A surprising return from a long period of procrastination that has now been broken, if only for a moment. Huzzah. I saw Avengers in 3D with my friends a few days ago, and realised just how much being a Loki fan can actually hurt. But combined with my near-religious repeats of watching Thor, I'm beginning to form my very own headcanon. This story is set somewhere in the distant past before Thor happened and the brothers stopped being their bratty selves, written mostly as a way to stop my brain from accusing me of ignoring the actual mythos is favour of storytelling.

To cut a long author note short, I own nothing. If I did, I wouldnt need to write fanfiction.

Sorry for the looooooong fic, but oneshots are the only things I don't need to worry about getting posted.

Lady Sif's hair of golden silk was a marvel in all of Asgard. Though barely out of childhood and having chosen a warrior's path over that of a lady's, not a day passed without an admirer gathering his courage to try for her hand. What was less known was the poisonous insults and merciless mockery she reserved for those perceived weaker than her.

One of these being the younger prince, Loki Odinson. On some days the scholarly prince, barely past his teenage years but possessing an education and knowledge many elders envied, gave word for word to lady Sif, on others no amount of verbal abuse could goad a response from him. The warriors three, along with Prince Thor, would laugh, treating the whole thing as a light-hearted jib.

But it was no such thing to Loki, already painfully aware of his difference to his family and all the warriors. There was no colour as his found in Asgardian hair, no magic so strong in Asgardian hands. The only magic-weavers in Asgard were women, healers. He did not have the muscles to fight with pure force, nor the wish to do so when guile and careful planning would yield the same results with less personal harm. Every word of Sif's aimed at him stung, accentuating how different he was from all others, from his brother. So different that even a girl would look down on him.

One day Thor, Sif and the warriors three were discussing outward appearances, of all things; Loki perched with a book on a windowsill overlooking the balcony the company had gathered on this time. All sounds carried up to the mischief maker's seat clear as day, and so he wasn't spared from playful jibes thrown at Sif concerning her suitors, comments on Volstagg's girth and admiration on how much his brother resembled Odin in appearance. Then for some unfathomable reason the noisy group's talk drifted to hair.

Loki had finally managed to tune out the incessant, boisterous babble but an occasional sentence pierced through his concentration. One of these was his brother, loudly declaring the beauty of lady Sif's long golden hair. There was an embarrassed splutter and laughter, and the trickster god shifted in his seat, concentrating again on shutting out the noise.

He succeeded in it quite well, until he heard his name mentioned. Still, in the subject of appearances.

"It's a wonder indeed, how little Loki looks like you or Odin Allfather, Thor." The voice belonged to Fandral. "Precious few are the Asgardians with hair other than blonde, and none have black save him."

His mood reaching a new low for the day, Loki closed his book and listened.

"Regardless, he is my brother, friend. I don't know what causes his difference, but it doesn't diminish his value." Thor stood up to him. Loki briefly wondered if he did so every time when he wasn't present, or whether today was an exception. He wasn't exactly hidden, and Hogun at least must have seen him. Thor knowing as well wasn't impossible.

"Value, nay, but his strength it clearly devours." Lady Sif now, again with her mockery. "Not once has he entered the training ring with us when you've asked. If he fears loss so much, shouldn't he spend less time with his books and more trying to gain some muscles on his bird bones?"

The mock hurt, all the more because it had a grain of truth. He'd long given up on building strength and endurance, recognising that he wasn't suited for open battle. Loki gazed down onto the balcony, seeing his brother's friendly admonishing of Sif's words while his fingers brushed gently her tied hair. An unfamiliar anger bubbled inside the mischief maker and as if on its own a plan began to form. Light brown eyes from below met the piercing green ones contemplating the group, and Loki allowed himself a mirthless smile before heading back to the library.

Down on the balcony Hogun the grim voiced his first words to the conversation. "Prince Loki was watching."

Weeks passed, lulling the court to a false sense of security. Loki's mischief didn't cease, though it was scarce, as it had been dwindling for years. Then finally came the night he'd been planning for. It was new moon, and there had been a feast, Thor and warriors three having been on an exceptionally successful hunting trip. Without Loki. As much as it hurt that they hadn't even asked, despite the trickster god's aptitude for the finer points of the hunt, such as tracking and traps, the drunken revelry served his purposes well. Loki never drank much, but this time he made a point of being present in the celebratory meal, and appearing to down almost as much mead as his brother, until retiring, acting far more drunk than he in truth was.

Then it was merely a point of waiting until all of the hunting party had split off and gone to sleep. Luckily it didn't take too long. Loki knew that slightly before dawn a servant would enter his rooms to rekindle the fire in the hearth, and smirked to himself. A perfect alibi. He concentrated, magic dancing in his fingertips before spreading all over him. In less than five seconds he was watching his own face critically, circling around his own form. He really did look far more slender and slight than any Asgardian. Ironically, that would be in his advantage tonight.

