Thor cannot be allowed to be king, so Loki does what Loki does best, machinating and manipulating as well as the courts of kings have taught him, and everything fails.
He first invites a couple of Jotuns to Odin’s treasure room, to steal some ancient relic, appropriated by the Aesir a lifetime ago, that they seem to think will help them save their planet from it’s perpetual winter. As if it were possible to save a godforsaken realm such as Jotunheim from it’s wretchedness, Loki thinks, but does not say.
Their attempted theft causes the coronation to be delayed, and from there it’s not hard to get Thor, complacent as he has become, to go and try to confront Laufey, the Jotuns’ pathetic, dictator king. However, here things start to go awry. Loki expects to be waylaid for longer by Heimdall, expects to be able to avert Thor’s attack against the king, expects for the guard he sent to tell Father of their exploit to take significantly less time to reach him than he did, and then, in the heat of battle, the last thing he expects is for his arm to turn blue with the cold from a Jotun’s touch. That, that is very unexpected.
For a second, he thinks it is part of the process, that his arm is turning blue seconds before he dies from shock, but even as he thinks it, he knows it’s not true, because he can feel the cold move up his arm, towards his heart, in his blood already, but he can’t feel pain. It just feels...a little chilly. Like a draught, or a cool breeze, just a few degrees colder than the surrounding air. However, after the first flash of cold travels over his skin, the biting cold he had felt from his surroundings, barely tempered by his armour and protective spell work, begins to dissipate and lessen, until he feels oddly warm, all up his arm, and his chest, and neck. This should be dying, but it’s not. He knows he’s not. After just moments, his entire arm is blue, and he’s comfortably warm inside his clothes.
At this point, he is well past puzzlement, and into shock, but it doesn’t matter, because there is still fighting to be done. He puts it aside, and finishes the fight. Father appears at length, summons them back to Asgard. The Warriors Three and Sif fairly flee the Bifrost, supporting an injured Fandral all the way, until only Loki, Thor and Father remain. Father shouts at Thor, Thor shouts at Father. Loki tries not to interrupt and exacerbate the situation (tries not to wonder why his skin changed colour like a turncoat at a Jotun’s touch).
The topic of conversation has moved on from politics to personal slights, along the lines of, “You are a vain, greedy, cruel boy,” and “You are old man and a fool.”
Really, they’re just stating the obvious at this point. Tempers are getting high, though. Odin speaks, “I was a fool, to think you were ready.”
Finally, everybody’s on the same page. All necessary realisations have been come to, time to diffuse the tension.
And here, again, his plan goes awry. Loki makes to interject a comment, to halt the proceedings in their tracks before things get to drastic, but he just gets shouted at, and not very eloquently at that. Thor must truly have become a dunderhead in the absence of Loki’s company; he manages to get himself expelled to Midgard as punishment for his arrogance, vanity and foolishness.
This is absolutely not how things were supposed to go. Thor was just supposed to be mildly disciplined, not banished. Father was supposed to see that Thor was as yet unfit to rule, not an out-of-control fool of a princeling. But then again, Loki supposes that is what he has become.
And now, well. Thor cannot be king if he is stranded on Midgard so...the crown will pass to Loki. He, and he alone will be king of this realm, instead of Thor’s shadow. This is, obviously, what he’s always wanted. So, although this wasn’t the outcome he’d intended, surely this is a better result he could have believed possible.
He should be rejoicing. So why does he feel so much dread?
Later, in the room where Fandral heals, Loki reveals his actions to the Warriors Three and Sif, and in retrospect that was probably a mistake; the damn fools always were loyal to Thor to well beyond the point of fault. But even they see that he has a point, that Thor is not even nearly ready to be king. He didn’t want to reveal this much, it’s not part of any plan, but in his defense, it’s true, and it’s all Thor’s fault, and he’s distracted.
Because when a Jotun touched his skin, it turned blue when it was supposed to freeze solid. The spreading cold felt uncomfortable instead of inhibiting. His skin has gone back to normal now, completely and utterly, but he knows both that it changed, and that he should be dead.
Perhaps he was somehow mistaken. Perhaps he did not see the spread of blue - not the blue of frostbite, a blue the same colour as Jotun skin. Or...or perhaps somehow it was his magic that protected him from harm, somehow. Some protection spell he had forgotten casting, some ward left upon him by mother or Angrboda? No. He would have felt that. Would have noticed. So...what could be the reason? The puzzle is troubling him now, the question worrying him unduly. He’s half scared himself silly that he has some Jotun blood or enchantment in him, for Norn’s sake! He is alive when he should be dead; he should be celebrating.
