Chapter 68 –Looking to the Future, Seeing into the Past
For the first time in weeks, Loki stood at his balcony and actually looked at the city sprawling beneath his feet. Only days past it had been a smoking wreck, but Aesir were strong, and when put to work they were efficient –something Loki had forgotten when he had been surrounded by the stagnant opulence of the palace.
There were still glaring issues, the observatory was still in rubble, roofs collapsed, walls shattered, but the city looked like a dressed wound and not a gushing cut.
It would heal well; if Loki could lead them right.
A shriek of surprise made Loki turn sharply. Abjörn stood in the middle of Loki's bedchambers, holding a tiny wolf cub.
"What? I-" the man gasped, holding the cub away from himself even as it whimpered.
"You scared him," said Jörmungandr sharply, reaching out for the cub. "Fenrir goes wolf when he's scared." He took Fenrir from Abjörn and settled him against his shoulder, rubbing his black fur as if trying to burp him, all the while glaring at Abjörn. "You're mean, go away!"
"My prince-" Abjörn started, but Jörmungandr flared up,
"Not my name! Go away, you upset the baby." Indeed, Fenrir was whimpering loudly. Loki made himself smile in amusement, rather than take Abjörn's head off. He was getting better at letting others near his sons. After all, if he was to rule right, he couldn't keep the boys with him every moment, no matter how much he wanted to.
"It's your title Jörmungandr, it goes before your name," he called, rubbing his thumb into his other palm as he walked to them. "People call you prince, because you are one."
"I like my name," said Jörmungandr, sticking out his tongue and hugging Fenrir close.
"Good, I'm glad I picked it." Loki eased Fenrir into his hands and held him close. In a few moments, Fenrir shifted back into his Aesir form, half dressed. "Now, Abjörn is only here to help, you saw him dressing me, and now it's you and your brother's turn."
"Don't like those clothes. Want to wear my shirt."
"I already said no. You must wear what Abjörn has brought. Come Jörmungandr, that shirt is old, it needs to be washed." Loki reached out and tugged at the sleeve of his own shirt that Jörmungandr refused to change out of.
"My shirt!" Jörmungandr shrieked, which made Fenrir shift again to blind cub.
"Now who's upsetting the baby?" asked Loki irritably. They were short on time but Loki needed both boys to be with him for this, his first public address since the civil war. He also didn't want to upset them, yet if they were going to learn to be princes, they needed to see and be seen. Loki wasn't sure what was best for them in these circumstances, he had never thought beyond getting them back.
Lightly scratching Fenrir's furry belly, Loki crouched down in front of Jörmungandr and looked him straight in the eyes.
"Jörmungandr, do you remember what I told you about Afi Odin being king, and how I was a prince."
Jörmungandr, red eyed, nodded.
"Do you remember I told you about the big hall with all the people in it, who I would wave to and smile at with my brother?"
Another, meeker, nod.
"Now you told me you would like to do that too. Has that changed?"
Jörmungandr shook his head, looking away.
"Well, that's what we're going to today. But everyone will be well dressed, and I want my brave, brilliant boy to look his best, so that everyone can see how handsome he is." Loki affectionately pinched Jörmungandr's chin, making him giggle at the ticklish sensation. "So, come, I'll help you dress, and we'll let Abjörn dress Fenrir."
As if recognising his name, Fenrir's fur retracted into his skin and he quickly became a boy once more. Loki smiled down at him, then passed him to Abjörn, who did his best to hide his unease.
"Relax Abjörn, even if he does change back, he's got no teeth," Loki said cheerily, already lifting the shirt off Jörmungandr. "Now, Jörmungandr, Abjörn is a very, very good dresser –but as you know, Fenrir is a squirmer. So, who do you think will dress who faster?"
Jörmungandr looked between Loki and Abjörn who gave a little wry smirk, recognising the game easily from when Frigga had played it on Thor and Loki when they had been younger.
"You!" said Jörmungandr to Loki, twirling his fingers against his sides awkwardly.
"Shall we race?"
Jörmungandr nodded with a grin.
"All right. Three… two… one… go!"
After that, they were ready in five minutes, Loki and Jörmungandr beating Abjörn and Fenrir by a shoe.
