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lost my way.

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Loki had known for years that he wasn't meant to be king.

He wasn't stupid. Anyone, even an idiot, could tell that Odin Allfather clearly favoured Thor above him. The golden prince, and the favoured brother. It was clear, even if Thor was not the eldest, that the throne would have gone to him. He was tired of Asgard, tired of Odin, and most of all, tired of Thor and his idiotic friends.

It had really been salt in his wounds when it was announced that Thor was to be crowned and turned King. Loki bit down his protests, for he knew that whatever he said would be lost in the congratulations for his elder brother. He bit his tongue, for once in his life, because he knew whatever consequences would arise from Odin's ridiculous decision would only backfire and harm him, Thor, and Asgard. Loki had once held love for Asgard, but now, he lost all affection for the place he once called home. He wasn't meant to belong here, and he knew it.

Odin didn't care about him. If he cared, he would stop people ridiculing him. If he cared, he would truly treat him and Thor as equals. If he cared, he wouldn't let Thor treat him like a servant, rather than his own brother.

No, it was not Thor's fault, not really. Thor was naive, and easily beguiled. He wasn't stupid, but sometimes acted as though he was. And everyone around him only encouraged him. He cared not for politics and peace, but only for war. Ever since he was a toddler, he had sworn he would wipe out all of Jotunheim. Odin did nothing to discourage this.

Loki sighed at the memories, placing a hand against his forehead and pushing back his unruly black hair. He hated his hair, hated how it made him look soft, harmless, innocent. Thor's hair was long like his, too, but it framed a masculine and strong face, which all the maidens swooned over. No matter how he styled his hair, he still looked masculine and every inch the Thunder God that he was. Loki's face was thin, feminine. His body was lean, and though fit with muscle, because he was slim and tall he did not fit Asgard's standard of masculine beauty. His hair was seen as another sign of his weakness, of how he was more of a woman than a man. If his seidr and magic did not make him a woman already. All the nobles, warriors, and lords said this about him. So he slicked his hair back, donned too-big armour, and tried to become something he was not.

He wondered, where did he learn to lie so perfectly?

He hated himself, hated Odin, hated Asgard--and though he sometimes could not bring himself to admit it, his jealousy for Thor had slowly turned itself into dislike, and then hate. Perhaps the only ones he did not hate venomously within Asgard were the innocent common-people, most who were abused and ignored by the nobles and royalty just like he was, and Frigga, his mother, the only one who had bothered to believe in him and love him and teach him how to wield seidr to defend himself.

He was snapped out of his thoughts by the sound of loud knocking on his door. "Enter," he called.

A servant stepped into the room and bowed deeply to him, before saying, "The coronation begins soon."

"Thank you," Loki acknowledged the servant with a small nod of his head, and the servant returned his gesture of respect before backing out of his room and closing the door. Loki sighed at the reminder, and told himself not to do anything rash. Perhaps he hated the fact that Thor was getting the throne, especially when he was still so young (older than Loki by years, but not by mind), naive, and bloodthirsty. Loki did not doubt that he would run Asgard into the ground within the first few years of his ruling, and Odin would be forced to take the throne back (though at that point, Loki did not know if Thor would still be willing to give up the throne. Yes, Thor loved Asgard, but he also loved ruling and power).

He had, at first, contemplated allowing Frost Giants into the castle and convincing them to steal the Casket of Ancient Winters. He had learned to cloak himself from Heimdall, so the Gatekeeper would not be able to know he was the one who had done it, and the Destroyer would kill the Frost Giants before they could become a real threat. However, he had hoped that the small attack would throw Thor into a battle frenzy, which would then show Odin how irresponsible and unfit for being King he was.

But as he thought about the plan, he couldn't help but feel guilty. Thor's only crime was being arrogant and guileless, and that was more Odin's fault than his own. If he had been raised right, taught right, given classes and reprimands like Loki was--perhaps things would have turned out differently. But Odin had made no attempts to do anything of the sort.

Did he want Thor to fail as King? Or did he expect Loki to hold his hand the entire time, dutiful, like one of the stupid advisers that Odin always had around him? Still working in the shadows, making sure Thor did everything right, but getting no recognition for it? Perhaps Loki would have done it in the past, but now, he was not the same. He would not do it. Let Asgard fall, he thought savagely.

Besides, all of Asgard expected him to mess up Thor's coronation. Everyone would suspect him if something went wrong.

So, he decided to do nothing. He would play his role as the playful but innocent brother, who was slightly jealous but otherwise happy for his elder brother and soon-to-be King.

And then, he decided, he would leave.

And never come back.

It was time for Thor to become King.

After donning his helmet, armour, and cape, he had strode in to meet with Thor. They had exchanged pleasantries and short conversation, in which Loki almost felt sorry for wanting to leave Thor and this wretched realm behind, but his guilt quickly faded as Thor told him, "Some do battle, some do tricks." At once, he remembered why he had wanted to leave in the first place--Thor didn't care about him. Sure, he never told him outright that his seidr made him womanly, but it was implied, and Thor showed that he had no respect for an 'unhonourable' way of fighting.

He wasn't accepted in Asgard, not even by his own brother.

After their pleasant chat (which had quickly soured, though Thor was unaware of it happening) Loki had gone on ahead at Thor's request and lined up to the side, where the other (snobbish, though he would never admit it to their face) nobles and lords were standing, as well as the Warriors Three (Thor's best friends, which Loki fondly referred to as the 'Idiots Three' much to their and Thor's chagrin) and Lady Sif, who was perhaps the best warrior Loki had ever seen. Though he hated her, he would admit that at least (and of course, he delighted when any of the male warriors were defeated by her and then became very huffy and aggressive).

After a while longer of silent waiting, Volstagg leaned over and prodded Loki gently. Loki sighed and turned his face slightly, placing the most menacing glare on his face. The warrior was completely unaffected by this, and instead muttered under his breath, "Where is he?"

Loki looked around and realized, of course, Thor was not yet present. He sighed. "He said he'd be along."

Sif leaned in slightly, listening carefully to their conversation, before scoffing and shaking her head in realization. "He wants to make an entrance," she explained, after Volstagg's confused, "What?" Loki, and apparently the rest of the Idiots Three, realized this also and shook their heads as well.

"Well, if he doesn't show up soon, he shouldn't bother. Odin looks like he's ready to feed him to his ravens," Fandral said ominously.

Loki laughed a little at this, though it was intertwined with bitterness. "I wouldn't worry. Father forgives him. He always does."

No sooner had he said this did Thor emerge from the back of the hall, and the crowd was thrown into a frenzy. He grinned as strode cockily through the entrance, as the crowd roared and cheered with fevror. Thor spun and flourished Mjolnir in his hand, scarlet cape flapping behind him with his movements. Sif muttered, "Oh, please," as Odin glowered from the head of the hall, his one eye blazing with disapproval was he watched. Loki winced at the look on the old king's face--if Thor was lucky, he would still get crowned today. If he wasn't... well, let's just say even without Loki's interference, he was guaranteed some sort of anger from the Allfather.

Thor finished his showy entrance and then turned to face the king and queen, a triumphant smile on his face. Frigga gave him a look (a look that still made Loki's heart flutter as though he were a small child again, touched by the tenderness of a mother's love, before remembering that kind smile was not directed towards him anymore) but Thor merely grinned back. Odin stood, slamming Gungnir against the ground. The sound echoed through the hall, and the crowd quieted instantly. It was so silent that one could hear a pin drop.

Odin began to speak, and it was at that point that Loki could no longer bear to listen to the words.

His heart beat strangely quickly, and his skin felt alarmingly warm. He thought he'd prepared himself for this, mentally. He had known his entire life the crown was meant for Thor, not for him. So why did standing here, listening to Odin's words (which were now just mumbles in the background) still so painful? Why could he not bear to allow himself to listen to it? He briefly closed his eyes, before opening them again and focusing on Frigga. His mother. Maybe if he just kept staring at his mother's eyes, he could get through this.

"Thor Odinson, do you swear to guard the Nine Realms?" Odin asked, and Loki heard this. He gritted his teeth, knowing the answer.

It was no. Thor would not guard the Nine Realms, but then again, neither had Odin. They only guarded Asgard. What of the other realms, that were struggling and dying? No, there was only Asgard. Only the golden realm.

"I swear," Thor proclaimed, and Loki almost wanted to scream, Liar! How ironic. He was the god of lies, not Thor.

But then again, he had not exactly earned the title. He hadn't been born with it. He was given the title, by Odin. Thor was the same. He was given the title god of thunder, god of lightning. He was given the title golden prince, heir to Asgard, the firstborn. Loki was given the titles the dark prince, the god of lies and mischief, the god of chaos. They were not the same. One was golden, one was tarnished iron. It was clear to see why Odin had found it so easy to distribute titles, as though they were little toys for the princes to play with.

Some do battle, some do tricks. Some do battle, some do tricks. Some do battle some do tricks some do battle some do--

The words repeated his head, like a mantra.

"Do you swear the preserve the peace?" Odin boomed.

"I swear!" Liar, liar, you're a liar. Don't pretend as though you won't wage war on Jotunheim as soon as that crown touches your head. Thor had always hated the Jotnar, as did all of Asgard. Loki had not understood their burning hatred, but he found no reasons to like the Jotnar either. Their blue blood marked them as monsters, Asgard said, and if Asgard said something you had to agree. It had been a long time since anyone had ever seen a Jotun, because everyone found no reason to speak with them or care for them.

"Do you swear to cast aside all selfish ambition and pledge yourself only to the good of all the Realms?"

"I swear!" Thor roared, his voice loud and confident.

"Then on this day, I, Odin Allfather, proclaim you King."

As soon as the words had been uttered, Thor grinned and raised Mjolnir into the air truimphantly (Loki couldn't help but find this stupid--he hadn't won a battle, had he? Though perhaps that was just his bitterness speaking). The crowd roared and cheered and leapt to their feet to celebrate the new king--for though Thor cared little for them, they probably hoped he would make a better king for the common-folk than Odin had. Which was ridiculous. Thor only cared for generals, warriors, and how many maidens he could bring back to his bed.

How many maidens he could keep as his slaves.

Loki hated that part of Asgard most vehemently. He had tried to abolish the slave trade within Asgard more than one time, but none of the nobles had supported him. Who didn't want slaves? As long as you had money, you could get one. Prisoners of war, criminals that had been beaten down, commoners from other realms, and even some Asgardians that had been kidnapped right off the streets--the slave trade didn't discriminate. If you had money, you could buy yourself out of the trade. You could bargain, and you could pay their ransom. If you were poor (which most of the kidnapped were, since it was either nobles and lords or Asgardians in poverty) then you would be sold. If you weren't sold, the slave traders would keep you for themselves.

Sure. A golden realm. Though only for the rich.

Perhaps Loki would not have hated it so much, or resented Thor and Odin for supporting it, if his best friend had not been kidnapped and sold. He had once been just as selfish as the others. But when he'd made a friend who was from the poverty-stricken streets of Asgard, he had been devastated when she'd been captured. Odin had ordered him not to pay the ransom (though Frigga had tried to pay it for him, she was also stopped) and his best friend was then sold and gone from him forever. Until he found her in Thor's bed.

He'd been reasonably upset about it, and destroyed many things until Odin forced him to stop. And then Loki was punished.

His punishment? He'd had to watch as Odin executed his best friend right in front of his eyes. Thor had helped, too--used Mjolnir to electrocute the poor girl until she was dead and unseeing. The unhonourable death had ensured she would not see the light of Valhalla, either. Frigga and Loki had been helpless to stop it, though the two of them had refused to speak to Odin for months later. Frigga had kept her silence for a few years, in fact. Loki had ignored Thor for an entire decade before he'd started speaking to the elder again. Though, he'd never forgiven either of them.

He inhaled shakily, wanting to tell himself that Thor had grown from that. And that Odin had forgotten his cruelty from back then. But he knew it was not true. He sometimes disguised himself, and wandered into less fortunate areas. He still saw slaves. He saw the trade, still flourishing. Once, he'd seen Thor and his band of misfits there, too. He knew that Thor had not grown. He was still the same.

"Congratulations, brother," Loki called with a grin as he clapped Thor on the back, hiding the feelings that burned inside of him. His bitter anger and his disgust would have to wait, for now. "Let us celebrate!"

Thor winked at the younger brother. "Of course," he boomed, and then waved a young servant girl over and fetched two goblets of mead in his large hand. "Drink, brother!" He passed a goblet of beer to Loki, who smiled and took a sip. He hid his grimace at the flavour and pretended to look happy for Thor as the oaf chugged the drink. "Bah," he said, and threw the goblet at the floor. "Another!" he called. "And a tankard, not once of these tiny goblets! Do I look like a woman to you?" the others around him laughed at his joke, already on their way to being drunk.

Loki stood, his chest twisting as he forced his emotions down. "Have fun, brother. I think I will retire to bed a bit early today," he said, barely hiding the acidic tones in his voice. "Celebrate well." With that, he stalked off.

As soon as he entered his room, he sighed and fell onto the bed, bringing one hand up to rest against his eyes. As he lay there, he clothes shifted and changed form--going from armour into a loose, emerald-green tunic. The celebrations had tired and bored him both, and it had only confirmed that he wanted to get out of this dreaded place.

But where would he run off to? He would be found eventually--if not by the previous residents of the realm, his family. There was no known realm to him that was currently uninhabited, and he also did not want to spend the rest of his life floating around in the Void or in total isolation. But there was no one he could trust not to weed him out.

Illusions were an idea--he could disguise himself as an elf or something, but he knew that Alfheim also was home to many of the strongest magic-users in the universe and they would likely be able to pick up on it, no matter how well-woven his illusion was. As well, keeping up such a complicated illusion would only be draining. He was naturally gifted in shape-shifting, but he didn't want to live the rest of his life as some sort of black-furred, green-eyed animal. And the cooler animals always were more draining to become, like a dragon. He had tried it once, and nearly collapsed from the effort.

Of course, that had been in his youth. He was much stronger now. Though, unless he locked himself permanently in that shape with a binding curse (which he did not particularly want to do) then he would eventually have to shift back for a breather. And that would make things far too complicated.

He sighed, and looked around the room. With a wave of his hand, he summoned a small leather bag--he had, with the help of Frigga, enchanted this bag a long time ago to be an infinite pocket where he could fit an infinite number of things, no matter their weight or size. It would be perfect for storing his books, his potion materials, his weapons... and then he realized--so many things, and yet there was very little he could bring to remind him of his family. He settled for a charmed necklace that Frigga had gifted him, and the book his brother had bought him (though he hadn't put much thought into it, it was simply contained with fairytales that every child was told. Still, it was a book, and it was from Thor, so Loki would keep it). 

He then realized he had nothing from Odin. His mouth tasted sour again. Of course. No gifts from Odin, his father. Most of the items he owned were from Frigga, anyway. Odin had only gifted him years of anger and hatred, and deeply hidden feelings of bitterness and jealousy.

He hung the charmed necklace around his neck, looping it once so it wouldn't hang too loosely. The charm was of his signature daggers, crossed. Frigga always put so much thought into her gifts--in fact, she had been the one who had brought him to Vanaheim to ask the dwarves to craft the daggers he used all the time. He wasn't sure what the charm did, but Frigga had told him to use it when he was in perilous danger. She told him, with a smile, that though it only had one use it would save him no matter the circumstances.

He hoped it were true, and that it would protect him even when he left Asgard. Left his mother.

He emptied his room, shoving everything into his bag (besides his bed, desk, and bookshelf, of course). Once he'd basically stripped his room clean, he closed the bag with a wave of his hand and a magical spell, preventing anyone but him from opening it, and then shoved it under his bed. Another wave of his hand and he draped his room in an illusion that ensured no one could see the difference. He leaned his head back and thumped it against the headboard, feeling entirely too exhausted for someone who was a semi-immortal god.

For now, he would just sleep.

Tomorrow, he would leave.

Chapter Text

"My King," the Jotun rasped, kneeling in front of the ice throne.

The Jotun who sat upon the throne was thin and his face gaunt, his eyes filled with desperation. He looked nothing like what a king should look like. "I know," he said quietly in response, and the Jotun looked up at him in surprise. "A rift has appeared. Perhaps we cannot use the Bifrost, but you are hoping we can use this to gain access into Asgard, and take back our Casket."

"Yes, my king," the Jotun said after a moment of thinking. "It is our last chance. Your people are dying."

"Your people are dying. Helblindi, you are my heir. My firstborn son. Surely you know that I will die soon. You must make the right choices and keep Jotunheim alive. Do you understand me?" The Jotun on the throne stared deeply into the eyes of the other, Helblindi, who nodded after another moment of careful consideration. "Good." The king sighed and leaned back, closing his eyes. "I know what is happening, my son. We will die soon, if we do not reclaim the Casket. But Asgard is harsh, and will not allow it back to us. We will die."

"We can take it back by force! Die in battle, rather than by starvation!"

"They have weapons we cannot even imagine," the king replied, his eyes tired. "We cannot hope to win against them."

"Father, we must try," Helblindi said staunchly, his eyes burning with determination. "Asgard cannot keep what is ours forever. As well..." he lowered his voice, though there was no one around to hear them, "Odin has handed the throne over to his son, Thor. The Thunderer. The one that we were watching."

The king paused, and then let out a bark of laughter. "I see. Idiocy runs in the family, it seems."

Helblindi shifted, and then asked again, carefully, "I believe we should approach them, under the guise of celebration. We will likely not be welcomed there... but we will give them a gift. Odin will be too prideful to not accept it. They will likely destroy it as soon as we leave, however, and as soon as they are out of the public eye. Once they destroy it, it will rip a hole into the folds of the realms, and we will be given a clear entrance into wherever they have destroyed the gift. We have many powerful mages who are capable of enchanting whatever item we choose as a gift. As well, it is seen as disrespect if they turn us away while celebrating a coronation."

"They will not care if they disrespect us," the king laughed. "We are their enemies."

Helblindi nodded. "But their pride and honour will force them to welcome us," he explained. "As well, the rift that we have found is in a far too inconvenient place of Asgard to use properly. It is likely that Heimdall has also found it. If we are able to access the open rift before Heimdall can detect it, we could have entered. But alas."

"So you are suggesting we force a rift to open? That seems very dangerous, my son," the king replied gravely.

"It is the only chance we have. Visit them under the guise of peace, leave, wait for them to destroy our gift--which they will likely do, as they do not trust us and have no reasons to trust us--and as soon as they destroy it we will rush our army in and destroy them and take back our Casket, while they are still drunk and confused."

Slowly, the king began to smile. "Gather our mages and warriors," he ordered.

Helblindi's expression turned into one of hope. "You... you give your permission?" he asked, disbelievingly.

"It has been too long since I have been in battle," the king declared, standing up with a flourish of his torn cape. His skeleton-like hands clutched the sword that hung at his side, and he unsheathed it and swung it in a giant arc. "Prepare our forces," he ordered again, his scarlet eyes darkening as he strode down the icy steps. "We are going to war."

The celebration carried on into the next day. If Loki was not so sour and annoyed, he perhaps would have enjoyed it. He didn't tend to like celebrations and parties, mostly because they were loud and filled with drunks, and because they only cared about Thor and his band of warriors. They didn't care that it was usually Loki who brought down the beast or monster, usually Loki who devised the plan or strategy that worked, usually Loki who was able to get them out of the situation if trouble arose.

He could not count the number of times he had been dismissed, used, ignored, or looked-down upon.

