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24 October 2014 @ 12:31 pm
A Crocus in the Snow 5/?  




In her workroom, Frigga touched the piece of folded paper tucked into the corner of the mirror. Loki's first spell was written there, simple thing to change the color of a flower from yellow to red. It was the same spell he'd used to blacken Sif's hair later; fueled by his strength, it had tangled itself into permanence due to his inexperience at the time. The paper itself would have long since disintegrated to dust but for the preservation she'd put on it, but it was a symbol of those early lessons. When he'd refused to be in the same room as Tyr, it had seemed reasonable for her to teach him to fight in addition to the magic.

Oh, darling, I would never trade those hours together, but I would trade everything else if you had told me why.

She returned to her sitting room, sent away the attempt to bring refreshments so the family could be private, and brushed her fingers across the small poetry book. Though she wished all of this had never happened, she was glad to know now, rather than find out after his death through some scribbled confession. Or never to know at all.

The main doors opened, interrupting her ruminations. Expectantly she turned, to see the Einherjar hold the double doors for the king. As soon as the doors closed behind Odin, leaving him alone with her, his posture grew more weary and he leaned on Gungnir to walk down the shallow steps between the columns. "I have sent word to Heimdall and raised the defenses. We will be ready soon," he told her. "Did you reach him?"

"I did." She shook her head, presing her lips together. "He truly believed I would cast him away if I knew the truth. I reassured him that was not so, but… to feel that… such shame and fear, so deep in his spirit…" Her voice faltered and she had to draw a deliberate breath to calm. "He seemed focused on his quest and could not hold the thread long. Is Thor on his way?"

"Nearly here."

Moments later, the great doors opened again and Thor entered. He paused on the top step between the two columns and noted his parents were both there and no one else.

"What is this?" Thor looked from father to mother, confused and worried. "I know you called for readiness. I heard something about a warning of an attack?"

"Yes," Odin confirmed. "We have warning and so we must prepare."

"But that is not what we wanted to tell you," Frigga said, going to meet Thor and ushering him down the steps so she could close and ward the door. "Please, Thor. This is … not easy on us."

He moved to grasp her hand. "Mother, what is it?"

She tried to smile at him, faltering when she thought of how he too might have been preyed upon. What if it had not been Jotunn blood that Tyr had hated, but the sons of the king? "We considered waiting to tell you this, so you would not be distracted if the attack comes, but you need to know the truth. If the attack… goes poorly, we do not wish the truth to be buried again."

He frowned. "Is this about Loki?" he asked.

"Yes, but not the secret you already know."

"Did he escape?" Thor asked. "Is that what this attack--?"

Odin raised a hand. "Do not guess, Thor. You will not, and you make it difficult for us to speak."

"Sorry. I will listen."

Frigga exchanged a glance with Odin and then asked her son, "Do you remember how Loki was, in the year before Fenrir was killed?"

He blinked and frowned, perplexed by a question of such ancient history. "How he was? Before Fenrir was put down? I remember nothing…" But then he stopped, something coming to mind. "Oh. He spent all his time with Fenrir and abjured my company."

"Did he ever tell you why?" Frigga asked.

"No." His frown deepened. "Sif and I both wondered, and I asked why he disliked our company. He jested the wolf was more fun. I did not ask again. Then Fenrir attacked Tyr and after that..." he hesitated, flicked his gaze at Odin, and added carefully, "he was unhappy." But Thor nodded thoughtfully, knowing there had to be a reason for the question. "Something else happened that he kept from me?"

Frigga opened her mouth to ask Thor why he had never told her that Loki was spending all his time with Fenrir and avoiding his brother, but held her tongue. He would feel guilty soon enough, without adding her condemnation for something that had been a youth's lack of wisdom.

"It did," Odin confirmed, moving closer to Thor.

Thor's eyes darted between his parents, worry growing. "Something happened. Besides that day Fenrir went mad."

Frigga nodded once, holding her own calm tightly. "Fenrir was never mad, Thor. He attacked Tyr trying to protect Loki from being hurt." When Thor demonstrated no understanding, thinking as everyone always had, that it had been legitimate accidents and minor hurts, she added, "In excess. For the sole purpose of tormenting him."

Thor's eyes grew bewildered. "But it was training? You cannot be saying--?" He glanced from mother to father, seeking refutation and seeing only confirmation. "Tyr hurt him? Deliberately?"

She might have left it there, unable to tell the worst, but Odin added, "And other things, worse things. The sort of touching we permit only between consenting adults, and certainly not between a mature person and a youth."

