Wow, I must thank all of you who so patiently waited for the next chapter. As it is I am bashing myself over the head with how long it actually took to write this. School has started so I know that I will have less time, but I already have chapter 6 mostly written, the plot for Chapter 4 Part 2 nearly done, and nothing for chapter 5 except a rough outline. Feel free to leave a review on this to let me know your feelings on this chapter or the whole story so far. Again, you readers are amazing! Thank you for staying interested.
Before I let you read, I must thank my two Betas: Indigoxsoul and Larissa Loyd who, when one was busy, the other would pick up the slack. Thank you!
Chapter 4 Part 1: Of Metal and Stone
Loki made a move to stand up, but was stopped by the sharp pain that shot through his shoulder from that blasted spear tip.
"Do not move or you shall be slain," came the silvery voice again, this time more stern.
Loki clasped his hand around the small gem-sack and whispered something under his breath, making it and the book in the satchel on his hip disappear, stored in a safe place where they waited for him to call them back in possession when needed like the Casket of Ancient Winters. He sat back on his haunches, slowly raising his hands in the air as a sign of submission. Amora followed suit.
"Get up," said the dark voice, the point of the pike pressing harder into Loki's skin, nearly drawing blood. He inhaled a sharp hiss. Cautiously, both of the travelers stood. A blue glow lit up the air around them and their captors became visible. Midnight-blue, almost black skin flashed back at them, and tall, fine-pointed ears for hearing dangers in the dead of night when eyes would fail stood erect. Their hair glimmered a silver-white in the light of the blue lantern that was held up, making their black eyes shine like crystal orbs, dangerous and fierce. One of them, the tallest and most fierce looking one among them, walked up to Loki and looked him square in the face. "What business do you have in the realm of the Dark Elves?" His voice was as smooth as silk, but an air of danger hung about it like the blade of a knife sheathed in fine leather, it's handle ornately carved.
"Ah, so we are in Svartalfheim," said Loki to himself, his eyebrows raising and lips thinning in annoyance. He turned to look at Amora. "Good job." She scowled at him and shook her head. Turning back to the elf who had questioned him, he said, "Pardon my answering your question with a question, but who are you to ask us of our business?"
"Algrim," he replied flatly. "What is your business?"
"The business of our charge does not concern you."
"But you out of all Asgardians should know, Loki Odinson, the requirements of the peace treaty. After all, you were one of the ambassadors to distill it." A tone of mockery lingered in his voice. Loki's eyes hardened to stone. He still despised being called a son of Odin, something he was not, nor ever had been. He remained silent, looking into Algrim's narrowed, darkened eyes. Unspoken words of enmity passed between the stare of the commander and the prince.
"If you will not answer to me," said the elf stiffly after a long moment of shrill stillness, "then be sure that you will answer to Malekith." He turned to those surrounding them with a near snarl on his face and spoke, "Bind their hands behind their back, but watch their tricky fingers. They are both sorcerers. And do not let that one-.." Here he pointed to Loki. "Do not let that one speak to you. His silver tongue will charm any who dare listen."
Two elves stepped out from the shadows of the light gray barked trees, one with two sets of dark silver manacles that glowed almost a black, sucking in all light, and the other with a pair of neck cuffs linked together by a single, thick chain. Loki smiled nervously as they walked closer to him and Amora.
"You need not use those on us, Algrim," he said persuasively as he placed a hand on his chest and waved the other in Enchantress' direction. "You can trust that we will not flee, we have no intention of doing so. Neither of us are that idioti-..."
"Silence him!" shouted Alrigm as he pointed menacingly to the god, a fire in his black eyes. "Do not let him speak!" The two dark elves walked up behind them. They took the bag that rested against Loki's hip, and the water satchels that Amora had on her back and placed them on the horses as a sign they would not be getting them back anytime soon. Roughly, they then wrenched the prisoner's arms behind their backs and snapped the cold cuffs around their wrists and necks. Loki felt the hands of the elves searching his legs, arms and chest, feeling every spot where he could've hidden a weapon. He gave a smug leer to the guards who patted him down, knowing that they would find nothing. They had been going to search Amora, but she gave them such a fiery glare that it would've been a challenge for a frostgiant to put out. The guards backed away.
