Loki's Christmas Carol
Loki was sitting in the library and reading up on Frost Giants.
He had never been as interested in Frost Giants and the Great War as Thor had been. He had no love for them but straight-up battles were much more to Thor's liking than his own. He was proud of his father for the victory, certainly, but he had been content to let the Frost Giants fade into the backdrop while there was new magic to discover, mischief to conduct, and an overly-reckless brother to constantly save.
Even now, sitting here, he was attempting to save Thor. More than Thor, he was trying to save the whole realm. Such nobility wasn't often like him but this time it was different. This was important and he was completely in the right here, even if no one else was likely to agree. Well, he'd just have to not mention his involvement to anybody.
It wasn't like he didn't understand why no one would be applauding him for his actions. Letting Frost Giants into Asgard? That was madness. It wasn't just some harmless – or not-so-harmless – prank. It was technically treason and it could lead to people dying. It might even lead to a war. He wasn't unaware of these risks and this was not a choice he was making lightly.
Still, what else could he do? No one wanted to listen when he tried to explain about Thor's complete and utter unsuitability for the throne. He didn't truly understand why he even had to try and explain. These people spent just as much time with Thor as he did. Why wasn't it as blazingly obvious to them as it was to him?
He loved Thor but the man was a bit of an idiot. He never thought things through, he always acted without consequences, and he thought that he was unbeatable. He rarely listened to advice and he was altogether too easy to manipulate. Was he supposed to stay at Thor's side forever and try to manipulate him into being a better king? He would if he had to but surely there was a better way.
He was doing Asgard a favor but they'd never know as Loki wasn't so petty as to allow Thor to prove it.
Hence the Frost Giants. Nothing would interrupt a coronation so well as Frost Giants invading (and it would have to be during the coronation or else it might be finished in time to hold it) and he was sure that the invasion as well as the timing of it would set Thor off and make it truly obvious what a mistake the Allfather was making. And if that wasn't enough, Loki was sure that he could goad Thor into attempting to invade Jotunheim himself. He'd never let it go that far, of course, but surely then their father would see!
He'd get no thanks but seeing Thor not ascending to the throne until he was less likely to get everyone killed would be thanks enough.
Hence he was in the library trying to find out more about the Frost Giants. He shouldn't be in a position where he'd have to kill one but plans had an unfortunate tendency to fall apart when Thor was around.
Loki glanced up to see his mother smiling fondly at him. "Hello, Mother."
"Hard at work, I see," Frigga noted.
Loki shut the book. "I'm really just reading up on history."
"Or what passes for it after all the tales are told," Frigga said. "And speaking of, Loki, I wanted to talk to you about next week."
"Next week?" Loki asked, deliberately casual.
Frigga gave him a look that said that she saw right through him. "Yes, next week. Thor's coronation."
"Ah, of course," Loki said, nodding. "Well, what of it?"
"Are you alright with the coronation happening?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" Loki asked rhetorically.
"Despite Thor being older, your father didn't make the decision about who should be king until pretty recently," Frigga said. "I'm happy for Thor but I want to make sure that you aren't upset."
Loki didn't look at her. "Why would I be upset?"
"Your father isn't saying that you wouldn't make a good king or that he loves you any less than he loves Thor," Frigga said soothingly.
"Isn't he, though?" Loki couldn't help but ask. "He may not think that I'd run Asgard into the ground or bring about Ragnarok or something but he's saying that I wouldn't make as good a king as Thor would. It would be different if he said Thor was going to be the king because he was the oldest but that's not what he said. He said that whoever would make a better king would rule and apparently that person is Thor."
But he didn't have a problem with it. He just wanted to be accurate for accuracy's sake. It was always important to know what the truth was so that he could be better able to hide it.
Frigga moved closer to him and he stood up so that she wasn't looking down at him.
"Oh, Loki, you have to know that that isn't true at all!" Frigga exclaimed.
"I just don't see any other way of looking at it save that Father decided to put the throne of Asgard in the hands of the person he thinks is least-suited of the two of us," Loki pointed out.
