Thor was finally able to slip into Loki's tent after what felt like hours of ceremony to announce Sumarlid victor. All through the proceedings he had been dreading the possibility that Loki had left him again after his defeat, and he was thoroughly relieved when he saw the familiar lanky form curled up in the chair he had occupied the first time Thor had entered his tent.
"Oh Loki!" Thor breathed in relief before he could stop himself.
Now that the worry for Loki had left him, he could finally be irritated with him. He had allowed Loki to continue with his ludicrous plan in the hope that it was somehow doing something to help their cause, but from what he had seen, Loki had achieved nothing but to cause everyone to hate him even more.
"Loki, I think you owe me some explanations," Thor said as he walked over to his brother, but he slowed his steps when Loki did not reply or even acknowledge his existence.
Thor hung back cautiously, unsure of what to do. He was still of the mind to demand answers, damn the cost, but he did not know Loki's mind at the moment and was wary not to upset him lest he be on the end of one of Loki's rages.
"I should have won, you know. It deserved to win, I fought much better," Loki said, almost too quietly for Thor to hear.
Thor rubbed he bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache brewing across his brow from the stress of the last few days. It was clear he was not going to get any reasonable answers from Loki tonight.
"Look Loki, festivities are being arranged in the hall, and you fought valiantly, no one can deny that and they will respect you for it! Come celebrate-"
"Someone interfered with my match; I would not have lost otherwise. It was my sword; it was obvious really. I was a fool for giving them the chance…" Loki said, cutting Thor off.
Thor gave a little chuckle. "Loki, if someone did cheat, you can hardly blame them when you have done nothing but cheat since the tournament started."
Loki rose swiftly from his chair and turned to glare at Thor.
"I suppose that makes it alright does it? Since when is everyone else judged by my lowly standards? Only when its convenient to be deceitful is it considered perfectly acceptable in Asgard!" Loki's fists clenched in fury as he spoke. "This was supposed to be my moment of glory! To prove to all those that doubted me how I could crush anyone in my way, even by their barbaric ways of fighting!" Loki took several deep breaths, steadying himself on his recently vacated chair.
"Loki," Thor started gently, cautiously approaching him, "I did not mean that we would ignore it! We will not rest until we find out how you were wronged. How do you think this misdeed happened?"
"My sword," Loki muttered. "Surely even you saw it? It leaped from my fingers like a snake."
Thor thought back to the last moments of Loki and Sumarlid's fight, when Loki's blade had danced from his grip. It seemed like Loki had fumbled at the time, but perhaps Loki was speaking the truth.
"Do you not think- now do not take offence Loki- but do you not think there is a possibility, you just dropped you weapon by a-"
"NO, THOR!" Loki roared, "I do not! I know seiðr when I see it! I can feel it! My sword was rife with it!"
"Alright, alright, I just needed to ask. Just like Sif's sword." Thor said, remembering back to what Sif and told him last night.
Loki gave a non-committal grunt. "Not that it matters. As if any Aesir would listen to my complaints, even if I am in the right. They never have."
Thor couldn't help the small fond smile that passed over his lips as he recognised Loki's behaviour. This was the Loki he had met with after every failed round of sparring as children, after that first tournament Loki had entered and lost. He knew how to handle this Loki, or rather, he was used to handling this Loki. He was not always that successful with his dealings with him.
"If it were up to me, I would have declared you the winner, Loki. You fought bravely and honourably, and with tremendous skill that I always knew you possessed."
"Well thank the Norns for that!" Loki spat, "That was precisely why I entered the tournament, as everyone else did, to gain your favour and praise."
"Loki that was not what I-"
"No, Thor, I knew exactly what you meant. You thought you could make me feel as I once did as a child, when you blundered into my room cover in mud and grime and clapped me on the back telling me I'd get better! Well, did it ever occur to you that I was doing this for a reason completely unrelated to you? I got what I came into this tournament to acquire; I was doing my duty while you did nothing!"
Loki stormed over to his desk and retrieved something from it, then whirled back around to Thor and shoved something into his hand.