He had woken up early that morning, only to hear the sound of drunken Asgardians still partying. He didn't doubt that at this point probably a fair number of people had left, but Asgardians were gods that could handle a large amount of alcohol, did not need much food or drink (though the celebration likely had plenty of both), and were able to go many days, even weeks or months, without sleeping. He had decided, probably against his better judgement, that maybe he could deal with a bit longer of drinking and partying. It usually wasn't his thing, but he supposed he owed it to his brother to see him one more time. He'd say goodbye to his mother in a more private setting (though he wouldn't really tell her he was leaving). He'd leave her a note, too.

Odin didn't deserve to know. Loki couldn't care less if the man didn't even find out. He wouldn't care about Loki's disappearance anyway.

As Loki walked to the grand hall where the party had (and still was) going on, he noticed a strange chill in the air. Frowning, he looked around him, but there was nothing. The windows were still shining with the sun of summer, too. He shook off the odd feeling and continued to walk, but the chill never went away.

He soon realized why. He gaped with confusion as he realized why it was cold, and why it had gotten so quiet.

There were ten Jotnar standing in the hall. He quickly scanned the area and analyzed the situation before coming to the conclusion that it was not for battle, but rather for something else. Though Loki didn't know what. He looked down and noticed the ice crawling menacingly from where they stood, and then looked back up again. They held no weapons, and he noted that three must be kings or princes, because they were surrounded by the other seven Jotnar who were threateningly flexing their fingers. Loki knew they possessed great magical ability (perhaps less, now that the Casket was gone) and could summon swords and spears of ice.

He swept into the room, ignoring the wave of cold that hit him as soon as he set foot into the same room as the Jotnar. He also noted that they seemed to be wearing some sort of charm to stop them from overheating.

"What seems to be happening?" he asked carefully, and a few guards swiveled around to look at him.

"Brother," Thor said gratefully, and Loki stepped up to stand beside him (though a few steps away, acknowledging their new difference in rank, no matter how sour it made his mouth taste). The other gestured towards the gathered Jotnar, a frown on his face. "They appeared, saying they had a gift for my coronation."

Loki gave him a look. "So? Accept it, you oaf. It's the respectful thing to do."

Thor glared at him. "They're Jotnar!" he said heatedly, perhaps a little louder than he should have said it. The Jotnar assembled turned and focused their glares on Thor instead, though the three in the middle looked unaffected. Loki noticed one of them was holding a ball of ice, which was polished well and frozen solid. Inside, slivers of silver swirled within the ice, as though it were hollow. Loki could feel the seidr rippling off the object, and he realized the sheer power of the thing. How did the Jotnar manage to make such a thing, when their resources were so depleted and their race so destroyed?

"Shut up, do you understand the situation we're in right now?" Loki demanded under his breath. "And lower your damn voice." He looked up and gave the Jotnar a slightly-believable smile, though judging from their expressions, it was lacking slightly. "Apologies," he said. "We thank you graciously for your gift."

He bowed and turned to Thor, nudging him slightly. "You oaf, it's safe. What, are you scared of a ball?"

Loki knew it was safe. It was strong and buzzed with seidr--he had suspicions of what it was, but of course, once they left he could just tell Thor not to break it and their problems would be solved--but he didn't want Thor to appear disrespectful and rude his first day of being King. He might as well accept it and keep it for himself, so Thor didn't seem rude.

Okay, maybe he was keeping it for himself because he sensed the strong seidr within it. Maybe he wanted to keep it and study it. Maybe he wanted to master Jotun magic as well. Maybe he was a bit too curious.

Thor grumbled under his breath but accepted the gift. The Asgardians muttered to themself and shifted awkwardly, but the Jotnar ignored them. Loki frowned as he saw one of the guards smile coldly, which basically confirmed his suspicions of what the gift really was. Thor studied the gift as he held it in one hand, and then shrugged and turned his back on the Jotnar. A blatant sign of disrespect that he had not even thanked them, bowed, or showed any sign of respect at all. Loki knew he didn't owe any respect to them, especially since Asgard and Jotunheim were enemies, but still.

"Thank you for your gift, King Laufey," Loki announced behalf of Thor, bowing deeply to them. He caught snickers and chuckles emanating behind him, and turned sharply to glare at the pair of snobby nobles that had laughed from behind him. They clearly thought he was a coward, bowing to their enemy.

No, not really. He was just smarter than them, and actually knew how to pick his damn battles.

The Jotnar nodded their head to him in return, but he heard one of the guards mutter, "I did not know Asgard had a second prince."

Fury swelled up inside him, but he forced himself to ignore it. He watched them as they turned their back and walked out of the door, but they had not even gone very far before Thor raised the gift and roared, "Let us smash this Frost Giant filth!" and before Loki could warn him, he raised his arm and threw it harshly against the ground.

"Thor, NO!" Loki shouted, but it was drowned out by the sound of ice shattering. The silver seidr inside swirled outwards and dissipated, but Loki could feel the magic working. No one noticed at all besides him, they were all busy roaring with laughter. He grimaced and tried to concentrate on what exactly it was doing, but he couldn't figure it out before he noticed a strange ripple in what he was seeing. He blinked multiple times and took a cautious step closer, when a giant foot forced itself out of nowhere. He yelped and stumbled back with surprise.

A Jotun. This was... they had created a rip between the realms?

He was overcome with both horror and amazement. Horror because no one had noticed what the 'gift' had done, and now there was likely a gigantic army invading them. Amazement because he had never seen any power able to create a rift between realms--it likely had required many mages and sorcerors to create such an object, just for the purpose of invading. They were serious about this attack. And now that Loki was paying attention, he noticed that the ten Jotnar had never left. In fact, he could sense their presence still there, just outside the giant hall doors.

"Thor!" he tried to warn, but they were laughing too hard to notice. Loki gritted his teeth and summoned his daggers, getting ready to stab whatever creature came through that rift.

There were a lot of creatures. And Jotnar.

A giant roar shook the entire hall, shocking many of the drunken and celebrating warriors. Even Thor was confused, turning slightly and staggering as he realized, wide-eyed, the sheer number of Jotnar who were flowing from the rift. And Loki's eyes widened as the ten-feet, eleven-feet, twelve-feet giants clambered out of the rippling tear in the air. He lunged at the nearest one but was almost instantly flung backwards by a giant blue hand. He wheezed and rolled onto his chest before pushing himself up, thinking carefully. Norns, this was their plan, wasn't it? Wait until everyone was drunk and confused and weaponless, and then launch an attack?

The ten Jotnar from earlier rushed into the hall also, summoning icy spikes from their hands and plunging it into the chests of nearby drunken warriors. Loki stumbled back as he saw red crimson flow freely from the holes in their chests, unsure of what to do. There were too many, and he knew what they were there for.

Two gigantic beasts emerged from the rip, snorting and tossing their heads. They were large and furry, with hooves that were black as coal. A strange white mane hung around their heads, which were frosted at the tips. Their eyes looked as though they had been carved from rubies, matching the eyes of their riders, who were large Jotnar that held spears formed from jagged ice. They shook their heads and released breaths of pure frost and ice, letting out bellowing roars that shook the entire hall. Loki gritted his teeth and lunged at one of them, which swung its head. One of its large, curved horns hit Loki across the stomach, sending him flying once more. He caught his breath, stars flashing in his vision. Norns, why wasn't he just killing them? He knew he could easily. A flick of his hand, and they'd explode.

A dozen pure white wolves with teeth like icicles leapt from the rip, circling the Jotnar and snarling at the Asgardians. Loki couldn't help but watch as the Jotnar began tearing into the inebriated warriors, their ice weapons good killers as they speared and stabbed and decapitated multiple Asgardians. 

"Thor!" Loki shouted, again, finally drawing his brother's attention. Unfortunately, he also drew the attention of some of the Jotnar. One of them was huge and hulking, possibly the largest giant he'd ever seen in his life, and was wearing a silvery ice crown atop his head. A prince, perhaps? Or maybe the king. Though, he didn't look like Laufey.

"Grab him!" the giant commanded in a roar, and the Jotnar surrounding him grabbed at Loki, who deftly dodged out of the way. For good measure, he stabbed one of them in the foot, who shouted in pain and leapt backwards. Breathing carefully, Loki leapt at another and sunk his daggers into their chest, before whipping around and dealing similar damage to another Jotun. 

His attention was drawn by the sound of a scream, and Loki turned to see a woman being dangled helplessly by a giant's grasp. Her arm was slowly blackening and withering, and Loki realized with cold certainty that the Jotnar were there for the Casket, but were all-too-willing to kill any Asgardian that got in their way. He watched as the woman was dropped, dead and eyes glassy, to the floor, her dress rumpled around her. Though Loki found little satisfaction in seeing someone who had hated him for years be brought to death, he couldn't help but feel nothing to see her die. But one thing caught his attention--the blackening on her arm, which was frostbite. He knew how cold the Jotnar were, that could freeze people with a touch.

He barely dodged as another hand swept at him, but, distracted, he was unable to move out of the way as an icy sword pierced him through the chest. He gagged, blood spilling from his wound, and sunk to his knees. He shuddered, more blood spilling from his lips, but surprisingly, he felt no cold. Shouldn't I be dying from frostbite by now? he thought hazily.

"My prince... he isn't freezing," someone called, sounding alarmed, and Loki twisted to stab whoever was the maker of the noise. Someone tsk'ed and easily grabbed the blade out of his hand, but dropped it as though it had burned him. "He's... my prince... I think he might be--"

"Don't say anything more," the Jotun warned, and surprisingly gentle hands grabbed Loki and hoisted him upright. "We will leave."

"But... my prince! We are so close--"

"The others will stay. I will take him back. You all stay, and fight. We will reclaim the Casket."

"What are you doing to me?" Loki half-mumbled, though his mind was already slipping into unconsciousness. Weak! he cursed himself, not knowing why he had fallen so easily. Usually, it took a good number of stabs to get him down and near-unconsciousness like he was then. "Don't... don't take me... let go of me!"

"Quiet down, and stop fighting," the Jotun soothed, but Loki did not find it very reassuring.

"Let... go of me!" he ordered, summoning the dagger that had been taken from him back to his hand and twisting, stabbing the Jotun in the arm. The Jotun cursed and dropped him, sucking in a breath and pressing his unwounded hand to his arm, but surprisingly did not immediately kill Loki. Loki gasped as he hit the floor with a hard thud, but managed to stumble to his feet. He was swaying, though, and his eyes were slowly fluttering closed. "What... what did you do to me?" he demanded, but the Jotun did not answer.

"You will sleep soon. Do not worry. When you wake up, all shall be known," the Jotun told him, before scooping him up into his arms again and continuing to walk away, the sounds of battle echoing behind them.

It was only later did Loki wonder--why he was not burning with frostbite.

Chapter Text

Thor could not believe this. They were Asgardians, the most powerful warriors in all the Nine Realms. And yet, they were being embarrassingly defeated by those they considered weak, pathetic monsters? Preposterous! If Thor could fight right now... he would have them all dead!

But for some reason, he was unable to do anything but stagger around in a drunken stupor. He was sure he hadn't drunk that much...

His hand grabbed for Mjolnir at his waist, and he felt the comforting feel of leather against his rough fingers, but in his drunken state he was unable to use Mjolnir very well at all. He threw it as hard as he could in a general direction he figured had a few Jotnar, but was surprised when it hit nothing and instead came hurtling back, smacking him in the face and causing him to fall back and over himself.

Norns, this was pathetic. These beasts shouldn't even be able to stand against the might of Asgard!

He gritted his teeth, and tried to stabalize himself. He turned around and was stunned to see dozens of dead bodies strewn across the ground--they weren't even warriors, had not even drawn any weapons--why did the Jotnar target them, also? They were unhonourable cowards! He was also slightly miffed to see that the Warriors Three and Lady Sif were faring a bit better than him, and were protecting a crowd of common folk--which was stupid, why were they bothering to protect the weak? Those who did not know how to fight deserved whatever fate awaited them.

He did not like people being better than him in terms of fighting.

With a roar, he swung Mjolnir into the floor and lightning flashed above, arcing downwards and electrocuting multiple Jotnar, who shuddered and dropped to the floor at once, scarring and burns appearing on their deep blue skin. He grinned in sadistic pleasure to see this, pleased with himself. Ha! See that! Even drunk, Asgardians are better than you cowardly, pathetic monsters! 

Apparently he had said that aloud. A few Jotnar turned to him furiously, and one of them raised its hand and released a blast of its icy magic. Womanly tricks! Thor wanted to shout, but he was too busy choking on the ice blade that had speared him through the chest.

"Go to hell, Asgardian filth," one of the Jotnar growled at him, before turning and storming away.

Hazily, Thor recognized where the Jotun was going. Fuck. His first day being king, and hundreds of Jotnar had stormed Asgard, the throne room, and were now marching towards the Vault. He knew where they were going--or at least, he had a vague idea--the Casket.

Norns, he should have convinced his father to destroy Jotunheim a long time ago. If not for Loki.

Loki! Where was he! The coward, he was probably hiding somewhere.

"THOR!" someone shouted, and the named god looked up and paled to see Odin Allfather storming towards him threateningly, his one eye flashing with anger. The Jotnar who dared to challenge him were blasted out of the way by Odin's power, and Thor for a second felt excited before he shrunk back in realization that Odin's fury was directed towards him. Rightly so. How could he let so many Asgardians fall?

But then again, if they could not defend themselves against some pathetic Jotnar, did they deserve to live?

"THOR, HOW HAVE YOU ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN?" Odin roared, and his hand clenched around Thor's neck, lifting him up a few inches above the ground. Thor grunted, struggling to breathe through the tight grip on his neck. "YOU ARE A FAILURE AS KING! A FAILURE AS MY SON!"

"I was just--" Thor attempted to defend himself, but Odin dropped him on the ground, leaving him simmering with fury, choking and gasping for air. He turned to glare at his father, his hands sparking with electricity. Odin had never treated him like this before. Thor knew he was the favoured son, and relished that he was liked more and better than Loki in this. He wanted to be better than everyone in every single aspect. Odin always was rough with Loki, Thor knew this. He treated him much worse than Thor, and Thor liked this too. It was a surprise, being scolded so violently.

Odin glared at him, before sighing and banging Gungnir against the floor. "You do not deserve your title," he said gravely, and Thor flinched at Odin's disappointed tone. "But I cannot take it back now. I should have listened, when Loki told me you were not ready."

"Who cares about Loki?" Thor demanded, and gestured around him at the deserted throne room. "Look! He has run, like a coward."

"And today, you fought, like a coward!" Odin retaliated, and Thor flinched again. Norns, this was making him furious.

When Odin said nothing else, Thor asked, his voice rough, "What about the Jotnar?"

"They will be going for the Casket, but they will fail," Odin replied dismissively. "The Destroyer will put them in their place."

"I thought that was a myth!" Thor said, mystified and relieved that the Jotnar would not, at least, get what they had come for.

"You think many things are myths and legends--you would not, if you had studied like you were supposed to in your youth," Odin spat, but the anger was steadily draining from his voice. Thor smirked to himself, secretly pleased. Odin never stayed mad at him. He was free to do as he liked, and that was why he was always running from his lessons and skipping them. That was why he always taunted and made fun of Loki--it pleased him, and he didn't get in trouble anyways. Frigga may have looked at him with disappointment, but even she forgot her anger eventually.

"But what of Loki?" Thor questioned at last. "He deserted the battle. Should you not punish him for it?"

Odin glared at him, and sighed. "I did not want to reveal the truth so early," he said, more to himself than anything, and heaved a sigh. "Thor, there is something you must know. And I must tell you this. Your mother has always wanted you to know--but she feared for your reaction."

Thor frowned, curious. "What is it?" he asked.

"Look around you, Thor. Do you really think Loki deserted the battle?"

"Yes! He is a coward, and a womanly fool. He knows not how to fight, only to run. He is unhonourable."

Odin blinked at him, very slowly. "Strange that you believe that," he said quietly.

Thor's temper flared. "What is it?" he demanded. "Tell me!"

"Look around you," Odin repeated.

Thor sighed and glanced around himself. He noticed that there was a dagger lying on the floor, which was unusual. Asgardian warriors tended not to use such womanly weapons, and even Sif used a sword like a true warrior. That must belong to Loki, he reasoned. It looked like his signature dagger, too--the one he always used and clung to, because it had been one of Frigga's gifts. The dagger was slick with blue blood, and there was a pool of it lying beneath the dagger, as well. So Loki had fought, and managed to wound one of the Jotnar. So was he among one of the dead bodies?

"Is he dead?" Thor asked, with surprisingly little sorrow in his voice.

Odin raised his eyebrow, and gestured at the floor. "Do you see him, among them?" he asked.

"No." Thor frowned, and realized. "Did the Jotnar take him? Why!?"

Odin smiled a little, which confused Thor. This was clearly a blatant attack against Asgard, to take their prince! Perhaps one not as important as Thor was now, but still a prince of Asgard! Jotunheim needed to be put in their place! "Yes, you are correct. They took him."

"We must get him back! If not, we would be laughed at by the rest of the realms!" Thor raged. "This is war!"

"No, Thor. We will not take Loki back." Thor blinked in confusion, and Odin continued, "Loki... he is Jotun."

Thor stared, his jaw working, face filled with confusion. "WHAT?"

Loki opened his eyes to the harsh glare of white.

He winced and sat up with a shock as he remembered where he was. He could remember giant blue arms wrapping around him, and carrying him away. He remembered the sounds of fighting, and cursed himself for not rejecting the gift, for not warning Thor about what it would do. He swallowed and looked down to see that he was dressed in a scratchy white tunic that did not look like any of his, and he was sitting on a well-fitting cot with a rough blanket atop him. Every inch of his skin was covered with bandages, which he found slightly alarming.

Though he didn't feel any pain, which was odd, so he raised a bandage-wrapped hand and peeled off one of the bandage's edges.

Cold dread filled him as the peeled-back bandage revealed cobalt-blue skin. His eyes widened and he tore the rest of the bandage off, and breaths began coming from him in short, harsh gasps. He shuddered as he tore everything off, including the scratchy tunic, and revealed his blue body. His skin was covered with winding markings, and his nails were sharp and black. He pressed his hands against the bunched-up blanket, praying that this was an illusion, a dream, something.

Praying that this wasn't real. That his skin wasn't the colour of a monster's.

That he wasn't a monster.

But then again, it explained a lot of things, didn't it? Why he was so different from the rest of his family, with his black hair and green eyes and pale skin. Why he was thin and lithe, rather than sturdy and muscular like the rest of Asgardian men. Why he was so proficient in seidr, seen as a womanly art. Why he was better at using daggers than swords or staffs. Why his skin was always cold as ice. The signs screamed at him, yet he had ignored them all.

It also explained why Odin had never loved him, never cared for him. Why Odin always saw him as more of a poor homeless child that had somehow wandered into the palace that he pitied enough to let stay there. Why Odin never defended him, never saw him as an heir, never saw him and Thor as equals.

They were never meant to be equals--not only because Loki was younger, but because he had never really been Odin's child. He had just been a treasure, a relic, a prisoner of war disguised as a child. Loki didn't doubt that Odin would kill him if he was revealed as a Jotun to the rest of Asgard. He didn't doubt Thor would, too.

The thoughts were chilling, and he drew the blanket closer around him, despite how it chafed his skin. He felt hatred writhe and burn inside of him, but this time, it was directed at himself. He was a monster, a creature that all of Asgard--including himself--had hated. He didn't deserve to live. Why was he alive? Odin could have easily killed him when he was a baby, but instead he chose to torment Loki further and bring him back to Asgard, where he didn't even belong.

