Amora's brothel, The Enchantress, was located in one of the less appealing districts of Asgard. It wasn't that different from the area where Sonja lived, but the residents were obviously less proud of their homes. Rhys and Loki stood in the shadows of an alley near the entrance, watching from under their raised hoods. The patrons were steadily arriving, and it was clear that they were all of the upper class. Loki even swore that he recognized a few of them.
"Is she there?" Rhys asked.
"Amora is always there. But I cannot know for certain if Sonja is there," Loki answered, muttering slightly.
"Are we going in?" Rhys asked, exasperated and impatient.
Loki shot him a little glare. "Yes, of course. Just have patience."
Loki was trying to control his own anxiety, fear, and anger, so the addition of Rhys's emotions wasn't helping. Rhys gave an irritated little sigh, and Loki closed his eyes to center himself. He turned to look at Rhys.
"Rhys, I am going to need your trust tonight. Trust that my only objective is to get Sonja out of there, safe and unharmed, regardless of what I say or do," he whispered urgently.
Rhys studied Loki's serious expression for a long moment but neither man moved. Rhys gave a solemn nod, and Loki set his shoulders. He turned back to the brothel.
Sonja slowly came back to consciousness, and her head was spinning. She felt ill and cold, and she tried to shake the fog from her mind.
"Hush, now, little nightingale. Try not to move or else you'll hurt yourself," a smooth female voice crooned from above her.
"Where am I?" Sonja groaned, struggling to even open her eyes.
She suddenly felt too warm ad there was a prickling under her skin, as if a fly was walking over every inch of her flesh. She whined and tried to shake off the feelings.
"Just relax, little dove," the voice implored, a little less motherly and slightly more demanding.
A wave of warm current began to flow through her body, and Sonja felt the panic rise in her throat. Loki had used magic on her enough for her to recognize its touch, The panic helped to drive away the fog in her mind, and she began to fight more fiercely. Hands grabbed her wrists and held her down as the female voice whispered strange words above her head.
Sonja's eyes snapped open as two burning hands touched her face. She saw the face of a woman that was impossibly beautiful. Her bright blue eyes shone eerily in the dusky room. Sonja could feel her heart beating wildly in her chest as her mind was invaded by the whispering woman. The instinct to fight or flee reared in her head, but the control was being sucked from her limbs. Only when the woman had rendered Sonja complacent did she step away.
"Can you sing us a song, little bird?"
The woman smiled cloyingly, and no matter how Sonja tried to stop, the melody to her childhood lullaby tumbled from her lips. The woman smiled, and the part of Sonja's mind that was still her own wanted to shiver in fear. But her body would not obey the commands.
"Excellent. She will do well. Get her ready. We are going to have a special guest this evening."
The woman retreated into the darkness and Sonja felt the overwhelming urge to cry. Gentle hands pulled Sonja from the bed and despite every attempt, Sonja merely followed her guide and bent to the will of her captors. In her head, she was screaming, calling out for any of the woman that she came across to help her, but her lips wouldn't move.
She was scrubbed, and shaved, and smoothed, and styled until she barely recognized herself. She was sat before a mirror and left there, a prisoner without chains. No one gave her a second glance, but she couldn't leave. Sonja had never felt so alone and so frightened, and the despair consumed her conscious mind.
She wanted to go home, to see if Eliisa was unharmed. She wanted her brother, wanted the comfort that only his brotherly embrace could bring. But, above all, she wanted Loki. She wanted him to take her in his arms and away from this horrible place. A single tear escaped her eye and Sonja was unable to lift a hand to wipe it away.
Loki and Rhys reached the door and were stopped by a guard.
"The mistress has sent for me," Loki said smoothly.
The guard looked at him critically for a moment but then let them pass. The pair entered the building, and Loki inhaled sharply. The entire space was in near darkness, but there were candles on the tables and on the walls, creating a strange orange glow with heavy shadows. Women in dresses that were barely held in place walked among the tables, serving drinks and food to the patrons. Loki did not see anyone that looked like Sonja, but he was sure that she was here.