Thor stared down at the vial in his hand, smeared with a crusted substance. After a beat of being utterly bewildered at what Loki was showing him, Thor suddenly remembered where he had seen something similar before: the night after his return to Asgard.
"Loki, whose blood is this?" Thor asked, almost hesitant to know the answer.
Loki let at a small shriek of frustration.
"Sumarlid's you utter fool! Do you not think it might be a wise idea to test whether our usurper may be under someone else's command? Like Odin?"
Thor nodded slowly, finally piecing together Loki's plan. The vial was an exact replica of the one containing their father's blood; the one Loki had acquired that taught them of the bewitchment of Odin. That had been why Loki had set up the tournament. All just to get this small vial of blood and to test their steward's clarity.
Thor silently fumed at the thought of how much time and man power had been wasted, let alone the cost, all for Loki to obtain something that could have been achieved by the simple bribing of a servant.
"There may have been a slightly easier and quicker way to acquire this, Loki." Thor said schooling his voice to hide his annoyance. "But good work, brother! This is a step closer to discovering the dishonourable wretch behind the attack on father. We can-" Thor started but abruptly stopped when he saw Loki standing with his back to him, almost trembling with rage.
"We? What is this 'we'?" Loki hissed. "I struggle to think of any useful thing you have contributed these last weeks, Thor. I have been the one solely helping father, the only one doing anything at all!"
"Loki, what-" Thor tentatively asked, raising a hand in mind of comforting him, but unsure of whether Loki would welcome it.
"Do not touch me!" Loki spat, recoiling away from Thor.
Thor stepped back away from him, shocked and slightly repelled by the deranged look in Loki's eyes.
"Do you not get it, Thor? You are always so blind when it comes to matters of the heart! Just because I am helping weed out the filth of Asgard, helping you play the detective, do not think for one second it is because I hold any affection for you! It is merely because I do not want it turned to ruin, which it would certainly be if left to your hands or that damned fool Sumarlid and the others! It is not my intention to be ruler of a dishonoured husk of a kingdom." Loki spat at him.
"Loki what is this? You are talking madness!" Thor growled.
"No it's not Thor! It is the only thing that makes sense in this entire realm! I am the only one that can rule Asgard! I am the only one that deserves it! I am a King!" Loki almost screamed.
"You said you never wanted the throne!" Thor said, barely keeping the anger from rising to his voice, completely at a loss for why Loki was suddenly so enraged. "You said you have never wanted it."
"I lied, Thor!" Loki roared, rounding on him. "Are you really so blind as not to see me for what I really am? I am a liar and a cheat! I manipulate you so you see what I want you to see!"
"That's not true, I know you're more than that Loki-"
Loki gave a sharp bark of laughter that held no true humour at all.
"Of course I am, Brother. I have fooled you this entire time haven't I? I've made quite the sweet companion, going along on your little escapades, spending every waking moment in your damned company!"
"So this whole time we have been together, after everything we've done together to fix this," Thor gestured wildly between them, his voice rising slightly, and almost mimicking Loki's hysterical tone, "you have still been loathing me?"
"Every second I spend with you, Thor, makes me despise you even more! Your mindless stupidity, your 'honourable' behaviour and incredible gullibility! You think a little time spent on Midgard with some primitive fools could change you?" He let out a deranged laugh. "No one can ever change who they really are, Thor. We have been so deeply rooted in our ways, how do you think a few flashing moments of our existence could change millennia of destruction? You are still- and will always be- a damned fool and I, a cold-hearted monster. For now and forever more." There was a brief moment when both men just stared at each other, heaving with rage. There were unshed tears in Loki's eyes that he furiously blinked away.
"Why?" Thor growled, unable to hide his anger now. "Why bother with this pretence of being friends if my company was so painfully unbearable?"
"For this!" Loki said, surging forward, a terrible smirk on his face. "For this moment when you feel just as worthless and used as I have felt all my life. Does it hurt brother mine?" He let out another bark of laughter. "You also have your uses, how else was I to stay in Asgard without having my life threatened every step I take? You make quite the bodyguard, Thor."
