Author's Note: And, here we are with the latest instalment in the tale. This chapter deals a lot with the Labyrinth and her purpose - which is really just a lot of my inner ramblings and theories come to life, seeing as how the film didn't really think past Bowie's hair styles and the glitter for the special effects to flesh out the more meta aspects of a kids movie, so, I had lots of free reign as an author, which was really just brilliant. I hope you guys enjoy this tale as it continues to unfold. :)


Part III: . . . and hardships unnumbered

Eventually, the white walls and fragrant vines of the path they had been taking gave way to the tangle of the middle maze. This part of the Labyrinth was all walls formed by immaculately trimmed hedges and glittering cobblestone walkways that reminded Loki more of Frigg's gardens back at home more than anything else in the kingdom they had seen so far. The air was warmer here. The midday sun hung high over their heads and shined a cheery light over everything before them. There were pots of exotic flowers and strange statues of even stranger creatures. It was here they finally saw denizens of the Goblin Kingdom – great wooly beasts who tended to the plants, and a blind wiseman offering his knowledge for coin. There were doorways who spoke and bickered and birds who argued with the red dressed goblins who carried this and that to and through – all who steadily ignored the foreign travelers, as if such runners were a common occurrence in the great maze. And then there was the law in the Labyrinth, rows and rows of Goblin guards who hardly came up to Loki's knees, trying to march in some semblance of formation, even though the little creatures seemed to be more harm to themselves rather than others with their spears and suits of armor. Sif stepped daintily around one of the fallen guards, who had toppled over due to the lopsided weight of his helm upon his head, and looked over at Loki with a worried stare. "I do not trust the dwarf," she finally said under her breath. "Who knows where he leads us to."

Loki shrugged at her words, considering how to answer. He bore the same nagging concern at the back of his mind, but he knew not what other path to follow. "We were not making progress on our own, and at the very least we have not retraced our steps. We have not circled." Still behind them, where they came from was a trail of flaming light – a single path in a maze of thousands, even where the path before them was muddled.

Still Sif was dubious. "His loyalty is not to us," she said. "Not even for the trinkets you have promised him."

"And you think his loyalty is for his king?" Loki questioned, curious, the question one he had been turning over in his mind.

Sif's mouth turned. "I think not," she said. "And yet . . . it is just a feeling I have, one I cannot properly put into words."

And Loki sighed. "He is a means to an end," he finally said, his words shaped to sooth. "Nothing more."

"And yet, we have not reached our own end," Sif pointed out.

"The journey is long," Loki said carefully. "It requires patience."

"As you say," she finally replied after a long heartbeat. Still she wore her doubts in her eyes, but she had given them voice, and now the choice of how to proceed was his. Sif watched him a moment longer, before sighing and falling a half step behind him, taking up a point to guard out of reflex as much as anything else. Loki fought the urge to look over his shoulder again.

Another stretch of the wall disappeared behind them. Another turn, and Loki gave up looking at the sun above in order to keep their path, instead turning to the odd strands of magic he could feel coiling around his skin. The same voice from outside of the maze was humming in his ears, sounding against his ribs. Her song tugged at him, drawing his feet even more than their dwarfish guide before them, and he felt his stomach pull with more than just Sif's words. Something was not right with their path. But neither was it wrong. He tilted his head at the sensation, trying to discern an answer from the childlike laughter in the air.

And then Sif spoke again, even lower than she had given her doubts about the dwarf. The first had been intended for more ears than just theirs. This was for him alone. "You are distracted," she stated. There was not a question in her voice but rather the unspoken as to how her aid was needed.

And he slowed a half step, matching her stride for stride again. "This land sings," he finally admitted without her having to search. For a moment he let himself hope that speaking the words out loud would make more sense of them in his mind. "She hums and she whispers past what I can hear, and yet I cannot get her to speak to me again."

"Again?" Sif queried, taking the presence of such a being in stride, her fingers still tapping against the hilt of her dagger.

"Outside of the maze," he answered. "She told me of my seiðr and how it would move in ways I did not intend . . . she showed to me the secret of the wall."

Sif raised a brow. "A spirit?" she questioned.

Loki shook his head. "A soul," he said, for there was a difference.

Sif frowned, biting at her lip. "Of the maze?" she asked slowly, carefully, for such magicks were old – even older than the incantation that had drawn them to this realm in the first place.

