Chapter 4: The Strength to Rule

Loki stood before the casket, watching his skin change color. He felt, or heard, his father - his father? - behind him.

"Am I cursed?" the conversation began.

Odin remembered, of course. Odin remembered, and understood that Loki was telling him this was a conversation long overdue.

And finally, Odin admitted what was becoming increasingly obvious. Loki was Jotunn.

If only he had known.

Loki let his pain and anger get the better of him, just for a moment. He stood over the Allfather and pressed the god with his words, feeling that for once, his words might make an impression on this man of stone.

"No matter how much you claimed to love me, you couldn't have a frost giant on the throne of Asgard!"

And wasn't that an irony? Odin fell, then, leaving Loki without answers, without help, with only the knowledge of what he was and the responsibility of the crown.

The crown he should never have had. Loki, the god of mischief. Loki, the Jotunn. Lessons about confidence in the rulers of Asgard, about the importance of stability, rang in his head.

What was Loki supposed to do now?

Panicked, he called for the guards. He needed this man, father or not, and Odin might be slipping away.

There was so much more Loki needed to ask.

Why did you not tell me, when Hel was born? Why, when Sigyn left me? Why, when Hel began to die? Why did you let me believe it was my fault I was a monster? That my precious Hel would never grow up?

Well, it was not the fault of his decisions. It was the fault of his nature.

Loki looked at himself in the mirror in his chambers. The blue skin, the red eyes. They were those of Asgard's great enemy, Laufey. The king who would have destroyed Midgard, who was stupid enough to continue his conquest when the warriors of Asgard faced him, who could not hold back his bitter insults to Thor when it would have saved his people from devastation. What face was this for a king?

But they were also the features of Hel.

It all made sense now. Hel was half frost giant. He had never read about anyone with her ailment because hybrids were virtually unknown. He suspected they rarely survived to term, let alone to grow into articulate children, able to speak of their symptoms. His magic had not harmed her. In fact, it was very likely that his magic kept her alive far past the age that she would otherwise have lived. And it was magic that allowed her to endure on Niflheim, to create a place for herself there.

Of course she thrived in the cold and dark. And she was a good ruler over Niflheim. She was the most resourceful and intelligent creature he had ever known. She bore up so well to the demands of her destiny.

The thought of his daughter gave him heart. If she, young as she had been, could rule a realm when fate thrust it upon her, surely her father could do the same.

Surely he must. He could not fail her.

Asgard needed a king better than Laufey, better than Thor. Asgard needed a king who could think. Who could do what was right, regardless of personal feelings.

Loki steeled himself to do what he must.

For the good of his realm. For Asgard.


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A/N: There will be more about this version of Hela and her realm in upcoming chapters of Midnight Mystery OneShots, but that is part of my FrostIron series, which is best read beginning with Poison in the Blood or Crystalline Alignment.