"You are forgetting, Loki, that no one in this realm or any other will ever allow you to rule! You are a king with no subjects to lead or throne to sit upon! What was your next step in this great plan?" Thor said.
"Speaking from experience, Thor? I do not see you holding place on the throne, and yet neither does Odin. You are heir are you not? What would make Odin hold the position so far from your grasp? Maybe he finally stopped letting sentiment cloud his judgment and saw what a disgrace of a king you would make!"
Thor snapped. Forgetting Mjolnir he lunged towards Loki, ready to throttle him with his bare hands. Loki let out a high, cruel laugh and dodged him to slip out of the flaps of the tent.
The excruciating hurt in Thor that was only felt when dealing with Loki had now been consumed by pounding rage that was always too easy to take hold of him. He stormed after Loki, unthinking of what he would do when he reached him, but for the moment hating every inch of him.
On leaving the tent, he noted his anger had not gone unaffected. There was a storm brewing that he was not even aware he had summoned. The tents around him were fluttering violently, threatening to be ripped from their pegs, and there was quite a panic with people battening down their possessions to stop them falling ill of the wind. Thor cursed Loki again for creating himself the perfect get away, as it was almost impossible to spot him in the massing crowd.
He finally caught sight of him through the throng of people in the camp just ahead of him. He pushed through the crowd roughly, some making noises of protest that went unheard in the roaring wind, but most complaints died on the tongues of their bearers once they saw the look on Thor's face.
He was steadily closing the gap between him and Loki, who despite being skilful at dodging and weaving, couldn't quite contend with Thor, who's tactic was just to plough through the crowd regardless of objects in his path.
Loki broke free from the crowd first, sprinting towards the castle doors, not before turning to laugh tauntingly at Thor and giving him a wave.
Thor gave a snarl of anger and rain began to pelt down, causing many shrieks from the crowd.
He was just about to chase after Loki when he noticed the slight shimmer of gold about him when he turned away from Thor. He had been fooled by Loki's illusions one too many times to be tricked by a double again.
He whirled around the site desperately seeking out the real Loki, blinking rain from his eyes that had now become a torrent, and spotted a figure slipping through an archway into the courtyard.
Thor lifted Mjolnir and it flung him into the air, amongst the rain and storm clouds. He rose rapidly, only needing to travel a short distance before he spotted the figure that was clearly Loki hurrying along the disserted courtyard, casting furtive glances behind him, clearly under the illusion he had outwitted Thor. This caused another surge of anger to rise up in Thor, and he directed his hammer down and landed heavily in front of an incredibly stunned Loki, just as the first clap of thunder echoed about the skies.
Throwing down Mjolnir, Thor grabbed Loki, lifting him off the ground, and slammed him into the wall, fastening his other hand over his throat, forcing his head up, level with Thor's. For almost the first time ever, he wanted to hurt Loki purely for the sake of the pain. Not because Loki needed to be stopped, just because Thor felt like he deserved it. He wanted Loki to know how furious he made him and much hurt he had caused. Loki clawed at his grip, letting out choked snarls of outrage. His short nails that he always kept immaculate created bloody gashes over Thor's hand, but he neither felt them nor cared.
"Stop acting like such a spoiled little martyr, Loki! " Thor roared, spittle flecking Loki's grimacing face that was already soaked by the rain. "I have apologized to you one hundred times over for any wrongs I have done to you in the past! I have begged for forgiveness from you in front of countless witnesses. I have laid down my weapons to you when you attack me; I have stopped decent men from hurting you even when you deserved it, and yet you still cling to this pointless anger and hatred. I can see no other way for me to prove to you that I am sorry and that I love you and I have had it!" At the last words, he shook Loki like he was nothing more than a child's doll.
"The only assumption I have left to think is that you get some sick pleasure out of this role you have created for yourself,"
Loki struggled in his grip as he spoke, face contorted with anger, kicking and hitting Thor to no avail.
"Does it finally make you feel special? Finally give you the attention you feel you were deprived? Being the villain, with all eyes on Loki! Do you-"
Thor was cut off by Loki letting out a terrible, rasping scream of a mixture of curses and spells that did their job of flinging Thor backwards onto the ground.