"Perhaps," Loki said slowly, fighting the shiver that had crept underneath his skin. The sun warmed air around them was suddenly cold. "I cannot be sure, and she teases me so . . . It is driving me mad."

The corners of her mouth turned, just slightly, and Loki rolled his eyes at her amusement. "But she will not lead us to Thor," he finally said. "And this dwarf has led us nowhere for long enough."

A quicker step, putting him a stride ahead of her. Sif shadowed his right side, guarding his corners, watching his blind spots. "Master dwarf," he called out. "How much longer must we be upon this path?"

"Such impatience," the dwarf grumbled under his breath.

"Speed is imperative to us and our journey, yes," Loki countered smoothly.

"It's not like its gonna matter anyway," Hoggle went on grumpily. "We ain't ever had no one to run the Labyrinth and defeat the King in under thirteen hours. Yous may as well go back the way you came and settle yourselves to forgettin'. There'll be less pain that way."

Loki raised a brow, reading the pause that had lingered between the dwarf's first words. "No one has? Ever?"

Hoggle hesitated. "One did . . . once. A human girl, a long time ago. But she was special – so don' even try to compares yourselves."

And in Loki's mind the voice of the maze hummed, as if fond. "Special?" still he snorted. "A mere mortal maiden?"

Hoggle's look turned stony, and he bristled. "She was more than just a human girl – she was my friend." His small chest puffed with pride, and he thumped his fist over his heart. "And more than that, she was the Labyrinth's friend – which yous are not. So, it doesn't matter how fast we go or not. Jus' take your time, and enjoy the scenery."

And Loki snorted. "We shall see about that."

Hoggle shook his head, but then his eyes narrowed thoughtfully as they turned yet another corner, coming to an intersection in the paths punctuated by massive ivory vases - as tall as Loki would be in his battle helm, holding exotic plants with tall and flowering fronds.

But one vase was empty, holding a heavy decorative stone over the top of it until a gardener's care could be brought to it's attention. Hoggle bounced up the stone steps to the vase, and with his little arms straining, he gave a great heave to remove the stone from the top of the vase. He peered down in critically before nodding his head sharply. "This is the one," he announced. "Come on now, don't be shy."

With that, Hoggle swung himself over the lip of the vase and disappeared within, sticking his head back out when he realized that they did not follow right away.

"It's a shortcut," Hoggle waved them in. "Since yous are so big on time. Come on now."

Cautiously, Loki approached the vase and looked down . . .

To see nothing but blackness within, as far as the eye could see. It was a secret path, to be sure, but . . .

Sif looked on in distaste at the blackness, her upper lip drawn back. "I do not like it," she announced frankly.

"You don' have to," the dwarf retorted from where he was waiting. "You jus' have to follow. And, by the way, this'll cost you two more of 'em red ones," Hoggle laughed nastily, and Loki leveled a withering stare at the dwarf, the seiðr at his fingertips whispering just how he could turn the creature to a toad once they made it to the castle, deal or not . . .

"I's ain't waiting for yous, so make up your minds – yes or no," and, with that, the dwarf disappeared completely into the darkness, his small grunts as he climbed down heard for some time before he yelled up again. "Well, are yous comin'?"

And Sif saw the decision in his eyes. She sighed. "I'll go first," she said stiffly, making sure her glaive was secure on her back before swinging a leg up and over the side of the vase.

But Loki reached out for her wrist, staying her. She blinked, as if surprised, looking down to where he held her arm before looking up to meet his eyes, a question in her gaze. "You need not," he protested. "I will go -"

"And then how should I explain to your lady mother how I let not one, but two of her sons come to harm, should such a harm wait below?"

Loki's mouth pulled. "Better you tell the Allmother that I was harmed righting my wrong than I have to tell Lady Gná how you fell aiding me in that repentance."

And Sif's smile was sharp. "It would serve you right. Call that my own punishment for you, if it would sooth your soul when the time comes."

Loki rolled his eyes, and Sif shook her head, sending the short strands of her hair flying about her face like a wing. Her eyes were determined, all War waiting for the command to march when there was a battle to be waged.

"Trust me," she bid, her mouth a determined smirk on her face. "Whatever is down there, I can face it – even better than you, I would bet."

He snorted. "In this place? I think not."

And she laughed darkly. "Even beings with magic bleed," she promised. "This I know."

"Then who am I to keep you from your sport?" and with those words, Loki stepped back. His hands were fists at his sides, his seiðr whispering of a wrongly taken step while the voice of the maze in his head hummed and approved, and how much louder was she in the darkness of the Labyrinth, his fingers itching with the urge to go down. . .