The god's eyes darted over to where a third elf was walking out of the gloom. He came over and placed a mouth restraint over Loki's lips and strapped it tightly around his face, making him wince at the pressure it placed on his jaw. That elf smirked at the pain it caused Loki, and in stepping back he gave him a mock bow.
"Your majesty," he said, contempt flickering in his dark eyes.
"Enough," said Algrim grimly, facing the opposite direction. "Do not mock him, Firavel. He may be our captive, but he is still dangerous. If you toy with a snake you will be bitten." Firavel looked back at Loki who gave him a hissing snicker through the gag, his eyes sparkling with mischief. Firavel's expression hardened and he stepped back into the shadows. Even when I am bound they still fear me, thought Loki proudly.
Chained and powerless, the captives were led forward by the elves through the dark forest. The moon was nearly unable to penetrate the foliage, the mist deathly cold against their skin as they were escorted through the woods into a small clearing. They could see several dark horses that were bound by their reins to the lowest branches of the trees whose trunks reached far up into the darkened sky. The two prisoners were jerked forward by the elf that led them, and their restraints were handed to Algrim who swiftly fastened them to one of the saddles. He then agilely mounted his horse's back. They were lead in silence for a long while, the mist churning in the air as they moved, the damp smell of dew clinging to their garments, the sound of the trees moaning and swaying above them, and the overall murkiness that swallowed what little light there was.
Suddenly they heard a low, dark grumbling from the trees beside them. A pair of shining golden eyes reflected the light from the lantern. Something was walking with them in parallel from behind the shadows. Amora`s eyes widened ever so slightly and she helplessly tugged at the chains. Loki tried to remain calm, but every muscle in his body contracted, and he readied himself for the future attack from whatever unholy beasts lurked after them. The elves kept walking as if they had heard nothing. A heavy black paw stepped into the light and the golden eyes neared them. Loki held his breath waiting for the creature to reveal itself. As the beast stepped forward the captives saw that it was followed by others, a pack of large black wolves, their white pointy teeth gleaming in the pale glow of the lanterns. Something dark and wet dripped from their strong jaws.
Algrim smirked darkly. "Úlfur." One of the wolves came forward and Loki could hear the growl that resonated from its chest. Amora and Loki watched in confusion at the antics of the wolf. But soon they felt such a sudden relief that Amora felt faint while Loki fought the urge to roll his eyes at his own foolish fear. Now with the presence of the wolves, Algrim urged his horse forward and the party began again in silence. The elves were careful to ride slowly so their captives would be able to keep up with their pace, but not slow enough as to allow them a leisurely walk. The wolves curious, but still aggressive, went to investigate these new creatures. Amora couldn't bear the beasts so close to her. She would occasionally stick a foot out to try and hit them so they would leave, or involuntarily inhale when she felt a wet nose brush up against her leg. She jumped forward when a cold, clammy tongue licked her leg, running into the dark prince of Asgard, causing them both to stumble.
"Don't annoy the wolves," said Algrim in a belittling manner. "They bite."
Loki pushed Amora away from him and gave her a black look as he straightened himself. She can fight against giants and ogres, and yet is afraid of these... mere dogs, thought the god. Loki gave a nettled sigh. He liked the animals, though they did not appear to feel the same about him as they seemed to growl louder when he looked at them, but they still held their curiosity. They were an enigma for him. The wolves were ferocious beasts, yet the elves had tamed them. They were beautiful predators. Their bodies strong, their movement fluid and graceful. Their fiery golden eyes could make even the bravest shiver. And yet, they were mere pets. Amusement sparkled within the god of Mischief.
The pack began to slow their movements and they hunkered closer to the ground, their ears began to swerve back and forth, and a low growl could be heard coming from deep within them. Their eyes seemed to glow almost brighter with animosity. Loki looked from them up to Algrim and saw his ears twitching as well. He looked left and right, and then dismounted his steed in one facile movement, landing on the ground with barely any noise.
