A/N: So extremely sorry for the long delay, and on the final chapter! My brain just refused to write this chapter, I don't know why. I hope you guys like it. ^^
(I have also updated Pray For Rain for any of you reading that fic.)
- Chapter 10 -
A Gray Surrender
When Thor arrived in Asgard with Loki in his arms, Heimdall's expression was blank except to nod in the direction of horses near the entrance. Thor rushed to them, then hoisted both himself and Loki onto his own horse's back. He held Loki tightly with one arm and led the horse with the other, fearing all the way that the severe jostling might cause Loki further harm. The second prince's eyes were still closed, and Thor would have feared he had lost consciousness if not for Loki's still-tight hold on his own throat. He was so white, too white even for Loki.
"Hold on, brother," Thor whispered desperately as they flew down the rainbow bridge, "hold on..." But there was so much blood and Loki's hands were slowly loosening.
Although it was a risk, Thor knew he would have to quicken the horse's pace in order to make it to the healing rooms on time, so he spurred the horse on, praying that the added movement wouldn't be to their detriment.
When the two princes finally, finally reached the palace, guards took the horse as Thor carried his brother hurriedly through the winding corridors. Upon reaching the healing wing, he was greeted by Odin, who rushed toward them, his face grim and worried.
"Thor, son," he greeted, but his eyes quickly fell on the limp form in his arms. "Come, bring him, quickly!" The king escorted his sons the short way into the first healing room along the golden corridor, then stepped inside with them.
The head healer, Eir, was already ready for them. "Here, my prince," she quickly directed Thor to a nearby bed where he set down his brother. Loki's eyes were rolling up in his head, and just as his hands fell, Eir's hands replaced them. "Now you must go, my prince," she said to Thor, glancing at him. "We will look after him."
Thor shook his head, he didn't want to leave, not after everything! "No," he shook his head again, "I will not leave him."
"Son." The thunder god looked to his father, whose expression was still grave but strong. "You cannot aid him now, you must leave."
The king's gentle but determined hand on Thor's arm ushered him out as the thunderer's eyes remained on his brother as the healers worked. When they reached the entrance Thor remembered, "Father." He retrieved the knife from his belt. "This-" he held it up.
Odin's eye widened as he looked at the metal. "Thor..." he looked to the prince, then back at the knife. "Thor, where did you-"
"That is too long a tale, Father. But Loki said," he tried to control his tears as he glanced back to where the healers tended to the younger prince. "Loki said he could not heal, that- that this- that I should bring this..." He held the knife for Odin to take, and after an odd moment of hesitation, the king took it.
Quickly, the All-father nodded, then, with a hand on his son's back, led him out. "Good, Thor, this will help..."
"It will?" the young god asked, confused but too worried to think much on it.
"Yes," said the king, clearly lost in thought. He looked to his son. "Now remain here; I suspect the healers will need my help..." And again his gaze slipped away, but before Thor could comment, the king was gone- slipped back into the room where his second son lay.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Voices, hushed voices mingled in the air all around, like bees in a muffled hive. Loki couldn't make out the voices but they were familiar. He tried to open his mouth to speak, to ask who they were, but his lips felt sticky, like they were covered in honey. But the honey wasn't sweet, it tasted strange.
Through the haze he thought he heard his father's voice, he tried to reach for it, find it amongst the throng, but his arms wouldn't move, his body heavy as if laden with weights at every corner.
"Father, please," he tried to say, but his words, too, would not heed his commands, lost in the heavy dark.
Suddenly, there was a sharp pull, as if the very air above him had grabbed hold of him and strained against his still-weighted body. Loki grit his teeth and tried to struggle, to move, but there was no strength left in his muscles, nor even his mind.
Then, like a curtain being pulled back from the world, he was sitting, his knees drawn up to his chest on a bed. He was sat at its center, his chest bare but clean, the bed's sheets white, pristine and somehow too-smooth beneath him.
He looked up. There was nothing. A dark red chaos of nothingness all around- ahead, above, to every side and beneath. He shivered and felt the hairs on his body raise. What is this place? He squinted into the crimson dark, trying to make out anything, shapes, colors, whatever might lay there, but there was nothing.
Then, a voice whispered at his side. The prince jerked his head toward it, but there, too, was nothing. It whispered next on his other side, too low to make out words.
