"then felled by wishes"
Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure
Time Frame: Pre-Thor, Post-Labyrinth
Characters: Loki, Sif, Thor; Sarah/Jareth
Summary: When the right words are spoken, the Labyrinth must be solved in order to return the first son of Odin to his place. Or: the one where Loki screws up, Sif kicks some Firey butt, and Jareth finds a way to deal with that pesky Minotaur problem without leaving glitter on the carpet.
Notes: Because this was the crossover a long time coming. Further more, this is for Erica - thank-you, kiddo, for putting up with my rants, shipping obsessions and my rather unhealthy fascination with magical villains. I hope that I have not corrupted you too much over the years. Thank-you for inspiring my imagination with your own.
That said, this is just a short story - which should be done in five or six parts, and then I will get my lazy butt to work on the next chapter of my Steel!verse for all of you patient readers. My Steel!verse, and one other surprise for Sif and Loki that I think that you will love . . .
But for now, to those about to read, I salute you! ;)
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
"then felled by wishes"
Part I: "before the second hand strikes thirteen"
In the end, it took a pretty piece of seiðr to even get them into the restricted section of the Library. But Loki was nothing if not resilient, and the wards of Odin recognized its own blood, its own hand, and it bent when pushed against, allowing the three adolescents into the dark part of the Vault.
There was a cove in the back part of the library, right before the barrier of the Vault, and in that cove was the table that Loki had claimed as his over the the passing of the years. The dark shadows were kept at bay by warm torches and the gleam of the barrier – dancing golden and green and throwing patterns that held a fire of their own, turning the spines of the books into something living, the skin of those who bothered to come back so far something molten, constantly in motion. There it was they took their spoils – books of spells and long dead heroes and far off lands, those tomes that looked no different than any other volume in Asgard's library, but which held words of power aplenty, and not meant to be read by just any eyes . . .
In their self appointed spot, Loki found the pulse of seiðr from the barrier of the Vault soothing – he always had, and so it was here that he poured over his tomes and grimoires, learning the secrets of the universe as she whispered into his ear of her might. Normally, his brother was far to be found from such a place – finding the tedium of words and their might to be on par with the most intricate of tortures. Master Eldgrim could hardly keep Thor focused on his required studies, let alone anything extra, and Thor looked at the stack of books he had helped his brother procure as if they were something armed and living – and ready to strike at any moment.
Sif was more at home than Thor in the depths, this not being the first time she had accompanied the second son into the Vault beyond. The chair she sat in had a tall back, giving her shadow wings. She had her boots propped up on the table, and she was sharpening a small blade in her hands with a whetstone. In the wood of the table before her, there were grooves aplenty where her blade had found purchase many a time over the years before. Her hazel eyes had caught the light of the spells from the barrier beyond them, making them molten. Her hair, newly raven black, had just grown to brush the haughty line of her jaw, and Loki was most certainly not looking at that, not when he had his books before him.
. . . yes, his books.
The runes in the volume he had open before him were handwritten, and he brushed a finger over the dried ink as he read, feeling the hum of the magic in the words, feeling it warm at his touch like an invitation. The words were ancient, but still wise, and -
"Are we not done yet?" Thor's bored voice cut into his thoughts, as bludgeoning as a staff against flesh. "We have already passed three candlemarks this way, and I find myself growing weary."
Loki did not even bother rolling his eyes, instead he looked up at his brother through too dark lashes, his mouth a hooked line on his face. "You did not have to accompany me," he said smoothly. "I was quite happy passing the hours by myself. In silence." The last two words were pointed.
Thor made a face. "The storms outside do not allow us to practice at arms today, and so I had hoped to find sport indoors."
"And so you have it," Loki replied absently, passing a stack of tomes to his brother.
Thor's look of distaste was easy for him to imagine without looking up from his words. The last season had seen a spurt of growth for the prince – and now Thor hovered over the table like a young mountain, still the barest bit gangly and awkward as his body grew past what he could keep up with. Loki only seemed to grow taller where his brother grew broader – like a willow as opposed to an oak, his mind supplied, though he knew that others had other ways to put their differences . . . the golden one and the one not bright, but shaded.
Sif, ever a shadow to the princes since their youngest years, snorted at his words, but she did not look up from where she was inspecting the tip of her blade. The runes etched into the steel were bright – the weapon having been a gift from Brünnhilde when the girl had turned down service with the Valkyrie in order to make her own name in Odin's ranks, on her own might.
