"Heimdall, open the Bifrost."
The Gate Keeper stood fast, stoic expression ever on his face.
"I thought I would never see you on this bridge again." Heimdall spoke, turning to the dome and entering, his nuisance on his heels.
"I have been waiting for quite a while."
"And quite patiently for someone with your temper."
"Have you been spying on me?"
"It is my duty, and spying is an awful word."
The portal of the Bifrost roared opened, breaking the conversation.
"Happy hunting, my King."
Thor found himself thrown through the portal onto the iced earth of the Jotunheim. He steadied himself and looked around, taking in the desolate wasteland.
Surely Loki had not been here for the past years…
Thor ventured forward through the harsh environment, trudging along with the hope this was not a sick game on Heimdall's part. He plodded through low land, and high land, until he finally arrived at the decaying remnants of a tower; the Palace of Laufey…or, what was left.
He came across the crest of a hill and took in the full sight of the place. It was an ominous castle, with dark, muted spires of ice, climbing to the murky sky. But Thor would not let the aesthetic stop him, and he trekked forward, his face starting to bite with chill.
He reached the bridge in a few moments flat, drawing his crimson mantle around himself and approaching a sentry at the palace gates.
Thor really had never realized how tall a Frost Giant actually was. He had to stare up at a painful degree to meet the man's blazing red eyes above him.
"Good sir!" Thor yelled, catching the man's attention, but he knew the guard had seen him approaching from a good mile away. The giant leant down and laughed at the Aesir in front of him.
"What have we hear?" Thor wondered if the Jotun's voice this close to his ear would deafen him. "You are in the wrong realm, Asgardian."
"I have come to speak with King Laufey." Thor replied, his voice unwavering. He did not fear this sentry.
And the sentry laughed heartily, throwing his head back, his armour glinting in the reflective ice.
"You? Here to see our King? And who might you be?"
"I am Thor Odinson. King of Asgard. And I have a gift." Thor withdrew from his mantle the other stolen relic from the fateful battle that changed the realms years ago: The Casket of Ancient Winters.
"Might I have entrance now?"
The inside of the castle reflected the outside perfectly, and the throne room was no different, if not a little more frightening with the vast amount of giants adorning different seats. King Laufey sat upon his spiked throne, bemused at the sight of the small man before him.
"King Thor, I believe it was?" The Frost Giants voice was a deep baritone, causing Thor's teeth to shake with the reverberations let off.
"To what do I owe this pleasure?"
Thor stood tall and presented the Casket, shock resonating around the room.
"I am on a mission of Asgard, and a mission of my own. I am travelling the realms to return all that my Father wrongfully took, and I am personally searching for someone."
Laufey raised his eyebrow, standing from his throne and stepping towards Thor, but the Aesir did not move, steadfast and noble at the foot of the throne.
"And what do you ask in return for the Casket?" Laufey asked, towering over Thor.
"Nothing for the Casket, King Laufey. This is the mission of Asgard, and I do not wish for my own needs to be confused with theirs."
"Then this is from the goodness of your heart?" Laufey questioned.
"What good there is left in it." Thor responded.
Laufey reached forward and plucked the Casket from Thor's hands. He felt the sheer energy and power of it travel up his arm and, when Thor offered no resistance, he passed it on to another Jotun, beckoning him to replenish it to where it once stood.
Laufey turned to Thor and bowed.
"Your offer is esteemed, King of Asgard. Now, what it is you search for?"
Thor took a deep breath and stared up at the other King.
"Your son. Loki of Jotunheim. Son of Laufey."
Another instance of shock washed over the room and Laufey stood from his bow.
"And what is it you want with him?" His tone wreaked violence, and Thor raised his hands.
"My father was wrong in taking your son, King Laufey. I understand this. But in the time we were together, I fell in love with him. With all of him. Even his Jotun form. We parted on…strange circumstances, and I only wish to see that he is okay."
Laufey was silent for a few moments, weighing Thor's words before nodding.
"He rests not here, but I will take you to him, in return for your kind offering."
