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Tales Are Never Just for Fools

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Loki was half expecting to die from the fall alone, but really, he should have thought better. There are storms in his blood, after all. Storms and antifreeze. Jotuns appear to be made of pretty tough stuff.

Loki can see star systems, whole galaxies spinning past him, vast whirling nebulae, all the Nine Realms in all their infinite beauty, but he just can’t bring himself to care. He closes his eyes.

---

Loki lands, hard and painfully, in a dark field, full of grey dust and boulders and purple-bruised sky. He doesn’t care. Then, he passes out.

---

There is water on his face, just a little above freezing. It feels nice. No, that’s not right. Cold water should feel bad...but of course. His skin is blue. He’s Jotun. He closes eyes that he knows intellectually rather than by instinct are currently red.

---

People keep trying to wake him up. He’s not sure why. Doesn’t care that much. Carries on not caring until they try hot water for the first time. Finally realised what a Jotun is then. They try hot water and it scalds his skin to the point of pain before heat rushes along it, and after heat follows freezing cold air, and suddenly the hot water feels good. All this is getting rather confusing, painful and ridiculous. He’s opened his eyes now (probably green at the moment). There are a lot of people around him. Some of them aren’t really people-shaped. One of them is so covered up in glass and metal that Loki can’t even see his face, not even his eyes under the deep hood that shadows them. He also appears to have two thumbs. Huh. That’s novel.

They’re speaking something, some language, but he’s not sure what. It’s odd. Sounds like chittering, like insects. The All-Speak that runs through the minds of all the citizens of Asgard should be translating it for him, but perhaps he’s too far from home. Perhaps they’re not even speaking real words. Then the two-thumbed one says something coherent. He says, “What are you?”

And Loki may be tired - very, very, bone-achingly tired - but he still makes eye contact when he says, “I am Loki.”

He says, “Greetings. I am the Other.”

The other what? Loki wonders, possibly aloud.

The Other smirks, and then Loki’s awareness of his surroundings narrows down to heat and pain.

---

The ones who hold him prisoner have got a job for him, now they know who he is. Their leader, the Other’s leader, he’s expanding his territory. He’s up-stepping his military standing amongst the other Realms. He wants to get new lands, new Realms, and he doesn’t care how many people die in the getting. Higher fatalities are preferred, even. He doesn’t care who owns the land he attacks, what he stands to gain from it, how many of his own are lost. He’s called Thanos, and he seems to just want war and death.

All this Loki learns from the Other; he never even sees the man commanding him.

They ask him questions, and he tells them all he knows about Midgard (some of it) and of recent events in the hub of the Nine Realms. This lot seem to be rather out of the way of the usual trade routes, in their little filthy stagnant backwater of the Nine Realms that is almost entirely black wasteland, so Loki’s information is the first they’ve had for a while. For once, telling the truth fits Loki’s agenda; he tells them the story of his discovery of his adoption, Thor’s temporary exile, but exaggerates his rage against Asgard, and Thor. Doesn’t have to exaggerate his rage towards Odin very much at all.

Loki knows they want him to conquer Midgard. He’s telling them that he has the motive, because he seeks revenge on Asgard, which has sworn protection over Midgard, strengthened by Thor’s recent visit. He’s telling them that he has no allies, so they don’t have to worry about him trying to escape them. He’s telling them they don’t have to worry about him sparing Thor. Loki lies, a little, or a lot, and lies well. He convinces them. They believe him.

He doesn’t tell them about Jotunheim, but they already know. Apparently, when a madman seemingly attempts genocide on a struggling, outcast Realm before destroying the pinnacle of all transporter technology in the universe, word gets around fast. Apparently, it’s the worst bloodshed anyone’s seen since the last great war. (Loki doesn’t care. He doesn’t). Apparently, in Jotunheim, people are dying in droves (Loki puts it out of his mind). A lot of people are very angry at Asgard right now. This lot have heard all about it, and as far as Loki can tell, they’re impressed. Loki doesn’t know what that says about how well he fits in with his current company, only that he doesn’t like it.

And then he does meet Thanos, and he wishes he hadn’t. He’s taken to what probably passes as a grand hall in this, the outermost outskirts of the Nine Realms. It’s big, of course, and grandiose, but there’s silver instead of gold, there’s obsidian instead of marble, and the ceiling is too high for the floor area. It’s cold, like the whole of the rest of this rock, but Loki doesn’t feel it, because his skin’s gone blue, where he sees it on the backs of his arms and wrists, through the rags that used to be his under-armour.

He carefully avoids looking at himself in the highly reflective shined black walls. Because he has to look like he hates his own skin, because Thanos needs a bent and broken scythe to slay a Realm, not a proud Asgardian.