"Come now," Thor reached over to place a heavy hand on his second's shoulder, the affection in the motion stinging. "Enough of these runes. Brokkr and Sindri dine in our father's hall tonight. If we pester them, I am sure that they will make gifts of their ware! Come now, imagine – a new set of throwing blades for you. A sword for me. A new head for her glaive for Sif here."
Loki made a face at the mentioning of the dwarfs before shrugging out from his brother's touch. "Will they be so generous when it is all too apparent how you make use of such gifts? It has not stopped raining in three day's time," Loki's mouth turned sharp as he finally looked up. "Indeed, but Mjölnir is a mighty gift in the hands of her prince. I wonder, what did Brokkr have to say about that?"
On cue, Thor's cheeks flushed. "It does require some practice," he finally gave. "I have not been able to summon the storms as easily as that first time, but the mages assure me that it shall settle with time - and practice."
"Much time," Loki agreed with a snicker, not unkindly, and Thor rolled his eyes with bruised pride.
Beyond them, Sif put down her blade, and raised a withering brow. "Such seiðr requires time to control," she retorted, "As you well know, second son. After all, how many a fortnight did it take for you to master your shapeshifting charms? How hazy your memory is."
The memory was a slap. Loki made a face as he remembered the many days he had been forced to stay in the body of a horse, unable to get the strands of magic he had cocooned himself in to just cooperate and let him be. "As always," Loki recovered smoothly, "the lady's wit is as sharp as her blade."
When she smiled, it was exasperated, but fond. "A graceful retreat, Silvertongue. A graceful retreat."
Loki inclined his head, forming a bow. Sif stuck her blade in the wood of the table, satisfied with its edge.
And Thor shook his own head. "Be that as it may, even the most perfect of weather would have you indoors, my brother. Indoors, and . . . reading," he said the word as if it were a curse, and in that moment, his suntanned skin and halo of hair were never more at odds with his second – pale and dark by turns.
Loki shrugged. "I merely prefer to work at developing the weapons I am given."
"Aye," Thor acknowledged. "I do not envy the foe who stands opposite your mind. But . . ." He picked up a small red tome and flipped through it absently, the soft leather giving under the thoughtless strength in his hands. "What are you reading about, anyway. Far off lands?"
"Travel," Loki replied absently. "Ways between ways."
Thor's brow crinkled. "Is that not what we have good Heimdall for?"
Loki snorted, but kept his thoughts to himself as underneath his touch, the runes started to glow, whispering their tale of mother Yggdrasil's branches . . . the secret ins and outs of the universe that even Heimdall and his all seeing gaze was blind to. In time . . .
Thor's mind, in that way, was simple. There was already a path, and so he saw no need to find another to walk beyond it. Sif, at her side of the table was more aware, her eyes narrowing as they often did before he attempted a misdeed, and so he schooled his face – lowered his eyes, all innocence and scholarly intention.
She snorted, far from appeased, and he bowed his head – a worthy opponent.
In his hand, Thor was looking down at the small red book. While he flipped through the pages, his large fingers found the knotted patterns that bordered the cover. The image of a maze was worked into the leather, the patterns the color of flame in the half light. "What is this tale?" he finally asked.
Loki peered over, and found that it was one he had yet to read. "I am not sure," he shrugged. "Its length suits you, though, brother," he still found to jibe, Thor and the tiny book suitable for one another. "Even you could have it read before the evening comes."
Thor narrowed his eyes, but refused to rise to the barb. Instead he found a page, and settled, his blonde brows furrowing as he started to read aloud, "For the King of the Goblins had fallen in love with the girl, and he had given her special powers . . ." he snorted, flipping the book over in his hands to look at the cover again. "Never mind, brother. This is a maiden's fae tale - made more for the Lady Sif's sensibilities than our own."
Sif raised a brow, pausing from where she had gone on to her next weapon – a dagger as long as his forearm, left to her from her father Týr. "Wait for the rains to clear, Odinson, and then I shall show to you my sensibilities in the practice rings. You will regret those words."
Thor snorted, but he was on a role with his reading. "For the girl was weary from the harsh demands of her step mother and hurt by the cruel words of her father, and finally she could take no more of the screaming infant in her arms. 'Goblin King, Goblin King' she cried, 'please take this wretched child away from me!'" He paused, tapping the page with a single thick finger, considering the words he had read.