"Firavel, come with me. Arrow at the ready," he whispered in a deep tone to the elf. Silently, they both drifted off into the shadows ahead, the mist swirling around them and then concealing them completely. Loki's ears pricked as he heard low voices in the distance speaking in a foreign tongue, one smooth and the other raspy. The dwarves, thought Loki as a small smile crept onto his face under the muzzle. Even the elves must kneel to those under them, to pay them tribute as if they were servants.
Algrim walked out from the misty shadows, his face as grim as ever but his eyes looking more irritated than before, and remounted his horse. Loki smirked to himself, but it was obvious even with his mouth restraint. Disdain marked Algrim's eyes, and they fixed onto the Asgardian.
"What are you grinning about?" Loki's simper only grew wider, and his eyes narrowed with a devious glint as he knew the treaties between the Dark Dwarves and the Dark Elves were fragile at best. The Dark Elves had been in a war on Alfheim with their cousins, the Light Elves, and had lost. Because of their treason, they had been exiled. None of the other eight realms would grant them stay, except the dwarves of Svartalfheim. But they required a regular toll from them as payment, and it was a high price. Even those who are greater are made to bow to the lesser. Loki's eyes darkened with conceit as he thought. The time is coming when those in Asgard will become as the Dark Elves.
X X X
It had been four days since she had run away from his room crying at his words, and now he was nowhere to be found. But maybe that is for the better, she thought. Sigyn was sitting alone, her knees pulled into her chest, on a couch that faced one of the many large, arched openings in the wall, the sun's rays and the cool breeze comforting her as she relaxed. Maybe there had been a reason for her not waiting for Loki beside a lost hope. She rested her chin on her knees and heaved a sigh. Her wedding to Theoric was coming and soon, and mentally she was not yet prepared.
"Sigyn?" came a warm voice. Thor walked out from around the corner and sat, weighing down his side of the couch so much so that Sigyn slid up next to him. He placed his thick arm around her. "How is it that one of the most beautiful ladies can change from joyous, to upset, to gloomy all within a matter of little over a week?" Sigyn gave a soft laugh.
"Thor, I am neither happy, nor angry, nor gloomy. I am just... troubled."
"Care to explain?"
"No Thor," she smiled. "This riddle is for my own conscience." Thor studied her face with his confused one, but whatever questions he had he let them drop.
"So," he began, "are you prepared for your big day?" Sigyn smiled weakly. "Ah... I see that you're not. Well, I thought you might not be, so I brought someone who knows more about this than I." He looked up to where he had entered, and Sigyn followed his eyes. Frigga, wife of Odin and mother of Thor, wearing a long dress in the colors of vermilion and bittersweet gold, had come in silently and now stood there, her compassionate gaze resting upon the two of them.
"Thank you, dear," she said lovingly as she walked over. "You may leave us now." Giving Thor a smile he well knew, he nodded, drew himself up, bowed ever so regally, and left. After he had gone Frigga turned to Sigyn. "Now, my dear." Her voice was as sweet as honey just as Sigyn's was as sweet as the morning dew. "Thor has fervently voiced his concern about you to myself and my husband many times. Is there something that troubles you?" There was a deep silence, but at length Sigyn spoke.
"Ahh," said the beloved queen knowingly. "Oh, my dear do not be embarrassed," she laughed, for Sigyn had looked away and had a slight blush on her cheeks. "Love is nothing to be ashamed of. And if I remember correctly you are to be wed by Odin himself to one of his Crimson Hawks, Theoric, a high honor indeed, along with still being a member of our personal healers." Sigyn smiled hesitantly. "But... I think it is not embarrassment that truly holds your heart captive in such a melancholy state, is it?" When Frigga looked into her eyes she saw that they were clouded with so many hidden emotions that they looked almost a dark green.