"I look like you papa!" Jörmungandr squealed when he saw himself in the mirror. Indeed, with his hair combed back, and the green and black clothes, he did look rather like Loki, save for his distinctive coloured skin and eyes. Fenrir too, was dressed in green and black. They looked as Loki had imagined them over and over in his mind when he dreamed of bringing them home. Smiling, he squeezed them both close for a moment, then stood up and took his helm from Abjörn and put it on. He took up Gungnir and turned to the mirror for one last inspection.
He looked like himself once more, and he found himself smiling as Jörmungandr took his hand, staring at their shared reflections. He remembered Sigyn's words to him, a year ago when he had first become king and he had asked her,
"How do I look?"
"Like a king."
For the first time, he believed her.
Sverrir was waiting for him at the door to the throne room, he took Fenrir in his arm and offered his free hand to Jörmungandr, who reluctantly swapped Loki's hand for Sverrir's.
"You'll be right next to me the whole time," said Loki soothingly. Then he banged on the floor with Gungnir and the doors opened. Loki took a deep breath, then strode inside. At once there was a burst of applause and Loki heard Jörmungandr squeak and he felt a pair of arms wrap around his leg. His determined stride broke and he looked at his son, who stared up at him in fright. Loki sighed, smiling faintly, and he picked Jörmungandr, set him on his hip and continued on to the throne. The applause stuttered as people stared in fascination at the king and the boy.
Loki set Jörmungandr down as they reached the throne and passed his hand to Sverrir, who winked at Jörmungandr and stood as close as he could to the throne with the boys. Loki turned to face the huge crowd and surveyed the crowd.
"These past days have been some of the most distressing Asgard has faced within its borders," he said, fingers tight around Gungnir. "And we have lost much. Some people have lost their lives, others have lost family, yet more have lost homes, or titles, or honour. All of this must be addressed.
"As soon as the city has been cleared and every body recovered, there will be a funeral, where we shall send those who defended my kingship, and Asgard's stability, to Valhalla." No one needed to know that Valhalla no longer existed –not yet anyway. It would be one blow too many for the people. Loki had not even told Sverrir and Kvasir that. "The city shall be rebuilt, forged anew with honour to the past, as well as looking to the future. All who lost their homes are welcome to stay within the palace until their houses are restored."
Murmurs of approval rippled through the room.
"As to the traitors who rebelled against the crown, they shall face trial, and I shall pass judgement upon every one of them in accordance with the law. I would order that no one loyal to me attempt to take personal vengeance for their betrayal. They will be dealt with by the law of Bor, of Odin, of Loki. Equally, those who proved themselves loyal with exemplary bravery and strength shall be honoured and glorified as only Asgard can do for its greatest champions." Loki turned to a small group of people who stood to his right, "The people here went above and beyond the call of duty to their king, and I will reward them with due gratitude. Come."
The men and women formed into a line and one by one they ascended the stairs and knelt to Loki, who gifted them with a dagger, engraved with his name and title, with his helm etched into the handle. They were small but fine, luckily the palace smiths had been able to forge them with minimal difficulty.
"Receive this dagger as a symbol of my gratitude for your bravery, and carry it with pride."
At last the woman Ástríthr knelt to accept his dagger. Loki reached out and removed the cuffs on her wrists, "Ástríthr, you led your fellow thralls in defence of your king, such action merits rewards. Henceforth you will be known as Lady Ástríthr, and I shall instil upon you your own home and freedom of action. I will also make you a Lendr Kona, to serve on my council for the benefit of Asgard."
Ástríthr swayed in shock, then pressed her fist to her heart and bowed her head, "You honour me my king, I shall serve you faithfully."
"I know you will." Loki hoped Sverrir was right about her. He waited until Ástríthr had joined the others and then lifted his fist above his head, "The defenders of Asgard!"
A cheer rose up, fists punching the air and feet stamped in approval. Loki opened his fist and lowered his hand down, damping down on the cheers. Loki swallowed and took a deep breath. This was it.
"There have been rumours about monsters and evil forces targeting the family of Bor, about deals with the death queen, and unnatural things. The truth is that there has been a blood curse upon the Bor family for generations, placed upon the line by the seiðrkona Gullveig, of who you may have heard. The curse was set to destroy the house of Bor from the inside, and it almost succeeded."
The silence was deafening as everyone listened to Loki's words. He had gone over his story a thousand times, knowing he would never be able to stop all the questions, but willing to try and halt as many as he could.
"There was a point in my life when I was held prisoner by dark forces, trapped and without means of escape. During that time… I begat three children."