Loki was on him in the next moment and was attacking every inch of Thor he could get to. Thor was still dazed from the spells and fall and was too slow to defend himself. Loki drew great talons from his fingers with a hissed spell and proceeded to slice and tear at Thor. He cried out in agony and shielded his eyes and face from the onslaught of the knife like nails but Loki continued to rip at Thor's arms and chest. His armour barely held out against the assault to his chest, but his arms that were already bloody from Loki's previous scratches were nearly ripped to shreds, copious amounts of blood flowing down them, mixing with the rain water and staining Loki's hands and splattering his face.
Thor finally was able to clutch at Loki's still flailing arms after several failed attempts, as his grip kept slipping from the mixture of liquids covering them, and flipped them both so he was now pinning Loki down.
He pressed his whole weight down on Loki to stop his struggling, but his arms trembled with the pressure of holding him down. The lacerations on them obviously needed to be attended to quickly or Thor might pass out from blood loss.
Loki screamed nonsensically up at him, tossing from side to side to try and free himself. His face looked demented from the bloodstains and furious expression and the spittle that dribbled down his chin from where he had been screaming, and his wild eyes made him look quite mad. Thor was severely shaken to see Loki in such a state. Usually he was able to keep his composure despite the emotions he was feeling, but now he seemed to have completely lost control.
Thor managed to grip both Loki's arms in one hand and turned to summon Mjolnir. Loki's quick mind pieced together what he was about to do and this lead to another bout of screams of rage.
"Don't you dare! Don't you DARE! If you do this, Thor, I swear I will-"
"You will what?" Thor asked, panting slightly. "What else is there left for you to do to me?"
He ignored the rest of Loki's threats and once again, placed the hammer squarely on his chest.
Loki's complaints died in his throat as he let out a sobbing moan of misery, and began scrabbling at the sheer weight crushing his chest.
Thor staggered up, cradling his ruined arms, mindful to be wary of Loki swiping hands that were still desperate to connect with him.
"I told you the night I found you again that I mourned you. My heart broke mourning for you and I am still mourning! Because my brother never returned, he is still lost to me and I have come to accept that I shall never see him again." Thor said, his voice cracking and almost lost to the booms of thunder above them.
He felt dizzy from the loss of blood, and without even bothering to look back at Loki, he turned back to the castle, Loki's renewed screams echoing in his ears.
Thor summoned back Mjolnir after he had his arms bandaged and stitched up by the healers, who specifically said to him not to use the hammer for the next few days. His arms would probably be nearly healed by the next day anyway due to Aesir's remarkable healing ability, and Thor thought it was probably not wise to leave Loki out there for too long. He called for the hammer from the seclusion of his balcony where the weapon was able to sail across the grounds. Another confrontation with Loki avoided.
As Thor had had predicted, Loki was absent from the feast when he arrived, which was a grand celebration of the steward's victory, and Thor tried to ignore the terrifying thought that he had left Asgard all together.
Instead he celebrated along with the rest, allowing the women that usually plagued men of power or title to feed him and drape themselves over him; he drank more than his fill of the heady mead and laughed raucously at even the weakest of jokes.
After a few hours of rather rowdy behaviour, Thor made a public show of taking one of the eager but beautiful women with him back to his bedroom to the many cheers and hoots from his friends.
He fucked the woman on one of his desks in his chambers almost the moment they entered the room, both still fully dressed and eager for what the other was offering. The straps of the woman's dress were ripped down to allow her breasts to spill out and her undergarments crudely tugged to the side to allow Thor to thrust roughly into her.
She cried out in ecstasy, whether genuine or not he didn't care, as he filled her while he grunted with hollow satisfaction. Once he readjusted himself, he considered asking her to stay and keep him in comfort during the night, but the shame of his behaviour wouldn't allow it and he ordered her to leave without looking at her.
He finally shed his clothes and collapsed into bed and fell into restless sleep.
