Hey hey guys. This one bit me at the beginning of the summer. I know, I know - yet another post-Avengers Loki fic featuring own characters and what-not. Hey, they're raving plot bunnies, what more can I say?
Plus I read the story of Sleipnir and kinda couldn't resist.
Working strictly off the films because I'm a rubbish fan and have never read the comics.
Anyway, without further ado, here is chapter one. It'll also be up on my LJ (prettyflicka . livejournal . com) Any characters you recognise, I don't own. I'll also do a glossary of the more technical horsey terms at the end.
Watch out for swearing.
I was lucky I was riding Bridie, my more sensible mount, when I found him. If I'd been riding Soiree, my batty Anglo-Arab, I'dve probably wound up in the ditch with him. Bridie jumped violently sideways as it was, almost unseating me (almost).
The Saturday my life did a backflip started off perfectly normally. I woke up at seven, switched off my alarm twice, got up, dressed and pulled my mid-length, wiry black hair back into a rough ponytail. At seven forty-five, I was ready to start on the stable chores.
I stepped out of the back door and pulled on my tall, well-worn yard boots. It's early spring and the air's still chill with the memories of winter, but for once, it wasn't raining. The cool breeze, flavoured with brine and washed with the sound of the English Channel blew over me gently. It's my favourite part of living by the sea – that and falling asleep every night, and waking every day to the sound of waves rather than vehicles on a main road.
The gravel crunched beneath my feet on the path from the house to the stables. The backing music to my mornings.
My yard has space for 18 horses, but it's just me so I try and keep the numbers down, especially at this time of year when I still keep them in at night. At the moment I only have eight – three are mine, the rest 'problem' liveries. There was the usual morning greeting of banging doors and whinnying for breakfast. Soiree, my dark bay Anglo-Arab, who I adore despite his eccentricities, did his usual trick of searching my pockets before trying to bite me when he found nothing. Cavalier, a tall, dark bay warmblood showjumper, didn't try to barge out the minute I shot his bolt back. His obedience training was paying off, I noted with pride.
That done, it was time for morning coffee in my cluttered little office. I checked my schedule for the day in my diary. A last session with Cavalier before lunch, and starting with Winter, a black cob that had arrived yesterday with an issue with trailers. Not my usual sort of problem, but one I was confident of fixing. Then the majority of my charges were turned out and I tacked up and took Bridie, my chestnut Irish Hunter, for a run.
Her hooves clattered cheerfully on the asphalt of the road, splitting the early morning. Bridie's fifteen now and a bit stiff in her hind legs, but still acts like a four year old. I sat calmly on her back, enjoying the quiet of the morning. The Channel still had its silver haze as it tripped along on my right, just visible over the cliffs and farmland and long tufts of grass. The air had yet to warm up and bit through my thin black fleece, but it was pleasant.
Bridie was as energized as I was by the morning hush. Once we hit our favourite bridleway, I took off the brakes and we flew along the grassy track, barely touching the ground.
There was no telling how long the guy had been in the ditch before we found him.
The usually calm Bridie was still snorting, straining her neck as she peered warily at the man below her, lying in a patch of stinging nettles.
My first instinct was to leave him there – not my problem.
I rode forward. Bridie sidestepped the spot with an expression of horror and tried to gallop off. I reined her in to a steady walk.
But I kept glancing back. (Not your problem) I said to myself, again and again.
But whose problem was it, out here in the middle of nowhere? It's hardly a well-trodden track at this time of year. The man could freeze…(it's not my problem…)
I turned Bridie around, trotted back and jumped off for a closer look.
He was stick-skinny and unhealthily pale, emphasised by a head of long, straight black hair. Dressed in nothing but a forest green t-shirt and pair of thin black trousers, he was almost invisible against the muck and greenery of the ditch. He appeared to be asleep despite his uncomfortable position.
(Where the hell did you come from?) The closest village is four miles away, the closest town eight. I did a mental checklist - I know everyone in the village by sight and this guy certainly wasn't one of them. I rarely went into town, true, but nobody walks eight miles in bare feet unless they're bloody desperate. Or drunk. Potentially both to fall asleep in a large nettle patch.
I slithered clumsily down the bank and came to rest at his side.
"Um…hello…mister? Funny place for a nap…" I prodded him a few times. "Look, mate, you'll catch cold if you stay out here…" I felt ridiculous. They guy might be a mass murderer for all I knew and I was sitting in a ditch with him and a horse.
He shifted ever so slightly. His brow contracted and emerald green eyes blinked open. Once. Twice. Thrice. "What…?" He sounded awful.
"Bad night?" I asked.
He winced as he moved to sit up, mostly because he'd used the patch of nettles as support.
"Easy." I let him grab my shoulder, instinctively looping an arm around his upper torso to help. His head came up and he met my blue eyes.
Face on, he wasn't too bad to look at. High cheekbones and thin brows gave him an almost sly look, and he had an ethereal quality to him, as though he wasn't quite of this world. But something had taken a toll on him. His eyes were ringed with shadows, his skin sallow, his hair greasy and unkempt. The leaves stuck in it weren't doing him any favours either. He looked feral.
Despite this, I held his gaze, not even feeling silly beneath my riding hat.
He broke first, and glanced around with unfocused eyes. "Where am I?"
"Um…England, about 10 miles away from Barnford. You must have a serious hangover."