Did Frigga know? That was the most heart-wrenching question. He loved his mother--he did. But did she know who he was? More importantly, did she care? She was possibly the only Asgardian he had never heard insult or hate the Jotnar--so perhaps, she still held love for him despite his blue blood?

He released a defeated noise and allowed his head to fall into his hands. Monster, a nasty voice echoed in his mind. You're a monster. Do you think you deserve to live? Monster, monster, monster, monster monster monster--

He shuddered. Did the Jotnar recognize him as one of their own? Did they still want him? Or did they see him as a traitor to his own kind? Perhaps this was how it would end up. A Jotun monster raised by Asgardian barbarians. Rejected by both realms, hated by all.

Though... that didn't explain why he was in a cot (albeit uncomfortable) instead of a cell.

He closed his eyes. The spark of hope at the thought was quickly overwhelmed by self-hatred and loss. Was Odin ever going to tell him? Was his mother ever going to tell him? What about Thor? Did he already know, or did he just not care about his supposed little brother enough to pay attention? Would Odin and his mother tell Thor? Norns, Loki hoped not. He didn't want to see Thor's reaction to that news--his 'brother' was one of the monsters he'd sworn to kill.

His chest twisted, feeling oddly tight, and he took another few deep breaths. He had to calm down. Nothing would be achieved by panicking.

It was hard to calm down, but he managed it. The blanket was so tightly wound around himself, he wondered if he would choke.

As soon as he had relatively calmed, and pushed the realization of him being a Jotun--a monster--to the back of his mind, he got out of bed and scanned the room. He soon realized it would not be best to be discovered indecent and naked, so he pulled the tunic back on over his head (though he really did despise the itchy texture). He stood and noticed that the floor felt... odd. He reached down to take a closer look and noticed it was made of pure ice. When he turned to examine the walls he could see that they were of ice, also. He tested his seidr and found it reacted positively--and felt stronger than when he had been in his... what was it? A different form? An illusion? No, knowing Odin, he would not risk any of that. It was likely some sort of glamour.

Odin had likely intended it to be permanent, or long-lasting. But, Loki guessed it had been destroyed because he had been touched by a Jotun, forcing his body to go back to its original state and drop the glamour. Loki wondered if he could get it back. Maybe.

So, he still had access to his seidr. That was a good sign. It was a sign that he wasn't a prisoner. Or that the Jotnar simply did not think of him as a threat.

He tested the door. He sensed that it was unlocked, but he made no moves to push it open as he could feel the presence of two Jotnar outside of his door. So he was guarded, but would not be stopped from leaving, he guessed. Maybe they just wanted him to wait for them.

He glanced back at the cot and saw that it must have been prepared quite hastily, as they likely had no other Jotnar of his size. Norns, it felt strange referring to himself as... one of them. Before he could think on that too much, he forced the thought away again. If he kept dwelling on it, he knew he would go mad. He would likely cry, and if anything, he could not cry here. He couldn't show weakness, or they might kill him.

He remembered the unraveled bandages on the floor, and picked them up. They dissipated as soon as he touched them, which was odd. Perhaps they had been illusion-ed for one purpose only--were they trying to hide his skin from him? He bit his lip, his chest feeling tight again.

Maybe they felt that he was awake, or maybe he had been too loud, for the door swung open just as the bandages all finished disintegrating. He flinched slightly but composed himself quickly, turning to face whoever had just entered. His mouth went dry as he realized that it was the Jotun who had taken him from the battle yesterday (or was it yesterday? There was no way he could know, he didn't know how long he had been sleeping) along with two other guards of roughly the same size (which was a giant size, for the Jotun who had taken him--the prince, he assumed--was enormous, even for a giant). He noticed how though the prince appeared unharmed, the other two were mottled with scars, bruises, and marks that looked like burns.

Loki guessed that the battle had gone unsuccessfully for the Jotnar. He didn't know whether to celebrate or mourn. On one hand, he was glad that this meant most of Asgard were unharmed--on the other hand, his discovery of his true identity led to his absolute hatred of the place he once called home, and he was half-displeased that the Jotnar had not managed to kill them all.

He chided himself for the thoughts, feeling disgusted. What had he become?

"Greetings," Loki said, dipping his head in welcome. He felt vaguely uncomfortable. They were all giant, dressed in armour, and had weapons at their disposal. He was wearing a small white tunic and had no visible weapons (though he could use his seidr or daggers).

But then again, what would daggers do against a twelve-foot wall of hulking muscle?

"Hello," the middle Jotun, who Loki had assumed was the prince, replied. "I see you have woken."

Loki bit down a snarky response and instead opted for, "Yes. I realize this may be disrespectful, seeing as I have just awoken, but I must ask where I am?"

"You are in Jotunheim."

Obviously, Loki almost wanted to say, but he bit it down at the last second. "Yes, I realize this. I would like to know where in Jotunheim. As well, I must ask what you want to do with me. I can assure you that whatever ransom you think you can come up with, Odin Allfather will not pay it."

"Odin Allfather? Not your father, then?" the prince asked quickly.

Loki waved a blue hand at him, forcing down feelings of hurt and betrayal and hatred. "I think it is clear he is not," he replied dryly. "Unless he had an affair."

"Apologies, my question may have been intrusive."

"Who are you?" Loki asked, for the Jotun had not answered any of his other questions and Loki doubted he would even if Loki asked the Jotun again.

"My name is Byleistr. I am the second-born--" the Jotun cut himself off quickly, amending, "I am the third-born child of Laufey and Farbauti. I am prince of Jotunheim, and brother to Helblindi, who is the first-born and heir to the throne."

"Third-born?" Loki asked slowly, and Byleistr paused and looked to him. "I was unaware Laufey had three children. You are the second-born, no?"

Byleistr gulped, and the pieces started to come together in Loki's head. Byleistr's refusal to tell him where he was. The fact he had been taken from Asgard, despite the fact they probably would not have cared if he was some other random Jotun runt. Byleistr claiming he was the third-born, when it was well-known Laufey only had two children. Why Odin had even wanted a Jotun runt in the first place.

"No," Loki breathed, though the truth was clear as day. "No, this isn't possible. It's not--tell me. Tell me that this isn't true--I'm not actually a--"

Byleistr's eyes grew shiny, as though he were about to cry. "I'm sorry," he said softly.

Loki shuddered and tried to compose himself, closing his eyes momentarily to ensure no tears would escape. "Excuse me," he said, rather stiffly towards someone who had only just been trying to introduce themselves. "I think I would like a moment of privacy."

"Of course," the prince said, voice low, before nodding his head in respect and backing away. His two guards followed, and behind them, the door slammed rather menacingly. As soon as Loki was sure they had gone, he allowed his head to fall into his lap as he began to cry.

Chapter Text

Crying was really extraordinarily helpful, Loki thought to himself.

Once he had finished pitying himself, resolve hardened in his mind. He had intended to leave Asgard anyways, and though he was hurt and felt a bit like a wounded dog, snapping and biting at everything--he realized that the Norns had granted him his request. He had left Asgard, and found a new place to stay.

So really, shouldn't he be cheering with joy?

Except... this wasn't really what he wanted.

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, which had come free of the grease he usually used to slick his hair down. He thought absentmindedly he wouldn't mind keeping his hair soft and fluffy like this--it really did feel nice in his hands. After he finished combing his hair with his fingers, he stood and smoothed his rumpled tunic down and cloaked himself in an illusion so his cheeks weren't so wet and his eyes weren't so red and swollen.

The guards outside his door were no longer there, so he opened the door (which was, like everything else there, made of solid ice) and stepped out. He was hit by a wave of chilly air, and staggered. He would have thought that now that he was a monster--no, now that he was in his Jotun skin, he had to stop thinking these poisonous, wrong thoughts--he would be immune to the cold. Apparently that was not the case. Or... or, in the years he had not been there, Jotunheim had gotten colder and more dead, and he wasn't given the chance like others to adapt to it.

The thought unnerved him, so he dismissed it. Why should he care for the Jotnar? He may have their blood, but they did not raise him. They weren't his family.

But then again, who was his family? He really had no one. Thor forgot him, Odin neglected him, and only Frigga actually liked him enough to treat him as though he were actually her child. But still, he experienced a sort of coolness whenever he was with them. As though they were indirectly saying: You don't belong here.

He supposed they were right. He didn't belong there.

He wasn't an Odinson, nor a Friggason. He was a Laufeyson.

The thought was not a pleasant one, so he pushed that to the back of his mind as well. He would not think these things, he decided.

Halfheartedly decided, though, because really--he probably would never stop thinking about it.

He wandered through the halls, lost (though he would never admit it to anyone else). They were... not as decrepit as he had imagined them being, though he supposed that was due mainly to the fact that the ice was incapable of melting. However, many walls were caved-in, crumbled, and he thought with dread that there might be dried blood in places. Many of the rooms were large but inhabited, and they had a cold feeling that reminded Loki nothing of what a home should feel like. He couldn't imagine having to live in such a place.

It was surprisingly empty, and he wondered if it really was the palace, when he wandered down a flight of stairs and found himself in one of the only rooms where he felt a stir in his chest. He frowned--the room felt heavy and thick with seidr, though there was nothing there that could be causing such a feeling. The only noticeably thing was a giant pedestal in the middle of the room, constructed out of pure ice, which seemed to glow and flash with light. A large window had light streaming through it, which hit the empty pedestal and caused it to gleam.

Clearly, whatever had used to sit there had been very special.

It was then Loki realized it--that had been where the Casket was.

He cautiously approached the pedestal, and though there was nothing there anymore, he placed an awed hand on it. The ice was smooth and felt oddly warm, and his entire body felt alive and alight with the feeling of such powerful seidr--though it was not there anymore.

He felt a sort of sadness overwhelm him. The Casket was clearly a powerful artifact, and to have it torn away from its home... no wonder Loki had not felt anything from it upon entering the Vault for the first time. The Casket was dead and isolated in the Vault, away from its home, and in an enemy realm.

"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" someone roared from behind him, and he flinched visibly.

"My apologies," he said shakily, spinning around and bowing as deeply as possible. Let us not piss off the people who are in charge of whether or not we continue to live, Loki thought to himself. "I was merely lost and thought it would be a good chance to explore." He then realized who he was talking to, and he grew even more nervous. King Laufey, the infamous king of the Jotnar who had, centuries ago, led them to war. 

And lost to Asgard. Bitterly.

"Ah. The one the barbarians took from me," the Jotun realized, and Loki paused in confusion. When he said nothing, the king elaborated carefully, "I am sure, from when Byleistr visited you, you have figured it out. You are my son."

Loki gulped. Yes, he had known. Did it make it any easier to hear it? No, not really. "I know," he said.

"I thought you would. You are a smart boy. My son is, of course, intelligent."

Laufey said it so easily, Loki almost wanted to hate him. He had had this sprung upon him so quickly, and now he simply had to accept it. And no one else was confused or stunned? They just decided that, yes, obviously Loki wanted this and had no objections at all.

"What do you want?" Loki asked carefully, keeping his anger in check.

Laufey's face softened. "It has been a millennia since I have seen my second son," he said, and his voice was quiet. "You cannot blame me for wanting you back as soon as I realized it was you that sat there in Odin's cruel clutches. Surely you know, he kept you as a treasure more than a son."

Loki winced at the words. "Why would you want me?" he challenged.

"We left you in a temple to protect you and keep you safe. Odin took you and the Casket--the two most precious things in the kingdom at the time. We were all devastated, my son." He shook his head. "We mourned for centuries after."

Hope fluttered in Loki's chest. Did they... had they...

"We loved you," Laufey confirmed, and Loki could tell the Jotun wasn't lying. "We were devastated when you were taken. We would have waged war to take you back, but our armies were decimated and Jotunheim destroyed. We were weak without our Casket, and could not handle another war. So we were forced to sign a treaty with Odin, the child-murderer and war-wager. If our heart had not been taken that day... we would have gotten you back."

"Can I..." Loki swallowed, and realized it was taking surprisingly little time to accept this. "Can I... hug you?"

Laufey's face broke into a smile, which was a strange look on him. Every time Loki had seen him in the past, he'd always had a cold, stoic face. He thought that the Jotun--no, his father--looked very nice with a smile on his face. He looked warm.

Loki couldn't help but notice the similarities between the two as he allowed himself to be enveloped by the much-larger body and arms of the elder Jotun. Their smiles were the same, their body types were the same--thin and lanky, though fit with muscle--and Loki noticed that the patterns on Laufey's body (from what he could see, anyways) matched Loki's. He supposed they must be heritage lines.

Only further confirming that Laufey and Loki were true father and son. Unlike the pretend play that Odin had put on for Loki, this was real.

Could Loki... accept being a Jotun?

After his talk with Laufey--his father--he was led into a grand hall. He was hit with amazement by how many Jotnar had been forced into the space, especially considering how large most of them were. Though he did notice that several clearly had signs of deformities or stunted growth--was this a cause of the Casket being taken away from them? He started to feel guilty towards the Jotnar, something he swore he would never feel.

"These are your brothers," Laufey said, and the two Jotnar he gestured to smiled and bowed their heads in respect, which Loki returned. "The elder one is Helblindi, who is my first-born and their heir to the throne. The younger is Byleistr. He was born after you."

"Hello," Loki said, and easily recognized the larger Jotun, who had been the one that had brought him here. He noted that Helblindi showed signs of having been wounded--though many of the wounds looked old and scarred, several seemed fresh. Especially the large burn covering his chest.

Loki realized with dread what must have stopped their attack. The Destroyer. Likely it had been unleashed and destroyed the majority of the Jotun army.

That also explained the awful burns most of the Jotnar were sporting.

He grimaced, testing the seidr that rested at his fingertips. He had no doubt that the Jotun mages could fix up a few wounds easily, but they probably did not have a vast supply of seidr and would be drained easily. It was likely that many, many Jotun mages had to be summoned to create the 'gift' that had torn a rift between realms, and Loki had no doubt that it was a weak-enough spell that the rift had only remained open for an hour or so. Enough time to allow them to launch an attack, but also enough time so that they could make an escape if they had to.

And it appeared they had had to.

Loki had doubts with his own healing magic, because he had always been more interested in the deadly and destructive spells--yes, maybe he dreamed of using them against Thor, the Idiots Three, and Sif sometimes. But who could blame him? He had always been a poisoned child.

Still, Frigga had taught him the basics, so he didn't doubt he would be able to heal a few burn wounds. In fact, it would be fairly easy to offer his services, and might get him accepted by the Jotnar quicker (though he had the feeling they already had accepted him).

Besides, wasn't this what friends did for each other? And what... family did for each other?

He wouldn't know. The few friends he'd had had all been either sold into slavery or brutally murdered in front of him as his many various 'punishments'. Norns, Odin had loved to play mental games on him. That explained the second easy--in what situation would someone as twisted as Odin do anything for him, other than create intricate punishments for things that hadn't really been his fault in the first place?

"Hi," Helblindi said, eyeing him. "Your name is...?"

"Loki," he said after a moment of thought. Yes, that was right. Just Loki. Perhaps Laufey had accepted him, told him he loved him... but Loki was still aching a bit too much from the realization of his true self and that Odin had never really cared for him after all.

What was that, again? A treasure, a broken relic? Maybe a souvenir from the war he'd won?

Helblindi smiled at him, though it looked uncertain and strained. "Er, welcome to Jotunheim," he said awkwardly, gesturing around him. "Though I'm sorry to say it's not exactly in the best of shape right now..." he grimaced and Loki followed his gaze to see the many adults and children sleeping on the floor. They all looked thin and gaunt, nothing like the warriors in the stories. Nothing like the flesh-eating, evil cannibals that Asgardian legend painted them as. Loki felt a pang of sympathy to see a silently-sobbing child clutching himself as he sat on the ground, fat tears rolling down his blue cheeks.

Norns... Loki had not known that Jotunheim had really fallen into such a state. What was Asgard doing? Was it so busy holding a grudge that it ignored the blatant mistreatment, neglect, and almost-torture that was happening within one of the Nine Realms?

What happened to swearing to protect all Nine Realms?

Though, Loki had known for a long time that was just a nice thing to say. A reassuring thing, he supposed. He knew that Asgard was just obsessed with power, and holding it over other realms. Most of them were either allies with Asgard (with very one-sided treaties) or they were enemies and therefore locked away from trading, decimated by Thor's idiotic behaviour, and shunned by other realms.

"I can heal your burns," Loki blurted out, and Helblindi stared at him.

Loki drew back defensively, half-expecting them to laugh at him for his 'womanly' magic. But instead, Byleistr's face lit up and he dragged Helblindi forward. "Can you heal him then?" he asked excitedly, shaking his brother's arm very violently. Helblindi hissed and smacked Byleistr in the face, before giving Loki a very apologetic expression. "He keeps complaining that the burn stings."

"Well, yeah, I'm a Jotun, of course the burn is going to hurt," Helblindi muttered, smacking Byleistr again.

"I can heal that easily," Loki said quietly, and placed a hand on Helblindi's chest, who flinched at the contact. Loki noted that despite the fact Helblindi was a Jotun, the area still burned. Strange. He would have thought the burn had at least semi-healed at this point.

"We have a below-average healing factor," Helblindi said, noticing his surprise. "We used to be extremely powerful, and strong in that particular aspect especially. But ever since the Casket was taken..." he sighed. "Now our healing factor has worsened. We're dying and starving."

Helblindi's entire burn healed, and the Jotun sighed with relief and smiled at Loki thankfully. Loki returned the smile, though he couldn't help but notice that the Jotnar were always talking about the Casket. Of course, he assumed they would--the Casket had been their heart, their lifeline, and now he could see how they were hardly living without it. But... they were just always saying "Ever since the Casket was taken." It sort of made him feel guilty, though he was well-aware there was no reason that he should be feeling guilty at all.

"Sorry," he said, just in case they did blame him.

Byleistr blinked at him. "Sorry for what?" he asked, cocking his head.

"Just--I don't know."

Byleistr laughed, though for the first time Loki felt as though the laughter was not at his expense. He began to smile as well, and before he knew it, he too was laughing so hard that his entire body was shaking. Despite the situation, he couldn't help but feel a swell of exhilaration and happiness. Even the less fortunate who lay upon the floor, poor and crippled, joined in on the laughter.

It was strange. In the cold halls and rooms of the Asgardian palace, the servants had not ever cracked a smile. Odin kept a stoic expression on his face always, and Thor was always out playing with his friends. Loki mainly stayed behind to read. The silence had always been crushing. Never had he heard anyone laugh so hard as this. Even Laufey was smiling and chuckling along, despite not even knowing what they were laughing about--it appeared Byleistr was one of those ones who had infectious laughter. Loki realized then that he had never seen Odin smile in his life.

Did Odin smile in private to Thor? Another separation between the two? Or had Thor never seen his father smile, either?

At least Loki had had Frigga. He didn't know what he would have done without his mother--for she was still his mother, no matter their blood. He had come to accept this in a strangely short amount of time. He had understood quickly that though his mother had kept this secret from him, she had not made him feel any less than Thor and was one of those who had attempted to make his punishments less severe. She was also the only one who defended him, loved him, and taught him ways to defend himself. She had been the only light in his bleak world.

There had been, of course, other lights--though Odin always found ways to snuff them out. Loki thought that Odin maybe didn't want him to be happy.

He looked around to see the Jotnar still grinning warmly at him, despite the fact he was a runt and so clearly different from them. He smiled back tentatively, and offered, projecting his voice through the hall with his seidr, "Anyone who is wounded, I can... try and heal them."

There were murmurs and some hesitation, but eventually someone called back, "No, my prince! Save your strength. Without the Casket, it will be very difficult to replenish your magic. We can handle some wounds. It is more important you are healthy!"

