The Long Game
Chapter 1 -Doubt and Certainty
"Thor is banished. The line of succession falls to you. Until Odin awakens, Asgard is yours. Make your father proud, my king."
Frigga's soft words filled Loki's head as he tentatively wrapped his hands around Gungnir. The staff pulsed with warm seiðr through the gold plating, and Loki inhaled sharply as the magic of the staff, tied into the seiðr of Asgard, reached out with thin filaments that wrapped around his own body's seiðr, linking him into the power of the king of Asgard. Trying not to shake, he turned to Frigga and she smiled at him with pride. Loki's gaze slid to Odin, lying prone and helpless by his mother, and the warmth of the staff slipped away. This was too much, he had to get away from them.
Loki turned to the kneeling man who had given him Gungnir, Abjörn, Odin's personal servant and Royal Steward.
"Abjörn, gather the Lendmenn in Gladsheim, I must speak with them. I… I will be along presently to speak with them."
"Yes, your majesty," said Abjörn. Loki felt dizzy, and frightened, at the new form of address, and quickly nodded as Abjörn backed out of the room. He swallowed and glanced back at Frigga.
"Excuse me mother, I… I have a realm to care for."
Frigga nodded, "I know you will do well Loki."
Loki all but fled the room, Gungnir clenched in his hands. As he strode through Valaskjálf Palace, moving from the deep centre of the huge building towards the Eastern Wing where the Royal Family lived, the einherjar lining the corridors knelt to him. Loki couldn't decide if he should ignore it or acknowledge each one of them, so he just kept walking, trying to hide his anxious frown.
The Eastern Wing was where the chambers of the Royal Family were housed. Loki's chambers were near the top, soaring high above the city and giving him a glorious view of land and sky. Below his were Frigga's chambers, where she dressed and attended to her queenly duties. Beneath hers were Odin's chambers, where he normally slept with his wife, but they were deemed unsecure during the vulnerable Odinsleep. Thor's were the lowest of the four, he liked to be close to the Feasting Halls and Fire Hall, and the people in general. Loki entered the private conveyor which shot upwards towards his floor, mercifully alone for a moment. He clung to Gungnir tight as the floors flew past him in flashed of bright light, and refused to think about what had just happened, preferring to remember a day when he and Thor had spent a day just going up and down this conveyor instead of going to their lessons. The memory just made him ache now.
The conveyor came to a gentle stop and Loki stepped out onto his floor. Normally the corridor was empty save for the occasional cleaning servant. Today it was lined with einherjar, all of whom knelt as soon as he appeared. Loki paused and acknowledged Abjörn was very efficient at his organisation duties. He swallowed hard and kept walking, head held up as he went to his chambers. The doors recognised him and opened smoothly. Loki walked inside and managed to stay calm until the door shut behind him with a boom that made him jump. Gungnir fell to the floor with a clatter and his hands trembled before him. Not two hours ago these hands had been blue and etched with Frost Giant markings, and now these hands held Asgard in their grip, honour bound to protect it.
Loki felt his chin wobble pathetically as tears stung his eyes. This was all wrong, Loki had only wanted to delay Thor's coronation, to show that Thor needed more time to mature. He hadn't wanted war, banishment and the throne in his possession.
Although, he realised with a slightly hysterical giggle, if Thor had not been banished, he still would have been made king this day once Odin fell into sleep. So really, this was the only way to protect Asgard from Thor's oafish rule.
That didn't mean Loki was a better choice right now! How could his mother expect this of him when he had just learned he was a monstrous Frost Giant? Worse, he was an abandoned runt of the Frost Giants. The scum of scum. Did she really think her words of Odin having a purpose for all he did was enough for Loki? Odin had done plenty for reasons Loki had never forgiven him for, that did not explain a thing, it did not justify anything.
Loki's head fell forwards and his fingers sank into his hair as his breathing started to come in sharp bursts. He was a Jötun. But he had to be a king. Asgard needed a king, but it had never wanted a king in the form of Loki. They wanted Thor, golden, bright and loveable, not secretive, quiet, sneaky Loki. The realm was probably expecting him to talk them straight into trouble and never once would they consider that he could talk them out of it.
Loki was used to keeping his own counsel, no one really listened unless he spoke at the right time, but right now he had no idea what to do. The court would fight his every decision, certain he was out for trouble, and they were on the verge of war with Jötunheim –which was admittedly somewhat his fault –so Asgard needed complete stability.
Stability from him, the self-declared God of Mischief and Chaos. The idea was laughable.
Loki inhaled deeply, trying to force his breathing to ease. He pulled his hands from his hair and a sob rose up in his chest, but he refused to let it out. He had a limited amount of time to gather himself and it was not enough to have a full blown panic attack. Besides, it was unbecoming of a king to sob like a child.