"A serious what?"
(Christ the guy must have been hammered.)"Hangover…headache, nausea…what you're experiencing right now…"
He blinked again. "Hangover…" he said thoughtfully.
I gave up. "Well you can't stay in a ditch. Come on." I stood, with some difficulty on the slippery muck, and held out my hand. He stared at it for a second, then hesitantly took it. He towered over my five foot nine frame as I hauled him up the bank.
Bridie was still there, regarding ditch man warily.
Keeping on arm around the man's torso to steady him, I held out my hand. She stepped over to me, slowly. Extending her nose, nostrils blown wide, she sniffed tentatively at him.
I snuck a glance at the stranger. He was staring at her, almost as though sizing her up. Then he put out a hand. She sniffed it, whuffed once, and accepted his touch.
Bridie's reaction told me this man was something different. Not necessarily bad, but something to be wary of. I took a sideways glance at him. (Who are you?)
"If we go back to mine I can give you a lift home. Where do you live?"
His expression because thoughtful. Very thoughtful, and then suddenly clouded. "I…I don't recall…I'm sorry, I can't remember…" A hand like a vice landed on my arm. "Someone…I think whoever sent me here has also stolen my memories…" He looked genuinely panicked.
This was getting stranger by the minute. First, the man is lying in a ditch in the middle of nowhere, and now he claims to have had his memories stolen. It all sounded far too Men in Black for my liking. "Well, you're clearly familiar with horses. Can you remember your name?"
His expression cleared, and he nodded. "Yes…yes I do. It would seem that whatever took my memories left me with that at least."
He had a clipped accent. Private schoolboy clipped, like someone from a 1950s novel.
"So…what is it?"
"My name is Loki."
(That isn't very 1950s.)
"Yes. My name is Loki, I am certain of it."
(Someone's parents had a strange taste in baby names.)"Ok, Loki, my name is Niamh…we're going back to my house and you can try and remember anything else about yourself on the way."
As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted them. I don't have strangers in my house. Not in my house, my farm, my little sanctuary here on the edge of the world. I live alone, and I like it.
(But where the hell else am I supposed to take him? On a horse?)
I sincerely hoped Loki (Christ, what a name!) remembered his home address and telephone number on the way back, or my life just took a straight down nosedive. Minus the parachute.
There was a jarring impact, then nothing. That was all the man known as Loki recalled.
The next moment, it seemed, he was being shaken awake by a woman, a young woman with hair the raven black of his own hidden beneath some form of helmet and ice blue eyes. She swam in and out of focus, and he had to blink several times to clear his vision.
He appeared to be lying in a ditch. An orange horse stood above them, peering down at the scene with a hesitant curiosity, as though afraid to get too close.
He blinked again, tried to recall how he got here. It was like running into a solid iron wall – in fact it physically hurt his brain, as though something was pounding it from inside his skull. The information remained locked away.
One thing he did recall was his name. Loki. Loki? What sort of name is Loki?
The woman was looking at him with something akin to astonishment, though there was a flicker of concern behind the wall in her eyes. Briefly he wondered why such a wall would be there, but then he tried to sit up and put his hand in a patch of something very green and very painful, and the thought was lost.
Now she was talking about something called a 'hangover' through the ringing in his ears. Loki wondered if he wasn't from this world, wherever this world was, as he had never heard of something called a 'hangover.' If they were anything like his headache and the ache of the bruises forming on his back where he had hit the ground, they must be highly unpleasant. "Hangover…" he murmured. It certainly sounded ominous.
"Well, you can't stay in the ditch," said his mystery woman. She stood and extended her hand.
Loki hesitated for a second. All he knew about this woman was that she had black hair, blue eyes and owned at least one horse. Something at the back of his mind told him to tread carefully.
On a strange world with no memories. Don't turn away a hand of friendship. He reached out and took it.
The horse came to the woman once they were out of the ditch. She still looked suspicious. Her black and pink nostrils were flared, her neck muscles taught under their layer of sweat.
Some instinct deep in the man caused him to reach out to the pretty mare - slowly, he extended a hand, palm held flat, and held it patiently. The mare extended her nose and sniffed it. Then she seemed to accept him, pushing into the touch. The velvet soft muzzle stirred something in his mind. I've been around horses before. I am certain.
He grabbed that thought and held onto it, determined not to lose it. It was a clue. He ignored the odd look the woman gave him.
"If we go back to mine, I can give you a lift home. What's your address?"
Did he have a home? Where was it? Where was he from? If not this world, then where, and who had stolen his memories? And why? What had he done…?
What have I done to deserve this?
"I…I don't recall…I'm sorry, I…" He had to grip the arm not supporting him around his shoulders. He forced his voice to remain calm – no need to embarrass himself further by babbling. "I can't remember…I think whoever sent me here has also stolen my memories."
She didn't look shocked…just wary. And a little confused. He didn't blame her. It felt like he had fallen out of the sky.
"Well, you're clearly familiar with horses. Can you remember your name?"
"Yes." Relief flooded him – a question he could answer. "It would seem that whoever took my memories left me with that at least. My name is Loki."
He felt a flicker of fear at her surprised expression, but it soon cleared. "Well, Loki, I'm 'Neave,' we're going back to my house, and you can try and remember anything else about yourself on the way."
Loki felt sure that he could not.