Loki's heart stuttered in his chest. My prince. When was the last time someone had called him that? When was the last time, someone other than Frigga, had actually cared about him? When was the last time someone sacrificed something for him?

"No," he said, raising his voice slightly over the clamor. "No, I will heal your wounds. It is fine. My seidr regenerates quickly."

"Seidr," someone said in amazement. "We have never had a Jotun wield seidr before... only ice magic!"

"Yes, he must be very powerful," someone agreed.

Loki's chest warmed surprisingly again. It was weird, hearing people compliment him for his abilities in seidr, rather than insult him and call him a woman and a fake man. A he-she. One of the mistakes the Norns had made in their creations.

It was... nice getting recognition, he realized.

As he watched the Jotnar hesitantly line up before him, and as he placed his hands against their scars and burns and healed them near-effortlessly--he realized that maybe it would not be so bad after all to stay here, and to learn to love himself.

Chapter Text

They had waited for a good few months before asking him about the Casket.

Loki knew they were just dying to know, of course. He could tell. He knew that his brothers--for he had learned that was what he should call them--really wanted to know everything he knew about the Casket. Loki also knew that they wanted it back. And who better for the job then Loki--the only one who could effectively bypass Asgard's defenses (really, it was too easy, Loki had snuck down to the Vault multiple times without question) and retrieve the Casket without killing himself. Loki was also quite certain that he could do it, and equally certain if they asked him to do it, he wouldn't hesitate.

He had seen the horrors of a Jotunheim without its heart. If they said the word, he would immediately go straight back to Asgard and retrieve their treasure. Of course, he had left his bag and illusions in his room. He would retrieve those, too.

Then horror struck him as he realized. It had been months since he had been taken. Odin had not asked for him back, demanded for him back, had not even bothered to try and make a treaty or convince the Jotnar to return Loki. He was quite sure that Thor had not made any attempts to do anything similar--though before Loki knew the truth, he was sure that he would have done anything to get Thor back.

Had they just completely forgotten about him? His heart ached in his chest, though he dismissed it. No. They were not his real family anymore. They had never really loved him anyways. It was just for show. Likely, Thor secretly hated him and knew he was Jotun.

He grimaced and let his hand fall, allowing it to rest in the soft white fur of his new pet. Helblindi had declared that he needed one (to relieve stress, did he say) and Byleistr had agreed fervently. Though Laufey and Farbauti (Loki had quickly found out who he was, too--of course, he had been very surprised at first to learn that Farbauti was a gigantic Jotun that was his father, and Laufey was actually his mother, but he got over that quickly) had been a bit less enthusiastic about having another wolf in the palace when there were already so many mouths to feed, Helblindi and Byleistr's pleading eyes eventually won out. And it turned out the wolf was perfectly happy having Loki as its owner--or acquaintance, for Loki realized soon that the wolf was actually extremely intelligent and more like a friend than a pet--and could actually fend and catch food for itself.

So it turned out, there was no harm done in getting a furry friend.

Loki had named the wolf Fenrir, as a tribute--though when he thought about the true Fenrir, he still felt extreme guilt and sorrow for the poor wolf-child. His fate had not been his fault--and his punishment had been Loki's fault. Nothing concerning him had been fair.

Perhaps naming his new friend Fenrir would be bad luck for the wolf, but Loki had been too overwhelmed by nostalgia at the time to care much. He just couldn't help but realize that the wolf's eyes looked exactly the same as--

Though Jotunheim was really half-destroyed, it didn't stop them from trying to provide Loki with the best and most lavish sorts of things. They fed him full meals, and gifted him strange, magic-infused charms and valuables (he really wished to take them to study them, but he knew better than to take from the poor, so he politely declined the gifts), and even offered him new armour and weapons (though he didn't think he would throw away his signature daggers any time soon. They were his favourite gift from his mother, and if he ever lost them, he did not think he would forgive himself).

He realized, over the course of the few months, that he loved the Jotnar.

He loved his people, and they loved him back.

He loved Helblindi, Byleistr, Laufey, and Farbauti. His brothers and fathers (though one had given birth to him, but that wasn't exactly important was it). He had realized that they were his true family, and they loved him back in equal measure. He knew they would never force him to go back to Asgard and to face his once-father, once-brother, and mother again. But, he also knew that they wanted the Casket back desperately.

Thoughtfully, he stroked Fenrir's soft white fur. A smirk eventually crept across his face. Norns, had it really taken him this long to come to a decision? He should have done this from the very beginning--he knew he was strong enough to do it.

With a sigh, he patted Fenrir on the head before standing and stretching, lifting his clasped hands above his head with a self-satisfied smile. "Stay," he told Fenrir, who grinned at him and wagged his long tail in assent before going back to sleep. Loki smiled at the peaceful wolf, before shifting into his armour with a quick twirl of his hand, and summoning his daggers to hand using the same quick movement.

He did feel slightly sorry about using his mother's weapons against her home.

No, actually, he wasn't sorry at all. They had it coming.

He tilted his head, examining the air in front of him, and took a step forwards. Instead of simply moving, the air around him rippled and gave way to reveal to him the roots of Yggdrasil, and the other realms. He had found out he could walk between realms like this many years ago--maybe a few centuries ago, even. It had been a skill he had greatly cherished, especially those days where everyone forgot about him and he was free to explore as he liked.

Maybe Odin caring little for him was actually better for him in the end--he had learned much more than he probably would have if he was constantly shut in a stifling classroom, locked in his room, or forced to practice over-and-over with a staff in the training grounds.

He continued to walk, his daggers gleaming in his hands.

Soon, he promised, emerald eyes gleaming. Soon, the heart of Jotunheim would return.

Well, it had not taken as long as he thought it would.

It was also remarkably easy, compared to how he thought it would be like. Surely Odin would make precautions? Surely he knew that Loki would come here eventually? But no. There were the same defenses as usual, and with his cloaks, Loki knew the Destroyer would not awake and Heimdall would not see him. With cleverly woven illusions, he made certain that no one could tell that he had taken the real Casket, and left a fake in its place.

As soon as his hands touched the Casket, he was shocked by the thrill of power that went through him. It felt extraordinarily strange, and almost frightening in the sheer power that radiated from it. In fact, Loki was nearly overwhelmed by it.

If anything could fix Jotunheim, it was the Casket. The heart.

He shivered slightly, and was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that with this treasure in his hands, he could do anything. He could fuck off to some random realm and never be seen again, he could wield it and destroy Asgard, Thor, and Odin in revenge, he could use it to make him one of the most powerful beings in the universe. He could do anything with this sort of power in his hands.

But he had been selfish for far too many years of his life. For once, he would do something for others. 

And why shouldn't he, for them? They had been the first ones to really love him.

With a sigh, he used his seidr to vanish the Casket into one of his inter-dimensional pockets, and then continued on his way--warily scanning the Destroyer, for even he would probably be unable to come out of that battle unscathed. He exited the Vault and thought carefully about his next move. Ah, right--he remembered what he had been thinking about just before Thor's coronation--he had wanted to leave by himself, didn't he? He absentmindedly touched the charm around his neck, which was the only thing he had had on his body the day he was brought to Jotunheim. Though he didn't particularly have any more interest in the little presents that Thor had given him (thoughtful of him, until it wasn't) he did want his spellbooks and potion ingredients back.

And his clothes. Sure, he could illusion them in place, but that was tiring and also most of his clothes had been gifts from Frigga and he didn't want to leave them behind.

He thought for a moment, and then decided--he would go retrieve his bag.

A very stupid move, in hindsight. There were likely guards there, or at least someone watching the area. Odin knew what Loki was (at least, Loki assumed) so surely he would think Loki would return in anger or revenge? Though, he had not put up any defenses for the Casket, so who was to say there would be anything waiting at his room?

He made his way over to his room (nearly a thousand years of living in this very palace, he was still very familiar with the winding corridors and long hallways, but he did take several detours to avoid rooms of people he'd rather not see again) unwilling to teleport in fear that the usage of magic would draw someone's attention. He stopped in front of the door, still shrouded in basic spells to hide his presence, and stared at the door. It looked untouched, though the door and doorknob itself were clean and free of dust. He supposed that the maids and servants that patrolled the halls still cleaned this door, thinking that the room was still in use. The small plaque that he had hung on his door decades ago, with the name 'Loki' etched into it, was gone, however.

He summoned another illusion to hide the movement of the door as he pushed it open, and was greeted by an untouched room. The bookshelf was still filled with books, the bed neatly made, and the floor spotless. Just as he had left it before the coronation--hidden. With a wave of his hand, he dismissed the illusion and revealed the reality of his room's appearance: stripped bare and empty, the only things left the massive pieces of furniture he really couldn't carry, and the sheets and pillows piled atop his bed.

So, no one had bothered to check his room after his disappearance. The fact made him feel... odd. Was that sadness, pain? Maybe anger, that he was feeling?

He sighed, and reached under his bed. His fingers closed over the familiar feel of leather, and he pulled the enchanted bag out from underneath his bed, dusting it off (though it had been rather clean, considering where it had been for a very long time). He loosened the drawstrings and peered inside, to see all his things (or as many as he could visibly see, anyway, for he had put many things in there) resting inside. Relief filled him, and he closed the bag tightly again before slinging it over his shoulder.

He left the room. He had everything he had wanted,

As he left his room, he paused as he heard a roar of anger erupt from behind him, one that sounded very familiar. That was very strange--he had thought he had shrouded himself well enough to remain undiscovered. Oh well. A smile split Loki's face, and amusement filled him--though perhaps it should not have, but he could not help reveling in their anger. He would not mind giving Thor a piece of his mind for once in his life--after all, he no longer had to cater to the other god anymore. He turned, and was face-to-face with Thor.

A wholly unfamiliar Thor. He had allowed his beard to grow out well (was he trying to look like Odin?) and his hair had been tied back in a bun. If Loki was not feeling such bitter hatred towards his not-brother, he would have thought he looked quite good-looking like this (minus the messy and tangled beard, which he really did not pull off as well as Odin). Thor was also holding Gungnir, along with Mjolnir hanging forgotten at his waist. Loki frowned at the neglected weapon, noting that it had clearly not been used in a very long time.

"What are you doing?" Thor thundered.

"Why, I didn't think what did was any of your business. After all, you did not come to look for me after I was taken," Loki leered.

Thor glared. "Because you were a nuisance," he blurted out, and Loki recoiled, surprisingly hurt. "I was glad you were gone." His eyes burned with fury. "I never thought you would betray us! Betray Asgard. You traitor. Unhonourable filth. I should have known you were a monster."

Loki seethed with anger. "So you will kill me?" he demanded. "You did swear to kill all Jotnar, didn't you?"

"I will kill you in battle, not in this unhonourable way," Thor decided. "Now return the treasure, you beast."

Loki paused again. He did not think Thor would realize of the Casket's disappearance. Did Odin know, as well?

No matter. He would simply deal with Thor first. If Odin wanted the Casket back, he would have to do better than send Thor after him.

"I don't think so," Loki said finally. His voice was slow and cold, deliberate, hatred overwhelming his hurt.

"Then I will be forced to take it from you by force, and imprison you," Thor declared, and Loki laughed. Thor had always underestimated him, thought him weak. It would be his downfall, now. Loki had never been weaker than Thor, only pretending to be to satisfy Thor's ego.

He had no such restrictions now. He summoned his daggers. It was not even worth using the Casket against him.

Thor slammed Gungnir against the ground, and then decided, "Then we will fight like old times," he said, and released Gungnir. It did not clatter to the floor, but remained standing upright where Thor had left it. Thor drew Mjolnir, and stroked its side. "I have not used her in a long time," he said, and Mjolnir sparked with electricity. "But it does not matter. You will be defeated either way."

"Where's Odin? Too scared to involve him?" Loki goaded, circling Thor carefully. He knew Thor would attack first.

Thor growled, and lunged at Loki, who leapt away easily. Thor had always been slow and clumsy. Mjolnir hit the floor, shattering the thick layer of ice that the Casket had caused. So if they really cannot get Heimdall out of that block, Thor merely has to hit him with his hammer a few times, Loki thought humorously, dodging another blow with ease. His hands tightened around his daggers, but he reminded himself--no, patience.

The time would come eventually. For now, he would just taunt Thor.

"You have no honour! Stop running like a woman," Thor snarled back, and Loki tilted his head in amusement. He had heard such insults so many times that they hardly bothered him anymore. Thor was a fool if he thought he could win against Loki with his words.

"What use is honour if you're dead?" he drawled, and threw one of his daggers. He hadn't even been trying, but it hit Thor in the arm. Thor roared with pain and ripped the dagger out of his arm, before throwing it back in Loki's direction. He missed wildly, and Loki raised his eyebrows. Had it always been this easy? He waved his hand, and his dagger was summoned back to it. This is too easy.

"Stop! Running! Away! Coward!" Thor bellowed, throwing Mjolnir. Electricity crackled around it, and Loki stepped to the side, watching with amusement as it flew right by his head. He turned to look back at Thor, and making sure the other could see, he raised his hand.

And caught Mjolnir easily.

It crackled and sparked in his grip, and though he head planned for this, it was still rather unexpected. How many times Thor had bludgeoned and beaten him with this very weapon, and taunted him for being unable to hold it? Little did he know, Loki was likely more worthy of it than him. Thor's jaw dropped in utter confusion and surprise, but the dumbfounded look quickly faded into one of absolute hatred.

"What trickery is this?" he demanded furiously, stumbling forwards and trying to grab at his weapon back.

In retaliation, Loki tossed Mjolnir to his other hand and summoned a dagger in the first, stabbing Thor in the stomach. Thor grunted and stumbled back, now bleeding freely from two wounds on his body. "Where is Odin?" he asked smoothly. "Ashamed of you yet?"

Thor roared, and Loki got the feeling he had not been very off in his assumption.

"He is in Odinsleep, and Mother is caring for him," he said angrily. "He would be proud of me, to see this!"

"Proud? You are losing to me. Unbelievable, isn't it?" Loki replied easily, step-siding Thor as the other lunged at him. He sighed--this really was a pitiful display, and he didn't really have time for this. "No matter. I'm not terribly interested in fighting with you," he said, and to Thor's surprise, Loki dropped Mjolnir to the floor. He tilted his head, examining the look on Thor's face. "It appears that all those years of brotherhood have been lost, as soon as you learned of my blue skin. Though, I couldn't care less. I have others, now. You are unimportant to me."

Thor seethed with anger and tried to charge at him again, but Loki lazily waved his hand, forcing Thor to stop in his tracks. The Thunder god struggled against the invisible bonds that held him back, but Loki's seidr was strong and did not yield against Thor's strength. Thor roared in anger, and Loki gave him a serpentine smile. "Don't worry, Thor. You will still remember any poisoned thoughts that Odin placed in your head. But... for now, I will just meddle with your memories a bit." He stepped forwards a placed his hand on Thor's forehead, concentrating deeply (which was hard, as Thor bellowed and struggled in front of him like a trapped bull). He had not used a spell like this in ages, as Frigga had taught him it was immoral... but really, who cared, when it came to Thor?

"You will not remember me with the Casket. You will assume I only came back to Asgard, to retrieve my things." Loki instructed, and Thor's eyes glazed over and rolled back into his head, and he fell in a heap on the ground and began to snore. Loki sniffed in disapproval and glared down at the snoring mess on the floor. Hopefully, the servants would just think that Thor had gotten overly-drunk again.

Well. That was finished with. He supposed it would be time to leave.

He deeply regretted having to erase Thor's memories--he wanted the other to remember this battle, where he had been shamefully beaten by Loki, who he had always considered inferior--but no, he would not risk revealing himself and his family just for his pride. The Casket's presence in Jotunheim needed to stay secret for as long as possible.

So, time to leave, then. He began walking away from the palace, knowing that though Odin was in his Sleep, the usage of his seidr here (especially the amount he needed to be able to walk between the realms) would likely leave some sort of imprint, alerting at least someone to his presence here. Though he thought Thor might tell literally everyone that Loki had been there--Loki was relying on the fact that his dignity would be stopping him from revealing the fact that he had seen Loki and been unable to stop the other from leaving.

He began making his way out of the palace, still careful to keep himself and his magical signature hidden.

Unfortunately, he ran into the Gatekeeper. Heimdall.

He thought at first he would be able to slide past unseen, but froze when he heard Heimdall say quietly, "Loki. I advise you do not do this."

Panic overran his senses. How was this possible? He was sure he had cloaked himself properly...

Why was everyone getting in his way today?

More than that, why was everyone seeing through his magic wards today??

"Only you could possibly get past Asgard's defenses and into the Vault. And only you could carry the Casket out without revealing yourself," Heimdall rumbled. "I can sense the power of the Casket emanating off you. And I am sure Odin Allfather can, as well. Leave now, and leave the Casket here. It will be better for you." 

Loki stared at Heimdall. The other was looking away from him, hands folded over the hilt of his sword. "Why should I?" he asked, finally speaking up.

Heimdall turned to look at him, eyes shining like molten gold. But before he could do anything, Loki released the power of the Casket.

Norns, it had been even better than he had expected. He felt a shock run through him, and then the Casket was releasing a blast of ice and snow. Heimdall stumbled backwards, frost forming on his golden armour. The temperature around them had dropped considerably, and the ground was cracking and filling with ice and snow. Surprisingly, Heimdall still did not react to this display of power, merely continuing to watch him while blinking slowly. Within seconds, the entirety of his body was encased by a block of ice, frozen solid.

Loki's eyes widened as he saw Heimdall, one he had once considered to be one of the most powerful people in all the Nine Realms, encased and helpless in a block of ice. That he had created, he had done. If not before, he was now undoubtedly a traitor to Asgard.

Though was he really a traitor, when he had really owed nothing to Asgard in the first place?

Who said that Asgard deserved his loyalty?

As he stepped back from Heimdall's body, he wondered if the ice would melt. It didn't look like it would anytime soon. The room was now completely covered with frost and snow, and ice was crawling up the splendid golden walls. When he looked at the palace like this, it did look more appealing to his eye. He had never been terribly fond of the bright, flashy, and rather obnoxious golden walls, golden windows, golden floors, golden everything. The ice and snow that covered everything like a carpet did make everything seem much softer, more appealing, and much prettier.

With a sigh, he took one last look at Asgard, briefly glancing over at frozen Heimdall.

And then he took a step forwards, and everything around him disappeared.

"Brother! You're back!" Byleistr exclaimed, enveloping the much-smaller Jotun in a hug. "Where we you? We were worried." He frowned and sniffed the air, before poking Loki once. "You smell like those Asgardians," he said, and though his tone wasn't accusatory, his words were.

"I need to speak with Lau--Father," Loki said, and Byleistr's brow furrowed.

"You aren't in trouble, are you?"

"Of course not," Loki dismissed. "I simply have some good news for him."

"The Asgardians didn't do anything, did they?" Byleistr pressed, and Loki sighed.

"They did, but I assure you, that isn't the good news," Loki said patiently. "If you want to know, you're welcome to come."

Byleistr thought about this, but then he smiled and shook his head. "No, I trust you to know what you're doing," he decided, and Loki was surprised at how much happiness those words brought him. "Also, Helblindi yelled at me this morning because I wouldn't take classes with him, so I really have to go meet with him and take the damn classes." He sighed dramatically. "Spoilsport."

"He just wants the best for you," Loki replied, though he was laughing.

Byleistr wrinkled his nose. "Ew, that sounds like Father," he grumbled, before giving him a bright smile filled with childish glee. "Well, then, I'll leave you to whatever it is you're doing. Bye, brother!"