Loki held his legs tighter, confused and frightened. "Who goes there?" he spoke to the murky darkness.
More whispers, low and gravelly, all around now.
"Brother?" he called, not daring to move even if he wished it.
Suddenly the form of his father appeared several steps away, before him.
"Father?" Loki said cautiously even though relief began falling over him. "Father!" he tried to move, to rush to his father, but he was paralyzed, stuck on the bed. He grimaced at his body, but it wouldn't budge. His eyes fell on the form of the All-father, who hadn't moved. "Father?" he said again.
Odin stood still, staring, his one eye unblinking. His mouth was slightly ajar, and, when Loki strained to hear, he could hear a continuous stream of words and breaths leaving his father's lips.
Loki shrunk back at the strangeness of it all, suddenly afraid of the image of his father. And when a blinding flash of pain and heat shot up Loki's spine, he fell onto the bed, arching his back in pain.
"Father!" he screamed through clenched teeth. "Help me!"
When Loki opened his eyes Odin was suddenly by the bed, staring at him. Next, his large right hand was around Loki's throat- no, not around, but rather placed lightly upon, touching but not hurting.
The prince stared at his father's unblinking eye, still afraid and uncertain what was happening. Pain flared across his throat where Odin touched, but it was not so painful that Loki could not bear it. There was a sound like rushing water all around next, only for him to realize a moment later it was voices, it seemed like dozens of them, speaking all at once.
Again, his father's mouth was open and he spoke, although his lips still did not move, "Do not fight us, son."
Loki frowned. "'Us'?" he asked, but his words were too small to fill the noisy space surrounding he and his father.
Then, when Odin removed his hand and the warmth subsided, Loki found himself suddenly on his stomach, although he did not remember flipping over. Before he could question his father, he felt warm hands, many warm hands, all across his back, holding him there.
"No!" Loki screamed to them, but he wasn't certain why he was protesting.
"Do not fight us, son," said Odin's voice again, exactly the same as the first time.
Loki did stop, but he couldn't help the whimper that escaped at having so many hands on him, doing what, he didn't know. And when he glanced back and around, trying to spot who was touching him, he saw no one, not even his father. He yelped at the emptiness and the dark, disoriented and confused and what in the Realms is happening?! Where were the hands coming from? What are they doing?
Without warning, the red darkness shifted, sputtered, growled, then changed, a black void eating what little red remained. The blanket of nothingness surrounded Loki and the small bed.
"...Devour..." something whispered into Loki's ear.
The trickster whimpered and looked about nervously. "W-who said that?"
Another whispered word he couldn't understand.
Then, beside him, although he couldn't see his father, and as if from across a great distance, "...hold there, do not let him go! I will not..." and his voice drifted across the void, empty and lost in a still wind.
"Father!" Loki tried to scream, but his voice was only air passing his teeth.
"...and torment..." said the same voice, whispering into his ear again.
Loki clutched at the white blankets beneath, trying to keep from trembling.
He hid his face, feeling as though the darkness was trying to eat his skin, his mind- stop!
It whirled all around, pushing down and in, caressing his skin in a blood as cold as death.
"...Shatter the sky..."
A sob caught in Loki's throat. He didn't understand these words or where they came from, but they filled him with absolute despair, as if the entire universe was falling down upon him, crushing him and he couldn't breathe.
"...the Last..." it whispered so quietly he thought he imagined it.
"No!" Loki screamed through gritted teeth, then he just screamed, then screamed again, a heat growing along his spine, filling his body like a moving wave. "Somebody help me!"
There was darkness, nothingness. The bed was gone, his body was gone, there was no cold, no heat, no eyes, no skin, no teeth, no no no no! Nothing.
Then, slowly at first, so slowly, began a voice. The same voice out of the darkness. But the words no longer made sense, they seeped into his mind, skimming across his thoughts, then, they quickened, coming faster and faster until they were a blur of chaos and pushed together in a high-pitched shrill cry, grating against his mind and scratching and gouging and ripping-
Loki jerked awake, screaming and writhing and pushing and pulling everything he could get his hands on, but there were strong hands upon him, holding him down. Tight and terrifying and determined.
He tried to scream, tried to make his words come out, but they wouldn't so he growled and tried to push the hands away, get away!