Sif climbed down then, the inky crown of her head the last thing to disappear in the blackness before her voice rose above to call him down after. "It's all clear," she called after a moment. "You can come down now."

Loki took a deep breath, and then lowered himself into the shadows after her.

The walls of the chute were odd – reaching out to grab him, as if there were hands helping him lower himself down and then down further still, finding handhold and foothold on the strangely soft wall. The stone underneath his hands was leathery, and his eyes narrowed as he peered down past Sif and asked aloud, "Where is Hodgkin?"

And from above them, the dwarf's head appeared at the lip of the tunnel. "It's Hoggle," the dwarf snorted through his laughter, and Loki had the fleeting feeling of trap and trick as the dwarf sneered out, "Gods. Yous were so confident in me bein' a coward an' a traitor. Yous didn't think me to have a lick of loyalty to the King."

"Loyalty?" Loki snorted. In that way, at least, he was positive his read on the dwarf had not been wrong. The hum of the maze in his ear pitched deeper, as if in agreement. "Not a bit of it."

"Wells," the dwarf hedged. "Jareth I could be bought against, but Her Majesty? Theres be more than loyalty there. She's my . . . she's my friend, you see. An' her will is as great as her power is strong. Neither are to be crossed."

Again the dwarf said as much, and the voice in Loki's head hummed warmly, as if fond memory at the mention of its queen. Loki rolled his eyes as he pieced the puzzle together and thought: typical. Of course that had been the one thing he had overlooked. The girl who had defeated the Labyrinth was now its queen by right of Champion, and he had made a very, very large mistake.

"Now its to be farewells between us," the dwarf waved, huffing with his exertion as he pushed the large stone back over the pit. "Toodles."

And then the darkness was complete.

First thing was first, he thought, flexing his hands against the walls of the chute. They needed to go up and force the top from the pit, or down . . . Down to where he could feel the maze pulsing, the voice in his mind echoing as if coming down from far below. He shook his head, and tried to ignore the calling voice. Now was not the time.

"Typical dwarf," Sif seethed to the darkness. "I knew we shouldn't have trusted him."

Loki shook his head, and tried to draw a hand away from the wall in order to summon a flame to light their way. He didn't dare just try the incantation with his words, with how his seiðr worked in the Labyrinth, but he could not get his hand from the wall. There was something holding him.

He felt a spike of alarm in his chest, right as Sif exclaimed, "There is something holding us."

He flexed his hand again, feeling the leathery wall that was holding him secure. Strong fingers seemed to hold him - at his wrists and arms and sides, and suddenly the leathery sensation registered in his mind, and he blanched. "Sif, there are hands holding us."

"Hands?" she repeated, dumbfounded, her voice strained as if struggling. He heard steel moving then, and pain flashed in his mind, a phantom sting across his palm as the spirit of the maze fed to him her own pain. The coppery scent of blood filled the air, catching in his nose.

"Sif, do not cut the hands," he hissed, feeling absurd even as he said it.

The shadows moved then, and the wall seemed to swirl as if alive . . .

And then the hands began to speak.

"We are here to help," the hands said brightly, the fingers moving in a gross parody of speaking mouths. "We wouldn't want you to fall now, would we? So you can put your sharp stick away, we don't bite."

"We don't have the teeth to," another of the hands said brightly.

" . . . helping hands?" Sif muttered dubiously. "You cannot be serious."

"Well, they are keeping us from falling," Loki pointed out logically. He could imagine her glare in return, and his cheeks flushed in the shadows.

"Clever, Odinson," her voice scathed.

Loki rolled his eyes at the darkness.

And the hands carried on brightly, a dozen different voices alternating to form their words. "We just need to know if you want to go up -"

And then there was the odd sensation of dozens of hands lifting him up the shaft, one over the other over yet another again.

" - or down." And then the hands lowered him, his stomach dropping with the sudden change, and his head swimming dizzily as the voice of the maze flared in his mind, louder from the bottom of the pit. Loki flexed his hands, and wished he could summon a light to see . . .

"Up or down," the hands prompted. "There are only two ways to go."

In his mind, the voice of the maze hummed, and he had the barest flash of teasing eyes and three faces as one . . .

"Up?"

. . . looking up at them from the bottom of the chute.

"Or down?"

So, "Down," he said without thinking, "Down, if you would not mind."

