After plummeting through a chaotic swirl of stars and the cosmos, Loki almost welcomed the quiet, dark confines of his cell. The fall from the void seemed to have stripped him of his powers...his durability and accelerated healing included. He couldn't break free of the shackles that bound him to Arendelle's prison. The only magic he was capable of, if he could even call it that, was his innate ability to shift between his Asgardian and Jotun forms. As he discovered this, he clenched his blue fist and cursed himself.
"I'm pathetic," he muttered.
He had been close...so close to being hailed a king and a hero for wiping out his monstrous kind. He had been on the precipice, the point of feeling near invincible. His moments of glory were painfully brief. Now he couldn't even break himself out a measly prison built by and for mortals. His body still ached from the brief fight with that woman named Elsa. She was quite lovely. And remarkably sharp, as he had quickly learned.
'But not as sharp as me,' Loki gloated to himself. 'I'll take a chisel and chip away at that ice sculpture...layer by icy layer.'
He just needed to confirm his suspicions. The queen too had her own suspicions of him; the way she often visited his cell gave away her wariness.
'If I was restored to my proper strength, she'd be right to worry. But I'm not going anywhere.'
The tension was always thick in the air, so Loki tried to lighten it up with a casual greeting. "The days come and go unnoticed in this dark dungeon. How long have I been here now?"
"A week," Elsa replied. She folded her arms. "I've waited patiently; now I came to see if you've regained your sanity. Tell me again your name and where you came from."
Loki shrugged. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but my answer remains the same. I am Prince Loki Odinson of Asgard. Or was. I've been raised and deceived into thinking that for many years, but the truth revealed itself to me." He gave her a bitter smile. "I am Prince Loki Laufeyson of Jotunheim."
Intrigue flashed across her cold mask. "Jotunheim...you're a Frost Giant?"
He tipped his head to her in a mock congratulatory gesture. "I see you remember your lore well."
"Your size makes me find your claim hard to believe." Then Elsa thought of his blue skin and red eyes. "But other things suggest you might be telling the truth."
Loki tried not to show his annoyance. "Enough about me. Now that I've shared some of my dark secrets, I'd like to hear yours. Tell me, Queen Elsa...are you married?"
The sudden change in subject took her off guard. She visibly tightened her lips.
He felt a flash of satisfaction. 'I'm getting somewhere...' Loki pressed on: "I notice that you always come to see me alone. Where is your king? Where is your husband to defend his precious queen? Surely by your age you have a spouse and children."
Her reply was sharp and flat. "That's none of your business. What's it to you?"
'It's everything to me, my dear. More than you can ever imagine.' He didn't say this out loud, of course. He tilted his head. "If what I suspect and what you imply is true, then you have my admiration for ruling a kingdom singlehandedly. It's no easy task, especially for a young woman like you. I'm sure you've drawn the eyes of many men. Probably broke their hearts, as well."
"Silence!" Icicles sprung up under where Elsa had whipped her hand to the side.
Loki was both bemused and fascinated. "Looks like I hit a nerve. The ice you unleash reflects how the ice in your heart wears thin. How ironic."
Elsa wanted to wipe that smug smile off his face. 'He makes a good point,' she thought ruefully. She certainly felt that when she first lost composure in front of Anna, in front of Arendelle, during her coronation. Now Elsa burned with shame for losing her temper in front of the man who goaded her.
'I've spent a long time getting my powers under control. And just like that, I'm emotionally back to where I started.'
She fixed him with a chilly glare. "Provoking my wrath will get you nowhere. If you really insist on calling yourself a god, I have no problem leaving you in this cell for the rest of your immortal life."
"And who will take your place to keep me in here after you die?"
"If I leave behind no heirs, my sister and her children will continue the line."
"You have a sister?" He sounded greatly intrigued. "Younger than you, I assume, since you are the queen. Do you two get along well?"
"More than well. If the stories about you and Thor are true, then I can't say the same about you."
Loki flinched, stung by her remark. Elsa noticed his reaction. 'Looks like we're on even ground now...'
"You mentioned earlier about the true scope of your crimes," she continued. "Perhaps it's not my place to properly judge you. Somehow I'll have to send you back to where you came from."
He let out a bitter laugh. "Oh no, that can't be done. The very same people who claim to love and accept me as one of their own will only greet me with a knife at my back instead of open arms. If I return, they will execute me without hesitation. It'll be a death only befitting of a monster like me."
Elsa's voice came out hushed. "You were exiled? Did you betray Asgard?"