Loki looked to Rhys, and saw a look of pained concentration on his handsome face. Loki knew that he was fighting against Amora's enchantments, ones that Loki could taste in the air like a sticky sweet mist, but could easily toss aside like a cobweb. Loki's eyes went to the balcony on the back wall, and his heart constricted. Rhys followed his gaze and he felt his breath escaped him.
Seated in a wing-backed chair was possibly the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on. Her long, golden-blonde hair tumbled over her shoulders and ended around her slender waist. Her blue eyes, visible even from a distance, scanned the room, a look of amused satisfaction on her face.
"Rhys, remember that this is the woman who kidnapped your sisters."
Loki's voice cut through Rhys's trance, like a bucket of ice water being dumped over his head. He blinked rapidly as his anger settled back into his heart. Amora's eyes scanned the room again, and she spotted Loki and his companion by the door. A wicked grin spread across her face and she stood. Loki's eyes connected with hers for a moment before Amora retreated behind the curtain hanging behind her chair.
Loki walked off to another curtain on his level on one of the side walls one with two large men standing guard on either side of it.
"The mistress is expecting us," Loki said, calm and collected.
"She gave us no instruction that anyone would be visiting," one of the men said, his voice a low bass.
"I believe she will want to see me, regardless," Loki said with a smirk.
"No one sees the mistress without our permission," the other said firmly.
Loki sighed and looked into their glowing blue eyes. His patience was wearing thin.
"If you value your continued existence, I would suggest letting us pass," Loki said, sounding a little amused.
The first was about to respond, but then a shudder passed through both him and his counterpart.
"Of course. She has been expecting you most eagerly," he said with a little bow of his head.
Loki bowed slightly back and he and Rhys moved through the velvet curtain. The room within was just as poorly lit as the rest of the establishment, but thankfully their eyes had adjusted. Amora was sitting sideways in another wing-back chair, her long legs dangling over one of the arms, showing more skin than really acceptable.
"Loki," Amora crooned as they entered.
Loki put on a little smirk, but his eyes were cold as ice. Rhys looked between the two subtly, trying to get a feel for his place in the exchange.
"Amora," Loki said smoothly.
Amora gave him a smile, but Rhys's guard slammed shut as soon as he saw it. It was outwardly warm, but there was something dangerous running under it that he couldn't ignore.
"It has been quite some time since you've paid me a visit."
Amora motioned for a couch across from her chair. Loki perched himself on the edge of the cushion, looking at her intently. Rhys remained standing behind him, his face hidden in the shadow of his cloak.
"Well, you've made yourself very hard to ignore," Loki said.
Amora didn't quite catch the insult and just chuckled. "I am quite good at that. But not quite as good as yourself."
Amora picked up a glass of wine from the little table between them and tilted it at him in a slight toast. Loki waved his hand casually and the wine disappeared from her glass and appeared in his own.
"I did teach you everything you know," Loki said casually, taking a sip of the wine he had stolen.
"But obviously not everything that you know," she said, a little chilly.
"Ah, but if I did, then I would have no reason to hear from you."
Loki gave her a little wink, and even Rhys could see the little blush that appeared on her cheeks. She seemed to catch herself and cleared her throat.
"But where are your manners? You haven't introduced me to your friend."
Amora looked up at Rhys, and his stomach twisted a little. He could have sworn that her bright blue eyes found his own, even though they were hidden.
"He is unimportant. Should I send him away? I don't want you to be distracted," Loki said, looking between the two.
"Oh no, that won't be necessary. But I wonder why he is here if you say that he is unimportant," Amora said, and Loki could sense the suspicion in her voice.
Loki looked to Rhys and gave a little nod, and Rhys lowered his hood. Amora's face lit up at the sight.
"Oh, Loki. You didn't say that he was pretty," she said excitedly.
Rhys felt the heat creeping up his neck, but he pushed it aside to remain cool.
"Amora, if he is going to distract you from me, I will send him away. You know how much I don't like to have anything less than your completely undivided attention."
Loki's voice dropped to a low murmur, and Amora felt as if a cool finger ran down her spine, turning her skin to goose flesh. Even Rhys was surprised to find himself affected by Loki's voice, but in a slightly different way. He felt the marks from Loki's protective spells heating up a little. They had been a little warm since he entered the building, as if he was standing in pleasant sunlight. But now they felt as if they were warm like a strong sunburn. Loki smiled pleasantly, and Amora sighed.