The trickster ordered his clone to take his place under the covers and jumped off the balcony of his rooms, silently floating down to the ground.

Lady Sif's rooms were in the Women's hall, in Vingolf, not too far from the royal abodes, her being of high birth and a pride of Asgard. It was surprisingly easy to bypass the few less-than-sober people, mostly Valkyries, dotting the hallways. No one saw him, a silent shadow sliding from one corner to another, a mischievous glint in his eye.

She snored, though nowhere near as badly as any man Loki had had the misfortune to hear at night. Compared to Thor's racket the lady Sif barely snuffled. The trickster god carefully made his way through the mess of assorted weaponry and other items, eyeing his target. Sif had her hair braided to two long ropes for the night, which made his work considerably easier.

Satisfied at having expected the scatter of weaponry in the room correctly, Loki snatched a dagger from a pile close by and gently lifted a braid from Sif's pillow. He could smell the mead, and knew the warrior girl was dead drunk, but didn't let it lull him as he carefully and rather tidily separated the long cord of woven hair from the scalp of its owner. Sif shifted and Loki froze, willing himself as invisible as the air itself though it taxed his mind, already focused on keeping his double as real as possible. The servant would be in his rooms very soon.

Luckily Sif only turned and mumbled something in her sleep before settling again, and Loki could finish his job, finally leaving the rooms with his spoils, the sun almost peeking past the horizon. He hurried back to his rooms, only pausing on the way to hide the braids, still not having decided who to frame with them. The trolls maybe, or if he only could find a way to get them to Jotunheim… wouldn't that be a puzzle for the court!

Sadly, as Loki let his clone evaporate and took its place in his bed, the warm bubbly feeling of a trick well-done and of revenge delivered lulling him to sleep, he didn't realise he'd overlooked one little fact, one that nearly no one ever remembered.

Heimdal, the all-seeing, was Sif's older brother.

Loki awoke, quite abruptly, from a restful, dreamless sleep, to angry screeching approaching his chambers in the corridor. Blinking the sleep from his eyes he glanced outside, noting that it was long past noon, which in turn meant that his brother's friends had awoken and as expected, lady Sif was probably planning on strangling him. Without any proof of the culprit being him, too. So quick to judge she was.

The trickster decided that even though his plan entailed this he didn't want to be dragged out of his rooms in naught but his night pants and headed quickly to his wardrobe, almost managing to finish buttoning up his green-and-gold tunic before Sif barged in, head covered with a scarf and livid with rage, the rest of his brother's posse following her.

"You conniving, treacherous, slit-tongued son of a troll!" She shrieked, grabbing Loki by his collars and lifting him up against a wall. The trickster's mouth tightened a fraction at the ease with which she did so, but he concentrated on acting his part perfectly, eyes wide in shock.

"What did you do with it?" Sif shouted in his face, and he winced at the volume, flustering.

"What are you talking about? Put me down, lady Sif, and tell me what I am accused of this time." His eyes circled round all those present in his rooms, confusion on his face, his gaze finally settling to the one string he knew how to play by heart. "Brother?"

Thor looked torn. It was obvious he was angry at what had happened to Sif but also wanted to believe in his brother's innocence.

"Someone sneaked into Sif's rooms last night and cut off her hair." The thunder god admitted.

"If it were just that!" Sif spun around to face Thor, unceremoniously dropping Loki, who took the opportunity to button up his collar. "He used the knife given to me by Fandral, coated in lindworm venom! Nothing cut with it will retain life!"

Loki's already naturally pale countenance whitened a shade more. He'd meant his revenge to be a jest, nothing permanent, but he'd never thought someone so adamant in all ways of an Asgardian warrior would have poisoned weapons in her room. His plan had had a loophole he hadn't even thought of. Surely there'd be a solution from some of the healers. Especially now that things were so serious, for he couldn't risk being revealed anymore. A jest was a great step lower than actual harm, after all, and he doubted he could fully talk himself out of this should he be proved to be the culprit.

"A horrible deed. And with all the women and men in the nine realms who hold bitter jealousy over lady Sif's hair, finding the culprit may prove difficult indeed." The mischief maker pointed out, genuinely sorry for the female warrior.

"You dare!" Her grip was suddenly around Loki's neck, tightening, and Thor had to intervene to save his brother.

"Let's first hear what Loki has to say." The elder prince told his companions before turning an expectant look at his brother.

"What can I say?" Loki shrugged slightly. "I don't have enough information to even begin deducing the identity of the deserving target of lady Sif's ire, and I doubt I would be believed. To alleviate my own situation I can only say that I do not hold my mead as well as my brother and so have been sleeping off its rather unpleasant effects since the feast until just now when I was roused by the sounds of an angry band of warriors heading this way."

"You lie." Sif spat out.