He frowned at her, feigning hurt. "Your words wound me, Queen Elsa. I only wanted what was best for Asgard. But my 'father' and 'brother' would not have it. Blood truly runs thicker than water. Odin always favored Thor...his firstborn, his true son. A Frost Giant can never sit on the throne of Asgard. I was cast out...in my efforts to be the best son, brother and king I could be, all they saw was a monster." The bitterness in his voice was real. But he had to twist his words so he would appear a victim rather than the culprit.
Loki scrutinized Elsa's reaction. Much as she tried to deny it, she couldn't help but pity this man.
His voice lowered to a pained whisper. "Do you know what it feels like to be called a monster?"
"I...I do," she murmured. She seemed to look back at her own reflection, a shell of what she once was when she had been imprisoned in her own kingdom. Just when Elsa thought there might've been an unspoken connection between her and Loki, she quickly collected herself and reassumed her distant facade. "Since it's not possible to return you to Asgard, I will proceed with your trial in a few days. I hope you'll be prepared for whatever lies in store for you when the time comes."
Elsa turned and left, intending to leave Loki in a state of foreboding and uncertainty. Instead, he silently turned the gears in his devious mind.
'Just as I suspected, she is ripe for the picking. I'll make her fall in love with me so I can become king. A king of a tiny little kingdom...but a king nevertheless. If I couldn't have the throne by force, then I could marry into monarchy. I will bid my time and accumulate power. Only then I can take revenge on my so-called family and home.'
Loki relished a good challenge. He managed to deceive the likes of Heimdall, Odin and Laufey. Surely he could do the same with Queen Elsa. Contrary to popular belief, no shortcut existed in the form of a love potion or spell. Loki would have to weave a spell of his own, only with sweet words and a sharp mind rather than mere incantations and some ingredients thrown into a brew. He considered today a good start. At least he managed to draw even the slightest bit of sympathy out of her.
'I will make this ice cold queen warm up to me. To do that, I'm willing to twist and bend the truth...play with smoke and mirrors...whatever it takes for her to fall in love with the wrong image of me...'
The more he sat there and thought, the more he left behind the bitterness of his past to anticipate the promises of a new future. A future tied closely with this queen of Arendelle.
To briefly take her mind off of Arendelle's newest prisoner and other matters she must attend to as queen, Elsa visited her sister's house for lunch. She quickly found that wouldn't be the case. Anna really wanted to see Loki for herself, but Elsa and Kristoff firmly said no.
Anna lightly bounced Henrik on her lap. "From what you've been telling me, he seems like a really smart guy."
"Well, he did say he was a prince." Elsa stared down at the cup of tea she had been drinking. Doubt darkened her eyes. "I'm not sure if I really believe his words, but Loki claims to be wrongly exiled by the Asgardians."
"He is the god of mischief," Kristoff remarked. "I'm not surprised he got kicked out for stirring up trouble of some sort."
Elsa furrowed her brow. "He mentioned he was king for a short time. 'A Frost Giant can never sit on the throne of Asgard,' he said."
Henrik interrupted their conversation as he squirmed out of Anna's lap and reached for the mittens on the table. "Mommy, I want to play outside."
"Make sure you stay close to Daddy and Olaf, then."
The boy turned to look back before going out the door. "Aunt Elsa, you're not going to play?"
She gave him a soft smile of apology. "I'm sorry, Henrik. Maybe another time. I need to talk with your mother."
When Olaf, her son and husband left the house, Anna turned back to her older sister with a pondering frown. "So Loki was exiled because he didn't belong? That's sad..."
Elsa gave her sister a strange look. "You never even met Loki. Yet you still sympathize with him?"
"Well, wouldn't you?" Anna smoothed her baby daughter's hair with absentminded strokes. "I know it was wrong and crazy of him to try killing you as soon as he met you. But he must've went through a lot. Rejected and thrown out...not to mention surviving a fall from the sky. He must've been so confused and angry. It sounds kind of like what you went through 3 years ago."
"I guess you have a point," Elsa replied. The only difference was that she brought the exile on herself, driven by her desire to both protect and escape Arendelle. But Loki's seemed all the more painful. She felt so blessed to have a loyal and loving sister like Anna. Loki, on the other hand, was thrown out by the people he called family. Elsa couldn't imagine being in that situation.
"So...what are you going to do about him?" Anna inquired.