But he cannot bring himself to do so. There’s something wrong here, something sinister. Something’s gone wrong, somewhere. There’s been a misunderstanding, a mistake, but he has no idea what it could be. There’s dread in the pit of his stomach. He wants to ask his mother for her advice, but she’s busy grieving the loss of one son, she doesn’t need the trials of another. Hel’s busy, and anyway, may not know the answer he seeks.
Besides which, he is a fully grown man. He is not a little boy who must go running to his loved ones for a solution to his problems, not any more. He needs to stop relying on those he loves, on the bonds of sentiment to save him now. He needs to look at this like a mage, a scientist, rather than a scared man. If it happened once, it can happen again. He can repeat the circumstances of the phenomenon, in order to better study it. He knows of only one object, within the bounds of Asgard, which is as cold as a Jotun’s skin.
Loki ensures the guards do not see him, and then approaches the Casket where it sits upon it’s pedestal. His hands to not hesitate as he lifts it from it’s resting place; this is an experiment. He may remain protected from the cold or he may not. If not, then the worst that will happen is he will be badly burned by cold, but the casket is not an assailant, he can drop it easily, so it will be nothing that magic cannot heal. If not...His hands still do not hesitate. He is a scientist. This is an experiment.
(He’s got a suspicion. He’s got an idea. But he doesn’t know whether or not it’s true. He doesn’t know for sure. He has to know for sure.)
Loki’s hands close over the Casket, and winter rushes through his veins, and cold seeps down his arms.
Loki can feel a hundred thousand storms running through his physical body, as well as through his mind. He can see how it’s possible for the meteorological power and potential energy of an entire world to be held within a cube that he can hold within his hands. He sees how energy and patterns can be translated into electrical signals, how storms can become thoughts, thoughts can become storms.
Laufey was not a mage, but Loki is. Loki will not go mad from this.
Loki can feel enough coldness, enough storm, enough swirling, burning energy in that cube to destroy a world. And he can see the world that this box is still linked to, despite being locked in a dark cellar, in the basement of a foreign palace for millennia. He can see Jotunheim, and he understands how broken it is. He can see it full of famine, hunger and desperation, the after-echoes of war spread over a planet, storm-systems spiraling out of control in tune to a mad king’s thoughts. He feels their despair, etched into the ice, can feel a population of approximately three billion people dying, slowly. A sentient species dying out.
Far away, a voice calls, “Stop!” Odin’s voice.
The most terrifying, unexpected, wonderful thing is that he recognises this. He knows what magic feels like - it feels like controlling the wind, like flying - and this feels like magic. Loki has always known what storms feel like.
He’s not stopping now.
“Am I cursed?” (He knows he’s not.)
“No.” (He knows.)
“What am I?” (He knows.)
“You’re my son.”
That’s not an answer.
Loki turns. The coldness has seeped into his hands, up his arms, down his chest. It’s curled around his heart and into his head. He can feel it. It feels like a flash of ice water, and then after it the air feels like hot steam against his skin.
“What more than that?”
The cold is receding again, like the sea washing back down the shore. It’s counter intuitive, but he feels warm in it’s wake.
Loki stalks towards Odin, not stopping. Relentless. Like the sea, like a storm, like a knife in air.
“The casket wasn’t the only thing you took from Jotunheim that day, was it?”
Because he’s worked it out now. It took him long enough, took him his whole damn life, but now he knows.
“No.” And Odin’s still talking, stating facts Loki had already worked out for himself. None of it matters, none of it matters, Loki’s already worked out all of this for himself. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t. It doesn’t. He’s still him, he’s always still him, he’s always known what magic feels like in his blood. He’s always known.
And then something Loki doesn’t know, and he’s pulled up short. The knife’s hit a wall. His thoughts eddy, in chaos, around the point. Around the words, “Laufey’s son.”
“Why?” Loki was born to be a king. Was always born to be a king. He’s always known that. But this, he’s never known this; this is all wrong. This is the wrong throne, the wrong planet, the wrong birthright. There must be some mistake.
The storm is building to a crescendo now.
“You were knee deep in Jotun blood, why would you take me?”
“You were an innocent child.”
“No.” The All-father always has a plan. Nothing has never been innocent, not to his eyes. Loki has never been innocent. “You took me for a purpose. What was it?”
And Odin’s just standing there, as if he has any right to withhold this information. As if he ever had the right. He doesn’t care. He’s not even Loki’s father.
The storm hits.
And it’s pain and grief and anger and agony and jealousy and terror and he can’t control this any more. Not now. Not now he knows.