Loki's eyes scanned the room, almost desperately, and settled on the fireplace where a small, well-cared for fire crackled.

"The servants!" He quickly spoke. "The fire has been tended to. Someone must have entered my room and seen me asleep. One of the servants must be able to vouch for my presence in these rooms.

"Fine, Silvertongue." Sif grudgingly backed off. "But I'm warning you. A sniff that this was your doing and your head is mine."

Three days passed, the search for Sif's assailant hot but secretive, and the warrior herself staying out of public eye. During that time Loki barely had time to burn the braids he'd hidden, opting for their permanent disappearance to framing anyone and, knowing the temper of his brother and his friends, risking sparking a war.

On the evening of the third day a message was brought to Loki, who was sitting with his brother, assuring him that public challenges of possible offenders wouldn't be a good idea, especially since lady Sif wished the whole thing to remain secret until some solution is found. The message made the trickster finally see a horrible flaw in his original plan, and wonder why he was still safe from the wrath of his brother's friends.

Heimdal wanted to see him. Heimdal, Sif's brother. Heimdal the All-seeing.

"Will I come with you, Loki?" Thor asked as the younger prince's brow furrowed.

"No, brother. Heimdal called for me so I suspect what he has to say is for my ears alone." Taking a deep breath and brushing creases from his tunic, Loki stood up and headed for the bifrost.

The downside was that Heimdal seemed to never listen or believe him, so he'd have to venture to an unfamiliar area of conversation – the truth. Possibly embellished, to get it past the gatekeeper's suspicions at his words, but truth none the less. It seemed all too soon that he entered the bifrost chamber, quietly as a ghost, knowing that regardless of the manner of his entry, Heimdal's endless eyes were on him.

Loki opened his mouth to speak, but this time he wasn't even grated the chance.

"I'll have none of your games, Silvertongue. I have been watching. I have seen the cutting of my sister's hair, and the burning of it. The only reason I haven't spoken up is to not put murder on her shoulders."

"I assure you, it wasn't my intention to-"

"I do not care for your intentions. You will find a way to repair the damage you've done, Loki Odinson, or I will break every bone in your body myself, and reveal you for the snake you are."

Loki swallowed, fully aware that Heimdal never spoke empty words. All his finely-spun talk wouldn't save him from the wrath of the all-seeing. There really was only one thing to do.

"I will get right to it then."

Loki was wading through the library when Thor found him the next day, curious as to why his little brother hadn't joined him and the warriors three, Sif excluded, in the breakfast table as he'd taken the habit to in order to report anything new he'd uncovered on the case of the vandalised hair.

Loki barely looked up from his books.

"You are up early, brother."

"Not really, Loki. It's almost midday."

At this the younger prince blinked and looked outside. The sun was high indeed. He couldn't recall when it rose, not having slept since talking with Heimdal.

"Did you sleep last night, brother?" Thor sounded stern, having for once not missed the owlish look of his little brother as he eyed the windows.

"I'm hardly tired. Besides, I'll sleep much sounder once this whole mess is rectified, one way or another."

"What did Heimdal want to talk about?"

Loki thought for a moment. There was a myriad of things that he could tell Thor, spurring hundreds of possible future mischiefs… but right now wasn't a time for plotting.

"Some advice. Advice that I am in fact following on at the moment." The current book in his hands seemed promising, telling of some of the magical properties of the finer creations of the dwarves. If he could just convince some talented dwarf smiths to work on… gold thread perhaps?

"Advice on where to find the offender?"

Loki sighed. "No brother. Advice on how things are unfurling around us. Considering upon that I've decided to not help you in looking for the one who cut lady Sif's hair."


The trickster god flinched at the volume of the word, Thor's shout leaving his ears ringing for a second. Patiently he marked his page in the book and turned all his attention to his oafish, loud and obnoxious big brother.

"As much as it pains me to not watch over you as you stumble about the investigation like a blind bull, there are far more pressing matters than catching the criminal. I hold no illusions over who will eventually become the main suspect, should a culprit not be found. And with the amount of enemies lady Sif has accumulated, singling out one that has acted on their grudge is a near-impossible task."

"What do you mean, Loki?"

"I am the god of mischief, brother. No matter how strong my alibi, how adamant my determination to aid you and your posse in their time of need, I will be eventually blamed. You know it has always been so, as the nature of things."

"No one would dare." Thor growled, and Loki granted him a thin smile.

"Not out loud. But it is well known that lady Sif and I have never been the closest of friends. I've judged it best to rather than look for the perpetrator of the crime, to seek for a way to restore her hair."

"Can you do it, Loki?"

The mischief maker shook his head, and Thor's face fell.

"I cannot. My magic isn't able to bring dead things back to life. But I may have found a solution. All I need now it time, and peace. So off you go to your 'warriors three', brother, and I'll clean up this mess."