And Sif snorted. "I am surprised that Loki hasn't used that incantation years ago. I can think of a dozen occurrences off of the top of my head where he would have been moved to do so."
"I am the soul of long-suffering," Loki replied, looking on in amusement as Thor stared at the page, intrigued.
"Something like that," Sif drawled, not buying it a bit.
Thor laughed at their words, the sound deep and rumbling in his chest. "What would the goblins want with me, at any rate? I would be a poor addition to their ranks."
"You are ill suited to mischief and trickery, I agree," Loki gave.
Sif snickered. "How he would bemoan the locks of his golden hair, had he been enchanted to Goblin kind . . ."
"I don't know," Loki said seriously. "Grey and scaled may flatter his complexion – it would lend a certain light to his eyes."
Thor shook his head. "I do not agree, brother. Would you yourself not wear scales better than us all? You and your dark locks already?"
Loki considered it, mock concentration on his face. At long last, he finally gave, "Already I bear the horns. It looks like my fate is doomed."
"Aye," Thor thumped him on the back in his humor, "you are so cursed." He looked back down at the book, but Loki stilled him from further reading with a hand on his elbow.
"But I would be careful, nonetheless," he cautioned. "Such words hold power. The book would not be in the Vault, otherwise."
Thor snorted. "Of course they do," he gave without belief. "Goblin King, Goblin King," he entreated in a sing song voice, "I wish you would take this wretched brother of mine away from me."
Nothing happened. The library was all stillness and silence. And Loki exhaled, feeling an odd tingling on his skin. A flare of magic against his pulse. "I believe you have to mean it," he said after a moment. "And you need not give in to such dramatics – the seiðr will answer to you not."
Thor shrugged. "It is a tall tale, empty on delivery," he said, putting the book down. He fisted his hands, as if holding the book had burned him. "It's words are dead."
Loki looked down, and pondered. "I do not know," he said slowly. "I can feel the book – there is magic there. It winds and slithers, as if to snare."
Thor snorted. "Such a kindredness it bares to you."
"Such," Loki echoed hollowly, fisting his own hands as he looked at the book. The air was thick around him. His tongue was heavy in his mouth as the force from the book wound its way behind his heart and pushed. "The words merely require simplicity to act."
Thor shook his head, dismissing seiðr and her ways, while Sif narrowed her eyes in warning. "Loki," his name was low on her lips, she knowing him well. "Do not . . ."
"You must simply say, 'I wish that the goblins would come and take you away', no more, and no less," he finished, the odd thread of seiðr in the air pushing, and finally it snapped -
- before collapsing in on itself.
There was a flash of light, and the pulling sensation increased, taking root behind his ribs and in the marrow of his bones. Then there was the rise of feeling, of something missing, as the white light around them caught fire and became warmth, as effervescent as starlight.
And then, just as quickly as the sensation came upon them, it was done.
When they looked up, Thor was gone.
Instead, the great barrier that separated the Vault from the common stacks of the library had transformed. Instead of a dance of green and golden light, it was now a portal, a gateway, showing the picture of another time, another place. The land it revealed was a sepia toned place, a sprawling maze the color of sand and orange earth. Vines grew on the walls in gnarled patterns, and a false sun shone down from a russet sky to give a permanent sense of twilight. The maze seemed to never end, going through forest and river, until it reached a summit, a castle of sorts that reigned above a cobbled together city . . .
And from that land there was a shadow, the shape of wings against the ground that gave to a violet flare of smoke and the glittering of dust as a being passed through the portal -
And then a man stood where Thor no longer did.
The man was tall. Tall and lean with leather armor more elaborate even than the showy displays that the courtiers in Odin's court could compare with. His brows were upswept and pale, like the wings of some hunting bird. He had a great mane of wild flyaway hair, like the bare tangle of a bird's nest in the dead months. When he smiled, his eyes showed no humor, and again Loki thought avian and danger all at the same time. He was beautiful as certain wild things were beautiful, made to be seen from a distance but not touched. The fae magic pouring from him felt like talons in Loki's skin as it pooled, as it bowed and formed obeisance.
Goblin King, he felt the name on his lips, shaped as if to wish.
Goblin King, the magic on the air and in his bones proclaimed.