"Oh yes. I know exactly how jealous you can be. It's a pity. I was hoping that we could have shared him."
Amora looked over Rhys once more time, and he couldn't contain the shiver that ran down his spine. Loki was a little more concerned about the hungry look he could see in her eyes.
"While this has been entertaining, you better have a good reason for dragging me down here. You know how much I hate having my time wasted," Loki said, still a little playful, but definitely with authority.
Amora looked to the little clock on the wall and smiled like a feral cat. "I do, actually. I sent my men out to find me some new...applicants. They are having their first show tonight and I think there might be one that would be of interest to you. Follow me."
Amora stood gracefully and led the two men up to her balcony. Men were just coming out from behind the curtain of a small stage and lighting the candles along the front. The patrons seemed to notice the movement because the ambient chatter began to die down. Within minutes, the stage was lit up and five women came out from behind the curtain. Rhys couldn't help the gasp that escaped him as he saw the woman in the middle.
His little sister was dressed in a flowing silver gown that seemed just to fall over her curves like water. It shimmered in the candlelight, and it almost seemed to be transparent in some places, but opaque in the right ones. Music began to play and the four women around Sonja began to dance to the seductive, entrancing beat. Sonja merely swayed from side to side in time, her beauty enough to captivate.
Loki's mouth was pressed into a hard line as he watched her. He hated to see her like that: painted until her natural beauty was hidden away.
"What do you think, love? Did my men do a fine job?" Amora asked, leaning on Loki's shoulder.
He almost stiffened at the contact but reminded himself with a glance why he was here and remained relaxed, even as Amora's fingers trailed over his back and shoulders.
"They seem perfectly adequate. You should be able to make some decent money," Loki said, as if he were only talking about cattle that she wished to sell and not women who were, more likely than not, under a trance and here against their will.
"What of the little one in the center?" Amora asked, dangerously close to Loki's ear.
"Pretty enough, tiny, though. Any of your regulars would break her like a twig," Loki commented.
Rhys looked violently to Loki, red with indignation.
"True enough, but she has a special talent that I think you'll enjoy."
The music shifted, turning to a much softer, much more mysterious tone. The other girls faded away, leaving Sonja alone in the middle of the stage.
"Time it took us to where the water was; that's what the water gave me. And time goes quicker between the two of us. Oh, my love, don't forsake me, take what the water gave me."
Loki felt his heart swell at the sound of her voice, like it always did. He couldn't help the touch of pride as the entire room went silent and watch her. She really did look beautiful in the light. Her hair was a shimmering curtain of curls and the way her body moved was enough to make Loki want to jump down and take her in his arms.
"Quite the little nightingale, isn't she?" Amora whispered, seeming to be in the same state of reverence as everyone else.
Loki merely nodded, not trusting his voice.
"She can be yours if you wish."
Amora's words were like a seductive whisper in his ear, a moan that could have easily set any other man's blood on fire.
"Lay me down. Let the only sound be the overflow, pockets full of stones. Lay me down. Let the only sound be the overflow."
But Loki looked down and saw her fingers trailing along his chest, and he noticed a ring on her finger. He stiffened as he recognized the ring as the one he had given Sonja for protection the night he told her that he loved her.
"Everything comes with a price with you, Amora. What do you want?" Loki's voice was cold.
If Amora noticed the change, she didn't say anything.
"Lay me down, let the only sound be the overflow."
"You know what I want."
Loki threw Amora off his side, looking at her with cold, narrowed eyes.
"When will you give that up? If I have told you once, then I have told you a thousand times. My answer was, and shall remain, no," Loki said, almost as if he were scolding her.
"Are you so sure of that?" Amora asked slyly.
Loki narrowed his eyes even further, not trusting her innocent act for a second. Amora walked past Loki and went to the railing of the balcony.
"Gentlemen, ladies. The bidding will now begin on our little nightingale."
"'Cause they took your loved ones, but returned them in exchange for you. But would you have it any other way?"
"10 gold pieces for the nightingale."
"25 gold pieces!"
"50 gold pieces!"
