By: Shadow Chaser
Loki and the Avengers along with all Marvel characters do not belong to me; they belong to Marvel Entertainment and Disney. I am only borrowing the characters for my own amusement and will return them (a bit battered, but hopefully healthy) when I'm done.
His eyes snapped open of their own according as he stared up at the familiar ceiling. He did not know what had woken him up and he stilled himself as he focused on his senses. He did not hear any lingering whispers or any voices demanding his attention, nor of wards tripped or spells silently thrown at him. Opening his eyes once more, Loki decided more or less he had woken up on his own, something he had been getting used to for the last several days. Getting up, he quickly changed and ate the plate of food that had been left on one of his workstations the night before heading out of his chambers.
The two guards posted by his door straightened at his presence, but he ignored them as he threaded his way through the halls of the palace. He noted with some dark amusement that the servants had finally returned to their normal cowering selves, skittering out of his way as he walked through, cloak snapping behind him. It had been a month since that day and Loki had only been awake for the last three weeks, confined to bed for a week after he had woken, before he had been able to muster up the strength to at least walk the halls. And even then, everyone, guards and servants included, had stared at him.
He had been used to being stared at, whispered about his unnatural magicks and abilities, but this was a different kind of stare, this was awe, fear, even of hate, and of some trepidation. The irony of such looks was not lost on him, but even he had felt puzzled by it, and truth be told, a little skittish by the whispers he had heard. Even Queen Frigga, whenever she had visited his sickbed, seemed a little more subdued than usual and would not answer any of his unspoken questions. Thor seemed beside himself, but Loki had avoided him neatly by pretending to be asleep each time he sensed his brother's presence nearby. He had a feeling Thor wanted to talk about what had happened and suspected something had happened when he…died-
Loki shook his head a little and pursed his lips together as he cut that thought off. He did not want to think about those last moments. But the only person in all of Asgard that seemed to treat him as about normal as possible was Odin in the rare times that he had visited. Even when he had returned to Court, the Allfather had continued with the daily going-ons of the realms without really acknowledging his presence until he had given his input into more than one matter. Even then, he had not readily addressed what had happened upon the Rainbow Bridge itself.
And it seemed that the members of the Court itself and the palace staff had finally realized after two weeks that there were to be no discussion, nothing, not even tales spun in the feasts about what had happened. The only thing allowed was the others' tales of their battlefield prowess upon the Rainbow Bridge that day; nothing was allowed to be said of what had happened when Thanos had arrived. That was when things started to return to normal…or as normal as it could have been considering that there were still gouge marks and damage to the interior and exterior of the palace.
The only thing the Allfather had mentioned since he had woken up was the words that King Helblindi had spoken before leaving. Though there was no timetable attached to those words, Loki knew that it would not be long before the Court and others started to whisper. He knew he could easily quell those whispers by not doing anything for the next two hundred years, but at the same time, he had been curious as to why Helblindi had brought him back from death's embrace and more importantly…how.
Today was as good of a day as any and as Loki made his way to the stables, he heard the grunts and clang of metal upon metal, Sif's shout followed by Faendral's laughter and Thor's roar out in the sparring courtyard. Good, Thor was distracted which meant he would not have to dodge his brother once again. Queen Frigga was already holding the domestic court while the Allfather was sure to be discussing the finer points of another trade agreement with the Nidelheim ambassador. He had heard from the whispers of others that the mortal Avengers had returned to Midgard a few days after the battle, having their wounds healed and health returned before Thor had shown them parts of Asgard.
He did not miss them nor feel an inclination to ask after them, but was glad that they had returned. They were hardier than he expected and it was a credit to perhaps their stubbornness that they had all survived the battle. The geas contract with Director Fury was completed, but Loki briefly drew it out of himself as he continued towards the stables, staring at it absently before letting it disappear.
He arrived at the stables and gestured for one of the servants to saddle up his horse, listening to the distant cries of sparring happening near the stables. Sif's familiar war cry followed by two cries, one from Volstagg, the other from Faendral made a small smile quirk up on the corner of his lips. Trust Sif to completely and utterly annihilate the Warriors Three in training.
