In which Darcy finds out that the consequences of our actions cannot always be avoided and also that it pays to be cautious. That, and Loki being himself.
Darcy frowned at nothing in particular. There was something very wrong, she could feel it. She gently pried a piece of Leif's blanket away. A gasp left her lips. "What is happening to my son?" Darcy croaked, real worry seeping into her.
Lottelise watched the scene unblinkingly. "Do you know nothing of the old magic?" she questioned, ending her query with a snort. "It is a sad state of affairs when the Queen knows her realm not."
"The only sad state of affairs," Darcy mocked without a trace of gentleness about her, "will be that of your corpse when I am done with you. Impertinent bitch! Who do you think you are?"
Lunging at Darcy, Lottelise spewed some words in what was a language the tiny brunette did not understand. Undoubtedly it had been something vile. Sharp nails made for Darcy's eyes and were almost successful in their endeavor. However, by some twist of fate, one which Darcy would forever remember with no short amount of gratefulness, the icy blood in her veins kicked in. Apparently the Frost Giants all had some untapped source of magic within them. And since Loki had given Darcy some of his blood and the magic her partner possessed was formidable, she would not die that easily.
Clearly the opponent had not been expecting her attack to be countered. Lottelise staggered from the barrier that had risen to protect Darcy. She took unsteady steps back, her foot slipping on the tiles. Taking advantage of the slip, Darcy forced herself to her feet. She swung her foot forward, catching Lottelise's side. Then she aimed another hit to the woman's head. Gathering momentum, Darcy delivered what should have been a finishing blow. Or at least it should have left Lottelise incapacitated enough for the mother to make her escape. However the enemy still looked like she would get up any moment then.
For the first time, Darcy wondered why she hadn't brought her taser with her. If it worked on Thor, there was a good chance it would work on this being too. "Look, if you get up, I'll show you no mercy." Darcy wasn't above hair-pulling and nail-scratching, after all. And when it came to her son's life she would use anything to save him. Not willing to take any chances, she hit Lottelise again. The magic imbued attack effectively knocked her to the floor.
Clutching her son to her chest, Darcy wasted no more time and ran, vanishing into the darkness. With any luck, by the time Lottelise managed to climb back to her feet, Darcy would be far away. Or at a safe distance away. Any of the two would do fine. Mindful of the fact that her eyes could not see well I the dark, the woman made sure to have her arm brushing against the stone wall at all times.
Normally that plan would have been a good one. If it were any other tunnel, Darcy would have had a fair shot at getting out. Unfortunately, she was caught in a place created by magic, its energy laced in every cobble and stone. Regarding the old magic one had to be aware that it was a living entity and it possessed a will of its own. However it lacked intelligence which made it quite dangerous. But, if one possessed sufficient wit and knowledge, a way out could be found of any situation.
Which only brought Darcy to her next thought. She hadn't read much on magic. Now, Darcy Lewis was a pragmatic sort of girl. Oh, she had her moments of flightiness, but they were certainly few and short-lived. She'd thought that magic was reserved for parties and the stage until not too long ago. That misconception she'd gotten rid of, yet she hadn't taken the time to learn about true magic. Thus she knew not how to face this trap she found herself in.
A strange sort of pulsation registered against her shoulder, forcing Darcy to stop in her track. She remained unmoving as undiluted energy passed through her. There was something familiar about it, yet the woman could not quite put a name to it. She'd felt it before.
In her arms, Leif finally started making sounds again. The baby watched his mother with intelligent eyes. "What is it, little one?" Darcy asked, rocking him gently. They were not safe. Lottelise could find them at any time and that worried Darcy. "You have to be quiet for mother now."
Instead of listening, Leif started wailing louder. It was as if he was calling out to someone, or something. Was it perhaps the strange energy? Her tiny boy had strong lungs, she thought absent-mindedly. If only he'd use them at opportune moments and not when they were about to be murdered.
"I am serious, Leif," she chided in hushed tones. "If we're caught, I cannot do anything. So, please, listen to me and be quiet." That had worked better than Darcy had anticipated. Before the last syllable was out her mouth the child became mute.
Suddenly the solid, seemingly unbreakable stones of the wall started clattering. The noise could not be compared to anything she'd ever heard before and the urge to cover her ears was almost too strong to ignore. Still, Darcy had to hold her son. She had to shield him in case the wall came down on them. Perhaps she even had a chance of making it out alive.
Dust rose all around, accompanied by a stinging smell that invaded Darcy's nostrils and stuck to the back of her throat, leaving an acrid taste in her mouth. Coughing, she backed herself into the opposite wall, crouching so she may block the powder from reachingLeif.
Even where she was she could still feel the raw power cracking about. Whoever was causing this had a lot of energy to spare it seemed. For who in their right mind would pour so much into what looked to be a bottomless pit that devoured any ounce given.
"Oh, Loki, where are you?" Darcy yelled out, in hopes of finding salvation.
There was no answer for her and it seemed that she would not be making it alive after all. Darcy had pinned all of her hopes on Loki finding them. Yet Loki was nowhere and she was about to be buried alive under a pile of stones. Instead of her like force being sucked out of her, she got to be covered by stone.