Over the next few days, Thor would see no one. He remained locked away in solitude, confined to his mostly self-afflicted misery. He ordered away any servants or friends that came knocking, eventually yelling at a young serving girl that came baring news that his mother wished to see him, which did nothing but heap another bout of guilt atop the already considerable amount he was carrying.
He ignored his mother request to see him; her wishes had already given him enough hassle with being stuck with Loki- the thought of Loki caused his gut to clench horribly- so he buried himself once again in the depths of his bed. When he finally rose, unknowing of how long he had spent shut away, he spent a couple of hours brooding in his private bath, in a vain attempt to make the events with Loki wash away along with the dried sweat and grime. He ripped off the bandages covering his arms to see that all the lacerations had been reduced to faint pink scars, which no doubt would be invisible in a few hours. He plucked out all of the stitches, watching small rivulets of blood run down his arm before the wounds sealed themselves, which was oddly satisfying.
Thor knew he shouldn't be locked away, wallowing in self-pity, but the thought of finding his brother, only to fight with him again, seemed unbearable. Loki's lie had slipped in so easily and stung all the more painfully as Thor had so desperately wanted to believe it. It seemed obvious now; why would Loki forget all the ills between them on the request of a mother that he no longer claimed as his own? Had not everyone warned him of this, of Loki's eventual betrayal?
He had heard no news of any disturbances or complaints against Loki, so he assumed he was still skulking about the palace, assembling whatever long conceived plans he had in place.
Well Thor would no longer fall helplessly into Loki's schemes. Let the steward deal with the traitor he allowed to slip back into the palace walls and to Thor's side. If Loki wanted the throne, let him have it. It would be easier to take it back from him than it would be from Sumarlid. These were the things Thor was telling himself, anyway.
What eventually dragged Thor from his rather childish seclusion was the sound of the bells, which would only ring when the All-father had an urgent matter to address to the court.
He reluctantly shed the informal clothes he was wearing and hauled on his armour, before moving with as much hesitance as he dared to the throne room to hear whatever announcement was to be made. The summons was no doubt relating to some continuing factor of the tournament, Thor mused, or perhaps some strife with another realm. Thor's paced slowed as he thought of another option. Loki had no keeper, had been let loose for days. Dread filled Thor at the possibly and he hurried his pace.
Arriving in the hall, he strode down the room to stand by his mother who was waiting at her place on the dais of Hliðskjálf. He could see the look of worry on his mother's face but it was quickly replaced by annoyance once she spotted her son. He noted Loki's place was empty, as it had been for many a year now.
"Mother, what of Loki?" he asked as soon as she was within earshot.
"Good day to you too, Thor. I feared your sulking would cause you to ignore the summons, especially after such a commitment of five days in seclusion. It must grieve you terribly to have to break such a feat, or perhaps you would have gone on to break Loki's record." Frigga said waspishly as Thor took his place beside her, ignoring her son's question.
"I was not sulking, mother." Thor said, trying to sound unaffected by her words. It truly shocked him sometimes that Loki was not her biological son, when she had just as vicious a tongue as he. "I just felt unwell these last few days."
Frigga eyed him disapprovingly.
"Yes, perhaps you have the same ailment as Loki, as he refused to make any sort of appearance as well. I would advise some remedy but I am not sure the healers can provide a tonic for pig headedness."
Loki had not been seen in days. He could have done anything in that time.
"Do you know why have we been summoned here?"
"I cannot say, as no news has been told to me at all. We can only wait for the arrival of Sumarlid to know any more."
Thor couldn't help but pity his mother, so used was she to knowing everything before anyone else, being the right hand to the king, and now she was just as deaf and blind as the rest of them.
There was a sudden hush of the previously buzzing room, indicating that Sumarlid had entered the hall. Thor turned to see him entering from the same room he had come from the first day Thor had heard of his placement.
He waited for the usual misplaced smile Sumarlid gave him as he passed, but none came. He strode beyond the pitiful chair he had been using as a throne at the bottom of the dais, with strength Thor had only seen a glimpse of during his fight with Loki in the tournament, and ascended the golden steps. He did not, however, sit on the throne, but merely turned at the top of the podium to regard the crowd.