It took Loki the rest of the day to plan and prepare for his foray to the land of the dwarves. He'd rather have spent much more time plotting, getting to know everything about his targets, double- and triple-checking having planned for every possibility, both probable and near-impossible. He could feel Heimdal's gaze on him though, and rumours of lady Sif's situation had already begun to spread among the aesir. There simply was no time.

The god of mischief packed whatever he thought he might need, tucking everything tidily in a special dimensional pocket, ready to be taken out at a moment's notice. He dressed in a formal set of clothing but forsook his armour, unwilling to give the naturally suspicious dwarves any excuse to view him as an enemy. Once he deemed himself ready, Loki quietly left his rooms, slipping into the pre-dawn gloom and heading for the bifrost. He didn't even get out of the palace though, before finding himself facing Thor, Sif with her head still covered with a scarf, and the warriors three.

"Where are you going off so early, brother?" Thor boomed and Loki winced. His older brother's voice seemed to echo off the furthest buildings and mountains marking the borders of Asgard. He'd hoped to be off quickly and quietly, but it seemed much less likely now.

"I might ask you the same, brother. You are hardly the type to be up and about before the sun has risen."

"Yet here we all are, ready to go with you to whatever challenges await!"

Loki sighed. This was exactly what he'd wished to avoid with his early departure. At least his oaf of a brother had decided to bring his whole posse, which meant they might just have enough brains combined to understand that he needed to go alone.

"Where I am going your presence would not be looked upon favourably. This will be a matter of thought and talk, not one of boasts and brawling."

"Then where are you slinking off to, Loki?" Sif spat bitterly. "My hair is becoming the talk of Asgard soon enough. Trying to find a hole to hide in to avoid punishment?"

The mischief maker watched on impassively as Thor admonished the lady of his posse, pointing out the validity of Loki's alibi, as well as his invaluable aid to them after.

"If you so wish to know, I'll tell you. I am going out on a little expedition. I don't expect there to be any fighting nor indeed any need for weaponry. I am merely going off for a few days in order to obtain, if possible, a full head of hair for someone who has lost hers." Loki explained, more patiently than he thought himself capable of with two sleepless nights behind him. "Now if you excuse me, the sooner I'm gone, the sooner I may return." And he slipped past the warriors to meet Heimdal, who closed the way to the bifrost chamber as soon as the young prince entered.

"You are ready, Sivertongue?" The gatekeeper asked.

"Not nearly as much as I'd like to, Heimdal Spoil-sport." Loki gave the gatekeeper a wry smile. "There isn't as much time as I'd like, so I'll have to make do. Keep an eye on things, All-seeing. I may be in a hurry coming out, and won't have time to wait for you to hear me and make the way."

The stoic man nodded once. "The dwarves of Svartalfheim are easy to anger, Odinson. Don't let your silver tongue run you into trouble."

The bifrost powered up and extended, and for a moment Loki knew the bliss of being surrounded by magic, like a mother's embrace. He could never get enough of the feeling. Soon though, too soon for his liking, his feet found land and as he straightened the bridge retreated, leaving him alone in the middle of a grey plateau, surrounded by sharp, jagged mountains and outcrops in every shade of black imaginable. The air was still and stale, slightly smoky and set to perpetual twilight. Svartalfheim was not a pleasant place to be, chilly on the surface, though Loki never noticed such things, and sweltering underneath in the dwarf forges, which the trickster god did notice very much, but could ignore.

The dark elves held no good will towards anyone, least of all Asgardians, but luckily their cities and lands laid further in than the dwarves'. It was still quite a trek, across nigh-impassable terrain on treacherous footholds ready to plunge the unwary into an abyss of razor-sharp stones. Loki quickly grew annoyed at the land and concentrated his innate powers, taking the form of a crow and flying over the jagged landscape, high enough to spot a hidden, winding road.

Following the road, the god of mischief discovered the entrance of a dwarf city, just as he'd been looking for. He quickly went over his plan, simple as it was due to the limits of time, and landed just behind the guards, re-taking his own form and rendering himself invisible.

Once inside, it was merely the matter of following the voices to the gathering hall of the dwarves. Sure enough, though the hall at first seemed grim, the stonework was elaborate, worthy of any king or lord. Worthy even of a god, should it come to that. The hall was only half-filled, but the elevated table, where the most elaborate chairs and tankards were, was full of old dwarves. Greedy, petty, proud dwarves.

Loki listened in for a while, having long ago taken it upon himself to learn every language of every one of the nine realms. With Midgard he'd cheated, but not with the dwarves. A moment of careful listening told him that these were indeed the leading figures of this fort, most likely able to spread word to nearby cities in a matter of hours if not minutes. Silently the prince nodded to himself, pleased. This would be simple, at least until the time to return came. He waited until the opportune moment before unveiling himself and speaking up in the language of the dwarves.

"Forgive my intrusion, our dwarvern allies. I am Loki Odinson, here to deliver a request, or rather, a challenge from the king of Asgard."