"No, my queen, it is not embarrassment. Being engaged... it-.. it is the most wonderful thing that has happened to me. It's just... my heart. I don't feel ready. I feel as if... what if this is the wrong choice?" The queen smiled tenderly.
"Sigyn." She took her hands in her own. "Dear, sweet Sigyn. Ever since you laid foot in our court all those years ago you have been a joy to everyone your light has touched, even to Loki, so precious, humble and innocent are you." Sigyn could not keep her gaze with Frigga and dropped her eyes. "I felt the same on my wedding day to the king. It is natural to feel... unsure. But you knew when you accepted who you had, and you made your choice." She leaned forward and gave Sigyn a comforting hug which she gingerly accepted. "Do not doubt yourself, dear. If you love him, and he love you then be reassured in your decision." She pulled away, her hands still resting on the young woman's shoulders, and each smiled at one another.
"Thank you, my queen. You have helped to clear my mind, and have lifted a great burden."
"Well, when even my eldest son becomes aware of a woman being troubled in thought I think it's worth a look as he is still... ignorant at times. But I will leave you now to ponder your thoughts." Both women got up, and Sigyn curtsied as the queen left with a gracious smile. Sigyn then turned and walked down the opposite direction until she came to a set of stone steps that led into a different part of the garden. This was mostly open lawn with colorful flowers low to the ground, and out on a terrace that extended from the gardens and hung over a drop was planted a large weeping willow, it's leaves fluttering in the breeze. To this she walked through the vine-like branches, and under its foliage canopy, found the comfort of finally being alone in her thoughts. She sat on a stump that was near the base of the willow and gave a relieved sigh, her mind now relaxed and clear as she closed her eyes.
X X X
After what seemed like hours of walking, Loki, Amora, and their captors arrived in Caelanto*, the city of the Dark Elves. The trees in this area were massive; the trunks so large it would take a man five minutes to walk around it, the color, a pale blue-gray, and its bark as smooth as a peeled willow switch. The leaved branches of the trees, which reached far up into the starlit sky, created a canopy of silver that shimmered in the moonlight. The mist hugged the ground, hiding the deep, sea-green grass beneath it, making everything appear beautiful and dangerous at the same time. No buildings were set upon the earth, but instead resided in the trees. Enormous, spiral stairs wound their way around the sides of the polished, thick trunks. No lanterns were required as the travelers came to the first set of steps, the trees themselves glowed a soft blue and reflected off the railing of the stairway. Algrim slid off his horse and took the chains of the captives.
*Caelanto (Kay-LAwn-too) is a mythical city from my imagination that does not exist in the Marvel Universe.
"Firavel, yassen amin," he said as he motioned to his warrior to follow. He looked to the other elves and pointed at the horses. "Tel' esta en' lle hosta i' rokko." As the horses were being led away, Algrim made Loki and Amora walk first up the stairs while he and Firavel ambled along behind them, discussing things in quiet voices in the tongue of the dark elves.
"Mani lle lye yassen i' nandor en' huanrim?" whispered Firavel to Algrim. Loki's muscles stiffened, and he looked back at him, his emerald eyes burning with venom. Cowardly dogs indeed, he thought spitefully. The warrior elf looked up at him, his eyes dancing with mockery, but continued talking with his captain. Amora had understood what he had said and angrily whispered an insult she knew that the elves sensitive ears would pick up.
"Quel tanya san' mool en' ai gwaith." Algrim's eyes snapped up to the Asgardians and he yanked harshly on their chains causing them to stumble back a few steps. The elf caught Amora and held her close to him, gripping her wrists.
"We are no slaves! Watch your tongue, Witch," he hissed into her ear, shoving her forward to continue walking up the steps. The rest of the trip was taken in silence as they listened to the sound of hammers against metal and the drip of dew off the leaves above. When they had reached the two-thirds mark an hour and a half later, they came to a small platform off to the side of the stairs. It was thin and made of the blue-gray wood of the trees, inlaid with silver and diamond ornamentation intricately carved as large leaves. Three of these made the dais, one slightly higher than the other two creating a step down. However, there was no railing along the edge to prevent a fall.