"Down?" was Sif's indignant squawk from below him. "You want to go down? We have no idea what is down there, and I have a dwarf to harm up above."

But it was too late. "Down it is," the hands chirped merrily, and then they started to fall. The darkness around them began to move and the shadows danced as the hands began to clap . . . "Down, down, down, down!" And then his stomach dropped as the hands let go.

And they fell down.

Down and down and down into the blackness below . . .

Loki flailed his hands, but he could find no purchase or grip. The hands were silent, or more likely, gone completely, and left to them was a unending chasm spanning on and on before them. Loki closed his eyes and thought land, we have to land, worrying about the speed of their fall and the height . . .

Do you not know that such things do not matter here?, a warm voice in his head sounded, like it had outside of the Labyrinth, but this time ten times more clear than it had been, so close as they were to the ancient core of the maze. Not as you are now. It is your will that shapes the maze, not the other way around. The voice shook her head, as if she were a mother, explaining a concept to a child with wide eyes, slow to understand.

Then, I wish to land, Loki 'thought' at the voice of the Labyrinth, raising his chin towards the darkness before adding, if you please, bowing his head as if he were a mortal at prayer.

And the voice smiled in his mind, giving him the faint glimpse of the second face, that which was the Mother, as she said, All you had to do was ask.

Down, then.

Loki summoned the fickle strands of his seiðr to back up his will, and thought softly as an afterthought, taking an instinctive breath in, bracing himself as he sensed more than felt the floor of the chute rush up to meet him.

Softly, softly, softly! He tried to amend in his mind, but it was too late. The air around them shifted, and he had the unpleasant situation of the ground meeting his back, stealing his air from his lungs. He winced, feeling the beginnings of a bruise start for a mere half second before he heard a strangled shout, and Sif landed with a thud right on top of him, a curse on her lips as she sprawled awkwardly atop of him.

He felt his breath leave his lungs in an uncomfortable swoosh of air as he tried to breathe past her weight. As he recovered himself, the discomfort of her landing on him quickly evaporated in favor of a warm sensation in the pit of his stomach. She was warm and slight and smelled like the fields before the harvest and steel when it had been warmed in the sun. Instinctively, he reached up his hands to help brace her. Her skin was warm and smooth underneath his fingers and he ran a thumb over the long upraised stretch of a familiar scar under her arm as she shifted away from him with a curse, shaking her head and gathering her bearings, she having not had prior warning of their landing as he did.

She slid down him, and his cheeks flamed, and he was grateful that she could not see his blush as Fandral and his various tales of how such chance collisions had led to many a favourable interlude ran through his head. But none of them seemed to apply, the red rising to his cheeks being his alone as Sif awkwardly dug her hand into her stomach in an effort to brace her weight and find her balance. The metal cuffs on her wrists – the only parts of her armor that she had been wearing when they had embarked upon their quest – dug into his skin and stole his breath for the third time.

"Sorry," she said awkwardly, her voice steeped in her annoyance as she rolled off him and got to her feet. Loki stayed where he was for a moment more, just breathing as he felt Sif hover over him, pressing a hand to the small of her back and stretching in order to make sure that everything was intact from their fall.

The Labyrinth – for he was almost certain that it was her – laughed in his mind, but it was not the Mother, but the Maiden who found humor at his expense, and he imagined the young girl covering her face with her hand, trying to hide her mirth even as her eyes revealed everything.

He made a face at the air around him, even as Sif reached down to give him a hand up, a mighty scowl on her face, just hardly visible in the darkness around them.

At the thought, he cupped his hands and blew into his palms. Green sparks leapt from his fingertips, before flaring into a small globe of flame. The green light threw Sif's face into odd highs and lows before him, all scowling at their surroundings as they were illuminated by the flame he cast. He flicked his fingers, and the globe jumped up to hover in the air by his head, lighting his way without him having to pay it conscious thought.

"Dwarf," Sif finally uttered the name like a curse once the weight of their situation settled in on them again. "We should have known."

"And yet, what choice did we have?" Loki shrugged, even though the excuse felt weak on his tongue. Who was he, Mischief and Trickery to be outdone by a dwarf, of all things? It was even worse than the incident with Thyrm, and if the story ever got out . . .

"I owe him a harm once we find out way out of this," Sif muttered darkly, her eyes throwing sparks enough to match his own as she set her hand on the hilt of her dagger, her fingers tapping restlessly.

