Title: Capturing Starlight
Fandom: Avengers / Thor
Rating: T+ (older teens and upwards)
Characters/Pairings: Loki, Thor, Avengers.
Warnings: Isolation, mental torture. Personality/Character reconstruction.
Summary: What makes a truth; belief, or knowledge? Is Loki a monster because he believes it, or is he one because others believe his race is? Aka: the story where Thor proves his love for his brother, and ropes the Avengers into helping him fix Loki. Also, Odin gets his just desserts.
Notes: Post Avengers movie.
«´¨`•° Capturing Starlight °•´¨`»
¨'°ºO cнapтёґ ойё Oº°'¨
If there is one thing Loki knows, it is this: truth is subjective.
Loki prefers to craft lies, knowing intimately what damage the truth may do – he learned that lesson far into the past, when he foolishly informed the realms of Baldur's weakness to mistletoe. How proud he had once been of his discovery, until Baldur was slain, and Loki turned himself towards lies and half-truths, fearing honesty more than any weapon one could bear against him.
Lies are soft and malleable, unlike the hardness of truth, and they form prettily and easily in his head only to drip poisonously off his tongue, venom wrapped in honey.
Truth: Loki is a monster.
Lie: Loki is a favoured son of Asgard.
See how appealing the lie is? Truth hurts. It strips away at the façade of life, baring itself as a wantonly as a maiden whore holding a dagger behind her back. It embraces you and stabs you and causes more pain than a lie ever could.
So far, Loki has yet to find a lie that could hurt him more than his multitude of hidden truths.
Loki finds it to be of no surprise when Odin orders him locked in a dungeon cell far beneath the royal halls, and to discover it to be a cage of stone and metal and magic made specifically to contain him. He's not even surprised to recognise the age of the enchantments and understand that Odin had this cell built and imbued in magic for so long, Loki would have been but a child at the time it was built.
Still, he is relieved when his bindings are removed from him. He can feel the magic in his new prison pressing down on him, suffocating him, draping itself across his body and magic like a shroud. Physical bindings would be superfluous, seen as arrogantly assertive, and if Odin would be anything, it would be one who prefers to be perceived as fair and wise and kind, if rather harsh when needed. The guards would relay Odin's kindness at Loki's imprisonment, unable to see, sense or feel the enchantments that pressed down upon him.
Oh yes, Odin was so very kind a king.
Loki's new abode is richly furnished for a prison. It has a large four-poster bed, almost exactly the same as the one in his chambers, there are full bookshelves, a roaring fire, torches lining the walls (far too high for him to reach), a large wardrobe, a table with a large flagon and a tray of foods - including his personal goblet standing hidden amongst the array of finger foods and fruits – there is even a comfortable chair in front of a wide, ornate desk, covered with all his favourite (dull, not sharp or pointed, or edged) writing things and a stack of fine parchment. Loki wonders if this is his mother's hand in things. He cannot imagine it would be Odin's personal choice.
He spends a good while touching everything, his hands barely grazing everything in the cell as though he's half afraid everything is simply an illusion, one which would dissipate at his touch. Nothing does, and the ball of tension deep in his gut unravels just the tiniest bit. After traversing most of the room, he returns to the bed, only to frown. Beyond the small space between the bed, and against the wall, is a dark curtain, one virtually the same colour as the stone, making it almost invisible to the naked eye.
Loki sweeps it back carefully, cautiously, and is surprised to find a large bathing chamber, ready for use. There is a large, deep bath, big enough to fit ten copies of himself. The water in it is hot, but not uncomfortably so, and Loki, aching from his fights and imprisonment on Midgard, returns to the main chamber to retrieve a fresh set of clothing. There is none of his usual clothing in the wardrobe – instead, it is filled with soft thin and thick under-shirts, a house robe, and many pairs of thick trousers and socks, even soft shoes, just none of his usual boots.
His hands hover over each item, a faint sense of discomfort filling him. Even though they are all in his colours – dark greens and blacks - they are not clothes for a Prince, they are clothes for a unblooded youth, too young, or one not fit for a blooded warrior's armor. A tremor runs through him at the blatant insult, but Loki forces it back as the magic in the stones hums in warning at his rising temper and stirring magic.