The price for Sonja kept rising, and with it, Rhys's temper. He had been silent to this point, trusting Loki to take care of his little sister. But he couldn't stand idly by and watch her be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
"Stop this now," he said through gritted teeth.
"If you want her, bid for her," Amora said with a wicked smile.
Rhys gnashed his teeth as the price rose to over 200 gold pieces, more money than he had ever seen at one time.
Loki let out a little roar of anger.
"Did I mention that our little songbird is completely untouched?" Amora called to the crowd below.
"700 gold pieces!"
"900 gold pieces!"
Loki stepped forward and took hold of Amora's forearm. She gasped in pain and crumpled to the ground.
"End this," Loki growled.
Amora giggled, a sick mockery of the sound of joy.
"1000 pieces of solid gold!"
"SOLD!" Amora shouted.
She looked Loki directly in the eyes, and Loki squeezed her arm. Her grin hadn't faded, and it made him see red. Loki waved his other hand and the ring disappeared in a puff of green mist. He struck her hard across her face, sending her to the ground.
Rhys watched the exchange but then his attention was drawn back to the stage as he saw the man who had "bought" his sister climbing on the stage. He went to the railing and watched in horror as the man took Sonja roughly by her shoulders and planted a harsh kiss on her tender lips.
Loki vaulted over the railing and landed on a table below, the impact causing it break and crumple below him. Without pausing, he went to the stage and ripped the man away from Sonja.
"Now who do you think you are?" the man shouted, clearly intoxicated. Loki's didn't even flinch.
"A man that will not see you or any other man in this room touch this woman again," Loki said, his authority rolling off him in waves.
Rhys moved to go back down the stairs but a hand clutched at his ankle. He turned and was transfixed as Amora looked up at him, pitiful as could be.
"Kind sir, please," she begged sorrowfully.
Rhys could barely breathe as he regarded her. He couldn't even blink. There was that pull again in his mind, stronger than ever. It was as if someone had lassoed him around the chest, reeling him in to this dangerously beautiful woman.
"I paid for her, fair and square," the man said, reaching for Sonja again.
Loki grabbed his wrist and twisted, a sickening snap as bones broke. The man fell to his knees, screaming in pain.
"You cannot purchase the unwilling," he said firmly.
He tossed the man to the ground, and he scampered away, along with anyone near the stage. Loki turned back to Sonja. He took her by the shoulders and shook her slightly. She wasn't looking at him, but over his shoulder and staring at nothing. Her eyes had a vacant, hollow, dull look to them, despite their unnatural blue color. Loki ground his teeth, and reluctantly took her face between his hands.
"If you can hear me, know I am sorry for what I am about to do, my love," Loki breathed, kissing her forehead quickly before closing his eyes.
Sonja whimpered as Loki's magic probed into her mind. Because Loki knew Amora's magic well, finding the places where she bound Sonja inside of her own mind was easy enough. Sonja whimpered and flinched, and Loki could barely stand the noises. His magic began to break the binds in her mind, and Sonja tried to pull away. But Loki held firm and pressed on. Short of bashing her head into a wall, this was the only way he knew to free someone from this sort of spell when one was not the original caster. He knew how much it hurt; he had been the subject of the treatment while he was training.
But then, Loki sensed something coming up behind him. He turned just in time to avoid a knife to the back of his head. Sonja crumpled to the floor, tears streaming down her cheeks. The process was incomplete, and Loki hated to leave her like that, the wounds to her conscious raw and jagged.
But Rhys, the wielder of the knife, kept coming at him. Loki sprang away from Sonja, putting distance between brother and sister for both of their sakes. He raised his arms and summoned some of his little throwing knives to defend himself. As Rhys charged again, Loki caught sight of his eyes. Instead of their silver-grey, they were a bright, unnatural, glowing blue. Loki groaned internally out of frustration, but continued to dodge and block Rhys's attacks.
The man was a natural fighter and had plenty of training, but he didn't have the reflexes that Loki was born with. He could have easily taken out the younger man with a quick swipe of the blade, but he knew Sonja would never forgive him if he so much as gave Rhys a paper cut.
"Did you really think that I wouldn't recognize the elder brother of your little pet? Well, he's an excellent kisser, and I think I shall keep him."
Amora's voice came as a mocking itch in Loki's ears.