Loki snorted, running his hands down over the front of his tunic, and snapping the leather so as to free it of the dirt of the cavern floor. His mouth turned in distaste at the cloud of dust that appeared before him at the motion. "Before, or after we rescue Thor?" he asked in curiosity, his voice light.

"Whichsoever that proves to be convenient. I am not so picky as you," Sif looked sharply ahead, her eyes shaped as if to march, and Loki felt a wicked grin pull at his mouth. He did not envy the dwarf his fate.

"For now," Sif said, casting her gaze around them, "Where are we?"

And that was the question.

Around them, his flame had illuminated a tunnel that stretched and twined for past his flame could reveal. The walls were rocky, as if they were far underground, and at their feet there were . . .

Corpses, he confirmed, toeing the upraised ribcage of some unfortunate, his face twisting in displeasure as the fragile skeleton turned to dust at his inspection, falling to mingle with the dust of the floor.

And Sif's mouth pressed into a thin, tight line. "Wonderful," she gave dryly.

Not everyone asks to land as you did, the Labyrinth said simply. You figured that you rather quickly, and now you can continue on your way.

That voice again, Loki turned to look down the tunnel, as if by doing so he could catch the sound again. He could hear her speak down here as he could not up above, and a part of him was intrigued by the mystery, but the foreign magic of the land around him . . .

Who are you? Loki finally asked, looking to the maze outright for an answer when no more was forthcoming.

There was silence for a moment, as if the voice was debating how to answer him. So Loki turned his head to the side, and after a second of waiting he stepped forward and bowed with his thoughts. I am Loki, of Asgard, he finally said, introducing himself first where the maze would not. Second son of Odin Allfather, of the second line of Bor Firstfather, right hand to the heir apparent of the First Realm, and I offer you my greetings.

There was a faint sense of amusement in his mind, as behind his eyes he saw a flash of white light and the smile from the first face of the fountain again. The Maiden turned her head, and said, We know who you are. That is why you are here.

And more than knowing who you are, we know who you can be, the Mother said next, her voice softer and more contemplative then that of her first as she swam into the forefront of his consciousness, all golden light in his mind where the Maiden was white.

It seems you have me at a disadvantage then, Loki said, crossing his hands before his chest. For I know not of you where you seem to know much of me.

Such a bright thing as you, at a loss for understanding? The Mother's voice was shaped in amusement, a raised brow to her face that reminded Loki acutely of Frigg when she was willing him to understand a lesson she would not expressly say in words.

You are the Labyrinth, Loki stated plainly, summoning a confidence he was not completely sure of having of in front of such a power . . . a power that had a direct bearing on the path before him. You are the Labyrinth and her three faces. The Mother, the Maiden, and . . . the Crone, he thought, but did not say. The Labyrinth had not shown him her third face, and for a moment he waited, expecting her to shift and reveal herself before the Mother stepped forward before the Maiden, as if shielding them both.

Very curious, he thought, but did not say out loud.

We are one of the shadow realms, the Mother finally said, choosing her words carefully, and at her words, Loki's minds flooded with images, of great Yggdrasil's branches and the worlds between the realms on her might boughs.

We act as a net, the Maiden said next, explaining a complex thought as simply as she could while before Loki's mind, he saw the great maze in all of her entirety. Her highs and her lows and her great and fear inspiring things. We catch magic from mortal children as they grow and forget that magic exists. And, as children forget magic, we are there for children when magic is taken for granted.

Curious, Loki raised a brow. And the goblins?

The Maiden huffed, and the Mother took over, sending a look at her other self. Mortal children cannot exist in this realm, she said simply. A change is required, and so, a change they are given.

Which explained much, Loki thought – especially why such a populace, and such a power at that, would have to be ruled over by Fae blood as its king. The goblins did not have the mind, or the power, to reign over such a force, such a wild and unruly entity . . .

Precisely, the Mother echoed in his mind, pride steeped in her words. You understand. And so you should be able to see as I see, how the magic forms paths as it is given to us, not a single one the same as each other, never to be retraced by two sets of feet again . . .

As the Mother spoke, the tangible picture in his mind of the Labyrinth turned to something more than that – of a thousand upon a thousand paths represented by glowing strands as they wound, one about the other in order to form a whole, a marvelous and majestic whole of ins and outs, of riddles and rhymes and inexplicable things.