Loki rubbed at his mouth as he walked into his bed chamber, thinking about what Odin had told him. Why had he been left to die? Because he was too small? Loki towered over most Aesir, and for all he knew, he was not done growing by Jötun standards, he knew nothing about their biology. Besides, he had met Laufey and he was no great stature among his guards. What had been so repugnant about Loki that he was condemned to die before his life had barely begun?
At least now he understood why he had never been able to match up to Thor, Odin's natural child. Odin could protest all he wanted, but he would never have allowed a Frost Giant sit upon his precious throne. And now, ironically, there was no choice. A Frost Giant had to sit on the throne or the kingdom would be in danger. Loki had to keep the people who had raised him from fighting with the people who had spawned him. And absolutely none of them wanted anything to do with him. Loki let out a sound that attempted to be indignant and offended, but it caught in his throat and came out as a sob. He covered his face with his hands and swallowed the sobs. He felt too warm and his breathing was ragged as he struggled to catch it. He ripped off his long jacket and his shirt, throwing them away as he tried to stop the anger consuming him. His eyes roamed around his bright bedchamber and fell on the full length mirror in the corner. The glass appeared frosted over and for a second his heart stopped as he looked around for the invading Frost Giant that had done that. Then he remembered himself and shook his head, going to the mirror. The lack of reflection was a message, a call for his attention. Loki brushed his fingers across the X-shaped symbol carved into the frame and whispered,
"Sigyn. Sigyn I need you."
There was a long pause, during which he leaned on the frame, brow almost touching the opaque glass. He prayed he had not been heard by her ladies. Then the mirror shimmered and a voice called,
"Stand back, I'm coming through."
Loki relaxed and stepped back. A hand emerged through the shimmering glass and Loki caught it, helping Sigyn through the mirror. She was in her nightdress, the low-cut one that usually distracted Loki from everything, and her cream coloured hair was in disarray.
"I woke you," he stated, not at all apologetic as he took her hands. He was far too relieved that she had been in her bedchambers, trying to reach him.
"I was awake," Sigyn said, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and kissing him. "I was hoping you'd answer my message, I was so worried about you." She cupped his cheek and examined his face, furrowing her brow in concern, "What's happened? You look so pale. I haven't seen you like this since… Is it the Frost Giants? Have they declared war after their infiltration of the Vault? How did they get in? Has Thor done something stupid?"
Loki reached up and cupped her face, smoothing his thumbs over her lips to gently silence her as he tried to think. Now she was here, he wanted to pretend nothing had happened, but he knew he could not. He had to tell her the truth. Anyone else he would not care, but Sigyn deserved to know what she had bedded. Taking in a trembling breath, Loki rested his head on her shoulder, pushing her hair out of the way and inhaling her scent. "Something has happened and now I am King of Asgard."
To her credit, Sigyn did nothing but tighten her arms around him. "How?"
Loki lifted his head and looked at her straight in his eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, then leaned in and kissed her hungrily, knowing that once he spoke, he would never get to kiss her again. He turned them around, one hand working into her hair and backed her up into the nearest post on his bed. His hands slid down the slope of her shoulders, skimming her chest to hold her at the waist. Sigyn moaned quietly and grabbed at his hair, shifting so their bodies were pressed tight against each other.
"Mmmm… your majesty," Sigyn purred when they pulled apart. "Do you really think you can distract me like that?"
Loki blinked in surprise, then chuckled and gently bumped his brow against hers. "Oh no. Never. But I'm afraid… you're going to be angry when I tell you about what else has happened."
"I've been angry before and we've dealt with it. Why would this be any different?"
Loki swallowed, "Thor has been banished, that is why I am king. Odin fell into the Odinsleep. And… and I am not sure I can handle this."
He cursed himself for being a coward. Sigyn looked at him in shock and confusion,
"Thor has been banished? Odin actually cast his heir out? Where to? Why did he –wait! Why would that anger me?"
"Because I don't want this responsibility!" Loki burst out, "Because I'm a coward. I'm afraid that I cannot handle this, it's too much, I never wanted this! I never wanted this!"
Sigyn shushed him softly, catching his head in her hands and trying to calm him down.
"Loki, look at me."
Loki's eyes snapped up to meet hers, her bright amber eyes boring into him. Loki shouted at himself to tell Sigyn the truth; that he was Jötun and he was so afraid of losing her. Sigyn's eyes scrutinised him for a moment, and then she said,
"Whatever you are really hiding from me, I expect you to tell me in time. If you fear it will cost you my love, I need to know what it is so I can correct you. Now, tell me how Thor came to be banished. And no, you can't keep anything from me," She smirked, "I am your wife, you have no secrets from me."