Thanos is sitting on a sort of great grey throne, though there is no court or courtiers, only gibbering Chitauri guards, currently blessedly silent. It is obvious that this is where Thanos sits for the most of the time; he is quite at home on his throne. He addresses Loki from a distance, to which Loki has no kind of objection. The man does not emanate coldness in a literal sense, and it would not harm Loki if he did. Instead, his presence makes Loki...uneasy. Not afraid. Uneasy. He does not ask Loki to kneel, but it doesn’t really matter, seeing as he’s already in manacles.

It is during this conversation that Loki realises Thanos is insane.

He’s not raving mad. He’s not rambling and ranting and pontificating. He seems perfectly reasonable and rational as he asks Loki, what are his intentions? Does he have any ambitions, other than revenge against Asgard? Does he any problem with large numbers of casualties?

Thanos is not ranting and raging, but Loki is deeply unsettled by the calm and matter-of-fact way the man asks him if he has any problem killing children, does he protest to slaving others to his will.

As he talks, Loki notices the skulls carved into the columns along the walls of the hall. His red eyes reflect in their empty, gaping sockets, and he is not acting when his gaze flinches away. He sees that Thanos ancient-looking, grey and cracked throne appears to be decorated with carved bones. It almost looks as though it were fashioned from them. There are empty suits of armour around the room, recessed in niches. Some appear to originate from Muspelheim, Jotunheim, Vanaheim. Others look Asgardian. Some of the styles, Loki doesn’t recognise. Some of them look eons out of date. They all look like a general or commander’s armour. Some would be fit even for kings.

Loki realises that if he doesn’t go along with their plans, Thanos will gladly make him ammunition instead of a tool, make him another offering on his alter to Death.

So he says, yes, he’d love to be part of a conquering army, a general’s position and spoils would be quite enough for him, perhaps he could have part of the realm for his own to rule over as king, if it’s all right, thank you very much, and no, he’s never cared much for sniveling mortal babies, and a soldier’s a soldier, they’re practically asking to get killed.

By the end of this conversation, Loki has gathered that Thanos has got some twisted ideology that death’s a goal, life’s true aim. Death is his God, his religion. Whatever. Loki doesn’t care. He just needs to get out of here; that’s all that matters now. Get out of that room, that whole damned Realm.

So Loki does what he’s told. He doesn’t really have a choice; he’s lost everything. He’s lost his home, his family, his kingdom, his race, possibly his soul at some point, maybe.

He’s even lost his locket - Hel’s locket is gone. He realises it the first time in days he’s conscious and not in pain, after he’d agreed to work for the Other, and it hits him like a blow. Still, that’s what you got for sentiment. Sentiment, as far as Loki can see, is a luxury for those who cannot see it is a curse, a razor sharp blade dipped in honey and sheathed in silk - it must be, for how sharply it cuts him now. It’s a weakness. It’s pathetic. He rids himself of it. He turns his mind to his task.

He gets what he wants, in a way. They don’t kill him. They stop torturing him. They treat him like an officer, rather than a slave, so now he has a room with a bed rather than a cell with damp, and they start feeding him. They give him a way out of his current incarceration. They give him a weapon, and they want him to invent his own plan of attack.

On the downside, now he has to invade Midgard. They ban his use of the majority of his magic. And they don’t do anything to help him heal from the pain they have already inflicted. No matter. He is Loki. He will survive.

He has, in the past, spoken with Hel, knows all the information she has of Midgard and it’s occupants, which is quite considerable. He doesn’t try to contact her. He doesn’t even know if he can without the locket, not this far isolated from the rest of the Nine Realms. And anyway, he’s dreaming of planets imploding, Asgard and Midgard and Jotunheim burning and breaking apart, and it’s all his fault, and Father yelling at him and hating him and Thor turning his back and Mother telling him “No, Loki”. Hel doesn’t need to see any of that.

He makes a plan of attack and it’s the most pathetic he can think of. He exaggerates how hard it will be for him to gain access to all of the material he needs for the portal. He tells them that even then, he will only be able to transport a trickle of foot-soldiers at a time; they’ll have to regroup on the other side, will have time to gather their strengths and prepare for battle. Of course, the portal will be far too small for them to transport their most vicious, volatile weapons. He deliberately underestimates the strength of the resistance that he knows Midgard will put forth. He tells them that yes, of course, the city of New York is by far the least populated, easily targeted, most difficult to defend part of Midgard he could possibly have chosen. It’s very poor, he tells them, none will even care if he kills a couple thousand peasants there. None will rush to defend them. No one cares about the poor.

Thanos and the Other give his orders to their mercenaries, the Chitauri . They believe his lies. Of course they do. Lying is what he does best.

---

For once, everything goes exactly to plan. Apart from the exploding arrow bit, and the Hulk creature smashing him into the floor, and the strength of Captain America, and the exact perceptiveness of the Iron Man. Those things, he did not expect. But other than those things.