Thor bowed before the King of Jotunheim, and thanked him, suppressing the desire to rush forward and hug the man. The Jotnar may see that as a sign of war and that was far from Thor's intentions.
Thor had to keep up the pace of a run to stay in step with the Jotun King. He realized then where Loki had inherited his mile-long legs from. They walked outside of the palace and around the bend of what once must have been a forest, but now it was only more spires of ice. They were rounding the backside of what must have once been part of the palace when they arrived at a door that was the height of three Thor's only a few moments later.
Laufey knocked and Thor drew quiet with anticipation, waiting and listening for movement within.
Thor felt like he had been punched in the best way possible. That was Loki's voice on the other side of the door. It was deeper, yes, but it was enveloped in the same nobility it had always been.
"Loki, with haste, but please be decent." Laufey called in response.
Did he just smile down at Thor?
"Father, is someone there with you?"
No one could ever sneak up on Loki.
"Open the door and see for yourself."
Thor heard a groan and the soft padding of bare feet approaching the door and Thor thought his heart would leap out of his chest.
"Father, if I get bloody attacked by Helblindi, I swear on your name-"
The door flew open and in the entrance stood a man. A very blue grown man; a very Jotun man, but a man nonetheless. Loki had gained, at least, six inches in height, all of it in his legs. His hair was longer now, pushed back in ornate braids, woven with gold. He was slim, not as slim as Thor remembered, but it was spread healthily about his body.
And the body was tense.
And those red eyes were wide, staring at Thor.
The door slammed shut.
Thor immediately turned to Laufey as if to say 'Do something," but he could hear rustling inside the room, and before his worry and heartbreak could defeat him, the door reopened to the same man, a little more dressed for the occasion. He wore a long waistcloth, his chest and sides exposed. His arms were laced with gold filigree adornments, a very familiar pelt wrapped around his shoulders.
"I will go have dinner prepared, though I fear you will have to eat Loki's chosen dish, unless you have the stomach for bloodied serpent."
No answer was needed, as Thor's face was disgust enough, and Laufey laughed.
"I will leave you two alone to speak." He bowed to his son and stood. "Do you need me to-"
"No, thank you, father. I have it." Loki smiled and bowed to his Father, stepping aside to let Thor enter his room.
A familiar string of green smoke whizzed past Thor upon his entrance, and the door behind him closed with a soft thud.
Thor took in his surroundings while Loki fussed about, picking up books and mumbling something about a mess. Thor felt…isolated in the room. It was a very large, spacious circular room, the walls of dark blue ice; ice so dark, no light shined through save for a few places where holes were made. There were two thresholds, covered with strange skin in lieu of doors. There were tables of ice as well, stacked high with books and leafs of paper, ink and pens. There was no bed in the room, Thor noticed; there was only a globular cluster of pelts and furs on the floor in a corner.
Even with its unwelcoming colors and the chilled air that blew through it, the room was cozy. It was nothing like Loki's room in Asgard, and he wondered how his younger sibling had adjusted to a place without heavy curtains and plush beds.
"This is where you stay, then?" Thor finally questioned as Loki walked past of him, a stack of books teetering back and forth in the Jotun's hands.
"Only during mating season." Loki replied, still concentrating on not allowing the books to fall before placing them down in a neat stack under s table.
Thor looked bewildered at Loki, and the Jotun knew it was not because of the books.
"Jotuns have set times when they mate. They start giving off scents and they battle and they give off these great displays, just so that they may impress another and bed them." Loki explained, offering Thor a seat at a table before sitting down himself. "That was the uh…reason I changed back on Midgard. Mating season. Heh."
Thor sat down across from Loki and stared deep into his red eyes.
"Have you been courted, brother?"
"It's Loki, and no, not yet."
Not yet? The words stung Thor.
"Who is this Helbindi, then?" Thor questioned, his voice accusing.
"Helbindi?" Loki snickered, "Thor that would be my brother. My iactual/i brother."
Thor felt a pang of jealousy at the thought of Loki having a brother. He wondered if their relationship together was anything like what Thor and Loki had had as children. Did they prank each other? Play games? Wrestle and train together?
Thor thought it best to change the subject.