Loki watched as Byleistr lumbered off, and felt a strange aching affection in his chest for the younger (but much, much larger) Jotun. He felt the sort of brotherly affection in his chest that he had not felt since him and Thor had been small children. As they grew into teenagers, Loki slowly realized what was happening--and that realization was that Thor was much more well-liked than him, by Asgard and their family. He couldn't help but be jealous, and that love dissipated.

As soon as he was sure that Byleistr had really left, he turned the other way and made his way to the (sort of) throne room. Laufey sat on the throne in an attempt to regain the sort of power he had before, to keep the memories, but Loki knew that wasn't where he was the majority of the time. He was usually in the grand hall with the rest of the Jotnar, distributing food, medicines, and other essentials. Loki found that rather admirable, that Laufey cared more for his subjects then himself, even when he was going through such a ruining time.

"Father," he greeted, bowing in front of Laufey, wondering absentmindedly where Farbauti was. "I have news."

"I heard that you went to Asgard," Laufey rumbled, and Loki blinked. How had he heard so quickly?

"Yes. And... I retrieved something," Loki admitted, and he noticed hope flicker in Laufey's eyes, which soon gave way to amazement, and then disbelief.

"You... the Casket?" Laufey asked disbelievingly.

Loki smiled, and raised his hand. The Casket was summoned, floating about an inch above his hand, radiating with power that washed the whole room with a strangely pleasant feeling. Laufey looked stunned beyond belief, his ruby eyes wide and his mouth agape. Loki smiled at the look, pleased with himself. Odin had never looked at him like that, with such an expression of disbelief and shining pride.

Laufey stared at the Casket in amazement, as though it were a precious child that he had lost.

And then Loki realized--no, Laufey was not really looking at the Casket--he was staring at Loki, into his ruby eyes, as though suddenly realizing who Loki was, that Loki was really his son--and Loki realized this too. Though Laufey looked far more similar to his other two brothers, Helblindi and Byleistr (the former especially) their smiles were the same, their form was the same, and at that moment, the look in their ruby eyes were the same.

It was strange, having someone stare at Loki as though he were a precious treasure.

"My son," Laufey breathed, and was rushing at him and hugging him so tightly that Loki thought he might suffocate.

It was nice, though. He felt like a small babe in the Jotun's much-larger arms.

"My son," Laufey repeated, arms tightening around him. "Loki Laufeyson, of Jotunheim."

Loki nuzzled his face into Laufey's chest. It was cool against his face.

"You have returned the Casket to us. You have returned the heart. One of our greatest treasures... back in our hands."

"One of?" Loki asked, pulling back to stare into his father's red eyes.

"One of. For you, your brothers... those are the greatest gifts, the greatest treasures, that Jotunheim could have."

Chapter Text

(the story inspired the rebuilding of Jotunheim portion, please read it, it's an excellent story!)

Heimdall wasn't blind. He was the exact opposite of it, really.

He saw everything. Odin was a fool if he thought that Heimdall wouldn't notice the obvious.

Really, Heimdall was much more inclined to listen to Frigga or Loki than Odin or Thor. It was just how it was, he supposed. But he couldn't say these things outright. He was well-aware of how backwards Asgard was, and that kings were often favoured over queens. Frigga would never be seen as much more than the wife of Odin, which bothered Heimdall immensely. He knew who was really behind the success of Asgard.

That was perhaps why he allowed Loki to leave with the Casket without much a fight.

He felt sorry for the boy. Loki had, yes, changed much over the while he had been gone from Asgard--in a good way too, at that, and it appeared Heimdall had not been wrong about his Jotun family after all--but he still looked much like a hurt, wounded dog.

Heimdall had always felt sorry for Loki. He knew that the young prince was by no means weak physically, but mentally, emotionally--that was a different story. In his youth he had always been shadowed and cast aside by his brother, and Heimdall had seen Loki grow jealous and desperate for scraps of attention. He could not interfere much, but he watched with a heavy heart as Loki and Thor grew up. Many would not believe it, but Loki and Thor had been very alike in behaviour in the beginning--both naive, innocent, and very mischievous. They had loved each other deeply. But then Loki had matured--not on his own, but through Odin's scoldings and punishments that Heimdall thought secretly were far too brutal and cruel for a child to have to endure.

Thor was never punished, though he was usually the true troublemaker. Odin let him off easy, all the time. And Heimdall saw--this was around the time where Loki grew jealous and bitter, more closed-off. He had always been shunned by others, but now he was noticing how hated he was.

And Heimdall, though he attempted to be a second father for the boy--he knew he was lacking much more than Odin in that aspect. Loki hardly visited him, so Heimdall did not have much time to talk to him or care for him. He tried his best to make the boy believe he belonged--despite him knowing that Loki did not, because after all, he was all-seeing and knew exactly where Odin had gotten him from.

But Heimdall was not so prejudiced to hate Loki for that, especially not after Heimdall figured out how isolated and lonely the boy was. Besides, Heimdall was aware that most of the stories about evil and dangerous Jotun monsters were just imaginations of the Aesir after the war.

That was why he deeply respected Frigga, Queen of Asgard. She was what Odin was not, what Heimdall tried to be. A true parent, the only one who had given Loki love. She was the one who stood against all those that attempted to beat down and belittle Loki. She was the shield against the darkness of Asgard. While he could not have dreamed of being capable of doing such a thing, Frigga did all of it.

It was also why he had begun growing detached from Odin. He was not supposed to hate his king... but...

It was truly hard not to, especially knowing what Odin had done.

Even though he felt sorry for Loki, it was very hard to not be annoyed with the boy after he had blasted him with the Casket. Did he know how stupid of a move that was? For someone so intelligent, that was an extremely dangerous move. Though, Heimdall supposed that the other must have been frightened by his presence, and reacted on instinct. Still. That certainly would alert Odin and Thor to the fact the Casket was missing.

And even Heimdall was not capable of recovering so easily after a blow from such a powerful artifact.

Thankfully, none of the alarms had been set off to alert the king and the Allfather, so Heimdall was able to gather his strength. He was still (unfortunately) conscious while he was trapped in the cube of solid ice, but this was better for him as he was able to steadily gather his energy and cause the ice surrounding him to crack and shudder. With a grunt and a final summon of energy, the ice around him splintered and shattered into pieces. He grimaced as he dragged himself upright, for he had fallen when the ice had. His armour was slick and wet from melted ice, and he was quite cold.

He raised his hand, and the ice vanished without a trace in a flash of gold. His armour magically cleaned itself, too. In secret, he had actually managed to teach Loki many of his own magic spells and tricks--though Loki did not know that, for Heimdall had disguised himself while he was doing this.

He didn't need Thor and Odin to have seen that. Odin would probably have had him banished on the spot.

He sighed, glad to be finally out of the block of ice. He hoped that Odin or Thor wouldn't sense that something was wrong--he was not allowed to lie to either of them, and if he were to withhold information, that would simply be suspicious.

Unless they asked, then, he would stay quiet. He supposed this was the least he could do for his prince.

For the prince, that Asgard had wronged all this time.

Heimdall had hoped Thor would not come asking him for the whereabouts of Loki. It appeared, he was not in luck.

It had been barely an hour since he had been frozen, barely an hour since Loki had left.

And already, Loki's presence on Asgard had somehow been revealed?

Thankfully, it was only Thor. Heimdall felt less guilty lying to him, rather than Odin.

"WHERE IS HE?" Thor roared, thundering into the Observatory, furious. Heimdall scanned him, unimpressed.

"My King, I'm afraid I know not what you mean," Heimdall replied, voice dry.


"I do not know where your brother--"


"Very well. But that does not change the fact I do not know where he is," Heimdall said, unaffected by Thor's outburst. He secretly felt that Thor had no reason to be angry--really, this entire situation was his and Odin's fault--but Heimdall would not say that aloud.

He was very glad that Thor was not skilled in seidr, and could not read his mind.

For Heimdall was thinking some very, very horrible things about the king that would have him executed for treason.

"You are all-seeing! You can find him! So I can kill him! Jotun filth."

Heimdall shrugged. "Loki can cloak himself from my gaze," he said, which wasn't exactly a lie. Thor glared at him, and Heimdall continued, "However, if I can spot any irregularities, I will be sure to let you know. My King."

"You must. Or I will have your head on my wall."

With that, Thor turned and swept off, his feet loud against the floor.

Heimdall let out a breath of relief. Loki, I hope you know what you're doing, he thought gravely to himself. Or it may be your head on Thor's wall, beside mine.

It had been fifty years.

Even Loki was surprised that Odin and Thor were such idiots. Had they not noticed the Casket was missing? Sure, Loki had put an illusion in its place--but at least someone had to suspect that something was wrong, no? And besides, had they not even bothered to unmelt Heimdall? He felt a bit of guilt at this--he had reacted too soon, and blasted Heimdall without thinking much about consequences. Heimdall had been one of the only ones who had treated him with basic respect, and Loki didn't really want to see the man trapped in ice for the rest of his life.

Though, if they had unmelted Heimdall, Loki didn't know why the man hadn't told them he had taken the Casket. There was no reason he shouldn't. He was loyal to Asgard, and therefore loyal to Asgard's king and the royal family. Loki was no longer apart of that family.

Heimdall owed nothing to him. Loki didn't see why he would cover for him--so he must still be frozen... or dead.

Guilt flooded Loki. He hadn't meant to inflict permanent harm on anyone...

Except for Thor. Or Odin. He hated them both, and his time in Jotunheim had only strengthened that hate. Sure, he had come to forgive many of the Asgardians who had mentally abused him (that was a bit of a harsh term, but it was true in his eyes) for hundreds and hundreds of years--but he could not bring himself to forgive the one who had blatantly lied to his face, and the one who had been the cruelest to him, despite not knowing it.

Or, perhaps he did know what he was doing. Judging by what the Jotnar had told him, Thor was not as naive as Loki thought he was. In fact, he was almost as manipulative as Loki himself. This was really what made Loki reconsider his feelings of brotherly affection towards Thor.

No, that was all gone now. He would not consider Thor his brother ever again. That was done with.

He had a new family, anyway.

And this wasn't just his brothers and fathers. He had not known that Jotunheim would be so clearly different from Asgard--and this was a good difference, mind you. Everyone there treated each other as though they were family. They laughed, played, and exchanged words together. During meals, all the Jotnar sat upon the floor--even the royalty and the nobles and the lords, which he could not imagine in Asgard--and ate, laughed, and talked together. The children ran through the massive room, chasing each other and giggling with childish wonder. It was a very... homely feel.

With the Casket returned, Jotunheim had instantly began to... it almost felt as though the realm was replenishing itself, coming back to life. Within a month, the icy, barren wasteland had already become brighter and more filled with life. More animals and beasts appeared roaming the snowy fields, and the many predators and monsters that once hounded the lands shrunk back and fell into hibernation. Loki wasn't sure how exactly that worked, but it was explained to him that they only came out in darkness--and dark the times had been, when the Casket was not there.

As soon as the Casket had been returned, Loki as well as the rest of his family went around Jotunheim, using the Casket to repair the ruins and rebuild. Loki also used his seidr to aid them, though even without it he figured that the job would have been finished nearly as quickly.

The rebuilding process had not even taken half a decade. That was the sheer power of the Casket.

Of course, that did not mean Jotunheim was completely repaired, completely back to its prime. There was still a lot of ruin, and the Jotnar were still uncomfortable and nervous to leave the safety (well, as safe as it could be considering the circumstances) of the castle.

It had taken a full decade to get all the animals and plant life to return to Jotunheim.

It had taken even longer to get the Jotnar used to their new surroundings--to reassure them that they would not be harmed under the protection of the Casket, and that the royal family would protect them. It was the first time so many had trusted Loki, despite the fact that the words he said were so uncertain.

Even after fifty years, all was not perfect. Loki, being the only one who could walk between realms--also known as Skywalking, which was a skill that could not even be learned--traveled to other realms while protected by an illusion, trading and bartering with the inhabitants of other realms. Slowly, yet still secretly, Jotunheim grew in power. Unbeknownst to Asgard, Jotunheim slowly began to reach out to other realms, forming careful (and fragile, though that was unimportant) treaties and creating trades. Jotunheim was actually surprisingly rich in resources, and many of treasures native to only Jotunheim could be sold for high prices and held high values, which guaranteed them good places in the trade market.

No one bothered to report Jotunheim's newfound success to Asgard (probably because most of the other realms were rather sick of Asgard ruling over the other realms with an iron fist, threatening them with war if they stepped out of line) and Jotunheim kept it well-hidden anyway. Loki requested this--though he felt much better about himself in general, and began to care little for what Asgard thought of him now, he still couldn't help but feel hurt and uncomfortable at the mere mention of Asgard. To actually meet with Thor again... he didn't think we would be able to manage it.

Jotunheim was growing and flourishing. As well, though many of the warriors that had been wounded mentally or physically in the war could not fight any longer (Laufey had refused to allow them, telling them that their health was important, and insisting that they live out the remainder of their lives with their families) Jotunheim's army grew stronger and more powerful. Many of the children had grown and were more than willing to become warriors to fight the Asgardians, furious at what their parents and grandparents had had to go through because of them. Since the Casket had been returned while the children were growing up, many were also gifted with skills in seidr. Loki was one of the most sought-after seidr teachers, and he was more than willing to share his knowledge. Soon, the entirety of Jotunheim was populated with warriors and sorcerers. Much better than Asgard, which only favoured the warriors.

It was well-known that Loki had been the one to return the Casket (despite him wishing for that information not to spread, not wanting himself to appear as though he were arrogant or bragging about his achievement) and many of the Jotnar began worshipping him for that fact alone. They called him their saviour, and though Loki was nervous at the attention (what if his brothers grew angry or jealous with him) he eventually began to accept it. He was surprised how much simple recognition made him feel happy, and he was more surprised to learn that his brothers weren't jealous of him.

Was it only him and Thor that had a dysfunctional brotherly relationship?

What was also well-known that new year, Jotunheim simply grew more and more powerful. It was now at its peak, but it kept climbing and climbing. Many whispered among themselves that ever since Loki had been returned, Jotunheim had prospered. Of course, this wasn't really true, it was mainly the Casket that had done all the work--but his family did not miss this chance to praise him and encourage him.

Despite being a Jotun, his heart felt warmer than it had his entire life.

Chapter Text

"Are you sure about this, brother?"

"I wouldn't be suggesting it if I wasn't."

"But you're usually not this... erm, impulsive..."

Loki sighed and turned towards Byleistr, arching his brow and placing his hands on Byleistr's shoulders (he had to use his magic to levitate himself so he could do this, but that was unimportant). "Brother," he insisted, and Byleistr's mouth twitched, "You are purposely annoying me, aren't you?"

"Such a cold accusation," Byleistr pouted.

"Helblindi would agree with me, anyway. They wouldn't risk retaliating, not if we let them know how Jotunheim is doing. They defeated us back then, remember? But now, we have many alliances that have grown stronger with trade. We have allies. They don't. And, we have the Casket."

"And we have you, too," Byleistr added, nudging Loki, who flushed in embarrassment at the praise.

"Yes, we have me," he agreed (his family was quite good at getting him to accept compliments). "But more importantly--"

"No. You are the most important," Byleistr insisted, and Loki sighed and gave Byleistr a smile of surrender.

"Anyways," Loki continued, and Byleistr grinned to see the small smile on Loki's face, "As I was saying, we have many allies. We are in our prime, and stronger than ever before--even before the war, because of our trades with other realms. Our warriors are trained in both weapons and seidr. Though they may still win if we end up going to war, they will struggle to do so. Odin... he surely will understand this. I heard that Thor is still as stupid and bloodthirsty as ever, so he may not--but even so, he had run Asgard into the ground. It's a miracle they have not rebelled against him yet."

"His army is still powerful. The common folk cannot do much against that sort of strength."

"But we can," Loki insisted. "And the other realms are stronger now, too. Asgard is not the only golden realm anymore."

Byleistr snickered. "Thor will have a hissy fit over that," he muttered, his clear dislike for Thor showing.

"Kindly do not insult him like that while we are negotiating our treaty."

"Hey! Who said we were having a treaty! Besides, we really have nothing to gain. They don't trust us."

"Precisely why we need a treaty. Jotunheim is still rebuilding. We cannot risk a surprise war, or even an attack. Even something so small would likely completely destroy the progress we have made. Especially if they take the Casket. We cannot risk losing it."

"They might want you back! We can't lose you, either," Byleistr burst out.

"Brother, I am perfectly capable of handling myself."

Byleistr winced at his brother's sudden change in tone, and said meekly, "Alright. But at least discuss it with Helblindi? And our fathers. They have a say in this, too!" He thought for a moment, and then added indignantly, "I also have a say! Democracy! Let's do a vote."

"With those eyes, you can convince them to do anything you want, and you'll all vote against me anyway," Loki snapped.

"But it's only fair to have a vote. And no cheating," Byleistr added, pointing at Loki.

"Yes, yes, whatever. But think it over, Byleistr. We should have a treaty with them. And also, we should boast our power. They would be warier to attack us if we let them know we are much stronger than they think we are. A bluff. Of course, they might attempt to attack us in order to squash us down before we get even stronger, but I do not think that they would be that stupid to think they would succeed in such an attack."

"You overestimate their ability to think," Byleistr grumbled in protest. "All Asgardians are stupid."

Loki briefly thought of Frigga, before answering flatly, "I would rather not underestimate them. That would be stupid on my part."

"But why?" Byleistr whined, changing tactics. Loki looked up to glare into his much taller brother's eyes. Sure, in his Jotun form, he was a decent bit larger than he was in his Asgardian form--but he was by no means tall, and he was definitely still a runt. Compared to his brothers, he was laughably short. At least Helblindi was average Jotun height, but Byleistr was a giant in a giant's world. He would likely be even larger than Farbauti one day.

Loki felt a brief flash of pity for Laufey; after all, Byleistr must have been a giant-sized baby as well.

"We don't really need a treaty! We could beat them in a fight if we really tried, especially if it was on our homeland!"

"Byleistr, don't be a brat," Loki reprimanded, though he couldn't stop his smile at his younger brother's antics. "I literally just explained to you why we should have a treaty. It's the fact that we cannot risk a surprise attack. It's not a matter of if we can beat them or not."

Byleistr folded his arms and pouted. "Maybe you should tell our fathers this, then," he challenged.

"Absolutely not, I need my brothers' approval first," Loki grinned, nudging Byleistr (which achieved absolutely nothing, Norns, why was the other so large). Byleistr gave him a grin when he did not move an inch, and Loki retaliated by using his seidr to forcefully shove Byleistr.

"That was unnecessary."

"It was perfectly unnecessary," Loki replied, laughing at the betrayed expression on Byleistr's face.

"This is stupid!" Byleistr declared. "I don't want to make a treaty with... him." He made a face.

"Oh, please. Why must you be so childish?" Loki sighed and commanded his magic to lift him up, before patting Byleistr on the head. "You stay here, me and Helblindi will have some grown-up talk. I don't want you interfering in his final decision."

"No--wait! But then, you must talk with our fathers with me!"

"No, I'm not going to allow you to convince them, too!" Loki declared, and pointed at him. "Stay."

"I'm not your dog," Byleistr huffed.

"Stay," Loki repeated with a shit-eating grin on his face. "And be good. Okay?"


In the end, Loki won.

"I think it's an excellent idea," Laufey decided. "I was going to try earlier... but I worried..."