"This is to be your prison," said Algrim as he began to take the cuffs off from around Loki and Amora's neck and wrists. "You will wait here until Malekith summons you."
Amora snickered. "This," she motioned around her. "This is your prison to hold us? Do you really think that keeping us in a place with no restraints is wise?" Algrim's face darkened to a deeper blue, his black eyes sparkling with a hint of amusement.
"Do not let its simple appearance fool you," he smirked. "You will find this prison harder to escape from than most." The elf stepped off the terrace next to Firavel and the silver edges of the leaves began to glow. "Any who are not of Dark Alfar blood are trapped here until retrieved by one of our kind. It is covered by a shield of energy that is impenetrable to your magic, young prince," here he looked to Loki, "it will do you no good should you try and escape. You cannot walk out with the shield up, but any can walk in." He turned around and began to tread up the steps, the chains still in his hands leaving the Enchantress and a muted god of Mischief to wait in the pale light of the trees.
"Wait," Amora called up to them. "Aren't you going to remove Loki's muzzle?" The two Dark Elves turned back to them.
"No," replied Algrim shortly. "It would be good for that hellion to learn how to control his serpentine tongue, so it will stay on until Malekith has need of his silver, slippery words." Loki's eyes narrowed into daggers, but Algrim paid no attention. Only Firavel gave any hint as to his feelings, looking very smug in the face as they turned away. Self-righteous, complacent cretin...both of them, thought Loki as his tongue formed the words inside his mouth. If only he could spit them out.
After they were no longer in sight, Loki walked up to the edge of the platform and peered over. Several hundred feet of air stood between him and the ground. He reached out into the blackened air, his hand brushing against the invisible shield, creating a quick silver spark when his skin grazed it. His brow furrowed and he gave a perplexed sigh.
"They have built it well," said Amora as she came over and stepped down to stand next to Loki. "But that doesn't mean I am not willing to try and break it." She raised her hands to the edge of the field, letting her fingertips rest against the cool surface. It madly shot off sizzling, silver sparks, not liking the touch of flesh against its surface. Loki shook his head back and forth in warning, but Amora continued. "Brjóta hlíf."
A bright purple light erupted from the center of her palms, but instead of absorbing into the energy shield to destroy it as it should've, it deflected off the wall sending Amora to the ground as the ball of energy ricocheted off the enchanted barrier of their prison. Loki ducked to avoid being hit and then blasted the destructive magic sphere with his own powerful green one, canceling them out in a flash of bright light. He watched them slowly fizzle out as they floated the ground like particles of dust. Turning to Amora, he shot her a burning, emerald glare. He walked over to her and struck her, his eyes blackened with animosity.
As she still looked to the ground, Loki gave one short nod to make sure she understood to nevertry that again, and walked back down the step to continue looking out into the night at the large trees. "I am not sorry," she added through clenched teeth. She looked up at him and sighed mockingly, "Pity they took the book in the Shallow Forest, we could've figure out the next riddle. I hope you had the sense to hide the stone."
Loki turned, throwing her a most frightening glare, but he soon calmed down, giving her an evil grin from under the restraint. With a flick of his wrist the blue, leather book appeared in his hands. In one simultaneous motion, he opened it, flipped to the page of riddles, and handed her the text while he took a step away. Amora looked at the tan page with the beautiful golden script, and read aloud the riddle:
"Spun in darkness, they make beautiful things
That glimmer and glow, that smart and sting.
Where mountains and forests collide to make one
These people together make kingdoms strong.
The sound of a thousand gongs ring aloud
As mineral is molded and earth rewound.
Where these races abide, here you will find
In the heart of the forest, the gem of your eye."
Loki stood on the lower step facing out towards the darkness, fire-flies buzzing around and about him, his eyes closed and his arm crossed over his chest, the other-his hand resting on his chin as his fingers stroked the metal covering that rested over his lips. He waved his arm at Amora.