His sudden appearance caused quite a stir. Before Loki had finished his greetings, a circle of guards surrounded him; sharp ends of spears and halberds pressing against his skin. One of the older dwarves walked a circle around him and finally spoke.

"We know of you, prince Silver-tongue. We hold no value in your words, but listen we will. What is this challenge you speak of?"

"A fair maiden of the aesir has met an unfortunate fate, due to scheming of her foes. All of Asgard mourns the loss of her beauty and seeks to restore it. I have come here to you, as I have read of the wonders master dwarves can work, bringing life out of dead earth and growing metals like plants."

"Get to the business, Prince of Deceit."

"The challenge is this. Spin out of gold, in less than three days, a full head's worth of hair, so real it will grow and live on the head of the maiden who shall wear it. Whoever of your smiths succeeds in such a thing, will be rewarded with one wish that I am obligated to fulfil to the best of my abilities, should it not in any way bring harm to Asgard or its inhabitants."

The dwarf elder's beady eyes grew narrow. "You ask for much, offering little in return, Silver-tongued."

Loki smiled in reply, using the bitter rivalry the two races sharing this world had. "If what I ask is beyond dwarven hands, say it and I'll be gone. Perhaps the dark elves can work gold better?"

"You dare suggest such!" The elder barked orders and the guards around Loki dispersed, some dwarves sprinting away, carrying messages. Before what passed for nightfall in Svartalfheim all the dwarf cities would be bustling, the smiths working, determined to prove that there was nothing that Loki wouldn't be able to get here that he'd find among the dark elves.

Come morning Loki was taken to a great city of forges, their heat and puffing of their bellows filling the air, making the prince grateful that he didn't perspire, for he might otherwise have created a river there and lost all dignity he needed to pull through this plan.

Many smiths wished for him to see their creations, though unfinished, but none of the swathes of golden thread seemed even remotely like hair. He couldn't return with a gold-spun mop, Heimdal would go through with his threat without a doubt.

A pair of dwarves, working a forge set apart from the others, caught his attention. They hadn't called out, hadn't even recognised the presence of an outsider in the hall of smiths, instead of working away. He asked after them and learned that they were sons of Ivaldi, and blacksmiths among the greatest in the realm. Curious now, Loki made his way to the dwarf brothers' forge as soon as the din around him dissipated. What he saw was one of the brothers spinning thread of gold so thing he could barely see it, and the other working the end of another strand with a loupe and the tiniest hammer. Set aside was roughly half a head's worth of – there really was no other word for it – hair, spun from purest gold as both brothers muttered enchantments over their work in ancient dwarfish.

A wide, relieved smile broke onto the trickster's face as he saw the dwarves' work. Surely with this Heimdal would leave his bones alone.

During the course of the two following days Loki chatted with the two dwarf smiths quite a bit, learning their natures and likes, and how he might avoid them after. Luckily it didn't seem like he'd need to, for all they asked as their reward was that he'd speak of them in the court, so as to have them the chance of receiving more work from the well-paying aesir, and to teach them an aspect of his own magic. He didn't much like that idea, but should it come to it he was willing to comply, as the brothers only wanted to learn his spell to replicate himself. No doubt it would bring them countless riches, giving them the ability to work several forges at a time. However, the time for that would be only after.

The prince had finally managed to get one of the brothers explain to him how they made the golden hair, and felt the need to compliment them for work well done. Sadly, his praise was overheard by another pair of dwarven brothers.

"You call these dabblers the best and smartest in Svartalfheim, Loki Odinson?" A challenging voice rang from the door of the forge. "Eitri my brother could make artefacts greater than them with his – and mine – eyes closed!"

Loki's eyes narrowed. He hadn't slept in days, not trusting his safety in a foreign realm enough to allow himself rest, and was slowly growing easily annoyed.

"Then why are you not making hair like they are, to prove your superiority in the challenge?"

The dwarf snorted. "We aren't wig-makers for women, but blacksmiths. The things we make are artefacts, not petty headdresses for weak maidens who cannot respect the work put in them!"

Not for the first time, Loki was thankful none of his brothers group had come with him. Again their patience and tolerance would have ran out, causing who-knows what. Not that the dwarf's tone didn't irk him as well.

"I have no need for empty words. Should you not want to try your hand in the challenge, it has naught to do with me. I deem skill as I see it, not as it's told to me."

"You spin your words well, Silver-tongued. But do you have the courage to stand by them? Have your favourites craft another artefact, and we will craft two, to not just rival but outshine both their ridiculous wig and whatever they craft to accompany it. All four will be judged by the elders before being sent to Asgard, and we'll see who truly is the greatest smith of the dwarves."

"Aside of fame among your people and mine, what is it that you wish to gain?" Loki's eyes narrowed. He was the master of trickery; he could see a trap and a half-truth from miles away.