But most importantly, she could find no safe spot for Leif to hide in. This would not end well.
Jörmungand slithered across the path, carrying Loki on his back. They had entered a shadow domain, a place where the old magic still ruled. Such pockets existed all over the universe, just underneath the thin covering of space that most took to being all there was.
To access such a location one had to cut through the time and space. This spots were removed from all else. Finding oneself in one of them could bring nothing but trouble. Jörmungand, ever aware, slid carefully along the length of the road. It would not do to fall off this assigned path. Who could tell what would become of them then?
Without too much difficulty both god and serpent picked up what sounded like a wail. It was a cry, frail, but it could not be missed. Feeling his creator tense against the scales, Jörmungand added speed to his movements.
They reached another wall, this one weaker than the previous had been. Wasting no time, Loki channelled another vicious attack. The heavy stones complied and gave way. This was to be Loki's triumph, at last. "Come, Jörmungand," the god called just as the rocks fell to the ground. Behind the tall structure, a woman was lying on the ground, her face pressed to the cobbles.
At once Loki could tell this was not Darcy. Aside from the fact that their son was nowhere near her, the figure was too long to be that of his wife. So, rather ruthlessly, for he'd long lost any ounce of patience, Loki grabbed her by the hair and dragged her up. The whimpers and sharp cries were ignored.
"Where is she?" Loki growled, shaking Lottelise roughly. Her lack of cooperation made him bristle. "Where is the Queen?" This time his voice had turned into a sweet, deadly poison.
"You shan't find out from me," the female replied, garnet eyes rolling into the back of her head. "But if you hurry you might be able to find her corpse before this place absorbs every trace of her and the child," she taunted.
Smashing her head into the debris, Loki took a deep breath. "Do you think me a fool?" He brought her up. "Tell me which way she went and I will not end you."
"Why would you?" Lottelise questioned, her voice hoarse. "You have grown weak. I have no desire for someone like that." She pointed to a direction into the darkness. "She took the child and fled that way. Though, by now, I don't imagine there's much left of them."
Releasing her abruptly, Loki was satisfied with hearing a thud. He turned to Jörmungand. "I gave my word that I shall not kill you. And I won't. Jörmungand, I leave you to take care of this." With that he sprinted into the dark tunnel, his magic automatically lighting orbs all around him.
Desperate cries and horrified howls were heard behind him, yet the go paid them no mind. His concerns moved towards his family. Loki was so close to finding them. So very close, he could feel it. And find them he did. Just not how he had imagined he would. In front of Loki a small mound had formed, its sharp lines telling of rock and dust.
Dropping to his knees, the trickster began clearing the debris away. His hands worked frantically until the first hint of what he had come looking for jumped into his eyes. There, on the ground, a hand, small and pale was stretched out towards him. Loki continued to dispatch of the rocks until he could finally see what had become of his wife and son.
Wrapped in Darcy's arms, Leif looked towards his father with clear eyes. The baby knew what was going on, no doubt. Loki reached out, his fingers coming down to the child, face frozen in a stern mask. To his utter astonishment he touched a strong barrier. And with that Loki had figured out what had happened. Darcy had concentrated all of her magic into keeping Leif safe, thus creating a barrier around the child. Not knowing much of magic it stood to reason that she had not thought to extend it to her person also. In fact, Loki was sure it had been an involuntary cast spell.
Shaking hands pried the child away from his mother's arms. Afterwards, Loki leaned in and lifted Darcy to rest onto his shoulder. It was with great relief that he felt her shallow breathing on his neck. "Foolish woman," he whispered in her hair, "what are you doing to me?"
Meanwhile, Jörmungand had finished his task and thought to catch up with his creator. The reptile found the King and his family and hissed his approach. Without a word Loki climbed onto the beast, bringing both his wife and child with him onto the cold scales. Jörmungand began the journey home with a full stomach and an easy heart. Thing did look good, indeed, from where he stood.
Yet even so, the snake was aware that his master was not at all pleased. Now that the imminent danger had passed, there were other troubles waiting to happen. And not to mention he had to properly educate his wife on the dangers that lurked about their kingdom, lest the woman decided to go exploring again. Perhaps next time she would actually tell him and not take off on her own with untrustworthy servants.
"What could you have been thinking?" he asked, this time his voice more soft. The anger had not abated, but his child had fallen asleep and Loki thought that the boy deserved his rest. He could contain himself until they reached the privacy of their chambers and a physician looked at her wounds. After that, Loki would yell at her to his heart's content and never again would Darcy do what she'd done today. Not if he had a say in it. And Loki intended to have a say in exactly that. "I swear to you, Darcy, that this shall never occur again." She did not move at all.
Warmth registered around her. A confused Darcy opened her eyes slowly. She groaned at the ache that filled her and disoriented took in the scenery. Her mind took a few moments to shift through recent memories and the woman started worrying. She jumped up.
"You're awake," Loki's emotionlessly intoned, coming to sit by her side.