"I'm perfectly fine with it, Father," Loki insisted, and Laufey smiled in relief at him. And Loki didn't think that was a lie. He really was, truly fine with the idea of returning to Asgard. It actually would make him feel better, he thought. He wouldn't be negotiating on Asgard's side, either--and he knew that all the negotiators for Asgard were awful. He had worked with them before. They were old men who thought they knew everything, and it had taken all of Loki's willpower not to rip their teeth from their mouths and shove it up their asses back when he was still in Asgard.

Also, he was quite certain Thor would ruin everything. He sort of dreaded Thor seeing him, but also looked forwards to it at the same time. He wanted to see Thor's reaction to him. To the new him, being so much more powerful and so much stronger than before.

He wanted Thor to see the real him. He wanted Odin to see, too. And regret letting him leave.

Though he doubted Odin and Thor would regret anything. After he'd gone, they'd probably cheered with joy.

He didn't want to see Frigga, though. Even though he had forgiven her (and himself, for leaving her) and accepted that she was, though not by blood, really his mother--he thought he still might cry if he saw her. And he couldn't cry, not in front of Thor. Especially not in front of Odin.

"I will come, this time," Farbauti rumbled, and stood. "If they dare threaten any of you, I will kill them."

Farbauti was a Jotun that struck fear into everyone's hearts. He was, perhaps, the Jotun who had killed the most during the war. Though Loki did not blame him for any of it. He had been struggling to live, struggling to allow the rest of his family to live also.

He had failed once, and Loki knew he would not allow himself to fail again.

"I will also come. I am heir, it is fitting I should be there," Helblindi decided. He had listened to Loki talk the entire time silently without protesting (unlike their other brother, who had interrupted every second, though Loki still loved that idiot) and Loki was relieved to hear him support his idea. "I think this would be the smartest thing to do, also. Better to secure a treaty, even a fragile one, than not. Our other treaty has been shattered from us... attacking them... those fifty years ago--" everyone listened to this uncomfortably-- "and it's a surprise they did not attack us immediately after it was broken. But, there is still a chance they will... and we would better not take that risk. It would be too dangerous, and we ought to be cautious about this."

"I agree with this also," Farbauti said, and Loki smiled at him. "Though... where is Byleistr? I thought he would be here, protesting up a storm. He has taken a huge liking to you, Loki. If he were to lose you... I do not think we would be able to handle it."

"Yes, I will be careful. And about him..." Loki chuckled. "I knew he would try to convince you all not to allow this treaty to happen--he really does hate Thor and Asgard, and for good reason at that--so I told him to stay in my room and not come here. He probably regrets listening."

"Surprised he listened at all," Helblindi laughed. "You're the only one who can control him."

"Though most of the time, you don't," Laufey said in fake disapproval. "The two of you... such troublemakers."

They laughed together, but grew serious eventually. "Now that the joking is over," Laufey continuing, returning to his serious state, "I will remind you all that during negotiations, we should be on our best behaviour. Nothing aggressive or threatening. We know that King Thor is a childish brat, and he will surely grow offended and angry at anything we say. Therefore, we must tread lightly around him--though we must assert the fact that even without a treaty, we would still be fine. Otherwise, he and the other Aesir bastards may think that they can take advantage of us."

Loki and the others nodded at this, agreeing with what Laufey had said. "Then, if we are all in agreement--"

"I am not in agreement!" Byleistr called, and Loki sighed in exasperation, though feeling fond and amused. The younger Jotun poked his head around the door, which he had cracked open during their laughter. He looked sullen and was pouting.

Helblindi chuckled. "Byleistr..."

Byleistr folded his arms. "You must promise me to be careful, then."

"Of course. We will all be careful," Loki assured the younger Jotun quickly. He knew how much the other worried. Though he liked to hide it, Byleistr was still young and full of childish glee. He had very childlike, innocent fears--he feared ghosts in the dark, and frost beasts that might barge in through windows during the dead of night and eat him. He feared many things--even the chickens and ducks that sometimes chased him while he was outside. Though, to be fair, even Loki had to admit they were terrifying--six feet tall with sharp teeth and beady red eyes.

Nasty creatures. Every time Loki ate one of them he crowed with joy.

"And take me with you, too!"

Helblindi squinted at him. "What, did you think we were going to leave you behind?"

"Well, someone has to stay and protect the kingdom!" Byleistr puffed out his chest. "I would be the obvious candidate."

Laufey coughed to hide his laugh, and then said, "It would be rude not to bring the entire royal family along for such an important discussion. While we are gone, I have decided to place my most trusted adviser on the throne. He would rule well during our absence."

"Oh." Byleistr frowned. "I thought we would leave 'Blindi here."

"That is rude, and I take offense to it."

"Because you're such a fine ruler! Yes, you would be the best choice to stay and look after the realm!"

"For some reason, that sounds like a lie," Helblindi joked, nudging Byleistr in the shoulder with a grin.

"Alright, enough chatter," Farbauti announced, rising to his full height. His sons fell into a dutiful silence, though kept at their insistent nudging. Farbauti did not mention this, but looked at them with a hint of disapproval and amusement. "We are all in agreement. Except Byleistr. But his vote does not count, because the rest of us are all in agreement. So, I suppose we should notify Asgard, and ask to meet them."

"Very well." Laufey stood, too, all grace and elegance, very different from the other king. "I shall speak to them first."

"If they lay a hand on you, tell us," Farbauti reminded, and Laufey smiled reassuringly. "I will tear them apart."

"You act as though I wouldn't do that first."

Thor was bored. He was angry, annoyed, and most of all--tired.

Norns, no one had told him being king would be this mind-numbingly boring.

His respect for Odin increased by tenfold. This was awful. There were no battles, no war--and the stupid old advisers refused to let him do anything fun, fearing that it would cause war. So what? No one was stupid enough to declare war on Asgard, and even if they did--they would be crushed, no doubt! Thor would make an excellent king during a war, but during these peaceful times? That was just... no fun.

He had to make negotiations, and treaties, and sign all those damned papers. He wished he could get someone else to do it for them, while he was free to do all the fun things he used to do as prince. This was so boring. He should have just let his father keep the throne.

He had no idea being king would include doing such demeaning, womanly tasks.

This was not what a King of Asgard deserved! He should be on the battlefield, like his father! And his grandfather! And his grandfather's father! Why was he stuck ruling over a peaceful realm, and couldn't even use his power for something fun? His advisers all told him that it would set a bad image if Asgard's king was seen frolicking around, slaying monsters, conquering other realms, and bringing maidens back to his bed. He was even barred from participating in the famed slave trade, that Asgard was practically known for? He had not touched a maiden in so long, it was frustrating.

Who cared about those stupid rules, and stupid advisers? He killed them all.

At least he could release stress that way. He killed them in public, too, just so everyone knew not to annoy him. Thankfully, after his first bloody show of massacring almost all his advisers, no one told him what to do ever again. Though he was still banned from the slave trade.

Ergo, they refused to sell to him. Preposterous! He would have killed them all, too, but they were the only ones who participated in this and the only way he could hope to lay his hands on a... foreign beauty again, so he allowed them to live.

He couldn't help but notice that the common-folk of Asgard didn't like him as much as they used to--and he was sure they would have rioted, if they did not know of his massive strength--but he also couldn't help but not care. As long as he was living well and lavish, then why should he bother with the common-folk? The few that bothered to come to him with their protests were instantly killed, anyways. They didn't deserve to speak to him.

His mother had tried to speak to him about it, too. He warned her that she was no longer queen, so if she did not silence herself, then he would throw her into the dungeons for planning treason. She had glared at him, but thankfully stopped her complaints.

He also noticed that the Warriors Three and Sif were not seen nearly as often around the palace anymore. In fact, while the Warriors Three sometimes visited him and engaged him in awkward conversation, Lady Sif was nowhere to be seen. The Warriors Three had told him that she was tending to the common-folk, and training the young warriors--which infuriated Thor. He knew that Sif had taken a liking to him while he was prince, so why was she avoiding him now that he was king? If anything, she should be begging for his attention more than ever.

Thor knew that as soon as she came back, he would ask for her hand in marriage. He wanted a real Queen, not someone like his mother, who still watched all his movements disapprovingly like a hawk. He knew that if he did not get a queen soon, she would use her status to take the throne away from him.

He secretly worried Odin awakening from his sleep. If he did, and heard of what Thor had said and done... Thor knew that he would get his powers and title stripped from him. He had considered killing Odin where he slept, but that seemed like a bad idea--then people could accuse him of committing treason, and he would be the one locked in the dungeons. He knew that many people wanted it.

He leaned back in his throne, brooding and furious. No one had dared come to him after his violent outbursts--which resulted in the deaths of quite a few--and he no longer had any fun adventures to go on, as the Warriors Three had stopped inviting him. He could simply demand them to invite him, using his kingly authority, but that felt uncomfortably cheap all of a sudden, and he didn't want to beg for their friendship. If anything, they should be hanging around him more now that he was king, and had this new power and authority! Why were they all avoiding him?

He did not want to admit it, but it made him angry.

At least there were no fools coming into the throne room anymore. Of course, no one offered him gifts and blessings anymore either, but he didn't need them. He had enough, he was king. Them coming here to gift him things were mistakes. Them coming here to give him news was even more of a mistake, especially if it was news that some other pathetic realm wanted a treaty, or to trade, or some other ridiculous business--

"King Thor... I have a message for you."

Thor's eyes snapped open, and he grabbed the nearest thing he could get his hands on--an empty tankard, that had once held mead--and threw it with all his might at whoever had dared interrupt his thoughts. The poor man let out a squeak and dived out of the way, eyes wide with fear, and Thor stood and grabbed Gungnir, pointing it at the frightened man. He relished in the fear that he could feel pouring off the man. This was power.

"Speak, and speak quickly, else I cleave your head from your shoulders before you can finish," Thor rumbled, and the man immediately straightened up and cleared his throat, his expression growing more terrified as Thor continued to glower at him.

"Y-your Majesty--the King of Jotunheim asks to meet," the frightened man stuttered. Thor stared, too stunned by the words to properly react, and the man took this opportunity to ramble on quickly, "He asks if it would be possible to arrange a treaty between the realms--"

Thor burst out laughing, and the man flinched backwards, clutching the scroll with shaking hands. It was a miracle he had not turned and fled yet. "Jotunheim?" he asked incredulously, before shaking his head and sitting back down on the throne, lazily taking a sip from another tankard of mead that happened to be beside him (the one he had thrown earlier had already been cleaned up and taken away by an ever-observant maid). "They must be mad." He chuckled and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "You have brought me laughter, servant. I forgive you for intruding on my time. Leave."

The man gulped, and then hesitantly said, "M-my king... they were quite serious with their request. T-they said that if you did not show up to arrange the treaty, they would take that as an offense and would not hesitate to... to wage war."

Thor opened an eye lazily. "You are bothering me, servant," he warned. "And so what? Let them wage war. I do not care."

"My king... I advise you against this course of action. The majority of Aesir do not want to see a war with Jotunheim, especially now that they have their Casket back and have established many other treaties and trade routes with various other powerful realms--"

"WHAT!?" Thor asked, shooting upright at once and pointing a threatening finger at the adviser, who immediately began shaking again. "You have a lot of courage, whelp, to speak back to me so defiantly," he snarled. "Do you not know what I have done, with the others who threatened my honour? I should kill you for this slight, as king, I have the right." Thor scanned the man haughtily. "Do not speak lies to me."

"I-it is the truth, my king."

"You are delusional. How could Jotunheim have--" Thor's eyes widened, and he hissed, "Loki."

"Pardon me, my King...?"

"Silence, you filth," Thor bellowed, and he threw the tankard beside him at the man again, who jumped and stumbled back. The tankard had still been half-full with alcohol, and the mead spilled all over the floor. Thor stared after it, breathing hard and furious, as he realized what must have happened. How could he have not seen this...? He grew even angrier, the more he thought about it. Treaty? That was ridiculous, how could he dream of allying with--

"M-my king... as I have said, the common-folk of Asgard--"

Thor raised Gungnir and pointed it at the man. He barely had time to scream with terror before his head was blasted cleanly off his shoulders. The man's body slumped to the floor before falling into the pool of mead spilled just moments earlier, the dark red of his blood mixing eerily with the honey of the mead. Thor continued to stare aimlessly off, his face darkening with fury as he mulled over what the man had said.

He had been a fool, to anger Thor with the mention of... the monsters.

But if they had the Casket... Thor knew its power. He must have it back. He wanted it.

They had stolen it from him, right under his nose. It was not even a matter of the Casket's power--it was pride.

He stood. Then, he would negotiate with the filthy Frost Giant monsters. But first...

He would have to get rid of the traitor. The one who thought that he could steal something of Thor's, something of Asgard's, and get away with it. Get away with a blatant slight against Asgard--and Thor's--honour. The traitorous, Frost Giant bastard...

Loki Laufeyson.

Chapter Text

"King Thor."

Thor nodded at the mention of his name, keeping his head bowed. Though his pride stung to have to bow to a woman, he was aware that these three beings were more powerful than anything else in the universe combined. They had created the universe, and their power rested within every realm, every living thing. They were the Three Norns, and even Thor knew when he was outmatched. He would never dare to attack the Norns, because he knew that he would be crushed embarrassingly under their power.

"You are brave, or stupid, to come here."

Thor kept silent. They would yield to his demands, he knew they would... after all, they, too, loved Asgard. His father had told him plenty of stories of the Norns favouring the Golden Realm, and he was sure that they held no love towards Jotunheim or Loki. Surely... surely, they would do as he asked? If he offered the right thing?

"So? All that come before us, have wishes and dreams of their own. What is your dream, King Thor of Asgard?"

The one on the far left leaned closer, and Thor allowed his eyes to flicker upwards to catch a glimpse of her face. Oh, her face. It was so beautiful, despite the elegant cloth that she had draped over her head. He wondered why--he thought secretly that she would look far prettier without it. As though realizing his thoughts, she narrowed her eyes and her face became as hard as stone. She leaned back again and rejoined her sisters, her eyes cool and dangerous. Perhaps he should have hidden his thoughts better--but he was a man! He could not help these things.

"Do not blame your filthy thoughts on your biology," the woman snapped, and Thor flinched in shame.

"At ease, Verdani," another of the Three Norns soothed, but their eyes also flickered with dislike. Thor wondered briefly if it had been a mistake coming here. Surely, he could have gotten rid of the Frost Giant filth by himself. Slipped a bit of poison into Loki's wine--it would have been easy as that, and he wouldn't have had to risk coming here.

He almost considered leaving, but they spoke up before he could, "You will fail."

He jerked upright and glared at them, before remembering who he was speaking to. "I don't understand what you mean."

"Of course you fail to understand. Only we could see your fate," the woman on the far right replied, almost seeming amused. "You will fail, and be charged for treason. The Asgardians you rule over will plan a riot, and it will go hidden under your very nose. That woman you hound over, the Lady Sif? She will lead the revolution. Your mother, the queen, is also changing her mind about you and your precious father. You. Will. Fail."

Thor's breath quickened as he was told this. They had no real reason to lie to him... it must be the truth. "Treason?" he asked, mouth dry.

"You plan to kill the prince of Jotunheim, do you not? The runt, Loki Laufeyson."

"He doesn't deserve to live. His birthright was to die. I know, my father told me," Thor replied. "He should be dead."

The one in the middle looked at him, unimpressed. "You truly know nothing."

"So then, help me!" Thor demanded, growing frustrated with the lack of action. The Norns laughed, and Thor growled under his breath. They were mocking him. He understand what and who they were--they, along with the other Norns, held the universe and the fates of all those living in it in the palm of their hands--but that knowledge did not stop him from wanting to--

"We can grant your wish. We can help you succeed in everything you do. But you must know that there is always a price."

"What price?" Thor asked, and though he hated to admit it, he was sounding desperate.

The eyes of all Three Norns darkened, until Thor could have sworn that they were just chasms of darkness. "It depends," the one in the middle, Skuld, replied easily. Thor's brow furrowed, and Skuld swept closer to him and pressed her fingers underneath his chin, lifting his head so they were looking eye-to-eye. "On what you are willing to pay."

"Anything," Thor said immediately.

"Anything, you say?" Urd asked, her voice sweet and tantalizing. Thor swallowed nervously.

He had never been nervous, ever, in his entire life. This was... new. Seeing all Three Norns look at him wearing such amused expressions, as though they were all collectively taunting him... it struck fear into his heart, and he did not like it. Never had anyone dared to... to...

"You are willing to sacrifice your heart, your soul, your power itself? And what for?" Skuld moved close to him, her eyes burning as she laughed lightly. Her laugh sounded like wind chimes, he realized sluggishly. It felt as though he had been drugged. Everything felt so slow, sounded so muffled.

He shook the feeling from his mind and squared his shoulders, taking a deep breath, before dropping Mjolnir to the ground. It lay half-buried in the rocks at his feet, and had fallen with a great thud. He barely noticed as the Three Norns fell quiet--though they were not intimidated, it was rather an interested, amused silence. The smiles on their pale faces widened, so that he could see the barest flash of white teeth behind their red lips.

"I am willing to sacrifice anything to uphold Asgard's honour," he answered them staunchly, his face set with determination. "Asgard has always been known as the golden realm; I cannot let the title fall to a realm as abhorrent as the land of ice." At this, the Norns cast glances at each other, eyes flashing.

"The land of ice?" Verdani echoed.

"Jotunheim," Thor clarified, though he knew the Norns did not need the elaboration. “It is even more humiliating that my throne should be usurped by my own brother--before that traitor left us for the Frost Giants.” His voice was darkly humorous, heavy with hatred and spite for the one he once called his.

“Indeed, Prince Loki has built his realm up from the ashes it once was,” Urd agreed, and Thor ground his teeth at the unadulterated praise towards his former brother--a man he was used to being in his shadows. “But it is not simply due to him and his seidr; King Laufey and Farbauti have had much a hand in raising their realm.”

“But not as much as he,” Thor replied, voice scathing, though his anger not directed towards the three powerful beings before him. “I am willing to do anything for Loki to be… rid of.”

“A king planning the demise of a prince? Not very noble of one who lives in such a golden realm,” Skuld mocked, and Thor took a deep breath. They had not yet denied him; he still had a chance.

“What use is honour now, when Loki himself is the god of mischief and lies?” Thor countered. “He uses trickery to get his ways; it is time that I descend to such a dishonourable level. Of course, consulting you great ones for help would never profane Asgard’s name.” He smiled to himself, knowing from experience that flattery was usually an easy way to sway even the most stubborn. “Besides, I will trade whatever it is you wish for this. The golden realm must rise above all others. Rid of Loki, he is the root of Asgard’s stagnant state.”

The Three Norns’ eyebrows creased, their faces twisted, showing their deep displeasure for the plan. But Thor’s offer, however dimwitted for beings as powerful as they, was still tempting. However, if he were to play against the rules, they could too.

“Very well,” Verdani answered finally. “We shall do as you wish. But beware. He will not disappear altogether--I am sure you understand how the universes work…?”

Thor had never had patience for the inner workings of the world, nor how deeply woven seidr was; he simply brushed the many universes off as a myth. Even now, listening to it from the three powerful Norns instead of his brother, he had no care for how anything worked as long as it did not involve warfare, battle, or glory. Though he made an attempt to listen, the Norns knew he would never sit through the tedious explanations, which would only work in their favour. As expected, he simply shook his head, dismissing the idea, and replied, “As long as he is gone.”

The Three Norns smiled to themselves as Thor left, turning his back on them and returning to Asgard in a billow of red and gold. They all harboured a soft spot for the king’s younger brother, though none would admit it. It went past respect for perhaps the most powerful sorcerer in all the realms, it stretched to fondness for the boy--for that was all he was, compared to their timeless age. As long as they were involved, Thor would never get his way.