The dwarf grinned. "We'll make it a real bet, Odinson. Your reward will be paid to us, not to them. But we won't want any magic tricks. Anything in your power, you said. We'll have your head. Losing their greatest source of problems sure won't harm Asgard."

"I doubt my family shares your views, dwarf."

"If the prince of Asgard can't stand by a small promise and bet as this, how can we trust him, and how can he claim to be worthy to be a prince?"

Loki wanted to swear. The loss of sleep had made him careless and now he was in a dead end, having to trust his life on the skills of another. The forge and smithy had been filled with dwarves, a silent audience, while he wasn't paying attention. There was no other choice though, not if he wanted to make it back home in one piece, and remain so once there.

"Fine, dwarf. I accept this bet. But be warned, that when you lose, it shall be your head which is claimed."

"Deal." The dwarf smiled broadly with blackened teeth and left with his brother, leaving Loki ill at ease in the forge, running his fingers through the golden hair.

He called for whatever life existed in this bleak world, a few faintly magical insects gathering to him. With a bitter laugh he sent them to spy on the dwarf brothers and to sabotage their work if possible. The dwarf race as a rule was not prone to boasts and so the god of mischief indeed felt the need of some mischief, to keep his head where it belonged.

Loki fidgeted slightly, seated between the two pairs of smiths, four exquisite treasures laid onto the table in front of them and elderly dwarves gathering on the other side. The dwarves meticulously examined every artefact, from the full head of gold-spun hair that would not merely seem real, but attach to the head of whoever would be the first to put it on, and become their real hair; to the gold-bristled boar that would come to life and run faster than anything with four legs once it recognised the touch of its fated owner; to the ship that could be folded to one's purse, but unfolded would carry All of Asgard's warriors and their steeds, on water and in the air, never to be touched by unfavourable winds; to a bracelet so fine it seemed worth nine times more than its value, and which would every ninth night spawn eight just like itself.

The debate between the elder dwarves was long and tiresome. Loki might have dozed off if so much wasn't hanging on the result of this judging. The result, which was finally announced.

"We have examined the artefacts, these creations, and their enchantments, and truly there are no finer items crafted in the forges of Svartalfheim." The eldest dwarf spoke, and Loki concentrated on his words, trying to deduce which set of items the dwarves had deemed superior. "Truly the votes were nearly cast even, but it was finally decided that the brothers Brokk and Eitri have proved themselves superior, winning the bet played against Loki Odinson, and his head."

The mischief maker's smile vanished and he blanched. He'd been so sure the wondrous ship and living hair would be far greater to a boar and a piece of jewellery, no matter how elaborate!

The black-toothed dwarf, Brokk, reached out for a hold of Loki's hair. "Let's have that head then, trickster prince!" To the astonishment and eventual anger of the dwarves the stubby hand passed through, leaving only momentary ripples in the mirage where it passed.

"Treacherous snake!" The dwarf roared, the mirage scowling at him.

"My head is yours dwarf Brokk, for I don't go back on my word. It's hardly my fault no time or manner of you receiving it was determined, or indeed whether my loss of it would be voluntary. I value my head more than all the gold and treasures of Svartalfheim or the maidens of Asgard. How you intend to take what is yours is entirely your own business." And saying these words, Loki's double faded to green mist and then nothing.

The dwarves arranged a hunt, knowing the lands far better than the Asgardian, confident they would catch Loki before he reached the bifrost site and make the prince pay for his treachery, and what he owed.

As the hall emptied from vengeful dwarves, a tall, yet somehow unnoticeable from emerged from the shadow of a pillar, a cocky smile on his thin lips. Loki conjured a bag from his storage dimension with a wave of a hand and swept the artefacts from the table to it. He hadn't had the time to familiarise himself with their enchantments so it might not be safe to carry them in his magic. A slight annoyance that would slow him down a bit, seeing as most of the items was solid gold and hence quite heavy. But surely this would get him in good graces again, despite being suspected of what happened to Sif's hair in the first place.

The god of mischief stifled a chuckle as he slipped out to the hidden road unnoticed. Finally there would be a triumph of his that the bards could sing. Loki the Cunning, Loki the Crafty he would be called, Loki the Artful. They would sing how he tricked the dwarves to making great treasures for Asgard, risking his own safety for no personal profit. 'The benevolent prince' might be a bit too much to ask, but all in all, things looked good. He only needed to slip past the patrols looking for him and surely Heimdal would remember and open the bridge without delay. It was his sister's hair after all.

To his chagrin, Loki tired quickly, drained by lack of sleep, lack of endurance and the heaviness of his load. But he couldn't rest here, not now when the dwarves were looking for him, with Brokk ready to claim his head. Grinding his teeth he trudged on, too tired to keep up anything but the simplest of chameleon charms to hide himself, wary of every crag and shadow.