"Sire, your horse," the servant's voice broke him out of his thoughts and he nodded once as he clambered up the saddle and headed out of the stables.
The tinkling sound of the Rainbow Bridge's power echoed under his horse's hooves as he spurred him to a canter and headed towards the Observatory. He arrived in short order and dismounted, letting one of the guards take its reins and headed inside where Heimdall stood near the dais, his gaze staring out at no particular point on the horizon that was not visible in the golden dome of the Observatory.
"I will tell the Allfather once you have arrived," the Guardian did not look at him, but Loki could see those golden eyes were as calculating as usual.
"If you have not already," he countered and to his surprise, saw the hint of a small smile appear on Heimdall's face.
"You are never dressed warmly enough for Jotunheim, my Prince," Heimdall said.
"But you would already know why, do you not, Guardian?"
"I do," the golden-clad warrior inclined his head once, "and I must warn you as it is my duty to do so that the Bifrost will not open so long as you are in open combat."
"I see," there was no other answer Loki could give, given the circumstances. He moved towards the Bifrost's teleportation site as Heimdall lifted his sword and speared it gently into the activation keyhole. The whirling hum of the Bifrost's activation made Loki tense a little before his world erupted in a wash of color, sights, and a loud cacophony of sound before silence suddenly reigned as he found himself upon the icy grounds of Jotunheim.
He landed in a crouch and looked up, casting his senses out, wary for any ambush, but found none waiting for him. When he had first woken up, the healers had not said anything, but their stony expressions told him everything. They had seen magical exhaustion take battlemages out of the field more than once, the magick-users themselves sleeping like the dead until they woke up naturally. It had tasked the healers to keep an eye on the battlemage's vital signs just in case their bodies could not handle the sheer exhaustion and consumed the physical being itself.
The healers could not chide a Prince of Asgard nor a member of the House of Odin, but Loki had known that besides being dead and then resurrected, he had probably been pushed past the limits of his already waning magical reserves, even under Thanos' influence. So he gently sent out a spell, feeling a sense of newness to it, his body and mind embracing the clean feeling of the spell. There were times he had come close to the brink of magical exhaustion and he knew that each time after one recovered, spellwork was a little unsteady at times, but at the same time, everything felt so clean, so…untainted.
The spell dissipated and Loki stood up, brushing aside a few snowflakes that had begun to fall. Jotunheim had not changed much since the return of the Casket of Ancient Winters and he suspected it was perhaps years or even centuries before the changes would be affected. The realm had been without its power for so long that perhaps it would take time for it to recognize its return.
He walked, his boots crunching in the thin layer of fresh powdered snow that had fallen recently. It at least provided some grip to the icy, glacial layer he was walking on as he made his way towards the palace. The landscape was familiar to his eyes, slabs of ice made to look like remnant stalactites and stalagmites if one was inclined, but nonetheless, Loki kept his senses aware, his magicks tingling at the tips of his fingers for any Jotuns or hostile reaction.
But there was none forthcoming as he finally made his way to the open throne room where he saw a lone Jotun sitting upon what had been the very same spot Laufey sat on during his last visit here. There were no others and Loki wondered where they all were.
"When the Bifrost activated, I sent them all away," the Jotun leaned forward from where he had been sitting in the shadows and Loki saw that it was Helblindi. "You wish to know why?"
Loki did not answer, somehow not trusting himself to speak. He still did not understand the terms of what was said, nor of the price that had not been paid for his return. There was definitely a price that Helblindi had maneuvered the Allfather and even Thor into for his resurrection by the Casket of Ancient Winters.
"Come now, you have the sudden case of shyness, Silvertongue?" the Jotun king laughed, and Loki was surprised at how young it sounded. He suspected the king himself was perhaps no more than nine hundred or even barely a thousand years old. "The Allfather, did he not explain what was to be said to you?"
"At my choosing, I may return to challenge you for the throne?" he finally spoke up and saw Helblindi's red eyes glitter with some unknown amusement.
"Yes," the Jotun dragged out the last syllable of the word as he stood up and stepped down from his throne, forcing Loki to look up at his towering form. "Did he explain to you why you were able to wield the Casket of Ancient Winters?"
"Yes," Loki replied shortly.