Elsa sighed, trying to think. In the three years of her reign, this would be her first time holding a trial of this weight and magnitude. Once in a while she had to pass sentences for those who committed petty crimes, like theft and vandalism. But nothing as serious as attempted murder. "I suspect that he's up to something," she finally said. "I don't know exactly what, but I don't trust him."
Just as she said this, she came up with a way to deal with her prisoner. Suddenly the upcoming trial seemed a lot less burdening. Anna noticed the change in her sister's face.
"Uh...Elsa? Are you...smiling?"
The queen put down her finished cup of tea and rose. "Thank you, Anna. Talking with you has made my day much easier. I believe I have the solution for this dilemma."
Few people were present for Loki's trial. Anna was there too; Kristoff stayed at home with their children. Elsa had no intention of making this public, which would turn Arendelle upside down with news of this god on earth. What had happened to the church would remain a mystery to the commonfolk.
Elsa sat tall and proud in her throne, looking regal and composed as ever. Loki was brought before her in chains and closely flanked by two guards on each side. Despite his time in prison, he matched Elsa's posture and bore no expression, both equal opposites in appearance and status.
Elsa bore her eyes into his. "Loki Laufeyson of Jotunheim...you stand before me and the royal court of Arendelle accused of the following: damaging sacred grounds, trespassing, and attempted murder of one with royal blood. The last charge alone is punishable by death." She let that sink in like a solemn weight upon the courtroom, upon Loki most of all. Out of the corner of her eye, Elsa saw Anna tense up.
Finally the queen replied, "However, I don't intend to carry out such an extreme sentence. I propose another punishment..." Everyone in the courtroom seemed to hold a collective breath. Loki leaned forward ever so slightly, curiosity breaking the neutrality he tried to maintain.
Elsa gazed steadily at him. "From now on, you will serve as my bodyguard."
Everyone, including Anna, looked to the queen with surprise.
Loki raised an eyebrow. "Me, your bodyguard? I'd expect you to give that honor to someone you trust most."
"Not an honor, a punishment. With you by my side, I will watch every move you make."
"And what if I attempt to kill you again?" he retorted boldly.
"I am perfectly capable of defending myself, as I've demonstrated to you before."
Her reply made the tip of his ears burn. He caught the faintest of smiles on her face.
Elsa rose from the throne, keeping her head high and letting her cool gaze sweep the room. "I've made my decision, but I will allow my advisors to voice any objections they may have."
The gathering of high-ranked men exchanged quiet glances. No one doubted Elsa's strength. With no formal training and by uncontrolled fear alone, her powers froze the entire kingdom. Now that she had more control and experience, she was truly a force to be reckoned with.
Elsa took their silence as affirmation of her verdict. "It's done, then. From this day forward, until I find another purpose for him, Loki will serve as my bodyguard." She stared down at him. "I'm sure you must be tired and hungry from your...untimely arrival at Arendelle." Next she turned to the guards. "Have him properly clothed and brought to my office for dinner."
If the men were surprised, and a little worried, they didn't show it. Instead they bowed and led Loki away, bringing the trial to a close.
Anna drew Elsa aside, brimming with energy for conversation yet trying to suppress it in low whispers. "Whoa, he's going to be your bodyguard now? That means he'll have to go everywhere with you. I hope you know what you're doing, Elsa."
The queen sighed. "To be honest, I hope so too. I'd rather keep my eye on him than let him slip into insanity and loneliness in prison." She watched the guards escort Loki down the hall. Her voice softened wistfully. "He doesn't have anywhere else to go. Perhaps this is my way of giving him a second chance."
Anna touched her sister's arm. "Be careful...but I guess you don't need me to tell you that." Then she winked. "Get in touch with me now and then to see how it all goes."
Hours had passed since Anna returned home, and Elsa worked in her office well into sunset. Because she was often so busy, Elsa usually ate a quick meal right at her desk. This time she had a small table arranged for the night, one that she would bring out whenever Anna and Kristoff came to the castle and dined with her. Now with Henrik and Hilda, the couple couldn't visit as often as they would like. Elsa tuned out the sounds of servants bustling in and out as she evaluated trade agreements and they prepared dinner. Finally, several raps on the door made her look up.
A lone guard saluted to her. "Your majesty, Loki is ready to join you for dinner."
"Very good. Bring him in, please."