At first, Thor looked blankly perplexed, because Odin's words were ones that had not needed to be spoken since before Thor's birth. Then, his face went ashen and his eyes flew wide as understanding crashed in on him. "He what?" Thor demanded. "When Loki was young? No. That can't be true! Tyr is honorable and a fine warrior and-- he would never--"

Odin interrupted, overriding Thor's denial forcefully, "He put his foot on Loki's head to force him to abase himself on the floor. Made him disrobe and perform foul acts." Frigga's hand flew to her lips, too late to hold back the distressed cry at the image that formed in her mind.

Thor's reaction was no less horrified, gasping and stumbling back from Odin, frantically shaking his head in denial. "No... this cannot--"

"I saw Loki's memories, Thor, as clear as you stand before me now. He put his hand on Gungnir, and he opened his mind to me. I shared all that he has kept secret these years."

That undercut Thor's emotional rejection and he stared at Odin and Frigga in helpless confusion. "But what-- what can I--" he started unsteadily. Then his blue eyes darkened in rage as he knew exactly what he was going to do about it. "I am going to kill him! He hurt Loki, dishonored him, dishonored our name, betrayed us all--" He held out his hand to call Mjolnir, until Odin swept Gungnir around to slap his wrist and get his attention.

"Thor. Stop."

Thor shoved Gungnir away. "Father! No! You cannot pretend we don't know this - this unspeakable crime! If there is no justice for this, there is no justice at all!"

Odin lifted his other hand in a quelling gesture. "There will be, my son. But not now, and not in rage."

Frigga agreed with the king, though her heart agreed with Thor's fury. It would be more satisfying for Thor to wield Mjolnir against Tyr, force him down to show him what it was to be helpless, and then kill him. She reminded herself that her own satisfaction was a distant second place to Loki's healing, and Loki should share in the decision of Tyr's fate.

"I shall challenge him," Thor swore darkly.

"If you challenge him, he will be within his right to call a champion, given his missing hand," Odin reminded him, and Thor let out a growl of frustration.

"A missing hand taken by Fenrir trying to defend Loki from his predations! He cannot then use that as an excuse to escape rightful justice!"

But he could. That was both law and tradition, and that was not the only law relating to dueling that Tyr could use to his advantage. "He could call Loki to face him as the accuser," Frigga murmured. "Given Loki's known facility with illusion, Tyr will argue that the Allfather saw falsehoods and condemns him unjustly."

"But it is true," Thor said. Frigga couldn't blame him entirely for the question that crept into his voice, after the reminder that Loki was a master illusionist. But it was still painful to hear any doubt at all, when she knew the truth.

Odin confirmed, "Yes. It is true. It is not something I do lightly, as it reveals my secrets in return. But the queen is correct. We cannot allow Tyr to sow doubt, or for him to require Loki to duel him personally."

"Loki's a good fighter, Father," Thor said staunchly. "Better than you believe. He could defeat Tyr, even without his magic."

Odin shook his head but not entirely in disagreement with Thor's assessment of Loki's skill. "If Tyr goads him?" Odin returned. "Tyr is no fool, and he is also guilty. He will hold back nothing when he is threatened." He hesitated and added more heavily, "He knows too well how to do great damage. We cannot let them duel."

That halted Thor's aggression, as he thought about it, eyes troubled by what to do now. Frigga knew Odin was right, painful though it was to imagine. One-handed, Tyr was still a fearsome warrior, and he would have no restraint against Loki. But that was not the problem.

Loki had openly hated Tyr, resenting him for Fenrir's death, but now she knew that hate was rooted in fear. In his heart he was still that youth he had been, helpless and afraid, and after the last two years of upheaval and madness and pain, Tyr would find those cracks. Loki's weaknesses would be too easy to exploit by the one who had put them there.

"Is that why Loki never accused him?" Thor asked softly. "Fear he would fail in a duel?"

"Fear that no one would believe him, or side with him, also," Odin added heavily.

"Not even me?" Thor asked bleakly. Frigga shared his pain, that Loki could have doubted them.

Odin pressed his lips together and shook his head in sad negation. "No one. It was not a rational fear, Thor. Tyr made him feel alone and different, and made him believe that he somehow deserved what was done to him. He feared if he accused Tyr of the whole of his crimes, he would be the one cast out, revealed as some sort of lesser creature." He paused and added heavily, "An accusation that found fertile soil, as Loki heard the whispers long before we knew he was listening."

Frigga grimaced at that. She had tried to stamp out the rumors about his parentage, but they never could die completely since black hair was not a notable trait of either side.

"Only to find out the truth was even worse than he had imagined," Thor murmured. "Why did you not tell him earlier?" he demanded, anguished. "So much might have been averted if he had known..."