"Where is Leif?" were the first words to leave her mouth. She looked around almost desperately.
Stirring her into the proper direction, Loki continued to keep his eyes on Darcy. "He is asleep." Again he'd used a voice that expressed nothing of what he felt. Darcy seemed ready to speak once more but Loki held up his hand to silence her. "Look at your hair," he instructed.
Taken aback, Darcy could only blink for a couple of moments. "My hair? That's what's important here? My hair?" At his stern glare, she turned her attention to a lock falling over her shoulder. To her great surprise she found its colour had become nothing other than white. Dumbly she eyes Loki for an explanation.
"You cannot do things like this," Loki told her. "I cannot go through this. If you want to go and get yourself in all sort of trouble, then you haven't chosen the right partner. Do you have any idea how I found you?"
She'd known it would come. "I wasn't trying to get myself in trouble. I just wanted to do something," Darcy tried explaining, hands in her lap.
"You took our son with you," he accused. "And, of course, you wound up in the one place where I couldn't just come in and save you. You could have died. You could have both died." The words left his mouth in a deliberately slow manner.
"What do you want me to say?" she asked, eyes begging him to understand. "I'm sorry."
"You should be. What you did was dangerous and stupid." As if he even needed to point that out. "You went in blindly and now you're paying the price," he informed her, pointing to her ivory tresses. "When that wall came down you focused every ounce of your magic to protect Leif." He waited for the words to sink in. "That left you with no magic of your own. Naturally, the entity feeding on that power sought out something else. Now that it could no longer touch Leif because of the charm, it drained your life-force."
"I don't understand." It was all so confusing. Darcy sighed.
"Your soul. It tried to consume your soul," Loki clarified. "You are lucky I managed to get there in time."
Shuddering at the thought of him not arriving at the opportune moment, Darcy blinked back tears. "What's going to happen to me?"
Taking pity on her, Loki brushed a tear away. "Nothing. You'll feel weak. That won't go away. The truth is, by the time I got there a part of your soul was already gone."
"How does this work?" A part of her soul was missing. How did she survive in that case? "Shouldn't I have perished?"
"You're tied to me," he murmured. "But, Darcy, love, listen to what I tell you. The damage is permanent and irreversible. What you've lost you can't get back."
"What does that even mean?" There it was again, that gift of Loki's to speak in riddles and generally get her all confused.
"It could mean anything." Loki honestly could not say what it meant. Generally people trapped by the old magic never escaped. That Darcy was still with him was a miracle in and of itself. What side effects may appear from her encounter with that entity was unknown to the trickster. The healers had tried everything they knew, but even they could not tell him much other than the fact that a part of her would always be missing.
"I don't feel any different," Darcy managed to get out. She heard what Loki was saying, yet could not internalise it. Her brain would not accept the fact that a part of her soul was gone. That just wasn't possible. "I still feel the same, just like this morning." The only difference as far as she was concerned was the hair. "Except maybe for the new hair colour. Do you think it will turn back?"
Shrugging, Loki pulled her in an embrace. "If it doesn't you're liable to get lost in a blizzard." Her small stature combined with the white hair would indeed make her hard to find in one of those vicious snowstorms the realm was famous for.
"Is Leif alright?" At the very least, Loki could tell her if their son had suffered a similar fate such as hers. "Is he fine?"
"Fortunately for him, Leif was well protected." And that was all he got to say on the subject, for Darcy started crying in earnest and Loki was forced to soothe her. What else could he have done in these circumstances? All of his rage and anger were put aside in the face of her tears and the cries ringing in his ears. She'd learned her lesson and in the future she would think twice before doing something this reckless again.
Long and difficult would the road to recovery be, but Loki hoped it would strengthen Darcy. He would watch her blossom from a simple earthling to a magnificent queen at his side. But she needed to want it too. She had to demonstrate a capacity of progress. "You have to think about others too from now on," Loki spoke softly. "Darcy, you life is not only your own." She had to understand that for her own good and the good of others also. "Think before you do anything; think before taking a step for that will bring the difference in any situation. It could save your life." It could help her more than Loki ever would be able to.
Through the tears, Darcy heard him perfectly. Her mind swivelled with thought, not all accounted for. In truth she was crying for many things. For what she'd lost, for what she'd put herself through. She wept for the danger she had exposed her child to. And the distress she had caused to Loki. The scariest thing was that it could have turned out so much worse. Fate had been on her side this time, but fate was known for being fickle a friend and mighty a foe. Perhaps next time she would not have this luck.
And what then? She would leave behind all she held dear. For what? To satisfy her curiosity. Well Darcy wasn't quiet that big on experiencing. She would rather read it all from the pages of a book. That was something that could be kept under control and presented little danger. "I won't ever do anything like this again.
Hopefully you liked this chapter. I know it was a menace to get down. I struggled and struggled, and finally, after a long fight, here it is. You should also be aware that I've started to plot a suitable ending to our little journey here. At the moment I have little that is concrete and a thousand ides. Hopefully they will clear a bit and I'll end up offering a satisfying epilogue. Until next time. :)