Loki extended his arm to his sons, "My eldest son, Jörmungandr and my youngest son, Fenrir, are here before you. And I had a daughter, the Death-Queen Hel… my Hela. How I begat her is a matter of temporal causation paradoxes, which I shall spare you the details of, but rest assured she is mine.
"After five years of imprisonment, Odin Allfather found a way to free me, but in doing so the curse caused my sons, natural shape-changers, to become trapped inside warped forms of their other selves. My eldest became the World-Serpent and my youngest became the Devouring Wolf. Their minds slept and the dark seiðr used to trap them grew them into the huge beasts that some of you saw during the attack by Tyr and his dogs. Gullveig sought to use Fenrir to kill Odin and see Asgard burn from the inside, taking everything with her. Luckily I was able to stop it –I gave up my reformed body of seiðr, exchanged it for the power to stop Gullveig and save Asgard. I am back to what I was before I created the Casket of Primal Fire –yet I would have given more to restore my sons to me."
He beckoned Jörmungandr and Sverrir to his side and took Fenrir into his arm.
"Asgard, behold your new princes, Prince Jörmungandr Lokason and Prince Fenrir Lokason."
Sverrir and Kvasir led the cheering of the people, who were stunned, but seemingly delighted with this good news. Jörmungandr clung to Loki's jacket, his big pale eyes surveying the people as they knelt to the new royal family, a chorus of 'Lokason! Lokason!' rising up. A surge of pleasure and pride flooded Loki towards his people, and finally he felt like he might be able to rule and they might acquiesce to be ruled by him.
It was a good feeling.
A search through the Vanir boxes had yielded a player for the recordings, which Thor had taken straight to Fury, ignoring the other items like dresses, small figurines, knives, a tea set and a collection of other boxes which were far more securely locked than the first ones. With quick hands he set up the device which would project the recording into the air, but otherwise worked on a similar principle as the movies here on Midgard.
Picking one of the cartridges at random, Thor slotted it in and switched the player on. At once it projected a picture. Well at first it was darkness, but the sound of clicks and muffled hums, then –
"Again with the recorder Sigyn?" asked Loki's voice.
The picture shifted to show Sigyn in alarming close-up, obviously setting the recorder up, then she pulled away and let the recorder go. It floated away from her and hovered just at her head level, far enough to show her in a cumbersome, dark dress with her hair pulled into careful plaits and curls under a wide brim hat that matched her dress.
"Why not?" she asked to an unseen Loki, "Don't you want to remember our trips?"
"Of course I do," said Loki, walking into the shot and revealing himself to be equally oddly dressed, in a dark doublet and a red hat perched on his hair, and tight short trousers over long green socks. "But sometimes I think you're more interested in that thing than me."
"Oh," Sigyn cooed, throwing her arms around Loki with a giggle, "Are you jealous?"
"Never," said Loki, pressing his lips to hers for a moment. Sigyn laughed as she pulled away and looked down between them.
"That codpiece is… interesting to feel."
"It's a pain to wear," grumbled Loki, fiddling with it. "Honestly, are they so infatuated with their cocks they need to wear these?"
"Apparently," Sigyn smoothed her hands over his shoulders, "Still, you didn't like the clothes in Alexandria either."
"That big ball on my head was uncomfortable!"
Sigyn tapped his nose chidingly, "Turban, it's called a Turban, and it's a sign of status."
"And the dress was heavy."
"But you matched me so well," she purred. "Now stop grumbling and come along. That king of kings –or whatever he styles himself as these days is having some sort of feast."
"I thought it was his son –although aren't those king of kings meant to be celibate?"
Sigyn shrugged as Loki squirmed a bit more in his clothes, "Well, let's find out."
She started to walk away, but Loki pulled her back, "Uh, you might have set it to hover, but it's still visible, and it's static." He jerked his head at the recorder, and his hat fell off. He swept it off the ground with a muttered, "Damn this thing, I hate Midgardian clothes!"
"At least you can free your legs," said Sigyn pulling out a small button pad and pointing it at the recorder. It must have done what was needed because she smiled and put the pad away, saying, "There, now it's incognito and set to follow me. Come on, let's go and get something to drink, I'm dying of thirst."
The recorder followed them at a steady pace as they wandered through some forestry, with Stark saying,
"I could invent that, easy. Be the next level of selfie mania with that thing –oh my god is that for real?"