Loki smiled in faint amusement. Anyone else could make that claim and they would be wrong, but with Sigyn it was true. Loki had no secrets from her, she knew him more intimately than any other person in the Nine Realms. No one else could read through his lies like she did. Any secrets were ones they kept together. Like the fact that they were married. That was a secret neither of them wanted exposed the wrong way.
Sigyn stroked his hair and kissed him soothingly,
"Come here and talk to me." She sat on Loki's bed and encouraged him to lie on his back with his head in her lap. Her fingers slipped under his scalp and began to massage, coaxing him to relax. Loki hummed with pleasure as she dug at the tendons in his neck, gently undoing the knots.
"So," Sigyn prompted, "The coronation was cancelled because of an invasion of Frost Giants and the dignitaries from the other realms, including myself, were harried back to our realms without much explanation. Let us start there."
Loki groaned. "Must we?"
Sigyn gave him a pinch to the scalp and he yelped, "Ow! Alright, Thor was unhappy about the Frost Giants, they spoiled his coronation day and then when he wanted to retaliate, father cancelled the coronation because he didn't think Thor was ready."
"Well he isn't," Sigyn snorted. Loki smiled, relaxing again.
"I… may have led him to the conclusion that going to Jötunheim was a good idea. And… I was also the one who let the Frost Giants in in the first place."
Sigyn took a moment to process the information. "I… see."
Loki waited, unwilling to continue until she spoke. Finally, she said slowly,
"Loki… I have never been against your love for mischief. It's a part of why I love you. And… I do not mind when you seek just to cause a bit of chaos. However… if you do not explain your actions adequately very quickly I'm going to be furious with you."
Loki's hand snapped up and grabbed her wrist, as if that would make her stay, blurting out, "I was worried about Thor's abilities as a king. He's reckless and arrogant, but no one would believe me if I talked about it. So I had to show them."
"So you let the Frost Giants in with the sole purpose of ruining Thor's big day, so that you could trick him into doing something so momentously stupid that he got himself banished?"
"… well I did not intend for him to be banished. But, more or less, yes." Loki offered her a weak grin. Sigyn let out a huffy sound as she looked at the wall, still massaging Loki's scalp. If she kept it up, he would probably fall asleep.
"So, in essence, it was a usual game of yours that got even more out of hand than usual."
"Uh. Yes. That's about it."
Sigyn sighed and shook her head, "You're as much of a fool as Thor, just in a different way. Asgard is utterly doomed."
Loki winced, "That's comforting Sigyn, really."
"Don't talk. I'm thinking."
Loki obliged, remaining silent and growing sleepy under her hands. In Sigyn's lap it was easy to pretend he had not heard those awful truths from his father, had not been handed the Gungnir in the darkness of his father's chambers as the last resort. Here he felt certain of his place and of being loved. At least with Sigyn, he knew if he disappointed her, she would not stop loving him, she would just demand he do something to make up for it.
"All right, this is what will happen," Sigyn announced. Loki blinked up at her blearily. She had that stern expression on her face that he loved getting rid of with kisses and teasing. "You will rule Asgard until your father comes back from his Odinsleep in a day or so. Then you will tell him what you did, and accept his punishment. If you do well, he'll be angry, but will also be proud. That means he'll hopefully give you a punishment of the Thor kind, rather than the Loki kind."
"You mean I'll be punished allowed to reclaim my honour through it rather than being humiliated?"
Sigyn nodded, "Exactly."
"And there is no way I can get out of telling him?"
Sigyn shook her head, frowning, "Not that I can think of. Your actions got two guards killed. I'm more distressed by that."
"Hmm… I should make sure their families are given a proper wergild."
"Out of your fortune, not the Royal Treasury."
"Why do you even care? You have little love for the Aesir."
"Because my husband," Sigyn bent down and kissed his brow, "Whatever happens here with Odin and Thor, you will be my Prince Consort in Vanaheim when the time comes, and I won't have you acting like people's lives can be thrown away."
Loki stroked her cheek from the awkward angle, smiling slightly, "I really should tell father I married you, he'll probably decide you're the perfect influence on me."
"Hmmm… one thing at a time my love."
Loki saw the turning down of her mouth and stroked her cheek again, "Sigyn… we will be married in the eyes of Asgard and Vanaheim one day, not just in private. And then we will have a home together, and have as many children as you want. I promise, we will manage it one day, even if I have to tell Odin I've been sleeping with you for centuries and let him kill me for it."
Sigyn nodded, "I know. I just wish we could be that now. I hate hiding. Odin's not even the problem, it's my parents, my realm, that stand in our way –if your parents were really determined about a marriage with me they'd have pushed my betrothal to Thor. My people just expect me to be a good and proper princess and not have any desires or longing or-"
Loki gently shushed her, "We'll figure it out. Maybe this our chance. Once Jötunheim is dealt with by father, I will still be the Crown Prince and his heir until Thor returns."