Frigga sighed and took his face in her hands. "Your father just understands Thor better. The two of them are really so alike. He always knows what to expect from Thor. He is a good man but he lacks your subtleties."
"And he expects Thor to be a good king?" Again the words were torn from his lips without his consent.
Frigga looked curiously at him. "You do not?"
"I think…" Loki hesitated. "Thor is very rash and headstrong, Mother. I just worry that he hasn't developed enough patience. Surely ruling must require a great deal if you wish to do it well."
Frigga nodded her head. "I hope that the throne and time will mature him. He is young yet and we will all be there to support him."
"I certainly have no intention of letting him ride off recklessly to war," Loki agreed.
"You know that your father and I love you very much, Loki," Frigga said again. "Thor becoming king does not change that and it does not mean that we love him more."
Loki smiled at her but said nothing.
Frigga sighed. "Your father is looking for you. He's in the throne room."
"I will go to him presently," Loki said, leaving the library and making his way to his father.
Odin was pacing when Loki arrived.
"You wanted to see me, Father?"
"Ah, yes," Odin said, nodding and turning to face Loki. He stopped pacing. "It's hard to believe that in only a few more days I shall set aside the crown forever and swear fealty to my son."
"I can hardly believe it either," Loki said, forcing a smile.
"You will stand beside him, won't you, Loki?" Odin asked. "He will need a great deal of support in his early days as king. I know that I certainly did."
"I will do what I can to protect Thor and this realm, Father," Loki agreed. Whether or not anyone would agree with the actions this duty forced him to take was another matter. "But surely you would be a better advisor than I. You're centuries away from your final sleep at least!"
Odin chuckled at the alarm he couldn't quite conceal from his voice. "Have no fear, my son, those days are quite distant. But I am the current king and that makes it unwise for me to advise the current king. If I wished to continue to rule then I could do that very well on my own without speaking through my son. I fear he would not wish to stand against me as he would you if he disagreed with the counsel he was being given. He needs to learn to stand on his own without relying on me and the appearance of his legitimacy as king would be hurt if I were to stand at his side. Fortunately, we have you and I know you will be as fine an advisor as Thor could wish for."
"An advisor, yes," Loki said slowly. "The silver tongue whispering into the ear of the king."
Odin peered at him closely. "Is something the matter, Loki?"
"What could possibly be the matter?" Loki prevaricated.
But Odin was not easily deceived. "I have said before that you and Thor were both born to be kings and I meant it. Were either of you to be my only heir I would know that the realm would be in good hands, though not as good as the realm will be with both of you. I do intend for the two of you to rule the realm together but there can only be one king of Asgard."
"And that's Thor."
"He is the oldest," Odin said.
"And yet somehow that didn't lead you to declaring him to be the king on the spot when we were both children," Loki noted. "If you were waiting to see who would be the better king and not wanting to claim Thor as your heir in case it wasn't him then it wouldn't lead you to relying on age now. Surely you don't believe that we would make literally equally good kings."
"With Thor as king and you as advisor or you as king and Thor as advisor, the same people would be ruling," Odin began, "though I believe that Thor would be more open to your advice than the other way around. You do not always have the most respect for Thor's strengths."
Loki wouldn't go that far. He understood that Thor was the stronger of the two in combat and he would need to rely on illusions if he wanted to beat him but while that would be useful in war or in deterring a war, it didn't really have a great deal to do with making the right decisions for the realm.
"And a good king must have not only the loyalty of his people but their affection," Odin continued. "It requires hunting expeditions and never disappearing too soon from a feast. It is endless balls and visits with foreign dignitaries."
"You do not think that I am capable of playing such a part?" Loki asked, stung.
"I do not believe that it would come naturally to you. It would be playing a part, no matter how expertly, while Thor thrives under such circumstances. He lacks patience, yes, and that is a problem but he will learn it in time."
Loki forced away any reaction he might have had to his father's words. Odin might as well have just said that Thor got to be king because he was the Asgardian ideal and been done with it. The king was the face of Asgard and even Loki could think of no one who so embodied everything that the realm valued than his brother.