Elsa abandoned her work to take her place at the dinner table. At the same time the guard ushered in the man in question. Loki appeared from behind the door and walked into her office with long, quiet strides. Elsa's breath hitched in her throat. Out of prison and garbed in the Arendelle soldier's coat, he cut quite a dashing figure. His long dark hair ended in the slightest of curls, its smooth and healthy glow starkly contrasted with its initial messiness.
Quickly hiding her surprise, Elsa gestured to the chair across from her. "Sit. Make yourself comfortable."
Loki surveyed the food for tonight: a neat setup of flat bread, strawberries lightly dusted with sugar, cups of mead, and shallow bowls of stew thick with mutton, parsley and potatoes. "What is this?" he murmured.
"A bodyguard only deserves the best to do his duty, does he not? I prefer not to have too much food spread on the table. But I can easily get servants to bring in more, if you'd like."
Loki waved his hand a little. "No need for that. This is perfect. Unlike my 'fellow Asgardians' who gorge on game with gusto and for sport, I never had a huge appetite. Even if I had been in prison for days, this bowl of stew will be enough to satisfy me."
'Well, that's something we have in common,' Elsa thought to herself.
Anna was the opposite. Despite her royal upbringing and appearance, she possessed an appetite rivaling Kristoff's. How she could eat so much food in 1 sitting never ceased to astonish Elsa. But given Anna's energetic disposition, it was only right that she had the stomach to take in all the energy she spent. Elsa had to make conscious decisions to eat more; she was quite slender for her age, and bordering on underweight due to her tendency to eat little and work hard. As much as Anna loved to eat a lot of food, she took her time enjoying it too. Elsa treated food as a necessity; rarely did she treat herself to chocolate and other confections after a long day of work.
Tonight would be different. She would take her time enjoying dinner for a change. Besides, she still had many questions for her new bodyguard.
Loki certainly had the manners of a prince as they ate. He didn't touch his food until she did, and he was far from being a noisy, messy slob as he picked at his food with delicate daintiness. Elsa tried not to let Loki know how closely she eyed him. He noticed, but made no comment. He too took note of the way she carried herself. With a light sweep of her hand, she cooled the stew before eating it. She briefly met his eyes as she raised her cup to drink. She quickly averted her gaze and pursed her lips. Her tongue darted out to lick the mead from her upper lip. He found that oddly arousing. She was nervous and tense, he could tell.
To her surprise, Loki broke the silence and eased her tension by saying: "Your punishment for me is both just and merciful. You are a good queen."
Elsa hesitated, not sure how to respond. She supposed there was some truth to that. A good ruler had to possess both justice and mercy; her father often used to tell her this before his death at sea. Then again, Loki could be simply flattering her.
She briefly pinned him with a warning glance before sipping a spoonful of soup. "Don't get any ideas, trickster. I'll be watching you. If you do so much as lift a finger to intend harm on me or my kingdom, then you'll make me wish I didn't choose to spare you."
Loki made a complacent nod, hiding his smirk as he lowered his head. 'Oh, I will do no such thing. I have no place to go, nor do I ever want to return to Asgard now. It won't do me any good to stir up trouble only to get exiled again. No, my ambitions lie elsewhere. As powerful as you might be, Elsa, not even a queen can read minds. I will comply with my actions while I plot and scheme with my head.'
He sat back to look down at his new clothes. His fingers brushed the lapel that bore the crest of Arendelle. "A yellow spring flower on a field of green. This is your family's sigil?"
"Hmm. I like the colors very much." Saying that made him think of his armor. He leaned forward with an inquiring expression. "I'm curious to know where you put away my previous attire. I hope you haven't thrown it away."
"No, of course not. I've never seen such material before, and I believe it would be worth some inspection. That's why I have the palace blacksmiths keep it for the time being. I'll decide whether I should return it to you or not." Mixed interest and skepticism flickered in her eyes. "That armor must be quite something, if it played any part in your survival from that fall."
Loki shrugged. "It has helped me through worse." He let her ponder over what he could mean by that.
"So you insist on keeping me by your side at all times," he continued. "What will you do at night? Even queens need their sleep." Loki was about to make a jest about sharing the bed with her, but he held his tongue.
"I'll have you stand guard outside of my room," she replied. "I'm a light sleeper, so don't get any ideas. Whether you leave from your post or enter my room, I will know." Then Elsa managed a small smile. "Enough threats. This is a nice dinner, not interrogation time in prison. I hope you're now in the mood for answering questions I have for you. If you comply, perhaps I'll tell you a little more about myself in return."
Loki smirked. "I like the sound of that. It looks like we've struck a deal, Queen Elsa."