“What a funny king,” Skuld said conversationally as soon as Thor had left, “and unknowing of seidr and magic itself. Loki must be doing far better away from this oaf.”

The other Norns hummed in agreement, but all three had no particular urge to completely ignore Thor’s wishes. Though the thunderer’s power was nothing compared to what they held in the palm of their hands, it would still be interesting to see the arrogant fool stride around without his mighty hammer. It was unlike Loki’s seidr; a magic so intricate that it was bound to the very depths of his soul, not even separated from his body by the jaws of death. 

“Loki wouldn’t mind taking an adventure to another universe, would he?” Verdani hummed, though a cunning smile had already tilted her lips upwards at the edges.

“It would be so full of knowledge; the boy’s insatiable for it,” Urd agreed, knowing full well that a thousand years alive was already too much for Loki—his mind was so full of ancient, irreplaceable knowledge, his intelligence extending far past his years—none of the realms would have anything new to present to him. However, an entire universe apart from the one he already lived in was an entirely different matter altogether.

"But which one? There are so many, and sending him to the wrong one may ruin everything."

"There is one," Verdani interjected, and the other two looked to her in interest. "It is like this one. Very similar. However, they have recently split into two separate threads. The Loki from that one has fallen into the Void, into the claws of the being named Thanos." All the Norns winced slightly--they did not fear Thanos, but they knew of the destruction the Titan could bring upon the realms. For one single being to have to endure all that fury and destruction... it would be painful, indeed. "They are not too different at all. Besides, I heard that there Loki is known as some sort of villain. It would surely be quite interesting to see how our Loki deals with that."

"Yes, it would be rather interesting," Skuld nodded, before thoughtfully inquiring, "But what of the Loki in the universe there already? What shall we do with him? He is so broken and lost."

"He needs the love he would get here, with this Loki," Verdani replied seriously. "The Allfather may have been a good king, but he was not a good father--in both universes." The other Norns nodded in agreement to this, and Verdani continued, "Loki has proven himself to us, time and time again, in both universes. Even against a might as strong as Thanos, he has persevered and held his own."

"The difference is, the Thor there and the Thor here are rather different."

"Yes, well, the Laufey there and here are also quite different. Loki needs a father. And he will get a brother, too. He will get two brothers. He must realize that there are people... other than Thor."

"Though, the Thor there deserves some forgiveness. He actually harbours no ill intent."

"Yes, that is a feat in itself. He was not poisoned by the rest of Asgard."

"So?" Uld asked. "Shall we simply switch the two of them? That will cause confusion, will it not?"

"Oh, sister," Skuld replied, a wicked smile splitting her beautiful face. "Confusion is always the most entertaining bit."

"I still can't believe King Thor agreed to meet with us," Byleistr grumbled, looking less than pleased. Loki gave him a smile, though he was feeling apprehensive as well. He couldn't help but think that this was some sort of trap or trick that Thor had thought up--though he couldn't imagine Thor being smart enough to do that by himself.

"Yes, it's rather fortunate," Helblindi replied, and Byleistr gave him an are-you-kidding look.

"You should at least be respectful in their presence," Laufey reminded. "We will be on their land, so we must at least present ourselves with dignity and respect. No matter how much we want to murder them. Remember, everything we will do here today will only be for the benefit of Jotunheim."

The royal family of Jotunheim made their way over to an empty area of icy land--one of the places that had not yet recovered fully. It was good, however, that there was no civilization there--it was a perfect place to call for the Bifrost, seeing as if the Bifrost connected anywhere else it would probably decimate the land.

"Allow me," Loki said, and moved to the front of the small pack. There was the royal family, and a few select guards including the warrior general, the most powerful sorcerer in Jotunheim (besides Loki, of course), the famed healers of Jotunheim, and a few various sorcerers or warriors that were held in high regard by the generals and were allowed to come along. All of the Jotnar reached a number of roughly a dozen, which could easily be transported by Bifrost. Loki had wanted to use his ability of Skywalking, not wanting to face Heimdall after having blasted him in the face with a Casket, but he simply did not have the ability that was needed to transport twelve people. "Heimdall!" he called upwards, "Bring us to Asgard!"

They waited a moment, and Loki began wondering if they had managed to unfreeze Heimdall, before the glow of the Bifrost appeared.

It was shockingly bright, and Loki had to stumble back and shield his eyes, but the rainbow of the Bifrost shone bright and powerful through his fingers. He felt some relief before he stepped into the shining light, and gestured at the rest of his family and the other Jotnar that had accompanied them before he was flying upwards. He gritted his teeth at the strength and straightened his body so he had some control over how he was flying, and the straightness of his body increased the speed of which he flew. He looked behind him briefly to see the rest of the Jotnar following, though they tinted the rainbow of the Bifrost a cooler blue. He knew that they had all charmed themselves to be heat-resistant, though he still worried what might happen when they arrived.

At last, he stumbled out from the power of the Bifrost, feeling exhilarated. Skywalking may be easier, but the Bifrost never got any less enjoyable to ride.

"Greetings, Frost Giants."

Loki frowned at the derogatory term and turned, expecting Heimdall (though the voice had been wholly unfamiliar) and was shocked when he saw some other Aesir in Heimdall's place. He did a double-take and stared, and the brute smiled at him nastily, as though knowing what he was thinking.

"Missing that golden traitor?" he asked loudly, walking dangerously close to Loki, who narrowed his eyes.

"Step away from him," Helblindi warned. "That is a prince you're talking to." Loki cast a glance behind his shoulder to see that the rest of the Jotnar had arrived, and thankfully looked fine. The heat in Asgard was blistering, though, even with the wards around him and the rest of the Jotnar. He was sure that they had done this on purpose.

"A prince?" the brute asked, and snickered. "Of course. If that's what you filth want to call yourselves."

"Mind your words, peasant," Farbauti growled, and the Asgardian paled a bit under the intimidating height of the Jotun.

"Enough," Loki said, and stepped threateningly close to the Asgardian. Though he was a runt by Jotun standards, he was still much taller than the average Asgardian, and while he had been in Jotunheim he had put on much more muscle and a couple more inches. The Asgardian was cowering slightly now, and Loki wondered briefly if Thor was just throwing any racist Asgardian into positions of power and calling it a day. He had known that Thor would not be much of a ruler, but he didn't think it would get this low. "What have you lot done with Heimdall?"

"The traitor was banished," the brute answered, baring his yellowed teeth. Loki reeled back in shock, as though he'd been slapped. Banished? Heimdall had been faithful to Asgard for so long, it seemed almost impossible to him that that would happen. What could Heimdall have done, to warrant banishment? "He was going to be executed," the brute added, and that was a second slap in the face.

What had happened to Asgard? And why was there no one left to do anything to fix it?

A gentle hand laid itself on Loki's shoulder, calming him slightly. "Lead us to where we will be having our meeting," Laufey instructed, and the brute snorted.

"Fine, then. I suppose there isn't much else to do. Follow me."

The brute turned and began walking out of the Observatory, the Jotnar following. Loki glanced behind him and did a quick headcount, relieved to find everyone still there. He turned his head and noted that everyone had fallen perfectly into disciplined position--Helblindi to the left of him, Byleistr to the right, in birth order. Farbauti and Laufey in front of them, close enough that their shoulders were briefly touching. Behind them was the warrior general, the great sorcerer, and in between the two was the Royal Healer. Fanning out behind and beside them and the royal family were four other Jotnar--two warriors, and two sorcerers, all four of them esteemed in their chosen art and very powerful, regarded in good light and given high praise.

All of them together made a very intimidating group, and it was no wonder that most of the Asgardians cleared the way quickly. Some of the younger children, who had not yet been poisoned by Asgard's foolish beliefs, even stared at them in awe. One of the little girls exclaimed, "Look, mama! I want to do magic just like that!" before she was hushed and steered away.

"We are here."

Byleistr spluttered with indignation, but the rest of the group was deathly silent. The brute was smirking at them, before he turned and left. Loki cast him a disgusted look before turning to stare--it was not as grand of a meeting place as he had expected, not all gold and bejeweled like most of Asgard. Clearly, Thor sought to insult them as much as possible. It was a simple, almost cottage-like house that almost seemed like something one of the poor common-folk would live in. It was not even in a splendid or private place, but rather surrounded by other Asgardian houses and other Aesir--even beggars on the street. If Thor had meant to be disrespectful, he had certainly succeeded with this poor choice in meeting place. He must have wanted to rub their pride.

"Well, let us go in," Laufey said, and swept inside with the air of an insulted king--which he very much was. The rest of the group followed silently, and as soon as they were inside, the door shut ominously behind them. Loki coughed softly as dust was unsettled and swept into the air, before taking a good look around.

It was just as awful in the inside as the outside--with creaking walls that he suspected held rats, a scratched and dirty floor filled with holes, and a single light above that was flickering ominously. The single table in the middle was creaking and one of its legs looked broken, and there had only been three chairs prepared. Byleistr, Loki, and the rest of the group stepped aside to let the two kings and heir take the only three chairs, though as the three sat they made faces of disgust. The others stood in a silent ring around them, while Loki counted.

Being late was absolutely considered an insult. Loki gritted his teeth. This was despicable behaviour, and Thor's attempt to be disrespectful was absolutely working. Loki hated it.

They waited a few more minutes in silence, and Loki was just about to demand they leave, when an opposite door burst open and Thor strode inside. All the Jotnar narrowed their eyes slightly as he swaggered over to the only chair on the opposite side and sat, spending another minute getting comfortable. Behind him flowed in a few guards, all of whom were armed to the teeth with golden weapons and dressed in brightly polished gold armour. Thor grinned and slammed Gungnir into the ground, summoning a hesitant maid who held a silver tray. She went around the table, passing out golden goblets filled with drink. Thor easily accepted the largest one, which had likely been prepared just for him, and took a big gulp of it. Loki wrinkled his nose, but his honour forced him to accept the goblet filled with... whatever alcohol that was.

"So, now that we have waited quite a while for you to arrive, we would like to begin discussing a possible treaty," Laufey began.

"Of course," Thor replied while smirking, and Loki narrowed his eyes at the look. That smile was one of plotting, scheming.

He knew; he'd wore that look on his face more than just a few times.

He shifted a bit on the balls of his feet as Thor continued loudly, "But let us first celebrate with a toast, shall we?" He raised his goblet high into the air, and every single Jotun wrinkled their nose in dislike and for some, confusion. The healer was even grumbling under their breath, muttering something about, "Disrespectful young brats... I'd teach him a lesson if he was mine." Thor appeared to not hear this, and eventually a few of the Jotnar raised their own goblets to touch his. Loki did the same, but made sure to take a drink close-lipped. He was not stupid.

Thor probably poisoned whatever alcohol that was. Letting it even touch his lips burned.

He was relieved to see the other Jotnar did the same as he; drank with their lips firmly closed. He prodded his lips curiously and cursed softly to notice them swelling a bit.

Was Thor stupid? How could he try and poison them?

This was something a king could wage war over! Thor was indeed a fool.

"Well, perhaps now we can begin discussing about the treaty--"

"Wait," Thor interrupted, and everyone glared at him--this was a sign of the absolute most disrespect, to interrupt someone while negotiating a treaty of utmost importance like this. He was essentially telling them that their voices were unnecessary and unneeded, and he was the only one who should be talking anyways. He was indirectly telling them that he controlled the terms of the treaty, and he should control everything that the treaty allowed. Loki almost stabbed him then and there, and he was sure if Frigga was there she would--

He paused, momentarily horrified. Where was Frigga? She was queen, shouldn't she be there? It wasn't like Odin was dead... it was only Odinsleep...

Ah, right. She was most likely caring for Odin during his Sleep. That was a given, it was what she did most of the times he had gone into the Sleep anyways...

Still, he felt strangely uneasy. The lack of other people present on Asgard's side during the negotiation was unnerving. Surely, Thor should at least have a few advisers with him? Yes, they were old and stupid, and Loki hated them immensely, but they would be better at this than Thor would do alone. It was unwise to appear in front of them by himself.

"I have some demands, that if are not agreed upon, I will not allow this treaty to happen," Thor continued.

Laufey narrowed his eyes. "Name them."

"Have the Casket returned to Asgard."

Farbauti's eyes widened, and he slammed his hand against the table, causing it to shake. "Absolutely not," he replied coldly, and Thor looked up to smirk at Farbauti's furious expression. "The Casket belongs to Jotunheim. We will not hand it over."

"I agree with him," Laufey decided. "We cannot hand over the Casket."

Thor stood, face stormy. "Then I believe we are done here," he scowled.

"It would be unwise for you to leave now," Laufey warned, while the other Jotnar glared at him stormily. Judging by the way he behaved and acted, it really looked like Thor, King of Asgard, was throwing a childish temper tantrum at not being given what he wanted.

"I have one demand, and that is to return the Casket to Asgard," Thor said boldly. "You cannot give me what I want. We are done here."

Farbauti stood, too. "This is an injustice," the other king rumbled dangerously. "You will regret being this arrogant, King Thor."

Thor glanced behind him to see that the Asgardian warriors had raised their weapons, before looking back at Farbauti with a grin. He tightened his hold on Gungnir, and all of the Jotnar's eyes were immediately drawn to the weapon. "Is that a threat, Frost Giant?"

"Mind your words," Helblindi interjected in a growl.


Everyone turned to stare at Laufey, who had stood as well. Though he looked less intimidating in comparison to Farbauti, he still wielded a threatening power that caused even the Aesir brats to cower. Laufey scanned the room in silent disapproval, before shaking his head. "You Asgardians are truly arrogant," he said, voice low. "I believe it is time to remind you... that at this moment in time, you lot are no longer the most powerful realm. You think you can threaten us, and demand our treasures? We have power, King Thor. We do not need you, and we do not need this treaty."

"Oh?" Thor asked, though he looked uncomfortably uncertain. He directed his gaze towards Loki, who held it and stared coolly back. Loki was, however, slightly unsettled when Thor's face split into an unnerving grin. "Are you quite sure about that?"

Loki had seen that grin before. It reminded him of a snake, a rat, a liar. It reminded him of himself.

Loki gritted his teeth and tried to hold Thor's gaze, but his head was spinning and his thoughts suddenly felt quite murky. He felt as though he were standing on something unstable, and was swaying--though he was quite sure that he was standing on steady ground. Though he was staring at Thor, flashes of white seemed to dance in his vision. He wasn't sure what was happening--had he been poisoned?

He tried to open his mouth to retaliate, but it felt as though it had been stuffed full of cotten. He only had time to choke out a, "Give me a moment," as he stumbled towards the door, feeling pathetically wobbly and unsure on his feet. As soon as he was outside, he breathed in fresh air and slumped against the wall. Thor's smile when he had stumbled out of the room had been both terrifying and knowing--it was a smile that was dangerous.

Had Thor poisoned him, somehow? Loki was sure that he hadn't drunk any of the poisoned wine in that goblet...

His head spun, and he gagged. He still felt terribly unsteady.

"Loki! Loki, are you okay?"

He glanced up to see Byleistr rushing towards him, worried. The Royal Healer was standing a bit behind him, looking both grumpy and concerned. Loki frowned as Byleistr's face blurred before him. He was seeing doubles. Norns, he was really sick.

There was a strange pain in his head, too. Though he was not moving, besides his laboured breathing, the pain continued to increase. His head was pounding. His memories felt lost, almost fractured. And then he was realizing that he was seeing things that weren't quite his, along with continuous flashes of bright white light that made him want to bury his head in his arms and shield his eyes. What was going on, what was going on, what was--

"--don't know what's happening, Father, he just fell--"

"--Loki, are you alright! Tell me, what is happening? Are you--"

"--were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always--"

Ah, that was his voice. It was slightly unfamiliar, and tinged with madness--but it was him.

Only, he could not remember having ever said that. Had he? He didn't think he'd ever tried to rule anything, except back when he had wanted to sit on the throne of Asgard. Still, he doubted he would say such an... odd line, especially to a group of people that hated him.

"His eyes are closing--Father, what do I--?"

"There are always men like you."

Another unfamiliar voice... the pain was getting worse...

Fractured memories flowed through his mind, unfamiliar voices, and him--

Why was he in his Aesir form? It brought him bad memories... though he felt almost sorry for the poor man he saw standing in front of him. A gaunt, dirt-streaked face, greasy hair, and looking as though he hadn't eaten in months. He was skinny and pale and looked half-dead.

Who was that poor soul?

"Look to your elder, people! Let him be an example--"

"I said, KNEEL!"

"If it's all the same to you. I'll have that drink."

And with that, the memories still spinning in his throbbing mind--and was it his imagination, or was his body aching too? It felt as though some strange force had pummeled him into the floor, and his body was bruised and broken--a flash of the brightest white he had ever seen enveloped him, and then he felt the strange sensation of almost flying--but not quite, like someone was pulling him roughly through the air. And then he was spiraling downwards, but he still could not see, the white light was still too bright. The pain seemed to increase tenfold, and then he was falling--crashing--

He opened his eyes, which he had unknowingly closed, blinking furiously. What had happened?

He was no longer in Asgard, that was for certain. And he was lying in some sort of broken floor. Was this a dream, of some sort?

He squinted at the strange... people... who were surrounding him in a ring.

And then, he heard quite possibly the most eloquent response one could come up with in reaction to his arrival--

"What the fuck."

Chapter Text

Loki was confused.

It was not the sort of confusion that came with when he could not understand a complex problem, or figure out how to cast a spell--no, this was the sort of mind-numbing confusion that he simply could not understand. He simply could not comprehend what was happening.

First of all, he had been... what was this? Was it teleportation? He simply knew he was in an unfamiliar place.

Second, he was back in his Aesir form. It had freaked him out momentarily, but even in this form the heat was awful and he was half-glad that he had shifted. Was it survival instinct that had forced him back into this body? He didn't know, but he assumed he could shift back if he wanted.

Third, his entire body ached and hurt. He was unsure why--had whatever poison Thor had fed him end up hurting him physically? Was it even poison? He hadn't swallowed it, and the white light he had seen made him assume that it had been some sort of magic that had sent him here rather than poison. But what magic was so powerful that it could forcefully teleport him? And how could Thor have gotten his hands on such magic?

As he was pondering this, he realized that he was faced with some very angry people. He frowned and tried to stand, and found he was able to. As he got to his feet, however, an arrow immediately began flying towards his face. He caught it easily before snapping it in one hand, and turned to glare at whoever was stupid enough to aim a weapon at him, a rightful prince. Surprisingly, they glared back.

Who were these people? They weren't Aesir, or dwarves, or elves... but he could feel some impressive power coming from a few of them. There was some sort of huge, muscular green monster who he could tell was quite powerful--though he wasn't sure what exactly it was--there was a man that looked hauntingly like the King of Asgard, Thor, except he was actually well-groomed and holding... was that Mjolnir? There was also another man who was not very powerful, but Loki could see some sort of... gem? In his chest that was emanating with waves of power. What a strange group of people.

And the question remained about what they were. He could sense that a few of them were mortal--though strangely powerful, for mortals, he admitted--but the green beast must be some sort of god. The one who looked like Thor also seemed to possess some sort of godly power.

"How dare you aim your arrow at me," he asked, voice low, and was surprised to hear it come out raspy.

"Shut up, asshole," the man growled in response, and Loki raised an eyebrow at the vulgar language.