Swallowing the curse on his lips, Loki snarls and snatches a long, thin, soft top, trousers, undergarments and socks before storming back into the bathroom. He undresses with quick, jerky movements, feeling the sting of impotency at the back of his throat, unable to form even the simplest of spells to change the clothes into something more fitting for a Prince, even one as disgraced as he.
The water helps. It sluices the stain of sweat and grime from his skin, and relaxes muscles he hadn't realised were so tightly wound. He scrubs mechanically, allowing his thoughts to wander as he cleans his body. He feels stretched to breaking point, and while the situation on Midgard didn't help matters, Loki knows that he will eventually face a reckoning with his former allies, should he survive whatever punishment Odin and Asgard, and perhaps even Jotenheim decided upon.
Still, there is no reason for him to neglect himself, so he finishes washing, dressing, and retires to the main chamber to choose a book and eat. The flagon is filled with cool fresh water, and he drinks heavily, slaking his thirst hungrily. Eventually, he tires, and strips off his clothes, folding them neatly and placing them on the chair before the roaring fire before he slips into the massive bed to sleep.
The next morning, or rather, when he wakes, unable to tell day from night in his windowless prison, Loki eats, washes and dresses before he chooses to retire beside the fire with a book. He waits, nervous tension strumming along under his flesh, in his bones and rippling through his skin as he tries to anticipate the presence of Odin to lay forth his punishment. As the hours pass, and Loki is left alone, the tension eases, until he tires to the point of needing to sleep again.
It is hard for him to rest. The enchantments press down upon him, every breath feels sluggish and he moves much slower than usual. His body feels weighted, even though he is without his heavy armor, and he can feel his magic being slowly drained from him. His magic replenishes fast, so he will never lack for magic, but the leeching of it is still uncomfortable.
Patiently, he waits for Odin, or Thor, or even the presence of the guards, but no-one comes, and after a while, Loki sets a routine. He wakes, cares for himself, dresses, eats, then reads. The latter half of the day is spent writing down his recent recollections. He has always been very exact, so it takes him quite a while to finish recording his life since Thor was banished from Asgard.
Days pass in this manner, with nothing to change the routine boredom of his days. There are no guards to check on him, unless they can see through the stone walls without him knowing they are there, and there are no visits, not even from an angry, bitter Odin, or a frustrated, unhappy Thor, there is not even a single sign of his fiercely protective mother Frigga. There is simply silence, unless Loki himself breaks it.
The days turn into weeks, and then months, then years. The food is always fresh, and newly replenished when he awakens, the flagon is always full, and his clothes regularly disappear, only to reappear in his wardrobe, clean, and feeling like new. Nothing has changed, except for Loki himself. His face is still beardless, but his hair continues to grow, until he is forced – thanks to a lack of any sharp instrument with which to cut it – to braid it back and tie it with a thin strip of fabric, ripped from a shirt.
The food is always finger friendly and fruit, no knife, or fork, or spoon is provided. There are no shaving instruments in his bathroom, and there are no sharp, or even blunt objects in his chamber cell. Even the walls are satin smooth.
The years turn into centuries, and Loki has read his books so many times he can recite every word by heart. He has written and written and written, until the paper - from a stack that never ends, and with an ink pot that never dries, and with a feather too dull to cause harm, and barely pointed enough to write with, never splinters or fractures or dries out – fills one corner of his cell up past the height of his wardrobe. Hundreds of thousands of sheets of parchment, filled with everything, anything he can think of to stave off the boredom. He's even created his own language, and codes, so complicated that even he needed to refresh himself for many years until that too became boring and easy.
There is no-one for him to talk to, and Loki feels madness, deeper, harsher and emptier than ever before begin to press in on him, weighing him down, drowning him in never-ending time.
He has become accustomed to the magic being leeched from him, to the point where he now no longer really consciously notices it, but the wait is still hard. He wonders if this is to be his punishment – if he is to be cast into the depths of Asgard and forgotten – locked away and discarded now he no longer has any visible, tangible worth.
When he wakes one day, Loki feels different, as though a pressure inside his mind has reached breaking point and snapped. His mind is clearer than ever before, and he wonders if this was a sign that Odin is working some sort of magic to punish him.