Loki and Sigyn had entered a bustling city, with market stalls and people calling out their wares. Everyone was dressed in a similar way to the two visitors, perhaps less ornate, but not much less so.
"Must be Renaissance Rome," said Coulson turning to Fury, "Really does look like home movies sir."
Fury nodded, "Thor, look through them all and come back to me with a report, if they're just sightseeing, I don't care, but if you feel there's something else going on, besides your family issues which seem to be the only thing and are of no interest to me or SHIELD, then let me know."
Thor nodded, feeling oddly uncomfortable as he looked back to the projection, where Loki was kissing Sigyn, a big grin on his face. The thought crossed his mind that he couldn't recall seeing that smile in a very long time.
A flare of anger shot through him and he stabbed the switch of the projector with his finger harder than needed.
He didn't wonder what it was he was angry about.
The tentative knock on the door broke Loki's concentration as he read through the latest reports from Reifer and Dag about the progress in the clearing of the damage done by the Bifrost –the fighting had done very little in comparison, but the damage to life had been almost as devastating. At the noise, Jörmungandr lifted his head from where he sat on the floor drawing vaguely Ás shaped figures, staring at the door. The boy was equal parts fascinated and nervous of new people, and always reacted like a startled cat at the knock on the door.
"Come," Loki called, already knowing who it was. The door opened, and sure enough, Hlin stepped inside. Loki was surprised to see her in trousers, but most of the women in the palace had traded their dressed for trousers –he had a nasty feeling it was for their own protection as much as practicality. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, leaving her normally half hidden face exposed. She still shrank as if hiding behind it as she curtsied to him.
"My king summoned me."
"Yes, come and sit down." Loki waved a hand at the chair beside him. Hlin took it, but where she had once edged nearer to him, she sat back as far as she could. Loki sighed, "First of all, I would like to apologise for my behaviour the other day. I know you were trying to help, and I reacted poorly."
Hlin goggled at him and shook her head, "No, no my king, please don't apologise. I could see you were very anxious about your sons, I shouldn't have caught you off guard."
Loki smiled faintly at her and said, "Shall we forgive each other and be done with it?"
Hlin blushed and nodded, giving him a small smile. Loki inhaled and looked around at Jörmungandr, who was drawing again, and the basket where Fenrir was sleeping.
"Hlin, of all my mother's servants, you're probably the one I trust the most."
Hlin's face flushed even deeper and her smile widened, "Me?"
"Yes, and to that end, I would like you to become my sons' nurse."
Hlin's mouth fell open and she stared at him silently for a long moment –so long in fact Loki wondered if he had made the right decision. It had been Sverrir pointing that he couldn't carry the boys everywhere that brought it to light for Loki that he needed to set up carers for his sons. No matter what he wanted, he couldn't be with them every second, not if he wanted to keep them safe, he needed to get Asgard under his control absolutely. If he had had a choice, he might have used Frigga, but she was still unconscious and would be in no condition to look after the boys while she healed, although Eir was growing more hopeful by the day. The only other woman Loki trusted to give his sons the full time care they needed was Hlin, who he knew would be gentle with them.
It took Hlin a few tries before she could speak. "I would be honoured, but I have no experience being a nurse to children."
"I know that, but you won't be alone, there'll be other women to help you. I want you to be the Chief Nursemaid."
"Then why me?"
Loki glanced at Jörmungandr then back, "My sons have had a difficult beginning, they have never known more than myself and their mother in a single room, so this is all very new for them. I need someone with a gentle touch to look after them when I cannot. When my mother heals, I'm sure she will also want to look after them, but at this moment I need someone I know will have great patience and gentleness with my sons."
He reached out and touched her hand, watching her blush even harder. "Hlin, will you be my sons' nurse?"
Hlin nodded, finally looking him in the face.
"Yes, I would be honoured."
"Good, I'm glad. I'm having Abjörn convert one of the adjoining chambers to mine into a nursery, the one Thor and I had is too far away for my tastes, and I want my boys near. You'll have your own chambers attached to them."
There was a knock on the door as Hlin nodded. Jörmungandr hissed and in seconds he was wrapped around Loki's leg in his serpent form. Hlin's eyes widened in surprise, but then she smiled.
"Come!" called Loki, hiding his pleasure at her reaction. Dag entered, breathless as he said,
It was hard to believe that someone as dark as Heimdall could look so pale, but what little of his skin Loki could see under all the wrapping was palest brown. Even his eyes seemed dimmed as he looked up at Loki, blinking wearily.