He stood, dusting off his outfit--what was this outfit, anyway? He remembered having worn this before in Asgard, and he had to admit he still liked it a fair bit, but the armour he had received in Jotunheim looked much nicer than whatever this was. "I don't have time for this," he snapped, and glanced at every single person around him. They seemed strangely familiar, though he could have sworn he never saw them before in his life. His gaze lingered a bit on the Thor-lookalike, and he wondered why staring at him brought him a bit of pain. He couldn't possibly be the real Thor, though--

"Brother," the not-Thor pleaded with him, and Loki stared at him as though he had been slapped, before his mouth contorted itself into a snarl. "Come home, to me, to Asgard, to father and mother. We miss you. Give up this poisonous dream."

Green filled Loki's vision, and he lashed out. "HOW DARE YOU!" he snarled unthinkingly, and Thor was thrown violently by his seidr, crashing into a wall and causing it to collapse underneath the god's weight. He stalked closer to the man and pointed at his face, before hurriedly getting himself and his seidr under control. "How dare you say those words to me," he hissed. "You know very well you, and Odin, have already rejected me."

Thor looked at him, and the pleading, desperate look in his eyes was haunting and unfamiliar. "We would never," he swore. "Come home."

Loki's hands glowed with green. "You are not Thor," he accused. "You are an imitation, of some sort. The real Thor has already disowned me, forgotten about me. You are very similar to him, I will give you that--but your behaviour is too irregular. You are not him."

"Brother, I am him! I am Thor Odinson. And you are my brother. Please, come back. Hand over the Tesseract, and--"

"Will you never cease thinking that you can give me orders?" Loki snarled. "Go cater to your friends."

"They may be my friends, but you are my brother. I cannot get another brother."

Loki arched his brow. "Funny. You had no trouble disowning me as soon as it was revealed that I had blue blood."

Thor frowned at him. "Never," he said, and Loki glared disbelievingly. "It matters not to me that you are Jotun. But you cannot forget those years we have spent together. Years of playing together, laughing together--you cannot forget that so easily!"

"It was not me who forgot, it was you, you oaf--"

"Alright, I'm really enjoying this brotherly conversation, but we really gotta wrap this up so we can grab some shawarma," someone interjected, and Loki turned to observe whoever had dared speak up. He was still confused as to what was happening, and why this Thor seemed so drastically different--where the hell had his beard gone? And Gungnir? Last Loki had seen him, he had forgotten about Mjolnir to wield the kingly weapon--but he was also interested in whoever, besides the Idiots Three and Lady Sif, were stupid enough to befriend Thor.

"You are mortals?" Loki questioned.

The man raised his brow. "Uh, yeah. Fully mortal here."

"You are quite foolish to be around the likes of him," Loki said, voice low, gesturing to Thor. He felt half-disgusted. He knew who Thor was and what he did, but at the same time, he had thought that being king would mean he could no longer take slaves. He had thought that someone would teach the oaf how to be a proper ruler. Clearly, that had never happened.

"...O-kay then," the mortal replied slowly, drawing out the first word. "Not sure why you think you can tell us that and all, Reindeer Games--"

Loki glowered, before turning back to Thor, who looked a bit lost. Loki was unsure why Thor was behaving this way--after all, last time Loki had seen him, he had given off the vibe of being cold and indifferent--but the expression was enough that Loki felt momentary sympathy towards the god. "Why are you here?"

"Midgard is under my protection," Thor said boldly, and Loki scoffed.

So this was Midgard, then. It was rather strange here. Loki was not so stupid as to underestimate a realm... but mortals lived for such short lifespans and they were also so inferior in so many ways. They lacked physical strength as well as intelligence, and even with their superhuman powers they were still pathetic and underpowered compared to many of the other lifeforms in the universe. Loki had not expected them to be able to progress so much in the few years that he had not visited--but their technology, their minds, even the powers that they were given--he wondered if Midgard was becoming more and more like the more advanced realms, and would soon be strong enough to challenge them outright. They were growing so rapidly, it was not a totally outlandish thought.

But was it so important that someone like Thor would choose to protect it? Had he grown desperate? Was he so intimidated by the fact that Jotunheim now had allies and trades that he decided to befriend one of the weakest, least powerful and influential realms in the entirety of the universe?

"Why?" Loki asked finally. "You turn down a treaty with us, but you rub shoulders with them?"

Thor frowned confusedly. "Treaty?" he asked, and Loki grimaced. It was so like Thor to play dumb--this was tiring.

"It doesn't matter," he decided finally. "We do not need you."

"Wait, brother--"

"And would you stop calling me that? I think it has already been established, we are not brothers." Loki raised his hand and it turned momentarily dark blue, before fading back to pinkish tones. Norns, he wished he could change back and intimidate the hell out of Thor with his new body... but he would have to get somewhere safe to do that, and conjure some sort of heat-repelling spell. Loki did not know why Thor was behaving this way to him all of a sudden, after fifty years, but it was slightly unnerving and he wondered if this was all a large trick.

He prepared himself to teleport away, when he sensed something flying towards him at an incredible speed. He tilted his head to the side and raised his hand, catching the arrow just inches away from his face. He turned to look at it, before glancing towards the mortal who had dared to fire this pathetic thing at him again--

And then the arrow exploded in his face.

He barely flinched, and was mollified to see the shocked expressions on the mortals' faces. He smirked.

"What were you trying to achieve?" he asked loftily. "That was pathetic."

Thor stared at him, gaping like a fish. "B-brother--" he began, and Loki was slightly pleased to hear him stuttering. So, then--Thor was afraid of him. That was... an interesting development, and Loki found he liked it. Now, he was the strong and powerful one, and Thor was the one begging him--

No, he must keep in control of his thoughts, emotions. He wasn't like Thor at all. He didn't need to feel this way.

"I did think I told you already--I'm not your brother." Loki scanned the others, who were watching him warily now, before turning his attention to not-Thor. "Besides, you are not him anyways. I do not know what sort of cursed illusion or dream has been placed on me, and I do not care much for whatever poison you have put in that wine, but I do know for sure this is not real. Now, if you'll excuse me--"

"Sorry, Reindeer Games, but we can't let you leave."

Loki arched a brow. He didn't recognize that name, but he had a feeling it was directed towards him.

"What an interesting illusion you've thought up. Tell me, not-Thor--who helped with this? Mother, perhaps? No, she would never join in such a ridiculous scheme like this. She was not even present during the negotiation." He took a step closer, so he was face-to-face with Thor's foolish face. What did he look so confused for? Damn, Loki really was not enjoying this. He felt a bit sick to his stomach, and his head pounded--was that the poison working its way through his system? "Maybe one of your ridiculous, sub-par sorcerers that you've tortured into helping you--or even the Enchantress, you always had a thing for her--"

"Brother, please--I don't understand what you're speaking of. Just come home. Hand over the Tesseract."

"How foolish. A clever illusion, I'll admit--but you have made too many mistakes. It just is not realistic, not-Thor."

"I am Thor!" the not-Thor replied, frustrated. His anger caused sparks of electricity to fly around his hands, and Loki's eyes were drawn again to Mjolnir. 

"You are not."

"Uh, listen. I'd hate to interrupt this brother bonding moment, but, uh--we kind of have a situation on our hands. So, Point Break, buddy--if you could, um, hurry up with arresting your brother--" the mortal was interrupted by a cold glare, courtesy of Loki-- "I mean--not-brother!--then that would be great."

"What an interesting mortal creature you've conjured up. Who did you base him off of? Fandral, perhaps?" Loki mused.

"This is not funny, brother. Come home. The mortals here have agreed--as long as you hand over the Tesseract and your scepter, they will allow me to take you home. Home, brother. Back to Asgard, and father and mother, and everyone else. Wouldn't you like to--"

Thor was cut short by a green explosion in his face. He staggered back, coughing, and Loki cocked his head.

"If I killed you in this illusion, would you die in reality?" he mused, and Thor stared back at him with an ashen, bloody face. Sure, that explosion wouldn't have killed him--he was a god, after all--but it would have hurt a hell of a lot, and it pleased Loki to know that.

Now that Loki knew this was an illusion--well, to put it simply, he was intrigued. He wondered--if he teleported away, would the illusion hold? Would it trap him in an endless loop, where he would be forced to teleport back to Midgard, and have this conversation over and over? He knew that was how most illusions worked--they were less like tricks, and more like an endless prison. He had used them like that many ways, but to hold such a realistic and intricate illusion was difficult, especially if the trapped was a sorcerer also. Loki could easily break the illusion and return.

He just hoped that his real body wasn't injured. This body... it was battered and broken, and the poison made him feel dizzy. If his real body was in this bad of a shape, too--or in a worse shape--he would likely be in a lot of trouble when he returned to his right mind.

"Brother, it's not an illusion--"

"Thor, could you just hurry up and arrest him already--?"

"Yeah, he kind of destroyed our entire fucking city."

"No, there is good in my brother, I swear it--!"

Norns, was Loki tired of listening to this damned conversation. He wanted to get out of here.

"Well, it's been fun, but I must be off," Loki interjected easily, and the mortals turned their attention to him. There was a cry of "wait!" and also one of "catch that fucker before he escapes again!" but none of them had even close to the ability needed to stop him.

With a snap of his fingers, Loki was moving, and then gone in a flash of green.

Chapter Text

Thor was furious.

The Norns had told him they'd rid of Loki. He had paid the price they wanted--he'd given up Mjolnir (a small price to pay, considering he now had Gungnir, which was undoubtedly more powerful). Yet, when he ran out from the small little hut that they'd had negotiations in (blame Thor if he didn't exactly trust these Jotun monsters) Loki was still there. He was unconscious, looked severely beaten-up--but he was still there!

Why? Had the price Thor paid not been enough? But that was all he could pay! It was all they'd asked for!

He was frustrated. Was there no way to rid of Loki? The poison had not worked, asking the Norns had not worked, and according to them, now he could be charged for treason? Ridiculous! What crime had he committed? He was King! He could commit no crime.

He was thinking--and staring at the scene in front of him--when one of the Jotnar (it was one of the smaller and more pathetic-looking ones--though he hated all Jotnar, he did hate the weaker ones more than the warriors) turned and glared straight at him. Thor stared back, fighting to keep his face passive and to keep the smirk off it. Would this fool declare war on Asgard? If anything, Thor welcomed that. He would love to be able to crush these Jotnar scum, just as his father had done. Perhaps some of Asgard would not be too pleased, but it would be rather exciting.

"King Thor, you bastard," the Jotun growled, and though the other Jotnar looked up warningly at the insult, none of them said anything to diffuse the situation or stop the Jotun. Thor snarled; who did this trash think he was? Challenging a king?

"I don't even know who you are, but you know my name," Thor replied with a smirk. "I think you ought to remember your place."

The Jotun growled furiously. "You don't know my name because you are a pathetic, inept king."

The smirk dropped from Thor's face. "Repeat those words again," he warned. "I dare you. And let the rest of you pathetic fools watch as I tear you, limb from limb."

"Is that a challenge?" the Jotun growled, face all seriousness. Thor resisted the urge to grin and mock the idiot. Was he stupid? How could he challenge Thor so seriously? Thor was the god of battle! He was famed for his prowess and skill in fighting! Anyone who challenged him was challenging his honour. He would crush whoever stood in his way, and this Jotun beast was included in that list.

"King Thor," another one of them rumbled. Laufey, Thor recognized. He had been the one sitting in the middle seat. Now Thor remembered well--yes, the beast who challenged him was also another of the ones sitting in the seat. The other worthless vermin had been standing around them (which at the time, had been rather funny, to see them glaring at him angrily but unable to do anything about it) and then there was one other, huge and hulking Jotun who truly looked like the monster of the legends, sitting in another one of the seats. Him, Thor could respect.

He wondered, however, who that Jotun was. And where was the queen? Did Laufey not have one?

Or perhaps Laufey was the queen. That was disgusting, Thor decided. He would not have man and man love each other. It was disgraceful, unhonourable.

As he was thinking, Laufey continued, "I ask you to reconsider. It is highly disrespectful to--"

"Shut your mouth, Jotun filth," Thor snapped, and Laufey blinked slowly before smiling, as though saying, "Your funeral." Thor glared at the Jotun for a second longer before turning his attention back to the fool who'd challenged him, who was now fuming. His ruby eyes seemed to glow with fury, and Thor grinned at this. Good. He always enjoyed a nice challenge, but he knew he'd win regardless.

"How about this? If I win, you hand the Casket over to me."

"And If I win?" the Jotun asked coolly.

Thor laughed. "You won't. But I'll humour you. If you win..." he hummed, before smirking. "I'll give you that precious signature for your little treaty."

"And--!" another of the hulking Jotnar called, standing up from where he was kneeling beside Loki (Thor remembered the Jotun slightly; he had been one of the princes, he thought)-- "you will leave our Loki alone."

Thor shrugged. "It doesn't matter. You won't win."

"We'll see," the Jotun replied, striding forwards. Thor frowned a bit as he realized how much larger the Jotun was. In comparison to the others, he'd seemed like a bit of a runt. But he was definitely a lot bigger than Thor. No matter. Thor had his godly abilities.

"You sure have a lot of confidence for such a pathetic creature," Thor mused curiously, and the Jotun flared again with anger. "It's rather amusing, I have to say. Though, you won't win. Are you really ready to risk the Casket just for your pride? Though, it's only good for me."

"You're arrogant. Have you always been like this?"

"Arrogant?" Thor's eyes burned with fury. "I'll shut that mouth of yours," he growled.

"Let's see if that arrogance of yours is founded, shall we?" the Jotun asked with a smirk. Thor glared back. Why was the Jotun so confident?

Thor tightened his grip in Gungnir, his anger making him arrogant and foolish. He leaped forwards, Gungnir crackling with mighty power, and swung the spear with all his might. He attacked, confident in his abilities, but before he could fully grasp the situation the Jotun had ducked out of the way and he felt a very heavy fist slam into his midsection. He grunted and flew back, landing with a thud on the ground. Frustrated, he stood back up, though the pain in his abdomen was still there. So maybe the Jotun was a bit better than he thought... still, it mattered little. He would crush the Jotun easily, he knew this as a fact. He would crush... he'd crush...

He flew at the Jotun again, who grinned jaggedly and hit him once more across the face. Infuriated, Thor struck back, and was pleased to see the Jotun's blue blood explode from the impact.

"You were a fool to challenge me!" Thor crowed as the Jotun tumbled away and landed flat on his back, wheezing softly. "As I thought... only I, the Great Thor, could possibly be the winner--"

"It's not over yet... don't get so boastful," the Jotun rasped, struggling back to his feet. Though he had only been hit once while Thor multiple times, it was obvious that Thor had the better weapon. If the Jotun wanted to win, he would have to try harder. Though, with how slow Thor was, it was a miracle he'd managed to hit anything at all.

"If you want to continue, go ahead," Thor shrugged, though he was growing annoyed. He wanted this done with.

Their struggle continued; it seemed they were relatively evenly-matched, which rubbed Thor every wrong way. Why would this Jotun... just not die? He hated this, hated the fact that he could not easily overpower this monster. Though the Jotun was the heir, he assumed that he would be weak like everyone else. The fact that Thor was missing almost every swing made his pride drain away a little--though his ego was so monstrously large that this did not really affect him too much. Instead, it just made him angrier and angrier--until--

Gungnir made the final blow.

The Jotun released no noises of pain except a small groan as he was swung backwards, electricity and white power crackling up and down his cobalt-blue skin. Thor could hear his ribs crack and shift under the impact of the heavy spear. The Jotun had, once again, collapsed--and if he did not get up this time, it would be a victory for Thor. The Asgardian waited, but as no objection was forthcoming, he swung his fists up in victory.

"As expected, I am the winner," he smirked, pleased. "You filth should know better than to challenge me. Now, hand over the Casket and get out of--"

He had not even finished his sentence before something impaled him through the chest. He gagged, feet dangling a few inches above the floor, his godly blood dripping slowly from a hole in his chest. The pointed end of the spear was barely an inch away from his face. His blood ran, staining his clothes and the ice a deep crimson. His hands shivered and trembled and Gungnir dropped from his grasp, thudding heavily to the floor, which was now coated with frost.

He turned his head slightly, gagging and choking, to see the Jotun struggle to his feet. His hand was held out, palm facing away from his face, and Thor realized what he had done.

"Trickster! Coward!" he bellowed furiously, coughing and choking as he said so.

"Perhaps, but nevertheless, I am the winner," the Jotun replied lowly, stumbling closer. He placed a hand on the back of Thor's head and forced it closer to the pointed end of the ice spear, a sadistic grin rising on his face. Thor grimaced and growled and struggled, but his strength had been sapped from the fight and he was weak from his wounds. The Jotun continued to force Thor's head closer and closer, while everyone else--even fellow Asgardians--watched on in stony silence. Thor coughed and winced as the ice touched his...

"Your eye. Fitting, isn't it? Like father, like son," the Jotun hissed, and Thor held absolutely stone still. The Jotun was serious. He was actually serious.

He was going to gouge out Thor's eye.

"Let go of me!" Thor roared, but the Jotun only laughed. "This was... this was not part of our--!"

"The duel isn't finished yet. Therefore, I can harm you in any way I see fit. Unless you formally concede to me, and surrender, then I can do whatever I like. So, King Thor... why don't you fight back? You were so arrogant before..." the Jotun tilted his head, and Thor hissed in pain as his grip tightened-- "what happened? Do you finally realize... how worthless you are?"

"Helblindi. I think that's enough."

The named Jotun smirked lazily, almost amusedly. "Why, Father? There's no reason to defend him. He has no respect for us. I think it's time he learned some."

"I agree," another of the Jotnar spoke up, stepping forwards. He was rather large, and if Thor remembered, he was also one of the princes. The younger one, he remembered. Not the heir. "Look how he disrespected us," the Jotun continued harshly, his ruby eyes glowing and furious as he marched closer to the fallen king and gestured at him. "And he refused our treaty. We don't owe him anything. And he poisoned our drinks. And did... something to Loki. He deserves this, at the very least."

Thor growled. "You'll... pay... for this," he choked out.

Helblindi smirked. "Will we?" he whispered into Thor's ear, and Thor prepared himself for the pain and blindness that would surely follow--


The grip on the back of Thor's head loosed, and he was able to turn his head to see who his saviour had been. His eyes widened and jaw dropped to see that it was Lady Sif. His wariness of her (considering what the Norns had said) vanished immediately in that instant. It appeared she had learned his place, and would become his wife--though it was slightly demeaning that she thought she could protect him. How unladylike. Thor would have to teach her a thing or too about what it meant to be a woman...

"And who might you be?" the Jotun growled, obviously displeased. "And do not interfere in our duel--"

Sif raised her chin and stared at the Jotun determinedly in the eye. "I am Sif, warrior of Asgard," she proclaimed, and the Jotun arched his brow. Asgard was known as a society that shunned women--it was surprising that one was allowed to be a warrior here.

"Warrior of Asgard? Still, that gives you no right to interfere. Begone."

"I am a warrior of Asgard, and therefore I can represent Asgard," Sif continued, gaze hard and stony. She glanced at Thor for a moment, but her eyes held no pity--instead, they were cold and unforgiving. It was strange and foreign to Thor, who always found warmth in those eyes. When had Sif changed? "As such, I, on behalf of Thor Odinson and the rest of Asgard... hereby surrender."

Everyone went very silent. Their surprise was obvious. 

Of course, it was Thor who had to break that silence.

"Sif!" he snarled furiously, eyes blazing. "Mind your place!"

"I know my place," Sif replied quietly. She unsheathed her sword, and pointed it at Thor's face. "It's time you learned yours."

Thor blinked rather stupidly, and Sif, without another word, turned and stormed off.