The tension rises, then falls as days and then weeks, then months pass, and still there is no sign of any living creature.
A millennium passes, and Loki has forgotten that there was once life outside of his prison. His mind has begun to fray. He speaks to himself out loud, desperate for noise, and has taken to using his hair (long, so long now he leaves it braided in the centre of the floor) to bind his parchment into books, neatly stacked against a wall.
At times, he cannot remember why he is in this prison, but when he does, he feels...oddly regretful at harming Thor's precious humans. Being alone is hard. For all that Loki often decreed his lack of need for company, forced isolation is much worse than he ever thought it could be, and sometimes he dreams of falling, lost and forever alone.
Loki hates those dreams.
At the beginning of his second millennium, Loki pulls out every single strand of hair on his head, leaving a massive, thick, coiled braid in one corner of his room.
Three centuries after that, his hair reaches the floor. A few centuries after that, and Loki learns to weave with his fingers.
The first thing he creates is a rope. Then a complicated drape for the end of his bed. Then, he learns how to create a whip.
Over the next eight centuries, he perfects his art, and the whip holds strong, as unaging and undamaged as everything else in the room, and Loki is a master at controlling his new weapon. His only weapon, even though he has forgotten what weapons were for.
Halfway through his third millennium, Loki snaps. Insanity finally takes complete hold of him, and he smashes everything in his room that would break. The chairs, bed, even the food. The flagon, made of a soft, curved, brass, merely folds when he stomps it, and there is just enough of his old personality left that he doesn't destroy his parchment and hair bound books, but he burns everything else.
Finally, eventually, he collapses in the middle of the room, lying draped in and on the mass of destruction filling the room; and he sleeps.
When he wakes, the room is untouched and clean, with there being no sign of his tantrum. Everything is fixed. His books are back. The flagon is whole and unmarked, and there is a new array of food awaiting him.
He tries again, and again, his mind worsening every time he awakens to find the room perfectly in order, wondering if his mind is playing trick on him. He begins to question whether he's even real or not, he questions his life, his reality, dreading that he may be locked in a never-ending dream.
One day, unable to bear it any longer, Loki uses his whip to hang himself from the end of his four-poster bed. He feels his neck snap, his airways close, and he chokes to death, feeling the pain from broken neck bones and the feel of slowly being suffocated to death.
It doesn't last. He wakes up still hanging from the bed, his neck healed, and he slowly chokes to death twice more before he manages to release himself from his whip.
The next time he tries to kill himself, he throws himself into the fire – but it doesn't burn him.
He tries drowning next, but all that happens is he chokes to death, then wakes up floating.
Then he tries ripping the skin open at his wrists. He uses his teeth, gnawing at his flesh, breaking the skin, tasting fresh blood and not stopping until he feels the room spin.
When he wakes, to a room with no traces of blood, with healed wrists and with no pain anywhere he laughs, low and raspingly, through muscles that haven't made any noise in centuries.
Then he cries.
Four centuries into his fourth millennium, Loki has taken to his bed. He lays in a trance, neither awake, nor asleep. His mind unable to take the silence, the loneliness. He has forgotten much of himself, even his magic. He has felt the press of the enchantments on and in the stone of his prison for so long he has forgotten why they are there, why he is in there, and he's starting to forget who he is. He has forgotten Asgard, and Midgard, and all the realms beside them. He has forgotten Odin, Frigga and the Avengers. He has forgotten his brother, although the memory of hauntingly sad blue eyes floats through his dreams.
There is nothing left but the shell of a man who once was a God and a King, and all that remains is the body of Loki, with his mind long lost.
A fifth millennium passes, then a sixth, then a seventh, and Loki lays, as though carved out of stone on a bed upon which no dust settles. His hair continues to grow, but does not burn, even when it covers the floor and whispers across the fireplace. His skin pales. His eyes lose their colour and slowly begin to fade into whiteness.
Loki doesn't know, wouldn't care anyway, he lays suspended in his own mind, his chest barely rising and falling outside his mind.
By the twelfth millennium, even Loki's mind is empty. He has retreated so far inside himself there is almost nothing left.
Then, one day, far into his sixteenth millennium, the walls of his stone prison part.