Goblin King, the haughty eyes and the bronze crest at his chest said, and -
"Goblin King," Sif hissed the title like a curse, quicker to recover than Loki, already standing before them both with Brünnhilde's dagger in her hand. "What have you done with Thor?" she spoke as if she held a blade to the King's throat, all War crossed as she stood tall with her ire and her blazing veins molten for all to see.
"That blonde oaf in the castle?" the Goblin King replied as if bored by the threat War presented, brushing an imagined speck of glitter from the leather covering his arms. "He is safe, more or less, and he has come not to harm."
It was not enough. "We demand that you return him to us," Sif's voice rang out again, whatever loss she bore in wordsmanship she more than made up for in feeling, baring her teeth and staring down the lord of the realm with fury in her eyes.
"What's said is said," the King replied, his smile unkind, "The magic cannot be undone. Not without a price."
"All magic can be undone," was Sif's sharp reply, stepping forth as if to march.
And the King merely looked at her, head tilted, before looking beyond her, to where Loki stood, the red book still clutched tight in his hands. His eyes beckoned. They waited.
And Loki looked up, and held his gaze. "It was I who wished him away," he claimed his error. "And I shall pay the price that magic demands."
"Think you that it will be so easy a price to pay?" the King returned, truly curious. Loki felt strands of wild magic winding their way around them – different from the power that had drawn Thor away, but yet still the same. This was different, not quite tamed, but held in check, like a wolf held in thrall by the white light of the moon.
"I never said that," Loki returned calmly. "But he is my brother, and the words said were not said truly. I will see my mistake made right."
"Were they not truly meant?" the King asked, "My Labyrinth is fickle, but never does she draw away where a wish is not true."
"The words were false," Loki said, his voice edged in steel, taking a step forward.
Cold, mismatched eyes regarded them from a tilted head. "Very well," the King finally gave in a bored tone, waving his hand in dismissal. Out of the orange air appeared a clock, with thirteen hours to its count. The King flicked a finger, and the hands swept to the first position on the face. "You, like many before you, have invoked the right to run the Labyrinth. Reach the castle at the center of the Goblin City before the clock strikes thirteen, and have your brother returned to you. Fail, and my claim shall stand. Then the lad shall join our kind . . . forever."
"Thirteen hours?" Sif protested, looking beyond them – the never ending coil of the maze, the thick rise of both forest and river, and then the mammoth city itself, the castle that reigned out haughtily over all. "Thirteen hours to make our way through such a place?"
"Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered," the King said as if reciting the words by rote. He laughed then, the warm sound catching on the edges, like the screeching of a bird. "For those revered by mankind as Gods, it should be no time at all."
"It is not fair," Sif protested, even still.
"So says War herself, " the King finally returned witheringly, raising a tall brow. "One must think your basis of comparison broader than most."
Sif stepped forward as if to strike, and Loki surged forward to match her. He grabbed her wrist, keeping her from attacking. "We will accept your most gracious offer," Loki said, looking at Sif rather than the king when he spoke. Her gaze was low and mutinous, and only a thin thread of obedience – warriors to their sovereigns – kept her from breaking his hold. "We shall see you at the end of thirteen hour's time."
"A time which begins now," the King's voice echoed around them as he waved a hand. The magic around them contracted, drawing them through the portal, into his world . . .
And then the king disappeared in a flash of violet smoke, his last words still echoing on the air around him even after he had faded away.
Instantly, the changes between the Labyrinth and Asgard were easy to see. Gone was the sweet air and the song of the stars. Instead the land around them was bitter and bland. Loki swallowed and tasted dust in his mouth. His lungs felt thick. Under his feet the ground was hard, scorched and barren.
At his side, Sif yanked her wrist from his hand. She did not take a moment to look at her surroundings and gather herself – she did not even wait for the King to completely disappear. As soon as she smelled the sweetness of magic as it moved, she took off down the hill, nearly running up to the outer wall of the Labyrinth. She had a fierce scowl on her face, splitting her countenance neatly in two. Loki followed, his longer legs letting him catch up to her even as she marched resolutely on.
They walked for a length and then another before finding that the wall of the maze had no opening. It was just the same cobbled brick, the same tangled vines, going on as far as the eye could see.
And Sif made an annoyed sound. "Find a way in, else I shall cut my own way in," Sif's voice was guttural in her throat, and Loki stood an arm's reach away, not caring to cross War when War was so angered.