"My king," he said, and he almost sounded relieved to see him.
"Heimdall, how do you feel?" Loki asked, an Aesir-Jörmungandr in his arms.
"I will be well soon," Heimdall murmured. Loki gave him a grin.
"I don't doubt it." His smile faded and he glanced around before looking down at Heimdall once more. "Do you remember what happened?"
"It's… it's almost a blur, I recall fighting someone, a traitor, but the face eludes me. The Bifrost… it's gone isn't it?"
"We'll rebuild it," said Loki quietly. "We'll make it as grand as it ever was, or grander still."
Heimdall gave a weak nod and his eyes fluttered shut. He needed to rest, but Loki had to ask him one last thing. He leaned in even closer, so his mouth was almost touching the gatekeeper's ear.
"Heimdall, can you see her?"
Heimdall's eyes opened slightly and he blinked up at Loki, who could not conceal how much he needed an answer.
"Yes, can you see her? Is she well? Tell me she's safe."
Please, please let it all have been a trick, let it have been a lie that he had fallen for.
Heimdall's golden eyes glazed as he stared through space towards Vanaheim. His brow furrowed and there was a hitch in his voice as he spoke.
"I cannot see."
Loki swayed, catching himself on the bed, "Is she dead?"
"I don't know –I cannot see Vanaheim. I cannot see it."
The machines monitoring Heimdall's vitals began to beep, calling Eir over to them as Heimdall repeated, "I cannot see anything. I cannot see anything!"
"Hush now, you'll recover your gaze in time I'm sure," said Eir in a gentle voice.
"What's happened, why can't I see Vanaheim? I can see all the other realms, but I cannot see Vanaheim!"
"You're injured, that's probably all it is," said Eir, looking to Loki for help, but Loki was backing away, clutching Jörmungandr tight as he realised why Heimdall could not see his home world.
"Papa? Papa!" Jörmungandr called, wrapping his arms around Loki's neck.
"It's gone. Vanaheim is gone," he whispered, sinking against the wall. "She's gone."
How long had she been crying?
It seemed like years.
Tears of fright, tears of grief, tears of helplessness, tears of pain.
Sigyn had forgotten there were so many things that could be expressed by crying.
Her fingers clawed uselessly at the collar on her neck, which bound her magic inside her, and rubbed her skin raw. It was a distraction from what was going on around her, because if she thought about what else was happening, she would be sick, and she hadn't eaten in weeks. She hadn't been clothed in weeks either, nor slept properly, and she had been threatened with death countless times.
Her mind was so addled she could barely recognise who was before her, who was around her and who she was herself. Long endless days of light, confounding her inner time-keeping, hours of aching silence broken only by her own pained whimpers, countless minutes of accusing dead eyes staring at her.
After weeks of torture, wherein they asked her the same damned question over and over again, they had dragged her from the cell they had kept her in, and stuffed her in a box. She had tried to scratch their eyes out, but they had laughed at her and slapped her face until she was dazed and then they'd locked her in the trunk.
How long she was held there, she didn't know, she spent much of it in a semi-conscious state, wishing she would just pass away to death –and giggling when she thought about meeting her step-daughter Hel. Then she became aware of something sharp against her skin, she managed to curl her fingers around it, it felt like a metal nail. Instantly she thought of stabbing someone with it, but as she was jostled, she realised that would do very little damage… but there might be something else.
It was very awkward trying to reach the collar with her arms folded against her, but she managed to press the nail point to the metal and start scraping. She worked quickly, who knew how much time she had. In her mind she formed the picture she was trying to etch into the metal –it didn't need to be deep, it just needed to be complete.
Kenaz… Thurisaz… Uruz.
Almost… almost there.
"Open the box."
No, not yet, she was nearly, nearly, yes!
Then she was tipped out of the box and she collapsed in a heap. She groaned and blinked hard to clear her vision –only to wish she hadn't.
Her mother's dead eyes stared out at her, and behind Skadi lay Njordr, lifeless eyes staring at nothing.
Sigyn's throat cracked as she wailed in horror, trying to scramble away. A hand grabbed her throat and forced her to be still.
"Delivered as agreed," came the rumbling voice of Yggdrasil. The man who called himself such strode into her line of sight and approached a dark, pale figure. "The last of the Asgardian puppets."