"Are you to be courted, then?"
Loki shook his head.
"There were two men," He began, leaning back in the chair across from Thor, "that battled for my hand. It was a fierce battle. They both died. Very tragic."
Thor had a hard time believing Loki had hard feeling about the incident.
Thor looked around the room once more, fingers tapping idly on the table.
"Are you cold?" Loki had leant forward. "I can fetch a fur."
Thor shook his head. "I will be fine."
Fingers continued to tap idly. Truth be told, Thor was just trying to distract himself from staring at the man before him. How had he grown up so fast? Thor just couldn't fathom this handsome, breath-taking man before him; one who had once been a mere boy. A short boy at that!
"So you are King now?"
There was a pause as if there were more to be said.
"…What of your father?"
"iOdin/i" Thor said pointedly, "went into battle against Svartelfheim. He had a spell cast upon him there. The Healer said he would never wake up and Asgard decided that I was to be King."
Loki nodded. He felt neither loss nor sorrow for the death of Odin. He felt it for Thor though, and reached out to take the new King's hand in his, thumb tracing knuckles soothingly.
"Your queen?" Loki asked after a few silent moments.
"My mother." Thor chuckled, "Until I am married, she remains on her throne."
Loki laughed along with Thor, but it was forced. It was awkward.
The silence that fell after lasted much longer than the others, stifling the room. Loki looked down at his hands, flicking his nails uneasily, and Thor's eyes went back to searching the room. Thor could hear Loki's breathing, and was sure Loki could hear his in return. The only other sound was the wind blowing outside, the chill in the room causing Thor's breath to hitch and his skin to blossom with goosebumps.
Loki stood quickly, crossing the room with long legs and grabbing up a pelt from his bed pile, and returning with it to charitably wrap it around Thor's shoulders. When his arms slipped around, Thor grabbed a hold of them, pulling Loki flush against his back and keeping him there. Loki's chilled face pressed against the back of Thor's hair, and Thor's burly arm reached back and held the nape of Loki's kneck.
The next words spoken were quiet and cautious.
"Tell me what happened."
Loki sighed and wound his way out of Thor's hold, walking to the makeshift bed and sitting in one fluid motion. He placed his head in his hands and rubbed his forehead for a moment before sitting up and taking a deep breath.
"Well after…that incident on the Bifrost, I found myself here in the Jotunheim, both fearful and very displeased." Loki chuckled before continuing. "I imagine it was the delirium setting in from blood loss, but I decided it was in my best interest to just approach the very ominous ice castle in front of me and just hope that they remembered me after all these years."
Thor listened intently, wondering if he should move to sit with Loki but, afraid to make him uncomfortable, he remained at the table, urging the man to continue.
"Uh…they did." Loki laughed. "It was a he ordeal. 'The return of Prince Loki' someone had shouted. It was all bit strange. And then-" Loki started to laugh harder now, making Thor uneasy. Had he gone completely mad. "And then, my father, this giant blue Frost Giant comes up to me, arms open and welcoming and I just…fainted. Right out on the floor in front of everyone. It was awful."
"Yes, but Loki!" Thor interjected, speaking over the Jotun's crazed giggles. "I must know what happened!"
"I am telling you, Thor."
"You know what I mean!"
"Thor, allow me to speak, and you will receive the answer you look for."
Thor sat back and crossed his arms, motioning for Loki to go on.
"I will skip forward a bit, but know you are missing many great moments." Loki added before continuing on with the story.
"I woke up very sick, and very confused, calling out for you-" Thor felt the words hit his heart-"And I was answered by my father. He scooped me up ilike a tiny child/i and just….hugged me. It was all very strange. "
Loki mumbled to himself as he fast forwarded through his story in his head.
"I was taken to a ward to watch another Jotun give birth…"Loki was no longer laughing, his eyes far off. "They…they could not tell if"-he motioned to his very flat stomach-"…but they wanted me to be prepared for the worst, in true Jotun nature. I..I sat in the room, feeling very out of place in the corner…and I watched his Jotun three times my size cut himself open." Loki's face reflected shock, even though this had been months ago. Thor, on the other hand looked absolutely fearful and disgusted.