Odin sighed. "Perhaps." He exchanged a glance with Frigga. "We thought it a kindness. He shifted the moment I held him as an infant and he showed no signs of shifting back as he matured. If he kept his Aesir form permanently, there was nothing to tell him."

Thor grimaced. "You could have told him he was adopted."

"And do you think Loki would have been content with that?" Frigga asked. There was no way in the Nine Realms that Loki would have been satisfied with 'we don't know who your blood family is' as an answer, especially if he had sensed that answer was a lie. "He would have left on a quest to find his parentage the next day."

Thor returned her look, unimpressed with that excuse. "Maybe he should have. At least finding out would have been his choice, rather than by accident in the midst of battle, pitching him into madness."

He was right. A soft sound escaped her lips, distressed, and Thor immediately looked contrite that he had hurt her. But he didn't apologize.

"What is done, is done," Odin said, more repressively. "We cannot undo any of it now, only manage the aftermath."

Thor still looked resistant and desperate to apportion blame, but he dropped it. "So what do we do?" Thor asked. "If I can't kill Tyr, as he surely deserves, what will you do with him?"

Odin nodded approval that Thor was asking the right question. "What must be done is arrest him before he knows there is suspicion, and force him to hold Gungnir."

"For confirmation?" Thor asked.

"Loki's memories are confirmation enough. To discover if there were others."

"Others?" Thor repeated, pressing his lips together as if he wanted to vomit. "You think he … did this as a foul habit?"

"I think it is possible. Though if he did not, it is little comfort to think that his hate of the Jotunn was so great it caused him to do this to one."

"To our son," Frigga added, more softly, and found herself blinking back tears. She tried to remind herself that Loki had survived, he had moved on, and this had all happened many years ago. But that did not undo the truth that this had stayed with him, unspoken but always present.

"It would be no better if it were another," Odin said heavily.

But you would have believed someone else's son, she thought, but did not say.

Thor looked between them. "Then shall I go take him under arrest? He has no doubt heard the order to prepare for war."

"Yes, go swiftly. Take the Warriors Three with you; tell them Tyr is to be held for treason. Let him not speak to anyone else, and put him in a cell."

"Do not let him provoke you," Frigga cautioned. "We wish him to face his justice with Loki to watch, not die while Loki is not here."

Thor frowned with surprise. "Not here? So I was right? He escaped?"

"No. I released him. In his madness, Loki contrived alliance with Malekith of Svartalfheim," Odin said brusquely. "He has repented, and in a gesture of atonement, he left to turn Malekith away from attacking us. If he fails, Svartalfheim will strike in the midst of the convergence."

Hearing about it now that she was in a better state to understand, Frigga caught her breath. He had sent Loki to turn Malekith away from a revenge finally in his grasp? It seemed unlikely at best, and fatal at worst to even try. She glanced at the bright sky outside, seeing the faint shimmer of the shields beyond, and wondered when the Convergence would draw Svartalfheim close enough to allow ships to cross the void between. At that point, they would know whether Loki had succeeded or failed. If any could find a way, surely he could...

Thor blinked, trying to take all that in. "Svartalfheim? That is the enemy planning to attack us? Loki is going to Svartalfheim alone?" His right hand clenched, pondering a call to Mjolnir. "Father, you should send me to him. He should not be alone, not in that fearsome place, he will--"

Frigga patted his shoulder in reassurance. "Sif is with him. He isn't alone."

"Oh. Well. That is good then. But still, you should send me to him."

"He said specifically it was his to do himself. But he also said to tell you, you were right," Odin said. "I know not what he meant, but that was his message to you before he left."

Thor smiled, and let out a breath of relief, jesting, "You know how hard it is for him to admit I am right about anything. But I think he meant that we are brothers, for that was what I kept saying to him on Midgard." His smile faded. "Which is why I should be at his side."

"Sif will keep him as safe as she can," Frigga said. "And we need you to take Tyr into gaol before he can escape. Or before he can reveal truths we would rather he keep silent."

Thor nodded, face settling into grimmer lines. "I will."

"Then go," Odin commanded.

Silence lingered in Thor's wake, as Frigga hoped he would succeed swiftly, with little notice.

"I know you are right about Loki needing to see him punished," Odin said after a moment. "Yet there is a warning within that we may wish that Tyr had been ended swiftly."

"Perhaps," she agreed. "But Loki has suffered for expediency and convenience long enough. Whatever the risk, it is past time he emerges from this long, frozen winter and finds his own light and warmth."

Odin nodded his agreement, as they prepared to discover whether their son had succeeding in undoing his plan, and what price he and everyone would pay for it.