"Then…" Helblindi gestured around him, seemingly wanting an answer, but Loki shook his head. "No? You do not wish to challenge me?"
"I do not wish to challenge what I do not yet understand," he replied carefully and saw a smile appear on Helblindi's face.
"Ah, there's the fabled Silvertongue," the Jotun looked pleased before turning around and ascending to his throne and sitting down again, "so very clever and so very like…well…" He cleared his throat and looked amused.
"What is your price?" Loki was getting a little tired of Helblindi's evasive manners and instead tried another tactic.
"Price of your return from death's embrace?" the Jotun king looked like he had anticipated his change of topics, "the truth."
"Truth?" this time Loki could not keep the skepticism out of his tone and expected a smirk to appear on the king's face, but none was forthcoming. Instead, Helblindi looked solemn and seemed a little older as he sat back against his throne, the shadows covering his face until only his red eyes showed.
"That there are only two Jotun mages in existence, and you, are one of them," Helblindi rubbed his chin.
"That is impossible-"
"The weapons we form from ice are as natural to us as breathing air," the king interrupted him, "and thus do not count. What I am talking about is the fact that your magicks are uniquely your own and perhaps the culmination of suppression for our species in this realm as a whole." Helblindi pursed his lips for a second, "Your ignorance in Jotun affairs is appalling, but it cannot be faulted."
Loki bristled at the insult before Helblindi rolled his eyes in such a familiar manner that it made him blink twice. The Jotun king cleared his throat again, "Long ago, perhaps even eons ago, the Jotuns were ruled by magisters and magicks. Any type of magicks was dabbled into, blood, spiritual, plane, anything. This indirectly led to the Mad Titan himself, but that is a story for another time. Of course, corruption was rampant and it led to the rebirth of a new society, one where magicks was suppressed, ruthlessly cut down, killed at birth before a sign of it could even show.
"The centuries and millennia of suppression diluted the bloodline so that not even our greatest artifacts could be wielded, having relied on those with magicks in their blood."
"And the rest of his line exploited the flaw to rule Jotunheim. The claimed no magicks were needed to wield artifacts such as the Casket of Ancient Winters and it was true, latent magicks were only needed, but instead, claimed only the royal bloodline was able to do so to prevent others from discovering the deception." Helblindi laughed a little bitterly, "You could see where this went after Laufey tried to conquer Midgard."
"Magick was still ruthlessly purged and it was unfortunate that you had shown your first spellwork when you were just a newborn babe. Mother pleaded for your ignorance, that you did not even know anything, but the law was the law and since your spellwork was in front of witnesses, you had to be put to death."
"Odin Allfather found me."
Helblindi nodded once, "Odin Allfather found you."
Loki took a deep breath and let it out quietly as he digested this information. He still did not know whether or not it was the truth, after all he had nearly destroyed Jotunheim and he knew the Jotuns had to have been holding a grudge against him, but at the same time it made sense on some level. "And you?" he looked up at the young king.
"I was not as…theatrical as you had been, but…" Helblindi gestured with a hand and for a moment, his face reflected the simple conjured fire spell before it was extinguished just as quickly. "I got off on a technicality, and Mother did her best to suppress it in the hundreds of years." The King sat back once more, "Byliestr was the only one who showed no inclination, and my scheduled death by his hand was delayed when he did not return with the Casket after someone showed him the paths through the shadows to the Vault during Prince Thor's coronation. The heir killed, the spare, spared."
Loki swallowed hard as he remembered staring at the bodies of the Jotuns that had been wasted by the Destroyer after they had invaded the Vaults. He had dismissed them as mere gnats, when he should have realized that one of them was the Crown Prince of the Jotuns. The Allfather must have known, perhaps not even had said a thing as he wondered what Laufey would do once he found out that his youngest son had been killed by Asgardian hands.
"And then Laufey died, trying to assassinate the Allfather," he looked up as Helblindi spoke up and stood up again from his throne, descending the steps to stop in front of him. Loki could tell that Helblindi knew that Laufey had died by his hand and met the red eyes squarely, daring him to do anything for the murder of the previous king. "And now…here you are."
"Here I am," he echoed.
"You have every right to challenge me for the throne Loki Laufeyson," Helblindi said quietly.