He looked down the stone wall, which seemed to go one forever and ever without end or opening. Frowning, he reached out with the seiðr at his fingertips, searching -
- and stepped back as if slapped. The magic in the air swirled as if possessed, causing him to falter and his stride to fail. He narrowed his eyes as in his mind, a tinkling sound, like the laughter of a child, sounded.
I would not do that if I were you, the voice spoke. Where it had been the laughter of a child he had heard, it was the warm voice of a mother granted to him when the being spoke, as if a dozen different women were speaking at once.
And Loki blinked, looking at Sif – who was still staring at him, waiting. She had not heard the voice.
Who are you? Loki thought as loudly as he could, and at that the voice stilled, as if surprised.
You can hear me? it asked. Only one has ever heard me enough to try to reply. Once, long ago . . .
His eyes narrowed. The seiðr at his hands burned.
Ah, ah, ah, the voice whispered, soft and warm. The magic in this land is wild, who knows who will happen to your pretty charms if you cast them this way and that . . .
Again, Loki set his jaw. And who are you to speak to me as such? he asked. Who are you?
But the voice was gone. No longer did it laugh. No longer did it search. And Loki fisted his hands, holding his power within himself, denying it an outlet.
Sif was still waiting for him, but she could feel the loss of seiðr on the air. "Well?" she asked him when he turned to push experimentally at the stone of the wall, looking for weaknesses in the vine and brick.
He shook his head. "I cannot use my seiðr here," he said. "This land is all wild magic, and my efforts will yield unexpected results."
Sif stared at him for a moment, searching his face as if she could see behind his eyes. Finally, the corner of her lip pulled in distaste and she abruptly turned on her heel, marching in the opposite direction of him. While the set of her stride was determined, the look in her eyes before she had turned had been . . . disappointment?
He felt his own ire rise in his throat as he stalked off after her, seiðr burning uselessly at his fingers in response to his annoyance. "You looked at me as if looking for a falsehood," he challenged. "I wish to know why."
Sif let out a low breath before unstrapping her glaive from her back. With a determined sound, she started striking at the wall, the stones chipping to her strength. "And what if I was?" she returned. Her next blow was savage, slicing through vine and bloom to find mortar beneath.
In his mind, the strange voice curled as if on a hiss, not quite a scream, and he winced as if feeling Sif's blows towards the wall against his own skin. "And what is that supposed to mean?" he hissed in return, the words sharper than he had intended due to the unexpected sensation.
When she drew her arm back to strike again, he reached out to catch her wrist before she could level another blow, not caring to feel the rippling effects of her anger. "The wall has done nothing to earn your ire, my Lady," he tried to speak with humor, but the words came out forced. "Let it be."
And Sif leveled a withering stare at him. "I am trying to find my friend. Your brother."
Loki's eyes narrowed, making thin green slits in his face. "You wish to speak, Sif, so speak."
And with an inarticulate noise, Sif broke his hold on her, and shoved him back against the wall, her anger curling the corners of her eyes. She held her forearm over his neck, pressing him down, and for a moment it hurt to breathe. Loki did not break her stare, nor did he break her hold. He did not look away. "You wanted your brother to be taken," she finally accused. "It was just as the King said. You wished it and you meant it." And as he looked, it was more than anger in her eyes then, it was hurt, and -
"They were words, wrongly spoken," Loki said softly, the syllables catching at his mouth as if to make a wound. "Nothing more, and nothing less."
"Rightly spoken, for the invocation to work, so it would seem," Sif accused. "Elsewise, why did they not work when Thor spoke them?"
Her grip had loosened, and Loki pushed away from her and the wall, his jaw held tight and his hands curled in to fists. "Believe what you want," he finally said stiffly, the skin on his cheeks aching as if she had slapped him. "It matters not to me."
Sif watched him for a moment as he called what he could of his seiðr to him. The land around him was wild, filled with teeth and lined with scales, but he could feel a strand of logic amongst the maze, a sense of rightness.
He felt along the wall, until there was nothing – a gap that would not have been noticed, not even by eyes looking to search, and he disappeared into the maze.
"If you wish to follow," he called back over his shoulder to Sif. "We do not have much time to waste."
A heartbeat passed. He did not look back so much as he heard the strike of her boots against the ground. Her shadow joined his, and together they walked into the Labyrinth.