“Tell me!” and he’s screaming, and begging, and he’s screaming so he doesn’t fall apart, so the pressure doesn’t overwhelm him, so he doesn’t drown in the undertow of all of this emotion.
“I thought we could unite our kingdoms one day, bring about an alliance, bring about a permanent peace, through you.”
A permanent peace? With Jotunheim? “What?”
“But those plans no longer matter.”
Loki no longer matters.
“So I am no more than another stolen relic, locked up here until you might have use of me?”
“Why do you twist my words?”
Not an answer.
“You could have told me what I was from the beginning, why didn’t you?”
“You’re my son.”
Still not an answer. Untrue. Irrelevant.
“I wanted only to protect you from the truth.”
By shielding him with lies.
“What, because I am the monster that parents tell their children about at night?”
He may as well be cursed. He’s one of them, one of the Jotun, the hideous, warlike, brutal, bloodthirsty monsters that have been the enemy of Asgard for millennia. Ever since the war. For all of his life.
The old man’s stuttering, “No Loki,” but Loki doesn’t care, he doesn’t care, he knows.
“It all makes sense now, why you favoured Thor all those years, because no matter how much you claim to love me, you could never have a frost giant sitting on the throne of Asgard!”
Loki’s world is tipping upside-down, and Odin falls to the ground. And Odin’s just silent now. He’s just lying there, silent. He’s sleeping. Odin-sleep.
No answers for Loki Odinson. No truth for the Liesmith.
The storm has passed. The wreckage remains.
Odin’s gone now, and Loki is king. Thor is still banished. But Frigga is still there, and she’s looking after Odin. (Part of him wishes that Odin would wake up, tell him what he is to do, part of him wishes that Odin never wakes up at all)
She tells him that she always wanted to be honest with him, that Odin lied so that Loki would not feel separate. (Because he is different, because he is a monster)
That he is their son, that they are his family. (Untrue, just sweet, sentimental lies)
She says that even now, when he is sleeping, Odin can hear all, can see all. (Loki can never escape Odin’s power)
She says she wants Odin and Thor to come home. (Loki will never escape Thor’s shadow)
She thinks that Odin had purpose when he lied to Loki, when he cast Thor out. (Becuase All-father is all-mighty, perfect, cannot ever go wrong)
She wants Thor to come back. (She thinks him more worthy of the throne than Loki, even now, even after everything)
Then guards come, present him with Gungnir. This is the crown, this is the throne. This is the game-changer. It’s in Loki’s hands, finally. And he’s not going to let go.
He’s not going to stopping now.
He can’t stop it now.
She says, “Thor is banished. The line of succession falls to you.”
Falls. And only because Thor is banished. He is second choice.
She tells him “Until Odin awakens, Asgard is yours.”
There is a conditional clause where there should not be one.
She tells him, “Make your Father proud, my king.”
Again, he senses that the latter depends on the former.
But it does not matter. None of it matters. The throne is his.
Loki loves his mother, hates his father, and the man who caused his existence is an idiot king that started a war that destroyed lives. Hundreds of thousands of lives. Loki’s life. Loki’s biological father is a filthy Jotun fool, and Loki will not stand for this state of affairs to continue. He won’t.
Loki is a good liar; he tricks one father to come to Asgard to kill the other, and then kills him, all to prove his loyalty to his mother. He thinks that she believes him, when he calls himself Son of Odin, as if he believed it himself. For the first time in his life, Loki has successfully lied to his mother.
He’s not sorry. Not as sorry as he should be. Not sorry at all. One of those.
Thor’s friends - never his friends, Thor’s friends - they’re planning a rebellion. Against him, the rightful king of Asgard! It’s disgraceful, shameful. They could be hanged for this, for treason, only a very few millennia ago. Only one short lifetime ago.
But this is a time of peace, for Asgard at least - and Asgard is the only kingdom that matters, it’s his now. They must be stopped. Thor must not be allowed to return. He is not worthy to be king, he is not good enough. Never has been, perhaps.
The idiot warriors with three brain cells between the four of are probably telling Thor even now that Odin is alive, just sleeping, that Loki does not deserve the throne, that Thor is the rightful king. They’re lying, and it’s pathetic because they believe what they’re saying.
Now Thor will think he can just come back to Asgard and take over. Take back the throne as if it was empty, as if Loki wasn’t there. He’s used to being overlooked in favour of Thor, it’s fine, really - but this, this is too much. Thor can’t have what doesn’t belong to him.
Loki stops Thor from coming back by breaking the majority of the bones in his chest. It’s only fair, really, only payback for all the times that Thor has beaten him at dueling, all the times he’s made a joke at Loki’s expense. Every time that someone said that Thor was the better prince, the better man, when Loki was always, obviously, the better choice for king, had been practically running the kingdom since he was an adolescent. It’s not enough to kill him. Probably.