"The people would know a magick-user sits on the throne then," he countered just as quietly, staring up at the red eyes, seeing the calculation and quick-witted understanding in them. In a way, it was like seeing a reflection of himself in Helblindi, but at the same time, not like seeing himself either.
"Yes, a return of the magisters of primordial times perhaps…"
"Will they accept it?"
"It is not known," the King shrugged, "there are perhaps already those who hide themselves amongst the others, waiting for the day of rebellion; those who had long wished to study under the Vanir or even the fire demons of Muspelheim."
Loki understood what the King was implying and the consequences of such implications should they bear fruit and the corner of his lips twitched up in a faint smile as he hummed lightly. "A very generous price, King Helblindi…"
The faint smile returned to the Jotun's face, "Indeed…"
"What do you gain out of this?"
"Something I think you do not yet understand," Helblindi replied his voice with a hint of a familiar affection that Loki could not quite place, "what was once lost, returned, even if one could only reach for it as a mere shadow; it is a shadow to admire from afar as the sun burns too bright." He suddenly stepped away and Loki knew that the audience was at an end. There was no answer expected whether or not it was to challenge the throne, and Loki realized that all Helblindi had wanted was to see him, not on the battlefield like they had done twice now, but to see him privately.
The hanging of the challenge was still between them, but Loki knew that Helbindi was content without an answer and he knew he could not give him a decisive yes or no at the moment. The offering of a throne that he had long wanted to prove to Odin that he could have ruled as a king was there, yet somehow, Loki knew that he did not want it that way. No…the proof was not there, not after everything and it was only then that he realized he had not wanted the Allfather's approval for his plans, to be out of Thor's shadow, to show Asgard who he really was – none of it mattered…and the fact that Thanos was now trapped in the forever-prison of the Tesseract was proof of what he really wanted.
He sketched a bow towards Helblindi before looking back up at him, "Then I take my leave as Loki Odinson, King Helblindi Laufeyson."
Helblindi's red eyes glittered as he nodded once and Loki turned around, heading back out to the Bifrost site. He was merely Loki, the Trickster, and thus, made his own path, his atonement, completed; his journey, only beginning.
Author's Final Notes – June 2013:
This story was mostly inspired by both Alis Dee's "Agent Loki: International Man of Mayhem" and ConeycatJr's "Brother's Keeper". But it was also inspired by the myths themselves. There was one thing that I didn't really find in most Loki-centric fics was that according to the myths, if there was a problem that Loki created, it was he who cleaned it up (albeit probably with a lot of carnage and destruction involved). I wanted to express that in a fic dealing with the ramifications of what Thanos would do when Loki failed in getting the Tesseract.
I will freely admit that my knowledge of Marvel's Thor and all associated characters, Loki included, is limited to mostly the movies, but I did have inklings of who and what Thanos was, what he wanted, and whom he wreck so much death and destruction for (most of my Marvel history is centered on X-Men and Spider-Man comics).
So I decided to combine my limited knowledge with some of the myths, and mash everything together. I am also a big fan of "everything that has happened will happen again" type of thing…hence the whole Odin-Loki I-Baldr-Bor Allfather-Thanos history behind this new Thor-Loki II-Odin Allfather-Thanos thing. Also the side business of Loki's actions in regards to his magicks, family history, Helblindi, Byliestr, and Laufey.
Thank you to the following reviewers as of 6/19/13: Bemavajyi, Tsume Yuki, Potkanka, Siibi, Redblade, Ynath Esrith, Jarjaxle, Aurora Marija, Anaeila, SailingFXforGold, vincent1875, viviboo, Takers Hidden Soul Mate, The Pearl Maiden, and last but certainly not least The-Guest-Who-Leaves-Long-Reviews (I would like to call you something, so I'm taking leaves out of Harry Potter)
But certainly I'd be remiss if I didn't thank all of you for reading, reviewing, favoriting, or author-alerting this story. It was a challenge for me to write a character like Loki and I'd like to think I acquitted myself with his characterization and will be posting a sequel to this story (answering some more unanswered questions from this story). Please look out for it and I hope you will continue to read my works. Thanks and see you in my next offering!