"And…" Loki continued, hands miming the story now in front of him, "The Jotun pulled out this child nearly the size of myself, but an infant nonetheless…and it…was unresponsive. No crying…no breathing…" Loki's arms dropped. "They said the Jotun must have cut too deep while they stitched him up….and he just stood up and shrugged…like it happened every day."
Thor was at Loki's side now, sitting upon the warm furs, his arms wrapped around the Jotun to his right.
"You were scared." Thor offered.
"I was terrified." Loki responded, but he straightened up and trudged on with his story.
"I stayed with my Father, close by his side. He stayed back from battle to be with me. Do not tell him I told you this, but he is actually very kind."
Thor nodded in agreement, "He did not try to kill me upon my arrival today."
Loki smiled briefly, white teeth glinting and Thor guessed Loki had not been partaking in the tough Jotun meat, for his teeth were much sharper than they had been upon his first shift.
"We spoke of you every day," Loki chuckled. "He hated it. My affections directed towards an Asgardian Prince…"
"And much more than that." Thor cut in, not harshly, once more finding his eyes on Loki's stomach, gaze tracing lines he was unsure if he recalled seeing before.
"Yes, and much more." Loki sighed.
"But please continue…" Thor quieted, listening intently once more.
"I….went into labor-" Loki had said it very quickly-"During a battle against Vanaheim. It was very stressful. They were treacherous, and without my father leading the army, they advanced quite quickly. They made it as far as the edge of our gates, I believe once it all was over, but I digress." He took another large breath, and Thor found his hands on Loki's.
"It was…so petrifying…I thought I was being ripped in half…" The hand in Thor's clenched. "Father had to carry me to the ward; had to cut me open with a jagged blade. I tried and tried to subdue the pain with my magic, but concentrating was not my strength at the time…" Thor nearly jumped when something wet hit his hand and he looked up to see Loki crying.
"We sat there for so long…."
"Loki, you don't have t-"
"Just waiting for any sound….I did not even recognize the pain of my body…."
"He was so small in my father's arms…even in mine, he was too small for a frost giant…."
"Thor, he lie there in my arms, so pale…wrapped in this enormous pelt….and I just…begged him to breathe…to cry…and…I felt this constricting in my very heart…and I exhaled sharply, and when I did…this glow of magic…imy/i magic ghosted over him…and his eyes Thor; so clear and blue…they opened and…and he so alive. So very, very alive."
Thor pulled Loki close and felt the man in his arms shake with sobs; the first tears of happiness Thor had ever seen Loki shed in his life.
"Valandir." Loki replied, his hands pressed against Thor's chest, leaning back to look his lover in the eyes.
"His name is Valandir."
Thor beamed. "Of course that is his name!" He laughed heartily, squeezing the Jotun in his arms tight.
"Where is he?" Thor was excited now. "Where is my son?"
Loki's eyes glanced over to one of the pelt-covered doors.
"Be strong." He whispered, standing swiftly, grabbing an armful of pelts before leading Thor through the archway cautiously.
This room was the similar to Loki's but the only opening was a hole in the ceiling, covered with the thinnest layer of ice, as if to let the sun through. In the center of the room, surrounded by the obvious glow of Loki's magic, was a bed.
No, not a bed; a coffin. Made completely of ice.
Thor approached it, heart sinking as his hands came to rest on the transparent lid, his eyes falling onto the child within. He was so young…thin and Aesir in appearance. His skin mirrored Loki's glamour, alabaster and smooth. His eyelashes were dark, flush against full cheeks. His hair was dark as well, and Thor wondered if the eyes Loki mentioned were the only thing the child had inherited from the Thunder God.
Loki pushed past Thor, muttering some incantation as the green smoke around the coffin dispersed. Loki moved quickly, pushing the lid aside, and Thor felt a strange warmth emanating from the confined space. Within seconds, the child was wrapped securely in Loki's furs and offered over to Thor.
"Hold him close." Loki instructed, warily handing the child to Thor.
