrugged. It certainly wasn't his fault that it happened. "No... I mourned. I did cry. Tokk, a real giantess, refused to cry. I was her messenger and the only one there to hear her refuse. She laughed at me. Hearing her laugh, I murdered her. I hoped that it might help, that her being dead before the deadline would still allow him to return. But Tokk had verbally refused and somehow Hel had heard. No matter how much she wanted too, Hel was forced to follow the rules. She could not restore him. Hodr was attacked and killed for his part, but not before he explained my involvement. And considering no one really knew Tokk, it was determined that I lied. The God of Lies just lied again, how convenient for everyone."
"So, you're not really called the God of Lies because you always lie?" Clint wondered. Loki snorted again, shaking his head.
"No. How can I be the God of Lies if I always lie? No one would ever trust that I could speak the truth and so my purpose would be ruined by people always doing the opposite of what I say. Honestly, my ability is more like I can tell a lie apart from truth. When I first met you, you could have claimed that your name was Jeremy or something stupid like that. Anyone who didn't already know you would believe that. But me... I almost get like a twinge of pain. Somehow I sense that your words are a lie," Loki explained, unsure if it all made sense or not. Clint nodded, understanding it better than Loki would think.
"So by sensing the lies all around you, you learned how to twist the truth to suit your needs," Clint realized. It was almost like Loki should have been the god of spies... Now Clint really wanted to know who that was so he could start thanking them for his and Natasha's skills. Loki smiled, glad that Clint was getting what he was talking about. He had tried to explain it to many others before and no one had understood it as quickly as Clint. Then again, not many cared to ask about it either.
"Can't actually have seen the murder if my eyes were closed... The entire time I was doing it," Loki answered. Clint snorted. It was the truth. "No one in Asgard thinks about twisting their questions when I answer something different from what they expect."
"Did you ever not want to be a trickster?" Clint wondered, hitting at the heart of the problem with Asgardians. Loki sighed.
"When born, we are... Imbued with out powers. The Norns choose for us. As we age, the powers grow stronger and we are given our titles. It is not a choice any of us make," Loki pointed out. Clint frowned.
"How does that work?"
"Honestly... I haven't had long to think much on it. It is just something we all know and understand," Loki admitted.
"Okay, well... How do you purpose we get out of here?" Clint asked, figuring now was the best time to change the subject off of Loki and his history. The trickster couldn't stop the relieved smirk from appearing on his face.
"Well... I don't know..."
"LOKI!" Thor roared, rushing to the trickster's body. Strange dropped to his knees, focusing on the body and looking for any signs as to what happened. Wanda was the next to come over, hoping that her limited time with both Loki and Hela would help her figure it out.
"Jesus," Tony mumbled, the phone slipping away from his ear for a moment. There was a distant sound of an angry male voice calling Tony's name, but most of the group ignored it. Natasha turned quickly to see Tony just standing there.
"Stark! Focus on that phone call," Natasha hissed, knowing that most of them couldn't be much help in this situation. This was more meant for the magic users. Tony nodded at Natasha, raising his phone and quickly explaining as much as he could to the man on the other end.
"It's Hela," Wanda called, her red power flaring around the body for only a moment. Strange sat back, not knowing if Hela could use the Soul Stone's power to put her own soul into Loki's body or not. That would put them all in extreme danger. Not that that wasn't most of their lifestyle.
"His body is alive, but his soul is missing," Strange needlessly pointed out. "Move back. I'll cast a spell to preserve his body until we can return his soul."
"Why? I thought he was a danger," Thor growled, even though he did as he was asked. Strange gave him an angered look but said nothing as Wanda backed away as well. He then quickly cast his spell and suddenly Loki's body was covered in a golden glow with odd looking symbols. No one could easily understand any of them. When Strange finally stopped moving his hands and looked to be resting instead, Thor moved closer but did touch as a just in case. Strange nodded his head to Thor, glad that the thunderer didn't interrupt the spell. It wouldn't be for an hour or two before someone could easily touch the body without the spell disrupting.