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Thor couldn't help it when he burst into the room. He had tried, tried his best to stay away, to heed the Einherjar when they told him to stay back, but he couldn't. His brother was screaming and wailing and Thor's body acted on its own, reason and logic tossed aside for his instincts that raged inside his skull.
He paused, momentarily, when catching sight of half a dozen healers and guards holding his brother down, as well as his father.
"Father!" yelled Thor, wide-eyed.
His father, surprised, looked to him without moving. "Thor! You should not be here, we-"
The All-father's gaze locked back onto the struggling form of his second son.
Curious and worried, Thor rushed forward to look at his brother. He pushed half the healers and guards away on one side of the bed, then stood by his brother.
"Loki?" he said, half in a daze at the sight. The younger prince was on his stomach, face away from him and toward the All-father. "Brother?" Thor whispered. Down Loki's back, from the base of his skull to the small of his back, were a string of runes, hot and glowing an angry red, although, as he watched, they slowly began to fade. As if sensing their fade, the panicked movements of his little brother began to subside, small whimpers and hitched breaths the only thing left in their wake.
The All-father leaned back, a tired sigh leaving his lips. Sensing that whatever had been happening was now over, Thor moved to touch his brother, but first, he looked to his father, making certain that he would not somehow harm the trickster. Odin, sensing this, nodded with resigned permission.
Thor, carefully, and without touching the still slightly glowing marks upon his back, moved his brother so that he faced him. The smaller god's eyes were half-lidded, but still indicated that he was at least awake.
"Brother?" Thor whispered worriedly. When Loki didn't answer, the first prince looked to their father.
"Give him time, Thor," said the king with a sigh. "He will need time, much...time..." He then turned away, his movements slow and sluggish, as if he had just fought a lengthy battle- nay, a war.
Although he wished to inquire after his father, Thor's main concern right now was his little brother. "Brother," he tried again, leaning down close to the other's face. He ran several fingers through the dark hair as he looked his brother over. Touching the blood-covered neck, Thor realized that the cut had healed, the blood merely a remnant of the injury. Thor was relieved but still worried.
Eir appeared on the other side of the bed, hands clasping Loki's wrist as if checking for something. "He will heal, my prince," she said quietly. "He will live." Thor glanced at her kind face. "You should speak to your father, when you are ready," she finished.
Thor nodded but returned his attention to his brother. What happened to you, Loki? What happened in that dark cave?
After making certain Loki was well looked-after, Thor found his father in the room just outside the healing room, slumped in a large chair but still sitting up, strong and confident as he had ever seen him.
"Father?" Thor asked as he sat in a chair next to him.
The king sighed and immediately, almost as if in anger, lifted the dagger that Loki had given him. "Where did you get this?" he asked, his voice hard, his one eye fixed on his first-born.
Thor was somewhat taken aback, but he answered, "Loki gave it to me; it belonged to... he obtained it from the one who..." Thor looked down. "From she who tried to take his life." He glanced at his father as the aged king leaned in.
"Son," he began, almost urgently. "Tell me everything."
So Thor did, at least from what he had witnessed himself. The All-father listened intently and nodded occasionally, but otherwise said very little. When the end of the tale was reached, Odin shook his head and ran a tired hand across his face. He leaned back, into the chair and, once again, held up the dagger, eyeing it up and down.
"This," he said quietly, "is the Harrowing Blade." The first prince leaned a little closer, as if afraid he might miss something with that small distance. "It is a relic of an age lost. An age...even my father could not remember."
Thor frowned, eyes on the blade. "What do you mean?" he asked, curious.
"Did you know," Odin continued as if Thor had not spoken, "that this weapon could easily kill our kind? Any immortal, for that matter?"
The prince nodded, "She did say... something about it."
"Your brother is very fortunate," he paused, a small grimace flickered across his face before it disappeared. "His neck wound was treated in time; if Eir was not the most skilled Healer in the Realms he would have perished. And with my aid, well," the king seemed to lean further into his chair.
Next, he looked to the two Einherjar in the room and dismissed them with a hand. They left without a word, metal armor and boots swiftly sliding across the marble floor.