There was a muttering of disapproval from the warriors and noble men, in light of Sumarlid's disrespectful attitude, that he ignored.
"What is the meaning of this summons, Sumarlid?" Thor asked.
"My friends," Sumarlid said, causing the room to fall silent. "History, I fear, has repeated itself. An act of war that was once forced upon us has come again and it holds just as much severity as it did the first time."
Thor closed his eyes in dread. He knew what the steward would next speak. He would tell of the treachery of Loki, the Prince of Lies. Thor would have to rise against his brother, have to put the whole realm's safety above his brother and he would lose him again.
"Last night on the boarders of our realm, three frost giants were found skulking, seeking access into our lands!"
"It was Loki!" one lord cried. "We should never have let that scum back!"
"Be careful how you speak of a son of Odin!" Thor roared at the man. "You have no proof it was him."
"It was him last time, and now he has returned, it has happened again! You cannot be so blind to your brother's faults as to not see this for what it is!" he yelled back.
Thor glared at him. He could not deny that it did seem like these actions were brought on by Loki, but Loki would never be so foolish as to perform the same trick twice. He would know everyone would assume it was him.
The outcry of the entire hall rose until it was deafening, until Sumarlid held up his hands for silence once again.
"The beasts were slain before they could enter or perform any of the villainy they intended for us, but their actions cause damage on their own. How will the other realms perceive us if we can allow our enemies to come so far into our land, twice, with no retribution?"
There were cries of agreement and suddenly Thor grew wary of what the steward was to say next.
"Asgard was once the beacon of the nine realms, the land that looked down upon the others and ruled with a firm justice over them. Now what has happened? We allow the other realms to perceive us as weak; they see us not as the mighty strength we know we are, but as a frail land that would be easy to overthrow. We have been weakened by compassion and sympathy we cannot allow. I know the All-father Odin's rule was long and just, and he served this land well, but we cannot allow this weakness to continue."
"If we allow these actions from Jotunheim to go unnoticed, what is stopping them returning with a full army at our door? We must stamp them out before they come for us! I know I swore to make no decisions until the All-father wakes, but I also swore my allegiance to this land and to do best by it as I can, as did all of you! A kingless land allows mutinous thoughts and I fear unless we strike now, we will only allow our enemies to construct plans of our downfall. We must set an example. We must show them the strength of the hand of Asgard."
Thor stared at Sumarlid, unable to stop the utter disbelief from showing on his face, then turned to his mother who looked pale and equally as horrified. Sumarlid's words were utter lunacy.
To march into Jotunheim now would undo all the work Odin had been doing there ever since Loki had unleashed the Bifrost on it. They were once again at peace with the Frost Giants, and to start a new war would be catastrophic.
Much to Thor's utter dismay, the speech was met with thunderous roars of agreement from the crowd in the hall. Typical of Aseir; the merest hint of an excuse for a battle or opportunity to prove themselves superior to any other, and all rationality left them. Thor looked around the hall at the eager faces of the warriors, roaring with anticipation and blood lust, and knew he had to do something to stop this.
"Sumarlid, you speak dangerous words. You have no right to spark war with peaceful lands, regardless of the actions of a few rogue Jotuns." Thor cried out over the crowd, stepping forward on the dais. The yells of the crowd simmered down, eagerly waiting to hear Thor's words on the matter.
"No right?" Sumarlid said with a slight bark of a laugh. "You forget who has rule, Odinson. I am well within my right to do as I will."
"Not when your will is madness!" Thor shouted, feeling an awful familiarity to this conversation. He turned to the crowd of men behind him, waiting for the yells of agreement to back him up.
"Are you not with me?" There was a painful silence. Thor's attitude was clearly one not mirrored by the others in the hall.
"I too have heard insults thrown about questioning the strength of Asgard," one said, stepping forward from the crowd. "I have silenced any mouth that said it, but I cannot stop them all on my own. And now this Jotun business! They are laughing at us behind our backs, Thor!"
There were murmurs of agreement, anger and resentment at these claims etched onto their faces.