Sigyn squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again, trying to focus on the man he was talking to.
"Good. You've impressed me Yggdrasil," drawled a deep, reverberating voice that she recognised from one singular moment in her life. She had been little more than a child, on Alfheim studying with Berach, and Aetril had had a meeting with the leader of the Dökkálfar. The Duchess Deirbhile had snuck her in under her skirts to let Sigyn see monarchs at work.
She had only glimpsed him, but that voice was unmistakable.
Malekith, Lord of the Dökkálfar.
"I am not your servant, do not patronise me as such," snapped Yggdrasil, making Malekith turn to him. He smirked, but did not answer, instead he strode towards Sigyn, who tugged against the hand on her throat. Malekith gave a dismissive swipe of his hand, and Sigyn's throat was released. She fell forward, gasping for air, until Malekith's boots appeared under her eyes. She looked up at the pale face, and sat back on her heels, not even bothering to conceal her naked body. She was too far gone for that.
"You… you killed my parents. Why?"
Malekith's smirk widened, but it was Yggdrasil who answered.
"To end this farce of a monarchy. I told you already Sigyn, the end was nigh for your inbred faction of puppets."
Malekith rolled his eyes before looking at Sigyn again with a predatory sneer. "Let's not waste any more time, hold her down."
Sigyn could not hold back a cry as hands grabbed her arms and legs and dragged her onto her back. She kicked out, but the men were much stronger than her and she was exhausted, so she barely shifted their grip as they pulled her legs open.
"Wait, what are you doing?" demanded Yggdrasil. Malekith threw him a derisive look as he started undoing his trousers.
"What do you think I'm doing?"
"Wh –no! We don't do that," snapped Yggdrasil, "We are an honourable rebellion. We do not rape, we were going to kill her and put down her family's reign."
Sigyn nearly let out a shriek of laughter at that statement, but one of the masked Dökkálfar covered her mouth in a bruising grip.
"You don't," said Malekith, "But I have other plans."
"Plans that no longer concern you." Malekith turned away from him, "Kill him."
Yggdrasil roared with rage, but Sigyn could only see Malekith looming above her as he knelt between her legs.
"I'll make this brief," he told her bluntly. Sigyn's eyes widened, and she tried to kick out, to fight, to get away, but their hands were like vices on her body, and she couldn't, she couldn't-
Malekith grabbed her hips and Sigyn's body reacted before her mind did, throwing her head back and managing to sink her teeth into the hand on her face. The man yowled in pain and pulled away. Sigyn spat out a mouthful of blood and screamed,
"You will not win Malekith! I won't let you."
Malekith growled and grabbed her collar, using it to lift her up, making her shoulders twist as the other Dökkálfar held her arms down. He glared into her face.
"You've lost princess, now if you surrender to me, I will be considerate."
Sigyn glared at him, feeling her collar begin to heat against her skin, "Is that what you call this? Murder and rape?"
"A necessity. You rejected my offer of marriage, but I still need you to finish what I have begun."
Sigyn frowned, "What?"
Malekith opened his mouth, only to be distracted by a yell. Malekith looked around in time to see Yggdrasil cut down his men and run out the door.
"After him!" Malekith barked. Sigyn closed her eyes, willing Malekith to keep talking, to keep holding the collar, just a few more moments.
"Why not just kill me, I know you want my people for an army… do you really think they'll obey me if you rape me? Vanaheim does not recognise marriage by rape." Every use of the word made her want to throw up, but the collar was almost scalding against her skin and Malekith still had not noticed. The spell was working.
"No, it does not, but I've begun a process that requires a total conquest of you, body and soul. You can thank your parents for making this necessary." Malekith snapped, shoving her back down, "Now, enough talk! Let us be done with this."
Sigyn held her breath, focusing on the collar, and not his other hand touching her –he was still holding the collar, almost, almost.
"My lord!" cried one of the men as the collar burned red hot with seiðr as Kenaz sucked in Malekith's own power, weak as it was, he was still a natural seiðr user, and passed the power to Thurisaz, who rippled through the collar and cracked it, to obey the command of Uruz –Freedom!
"What!" Malekith roared in pain as the collar shattered in his hand, cutting and burning his flesh as Sigyn gasped in pain as her long buried seiðr coursed through her body and into her mind, flooding her vision with purple and blue. She did nothing to restrain it and it burst from her skin seeking liberation after being trapped for so long. The hands flew from her body and she was free! Free to run, free to fight, free to punish.