"Yes, perhaps in time," Loki agreed. "But Father, does it really have to be now? You yourself have said that you have many centuries left in you. Why step aside for Thor now? Wouldn't it be better to wait until he was worthy of the throne and not hope that he doesn't make too many mistakes and start a war or something while we hope that the throne itself will eventually rend him worthy of it?"
Odin was quiet and Loki was relieved to find that his father was at least considering his words.
"It is hard to say what might teach him patience and a greater maturity," Odin replied at length. "If over a millennia of living and his princely duties haven't done it, who can say what will? Am I to wait, potentially forever, for this to happen? No, I do believe the throne will mature him nicely. It did with me, after all. And I know that Thor will be in good hands with you. You two are so very different that you complement each other's strengths and weaknesses nicely."
Odin didn't want to wait around potentially forever for Thor to be worthy of the throne but apparently that was a better plan than just giving it to Loki. Well, his mind was well and truly made up on the issue, wasn't it!
Loki politely took his leave and left. He wandered around the palace, more convinced than ever of the need to do something drastic to stop Thor from ruining everything since no one was willing to listen to reason.
Eventually, he came across his brother himself and Sif as they made their own way through the halls.
"Brother!" Thor greeted him exuberantly. "There you are!"
"Were you looking for me, too?" Loki asked.
Sif shook her head. "Not really but it's convenient we found you just the same."
"And why is that?"
"We wanted to tell you about the feast tomorrow!" Thor exclaimed.
Loki looked at him strangely. "There's…a feast virtually every day. Asgardians do love their feasts."
"This feast is for a Midgardian holiday," Sif explained. "It's called Christmas. Apparently people give each other presents and have a mighty feast."
"Are we giving each other gifts then? A little warning would be nice," Loki said, a bit waspishly.
Thor laughed and shook his head. "Maybe next year."
"Why are we celebrating a Midgardian custom that none of us has ever heard of anyway?" Loki asked sensibly. "It can't just be for another excuse to hold a feast because we do that every day anyway."
"Yes but now we have a reason outside of just the joy of feasting," Thor told him. "And, as future king, it 'behooves me to learn more about the other realms', remember?"
Loki did remember saying something about that. "By appropriating their holidays as an excuse to have a slightly themed feast?"
Thor nodded. "Yes."
Sometimes Loki really wondered why he bothered.
"If you don't like it, maybe you shouldn't have given him the idea," Sif said pointedly.
Loki's brow furrowed. "I would really like to see how this is being blamed on me."
"You're the one who told him that all these constant feasts are the same century in and century out and if he wanted you to actually stay at these feasts then the least he could do is offer up a little variety," Sif reminded him.
Loki frowned. "I didn't expect him to take me seriously! He never does. And I hardly suggested this."
"Well you didn't give him any other ideas so this it is. And I think it's harmless enough," Sif said, "since all we're doing is having a feast in honor of other peoples' celebrations. If someone were to want to do that with our celebrations then I would be fine with that."
"As would I," Thor agreed. "Celebrations shared just means more joy for all. How could that be a bad thing?"
"The celebration could involve the ritual sacrifice of small children," Loki offered.
Sif glared at him.
"What?" he asked innocently.
"Well any holiday that requires that will be one we won't borrow," Thor decided.
"Are you really so certain that this 'Christmas' doesn't involve that?" Loki asked. "You don't seem to know a whole lot about it."
Thor's grin wavered slightly. "Well…I can't imagine that it would…it all seems so festive!"
"People can get very into these kinds of things," Loki said solemnly, nodding.
"Loki," Sif said emphatically.
"I'm not suggesting that they do," Loki said, spreading his hands out in front of him. "I'm just saying that we don't know enough to say that they don't."
"They don't," Sif said firmly.
Thor seemed to have recovered. "We do hope that you will come to the feast tomorrow."
"I come to all of the feasts," Loki said neutrally.
"And stay longer than it takes you to scoff down dinner," Thor added.