"We remain just as strong as we always have! Nothing has changed! Compassion does not make us weak, it makes us strong and just, an example to all other realms." Thor yelled. But in the back of his mind, Thor remembered how he had felt towards his father's rule not so long ago. He felt him weak for not jumping at the chance to prove themselves with war and battle, for preferring to deal with words and negotiations rather than steel and fists. But he knew better now. He knew of the consequences of war, how it must be avoided at all costs. To start one out of sheer pride was a mistake he had made far too often. But these men obviously didn't feel the same.
"Thor is right, we cannot run into war blind of fact and bellies full of pride." Sif said, walking up to stand by him.
"Enough!" Sumarlid snapped. "It is not you that has rule over Asgard, Thor, despite what your blood right may be and it most certainly is not yours, Sif. War is our only option."
Thor glared up at him. This was a changed man from the one he had known and he needed to find out what had changed. The cries of the men had started again; the room was divided into those with Thor and those with Sumarlid and they were now yelling out their debates.
"Sumarlid, these are words born of vanity and ignorance! You cannot start a war out of pride and the actions of but few! To lead these men into a needless war goes against the very foundations of what my family moulded Asgard to be!" He had to shout over the cries of the men in the court but his booming voice rung out over them none the less.
"You speak words of treason, Odinson." Sumarlid said taking a step down from the dais.
Thor broke free from his position and stepped up several of the steps himself to glower back up at him.
"I speak words of reason amongst this lunacy."
"You tread a dangerous line; you shall be removed from this court and we will discuss this further."
Several guards moved behind Thor, uneasily approaching him. Thor gave a bark of a laugh that held no humour.
"It is your second mistake of the day to think you can remove me by force, Steward." Thor sneered but he stepped down from the dais unassisted anyway, and followed the men to the room Sumarlid used as a study just off the main hall.
As he passed Sif, she made as if to follow him, but Thor rested a hand on her arm.
"It is alright," he said, smiling. He leaned in closer so as not to let anyone hear him. "Find Loki, bring him to me," he breathed in her ear. "I do not believe he is a part of this and I need his to help stop it." He looked at her slightly pleadingly and she nodded curtly.
Once he entered the office, the guards rather weakly tried to make him take a seat, which he silently refused with a glare. Sumarlid entered the room a few moments later, looking hardened and weary, hardly the look of the impressive leader Thor had just seen address the court.
"You cannot continue with this warmongering, Sumarlid!" Thor started as soon as he spied the man. "Surely you can see a simple steward does not have the right to do this?"
Sumarlid gave a heaving sigh and made his way over to the sideboard of the room to poured two flagons of wine.
"You know, I never used to be much of a drinker, but I find myself now being almost reliant on the stuff." He huffed a slight laugh. "I suppose the pressures worthy of a king can do that to you."
Thor clenched his fist in frustration.
"Then do not add more to them by starting a war!" he growled. Sumarlid was silent for a moment, busying himself with the drinks, before turning to Thor.
"That is simply not an option," he said, gravely. He held out a tankard to Thor, who waved it off.
"Come, let us discuss this matter like men. We needn't be hostile to each other," Sumarlid said with a weak smile.
Thor begrudgingly took the drink and took a large draft of it before setting it aside, pleased to see he would at least hear Thor out.
"Please, sit." Sumarlid gestured to the seat Thor had previously been offered, and he stiffly sat down into it.
"Please! Just hear reason!" Thor said, leaning forward in the chair. "This attack on Jotunheim, can you not see it is utterly unfounded and irrational?"
Sumarlid gave a small smile
"Thor, you were once in my position, ready to start a war at the mere hint of an offence to your pride! Surely you know of the virtues I speak."
"I know they are born of naivety and vanity. I was taught the consequences of my actions and had to bear the burdens of them. I nearly lost everything! My brother-" Thor stopped himself before continuing. "Do not let yourself make the same mistakes, escape the pain that I suffered! No good can come from this war."
"Except better lives for the people of this world. No longer shall we live in fear of those monsters! We will restore honour to our name!" Sumarlid said, conviction returning to his voice.