"Thor," Odin began, although he did not look to his son, his one-eyed gaze somewhere else, lingering. "Your brother... We could not heal the injury done to his back." His eye flicked to Thor's suddenly, and the prince felt as though it pierced him to the seat. "Listen," his said, voice resolute and, Thor knew, a command was about to be voiced. "You must never tell anyone of the runes carved upon your brother's skin."
Thor frowned. "But father, can you not heal-"
"No, son," he interrupted, his gaze still so hard, "we cannot- I cannot. The Blade's work was allowed to linger upon him too long; it has scarred him..."
The prince's eyes widened. Scarring an immortal was near impossible, there were always remedies for it, if the person truly wished to remove the marks. By his father's tone, he knew that this was not such a case- Loki would be scarred forever.
At his son's silence, the king continued. "But that is not why I insist upon your silence. Those runes are..." he hesitated, and it was strange, because Odin was ever as confident as his first son, and as quick-tongued as his second. But he looked the prince straight in the eye. "They are tied to your brother's will, Thor. And they can do so, so much worse..." Now both his hands moved to cover his weathered face and for a brief moment, Thor feared his father might begin to weep. Fortunately, he only sighed and removed his hands a moment later, looking down. "You must watch out for him, my son. There are few, if any, magic-wielders that would ever recognize those runes, but if any did, it could be disastrous, for Loki and for..." he trailed off and stared into the distance, as if he could see some faraway horizon no other of two-eyes could see.
After a moment of thinking on his father's strange words, Thor nodded resolutely. "I will, Father. I will. No one will know of it, I swear it."
His father looked to him with an almost reproachful look. "Do not swear what you cannot hold to."
"I know, Father, I am not a child." Thor did not mean it defensively, it was simply a fact, and he hoped that his voice reflected that.
Odin nodded. "I know, son." He patted a calloused hand on Thor's. "I know." He stood up and, surreptitiously, tucked the dagger into his robes. "Look after your brother," he said as he looked to the healing room's doors. "Tell him what I have told you. I will speak to him later." He glanced at Thor. "Do not worry about the healers and guards that were in the room with us. They have already been sworn to secrecy, tell your brother." He shook his head and grumbled his next words, "Now I must deal with your mother's wrath when she finds that I did not inform her immediately when her second son was hurt."
Thor stood and nodded, controlling the smirk that threatened to emerge, "Yes, Father." He then watched as his father walked away.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
At the sight of someone hunched over him, Loki flinched back, but as he blinked and recognizing his brother, he sighed, "Thor..."
Thor's attention was elsewhere, but hearing Loki speak he smiled, "Brother!" The elder prince clumsily aborted his obvious attempt at an embrace and opted to take Loki's hand instead.
"Ever so graceful, brother," Loki teased quietly, his throat feeling harsh and scratchy. The blinding smile that greeted him almost made Loki cringe, but he was too tired and boneless to even try it.
The blonde prince leaned in, both hands holding Loki's. "I thought I'd lost you..." he said quietly, bright blue eyes boring into Loki's green. The frown that now adorned the elder's face was wholly unwelcome after the brilliance of the smile before, the contrast grating on Loki's nerves.
"What happened?" asked Loki quietly, trying to look about, but his body was still too tired and all he could see was the ceiling and some of the walls of the healing room.
Thor pursed his lips. "Father and Eir healed you-"
"Father?" Loki asked, again trying to look around. "Where is he? Mother-?"
"Shh, shh, brother, they were just here, would you like me to call them?"
The trickster blinked, thinking. Finally, he said, "In a moment, I...I wish to..." he frowned, trying to find the right words. "Can we just stay here for a moment?"
The blonde head nodded with a small smile. "Of course, whatever you wish."
"Oh?" Loki teased. "Whatever I wish?"
Thor looked at him reprovingly. "Don't get clever with me, brother."
"I thought I was always clever-"
"You are not so young anymore that I will spare you-"
"Spare me what?" Loki scoffed. "When have you ever spared me? I seem to recall you pummeling me into the grass not last week-"
"Only because you insist on-!" Thor stopped himself and grimaced slightly, leaning back. He sighed. Loki raised both brows and stared at him, a satisfying grin hiding, ready to emerge. Thor rolled his eyes. "Your teasing will get you into trouble some day, brother," he shook his finger.
"Hasn't it already?" asked Loki, amused.