Thor pulled the child to his chest, relieved when he felt breath against his hand when he stroked the child's cheek; so warm.
"He is Aesir…born into weak magic and the Jotunheim. He cannot withstand this cold." Loki replaced the lid on the coffin, leading Thor to a corner where more pelts were piled.
"He can only be out for a few moments."
Thor barely heard Loki now, his mind enthralled with the infant in his arms. He stroked its hair, its cheek, felt its tiny hand in his, the soft heartbeat. Loki sat quietly, watching Thor, waiting for any form of well, anything. But Thor was invested in the child.
The child was immaculate, seemingly giving off life to the dank surroundings. He was everything Thor ever would have hoped for. Thor tore his gaze away from the child to look up to Loki, comparing his features with that of the child's. It was very much Loki's child.
Thor smiled and offered the child to Loki.
'Do you not wish to-"
"I wish to see him in your arms."
Thor could swear he saw Loki blush as he obliged, gingerly taking the child in his arms and stroking back its hair. It was a breath-taking sight, and Thor looked upon everything he needed in life.
"Get an eyeful, Odinson. Our visit is almost over." Loki smiled, but Thor saw it was fleeting.
'Would you like to hold him again?"
"Is it not safe?"
Loki held the child up to Thor, and Thor reached down, touching the cheek once more and finally understanding. The child's body ran cold, his tiny lips turning a blue that could not even be inherited of a Jotun.
Thor took the child and walked him back over to the coffin. Loki lifted the lid and Thor understood what Loki's magic was for now. The inside of the coffin was warm, warmer than the Jotunheim would ever be. He leant down and kissed the child before stepping back, allowing Loki to repeat the action before sliding the lid shut once more.
"A spell." Loki responded. "It keeps him alive. He withholds energy as a source of inner warmth."
"When was the last time-"
"This spell cannot be broken until the child is in a safer environment."
Thor stepped forward.
"Like Asgard." He stated, understanding Loki's meaning.
"Like Asgard." was Loki's agreement.
"And there…he will awaken?"
"He will flourish."
"Then we are to Asgard. We shall raise the child together, Loki. As the Prince of both Asgard and the Jotunheim. He will…he can bind our…our realms…Loki, why are you staring at me like that?"
Loki's eyes were questioning.
"Thor, surely you do not mean-"
"I wish to court you, Loki." Thor beamed. "If you will accept."
Loki casted a glance back to his child and then down to the floor.
"They will accept him...the Aesir?"
Thor took Loki's hand and knelt before him.
"Of course they will! He is beautiful, Loki! He is ours!"
Loki shook his head.
"They will not accept me back there. Not like this, especially."
Thor sighed, exasperatedly.
"Loki, Asgard has changed under my rule. I have told them of my Father's wrongs. I have told them all of your return…I have told them of our child…" Thor kissed the top of Loki's hands. "Your return will be celebrated…"
There was silence and Thor though to add, "Besides, the only people we do not accept now are dwarves."
Loki could not hold back his laugh, jumping forward and catching Thor off balance, their hug landing them on the floor.
They kissed. A deep kiss. A kiss they had not shared for ages. It was loving, and playful, and full of absolute joy, the men smiling all the while until their cheeks hurt.
Loki pulled away first, sitting up, thighs straddling Thor, and Thor sat up after, face to face with Loki.
"You will have to ask my father, you know. I am no King yet."
Thor chuckled and kissed Loki once more.
"Not yet." He smiled, dragging the man up and out of the room to find the King of Jotunheim; father of Loki.
The sun set on Asgard that night, constellations of blues and greens and pinks blanketing the sky. But this was how the sun set on Asgard every night, and all was the same save one thing: No King was in Asgard this night. No, the rightful King of Asgard was in the Jotunheim with his tiny Frost Giant equal and child, sleeping on a bed of furs.
In the morning, the sun would rise on Asgard as it did every day, but this time, it would rise above a new empire; The empire of King Thor and his Jotun Queen (much to his dismay), Loki. It would rise above a new Asgardian child, learning to play and walk between his parents; A Frost Giant and an Aesir.
And it would be Prince Valandir's birthday.