Finally he came to the place where he had to leave the road behind. Gathering up his strength Loki slowly flowed to the form of a giant eagle. Conspicuous, but the only thing capable of bypassing the terrain while carrying a load of gold. And still he struggled. The air drafts of dim Svartalfheim were unpredictable, and caused him to use up much of his strength, despite having so little of it left. But at last he could see the plateau, and the bifrost site. Only a few more glides and he'd be able to land and walk to the bridge.

A black arrow, sudden and cruel, pierced his wing and a loud cry of an eagle shot through the air, reverberating from the mountain formations as he fell, gliding downward in an uncontrolled spiral, changing form in mid-air back to himself, to just barely stop his plummet before hitting the jagged outcrops and instead gently lowering himself to the ground.

The arrow was stuck in his upper arm, rather painfully but not dangerously. What made it dangerous was that someone had shot the arrow, meaning he ran the risk of getting caught. Loki called to his innate power though his temples ached of fatigue and use of magic to re-cast the chameleon over himself, but was interrupted by the tip of an arrow pointing at him from only two metres away.

"None of your spells, Liesmith, or Eitri will see if the second arrow hits closer to home." Brokk emerged from the shadow of an outcrop between Loki and the way to bifrost, blackened teeth flashing.

Liesmith… now that was a title he hadn't heard before. Not a very admiring one, but it did have a certain ring to it. Sighing, he lowered the bag of artefacts to the ground, brain feverishly working to find a solution, a loophole to exploit, a way to make it to the bifrost and home in one piece, and with the items he'd risked so much to obtain.

The dwarf thumbed the edge of a wicked axe, drawing his own blood and nodding in acceptance. The god of mischief could almost feel the cold metal already slicing through his neck, severing his head from his body… Through his neck?

"Cease your plans and listen, Brokk of the dwarves, before you overstep your rewards and anger all of Asgard."

"What deceit are you weaving now, sly one?" The dwarf spat.

"No deceit, I assure you. My head belongs to you now, but the manner in which you intend to obtain it oversteps the boundaries set by our bet. For surely you have no power over my neck, to separate what is yours from what is mine."

The dwarf stopped, puzzled, and looked at his brother. Loki prayed silently at anything willing to listen, prayed for his life and for Asgard, for war with Svartalfheim would not be a good thing for his father's kingdom.

Finally the dwarves burst out laughing.

"Surely you are the superior smith in the nine realms, a smith of lies and deceit! You've weaved a web so thin yet durable that nothing we can make from precious metals and stones can rival it. First trapping yourself in it as bait, then us when we reach out."

Loki could barely believe his luck. A corner of his mouth slowly crawled upward, until a sudden, crunching contact between a dwarf fist and his nose interrupter it, causing him to fall flat on his back. The prince groaned, raising a hand to his face.

"Even If I don't get to keep my trophy, I still own your head, Loki Liesmith, and will do as I please with it while it sits on your shoulders." Brokk cackled and out of the corner of his eye Loki noticed Eitri taking the golden wig out of the bag.

"He'll do nothing major to it, prince of lies. Nothing your silver tongue can't explain away." Loki's eyes widened as the dwarf sat on his chest, bringing a wicked needle threaded with magic-sparkling leather chord. "That is, if it can. We'll see what the Liesmith can do without his tools."

The dwarves long gone, Loki crawled to his bag. He'd need to clean himself up, but his concentration was shattered into a million shards, all of them painful. There was no way he'd be able to call anything from his pocket dimension. A shiny, reflective surface in the stone by the bag revealed to him his visage; he grimaced and winced, droplets of blood falling onto the reflection. Though all the artefacts were there, and he couldn't sense a change in the wig's enchantment, he couldn't possibly walk through half of Asgard looking like this. He couldn't appear in front of the All-father looking like this!

Painfully slowly Loki called again upon his reserve of magic, a pounding in his temples as he forced himself to stand up straight and schooled his expression to nonchalant indifference. Ever so slowly the illusion settled around him, snugly like a second skin, and Loki Odinson picked up his bag, heavy with treasure, and headed to the bifrost site, thankful that he didn't need to call out for Heimdal to have the bridge lowered.

The magical trip replenished and refreshed him slightly, but didn't remind him of the sharpness of Heimdal's sight. The gatekeeper looked at him once he'd arrived and shook his head.

"I will hold my tongue. You have received your punishment, Odinson."

The court was restless. Lady Sif was forced into attendance, covering her head with a large headdress, Thor pacing back and forth like a caged lion. It had been nearly a week since Loki had left to his little expedition. All Asgard knew now that lady Sif's hair had been stolen, and Loki of all people had left to gain it back for her. But there had been no word and Heimdal hadn't said anything either. People were speculating, some not putting it beyond the trickster to have just disappeared, suspecting that he was the original reason to lady Sif's situation.

Others, like Thor, Frigg and even Odin All-father, worried for the safety of the younger prince. How could the court have been merry with such a heavy subject hanging in the air?