And punish she would.
All Sigyn's life she had been seen as a pawn for others to use in their machinations, but she was more than that. No one became Loki Odinson's lover and wife by being a pawn.
No one became Queen that way either.
Loki couldn't sleep.
His sons were curled up next to him in bed, but he felt the absence of another body, one that he would give anything to feel against him, curled around his back, hands lazily stroking his torso in a mix of possessiveness and contentment.
It had been another week since Heimdall had awoken and still he could not see Vanaheim. After an initial moment of despair, Loki had decided that until he knew otherwise, he would believe Vanaheim was still there, because he refused to believe that Sigyn was gone until he saw her body dead before him.
He shivered and tightened his arm around Jörmungandr, who snuffled and kicked the covers down the bed. Loki snorted in faint amusement, then ran his hand down to his stomach, brushing over the long, mangled scar that had reappeared with his restoration, the scar Sigyn had left behind from delivering Fenrir. He had only noticed it when Eir had scanned him, and was stunned to feel the familiar tugging sensation he always felt when he touched it back as if he had never lost it.
Eir had also quietly confirmed what Loki had known, that he was once more half-Vanir, half-Jötun. To his surprise, Loki had been more uncomfortable to think about his Vanir blood, than his Jötun. After meeting his mother and putting his grandmother down, Loki could only compare them to Laufey, Helblindi and Byleist and find the Vanir coming up short. Bergdís had gone mad with her quest for power, driven on by Gullveig, who had been so consumed by desire for vengeance, she had become as blood thirsty as an Aesir berserker. In comparison, Laufey had clearly been devastated by the loss of his wife and child, and both Helblindi and Byleist had surprised Loki with their rationality and intellect.
Sigyn had liked Byleist, she had asked Loki to give him a chance. Yes, Byleist had broken the fragile trust by stealing the casket, but Loki couldn't blame him, he would have done the same, especially if he was addicted to the Casket the way the Jötun were. On a whim, Loki brought his hand to hover above his face and focused on his fingertips. In the year since he had become king he had never tried this, but he could easily guess how to push away the illusion. Slowly his fingertips darkened and his nails blackened. The blue was almost black in the semi-darkness, but he could still make out the grooves and lines in his skin, denoting his bloodline.
He expected an instinctive stomach turn of revulsion, but it never came. Instead he felt little at all as he stared at his hand, the blue working its way down his arm. Loki's mind turned back to a year ago, when he had been on Jötunheim and been grabbed by the warrior. He brought up echoes of the horror and fear that moment had crushed him with, but that was all they were. Echoes.
After everything he had been through since that day, it seemed like being Jötun was no longer the end of the world. It wasn't a comfort, not at all, if it got out he would probably face more rebellions… but he felt like the knowledge would not haunt him like a shadow, trying to crush him with self-loathing. The people he cared about, his wife, his sons, his mother, his friends, they didn't care in the slightest what he was, so long as he was Loki.
Loki let the illusion –no, his other form –return and lowered his arm to his stomach. He wasn't sure how to control the Jötnar power, and he didn't want to give the boys frost burn. He stared up at the ceiling and his mind returned to Sigyn. As he remembered her bloodied, bruised body, he made a solemn vow to himself.
He would rule as a king, and be a father, but he would never stop searching for his wife.
He would scry every day, he would seek out paths to the other Realms, he would dig up the old ways of communication Asgard had used in times past. He would find her. And when he did he would make it clear to all that he was Sigyn's and Sigyn was his, and no one would ever part them again. Not Thor, not Vanaheim, not Skadi and Njordr. Not Odin. Not even the Norns. Not even Loki and Sigyn themselves.
Loki was tired of playing childish games of secrets and sneaking around.
It was time to grow up.
To Be Continued in the sequel
No More Shall We Play…
And that is it for a while.
As some of you may know today is the beginning of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I am participating for the first time. So it's going to be at least a month before you see anything more from me.
I would like to thank anyone who read this fic to the end, I know it was a long, and rather bumpy ride, and appreciate every single reader and reviewer so much, especially when I was having a really difficult time, because it made me feel like I was doing something right.
So I hope you enjoyed this final chapter, keep an eye out for the sequel in a few weeks, hope you all had a fun Halloween, and I will see you all in a while.