"Does anyone really stay longer than it takes them to finish eating and drinking?" Loki asked. "I just happen to be able to do so faster than most."
"Please say that you will!" Thor exclaimed. "I have only a few more days left before I am king, after all."
Loki's lips thinned. "There will be other feasts. There will probably be more of them with your new habit."
"It won't be the same," Thor said.
"No," Loki agreed, "it won't be. Now, if you'll excuse me…"
"Was that a yes or not?" Thor wondered as Loki walked away.
Sif sighed. "I wouldn't get your hopes up, Thor."
It seemed that there was simply no getting around everyone discussing Thor's impending kingship and should the coronation proceed uninterrupted that wasn't likely to change anytime soon.
Loki forewent going to the feast that night – proving that he wasn't forced to attend the feasts – and just had food sent to his room.
Thor was right about one thing. After the failed coronation, things wouldn't stay the same. They couldn't. He just hoped that he would be ready for it.
Loki sensed the strange presence behind him and spun around, dagger at the ready.
There was a translucent man, likely a spirit, with a long reddish beard and a ram-horn helmet.
Loki knew him at once though, of course, they had never met.
"Grandfather," he greeted. "Your statue really is to your likeness."
"You do not seem surprised," Bor noted.
Loki shrugged. "I try not to. And as a magic-user myself, I know that what is possible often is beyond the imagination of the average warrior. And the most likely scenario anyway is that this is some sort of illusion though for what purpose I cannot guess."
Bor, or at least the image that appeared to be him, frowned. "I can assure you that I am quite real."
Loki raised his eyebrows. "I'm supposed to take the word of something that may or may not be real that you are real?"
Bor didn't appear to have an answer to that.
"Not to worry, though, I absolutely believe that you exist, I just don't have much faith that you are who you say you are," Loki said. He tilted his head. "Or who I say you are at any rate. I don't believe you've claimed to my grandfather."
"I am indeed Bor, father of Odin and once King of Asgard," Bor said solemnly.
"And I'll just take your word for that, shall I?"
"I do not know how to convince you," Bor admitted. "I died long before you were born and so there is nothing that only the two of us would know that would convince you."
"I do not know that I would be convinced by such a secret either," Loki admitted, "seeing as how these things have a way of getting out. I would wager that I know at least half of the things that my brother believes only one other person who is not me knows. He's never been very subtle."
"Fortunately, I do not need you to be convinced of my identity since it really matters little," Bor said. "I am just here so that you will be prepared for what's about to happen and I thought that you would rather see me than Farbauti."
"Farbauti?" Loki repeated, confused.
"She is the deceased wife of King Laufey of Jotunheim," Bor explained.
Loki narrowed his eyes. "No, I know who she is even if she's been dead my entire life. I just don't understand why she would be the second choice to come here and talk to me about…something…if you weren't here."
"Well, as an Asgardian you don't really know a lot of dead people," Bor said, shrugging.
"Technically, even if you are who you say you are, I don't know you or that Jotun queen either," Loki pointed out. "I'm sure that I have other dead relatives ."
"Not all that many, actually," Bor replied. "Though you do at least have a great-grandfather. He always claimed that he was formed by a cow licking salty ice on the void but I don't know if he was actually serious about that – it was so hard to tell with him – or how he would even know."
Loki stared at him. "I'm sorry, what?"
Bor looked surprised. "I'm sorry, is this the first that you're hearing about this?"
Wordlessly, Loki nodded.
"How strange. Your father knows all about it, of course. I can't imagine why he wouldn't have mentioned this to you."
Normally, Loki would immediately begin asking himself what this meant and whether Thor knew but in this instance there was really no need. He tried to imagine Odin sitting either of them down and telling them where his grandfather supposedly came from and couldn't manage it. Odin was far too dignified for such a conversation.
He'd have to ask him about it one day.
"Next thing I know you'll probably be telling me that you don't know how I died!" Bor exclaimed, laughing.
Loki tactfully said nothing.