Suddenly the great doors swung open, all eyes focusing on the solitary from emerging to the doorway, his green-and-gold garb dusty from travel, eyes set deep from weariness and a blank look on his face. Loki Odinson had come home, bearing a bundle on his back.

In the silence the trickster met his brother's eyes and gave a tiny, lopsided smirk that disappeared to a barely noticeable wince.

As Thor tried to deduce what was with Loki, the younger prince walked to the bottom of the dais holding his family, and lowered his load, taking from the bundle something silky and golden. Silently he made his way to Sif and bowed, holding out the object which, as the warrior woman raised it from his hand, was proven to be the most beautiful head of hair ever seen in Asgard. Collective oohs and aahs sounded from among the crowd. To nearly all of them this Loki seemed so out of character.

Sif hesitated for a moment then disappeared from the room. As she returned she wore the hair and it wasn't just a wig or any hair, it was her hair, more golden and radiant than ever before. A round of applause was started by Thor, who cheered for his brother. But Loki did not smile, despite being the main event for once. He merely walked back to the bundle and then forward, kneeling in front of his father and holding it out.

One by one the three remaining artefacts were taken out and examined, admired and praised by the whole court, but not once did Loki smile. Frigg never took her eyes off her younger son, save when Odin found, at the very bottom of the bundle, a scroll inscribed in dwarven writing. On the prompting of his wife, Odin All-father read the scroll aloud.

"I, Brokk, brother of the most skilful smith in Svartalfheim, admit Loki Odinson to be the greatest smith in all of the nine realms. No weave of gold or silver, or precious gems can match the intricacy and strength of the webs of deceit and traps he forges with the hammer of his tongue.

Though acknowledging his abilities and renouncing from the moment this parchment is read the claim our bet has given me on his head, I announce on behalf of the dwarfkin that Loki Liesmith will no longer be welcomed in Svartalfheim, and will only enter at his own peril.

As was my right as the victor of our bet, I have done what I deemed a worthy repayment for the words the Liesmith forged for us, to silence his glib tongue and shatter his webs, if only for a moment.

Brokk, brother of Eitri who is the greatest smith in Svartalfheim"

While reading, the All-father's face had slowly turned ashen, and Frigg was soon on her son's side, accompanied by Thor whom she shooed aside. Though Loki, tired, in pain and ashamed, shied away from his mother's touch she gently took a hold of the sides of his head, her special kind of healing magic revealing the illusion Loki was wearing with a green glow. Then there, in front of all, the green slowly flaked away, revealing first nothing different, then blood spatters on the younger prince's tunic, a fresh arrow wound in his arm, and finally, a battered face with painfully, brutally sewn-together lips.

Loki closed his eyes, a vain attempt to shut off the horrified gasps that filled the air as his illusion was dispelled, and his mother's pained eyes.

"My precious little boy, why would they have done this to you?" Frigg whispered, tears in her voice. Loki fought hard to keep tears of his own at bay, casting a pleading look at his mother. He didn't want to be paraded here anymore, like some show animal.

Of the royal family only Odin All-father stayed in the court, keeping it calm and organised while the rest of his family tended to its troublemaker. Thor had been followed by his entire group, even Sif's anger placated now that she again had a head of hair. Besides, it would have been downright villainous to remain angry at Loki, when the trickster had gone through something like that to bring her new hair.

Thor shook in anger when Eir and Frigg together began cutting the stitching keeping Loki's mouth shut and the god of mischief finally couldn't hold back the bitter tears. The thunder god swore bloody, violent vengeance on the dwarves for what they'd done, but a few choice words from Frigg stopped him on his tracks.

"If you now attack Svartalfheim and start a war, your brother will have suffered for nothing."

Thor's anger didn't dissipate in the slightest, but at least he wasn't in an immediate danger of rushing off to slaughter some dwarves. Instead his gaze wandered the room, looking for something to concentrate on that wouldn't make his blood boil any more. Because of this he was the first to notice the change in Sif.

While the rough leather chord was pulled, stitch at a time, from Loki's lips, the shade of Sif's new hair darkened. Finally, when all stitches were gone, only bleeding holes remaining around the trickster's mouth, Sif's hair had gone completely black. Black as Loki's.

She shrieked bloody vengeance again, enraged like only a warrior woman can be, at the horrid shade of her moments-ago-shining hair.

"Come on now, Sif." Thor placated her, his own anger momentarily forgotten and replaced with mirth. "I think black hair on an Asgardian looks just fine."

On the sidelines while Eir the healer cleaned his wounds, despite risking tearing his lips more, Loki smiled to himself.

If you read this far, you get a virtual cookie from my headcanon Loki. He doesn't necessarily know it though.

Also, the only way for me to improve my writing, and possibly gain further inspiration are reviews. I love those little things. *hint hint*