Loki had lost track of time completely. The only thing he ever had in mind were the bright stars that guided his path. He had to leave the forest, this he was sure of. Thenaree had told him it would take several days if he followed the bright stars' path. Had days passed already or had it been mere hours since he had fought against the Chitauri? He wasn't so sure anymore and the throbbing pain that radiated from the wound on his leg was getting closer and closer to agony, making it even harder for him to think straight. He rarely allowed himself to rest a little in order to eat a little something from the food Frigga had given to him. Loki could go a very long time without eating or drinking, sure, in the end there was a reason why beings like him were in fact superior to others, but he was all too aware of the fact that he needed sustenance right now more than ever. His magic was gradually drained from him by those treelike things around him, faster than he was able to restore it. Every now and then he heard faint rumbles in the distance, probably from those things his host had called 'ground'. It would be wisest to stay out of their reach as to not provoke another fight.

The darkness had started to settle in all shades of red and lilac when Loki reached a glade that extended to the foot of a mountain. The peak was hidden in iridescent fog of almost metallic color, here and there a short whiff of blue and golden light was viewable. But it was not the sight of this otherworldliness that caught Loki's eye, no. His gaze lingered where there was not yet any of this ominous fog but where there also were no longer any of those cocoons. He would have to climb up to one of the plateaus he hoped to find up there. Out of reach, hopefully, for both the cocoons' thirst and the ground. He would set up his defense to prevent the shadows from approaching him, even though they had proven to have no immediate ill-will towards him. Or his shield had been effective enough to prevent them from doing anything.

He took a deep breath and stepped onto the solid ground that composed the mountain in front of him. It was a relieve for him when the ground indeed felt the way he expected such an area to feel underneath his soles. Step by step he could get himself to pretend – just for a while – he was back in Asgard, out in the wilderness. In a world he knew and where the most basic rules did apply. Stone was solid and the night was cold and lonely. A shadow only existed where there was something that cast it. The realm granted you magic, it did not take it from you. He repeated it like a mantra all the time he forced himself to keep on climbing and not to give into the pain. He wouldn't. Because this was Asgard, his realm, as long as he kept telling himself so. He slipped and was brought down onto his knees, the open flesh of his leg grinding over the unforgiving stoniness, making him hiss and claw into the bedrock. For a moment his gaze became hazy. But then he picked himself up in order to continue his ascent. All he needed was a spot that was secure enough to spend the night there.

When he finally reached a plateau, he was barely able to stand anymore, let alone climb some more. But the place he had found seemed to be just what he needed: far away from these accursed cocoons and ground-things, just big enough for him to set himself up for the night with a small rock prominence he could hide himself under. The shield he conjured was small but it sufficed. It was all he needed and all he could ask for. With dull movements he lay down, not at the least bothered by the lack of comfort. The leather of his armor was all that separated him from the cold both around and underneath him but this time he couldn't even bring himself to conjure a fire to warm him. Instead he used what little magic he had that was not used in order to keep the wound on his leg from getting worse. At least he was rudimentarily aware of the power inside him slowly returning. By far not as fast as it should but at least faster than down in the forest. Maybe it would be better the next morning, he hoped and rummaged around in his bag to grab the first drink he could grasp, which turned out to be the mead. It was alright, he thought with a smile. The fine taste of yesterdays. From where he lay, he could observe the fog that was still viewable even through the darkness. It looked somehow like the northern lights, at least as close as anything could look like them. Without meaning to, he clenched the amulet Frigga had given to him and felt how it soothed him some more, taking his mind away from the pain. And then he lost himself in this sight and fell asleep, exhaustion taking its toll.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

His brother was close to him, this he could feel. It was not as if Thor had ever been subtle, Loki mused and chose to take up this opportunity to prank the golden prince of Asgard who had behaved a bit too stuck-up for his taste ever since he had returned from his first big battle. He barely spoke to Loki, preferring the company of 'actual warriors' obviously. But Loki wouldn't have any of that: Thor could be the older one, sure, but that didn't make Loki worth any less. He was his brother and in time he, too, would get the chance to prove himself in the heat of battle. It wasn't his fault that Thor had been allowed to do so already whilst he had been barred from it this time as his father had decided he needed more training before he was ready to do so.

But Loki was curious about all the things Thor would tell him later. He would, Loki just knew it. A lindorm was a rare creature and to have slain one a great honor. Barely was he able to keep himself from sneaking into Thor's chambers in order to question him about it. Of course his mother had noticed the way he had become fidgety and she took him aside.

"You sure are relieved he returned safe and sound, are you not, my son?" With a motherly smile she caressed his hair and laughed quietly when Loki shook his head.

"I was never worried, mother. He wouldn't have been the oldest son of Odin, had he not been able to stand up to a creature like that."

"You sure do have a lot of faith in him", she said fondly.

"I don't need faith. It is not faith when it is based on knowing instead of believing." He grinned at her and continued: "There will never come the day when Thor Odinsson will be defeated by some vile beast. That goes for any other son of Odin as well, of course", he added impishly.

"Hearing these words from you... I am glad you think this way."

"How could I think any other way, mother? It is Thor we are talking about. The golden son of Odin, the future king... oh, and the greatest oaf any realm has ever seen", he mused. "How could any vile beast ever kill such stubbornness and, well, stupidity?"

"You will take this back!", he heard Thor thunder from the place he had tried to hide himself. It had been a poor attempt. Frigga winked at Loki before she turned around.

"Thor... were you not supposed to be in the dining hall?", she asked in a tone that told Loki she clearly had known about Thor's presence, too.

"I had no idea you were here, my dearest brother", he claimed.

"Mother... Loki...", Thor appeared unable to figure out whom he should speak to first. Should he scold Loki? Should he greet his mother? Obviously they both had spoofed him.

"Don't think too much, oh my fierce warrior of a brother", Loki laughed but when he saw the look on Thor's face, he sighed. "Come here, Thor. I've waited for you to tell me about your great victory."

"I'll leave the two of you alone and make sure everything will be prepared for the feast", Frigga took her leave.

When she was gone, Loki closed the remaining distance between him and his brother and Thor gave him one of his too well-meant embraces that always left his younger brother breathless, only to release him the next moment and ruffle his hair. "Next time, you will be standing by my side", he declared. "For the honor of Asgard."

"For the honor of Asgard", Loki repeated.