Bor narrowed his eyes. "You're not laughing. Why aren't you laughing? Do you honestly not know?"
"I can't say that I do," Loki said.
"What about Heimdall? You know how Heimdall came to be, right?" Bor asked rhetorically.
"I know that he's Sif brother and probably her half-brother since they really do look nothing alike," Loki answered.
"What has my son been telling you?" Bor asked mystified.
"Maybe you could tell me," Loki suggested.
"Heimdall was born of nine mothers and your Sif's mother was one of them," Bor explained.
"Are you sure?" Loki asked delicately.
"That is why I was told," Bor said. "They looked like they didn't want to have to tell me that because it sounded ridiculous but I didn't get the impression that they were lying."
"…How is that even possible?" Loki asked, mystified.
"I honestly don't know," Bor admitted."Some sort of magic ritual, maybe."
"I wonder if Sif knows about this," Loki said, making a mental note to ask her. He preferred to stay away from Heimdall if he could, especially since he started actively trying to avoid the other man's all-seeing gaze. "I wonder why nine women would even get together to try to have a child. Two perhaps but why nine? They could have had four or five children that way. But anyway, how did you die?"
"I was turned into snow by some sort of a spell," Bor replied. "I requested that your father find a way to fix me but I guess he couldn't."
"How very…unusual," Loki said, trying to be diplomatic.
Bor sighed. "It isn't the most dignified of deaths, that is true, but I have seen worse."
"You didn't tell me why you think this Farbauti would be someone who would come to visit me," Loki reminded him. "What does she have to do with me?"
"It was just an example," Bor claimed. "But on to why I'm here. I'm rather concerned about you, Loki."
Loki raised an eyebrow. "Concerned about me? Shouldn't you be concerned about, I don't know, all of Asgard given that Thor's coronation is next week and he is in no way ready?"
Bor waved his hand dismissively. "I'm sure it will all work out. And even if it won't, I'm still here for you and not for him."
Loki sighed. "Fine. Tell me what I'm doing that's so much worse than Thor ruining the entire realm will be."
"You are conspiring with our ancient enemy and committing treason to let them into Asgard," Bor said severely, any previous trace of good humor gone from his countenance.
Loki made a face. "Well when you put it like that…"
"How else could you possibly put it?" Bor demanded.
"I am attempting to save all of Asgard and Thor himself from his own folly."
Bor shook his head. "You truly have a gift."
Loki smiled. "Thank you."
"I do not like this path that you are heading down upon. It carries many dangers and if things continue the way that they are heading now then I do not think that any of us will like the outcome, yourself included," Bor warned.
"Are you saying that I should just let the coronation happen?" Loki asked flatly.
"Honestly, yes, but I know that it won't be that easy. That is why you will be visited by three spirits tonight who will show you the past, the present, and the future and try to get you to change your ways."
"Are you one of the spirits?" Loki asked.
Bor shook his head again. "No. I said that you will be visited. I'm already here."
"That's four spirits then and I didn't sign up for that," Loki complained.
"You didn't sign up for any of this."
Loki rolled his eyes. "That's even worse then! And why tonight?"
"It's Christmas Eve."
Loki stared at him. "You cannot be serious."
"I'm afraid I am. Christmas, though it is not celebrated in Asgard, is traditionally the time for these kinds of things. We can only be thankful that Thor's coronation is after that," Bor said.
"Am I even awake right now?" Loki wondered.
"Is that why you're taking this so calmly?" Bor asked. "You believe yourself to be unconscious?"
"No, I just wish that I was unconscious," Loki replied. "I'm fairly certain that I'm awake. I just don't find visits from spirits as oddly as other people do. Be grateful that you're not visiting Thor. He'd probably try to kill you. Again. And as a former king and non-treasonous citizen of Asgard, that in and of itself would be treason and get even him banished for a bit. Actually, that might solve my future of Asgard problem…"
Bor looked askance at him. "I'm just going to go before you figure out a way to actually make that happen."
"I'm just saying, it would certainly change the path I'm on. No Jotun or anything."