Thor suddenly smiled, but it was a serious smile, contemplative as he looked down at Loki's sheets. "I am glad that you are back to yourself..."
The trickster frowned. Back to myself... "When was I not?" he dared ask, already knowing the answer.
"I..." started Thor, eyes now serious as his brow furrowed slightly. He still avoided Loki's face. "I do not know what...I do not know how to tell you."
"Tell me what?" Loki asked, curious, although a small knot was slowly forming in his stomach.
And when Thor's blue gaze fell on him, he told him everything. Everything that their father had said, everything that Loki did not wish to hear. And yet... he was not sad for it.
The elder prince stared at him, apparently trying to gauge his reaction. "Loki? Are you listening to me?"
He nodded but said nothing. How could he despair when there had been so much worse, so much horror that could have been unleashed, instead? They had stopped it, stopped her and it and whatever other darkness that had threatened their home. So no. No, Loki wouldn't feel the dark, the void that lingered outside of his vision. It was a terror that he didn't wish to acknowledge, something that he knew was there but that he was never meant to know. Ignorance might seem the folly of the cowardly, but how many that had said those words could claim to have seen what Loki has? Very few, most certainly.
He looked to his brother, his companion, who was always there, who had saved him and watched over him when he could not protect himself. "Brother," Loki said, barely thinking on his words.
Thor waited, a slight and almost playful furrowed brow lingering there.
The trickster decided to think on simpler things. "What happened to...to..."
"To...Malcinia?" Thor filled in his words.
The name suddenly struck Loki. It sounded odd for some reason, as if it belonged in the distance, to the past he wished forgotten. Yet, he nodded.
"She was found, and brought back to Asgard's dungeons. You need not worry yourself over her. She is not a threat now."
Loki nodded again, absently.
"If it makes you feel any better," continued Thor on a lighter tone, "they found Furrow as well. The old man in the woods," he clarified.
"Oh?" Loki hadn't been expecting that name either. He briefly remembered that the man had saved them, that he was the one who knew of the woman's wickedness.
Thor nodded. "Although," he smiled a little, "he refused to speak to our warriors. Apparently, he threw rocks at them and scurried deeper into the forest. But...he is well." He smiled more fully now, as if to himself, and Loki couldn't resist smiling a little, as well.
That strange old hermit. Who was he?
Thor suddenly leaned in, closer. His face still looked worried, despite his previous smiles, and Loki couldn't help but think that, somehow, he looked older. Next, he wondered if he himself might have grown, too, alongside the elder. Thor's hand ran through Loki's hair roughly, then came to rest affectionately on the nape of his neck. The gesture was familiar, grounding, and Loki could do nothing but look into the other's eyes.
"Brother," said Thor softly, a hint of satisfied hope behind the word. "I am glad you are well. I've missed you." A small smile lingered, waiting to emerge.
Loki's gaze darted from one sky-blue eye to the other. "I... And I, you," he returned, feeling less and less like the silver-tongued god others named him to be.
The familiar golden smile of Thor greeted him next as he was pulled into a crushing embrace. "Do not ever do that to me again," whispered the thunder god into Loki's shoulder. "Not ever..."
Shocked at the seriousness in his elder brother's voice, Loki swallowed and cleared his throat. "I will... try," he said truthfully, somehow feeling as though a soothing lie would hurt more now than to speak truth.
The thunderer pulled back, sniffling his tears away. Taken aback, Loki remained silent, looking around.
"Well," said Thor, trying to regain his composure as he straightened himself, "I will get mother and father. Mother, especially, is anxious to see you awake..." he trailed off as he walked for the door.
Somehow, without his consent, Loki heard his own voice speak before the thunderer could reach the door, "I love you," he whispered.
Thor stopped. A moment passed before he turned around, smiling. "I know, brother," he said. "I love you, too." His sun-bright smile lit up the room as he walked away, his step ever lighter than it was before.
Blinking his own tears away, Loki smiled, too.
A/N: I hope you guys have enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it! I must admit, I'd like to turn this into a series as I've already put in some things that point to ideas that could work in sequels. I also have a one-shot planned that ties into this story, although I don't know when I might (or if) write it. It might explain some parts of this story that might be a little confusing (however, I might wait to add those things in a true sequel, we'll see).
Until next time, I love you guys! X3