"That spell will keep his body alive for as long as we need but no body can last forever without a soul. There is a time limit on this," Strange informed the group. None of the group wanted to ask about the time limit. It was already worrisome that Clint had been gone for just a little over a week.
"Hela can take a soul from a different Realm that she hadn't affected before? What is stopping her from getting all of us?" Wanda asked, looking around the others for some sort of answer. Strange looked away and to the floor. Apparently, as the only one with information on the Infinity Stones, he didn't know that answer.
"She wants something from us. And she'll leave us alone until she gets it," Steve determined. It was the most likely answer. And Loki had been one to verbally make himself contend with Hela, so it also made sense that she'd go for him next.
"The Soul Stone has immense power that no one fully understands. Out of all of the six stones, I would say that one is the strongest. But most power comes at a cost. When we use our spells, we also drain our own energy to get them done. The Soul Stone may work the same way and she needs time to recoup her energy. Lets use this time wisely," Strange warned.
"So, how can we beat it?" Steve inquired, looking around at everyone for ideas.
"I will go through all the books I can. For now, continue on our first path. Bring the other Mind Stone here. We will test on the remaining two stones in our possession," Strange basically ordered of the group. Steve raised an eyebrow at the man's tone as he seemingly tried to take control of the team. Thankfully, everyone else seemed to sense it as well and turned to Steve for confirmation that that was what they were going to be doing. Considering Steve was use to battling Thor and Tony for role as leader, it wasn't going to be much harder to add Strange to his fight. But, Steve honestly liked not having sole leadership onto him. He would always ask the others for advice on how to move next and sometimes even agreed with the others on the plans they made. And right now, he agreed with Strange.
"Okay. Tony, what did Fury say about the Mind Stone?" Steve called, turning to the genius who had hung up his phone only moments prior. Tony raised an eyebrow at him, his eyes quickly glancing at Strange who suddenly vanished into midair. Shrugging off the power struggle much like Steve did, Tony focused on Steve.
"One eye wants to see me in person and make sure I'm not some sort of fake or other super spy stuff. With all this nonsense flying around, I agree this is the safest bet. I'm to meet him in a few hours and I'd like Stalin to come with," Tony replied, nodding to Natasha when he mentioned her sometimes nickname. Steve glanced to Natasha, making sure she was okay with this. Natasha nodded. Again, it made sense. Natasha would be one who could tell if Fury was a copy, just using Tony for information. But mostly, her and Steve were surprised that Tony actually agreed with Fury on something. It was something they had always been worried about.
"Wanda," Steve called, glancing at her. Wanda focused on him. "I want you helping Strange. You saw the stone and know a bit about what Hela is doing with it, help him determine the best way to deal with it. Vision, you and I are gonna call T'Challa again. We might want to shift our base from New Asgard to Stark Tower or maybe even here. Keeping Clint and Loki close is priority now."
"Understood, Captain," Vision answered. Thor glanced up at Steve.
"Thor, return to your people," Steve ordered, turning his voice softer as he knew the pressures the thunderer was under. Thor frowned at him. There was no way he'd leave his brother's body. "We can call you with news but now that Loki is down as well, your defenses are weaker there. Hela wants Asgard, that may be the first place she'll strike."
"You will call when you go to attack?" Thor growled, almost demanding the ability to fight as well. Steve gave him a soft smile.
"I'm not going to deny an Asgardian his revenge," Steve promised. Thor's smile after that was much more forgiving and dangerous than should be seen together. Nodding his head, Thor glanced once more at his brother. He truly couldn't leave him. Steve frowned, but didn't comment. There was no need to rush the thunderer. New Asgard was still in transition phase and Thor hadn't been leader long. Maybe they didn't fully need him right now.
Well, it has been a very interesting and productive week for me. I have a series nearing completion before even posting one chapter, another story about halfway done AND the sequel to this story about halfway done as well! yay!
Darius has been a sweet boy this week. Hardly giving us too big an issue. My godson though... He's been giving his mom and dad lots of sleeping issues. Other than that, as I am in the midst of trying to go to bed, I'll give a better update next week.
Thank you all for the reviews, favorites and follows!