"This feud is between you and I. Leave others out of this," Loki demanded.
"Give it to me, and you will never hear from me again." Amora said seriously.
Loki stopped and glared at Amora. Rhys took his opportunity and charged at Loki. He grazed Loki's stomach with the sharp knife before Loki disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Rhys looked around, trying to locate his prey. Amora was just as confused as she watched from her perch.
"It is not something I can just give away."
Loki's voice came from the air. Amora and Rhys looked wildly around the room, but found that it was filled with Lokis. The establishment had emptied when the fighting had begun, so every seat was now occupied with a Loki. He was resting in every chair, on every couch, standing at every place at the bar. It was Amora that let out the frustrated roar this time. She looked around wildly, trying to find the real Loki. But all were identical, even down to the wound that Rhys had given so recently.
She jumped down from her balcony, landing with cat-like grace. She began to cut through every Loki she came across, but they all disappeared into mist. It was torture to know of such abilities, but to have the one power she wanted more than anything flaunted so blatantly before her was more than she could stand.
"Show yourself. I will kill them both," Amora roared, slashing through the throat of another copy. Her beautiful face was twisted into a nasty scowl.
"No, you won't," the Loki's said in unison.
Amora's right hand began to glow blue as she gathered her energy. The Lokis multiplied, blocking Amora from Rhys and Sonja. Amora let out a barbaric screech and shot out the energy at the nearest image and it dissolved into gold mist. The Lokis laughed, a cruel sound that was echoed by the hundreds of images.
"You will run out of energy before you destroy us," they said, still laughing.
But Amora was beyond reason. As she destroyed copy after copy, the real Loki snuck up behind Rhys, who was also trying to take down the fake Lokis around him. The real Loki hit him hard on the head, causing him to collapse, out cold. Loki hid him in an alcove on the edge of the room and then went back to Sonja.
She was crying silently, tears flowing steadily down her cheeks. He took her head in his hands again and went back into her mind. He knew she must have been in unspeakable agony but Sonja must have had enough mental capacity to stay as quiet as possible, which Loki appreciated. The small whimpers she couldn't contain were masked by Amora's shrieks of rage. Sonja could feel the warm fingers of Loki's magic in her mind, peeling back Amora's hold. She wanted to sob and beg Loki to stop the pain, but the apology on Loki's face stopped her.
As he last bond fell away and Sonja could breathe free air once again, Loki stroked her hair with a little smile. Sonja felt exhausted, the whole ordeal draining her.
"Stay here while I finished this," he whispered.
Sonja gave a weary nod and Loki gently kissed her hairline before standing. He disappeared and reappeared behind a still raving Amora. His face cold, he quickly took hold of her wrists and brought her to her knees. She began to shout a spell, but a subtle wave of Loki's hand, and a gag appeared in her mouth. Bound and silenced, Amora had no choice by to submit.
"You are defeated Amora," Loki said, looking down at her kneeling form.
Then, the doors burst open and guards flooded the brothel. Two large men took hold of Amora's upper arms and dragged her from the establishment, literally kicking and screaming. Loki turned to Rhys and found healers lifting him onto a stretcher. Loki felt a stab of guilt; he must have hit the man harder than he anticipated.
Loki turned to Sonja and smiled a little. She was lying on the ground, looking like a peaceful angel. He knelt beside her and pushed a lock of her silver-blonde hair from her face. He wanted to wash the false face from her, but he felt weak. After all of the magic he had used that day, he could barely lift Sonja and carry her to his horse. He hefted her into the saddle and mounted behind her. He held her tight to his chest with one arm and took up the reins in his other hand. Rhys was being lifted onto the horse of one of the healers but Amora was being forced to walk behind one of the guards' horses.
Loki turned his horse and led the company away from the brothel and back to the palace. He rested his chin on the top of Sonja's sleeping head. He was tired, so he barely pressed his company harder than a walk. But he was relieved to have Sonja safe in his arms, where she belonged. Loki took her right hand from where it was resting and entwined his fingers with hers. He was reaching far for energy now, but he needed to do this sooner rather than later. Their entwined hands glowed blue for a moment before Loki had to stop. Luckily it was just enough to put the ring back on her finger.