"Wait, so Thor isn't banished forever?" Sigyn asked in confusion. Loki paused and thought about it. When it had happened Loki had been shocked, unable to look at Odin as he had been ordered back to Valaskjálf. Then he had been reeling from everything that had happened, his skin colour change, Thor's banishment, then the truth of his race and Odin collapsing. It was only when Frigga had said to hope for Thor's return that he had even realised that it was possible.
"Odin threw Mjölnir through the Bifrost after Thor. Why would he do that if he didn't want Thor to have a chance to return?"
"What do you think Thor must do to return home?"
"I don't know, he acted the way he always does, but this time it wasn't acceptable."
"You knew he would be in trouble," said Sigyn removing her hands and resting them on the bed as she looked down at him.
"I hoped only that he would demonstrate his immaturity, not to start a war over something as stupid as being called 'little princess'."
"Oh, what a terrible insult," sneered Sigyn. Loki flashed her a grin, "So, he did… what exactly in response?"
Loki grimaced, "He slaughtered about two hundred."
Sigyn's face lost any humour it might have had. "What?"
Loki sat up and reached for her, "Sigyn, I need you to help me now, not think about Thor. As much as I love him, there is nothing to be done about him right now."
Sigyn looked furious, but nodded, taking his hands. "Alright, but answer me this, did you provoke Thor into fighting on Jötunheim in any way?"
Loki shook his head, "I tried to slow us down, but Heimdall just let us pass, and then I tried to talk us out, but then that Jötun scum made a stupid remark and Thor started fighting them."
Sigyn leaned in so they were eye to eye, "Then you deserve that throne more than Thor ever will."
Loki's stomach gave a nervous twist and he looked down, "Do you think I can handle this?"
Sigyn bent her neck to kiss him. "Of course I do. You just need to put aside something for the betterment of all. Forget what you have done to cause Thor's banishment, because it does not matter right now. He is gone, and you are here and you are still Asgard's prince and for now you are its king."
"The court will hate this. The Warriors Three will hate this –and I don't even want to think about Sif's reaction."
"I do," Sigyn smirked, "That pompous bitch could do with a surprise or two."
Loki hid a grin at her words, but quickly sobered,
"It will look like I am usurping the throne. It was all done in the darkness of father's bedchamber, unlike if it were Thor, where it would have been celebrated with a grand coronation. It will look like I got Thor banished and made Odin sleep so I could take the throne."
"That's ridiculous, you may be powerful but they can't think you could harm Odin like that. Why has Frigga not spoken to the council, why hasn't she presented you with Gungnir in front of everyone?"
"She is afraid for father. She believes this Odinsleep is different. She will not leave his side until he awakens, and she fears it will be… she fears he may not awaken."
Sigyn drew in a deep breath, resting her brow on his. "Oh Loki… I am so sorry. You may have lost both your brother and your father in one day."
'I already have lost them.' Loki thought to himself, closing his eyes. He stirred when Sigyn kissed his eyelids carefully and then murmured against his brow,
"Listen to me Loki, you can do this. You know politics better than Thor, you were raised to be the Chief Lendr Maðr of Asgard, the only difference now is that you get to decide what to do, instead of just hoping you'll be heard. All you have to do is resist the urge to cause mischief. Prove to the court, to your father, that you can do this most challenging of tasks, and I promise you, they will see you for the great man that I know you are."
"And if I fail?"
"The only way you can fail in my eyes is by not trying."
Loki inhaled deeply and opened his eyes. He reached up and skimmed two fingertips along her jaw. Sigyn met his eyes and Loki leaned in to press a soft kiss on her lips. She let him take his time with the kiss, slowly deepening it as his fingertips slid down her neck to push at the strap of her nightgown, pushing it over her shoulder and trailing down the skin he exposed, spreading his hand over her breast. She hummed, then reached up and caught his hand.
"Loki, we don't have time right now. You probably have to be somewhere, don't you?"
Loki groaned in frustration, "Yes, the council needs to know what has happened. I need to make a speech about my intentions."
"Then go and do that. Be a king." Sigyn cupped his cheek and rested her brow against his, "I'll be here when you come to bed tonight, and I'll look after you then."
Loki swallowed and nodded. He did not want to leave, but he had to. With a great effort, he made himself get off the bed and with a wave of his hand, he was washed and dressed in his best clothes, with his ceremonial helmet. He called Gungnir to his hand and took hold of it. He held it tight and turned to Sigyn.
"How do I look?" he asked, recognising a second too late that Thor had asked him that question only yesterday. It did not shock him that Sigyn gave him the answer he had given Thor.
"Like a king."
Loki smiled faintly, ignoring the twist in his chest and kissed her one last time before she walked through the mirror and he turned to his chamber doors. He inhaled deeply and then assumed an inscrutable expression. The doors opened and he walked out to do what he had to.
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