Just tweaked a couple of niggles
Asgard - Loki
"No, Allfather. I offer you my own life in his place."
Loki considered his father; Odin would surely not allow this. Even the Allfather looked nonplussed. Odin beckoned Iris forward and Loki heard the whisper of silk as she passed him and his escorts. No sound on the stone floor though. Bare foot again he thought, curious how she would go without shoes at any given opportunity. It was as if she gathered strength from the ground beneath her feet. She did not look at him.
Odin spoke gently "You do not know what it is that you offer; a blood sacrifice is the deepest of rites. It is ancient and powerful beyond even my years and I would have you consider most carefully before you enter in to this covenant."
The hall was deathly silent as the assembly waited for Iris's response. She bowed her head, crowned with soft waves of gold and russet, then looked up at Odin and her next words were voiced carefully and deliberately,
"There is much within your son that is brightly woven, he has a great heart and loves deeply. Much more deeply than he realises of that I am sure but he spoke the truth to me when he said that love was not enough. He is hollow at the core because he does not understand loss. He has grown up privileged and protected so he has one more lesson left to learn Allfather. I can bring your beloved son back and I believe, eventually, he could become greater and wiser even than you but he must sacrifice a part of him that the rest might prosper."
"You are mortal Iris. You will die eventually. Is that not sufficient?"
Loki saw her smile "You know, when we were together I don't think he gave it a second thought. I know I didn't. Yes, I will die but I may be lucky, I could have sixty years yet and I don't think any of us can afford to wait that long."
Loki's mouth was open in wordless astonishment. There had never been a moment when he had considered what the world would be like without Iris in it.
"You would do this for him? Why?"
"Because he needs me to. Whether he knows it or not."
Loki squared his shoulders back and tried to keep his voice even and indifferent "This is ridiculous. Father I have no feelings for this woman she is deluded. She was nothing but a distraction; there is no value to this - she means nothing to me."
"Silence! Loki. Odinsson. Your right to speak was forfeit with the lives you so needlessly slaughtered." Loki felt his mouth sealed shut by some will of his father. Odin studied him for what seemed like an age and Loki was horribly afraid of what he was reading in his son's face.
Odin turned back to Iris,
"Very well. I accept your offer." He raised his head and his voice rang through the hall
"Let it be known that this woman, Iris of Midgard, will pay the price in blood for the crimes my son has committed. In return, once the rite is complete, he will be free to choose his own path. This is the will of your king." He brought his staff ringing down on the floor. Then he looked at Loki with sorrow in his eyes
"May the road you travel bring you peace my son."
Turning to the slender woman standing between them Odin spoke again
"Your sacrifice is willingly given?"
"Then I bestow on you the honour of a king's death for the gift you give my son. You will be taken to The Great Ash and bound to its branches. Your lifeblood will be drawn and there you will remain until your journey ends."
Loki threw himself forward, Thor and Volstagg struggling to hold him.
"Do you wish to say your farewells, Iris?" Loki did not hear her reply only saw her shake her head and watch as Odin beckoned Fandral to lead her away.
Loki thrashed ferociously against his bonds and it took all three warriors to finally subdue him and bring him to his knees. He felt his mouth freed again and he screamed at his father
"She doesn't know what she's doing, father stop this madness!"
Odin looked down at his stricken son and Loki saw the tear rolling down his cheek
"I think, my son that she may be wiser than anyone I have known."
4 days later
Loki paced the floor of the prison. He had counted four days since the scene in the hall. He had raged and demanded to see everyone but, apart from the guard who delivered his food, he had been left alone. He knew that the ritual would be carried out soon. A sacrifice to the Odin tree was taken more seriously than anything else in Asgard. It hadn't happened in centuries, there would have to be preparations for the ceremony and he would have the chance to intervene to do something to prevent this. Sometimes he found himself trembling with fear and fury and disbelief.
Silly, rash, idiotic human. Why would you do this?
He pounded the wall with his fist for the umpteenth time then ran his quaking, bloodied hands through his long dark hair. In the distance he heard the click of a door, it was too early for food to be delivered and he strode to the bars of his cell in anticipation.
Thor and Fandral halted in front of him. By the solemn looks on their faces he knew this must be it, time to take her to the Great Ash.
He barked at them "Where the hell have you been? I must stop this before it's too late. Thor, help me brother, please. We must talk to Iris – to father."
"Maybe Mother can make him see sense; this is beyond all reason, I…"
"LOKI! Listen to me please." Thor's face held more tragedy than Loki had thought possible
"It is too late Loki. It is done, she…" His brother's voice broke and trailed away.
Loki took a step back from the two men as his hands fell uselessly to his side.
"When?" it was less than a whisper
Fandral stepped in as Thor's voice failed him,
"Directly after the hearing. She insisted..."
Loki looked back and forth between them
"But the ceremony..?"
"It seems there are privileges afforded to someone who…makes such a sacrifice. She was able to choose. She did not want to wait and she asked that you not be present. We were compelled not to speak to you brother until… until her death."
Her death? Then…
For a second Loki processed what Thor had just said, then pulled his shoulders back and clenched his hands.
"She took four days to bleed to death? Bound to that accursed tree? Four days…?"
Neither of the burly men had anything to say. Fandral hung his head and Loki saw tears stinging his brother's eyes. He thought the emptiness inside himself would devour him completely.
Tears Thor? For whom? Me? Iris?
There are not enough tears in the world for what she has done.
After the awful silence Thor spoke "As the reciprocate of this great sacrifice it is your duty now, brother, to bring her body… bring her back so that we may lay her to rest in a fitting manner." Fandral opened the cell door and held out to him an ornate silver knife.
To cut her down with.
"You may have assistance if you require."
"No one will touch her but me."
Loki took the knife and walked alone through the castle and to the clearing where the Great ash stood.
They had dressed her in a simple white shift and it was now stained with her blood that had spilled and dried in dark rivulets. Her bare feet rested on the ground but her arms were tied high above her. Her head hung on her chest, her hair matted and windblown. He lifted her chin gently and smoothed back the hair from her forehead. Loki took the silver knife and cut the bonds that held her, catching her in his arms as she fell forward. He knelt, cradling her to him, taking in her cracked lips, the welts where she had been tied. The crystal snowflake rested at her throat, unsullied it danced in the evening sunlight and it was this that finally broke him.
I am undone.
The cavernous vacuum that had been so long a part of him flooded with a tidal wave of grief and loss and, alone in the clearing as the sunset bathed his world in golden light; he buried his face in her hair and wept...
Sorry! I had no idea it would end like this. Thank you SO much dear reviewers! I am glad you have loved it so far - I don't mind constructive criticism at all as this is the first thing I've written of any substance in ages. I know it has lots of flaws but I tried to make Iris not so much a Mary- sue and keep Loki as true to character as possible. It has inspired me to want to write more and I can only improve if I know where I went wrong. Thanks for reading.