"What?" she asked. He turned to her and pointed to the book. "Right. Spun in darkness, they make beautiful things, that glimmer and glow, that smart and sting." There was a pause as each thought. "Spun in darkness could refer to spiders as they spin webs, but spiders are not considered beautiful. Plus things is plural, and spiders don't only spin their webs at night." Loki nodded his head, agreeing with her statement. "Now, glimmer and glow, and smart and sting."
Amora watched his face as he thought, watched as the sparks of dexterity began to glow in his emerald eyes. He then looked back up to her. Clenching both fists, he stacked them on top of one another and began to swing them around as if he were fighting. The Enchantress looked at him at a loss of words, raising an eyebrow. Loki, giving a muffled sigh, walked over to the book and pointed at the phrase "smart and sting." He again stacked his fists upon one another, raising both eyebrows, and nodding his head.
"Holding something that stings...staff, um...rod-..hammer. Mjolnir?" She sighed as Loki fervently shook his head. He started to swing his hands again. She stared at it, thinking hard, and then in realization she spoke, "Sword?-Sword, sword!" Loki threw his hands up into the air at her slow realization (for to him the answer had been obvious).
"So who ever they are, they make weapons. What about the glimmer and glow? Whatever it is, it has to be different than smart and sting or else there would be only one description, not two. So it's something handcrafted that shines and is...pretty." There was silence as each sorcerer pondered the question. "Jewelry!" Loki's eyes shifted over to her. "It is jewelry, it glimmers under light." He nodded his head slowly in agreement, but still had doubt that that was the true answer; there are plenty other things that can glimmer and glow that are not a woman's frippery, he thought. "So these people make weapons and adornments for the body."
Amora turned her face back to the pages of the book and read the next verse. "Where mountains and forests collide to make one, these people together make kingdoms strong. Mountains and forests. If there are two different terrains, and we already know that there are two races, and that the races most commonly associated with mountains are dwarves, and those most commonly associated with forests are elves then..." She paused. "And if those two terrains are together, then it can't be Alfheim, or Nidavellir because those are separate realms. Which only leaves Svartalfheim to be the realm where the second stone is located. The dark dwarves and the dark elves share this place, and..." here she looked down at the text, "'where these races abide, here you will find, in the heart of the forest the gem of your eye.'" There was another moments pause when suddenly she exclaimed quite savagely,
"You owe me an apology!" Loki gave a snort and turned away. "Oh no you don't," she said as she grabbed him. "Back when we were first caught you showed me such disdain and contempt, and for that you owe me. As well as the fact that you came to me for help. Without me you wouldn't be here, without me your plan would fail." Loki stepped up to her in attempts to silence her with fear, but she stood her ground. "It almost pains me to hear your silence," she smirked. Loki's eyes burned, and a hint of red could be seen in them. His nostrils flared in anger, and all the things he could've said nearly suffocated him.
But slowly his face cleared and with despisal he bent forward, giving her a bow as Firavel had given him. "And remember," continued Amora, her voice lowering as Loki stood up. She stepped closer to his body, closer than even he liked. "Remember the deal we made, Snake. You are mine once this is over." Loki stiffened upon remembering his bargain, but Amora looked as smug as ever.
The sound of footsteps made both prisoners back away from one another and look behind them. It had been only about forty-five minutes since Algrim had left, and now he returned with five foot soldiers. "If you two lovebirds are done bickering and trying to escape, we will escort you." He stood outside the edge of the prison, looking down on them. "Though I must say, Witch, you're attempt with the energy blast was...amusing, if nothing else." He turned to the other. "And Loki, my, but you're temper has grown. Has being a traitor hampered your ability to properly conduct yourself?" If just the glare from a frost giant could freeze a man's spirit, Loki's glare would've done so to Algrim's cocky one.
"Has Malekith called for us?" asked Amora, her words biting and acidic.
"Yes M'lady, he has." He signaled to the guards, and they entered the prison. Grabbing the prisoner's wrists, they pulled them in front and clicked the cuffs into place, leading them from their holding cell, up the stairs, and into Malekith's chamber.
-END CHAPTER 4 PART 1-