Thor scrubbed a hand over his face. There was no reasoning with this man! He had begun to sweat. He felt acute tremors wrack his body and settled his shaking hand back on the armrest. He glanced to the door, praying to the Norns that Loki would burst through it and fix this with his skilful tongue.
Sif had sprinted through the corridors of the palace as fast as her warrior legs could carry her, until she stood in front of Loki's chamber and pounded on the door before flinging it open.
"Loki, you must come with me straight away! Thor needs you," she panted out, eyes scouring the room for the elusive other brother.
Loki sat at his desk; a look of mild curiosity on his face and a quill raised half off the page of his jotter.
"Sif, compose yourself; you are making a scene." He said with deliberate pause after noting her anxiety and desperate haste. Sif gritted her teeth and gave a few long breaths, smoothing back a lock of hair that had fallen into her face, before continuing.
"Thor- he needs your help! Sumarlid is mad! He-" Loki raised a hand to silence her.
"If Thor is asking for my help you can kindly tell him to go bugger himself. But feel free to phrase it however you wish," Loki said, going back to his writing.
"Loki!" Sif snapped. She was never the best at communicating with Loki. He was one of the few people that could get under her skin. "I don't think you understand the severity of the situation. Sumarlid is-"
"Sif, if Asgard itself was crumbling around us and Thor asked for my help I would rather remain in this room to perish amongst the rubble than help him. Nothing you say will change that."
Sif stood awkwardly in the doorway, silently fuming while Loki gazed serenely back at her.
"You're poisonous words would only make matters worse anyway! It is your fault we are in this mess!" she spat at him before spinning around with a flick of her ponytail and leaving the room with a slam of the door.
Loki watched her leave, a sneer of disgust fitting upon his lips before he returned to his parchment.
Thor sat rather sluggishly in his seat, mind reeling to think of some other way of reasoning with the changed man in front of him.
"You think it will better the lives of our people if we bring a war to their door step? Any 'suffering' the people are dealing with now will be a fraction of what it would be to endure a war!"
"All change demands sacrifice; this will be for the greater good. The men out there can see this, there was a time were you could have readily seen it too. Have you allowed Midgard culture to change you so? They are not like us, Thor. We cannot live by their standards. Their ways are unfounded here."
"Perhaps we should become more like them. Their ways seem a lot more civil than ours did in court today!" Thor snarled.
Sumarlid gave a small nod and smile.
"I meant no offence to your friends, I'm sure their ways are quite- sufficient." He raised his cup as pardon.
Thor groped for his and took a long draught, still keeping his gaze on Sumarlid. He needed Loki here. Negotiations we always his weakest role as prince, and he was never really made to practice them as he had Odin for a father and Loki as a brother. He took another sip of the drink just to have something to do.
"Thor, it saddens me that we cannot agree on this matter. I was so sure you would," Sumarlid said with a sigh, resting down his own drink and watching him intently. Thor blinked blearily up at him; he knew he should keep on arguing his point, but formulating any sort of reasoning seemed beyond his capacity at the moment.
"All of this, all their planning came up to this point, you see. It is so important and I cannot have you ruin it. It is such a shame, a terrible, terrible shame."
Thor felt like he was hearing all this from a great distance. He knew these words had some meaning and held great importance he would have to share with Loki next time he saw him. Finally he would have uncovered a clue all on his own. Perhaps Loki wouldn't be so annoyed with him if he brought something to tell him…
"So you can understand why we cannot let you interfere, Thor. I'm sorry, truly. I have always regarded you almost as my own…"
The flagon in Thor's hand slipped from his fingers and clanged loudly on the floor. Somewhere in Thor's mind, a voice very similar to Loki's told him that of course the drink had been poisoned, and what an idiot he was for drinking it. He huffed a little laugh at the absurdity of it and was suddenly aware that his vision had stopped working.
"Loki's coming, you know…" He slurred, this being the last shred of hope his mind could cling onto, his last weapon to use, before the unstoppable darkness took him, leaving him to the mercy of his father's corrupt men.