When walked, the path matches the crime, the Mother said simply. Your invocation was honest, and your intentions are pure, and so your path will follow that to the center. And, he had the faintest implication of full lips smiling, soft and fond, my king likes you. So, I could give you no other way to go.

Loki snorted, thinking of the dwarf and his treachery and the darkness around them, and thought, This is him showing favor?

The utmost, the Maiden smirked, and Loki rolled his eyes as he reached out to more closely examine the maze that the Mother had placed before him, the different paths swimming over each other like tongues of flame as they consumed their kindle. He looked, and searched until his thumb plucked against a discordant strand, like a falsely tuned string on a harp.

This path was different than the rest, he saw, looking closer at the thread. This path pulsed as if wounded, all shaded the dark violet of a bruise where the paths before had been warm tones of gold and orange, red and ocher and the earthen tone of recently turned soil. Where the other paths tangled together, all ease and harmony even with the chaos of their weave, this thread was angry and hurt, snagging at the others around it, drawing each from their intended way.

Curiously, he reached out, and touched the dark path in his mind's eyes, and snatched his hand back as if burned as in his mind the strand roared.

It roared, an unnatural sound that was neither beast nor man, and Loki had the barest flash of red eyes and heavy brows swinging together in outrage as a horned being turned his head to the top of his prison and screamed.

And Loki sucked in a breath to suddenly thin lungs, and found for a moment that he could not breathe.

Some paths are darker than others, the Maiden mourned, for those darker than most.

These are the paths which never should have been, the Mother echoed, strangely solemn.

What was that? Loki finally asked as he tried to wrap his mind over what he saw, tripping over his words in his mind as he tried to convey his thought to the Labyrinth.

Magic can be unkind, the Maiden said softly in reply.

And humanity even more so, the Mother continued. That being you saw is he who was created by the darkest of our paths, and one you should think of no more of if you wish to leave this place.

There was silence following that, and Loki felt a flicker of unease rise within him at the Mother's words. She did not say that their path would be opposite of this being, nor did she say that this would be their foe to face, but, there had been a reason that Thor's words had not invoked the claim of the Labyrinth, and there had been a reason that his words had been rightly spoken over all others . . .

But he placed that worry aside, needing to deal with the here and now, first and foremost.

You can show me a way out, then? Loki asked.

Out of the Oubliette? the Mother asked.

Yes, Loki answered. Oubliette, it made perfect sense – the forgotten, the put away and the passed aside.

At his thought, even though it had not been directed at them, the Maiden shook her head. It means you are doing well, if the king had to put you here. Only a few runners make it this far.

Loki snorted. I am honored, he drawled in his mind.

As you should be, the Maiden chirped, eyes flashing impishly.

And the Mother raised a brow. Loki could feel her fondness and her exasperation both, and he was not sure if it was directed towards her younger self or her king, as hand and hand as they all were . . . It was a strange realm, he finally decided, a resting place for the unwanted and the forgotten, and a thriving ground for the more childish aspects of magic – the uncanny and the inexplicable and the wondrous all combined. It was a place he would have cared to study for longer than thirteen hours, under different circumstances.

Perhaps, the Mother said softly in his mind, the corner of her lips quirking upwards in the barest hind of a smile. But for now . . .

She closed her eyes, and before them a thread of golden light, quite like the one he had been following earlier, appeared in his mind's eye, calling him to follow.

We shall see you at your path's end. The Mother bowed her head to him, and the Maiden smiled softly before both retreated from his psyche, falling back to lurk as a quiet hum in his thoughts, ready to observe in silence.

And Loki came back to himself.

Beside him, Sif was very quiet, peering at his face as if searching. When he blinked, clearing his eyes of their cloud, she inhaled deeply, the barest of relieved smiles pulling on her face.

"You were gone not even a moment," Sif said without him having to ask, and he was grateful for her understanding, unsure as he was how to put such a thing into words. "The soul from earlier again?" she questioned.

"The Labyrinth herself," Loki nodded his head.

"And was she any help?" Sif questioned. "Or is she like the rest of her residents?" Her mouth turned in displeasure, as if she were imagining the dwarf and his snickering laugh as he pushed the stone over their way, all over again.

"She was of the utmost help," Loki finally said, shaking his head as if by doing so he could get his thoughts to fall into place.

Sif raised a brow, clearly dubious, and Loki grinned a sharp grin, "But, more than that, she has given us a path to follow." He tilted his head, his eyes following where the golden thread had appeared again, ready to lead them through. "And now I know just which way to go."