At this point, Loki has stopped caring about a lot of things. Never did, possibly.
So, up until now, Loki’s been king, Odin’s been sleeping, Thor was on Midgard, and, so far, things haven’t been that bad. Loki’s been having a hard time in this last span, but he’s actually been doing very well.
He hasn’t panicked, hasn’t had a breakdown and ruined everything, he’s been calmly thinking things through, digesting what’s happened, what he’s learned. He’s come to what he feels is a highly reasonable conclusion; he may be Jotun by birth, but he is not Jotun by upbringing. His mother, his father, they are Aesir, and the Asgardian ways are the ones he is learned; he is Asgardian. What does birth matter anyway, really? It’s not as if that really affects who he is, not truly. This whole issue is just blown out of proportion. He’s been thinking things through, sorting things out, and all in all, he’s pretty damn proud of the way he’s been coping.
Admittedly, he may have killed his birth father, and kicked Thor a little when he was down, exaggerated the severity of Odin’s condition in order to hurt him, and that may have been a bit of a knee-jerk emotional reaction - but really, it’s deserved. The ex-king was a bad, tyrannical ruler, dragging his entire Realm into a rut for a millennia now. He’s really nothing to do with Loki. And Thor has been a real bastard idiot recently, completely up himself; banishment, humiliation and a few reminders of exactly who the smartest man in the room is are exactly what he needs. Loki is still working through his issues very well.
But then, after the Destroyer has faithfully pounded Thor to within an inch of his life, more or less, here again, again, all of Loki’s plans go wrong. For someone who has plotted so brilliantly and deviously, flawlessly, for the last few thousand years, this is rather a significant loosing streak.
Because somehow, despite all of Loki’s efforts, everything he’s done, all he’s seen, what a good king he’s been, how good to his parents who lied to him, how loyal to the kingdom that isn’t his, despite coping with the lies and the pain and the confusion and the storms and the nightmares and the rage, despite how well he’s borne it, all of it - Thor is still the more worthy son.
Moljnor chooses him. Loki’s got Gungnir, but that’s Odin’s spear, that’s the old king’s weapon. The prince’s weapon chose Thor. Everyone always chooses Thor.
And this is all wrong, someone’s got it all wrong. There’s been a big misunderstanding here. But it’s okay, Loki can fix this.
Of course he can fix this. He knows what real problem here is. It’s obvious. It’s the elephant in the room, the Jotun in the treasure room, the monster under the bed. The root of the problem is the Casket of Ancient Winters in the basement. The root of the problem is the planet is connected to.
Loki is not a Jotun. Loki is Asgardian. Jotunheim is nothing to do with him, Asgard is his true home. All he has to do is prove it; he just has to show his parents, his kingdom, that he is a worthy king. Thor thought to wage war against the Jotuns, but Thor is an idiot. Loki will think bigger. He will prove his loyalty, he will earn his throne. It belongs to him, after all.
So Loki goes directly to the cause of the conflict. Efficient. Like a politician. Like an effective king should.
The tool, the soul within his hands, it sings to him in words of pain, suffering, war and snow. Sings him sweet lullabies the words in languages he understands but has never spoken, to tunes he remembers, because they are not so different from the ones that Frigga once sung him. Sings to him of richer times, peace times, happy times, when there were crops in the fields and game in the woods, and people grew fat and contented, and the aristocracy was intact, and the king governed well.
But Jotunheim is not Asgard, and Loki is Asgardian. He has no attachment nor connection to it. It’s the opposition. The enemy.
(When Loki touches the Casket with intent to destroy the planet it was created to protect, it bends to his will. It has never truly done that for anyone else.
Loki forces the soul of a planet to destroy itself.)
And Thor gets in the way again, and Loki fights him, poorly, he will admit, and then absolutely everything goes to the dogs.
Loki’s dangling over an abyss. He’s holding on to his bother’s arm. His brother, who he hates sometimes, loves always, because love can’t be turned on and off at will. Thor is clutching onto their father. His father. The All-father. Loki screams, “I could have done it, Father! I could have done it! For you! For all of us!”
And Odin says, “No, Loki.”
He is not Jotun, but Asgard doesn’t want him. Odin doesn’t want him. Thor is the better, the more worthy son. Loki is excess. He is heir to nothing.
Thor realises what he’s going to do, a few seconds too late. Always too slow. He’s screaming, but it doesn’t matter, Loki doesn't care.
Loki lets go.